Friday, January 30, 2015

#FitReaders Weekly Check In (3)

I didn't check in last week because I had a bad week so I decided I should probably try to post this week.  I only was able to work out three days last week and I worked out four days this week.  Of those 7 workouts, 4 were Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred and 3 were running on the treadmill for 30 minutes.  Exercise-wise, I didn't do too bad, however my eating has been awful. Work has been super stressful and my daughter has been struggling with sleep so I'm just eating my feelings over here.  

My first small goal was to lose three pounds by my birthday (today).  I didn't get on the scale today but I'm pretty sure by the way my clothes fit that I did not hit that goal.  I'm sad but not too sad.  This month, I have made it a priority to exercise regularly so that's a great start.  I'm hoping to get back to watching what I eat over the next few weeks.  

My goal for the next week is to cut back on sweets again and to exercise at least 4 times.  Nothing major, but I think the food goal will be a toughie.  I really want to lose 10 pounds by my daughter's birthday in June so I really need to work on my food issues.

In regards to my reading over the past two weeks, I finished The Marriage Game by Alison Weir and Prince Lestat by Anne Rice.  I started Redeployment by Phil Klay and Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Mini-Reviews (11)

Okay, let me start by saying I really love this series and the Vampire Academy series.  I did enjoy this book but I don't think it was as good as the previous ones in the series.  I know the whole point of this books is to set the stage for the final book so I'm cutting it some slack.  The story was really slow for the first three quarters of the book and then it felt like a million things were shoved into the last bit of the book.  There were some big surprises that I was pretty excited about so that helped my opinion of it a lot.  Of course, there was a very crazy cliffhanger so now I have to read the last book!  Silver Shadows is definitely the weakest of the series but still a must-read for fans.  3 stars.

I have had a lot of body issues over the years and I'm terrified of passing them on to Julia so when I read about this book, I really wanted to read it.  It was an interesting look at how a parent can affect their child's self-esteem and body image and I realized that I definitely need to change the way I go about things.  There were a lot of anecdotes and the author used interactions with her daughter as examples quite often.  While I did find some useful information in the book, I thought that there wasn't a lot of new information in it and a lot of the tips were kind of obvious.  Overall, a pretty good read but I was expecting a little bit more from it.  3 stars.

I really debated writing anything about this book at all because I don't want to be drawn and quartered.  That being said, I will keep this brief.  I am a HUGE Anne Rice fan; this is the 20th book of hers I have read and I devoured her books in high school and college.  I have re-read several of them on more than one occasion because I can't get enough.  However, I did not like this book at all.  It was very long-winded and I just felt like there was a lot going on but nothing was ever explained.  There were a few characters that I felt needed to be explained and developed more; I had a hard time understanding why they were even there. The book was broken into chapters, each chapter focusing on a different character.  Every chapter felt like it restated what was happening from that character's point of view and it was tiring and repetitive.  I did like seeing where some of my favorite characters are now but I really struggled to get through this one.  I wanted to love it so much but overall, it was kind of disappointing.  2 stars.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Mailbox Monday (41)

Hello!!  I'm linking up with Mailbox Monday again this week though I really need to slow down a bit.  I have way more books to read than I have time!  I only got one this week thankfully.

From the Library:

So now that Julia is getting older, I should probably learn how to raise her properly.  I saw this book mentioned on a blog somewhere and thought I should check it out. You'll probably be seeing more parenting books on here in the future.

Hope you all have a great week!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts (9)

I'm linking up with Bookishly Boisterous' Bookish (and Not So Bookish) Thoughts.  Check it out here!

1.) I need to speed up my reading.  Right now I'm reading Prince Lestat by Anne Rice and I'm struggling.  I love the Vampire Chronicles but this book is very different than the others and I'm not sure exactly where the story is going to go.  I'm going to power through it but I'm ready to be done (and not just because I have to return it to the library on Wednesday).

2.) Speaking of the library, I hate having overdue books.  I know I'm probably going to have one this week but it makes me feel so bad to turn them in late.  Especially if I know there are people waiting for them.

3.) I've been trying to find the perfect white cake recipe for the wedding cake I'm making in May.  I have been trying out different recipes every weekend.  I think I may have found one but I'm not sure yet.  I'm going to try it with frosting this week to make sure I like it.

