Sunday, December 22, 2013

Mailbox Monday (7)

Mailbox Monday is a traveling meme started by Marcia at To Be Continued.  It's a great way to highlight all the bookish things you receive each week.  This month it is being hosted over at Rose City Reader.

I haven't received any books in a few weeks and then all of the sudden two of my holds came in at the library.  I can't wait to read these!  I am off work until January 2 so I am hoping that I will have time to read them.

From the Library:

The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead
Allegiant by Veronica Roth

What books did you get this week?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Review: "A Newfound Land" by Anna Belfrage

Synopsis:  It’s 1672, and Matthew Graham and his family have left Scotland. Having taken the drastic decision to leave their homeland due to religious conflicts, Alexandra and Matthew hope for a simpler, if harsher, life in the wilds of the Colony of Maryland.

Unfortunately, things don’t always turn out as you want them to, and the past has a nasty tendency to resurface at the most inappropriate moments. Both Matthew and Alex are forced to cope with the unexpected reappearance of people they had never thought to meet again, and the screw is turned that much tighter when the four rogue Burley brothers enter their lives.

Matters are further complicated by the strained relations between colonists and the Susquehannock Indians. When Matthew intercedes to stop the Burleys from abducting Indian women into slavery he makes lifelong – and deadly – enemies of them all.

Once again Alex is plunged into an existence where death seems to threaten her man wherever he goes.
Will Matthew see himself – and his family – safe in these new circumstances? And will the past finally be laid to rest?

A Newfound Land is the fourth book in Anna Belfrage’s time slip series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.

My Thoughts:  Anna Belfrage has done it again!  I know I've gushed about this series before but I have to say that A Newfound Land is another wonderful installment in the Graham Saga.  I've grown so attached to this series that I'm starting to feel like Matthew and Alex are family.

This installment finds Alex and Matthew in America with their ever growing family and features Alex's father Magnus.  The one thing I was missing in the last book was Alex's family in the present day so it was nice to see Magnus again.  I thought the author did a great job of showing all the emotions Magnus dealt with as he saw Alex in a completely different light.  He struggled to see how happy she was because he was seeing her life through the eyes of someone living in the present and I thought it was really interesting to see his point of view.  I also enjoyed the addition of some Native American characters.  They made a brief cameo in the story but I wonder if they will show up in a later book.

I'm so eager to see where the story will go next.  Matthew and Alex are getting older and their children are growing up and there seems to be so much more that could happen. I'm very curious to see if Alex's older son, Isaac, will make an appearance in future books or if her former life will completely fade away.  I never expected to fall in love with this story but now that I have, I can't wait for more. The Graham Saga is a fabulous series that I can't recommend enough and A Newfound Land is a great addition to it.  This series has definitely become one of my favorites! 4 stars.

About the Author:

I was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result I’m multilingual and most of my reading is historical – both non-fiction and fiction.

I was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for my most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive
… Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll probably live to well over a hundred.

I was always going to be a writer. Now I am – I have achieved my dream.

For more information, please visit Anna Belfrage’s website.  You can also find her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

Check out other stops on the tour here!
Follow the tour on twitter: #NewfoundLandTour

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Quick Review: "Elizabeth of York" by Alison Weir

From Goodreads:  Many are familiar with the story of the much-married King Henry VIII of England and the celebrated reign of his daughter, Elizabeth I. But it is often forgotten that the life of the first Tudor queen, Elizabeth of York, Henry’s mother and Elizabeth’s grandmother, spanned one of England’s most dramatic and perilous periods. Now New York Times bestselling author and acclaimed historian Alison Weir presents the first modern biography of this extraordinary woman, whose very existence united the realm and ensured the survival of the Plantagenet bloodline.

My Thoughts:  Let me preface this by saying, I love Alison Weir and will read anything she writes.  However, I struggled to get through this book.  I think Elizabeth of York is a fascinating historical figure so I was really hoping for an enjoyable read but I got a kind of dry, slow read instead.  This definitely wasn't one of those works of non-fiction that read as easily as fiction does.  There seemed to be almost too many details about things I didn't care about; at one point there were pages and pages of a song written about Elizabeth.   It felt at times that there wasn't enough information to write a full length book.  

