Thursday, January 30, 2014

Bookish (and Not So Bookish) Thoughts (2)

I'm linking up with Bookishly Boisterous' Bookish and Not So Bookish Things again.  Check out the other posts here!

1.) I am officially in love with Susanna Kearsley's books.  I don't know why it took me so long to read them because they are amazing!

2.) The tiny dictator that lives at my house (aka Julia) has not been wanting to go to bed lately.  Once she falls asleep, there's no problem but it's been taking her well over an hour to go to sleep.  The minute she gets in bed, she decides it's time to play.

3.) I'm really behind on writing reviews and other blog posts.  I don't why I constantly do this to myself.  It's hard for me to find the time to work on the blog but I really shouldn't let things pile up so much.

4.) My birthday is today.  I'm now 31 and I just don't know if I'm okay with officially being in my 30s.

5.) I need a serious attitude adjustment.  Normally, I can play nice and get along with everyone but I'm struggling lately.

6.) The book I'm reading right now is told in the third person POV.  I'm so not liking it. 

7.) We are going to baptism prep class next week so we can get Julia baptized and I'm pretty excited about it!

Hope everyone has a great rest of the week!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Review: "Becoming Josephine" by Heather Webb

Synopsis:  Rose Tascher sails from her Martinique plantation to Paris to trade her Creole black magic culture for love and adventure. She arrives exultant to follow her dreams of attending Court with Alexandre, her elegant aristocrat and soldier husband. But Alexandre dashes her hopes and abandons her amid the tumult of the French Revolution.

Through her savoir faire, Rose secures her footing in high society, reveling in handsome men and glitzy balls—until the heads of her friends begin to roll.

After narrowly escaping death in the blood-drenched cells of Les Carmes prison, she reinvents herself as Josephine, a socialite of status and power. Yet her youth is fading, and Josephine must choose between a precarious independence and the love of an awkward suitor. Little does she know, he would become the most powerful man of his century- Napoleon Bonaparte.

BECOMING JOSEPHINE is a novel of one woman’s journey to find eternal love and stability, and ultimately to find herself.

My Thoughts:  I have been interested in Josephine ever since I read Antonia Fraser's biography of her.  Since that time, I have been unable to resist reading books about her so there was no way I could not read this.  Becoming Josephine is a captivating tale of a truly fascinating historical figure.  It is set against a background of rebellion, revolution and war that emphasizes the resilience of the main character.

 Heather Webb's Josephine is an extremely complex and well-developed character.  She was so flawed but at the same time so endearing; even if I didn't always like how she behaved, I still really liked her.  She definitely didn't have an easy life but she was a survivor and she did what she had to do to take care of her family.  Josephine was portrayed as a doting mother who had a wonderful relationship with her children.  She also had some serious fashion sense!  I loved the descriptions of her outfits, they sounded absolutely gorgeous!

I enjoyed watching the transformation of Rose into Josephine going from a naive young girl to a strong, worldly woman.  It was almost like a phoenix rising from the ashes of the revolution.  After such a difficult period in her life, she basically got to become a whole new person thanks to Napoleon.  There was such a complexity to her romance with Napoleon; they loved each other deeply but also seemed to like hurting each other.

Becoming Josephine is Ms. Webb's debut novel and it is one of my favorite reads of the year so far.  I can't recommend it enough!  4 stars.

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

About the Author:

Heather Webb grew up a military brat and naturally became obsessed with travel, culture, and languages. She put her degrees to good use teaching high school French for nearly a decade before turning to full time novel writing and freelance editing.
When not writing, Heather flexes her foodie skills or looks for excuses to head to the other side of the world.
For more information please visit Heather’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

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

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"Cloaked in Danger" Facebook Launch Party

Hi all!  Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours is hosting its first ever Facebook Launch Party in honor of the release of Cloaked in Danger by Jeannie Reusch!  It sounds so awesome; there will be prizes, trivia and you can ask Jeannie any questions you may have.

What: Jeannie Ruesch's Facebook Launch Party for Cloaked in Danger

Monday, January 273:00 - 7:00pm PST

About Cloaked in Danger

Publication Date: January 27, 2014
Carina Press

Aria Whitney has little in common with the delicate ladies of London society. Her famous father made his fortune hunting archaeological treasures, and her rustic upbringing has left her ill prepared for a life of parties and frippery. But when Gideon Whitney goes missing in Egypt, Aria must embrace the unknown. Armed with only the short list of highborn men who’d backed her father’s venture, she poses as a woman looking for a husband. She doesn’t intend to find one.

Adam Willoughby, Earl of Merewood, finds London’s strangest new debutante fascinating, but when he catches her investigating his family’s secrets, he threatens to ruin her reputation. He doesn’t intend to enjoy it so much.