4.) I need to take a break from social media.  It is such a waste of time.  I don't know why I care about it so much.  Sometimes I wish we could go back to the days before we all were attached to iphones all the time.

5.) My dog is about as needy as my child.  I swear, I don't need to have another kid because I already have two.  He always tries to eat Julia's food, toys, clothes, shoes.  Yesterday he ate a dried up wipe she was playing with.  HEADDESK.

6.) The President of the United States will be speaking at the university I work at.  It's so awesome! They made tickets available to staff, students and faculty at 9:00 am this morning.  Today was the first day of spring classes, how the heck is any staff member supposed to be able to stand in line all morning on the first day of class?   I have stuff to do!  Needless to say, I will not be able to attend.

Have a great week!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Mailbox Monday (40)

It's time for another Mailbox Monday post!  You can link up with it here!

I am kind of overwhelmed with all of the books I want to read right now.  I want to read everything!  I got a couple of books this week but things will probably slow down over the next few weeks so I can catch up.

From the Library:

I also picked up the movie version of this book at the library and can't wait to watch it!

From Kindle First Reads:

What books did you get this week?

Friday, January 16, 2015

#FitReaders: Weekly Check-In (2)


This was a crazy week!  My daughter was sick and the hubs started working 2nd shift (3pm to 11pm) again and it totally changed up our routine so I was definitely off my game.  I did okay at eating healthy (no vending machine) but we had a couple of work breakfasts and lunches this week so that completely messed up my eating on those days.

I did meet my goal of exercising 4 days this week.  I did two days of Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred and two days of running on the treadmill.  It actually felt good to get those workouts in since I was pretty stressed.  I really like the 30 Day Shred but it is only a 20 minute workout so I'm looking for a slightly longer workout DVD to try.

I'm shooting for completing 4 workouts again this week; if I can get in 5 that's great but I'm not going to feel terrible if I don't.  I also want to continue to make good choices during the day at work (stress is not a good reason to snack!).  One thing I plan to work on over the next few weeks is to eat better on the weekends.  Last week I felt like I did great during the week but ate pretty poorly over the weekend.  

Hope everyone had a great week!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Quick Thoughts on The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater

I had absolutely no intention of ever reading these books.  I really enjoyed Maggie Stiefvater's 'The Wolves of Mercy Falls' series but when The Raven Boys first came out, it did not appeal to me at all.  I heard nothing but good things about and still I didn't want to read it.  I'm always the person who reads something that is super hyped up and doesn't like it and I figured that would happen this time. No matter how much hype I heard about the series, I just wasn't interested...until this Fall.  I don't know what made me do it but finally after years of hearing about this series, I finally gave in and decided to try it.  Why didn't I read it sooner??? 

The Raven Cycle is weird and creepy and awesome.  I don't really know how to describe it; there are all kinds of unusual things that just boggle my mind but are so cool at the same time.  Maggie Stiefvater is some sort of uber creative evil genius for coming up with this story.  It has history and paranormal situations and real life issues and they all combine to make a great story.  There were times where I really wasn't sure what was going on but because of the characters, setting, etc. I still enjoyed the story and wanted to keep reading. 

There are a lot of characters in these books and they are all very unique and interesting in their own ways.I know I'm supposed to say that I just loooove Gansey and he's my favorite but he's not.  I really like him as a character but in my opinion, Ronan is the most interesting of the 'Raven Boys'.  He has a really dark side but also a soft, endearing side.  He has a lot more depth than the other boys and I'm very drawn to him as a character. 

I am not going to go on much longer because there is so much I could say that would give away the story.  I will say that I love this series and am so glad that I finally gave in and read it.  I can't wait to read the next book to find out where the story goes.  4 stars (for all three books).

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Mailbox Monday (39)

It's time for another Mailbox Monday post!

This week I picked up a lot of library books and my new Kindle Fire arrived!  I don't have a picture of it but I'm slowly learning how to use it and it's pretty fun.  I'm reading so slowly right now but I want to read everything!  Hopefully I can get out of my reading funk soon.

From the Library:

What books did you get this week?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

#FitReaders: Weekly Check-In (1)

This year I'm participating in #FitReaders.  It's a great way to work on my health and fitness goals and have a way to stay accountable.  I don't know if I will post a check-in every week but I will try to post updates on my progress regularly.

