Saturday, February 28, 2015

#FitReaders Weekly Check In (5)

The past two weeks have not been the best for me with regard to exercise.  Work has been the epitome of stressful and I have had to work from home in the evenings.  This has cut into some of my workout time.  Also, Julia has been sick for much of the week so that hasn't been helping.

Last week I only exercised once-30 minutes on the treadmill.  I'm kind of disappointed in myself because it probably would have helped my stress levels if I had done more.  This week I ran on the treadmill for 30 minutes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  I'm hoping next week to get back up to at least four workouts throughout the week.

One thing I am proud of is that I gave up sweets for Lent.  I have not had any sweets for a week and a half.  Even though it's hard, I actually feel so much better.  Some of the stomach issues I was having are not really an issue anymore so that's a plus.  Hopefully it can help me get on track to losing some weight too.

Reading this week:
-Making progress on My Lady Viper by E. Knight
-Started The Monuments Men but have seriously been neglecting it.

Have a great week everyone!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Review: "The Witch Hunter's Tale" by Sam Thomas

Synopsis:  Sam Thomas takes readers back to Puritan England with midwife Bridget Hodgson, hailed by the Cleveland Plain Dealer as “one of the most fascinating detectives in contemporary mystery fiction.”
Winter has come to the city of York, and with it the threat of witchcraft. As women and children sicken and die, midwife Bridget Hodgson is pulled against her will into a full-scale witch-hunt that threatens to devour all in its path, guilty and innocent alike.

Bridget—accompanied once again by her deputy Martha Hawkins and her nephew Will Hodgson—finds herself playing a lethal game of cat and mouse against the most dangerous men in York, as well as her sworn enemy Rebecca Hooke. As the trials begin, and the noose begins to tighten around her neck, Bridget must answer the question: How far will she go to protect the people she loves?

 My Thoughts:  The Witch Hunter's Tale is the third book in Sam Thomas' Midwife Mystery series and so far it is my favorite.  I could not stop reading it!  They just keep getting better and I think he outdid himself with this one!

I am really interested in 'witch hunts' of the past so I found this to be a really compelling story.  Mr. Thomas did a good job of showing how the fear of witches and the unexplainable could permeate society and do great damage to a community.  You could almost feel the fear throughout the story.  I liked how Lady Bridget even believed in witches even though she thought the women accused were innocent.  I think it made the story more authentic to have the main character believing as most of her contemporaries would have.  It was a little shocking at first but overall I did like that. 

The story had a lot of twists and turns and one amazing villain.  I thought Rebecca Hooke was bad but Joseph was the worst.  For a so-called 'man of God' he was pure evil and I just couldn't believe the lengths he went to in order to get more power for himself.  I was very surprised with the way things turned out; I would never have expected it but I think it worked.  That being said, the end was so sad (for me) and I was left with so many questions.  I'm hoping there will be another book after this because I really want some resolution after the events of this one.

Overall, an excellent historical mystery!  4 stars.

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.

For more information please visit Sam Thomas’s website. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Book Blast: "Letters to Kezia" by Peni Jo Renner

9781491755365_COVER.inddPublication Date: January 14, 2015
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Pages: 208

Series: Book Two, The Puritan Chronicles
Genre: Historical Fiction

Add to GR Button

It is 1693 in Hereford, Connecticut, when Mary Case, the spinster daughter of a Puritan minister, finds herself hopelessly smitten by the roguish thief, Daniel Eames. Betrothed to a man she does not like or love, she is soon compelled to help Daniel escape from jail. Suddenly, she finds herself on the run, not only accused of being Daniel's accomplice, but also of murder.

The fugitive pair soon finds solace-and a mutual attraction-among the escapee's Algonquin friends until two men from Daniel's dark past hunt them down. After Mary is captured and returned home to await trial, a tragedy takes the life of her younger sister, revealing a dark secret Mary's father has kept for months. But just as Mary learns she is pregnant, she makes a horrifying discovery about Daniel that changes everything and prompts her to develop an unlikely bond with his mother, Rebecca, who soon saves Mary from a shocking fate. It is not until years later that her daughter, Kezia, finally learns the truth about her biological father and family.