When their lustful indiscretion is discovered, Adam finds that he regrets nothing. But now, as Aria’s father’s enemy draws near, Adam must convince his betrothed that she can trust him with her own secrets…before it’s too late.

About Jeannie Ruesch
Jeannie Ruesch wrote her first story at the age of the six, prompting her to give up an illustrious, hours-long ambition of becoming a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader and declare that writing was her destiny. That journey to destiny took a few detours along the way, including a career in marketing and design.
Her first novel, a fairy-tale like historical romance, was published in 2009, but the darker side of life had always captivated her. So after a dinner conversation with friends about the best way to hide a dead body, she knew she had to find a way to incorporate suspense into her writing. (The legal outlet for her fascination.) Today, she continues writing what she loves to read – stories of history, romance and suspense. She lives in Northern California with her husband, their son and an 80 pound lapdog lab named Cooper.  She is also the creator of the WIP Notebook, a writer’s tool to help stay organized while you write, which you can find at her website. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Pinterest.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Mailbox Monday (9)

Mailbox Monday is a meme started by Marcia at To Be Continued.  It's a great way to share all the awesome books you receive each week!  Check it out here!

I received a couple review books this week and they all sound so good!

For Review (from HFVBT):

What books did you pick up this week?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Review: "The Harlot's Tale" by Samuel Thomas

Synopsis:  It is August, 1645, one year since York fell into Puritan hands. As the city suffers through a brutal summer heat, Bridget Hodgson and Martha Hawkins are drawn into a murder investigation more frightening than their last. In order to appease God’s wrath—and end the heat-wave—the city’s overlords have launched a brutal campaign to whip the city’s sinners into godliness. But for someone in York, whipping is not enough. First a prostitute and her client are found stabbed to death, then a pair of adulterers are beaten and strangled. York’s sinners have been targeted for execution.

Bridget and Martha—assisted once again by Will, Bridget’s good-hearted nephew—race to find the killer even as he adds more bodies to his tally. The list of suspects is long: Hezekiah Ward, a fire and brimstone preacher new to York; Ward’s son, Praise-God, whose intensity mirrors his father’s; John Stubb, one of Ward’s fanatic followers, whose taste for blood may not have been sated by his time in Parliament’s armies. Or could the killer be closer to home? Will’s brother Joseph is no stranger to death, and he shares the Wards’ dreams of driving sin from the city.

To find the killer, Bridget, Martha, and Will must uncover the city’s most secret sins, and hope against hope that the killer does not turn his attention in their direction.

My Thoughts:  Wow, Sam Thomas did it again!  The Harlot's Tale is a masterfully written tale of murder and intrigue in 17th century England.  I loved Thomas' first book, The Midwife's Tale (review here) and this second book picks up where the first left off.

Bridget continues to be a great character.  I really enjoy reading about her.  I love how intelligent she is and the respect she commands despite being a widow with almost no family.  Her profession as a midwife is fascinating and I think the author must have done a lot of research on midwifery during that era because he explains it in such detail.  It was really interesting to see  that her role as a midwife gave her so much access to the goings on in the city.  I would never have thought that a midwife would be called in to look at a body and determine it's cause of death.  I also liked how the author had Bridget wrestle with her feelings about God.  The religious upheavals going on around her, made her question her beliefs as well as the sufferings she had endured and it really added even more depth to her character.

In this book, Bridget finds herself trying to solve the murders of several prostitutes that appear to be tied to religious zealots in the city.  The author used the religious upheaval going on during that era as a back drop for these murders which resulted in a pretty great mystery story.  I know I've said this before but I love when I can't figure out who the murderer is in a story, and I definitely didn't figure it out in this book.  There was a large cast of crazies and it was easy to get distracted from seeing who the real killer was.

There were quite a few surprises at the end of the story, some good and some not so good.  I am really hoping that there will be another 'Midwife Mystery' because I would love to see how these events effect the lives of Bridget, Will and Martha.  Overall, I highly recommend this book to any reader looking for a story with endearing characters and a great mystery. 4 stars.

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

About the Author:
Sam Thomas is an assistant professor of history at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He has received research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Newberry Library, and the British Academy. He has published articles on topics ranging from early modern Britain to colonial Africa. Thomas lives in Alabama with his wife and two children. 

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

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Review: "Degrees of Courage" by Shari Vester

Synopsis:  The book follows the story of three generation of women from 1900 through 1970, seven decades of wars and hardship. At the turn of the century, an era of strict moral codes, Angela falls in love with a priest who abandons her and her unborn child. She overcomes rejection and misfortunes, including losing her right hand, and brings up her daughter, exuberant, stubborn Ilonka. In spite of the stigma of her illegitimate birth, the girl finds happiness in love and marriage, raising five children, among them Sarika, independent and high-spirited, much like herself.  With the outbreak of WWII, however, their lives change drastically, followed by equally hard times as the country falls under Soviet-style dictatorship. When an attempt to free the country in 1956 fails and people start to flee retributions, Sarika and her brothers join the exodus to the West.  With her family torn apart Ilonka never recovers her strength.

