Sunday, March 31, 2013

Stacking the Shelves (39)

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

This week I only received one book and I have actually already finished it.  I just couldn't help myself!

From the Library:

What books did you pick up this week?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Review: "Like Chaff in the Wind" by Anna Belfrage

Synopsis:  Matthew Graham committed the mistake of his life when he cut off his brother’s nose.  In revenge, Luke Graham has Matthew abducted and transported to the Colony of Virginia, there to be sold as indentured labour – a death sentence more or less.

Matthew arrives in Virginia in May of 1661, and any hope he had of finding someone willing to listen to his tale of unlawful abduction is quickly extinguished. If anything Matthew’s insistence that he is an innocent man leads to him being singled out for the heaviest tasks.

Insufficient food, grueling days and the humid heat combine to wear Matthew down. With a sinking feeling he realises no one has ever survived the seven years of service – not on the plantation Suffolk Rose, not under the tender care of the overseer Dominic Jones.

Fortunately for Matthew, he has a remarkable wife, a God’s gift who has no intention of letting her husband suffer and die, and so Alex Graham sets off on a perilous journey to bring her husband home.

Alex is plagued by nightmares in which her Matthew is reduced to a wheezing wreck by his tormentors. She sits in the prow of the ship and prays for a miracle to carry her swiftly to his side, to let her hold him and heal him before it’s too late. God, however, has other things to do and what should have been a two month crossing becomes a yearlong adventure from one side of the Atlantic to the other.

Will she find him in time? And if she does, will she be capable of paying the price required to buy him free?

My Thoughts:   This was such a wonderful book!  It had everything you could ask for, romance, intrigue, adventure, everything.  In reading this book I got to travel from Scotland to the Indies to America and back again as well as reconnect with some fantastic characters.  I fell in love with Alex and Matthew Graham in A Rip in the Veil (review here) and it was awesome to get to read about them again.  Like Chaff in the Wind picks up not long after A Rip in the Veil ends.  Luke Graham is back in all his evil glory and it is because of him that Matthew winds up as an indentured servant in America.  Alex decides to go after him though it takes forever for her to get there and she is forced to leave her very young son. 

I think the storyline in this book emphasizes how connected Matthew and Alex are and how nothing could keep them apart. Alex didn't stop for two seconds in her search to get Matthew back and I liked that, in this book, she got to be the savior and he the one who needed protection.  I think seeing Matthew in such a desperate situation made me love his character even more.  I was happy to see that there were a lot more scenes with theA present day characters in this book and I enjoyed getting to know Isaac and Magnus more.  Isaac was actually present in this book (he was a very minor character in the last book) and it was pretty exciting to see the adventures he had.  

I had a lot of questions as I read through this book and I am hoping that in a future book (or books) some of these will be resolved.  I keep wondering if/when Mercedes is going to show up.  I can't decide if I believe that she is dead or not and I keep waiting for her to pop into Alex's life.  I also want to know what the deal is with Margaret.  Why does she look so much like Alex?  And when is she going to stop playing everyone?  She is such a master manipulator and I just really am fed up with her.  I also feel like there is more to her story than meets the eye.  I have other questions regarding Isaac's father, Angel, and of course, I can't wait to see what will happen between Luke and Matthew.  I keep waiting for Matthew to kill him; I don't think that will happen but I can't wait to see Luke get what's coming to him.

Like Chaff in the Wind is not your average time travel/historical fiction work.  It is a wonderfully woven tale of magic, love and malice; it is a book that any reader would enjoy.  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.

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

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Top Ten Books I Recommend The Most

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

This week's topic:  Top Ten Books I Recommend the Most

          If you read my blog at all, you know I love these two books so much!  I am not afraid to suggest them to anyone who I think might enjoy them.
3.) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins-I was definitely recommending this book left and right when the first movie came out.
          These are two books that I just recently started recommending but they are books that can appeal to anyone so they are easy picks when someone asks for a recommendation.
6.) Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead - I get a little embarrassed when I recommend this book to people but seriously, just because it has vampires does not mean it is like Twilight.
7.) The Giver by Lois Lowry -I first read this book in 6th grade and have read it 4 or 5 times since.  I think everyone should read it and I am not afraid to recommend it to people.
          These are my two favorite books of all time.  We the Living isn't for everyone but I always recommend Fahrenheit 451 to my fellow book lovers.
10.) The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis -I tend to give this book to kids in my family for birthdays or Christmas.  I remember how much I absolutely loved this book when I was a kid and I love to share it.