Letters to Kezia shares a courageous woman's journey through a Puritan life and beyond as she struggles with adversity and betrayal, and discovers that loyalty can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.

Praise for Letters to Kezia

"In the tradition of author Peni Jo Renner’s gripping debut novel, Puritan Witch: The Redemption of Rebecca Eames, Letters to Kezia recounts the tale of courageous, compassionate, and relatable Mary, whose connection to Rebecca and her family is unforeseen and profound. The reader is captivated at the very first page, as Letters to Kezia is a story of forbidden love, deep family secrets, intrigue, murder, and atonement. Another beautifully written triumph for this author, whose immense gift for story-telling transports the reader into each scene so deftly, one can almost smell the wood smoke and hear the crackling of the fire in the hearth." - Kelly Z. Conrad, award-winning author of Shaman

"Peni Jo Renner enthralled readers with Puritan Witch, the ordeal of Rebecca Eames, who was condemned to hang from Salem’s gallows as a witch. Now the Eames saga continues as Peni uses her special brand of witchery to bring Mary Case and Daniel Eames to vivid life, and shows us just how much a young woman will risk for love. Letters to Kezia is a poignant, true-life tale from colonial New England’s heartland which will captivate you, and keep you guessing until the end." -JoAnn Butler, author of Rebel Puritan and The Reputed Wife

Buy the Book

Barnes & Noble

About the Author03_Author Peni Jo Renner

PENI JO RENNER is the author of the IPPY award-winning novel, Puritan Witch: the Redemption of Rebecca Eames. Originally from North Dakota, Peni now lives with her husband in Maryland where she is currently researching for the third book in the Puritan Chronicles series.

For more information please visit the Puritan Witch Website and Facebook Page. You can also follow Peni Jo Renner on Twitter.

 photo d8e04923-df1d-4a74-be8a-9de902cf8470.png

Monday, February 16, 2015

Book Spotlight: "Close to the Sun" by Donald Michael Platt

pPublication Date: June 15, 2014
Fireship Press
eBook; 404p

Genre: Historical Fiction

Add to GR Button

Close to the Sun follows the lives of fighter pilots during the Second World War. As a boy, Hank Milroy from Wyoming idealized the gallant exploits of WWI fighter aces. Karl, Fürst von Pfalz-Teuffelreich, aspires to surpass his father’s 49 Luftsiegen. Seth Braham falls in love with flying during an air show at San Francisco’s Chrissy Field.

The young men encounter friends, rivals, and exceptional women. Braxton Mobley, the hotshot, wants to outscore every man in the air force. Texas tomboy Catherine “Winty” McCabe is as good a flyer as any man. Princess Maria-Xenia, a stateless White Russian, works for the Abwehr, German Intelligence. Elfriede Wohlman is a frontline nurse with a dangerous secret. Miriam Keramopoulos is the girl from Brooklyn with a voice that will take her places.

Once the United States enter the war, Hank, Brax, and Seth experience the exhilaration of aerial combat and acedom during the unromantic reality of combat losses, tedious bomber escort, strafing runs, and the firebombing of entire cities. As one of the hated aristocrats, Karl is in as much danger from Nazis as he is from enemy fighter pilots, as he and his colleagues desperately try to stem the overwhelming tide as the war turns against Germany. Callous political decisions, disastrous mistakes, and horrific atrocities they witness at the end of WWII put a dark spin on all their dreams of glory.

Blogger Praise for Close to the Sun

"Donald Michael Platt’s Close to the Sun is an amazing story told from the perspective of average male fighter pilots in the onset and during WWII, juxtaposing between various men from many sides of the war. The details in this novel were spectacular, creating imagery and depth in the scenes and characters, as well as the dialogue being so nostalgic and well-written it felt right out of a 1950’s film. The romantic nuances of his storytelling felt incredibly authentic with the tug and pull of the men being called to serve and the women whom they loved who had their own high hopes, dreams, or work. I loved how he portrayed this women the most—strongly and fiercely independent. I’ve read several other books by Platt, and this is the best one I’ve read yet! I couldn’t stop reading. " - Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Hook of a Book

"Donald Platt's Close To The Sun, is nothing short of Historical Fiction gold. Platt's flair for emotionally provocative storytelling makes this book attractive to both male and female readers. Seamlessly weaving the threads of action and feeling into a brilliant tableau of humanity. This is a masterfully penned tale of war, ambition, love, loss, and ACES!" - Frishawn Rasheed, WTF Are You Reading?