I really want to lose 10 pounds over the next couple of months.  I'm not making any huge drastic changes right now so I know it will be slow.  My first mini-goal is to lose 3 pounds by my birthday on January 30. I want to get back into a regular exercise routine (5-6 days a week) and hopefully run a half-marathon again this Fall.  I also want to start eating better: better quality food, more fruits and vegetables and less sweets.  

This week I ran on the treadmill for 30-35 minutes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  I really wanted to get in another workout but with it being the first week back to work after break, I was just trying to get used to my normal routine.  I did eat better (not great, but better).  I didn't go to the vending machine at all, I didn't get take out for lunch and I didn't have any soda so I'm pretty happy with that.

My exercise goal for next week is to get in a minimum of 4 workouts.  Ideally, I would like to get in 5 but my husband is changing shifts on Monday so I will have a new routine to get used to.  I would also like to continue to pack my lunch and snacks for work and stay away from the convenience food.

I hope everyone has a great week!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Review: "The Towers of Tuscany" by Carol M. Cram

Synopsis:  Sofia is trained in secret as a painter in her father’s workshop during a time when women did not paint openly. She loves her work, but her restless spirit leads her to betray her extraordinary gifts to marry a man who comes to despise her for not producing a son.

After Sofia’s father is crushed by his own fresco during an attack motivated by a vendetta, Sofia realizes she must escape her loveless marriage. She flees to Siena, where, disguised as a boy, she paints again. When her work attracts the notice of a nobleman who discovers the woman under the dirty smock, Sofia is faced with a choice that nearly destroys her.

Meticulously researched settings and compelling characters are united with a strong heroine in this rich portrait of medieval Italy.

My Thoughts:  The Towers of Tuscany is a fascinating read.  I am not familiar with Italian history at all but I was enthralled by the descriptions of life in medieval Italy and work of artists living there.

I really enjoyed reading about the process of creating a painting and all the work involved.  I knew it was a complicated process but I had no idea how much work an artist put into creating one painted panel.  I loved the vivid descriptions of the paintings themselves; the way the figures looked, the colors, the symbolism, etc.  I also enjoyed the descriptions of Siena and the town of San Gimignano.  The way she described the towers and the different buildings as well as all the twists and turns in the city of Siena just made me want to visit Italy now. 

Sofia was an interesting character.  She was strong-willed woman who was determined to follow her dreams no matter what.  I liked her as a character but at times she seemed very full of herself and that got a little irritating. She was very unlucky in love and I felt kind of bad for her in that regard. There were a lot of great characters in this book but I think Francesco and Marcello were my favorites.  They were both so kind and devoted to helping Sofia and yet there was so much more to them.  They both had this quiet depth to them that made me want to know them more.

I was a little disappointed in the ending.  It felt very rushed and I had a lot of questions left unanswered.  Also, I wasn't quite sure of the Epilogue; I read it twice but I may have to go back and read it again because it just felt like it didn't go with the story.  Despite the way it ended, I did enjoy this book and am very interested in learning more about painting in Italy during this era.  3 stars.

About the Author:

Carol M. Cram is the author of The Towers of Tuscany, an historical novel about a woman painter in fourteenth century Italy. In addition to writing fiction, Carol has enjoyed a great career as an educator, teaching at Capilano University in North Vancouver for over twenty years and authoring forty-plus bestselling textbooks on business communications and software applications for Cengage Learning. She holds an MA in Drama from the University of Toronto and an MBA from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. Carol is currently focusing as much of her attention as she can spare between walks in the woods on writing historical novels with an arts twist. She and her husband, painter Gregg Simpson, share a life on beautiful Bowen Island near Vancouver, Canada. Visit her at

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Bookish (and Not So Bookish) Thoughts (8)

 Happy Wednesday everyone!  I'm linking up with Bookish (and Not So Bookish Thoughts) at Bookishly Boisterous.  You can check it out here.

1.) I have only read one book so far this month.  One.  I have had zero motivation to read despite having a million things I want to read.  I hope I get out of the funk soon.

2.) Have you seen this article? It basically says that reading on a screen before bed can seriously affect your sleep.  After reading it, I'm not super surprised because I do think that when I read on my nook using the glowlight, I have a harder time going to sleep.  I  kind of got the impression that it backlit screens were causing the problem so I'm hoping to just continue using my nook but use book light instead of the glowlight.  It also motivates me to cut back on playing with my phone at night (I need to become less attached to that anyway).