 There isn't a whole lot known about Elizabeth's life that is 100 percent fact so I always find it interesting to see what different writers opinion of her is.  There isn't a lot of information that I hadn't seen before though some of Weir's claims are new (at least to me).  Overall, an okay read.  3 stars.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

October/November Wrap Up

Phew.  The last two months have been a little crazy so I haven't been around much.  I've been struggling to keep up with the blog but I have done some reading.  Honestly, I kind of think I need a break.  It's not that hard for me to read but I am having a hard time writing posts and reviews.  I have quite a few review books to read in the coming months but I think I am going to limit the ones I accept from here on out so I don't feel so limited in my reading.  Once I'm caught up, I'm going to have to do some serious thinking about whether or not I continue blogging.  I'm just so busy lately that I am not sure if there will continue to be room in my life for this. 

I think I am doing pretty good with my reading goal this year.  I planned to try to read 75 books and have exceeded that!  I am at 82 books for the year; I would like to make it to 90 but I am pretty sure that isn't going to happen unless there is some sort of Christmas miracle.  I read 6 books in October and 4 in November so I have slowed down on my reading dramatically but at least I am still reading!

In October I read:  
1.) The Loyalist's Wife by Elaine Cougler
2.) The Child Thief by Dan Smith
3.) Tarnish by Katherine Longshore
4.) Mystic River by Dennis Lehane
5.) Illuminations by Mary Sharrat
6.) Dark Places by Gillian Flynn 

In November I read:  
1.) A Divided Inheritance by Deborah Swift
2.) Elizabeth of York by Alison Weir 
3.) A Newfound Land by Anna Belfrage
4.) The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley 

What books did you read in November?  Are you on track to meeting your reading goals?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Mailbox Monday (6)

Mailbox Monday is a traveling meme. This month it is hosted by Rose City Reader.

I have received several books over the last few weeks despite being in kind of a slump. 

For Review (from HFVBT):

From the Library:

What books did you get this week?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Review: "A Divided Inheritance" by Deborah Swift

Synopsis: London 1609...

Elspet Leviston’s greatest ambition is to continue the success of her father Nathaniel’s lace business. But her dreams are thrown into turmoil with the arrival of her mysterious cousin Zachary Deane – who has his own designs on Leviston’s Lace.

Zachary is a dedicated swordsman with a secret past that seems to invite trouble. So Nathaniel sends him on a Grand Tour, away from the distractions of Jacobean London. Elspet believes herself to be free of her hot-headed relative but when Nathaniel dies her fortunes change dramatically. She is forced to leave her beloved home and go in search of Zachary - determined to claim back from him the inheritance that is rightfully hers.

Under the searing Spanish sun, Elspet and Zachary become locked in a battle of wills. But these are dangerous times and they are soon embroiled in the roar and sweep of something far more threatening, sending them both on an unexpected journey of discovery which finally unlocks the true meaning of family . . .

A Divided Inheritance is a breathtaking adventure set in London just after the Gunpowder Plot and in the bustling courtyards of Golden Age Seville.

My Thoughts:  This book was nothing like I expected it to be.  To be honest, it started off kind of slow and took me a little time to get into.  That being said, after a while, the story and characters changed dramatically and I really got into it.  It was almost as if the change of scenery, from England to Spain, changed the whole tone of the story.

I had a really hard time liking Zachary and Elspet at first.  They both had some unappealing character flaws and they just seemed hard to relate to.  Elspet was kind of stuck up and Zachary was just pure trouble.  They didn't really open up so that the reader could get to know them until they arrived in Spain.  Elspet became tough and self-reliant and Zachary became a much more sympathetic character.  It was almost as though the act of the characters finding themselves made them more likable; once I got to know the 'real' Elspet and Zachary, I couldn't help but love them.

I find this period in Spanish history to be extremely interesting.  It never ceases to amaze me that the Spanish government decided to deport all those of Moorish descent from the country and I think the author did an amazing job of portraying these events.  I loved that Ms. Swift included a Morisco family in her cast of characters; reading about Luisa and her family made these events seem even more deplorable and it was heartbreaking to read about families being ripped apart and torn from their homes. 

As are all Ms. Swift's books, A Divided Inheritance is well-written and researched.  Her descriptions of life in both England and Spain are breath-taking and I can only imagine how much research she had to do to write so vividly about the art of swordsmanship.  Overall, a great read!  3 1/2 stars. 

About the Author:

Deborah Swift used to work in the theatre and at the BBC as a set and costume designer, before studying for an MA in Creative Writing in 2007. She lives in a beautiful area of Lancashire near the Lake District National Park.  She is the author of The Lady’s Slipper and is a member of the Historical Writers Association, the Historical Novel Society, and the Romantic Novelists Association.