"Fast-paced and riveting I couldn’t get enough of Hank, Karl and Seth’s exploits! CLOSE TO THE SUN is a thrilling novel that leads readers through idyllic dreams of heroism and the grim reality of war. Platt provides readers with a unique coming-of-age story as three adventure-seeking boys discover far more than how to be an aerial combat pilot. CLOSE TO THE SUN is an amazing tale of adventure, heroism, war and the drive within us all that keeps us going when things look bleak." - Ashley LaMar, Closed the Cover

"I found Close to the Sun to be an entertaining read, it was well written, with well developed characters, these characters had depth and emotion. A unique plot, told from the point of view of pilots prior to and during World War II. It was a well researched and interesting book" - Margaret Cook, Just One More Chapter

Buy the Book

Barnes & Noble

About the AuthorDonald Michael Platt Author

Author of four other novels, ROCAMORA, HOUSE OF ROCAMORA, A GATHERING OF VULTURES, and CLOSE TO THE SUN, Donald Michael Platt was born and raised in San Francisco. Donald graduated from Lowell High School and received his B.A. in History from the University of California at Berkeley. After two years in the Army, Donald attended graduate school at San Jose State where he won a batch of literary awards in the annual SENATOR PHELAN LITERARY CONTEST.

Donald moved to southern California to begin his professional writing career. He sold to the TV series, MR. NOVAK, ghosted for health food guru, Dan Dale Alexander, and wrote for and with diverse producers, among them as Harry Joe Brown, Sig Schlager, Albert J. Cohen, Al Ruddy plus Paul Stader Sr, Hollywood stuntman and stunt/2nd unit director. While in Hollywood, Donald taught Creative Writing and Advanced Placement European History at Fairfax High School where he was Social Studies Department Chairman.

After living in Florianópolis, Brazil, setting of his horror novel A GATHERING OF VULTURES, pub. 2007 & 2011, he moved to Florida where he wrote as a with: VITAMIN ENRICHED, pub.1999, for Carl DeSantis, founder of Rexall Sundown Vitamins; and THE COUPLE’S DISEASE, Finding a Cure for Your Lost “Love” Life, pub. 2002, for Lawrence S. Hakim, MD, FACS, Head of Sexual Dysfunction Unit at the Cleveland Clinic.

Currently, Donald resides in Winter Haven, Florida where he is polishing a dark novel and preparing to write a sequel to CLOSE TO THE SUN.

For more information please visit Donald Michael Platt's website. You can also connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

Close to the Sun Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, January 26
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, January 27
Guest Post at What Is That Book About

Wednesday, January 28
Spotlight at Let Them Read Books

Thursday, January 29
Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Monday, February 2
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection

Tuesday, February 3
Guest Post at Latte Da

Friday, February 6
Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views
Spotlight at Boom Baby Reviews

Wednesday, February 11
Review at Back Porchervations

Thursday, February 12
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Monday, February 16
Spotlight at So Many Books, So Little Time

 photo ef878682-0cc2-4351-8d3e-0018c64ce598.png

Saturday, February 14, 2015

#FitReaders Weekly Check In (4)

I'm a little late posting this week but I thought I would put something up since I missed last week.  It has been a rough week but I still managed to get in four workouts last week and four workouts this week.  I've been doing the 30 Day Shred two days a week and running on the treadmill for 30 minutes two days a week.  I actually am enjoying working out and hope to add an extra day soon.  I borrowed a Jillian Michaels DVD from the library and will be trying that out next week.  It's a little longer than the 30 Day Shred but the same concept.