What books do you recommend the most?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Stacking the Shelves (38)

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

I only received one book this week but I am completely fine with that.  I actually have plenty to read right now. 

For Review (from Historical Fiction Book Tours):

What books did you receive this week?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Quick Review: "The Indigo Spell" by Richelle Mead

From Goodreads:  In the aftermath of a forbidden moment that rocked Sydney to her core, she finds herself struggling to draw the line between her Alchemist teachings and what her heart is urging her to do. Then she meets alluring, rebellious Marcus Finch--a former Alchemist who escaped against all odds, and is now on the run. Marcus wants to teach Sydney the secrets he claims the Alchemists are hiding from her. But as he pushes her to rebel against the people who raised her, Sydney finds that breaking free is harder than she thought. There is an old and mysterious magic rooted deeply within her. And as she searches for an evil magic user targeting powerful young witches, she realizes that her only hope is to embrace her magical blood--or else she might be next.

My Thoughts:  I love this series so much!  I just can't get enough of these characters and the worlds of Moroi and Alchemists.  Sydney is as awesome as ever in this installment and Adrian is just completely swoon-worthy.  I have always liked Adrian but I like him even more after this book; I am starting to like him even more than Dimitri (gasp!).  

I was a little let down by Marcus.  It seemed like there was a lot of build up and then when he actually came into the picture, he wasn't nearly as exciting as I expected him to be.  However, I did find myself really loving Ms. Terwilliger in this book.  She was always kind of funny but I think she has become a very interesting character and I can't wait to see what role she will play in the next book.

The ending to this book was great; it was just how I wanted it to end!  It also left just enough loose ends to make me super excited for the next book.  I am so glad that I only have to wait until the fall for The Fiery Heart!  Sorry for all of the crazy gushing but seriously, if you haven't read the Vampire Academy/Bloodlines series, you should!  4 stars.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Check it Out!

Guess what? I got a new blog design! 

My two year blogoversary is coming up and I have been thinking about making some changes because my design was just not working for me anymore.  Thanks to Lori at Imagination Designs, I have an awesome new look for my blog!  If your thinking about a new design for your blog you should check out her site.  She is running a special on her premade sites (see here).  I submitted my order for the premade site last night and by 9 am this morning, my new design was up and loaded.  It was so easy!

Anyway, enough of my rambling. What do you think of the new look?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Review: "The House of Special Purpose" by John Boyne

From Goodreads: 
Part love story, part historical epic, part tragedy, "The House of Special Purpose "illuminates an empire at the end of its reign.
Eighty year old Georgy Jachmenev is haunted by his past -- a past of death, suffering and scandal that will stay with him until the end of his days. Living in England with his beloved wife Zoya, Georgy prepares to make one final journey back to the Russia he once knew and loved, the Russia that both destroyed and defined him.
As Georgy remembers days gone by, we are transported to St. Petersburg in the early 20th century, to the Winter Palace of the Tsar. A time of change, threat and bloody revolution.
And as Georgy overturns the most painful stone of all, we uncover the story of the house of special purpose.

My Thoughts:  I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  I can't stay away from any book set in Russia so when I saw this book I had to read it.  The House of Special Purpose  takes place in the present and in Imperial Russia towards the end of the of last Romanov tsar's reign.  We meet Georgy Jachmenev in the present in London; he is an elderly gentleman taking care of his dying wife but through his memories, he takes us back to his youth in St. Petersburg when he worked for Tsar Nicholas II as the bodyguard of Tsarevich Alexei. 