Years of fear and political pressures hasten her descend into depression, and when she loses her husband too, she finally gives up. Alone and completely on her own, Sarika finds her way to America, and begins a new life full of opportunities and most importantly, free of fear.

My Thoughts:   While I studied Russia and the Soviet Union extensively during both my undergraduate and graduate careers, I really don't know much about the history of Hungary.  I think that is part of why this book appealed to me so much.  I'm also really drawn to stories about women who overcome a lot of obstacles so this book was right up my alley.

Degrees of Courage is almost two separate books.  Part of the book is the story of the Zachar family and the other part is the history of Hungary between 1900-1970.  It was really interesting to read about the historical events going on in Hungary and then seeing how they affected the characters in the story.  I know the author grew up in Hungary and lived through many of the events described in the book but it still seemed as though she must have done a lot of research because the historical parts were so detailed.

I have to say that Ilonka was my favorite character.  I loved her strength and her outspokenness as well as her dedication to her family.  She wasn't perfect by any means but she survived so much; I can't even imagine the struggles she endured during World War II and the Soviet occupation.  There were a lot of characters in this book because it seemed that everyone had a lot of family ties.  It was sometimes hard to keep track of who everyone was and how they were related to the main characters but I don't think it affected the story too much.

My only complaint about this book was that it seemed really long.  As I said above, it was very detailed but at times it felt like there was just a little too much detail.  Besides that, I enjoyed this book a great deal.  It's a wonderful story of love and family as well as being a great history of modern Hungary.  3 stars.

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

About the Author:

As a young woman, author Shari Vester fled her native Hungary in 1956 after the defeat of a patriotic uprising against the country's Soviet-dictated regime. She was granted asylum in the United States to begin a new life.  After a year living in New York she moved to Los Angeles, married, and worked as an insurance account manager. Recently retired, she and her husband relocated in the Palm Spring area, where she finally found time to write. Her debut novel, Degrees of Courage, is a historical fiction drawn on her family history. It paints a sharp contrast between life as we know it in America, versus a time and place where today's "Let it be" mentality was simply impossible. 

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

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Bookish (and Not So Bookish) Thoughts

I have loved reading the Bookish (and Not So Bookish) Thoughts posts at Bookishly Boisterous for a while and decided that I need to join in on the fun. 

1.) We have started giving Julia solids and it's not going well.  We've given sweet potatoes and avocados and she hates them both.  I think she's not really ready for solids yet.  She doesn't even get that excited about cereal.
This is seriously what she looked like.

2.)  One of my bookish goals for the year was to kind of take a break from the blog and accepting review copies. In the past few days, I have accepted two review copies and all I can think about are ideas for keeping the blog going.  What am I doing?!
3.)  I don't know why but I really don't want to read the book I'm reading.  It's not because I'm not interested in it, I just have other things I want to read instead.  I have to finish it by this time next week so I need to get on it.
4.) One of my resolutions is to cut back on technology at home.  I spend way too much time on my iphone and it's getting ridiculous.  I decided that I can only be on my phone or computer if Julia is asleep or nursing, otherwise it's put away.  There are way more important things in life than facebook.
I really don't want this to be me.

 5.) I'm taking a Russian class this spring and I am excited and nervous about it.  I'm not really sure I have the time for it but if I don't take it this semester, I'll have to wait until next Spring.
6.) I had a week and half off of work for the holidays and I think I got way too used to it.  I have no desire to be at work now.
Hope you all have a great rest of the week!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Quick Review: "The Splendour Falls" by Susanna Kearsley


From Goodreads:  1205 - the town of Chinon is beseiged by enemies of King John, and his young Queen calls upon a trusted servant to conceal her treasured jewels.

Emily Braden is intrigued by the medieval story of Queen Isabelle, and cannot resist when her cousin Harry, a historian, suggests a trip to the white-walled town of Chinon, nestling in France's Loire Valley. But when Harry vanishes and Emily begins to search for him, she stumbles across another intriguing mystery -- a second Isabelle, a chambermaid during the Second World War, who had her own tragedy, and her own treasure to hide.

As Emily explores the ancient town of labyrinthine tunnels, old enmities, and new loves, she finds herself drawn ever closer to the mysterious Isabelles and their long-kept secrets.

My Thoughts: I am quickly becoming a Susanna Kearsley fan.  This book sucked me in and would not let go until I finished. The story jumped between the 13th century, World War II and the present.  The different historical perspectives added so much to the story; it's not often that I read something with three different points of views in three different eras but Kearsley pulled it off and created a great story. 