I plan to work out at least 4 days next week and have a food related goal that I'm working on but am not ready to post about (I keep failing at my food goals so I don't want to put it out there yet). 

This week I finished three books:  Make You Mine by Macy Beckett, The Witch Hunter's Tale by Sam Thomas and Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.  I am currently reading The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M.J. Rose.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts (10)

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

1.) I finally got around to opening up a 529 college savings plan for Julia.  For some reason, this makes me feel like a grown up.  I don't think we'll be able to pay for her tuition in full but it's better than what the hubs and I had (which was nothing).

2.) The hubs gave me a gift card to Barnes and Noble for my birthday and I bought the Harry Potter boxed set.  It's so pretty (ignore the bad picture)!  I've decided to start a reread of them this year and hope to get through at least the first three books.  I've only reread the last book and I read books 1-5 over ten years ago so it's definitely time to go back to them.

3.) Speaking of rereading, I am taking the second half of the Laura Ingalls Wilder class this spring.  It starts in April and I can't wait to delve  into her later books.

4.) I have been reading slow.  I didn't love most of what I read in January; things are getting better this month but I still feel behind.  It doesn't help that goodreads keeps bouncing between telling me 'you're on track' and 'you're behind' in regards to my reading goal.  Thanks for the guilt trip, goodreads.

5.) Julia's birthday isn't until the end of June but I'm already thinking about her party.  I already know what I want to do for her cake and am trolling etsy for paper goods ideas.  I am not crafty by any means so I have to pay people to be crafty for me.

6.) We're finally moving into the 21st century.  I bought a Roku after Christmas so we could stream Amazon Prime onto our television.  Because of this, I have become completely obsessed with the show 'The Americans'.  The hubs is home this week in the evenings so I haven't been able to watch it and I'm having serious withdrawal.

7.) Valentine's Day...ugh.  I thought I could get away with skipping the valentines since Julia is only a year and half but I was wrong.  When I dropped her off at daycare, I noticed that each of the kids have little bags to hold the valentines they may get.  I totally punked out of giving gifts to all the kids at Christmas so I now have to throw something together for Friday.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Quick Review: "The Marriage Game" by Alison Weir

From Goodreads:  He is her dashing Master of Horse. She is the 25-year-old newly crowned English Queen, a title she holds only because there is no male heir to inherit it. Yet in spite of her tenuous hold on the throne, young Queen Elizabeth begins a flagrant flirtation with the handsome but married Lord Robert, taking long unchaperoned horseback rides with him and constantly having him at her side. Many believe them to be lovers, and over time the rumors grow that Elizabeth is no virgin at all, and that she has secretly borne Lord Robert's child. When Robert's wife is found dead, lying at the bottom of a staircase with her neck broken, there is universal shock followed by accusations of murder.

Picking up where Alison Weir's bestselling novel to date, "The Lady Elizabeth," left off (but standing completely alone), "The Marriage Game" tells the dramatic story of the "Virgin Queen's" reign, framed by Elizabeth's long and tumultuous relationship with Lord Robert. Did they or didn't they? Rivers of ink have been spilled in determining the answer to this burning historical question, and you can be sure Alison Weir has strong opinions about Elizabeth's questionable virginity, based on a lifetime of research. But fiction gives her a free hand to explore this intriguing love affair in its every colourful detail, and the resulting novel is one of her best.

My Thoughts:  I really hate to write negative reviews especially when the author is one that I love.  The story itself had a lot of potential but it just kind of fell flat. The premise of the story was intriguing; I really wanted to know more about Elizabeth's life after she becomes queen and this book definitely goes into a lot of detail regarding her adult life.  However, the story seemed to drag on and it felt like it just kept repeating itself.

I didn't like Elizabeth's character.  She was shallow and seemed to care very little for the feelings of others.  There was definitely a 'marriage game' and she played it well much to the detriment of those around her.  I did feel for her; by marrying she lost her power and had to sacrifice her independence so I didn't blame her for not wanting to, she just didn't always treat people very well while playing the game.  I don't normally care about Robert Dudley but boy, did I feel bad for him.  It seemed like Elizabeth used him and took advantage of his loyalty to her.  I did really like Cecil's character.  He seemed to be the only who wasn't afraid of standing up to Elizabeth and he seemed like an admirable man.