The story had a lot of minor characters but focused mostly on Georgy Jachmenev and his experiences.  I have a soft spot for old men so I really loved Georgy's character.  He was such a devoted husband and he had this innate love of books that I couldn't help but find endearing.  He was also incredibly devoted to the tsar and his family as a young man and risked his life to try to save them.  I thought the author did a good job of characterizing the tsar and his family; I didn't feel like he tried to vilify them but he also didn't make them look like saints either.  

There was a twist in the story but I have to say it was a pretty predictable one.  It was obvious about half way through that things in the present were not as they seemed which was kind of a bummer.  I am really picky about works of historical fiction that center around the last tsar and his family but I liked the way the author embellished and fictionalized aspects of the end of Imperial Russia.  It was not incredibly unrealistic or ridiculous and I found that kind of refreshing.  I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in Russian history.  3 stars.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Stacking the Shelves (37)

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

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!! This was a good book week!  I was so excited to find out that a hold I have been waiting for finally came in at the library!
From the Library:
I can't wait to read this!

June is quickly approaching! I better get reading!

What books did you get this week?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Review: "The Storyteller" by Jodi Picoult

From Goodreads:  Sage Singer befriends an old man who's particularly beloved in her community. Josef Weber is everyone's favorite retired teacher and Little League coach. They strike up a friendship at the bakery where Sage works. One day he asks Sage for a favor: to kill him. Shocked, Sage refuses…and then he confesses his darkest secret - he deserves to die, because he was a Nazi SS guard. Complicating the matter? Sage's grandmother is a Holocaust survivor.

What do you do when evil lives next door? Can someone who's committed a truly heinous act ever atone for it with subsequent good behavior? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you aren't the party who was wronged? And most of all - if Sage even considers his request - is it murder, or justice?

My Thoughts:  I finished this book several days ago and I am still thinking about it.  I thought I would never enjoy a Jodi Picoult book after reading My Sister's Keeper but this book really surprised me.  It is actually the best book I have read so far this year.

The story is so incredibly well-written.  The story flips between Sage and Josef in the present, Josef's time as an SS guard and Sage's grandmother's experiences in the Holocaust.  Sage's grandmother, Minka, is an amazing character.  Her story is the whole middle of the book; while Minka is telling her story there is no flipping to the present or another person's point of view, the sole focus is on her and the horrors she had to live through.  Ms. Picoult must have done an extensive amount of research because Minka's narrative felt so real.  It was so heartbreaking and yet so beautiful that you couldn't help but be touched by it.

Josef's story made me really question my feelings about this tough issue.  Normally, I would have no sympathy for a character like Josef but because we are introduced to him as this sweet little old man, it was really hard for me to reconcile my feelings about him.  I loved the old man version of Josef, but his younger self was so evil that I just didn't know how to feel about him. 

There was a huge twist at the end; I kind of started to guess what was coming but it was still a huge shocker.  It kind of changed how I thought about the entire story and Josef's character.  I was also really surprised by how the story ended, I have very mixed feelings about it but it worked.  I don't want to go into much detail about the end because it will give it away but it definitely left me with a lot to think about it.  I know this review has kind of been a lot of rambling but there is so much in my head and I am not doing a very good job of putting it down in writing.  Needless to say, this book was excellent, thought-provoking and a must read.  5 stars.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Top Ten Books On My Spring 2013 TBR list!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's topic is: Top Ten Books on my Spring 2013 TBR list

1.) The Indigo Spell by Richelle Mead-I have been waiting to read this since I finished The Golden Lily.  I can't wait until my hold comes in at the library!
2.) Lover At Last  by J.R. Ward-I love this series.  The last book was a little disappointing but I still want to see how things go with Blay and Quinn.
3.) Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare-I love the Shadowhunter world and will definitely be reading this installment when it comes out next week.
4.) The Tudor Secret by C.W. Gortner-I like Gortner's books and am I think this is the only one of his books I haven't read yet.

5.) Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin-Considering that baby girl will be here in a few months, I think I need to make sure I know what's going to happen. : )
6.) Margaret Fuller by Megan Marshall - I will be reading this for a blog tour in April.
7.) Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell-I will be reading this for a blog tour in May.