3.)  I am making a wedding cake for some friends of ours who are getting married in May.  I had planned to start getting my stuff together for it this fall but with everything else going on, that just didn't happen.  Now I have a little less than six months to plan everything out.  I'm not panicking....yet.

4.) I signed up for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge for the first time in a few years.  It's being hosted by Amy at Passages to the Past this year and I am pretty excited to get started.  I think I'I hgoing to shoot for 25 historical fiction books.  I read 54 last year but I'm hoping to broaden my reading horizons this year so I don't plan to read quite as much historical fiction.

5.) Julia got so many toys for Christmas this year.  It borders on ridiculous.  We had to buy a new toy organizer just to clean up some of the mess and it still looks like a Toys R Us around here.  Next year we are going to tone it done a lot.  I just didn't anticipate that our families would buy her SO much.

6.) Speaking of toys, I did a bad thing.   I bought this set of Disney Princess dolls right before Christmas because I couldn't resist the fact that they the set was 50% off.  It is so hard for me to say no to a good deal! Julia isn't even old enough for these dolls and I'm not sure she will like them.  I also am still not sure I want her having Barbie/Princess stuff despite the fact that I loved that stuff when I was a kid.  So I may give them to my niece for her birthday or just return it. 

Hope you all have a wonderful week!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Mailbox Monday (38)

It's my first Mailbox Monday of the new year!  I hope everyone's year is off to a great start!  I got some great books this week and can't wait to see what everyone else got!

From the Library:


For Review (from HFVBT):

What books did you get this week?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Bookish Goals for 2015

I have a lot of reading goals for the 2015!  I love the prospect of a new year and new things to work on.  This year instead of setting personal resolutions, I decided to create a 'to do' list for the year.  It will mostly be a work in progress throughout 2015 but will not have the pressure of an actual resolution.  I always think of resolutions in that if you screw up then it's over for the year.  I anticipate that I won't be perfect in regards to my 'to do' list but I definitely want to work on it through out the year.

Here are my bookish/reading goals for the year:

1.) Read 80 books-I've read approximately 80 books per year for the last two years so I think this is doable.  I would love to read 100 books this year but I'm not sure if that's going to happen.  I will have more time to read since I won't be taking a class this Spring (and maybe not the whole year) so we'll see how things pan out.

2.) Read 20 books I own-I really need to read more of the books I already own whether they be ebooks or physical books.  Last year I only read 9, so I'm hoping to do better.

3.) Read more non-fiction books-I only read 5 non-fiction books last year.  Five!  I don't want to set a numbers goal for this one but I really want to read more than 5 this year.  I own a ton of non-fiction books that I have yet to read so maybe I knock out this goal and goal #2 at the same time.

4.) Cut back on review books-This was my goal last year and I failed miserable at it.  42% of the books I read were review books!  I would really like to cut that back to more like 25%.  I already have a couple review books lined up for the year so I really need to make a conscious effort to say no more often.  It's not that I don't like review books (I love them!) but they create deadlines which create stress and I don't need any added stress this year.

5.) Post more than just reviews-I'm hoping to change things up with the blog this year.  I'm going to continue with reviews but I don't want the blog to just be reviews and mailbox posts.  I would like to add in some variety, whether it be bookish or not.  This place is getting boring!

6.) Decide what to do with the blog-I'm still struggling to decide whether or not I want to keep the blog going.  I'm hoping to keep it up through May 1 and will see how things go between now and then.  I'm hoping that by adding in some new content, it might help combat some of the burnout I'm feeling.

I'm not going to post everything on my 2015 'to do' list because it is sooo long but here are a few:

1.) Exercise regularly (shoot for 4 times a week)-I really miss my old pre-baby exercise routine and am hoping to create a new routine for myself.  I joined the #FITREADERS and am hoping that will help me stay accountable.
2.) Eat better-This isn't so much in relation to dieting but eating healthier as in more fruits and veggies, better quality food (organic, local) and smaller portions.  I definitely need/want to lose weight but I also want to change how and what I eat.
3.) Organize/Declutter my house-We moved into our house when Julia was 4 weeks old.  Needless to say, I never really organized it when we moved in.  As we accumulate more toys, I'd like to go through and clear out stuff we don't use, don't need, etc and get my house in good order.
4.) Save More/Spend Less-We would like to buy a house sometime in the future but really need to focus on saving for a down payment.  That is one of my biggest goals for 2015.
5.) Put down the phone-Smartphones are both a blessing and a curse!  I feel way too attached to mine and need to put it aside and focus on family more.