I really wanted to love this book and am disappointed that I didn't.  This is the first time I haven't enjoyed one of Weir's books so I'm super sad about it.  2 stars.

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

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Mailbox Monday (43)

Hey Everyone! It's time for another Mailbox Monday post.

I have been such a slow reader lately!  I really need to speed it up because the books keep coming in.

From the Library:


Sorry for the bad picture.  The hubs gave me a Barnes and Noble gift card for my birthday and this is what I bought! When I read these books initially, I got them from the library so it's nice to own them.  Now I can reread them and read them to Julia when she's older.

What books did you get this week?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Review: "The Nightingale" by Kristin Hannah

From Goodreads:  FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France...but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can...completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real--and deadly--consequences.

My Thoughts:  The Nightingale is my favorite book of the year so far.  It is an absolutely beautiful story with strong, fascinating characters set against World War II era France.  All of the characters had this depth to them; Ms. Hannah created complex backgrounds for many of the characters to explain why each one felt and behaved the way they did.  There was not a single character in this story that wasn't intriguing in either a good or bad way.

The story focused on the strength of the every day people in war torn France; Vianne and Isabelle were just average women trying to survive and yet they were able to deal with so much horror and did so with dignity.  There was also a heavy focus on the work of the French Resistance.  I know very little about the French Resistance but was amazed at how intricately they worked throughout France to thwart the Nazis.

I found the descriptions of the Nazis to be really interesting.  The first Nazi we get to know is Beck and even though the reader is supposed to hate him, it's really hard to because he seems like an okay guy.  I struggled with my feelings about him because Nazi = bad but he wasn't really that terrible.  However, the second Nazi, von Richter, is pure evil.  I feel like the author was trying to show us that not everything was black and white when it came to the Nazi Army and it made for some serious food for thought (at least for me).

The only thing that I wish this book had was an author's note.  I would have loved some information about the research she did for the book.  Other than that I loved this book so much and it stuck with me for days after I finished it.  The end was so perfect and had me in tears.  This is only the second book I have read by Kristin Hannah but you can bet I will be reading more in the future.  5 stars.

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

Monday, February 2, 2015

January Wrap Up

We're already one month into 2015, can you believe it?!  I had a pretty good reading month, numbers wise, though the last two books I finished were really difficult to get through.  I think because of that, it felt like a slow reading month. I read one awesome book and the rest were mediocre or worse.  Hopefully the books I choose in February will be more enjoyable.

Here are my January numbers:

-6 books read
   -1 non-fiction
   -3 historical fiction (I plan to read at least 25 for the Historical Fiction Challenge)
   -3 review
   -3 library books
   -0 books I own

I think that is pretty good though I am going to try to cut back more on the review books and add in more books off my shelves/kindle/nook.  Goodreads says I'm on track to meeting my goal of 80 books so that makes me very happy.

Here is what I read in January:

1.) The Towers of Tuscany by Carol M. Cram (for Historical Fiction Challenge)
2.) You'd Be So Pretty If... by Dara Chadwick
3.) The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (for Historical Fiction Challenge)
4.) Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead
5.) Prince Lestat by Anne Rice
6.) The Marriage Game by Alison Weir (for Historical Fiction Challenge)

What did you read in January?  Are you on track to meet your reading goals?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Mailbox Monday (42)

Hello!  It's time for Mailbox Monday again!  

I hope everyone had a great week!  Friday was my birthday and I got a Barnes and Noble gift card; I'm still deciding what to get.  I'm not sure if I want to get the Harry Potter box set or if I just want to blow it all on ebooks.  Decisions, decisions. 

This week I received a couple of ebooks.  I love ebooks because they don't take up a lot of space but it also doesn't feel like I got anything because they aren't really tangible.  Oh well, they're still books!

From the Library (ebook):

I'm reading it right now and it's haunting but so good.

For Review (from HFVBT):

What books did you get this week?
Imagination Designs