Check out other stops on the tour here!
Follow the tour on twitter:  #DividedInheritanceTour

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Review: "Illuminations" by Mary Sharratt

 Synopsis: Skillfully weaving historical fact with psychological insight and vivid imagination, Illuminations brings to life one of the most extraordinary women of the Middle Ages: Hildegard von Bingen, Benedictine abbess, visionary, and polymath.

Offered to the Church at the age of eight, Hildegard was expected to live in silent submission as the handmaiden of a renowned, disturbed young nun, Jutta von Sponheim. But Hildegard rejected Jutta's masochistic piety, rejoicing in her own secret visions of the divine. When Jutta died, Hildegard broke out of her prison, answering the heavenly call to speak and write about her visions and to liberate her sisters. Riveting and utterly unforgettable, Illuminations is a deeply moving portrayal of a woman willing to risk everything for what she believed.

My Thoughts:  I have had a few of Mary Sharratt's books on my TBR list for a long time so when I was offered the opportunity to read and review Illuminations, I jumped at the chance.  This is one of most unique stories I have read; I can't think of any that can compare with it.

Hildegard is such a captivating character and is a historical figure I had not heard of prior to reading this book.  I loved that the book followed her life from childhood through old age as she experienced heavenly visions.  I was amazed that she was able to maintain her inner strength and sense of self considering the deprivations she was forced to deal with as Jutta's companion.  I  also found it fascinating that Hildegard was responsible for several religious books.  That seems like such a huge accomplishment for a woman in an age where women were typically powerless.

In addition to Hildegard, there were quite a few great characters in this novel.  I had such a love/hate relationship with Jutta.  I felt so bad for her but at the same time she was extremely abusive to Hildegard and was definitely not in her right mind.  Her desire to be pious and holy made her incredibly crazy.  It kind of bothered me that the monks revered her so much considering her behavior.  I really liked Volmar: how he took Hildegard under his wing when she was a child and how he was one of her best friends and advocates throughout her life.

I must say that this is such a well-written story.  I feel like the author did a great job of describing the setting; I felt like I could truly envision the monastery and cell where Jutta and Hildegard lived.  I also thought the descriptions of Hildegard's visions were absolutely beautiful.  My only complaint about this book is that I felt like the ending was rushed.  There were certain periods of Hildegard's life that were well-developed and then other parts that were just skipped or rushed through.  Besides that, I thoroughly enjoyed Illuminations and cannot wait to read more of Sharratt's books. 4 stars.
About the Author:

The author of four critically acclaimed historical novels, Mary Sharratt is an American who lives in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, the setting for her acclaimed Daughters of the Witching Hill, which recasts the Pendle Witches of 1612 in their historical context as cunning folk and healers. She also lived for twelve years in Germany, which, along with her interest in sacred music and herbal medicine, inspired her to write Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen. Illuminations won the Nautilus Gold Award for Better Books for a Better World and was selected as a Kirkus Book of the Year.
Check out other stops on the tour here!
Follow the tour on Twitter:  #IlluminationsTour

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Mailbox Monday (5)

 Mailbox Monday is a traveling meme where bloggers can showcase all the fun bookish goodies they received each week!  This month Mailbox Monday is hosted by Crystal at I Totally Paused.

I forgot to post last week so these are all the books I received over the past two weeks.

From the Library:


Purchased for Kindle:

(it was only $1.40, how could I resist?!)

For Review from HFVBT:

(I love this series!!)

What books did you get this week?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Quick Review: "The Boleyn Deceit" by Laura Andersen

From Goodreads:  Henry IX, known as William, is the son of Anne Boleyn and now the leader of England, his regency period finally at an end. His newfound power, however, comes with the looming specter of war with the other major powers of Europe, with strategic alliances that must be forged on both the battlefield and in the bedroom, and with a court, severed by religion, rife with plots to take over the throne. Will trusts only three people: his older sister, Elizabeth; his best friend and loyal counselor, Dominic; and Minuette, a young orphan raised as a royal ward by Anne Boleyn. But as the pressure rises alongside the threat to his life, even they William must begin to question-and to fear....

My Thoughts: I really love this trilogy so far!  I haven't read many 'alternate history' books but I think Ms. Andersen has really out done herself. The whole Anne Boleyn/Henry VIII story has been done to death but with this alternate version of history, Andersen breathes new life into it.  It seems that she must have done an extensive amount of research because she does an amazing job of incorporating real historical figures into the story and making them part of her version of history.