I hope you all have a wonderful new year!!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Review: "A Grave Inheritance" by Kari Edgren

Synopsis:  Selah Kilbrid may descend from the goddess Brigid, but her heart beats—and breaks—the same as any human. Yet enduring the scorn of London’s most noble lords and ladies is a small price to pay for a chance at true happiness. Selah would endure much more for love, and her betrothed, Lord Henry Fitzalan, is prepared to challenge anyone foolish enough to stand in their way—even another goddess born.

But when a captivating young gentleman draws Selah into a world shadowed by secrets, she is forced to confront her darkest fears. What if some differences are too great to overcome and a future with Henry is doomed from the start?

With these doubts threatening her impending marriage and the very last of Brigid’s fire draining from her soul, a violent attack on an innocent child pushes Selah to the very edge of her power. She must find a way to cross into the Otherworld and regain her strength—or forfeit the streets of London to death and disease.

My Thoughts:  A Grave Inheritance is the lively, action-packed sequel to Goddess Born.  From page one, I was sucked into an awesome roller coaster ride of magic, royalty and intrigue in late 18th century London.

I went into this book thinking that Selah was the only character with a huge secret but boy, was I wrong.  They're were all kinds of secrets revealed; some were surprising and others were not but it made for a very exciting story.  Nothing was what it seemed and I loved every twist, turn and new revelation.

There are a ton of new characters in this book who add so much to the story as a whole.  Some were really neat and lovable and some were really shady (I'm looking at you, Julian).  It seemed like the characters and story expanded as the the setting did; London is a huge city so it makes sense that there would be more people surrounding Selah and affecting her life.  There were also old characters who surprised a good way.  I'm looking forward to seeing those characters in the next book.

I loved A Grave Inheritance and am so excited to read the next book.  The story is engaging, the characters are unique and there is never a dull moment.  4 stars.

About the Author:

Kari Edgren is the author of the Goddess Born series. In 2010 and 2011 she was a semifinalist for the Amazon Break Through Novel Award. In 2013, she was a RWA Golden Heart finalist. Ms. Edgren enjoys writing both historical and contemporary fiction, so long as there’s a spark of paranormal. She resides on a mountain top in the Pacific Northwest where she spends a great deal of time dreaming about the sun and torturing her husband and children with strange food and random historical facts.

For more information please visit Kari Edgren’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Sign Up for Kari Edgren’s Newsletter.

Check out other stops on the tour here!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

December Wrap Up + 2014 in Review

Happy New Year everyone!! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season.  December was an absolutely insane month.  I had some serious work deadlines to meet and I was finishing up my Russian class (got an A-!) on top of getting ready for Christmas.  Julia got really sick during the week of Christmas but she has enjoyed her presents and my house looks like a Toys R Us now.  Because of everything going on, I didn't read as much as I expected to this month though I didn't do too terrible.  I read a total of 7 books this month which got me to a total of 82 books for the year.  Not too shabby!

Here is what I read in December:

1.) The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor
2.) Whither Thou Goest by Anna Belfrage
3.) Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
4.) The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory
5.) The Secret Place by Tana French
6.) A Grave Inheritance by Kari Edgren
7.) The Virgin Widow by Anne O' Brien

I just looked back at my bookish goals for 2014 and I met some of them but not all.

1.) Read 50 books- I easily surpassed that and read 82 books!
2.) Read 1 physical book from my personal collection each month-This did not happen (not even close).  In fact, I actually forgot that this was one of my goals.
3.) Cut back on review books-This didn't happen either.

Here are some of my stats for 2014:

I read a total of 82 books this year.  Of those books,
-35 were review books (down only 3 from last year, yikes!)
-54 were from the historical fiction genre
-Only 9 books were ones that I owned (both ebooks and physical copies)
-5 were non-fiction (this is pretty bad!)
-33 were library books
-39 were ebooks (either books I own, from the library or review copies)

Despite not meeting most of my reading goals, I think I had a pretty good reading year.  Unfortunately, I can't really think of my most favorite book of the year.  I would probably say that I enjoyed the Susanna Kearsley books I read the most (read several of them this year).

Looking at these stats help me set my reading goals for 2015.  Check back in the next few days for my bookish goals for the next year.
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