That's all I have!  I am having a hard time picking books to read this Spring.  If you have any recommendations, let me know!  What books are on your Spring TBR list?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Review: "Children of Liberty" by Paulina Simons

From Goodreads:  At the turn of the century and the dawning of the modern world, Gina from Belpasso comes to Boston’s Freedom Docks to find a new and better life, and meets Harry Barrington, who is searching for his.

The fates of the Barringtons and Attavianos become entwined, on a collision course between the old and new, between what is expected and what is desired, what is chosen and what is bestowed, what is given and what is taken away.

As America races headlong into the future, much will be lost and much will be gained for Gina and Harry, whose ill-fated love story will break your heart.

My Thoughts:  I was so excited for this book to come out.  I loved The Bronze Horseman trilogy so I figured a prequel to it was a must read for me.  Unfortunately, I think I got my hopes up a little too high.  While I enjoyed the story, it was not as good as I expected it to be.  If you are familiar with The Bronze Horseman, the story features Alexander Belov's parents, Gina and Harry, and follows them over several years as they fall in love and deal with the complexities caused by class differences and the politics of the era.  It does not discuss much beyond the early years of the relationship so if you are hoping to see them move to Russia, have Alexander, etc., you won't find it in this book.

The story was a little slow to start and took me a while to get into.  I liked Gina's character in the beginning of the story:  she was fiery, headstrong, intelligent and ambitious.  However, as the book continues she seemed to slip into immaturity and I didn't like her as much.  Harry was a strange character too.  I liked how intelligent he was but he really needed a swift kick in the butt.  I understand not knowing what you want to be when you grow up but he was so lost; even though he tried to do the opposite of what his father wanted, he still unwittingly went along with a lot of social protocols that he didn't believe in.  I just wanted him to man up a little, especially knowing that he was Alexander's father.  Actually, I was kind of surprised that both of these people were supposed to grow up to be Alexander's parents because neither one of them was like him at all.  

Despite how I feel about the characters, I do think that the story was beautifully written as is the usual with Simons' works.  She really brought early 20th century Boston to life and her descriptions of the city were some of my favorite parts of the book.  I also found the political discussions of socialism, anarchism, etc. to be incredibly fascinating and some of my more favorite parts of the story.  The story ended very abruptly leaving room for a sequel.  I am hoping that the next book will be more about Gina and Harry's conversion to Socialism and their move to Russia.  While I didn't love this book, it wasn't a bad story and I am hopeful that the next book will be better.  3 stars.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Quick Review: "A Rip in the Veil" by Anna Belfrage

From Goodreads:  On a stifling August day in 2002, Alexandra Lind is thrown several centuries backwards in time. She lands at the feet of Matthew Graham - an escaped convict making his way home to Scotland in this the year of our Lord, 1658.

Matthew doesn't quite know what to make of this concussed and injured woman who has seemingly fallen from the skies. What is she, a witch?

Alex gawks at this tall, gaunt man with hazel eyes, dressed in what to her mostly looks like rags. At first she thinks he might be some sort of hermit, an oddball, but she quickly realises the odd one out is she.

Catapulted from a life of modern comfort, Alex grapples with this new existence, further complicated by the dawning realisation that someone from her time has followed her here - and not exactly to extend a helping hand.

Potential compensation for this brutal shift in fate comes in the shape of Matthew - a man she should never have met, not when she was born three centuries after him. He quickly proves himself a willing and most capable protector, but Matthew comes with baggage of his own, and on occasion it seems his past will see him killed. At times Alex finds it all exceedingly exciting, longing for the structured life she used to have.

How will she ever get back? And more importantly, does she want to?

My Thoughts:  I am going to keep this review short because I will be writing a more in-depth review of the sequel, Like Chaff in the Wind, in a couple weeks.

I must say that I loved this book.  I was so surprised by how quickly I got sucked into the story and by how much I fell in love with it and the characters.  This isn't the first time travel book I have read but it is definitely one of the better ones.  I really loved that the reader got to connect with characters in the past and the present.  With some of the time travel books I have read, the people left in the present are completely ignored but that wasn't the case with this one.  That was one of the many things I enjoyed about this book.