All of the main characters are really fascinating.  I love Minuette and Dominic and I think Andersen did a great job of portraying Elizabeth.  I do wish that as a reader, I could get to know William more.  It seems like there is a lot more focus on Minuette, Dominic and Elizabeth than on William and he is seen more through the eyes of other characters. 

There is a pretty big cliffhanger at the end of this book that makes it impossible for me not to read the next one.  I can't wait to see how everything, and everyone one, turns out and am eager to see what else Andersen has up her sleeve in the future.  4 stars.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Quick Review: "Mystic River" by Dennis Lehane

From Goodreads:  When they were children, Sean Devine, Jimmy Marcus, and Dave Boyle were friends. But then a strange car pulled up to their street. One boy got into the car, two did not, and something terrible happened -- something that ended their friendship and changed all three boys forever.

Twenty-five years later, Sean is a homicide detective. Jimmy is an ex-con who owns a corner store. And Dave is trying to hold his marriage together and keep his demons at bay -- demons that urge him to do terrible things. When Jimmy's daughter is found murdered, Sean is assigned to the case. His investigation brings him into conflict with Jimmy, who finds his old criminal impulses tempt him to solve the crime with brutal justice. And then there is Dave, who came home the night Jimmy's daughter died covered in someone else's blood.

A tense and unnerving psychological thriller, Mystic River is also an epic novel of love and loyalty, faith and family, in which people irrevocably marked by the past find themselves on a collision course with the darkest truths of their own hidden selves.

My Thoughts:  This is just one of those books that messed with my head.  There was this constant theme of right vs. wrong and the gray area was so huge that it was hard to draw a definitive line between the two.  It made me question my own opinions on certain things.  The characters were so flawed and it was difficult to know who to like and who to not like.  I liked Jimmy Marcus for like 90% of the book but the end just made me really not like him.  I didn't like Dave Boyle at all even though I felt like I should. 

The story was compelling and I really didn't figure out the 'whodunit' until the end which is always fun for me.  This is the second Dennis Lehane book that I've read and I must say that he is a really awesome writer.  He can set a scene like no other and he's also really good at surprise endings.  I will definitely be reading more of his books in the future. 4 stars.

This book is part of my personal collection.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Mailbox Monday (4)

Mailbox Monday is a traveling meme where you can showcase the awesome books you received each week.  This month, Mailbox Monday is being hosted by Gina at Book Dragon's Lair.

 I really need to stay away from NetGalley but I just can't resist all the good books!

From NetGalley:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Mini-Reviews (2)

I am not a huge fan of Philippa Gregory and yet I just keep reading her books.  I am so intrigued by the War of the Roses that I just can't stay away from her Cousin's War series.  Elizabeth of York is a fascinating historical figure and I can't help feeling bad for her in both real life and this story.  I must say that I really enjoyed this book.  This is probably the first book I've read where Elizabeth Woodville seemed like a pretty nice person and a very loving mother; she was portrayed in a completely different manner in this book than in others I've read.  I enjoyed that but I'm not sure if it's an accurate depiction or not.  Also, while I loved the fact that Gregory had one of the 'princes in the tower' survive, I was annoyed that she asserts in her author's note that she believes that this version of the story is correct.  I feel like sometimes she makes a lot of assertions that she doesn't always back up. Oh well, it was still a good read!  3 1/2 stars.

The Child Thief by Dan Smith

This book reminded me a lot of Child 44 in that it was a mystery set in Stalinist era Ukraine.  However, it did focus more on the peasant population and how collectivization affected them.  It was a really interesting read because a lot of the story focused on the mystery but there was also a lot of focus on the fear of being collectivized.  What I loved most about this book is that I could not figure out who the kidnapper/killer was.  When it was finally revealed, I was so surprised because I never in a million years would have guessed that person.  The Child Thief is the perfect combination of historical fiction and mystery. 4 stars.

Tarnish by Katherine Longshore

I know I've said before that I am getting sick of Anne Boleyn books but seriously, this is one of the best Anne Boleyn books I have read.  It was set prior to Henry VIII's bid for a divorce and his split from the Catholic Church.  I loved Longshore's portrayal of Anne: it's probably one of my favorites. She was a very sympathetic and well-developed character.  The only thing I didn't like was the constant use of the word 'tarnish'.  I got the point she was trying to make but it started to get annoying.  Tarnish is the second book in a trilogy and while I liked Gilt (the first book), Tarnish was even better.  I can't wait to see what the next book will be like. 4 stars.