There are quite a few characters in this story and they all seem to be interconnected and very unique. Each of them has their own interesting story and their own special role in the overarching story.  I'm not usually a fan of there being a ton of different 'main' characters but it really worked in this case.

The setting of this book is amazing.  I had never heard of Chinon, France but from the way Kearsley describes it, I want to go there!  After reading this book, I had to go look up pictures of Chinon to see what it looked like because I was so awed by the way it was portrayed in the book.  Her descriptions create this beautiful, peaceful place and it really added so much to the story. 

This was just another wonderful book by Susanna Kearsley and I seriously recommend it enough.  4 1/2 stars.

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

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Mailbox Monday (8)

 Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at To Be Continued.  It's a great way to share the bookish things you get each week.  Check out everyone's posts here!

I am so excited about the books I got this week!  I got some great nook and kindle deals and picked up an awesome book from the library!  Here's what I got:

From the Library:

I am in love with Susanna Kearsley's books!


Purchased for nook:

I have been wanting to read these for so long and they were on sale for $1.99!

Purchased for kindle:

What books did you pick up this week?

Friday, January 3, 2014

Mini Reviews (3)

Gillian Flynn is such a good writer!  Her books are seriously messed up but still so good.  The mystery sucked me in pretty quick and wouldn't let go until the end.  There was kind of a twist at the end and honestly, I never saw it coming.  I had a total 'wait, what?' moment.  The main character was difficult to like at first and kind of prickly but I grew to like her.  I would recommend this to anyone who loves a good mystery.  4 stars.

Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich

I have thoroughly enjoyed this series but I think it's time to end it.  This latest installment was definitely better than the 18th book but there's only so many times Stephanie's car can get blown up before it stops being funny.  I have loved all of the characters in this series but I'm hoping that Evanovich doesn't continue to drag this out too much longer.  It did have some laugh out loud moments and was a much needed fluffy book.  3 stars.

I really wish Karen Marie Moning would write more of these books.  I love this series so much!  Into the Dreaming is a very short novella but the book also includes a lot of excerpts and unpublished parts of some of the other Highlander books.  The romance was smoking hot and the characters were endearing just like they always are.  The Highlander books are a little formulaic but I think she does a good job of keeping them from feeling like the same story over and over again.  3 stars.

These books are from the library and my personal collection.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 Year in Review

 Taken from 'Quote Queens' on pinterest.

Can you believe that 2013 is over?!!  It's crazy how fast it went by!  There were some really great times (having Julia!) and some really sad times (losing my grandpa) in 2013 but for the most part, it was a great year!

I did okay with my reading goals.  My original goal was to read 75 books and I met that goal!  However, I set a secondary goal of 90 books for the year and I only got to 88.  Oh well, I had a LOT going on this year!  I also did a good job of buying fewer physical books and I purged my book collection again.  I still had a TON of books to move in August but it was better than it could have been!  I didn't do a good job of keeping up with the blog nor did I read very many physical books that I owned (only 12!).

For 2014, I am setting my reading goal low.  I know things are going to be really busy for the next few months and I don't want to stress myself out.  I hope to read 50 books, which is an average 4 books a month.  That is really doable for me.  I also plan to read at least one physical book from my personal collection each month.  There are so many books on my shelf that I haven't read and I need to do something about it.  I also want to try to stick to my TBR list this year.  There are a lot of books I have been meaning to read for a long time and have put to the side to read new/review books and I don't want to do that this year.

That brings me to my last reading goal.  I really want to read what I want to read this year.  That means cutting back on review books.  I only accept books for review if I want to read them but it seems like I keep putting off reading books I want and read review books instead.  38 of the 88 books I read this year were review books.  I have committed to reading and reviewing a few books but am going to lay off the review books for a while (unless it's something so awesome I can't turn it down!).

I am unsure what the future of this blog is.  I'm starting to feel like it is a huge time commitment.  I am not the greatest reviewer to begin with but lately, my reviews aren't at the level I want them to be because I just don't have the time.  I also don't have time to comment as much as I'd like.  For whatever reason, I have a really hard time commenting on other blogs from my phone.  I am kind of burnt out and am not sure I want to continue so I am taking a break.  I have committed to several blog tours over the next couple of months and will honor those commitments but I am not going to be around very much (honestly, I haven't been around that much lately anyway).  I will still comment on what I am reading but it will probably be more in the form of 'mini review' posts instead of full fledged reviews.  I just need to step back and re-evaluate how I feel about blogging.  It's been a great couple of years but life has changed a lot and I'm just not sure if this still fits.  I hope to figure that out.

Sending best wishes for a very Happy New Year!

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