I also loved the characters.  There are a lot of characters in the story but I think the author did a good job of giving each of them a unique personality and interesting qualities.  I do think she created a really nasty villain in Luke Graham.  I hated him!  It was just so shocking how incredibly stupid and evil he was.  I just kept hoping someone would kill him but unfortunately, that didn't happen.  While Luke Graham was the perfect villain, Alex and Matthew are the perfect heroes.  I like that the author didn't try to make Matthew into a more modern thinking man but rather kept him true to the time period.  While at times I found it annoying, I thought it was more realistic for him to have the mindset that a man in the 1600s would have had.  

The story was like a whirlwind of emotional ups and downs and the romance between Matthew and Alex was completely beautiful.  I hated for the story to end but was so excited to be able to jump right into the second book in the series!  4 stars.


Monday, March 4, 2013

February Wrap Up

Okay, seriously?  How is it March already?!  This year is moving way too fast!  

February was a great reading month for me.  I read 10 books which puts me at 19/75 for the year.  It's been a while since I have read that many books in a month so I am very pleased with my progress.  I did kind of fail at reading books I own; only one book I read was of my shelf, the rest were from the library or were ARCs.  Hopefully next month I can do a little bit better on that front.

Here is what I read in February:

1.) The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay
2.) Romancing Olive by Holly Bush
3.) City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare
4.) The Black Russian by Vladimir Alexandrov
5.) Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein
6.) A Rip in the Veil by Anna Belfrage
7.) Like Chaff in the Wind by Anna Belfrage 
8.) Seduction by M.J. Rose 
9.) The House of Special Purpose by John Boyne 
10.) Flesh by Khanh Ha 

What did you read in February?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Stacking the Shelves(36)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews.
I got a couple of fun books this week that I can't wait to read!
For Review (from Historical Fiction Book Tours):

 For Review (from TLC Book Tours):
What books did you get this week?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Review: "A Shot of Sultry" by Macy Beckett

 From Goodreads:  Welcome to Sultry Springs, Texas: where home can be the perfect place for a fresh start.  For West Coast filmmaker Bobbi Gallagher, going back to Sultry Springs is a last resort. But with her career in tatters, a quick trip to her hometown might get her the footage she needs to salvage her reputation. She just can't let anything distract her again. Not even the gorgeous contractor her brother asked to watch over her. As if she can't handle filming a few rowdy Texans.

Golden boy Trey Lewis, with his blond hair and Technicolor-blue eyes, is a leading man if Bobbi ever saw one. He's strong and confident and--much to her delight--usually shirtless. He thinks keeping his best friend's baby sister out of trouble will be easy. But he has no idea of the trouble in store for him..

My Thoughts:  I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  I love this series!!   A Shot of Sultry is the second Sultry Springs book and I absolutely loved it.  I am not a huge fan of romance novels but this book was really good.

I liked Trey's character a lot in Sultry with a Twist and I loved that he got his own book because he is such a great character.  He is a total smart ass but also incredibly endearing.  Oh and did I mention he's smoking hot?!  I also liked Bobbi a lot.  In the very beginning, I wasn't so sure that I was going to like her but as I got further into the book, I got to know her more and I had to admire her as a character.  She had to deal with so much throughout her life and she tried to act so tough in an effort to mask her vulnerability.

The story is really fun; Bobbi is supposed to filming a sleazy reality tv show but instead sparks fly between her Trey.  The romance aspect of the story is pretty steamy but also really sweet.  There are a lot of great encounters between Bobbi and Trey and it is nice to see Bobbi reconnect with her brother, Luke.  That is one thing that I definitely liked about this book, that I got to see June and Luke again; I loved them in Sultry with a Twist and I was glad they played a big part in this book.  There was a new character, Colton, in this book and even though he seemed liked a sleazy guy at first, I really started to like him.  He is actually featured in the next book and I am excited to see how his story turns out.  Overall, this is a really great read:  whether or not you are a fan of romance novels, you should definitely check this book out! 4 stars. 
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