All books reviewed in this post were borrowed from my local library.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Top Ten Character Names that I Love

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's topic is:  Top Ten Character Names that I Love

It was really hard to pick only 10 because there are a lot of names I love.  Most of these I wouldn't consider naming one of my kids but I love them just the same.

1.) Kira from We the Living by Ayn Rand-I like this name but I think the character made me love it more.
2.) Eleanor from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen-Eleanor is a name that I wouldn't mind naming a child.  It's so pretty!
3.) James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon-How can you not love this name?!
4.) Hazel Grace from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green-I wasn't ever a huge fan of the name Hazel until I read this book.
5.) Jonas from The Giver by Lois Lowery-Great name!
6.) Andrei Bolkonskii from War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy-I think I had a crush on this character when I first read War and Peace and have loved the name ever since.
7.) Dageus MacKeltar from The Dark Highlander by Karen Marie Moning-So unique!
8.) Dimitri Belikov from Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead-Dimitri is one of my favorite names in general.
9.) Edmond  Dantes from The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas-It's just fun to say!
10.) Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson-I don't know why I love this name but I do.

What character names do you love?  Leave a link in the comments so I can check out your list!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Mailbox Monday (3)

Mailbox Monday is a traveling meme and this month it is hosted by Gina at Book Dragon's Lair.
I haven't done a book haul post in a couple of weeks!  I have just been trying to catch up on library books and review books I already have but I did get two new books this week.
Ebooks For Review (from HFVBT):

I really enjoy both of these author's works so I am excited to read them!
What books did you pick up this week?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Review: "The Loyalist's Wife" by Elaine Cougler

Synopsis:  When American colonists resort to war against Britain and her colonial attitudes, a young couple caught in the crossfire must find a way to survive. Pioneers in the wilds of New York State, John and Lucy face a bitter separation and the fear of losing everything, even their lives, when he joins Butler’s Rangers to fight for the King and leaves her to care for their isolated farm. As the war in the Americas ramps up, ruffians roam the colonies looking to snap up Loyalist land. Alone, pregnant, and fearing John is dead, Lucy must fight with every weapon she has.

With vivid scenes of desperation, heroism, and personal angst, Elaine Cougler takes us back to the beginnings of one great country and the planting of Loyalist seeds for another. The Loyalist’s Wife transcends the fighting between nations to show us the individual cost of such battles.

The Loyalist’s Wife is the first of three books in The Loyalist Trilogy. The Loyalist’s Luck is scheduled for release in June, 2014 and The Loyalist Legacy in June, 2015.

My Thoughts:  This book made me realize that I don't read nearly enough about American history.  Elaine Cougler took a really interesting period in history, added some wonderful characters and came up with a compelling story.  I don't think I've read anything that was told from the perspectives of those loyal to the British crown during the American Revolution.  I always feel like I should be sympathetic to the revolutionaries but Ms. Cougler made me feel sympathy for the other side as well.

Lucy is one of my new favorite characters.  She is one tough cookie!  Her husband, John, left to fight in the war and she stays on the farm and manages to keep it running, bring in the harvest, butcher a cow and even give birth completely on her own.  I enjoyed reading about such a tenacious character.  who never gave up no matter what was thrown her way.  I also really liked the character, John.  He seemed like a decent guy and it was hard to watch him struggle with fighting for his beliefs and wanting to be at home with his wife.  There were a lot of twists and turns in this book which made it hard to put down.  I really cared about the characters and I couldn't stop reading because I wanted to make sure that things were going to work out for them. 

In addition to great characters, this book also had a beautiful setting.  A lot of the story takes place in New York State when it was still pretty uninhabited and Ms. Cougler did a wonderful job of describing the landscape.  Her descriptions of everyday life for both Lucy and John only made the story better.

I am really happy to know that this is the first in a trilogy.  I was kind of sad of when the story ended because I felt really attached to the characters and wondered where life would take them.  I would highly recommend this book to any fan of historical fiction.  4 stars.

I received this book from Historical Fiction Virtual Tours in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author:

A native of Southern Ontario, Elaine taught high school and with her husband raised two children until she finally had time to pursue her writing career. She loves to research both family history and history in general for the stories of real people that emanate from the dusty pages. These days writing is Elaine’s pleasure and her obsession. Telling the stories of Loyalists caught in the American Revolutionary War is very natural as her personal roots are thoroughly enmeshed in that struggle, out of which arose both Canada and the United States.

For more information please visit Elaine’s website. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.
Check out other stops on the tour here!
Follow the tour on twitter:  #LoyalistsWifeTour


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Top Ten Books I Was "Forced" to Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's topic:  Top Ten Books I was "Forced" to Read
 (either by teachers, friends, other bloggers, book club)
1.) The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon-I technically wasn't forced to read this but it was a book club pick one month and I absolutely loved it.  I probably never would have read it because the synopsis didn't sound that interesting to me.
2.) A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley-I had to read this in 12th grad honors English as a companion to King Lear. At the time I completely hated it but I wouldn't mind picking it up again in the future.
3.) All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque-This was required for one of my college classes and I really enjoyed it.  I have read it a couple times now and it's definitely a favorite of mine.
4.) Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist-Another book club pick that I loved.  It's such a creepy book, perfect for October!

 5.) Animal Farm by George Orwell-I was required to read this in 8th grade and I did not like it at all.  I think it's another book I need to revisit.
6.) Night by Elie Wiesel
7.) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
       Both of these were required in 10th grade and both are books that I still enjoy to this day.  I think I've read Fahrenheit 451 at least five or six times
8.) Number the Stars by Lois Lowry-I read this on my own in elementary school but was then required to read it in 6th and 11th grades.  It's a classic must read.
9.) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee-Okay, I'm going to get in trouble for saying this but this is not one of my favorite books.  While I like it and I understand it's importance, I'm just kind of over it.  I was required to read it in 7th, 9th and 11th grade and in college (that's what happens when you move a lot) so I'm pretty sick of it.  Maybe in a few years, I'll re-read it and fall in love with it.
10.) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling-I was so not into Harry Potter for the longest time.  I thought it was the dumbest concept and I hated all the hype surrounding it. When the fifth book came out, people kept telling me I HAD to read these books so I gave in and picked up the first book.  I ended up reading all five books in less than a week.  It was so worth it.

What books were you forced to read?  Leave me a link in the comments so I can check out your list!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mini Reviews (1)

I've decided to start posting mini-reviews every now and again.  A lot of times there are books I read that I just don't have enough to talk about to warrant a whole review or even a shorter 'quick review'.

Six Days in Leningrad by Paullina Simons
I loved The Bronze Horseman and this memoir chronicles the trip that Paullina Simons took to Russia to do research for it.  Simons is originally from Russia and this trip was her first time back after leaving when she was a child.  It was a sad but fascinating look at what it's like to revisit one's childhood.  Her memories didn't always coincide with reality and it seemed to be quite shocking for her when this was brought to her attention.  I want to visit Russia so bad and this book only encouraged that desire.  It's only available as a kindle ebook which is kind of a hassle and there were a lot of typos but I would still recommend this book.  4 stars.
This book is part of my personal collection.
The Boleyn King by Lauren Andersen
When I first saw this book, I had no desire to read it.  There have been so many Anne Boleyn/Tudor books that I feel like the market is a little saturated.  However, I started noticing that it was getting great reviews so I figured, what the heck?  I am so glad I read this!  It's an alternate history and asks the question, 'what if Anne Boleyn  had a son?'  The story focuses around Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII's son, William and it just sucked me in immediately.  A lot of well-known Tudor era figures are featured in the story and it is really neat to see them in a completely different environment!  It is the first book in a trilogy and having read the second book, I must say that it just keeps getting better. 
 4 stars.
I borrowed this book from my local library.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Review: "A Wilder Rose" by Susan Wittig Albert

From Goodreads:  In 1928, Rose Wilder Lane—world traveler, journalist, much-published magazine writer—returned from an Albanian sojourn to her parents’ Ozark farm. Almanzo Wilder was 71, Laura 61, and Rose felt obligated to stay and help. To make life easier, she built them a new home, while she and Helen Boylston transformed the farmhouse into a rural writing retreat and filled it with visiting New Yorkers. Rose sold magazine stories to pay the bills for both households, and despite the subterranean tension between mother and daughter, life seemed good.

Then came the Crash. Rose’s money vanished, the magazine market dried up, and the Depression darkened the nation. That’s when Laura wrote her autobiography, “Pioneer Girl,” the story of growing up in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, on the Kansas prairie, and by the shores of Silver Lake. The rest—the eight remarkable books that followed—is literary history.

But it isn’t the history we thought we knew. For the surprising truth is that Laura’s stories were publishable only with Rose’s expert rewriting. Based on Rose’s unpublished diaries and Laura’s letters, A Wilder Rose tells the true story of the decade-long, intensive, and often troubled collaboration that produced the Little House books—the collaboration that Rose and Laura deliberately hid from their agent, editors, reviewers, and readers.

My Thoughts:  I loved the Little House books when I was a kid so when I saw this book, I had to read to it!  The book is mostly about Rose Wilder Lane's life and relationship with her mother.  While this is the story of how the Little House books came into being, it is also the story of Rose and Laura's relationship as mother and daughter.  They seemed to have a very tumultuous relationship which was made more difficult by their very stubborn personalities.  

Though this book is a work of fiction, the author used Rose's diaries and letters as her sources of information for creating the story.  The book asserts that it was mostly Rose who was responsible for the success of the Little House books; she took her mother's childhood stories and reworked them into book format.  There seems to be some controversy surrounding whether Rose was the actual author of the books or if she was just more of a support system for her mother.  I don't know enough about the issue to have an opinion but the author of A Wilder Rose created a pretty interesting story out of the idea that Rose was the real writer of the Little House books.  

While I liked this book and I thought it had an interesting premise, it definitely is more about Rose than about Laura.  I think Rose Wilder Lane was a fascinating historical figure who lived a pretty exciting life, I was hoping for more information about Laura and her writing.  Instead, the reader sees Laura through the eyes of a daughter who never quite got along with her mother.  Laura is definitely portrayed as an annoyance to Rose, kind of a thorn in her side, and it was hard for me to reconcile this portrayal of Laura with the one in my head.  Overall, if you have an interest in Laura Ingalls Wilder, this is a unique addition to the stories surrounding her life. 3 stars.

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

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

August/September Wrap Up

October is here, can you believe it?!  I am so excited for the next couple of months and all of the holidays coming up!  I still have to find a costume for baby girl but I can not decide what to dress her up as!

I never got around to writing an August wrap up post so this is going to be a combined post.  So far this year, I have read 72 books which is only 3 books away from my goal of 75.  Yippee!  I really wish I could make it to a 100 books this year but there is no way that is going to happen.  I only read 4 books in August and 5 books in September so at that rate I'll be lucky to hit 90 books by the end of the year.I just don't have as much free time to read as I used to.  Heck, we moved at the beginning of August and I STILL have not unpacked my books yet.  There are just empty bookshelves in my living room right now!

August books:

1.) The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields 
2.) Song of the River by Sue Harrison 
3.) His Last Mistress by Andrea Zuvich 
4.) The Boleyn King by Laura Andersen 

September books: 

1.) Six Days in Leningrad by Paullina Simons
2.) Queen's Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle 
3.) The Study of Murder by Susan McDuffie
4.) The Boleyn Deceit by Laura Andersen  
5.) The White Princess by Philippa Gregory 

What books did you read in September?  Are you getting excited for the upcoming holidays?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Review: "Royal Inheritance" by Kate Emerson

From Goodreads:  Audrey Malte, born about 1528 and raised at court by the king’s tailor, John Malte, was led to believe she is Malte’s illegitimate daughter when, in fact, her father is King Henry VIII. When she reaches marriageable age, she begins to realize, from the way certain people behave toward her, that Malte is keeping secrets from her, and she sets out to discover the truth. Her quest involves the best and the worst of the courtiers, among them a man with whom she falls in love.

Unfortunately, Malte has already entered into negotiations for her betrothal to someone else, and Audrey guesses the truth about her legacy when the king settles property on her, jointly with Malte. Marriage is definitely in Audrey’s future, but will it be to the man she wants to wed?

My Thoughts:  I have read a lot of Tudor era novels but this one caught my eye because the main character sounded so interesting.  Royal Inheritance features Audrey Malte who I originally thought was a fictional character but is, in fact, inspired by someone who really lived during Henry VIII's reign.  There was an awesome author's note at the end of the book that gave more information about the real Audrey Malte.  The author's Audrey is a happy young woman who was adopted by Henry VIII's tailor when she was a very young girl and spent her whole life believing that she was her father's (John Malte's) illegitimate daughter.  I loved that the author gave her a happy childhood and a loving family; sometimes it seems that when illegitimate children are main characters, authors tend to give them unhappy childhoods so it was kind of refreshing to see something different.

The story is told by Audrey as a precautionary tale to her daughter; this isn't the story of a woman who relishes her royal blood, Audrey knows that the burdens and danger associated with her heritage and isn't trying to use it to her advantage.  The story follows her as she slowly comes to realize who her biological father is and what that means for her life.  I liked that she was such a humble character, she really just wanted to be free to live her life in peace.  

The story is a very simple one (this is a nice light read) but it also is a kind of sad one.  I don't want to give anything away but it did make me a little sad that there wasn't a happy ending.  Because I liked Audrey as a character, I really hoped that things would turn out the way she wanted.  I think Royal Inheritance is a unique addition to the large group of Tudor era novels and is a really enjoyable read.  3 stars.

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

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Review: "A Study of Murder" by Susan McDuffie

Synopsis:  The Study of Murder pits Scottish sleuth Muirteach MacPhee against a mysterious adversary in the medieval town of Oxford in 1374.At the command of the Lord of the Isles, Muirteach and his wife Mariota accompany Donald, the lord's surly thirteen-year-old son, to Oxford where Donald is to enroll in university. Shortly after their arrival a winsome tavern maid disappears. At his charge's insistence, Muirteach attempts to help Undersheriff Grymbaud with the investigation, as well as keep Donald at his studies and out of the taverns. He has little success with either venture, although the discovery of some bizarre and suggestive drawings on old parchments piques the curiosity of Donald and his peers. Meanwhile, Mariota thirsts to attend medical lectures at the schools, which are closed to women, and seeks a way to gain admittance to them. When an Oxford master is found brutally bludgeoned to death, Grymbaud asks Muirteach to investigate the slaying. The eventual arrest of an aged servant at the college stirs the ever-simmering discord between townsfolk and university students. The unrest culminates in riots and another senseless killing occurs, endangering Mariota. Gleaning clues from a cryptic manuscript and desperate to save his wife, a determined Muirteach tracks a wily killer through a dark and twisted labyrinth of deceit.

My Thoughts:   What a great story this was!  I really love books that combine mystery and historical fiction so The Study of Murder was right up my alley.  I was a little nervous at first because it is part of a series and I have not read any of the other books but my fears were quikcly dispelled!

Muirteach and Mariota are a great team and such a sweet couple.  I liked that he was an investigator while she had the medical knowledge; it was like a detective/coroner duo.  Muirteach is a very interesting character; he wasvery intelligent and thought everything through.  There were a lot of possible suspects in the story but he was not quick to accuse anyone without cause.  Mariota was unique in that she was incredibly knowledgeable about medicine and had a strong desire to learn more.  The lengths she went to in order to attend medical lectures was pretty neat!

The setting of the story was completely unique and gives the reader a view of Oxford in the Middle Ages.  I haven't read many books that are set this far in the past but I think the author did a great job of presenting medieval Oxford and the people who inhabited it.  The Study of Murder is first, and foremost, a mystery and myy favorite aspect of the story was that I could not figure out who the killer was and what his motives were.  There were so many different characters who had motive and opportunity so I never could quite grasp who the actual killer was and I loved that! 

I would highly recommend this book to any reader who loves a good mystery with great characters.  I will definitely be picking up the other books in the series to see what else Muirteach and Mariota have been up to.  3 1/2 stars.

I received this book from Historical Fiction Virtual Tours in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:

Susan McDuffie has been a fan of historical fiction since childhood. As a child, Susan spent such vast amounts of time reading historical fiction that she wondered if she was mistakenly born in the wrong century. As an adult her discovery that Clorox was not marketed prior to 1922 reconciled her to life in this era. Susan’s first published works were two Regency short stories in Regency Press anthologies.

Susan’s childhood interest in Scotland was fueled by stories of the McDuffie clan’s ancestral lands on Colonsay and their traditional role as “Keeper of the Records” for the Lord of the Isles. On her first visit to Scotland she hitchhiked her way through the Hebrides and the seeds for the medieval Muirteach MacPhee mysteries were planted.

The Muirteach mysteries include A MASS FOR THE DEAD (2006), THE FAERIE HILLS (2011), and THE STUDY OF MURDER (September 2013). The New Mexico Book Awards named THE FAERIE HILLS  “Best Historical Novel” of 2011. Currently plotting Muirteach’s next adventure, Susan shares her life with a Native American artist and four unruly cats, and enjoys taking flamenco dance classes in her spare time. She loves to hear from readers and her website is

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