Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Top Ten Books I've Read So Far in 2015

Hey all!  I'm linking up with Top Ten Tuesday over at The Broke and The Bookish.  It's the first one I've done in ages!

This week's topic is: Top Ten Books I've Read So Far in 2015
Now I don't have ten favorites yet (the year's only half over!) but I do have a few that stand out as being my favorites so far.

1.) Missoula by John Krakauer - This book was so rage-inducing but it was so well-written and about such a fascinating topic.  As someone who works at a university that recently had a sexual assault scandal, it felt very relevant.  I think this is a book everyone should read.

2.) The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah - Seriously, the best book I've read this year.  It's absolutely beautiful and heart-breaking and inspiring all at once.  

3.) The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder - I re-read the Little House series this Spring starting with By The Shores of Silver Lake and enjoyed them all so much.  They were some of my favorite books as a child and it was comforting to read them again.

4.) Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova - This book kind of fell into my lap but it was a wonderful read. 

5.) Redeployment by Phil Klay - I still haven't given a rating to this book because it feels unrateable but it is definitely one of my favorites for the year.  It's a book of short stories about soldiers' experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan and at home.  I don't really have words to describe how I felt reading this book but it definitely stuck with me.

What books have you loved in 2015 so far?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Release Day Blitz: "Roman Mask" by Thomas Brooke

Large copy of CoverPublication Date: June 29, 2015


Formats: Kindle & Paperback

Pages: 388

Genre: Historical Fiction/Adventure/Action

What is it we normally expect of the leading character in our books? Self-sacrifice? Bravery? Strength of character? Possibly with a hint of self-deprecation? Well, Cassius doesn’t have any of those. Cynicism – yes. Cowardice – possibly. Prepared to live a lie in order to further his own ends – absolutely!

It is Rome AD 9 and Augustus Caesar rules Imperial Rome at the height of its power, as the Roman Empire stretches across the known world. Cassius, son of one of her most powerful families, is the personification of Rome’s imperial strength: wealthy, popular, a war hero with a decorated military career. None of Rome’s fashionable parties are complete without him.

But he hides a secret.

After his nerve is broken in Germany, even the thought of genuine armed combat is enough to send him into a cold sweat. But this doesn’t dissuade him from living off a false reputation so he can continue a life of womanising, wine and wild parties, as he is seduced by the many vices of Rome. However, his scandalous life is interrupted by a summons from the emperor’s wife. It ends his happy decadent life and returns him to Germany to assist the Roman legions in their greatest ever trial. The events will resound through history, in the dark forests of the Teutoburg …

I have researched the calamitous history of the doomed legions that marched into the Teutoburg Forest in AD 9, using a wide range of historical sources including the classical works of Tacitus and the more recent archaeological findings of the early 1990s in Kalkriese. I have put my complicated hero, who clearly suffers from the post-traumatic stress of his last encounter with the German tribes, at the centre of the events that rocked Rome to its foundations. How can a man, so flawed in so many respects, possibly impact on these terrible events? By his humanity, by coming to terms with his flaws, and learning to stop hating himself for them. It is a tale of betrayal and hardship, but also personal redemption.

Roman Mask Available At

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon DE

About the AuthorTom

Thomas Brooke lives in London where he works in the exciting, and sometimes crazy, fashion world. He is also a committed writer and he spends as much time as he can in his beloved Northumbrian hills, where up until recently could be seen walking with his black Labrador Fergus, who sadly passed in January 2015. Fergus was a constant companion to the writing of the novel and prevented many writers’ tantrums.

Roman Mask is Thomas Brooke’s second novel, although this will be the first available for sale.

As well as writing novels, he also writes a blog on both historical and fantasy genre novels.

For more information on Thomas M D Brooke, visit www.thomasmdbrooke.com and www.romanmask.com. You can also find him on Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Cover Reveal and Giveaway: "The Oracle" by D.J. Niko

02_The Oracle_CoverPublication Date: November 10, 2015
Medallion Press
Paperback; 456p
ISBN-13: 978-1605426273

Series: The Sarah Weston Chronicles, Book Three
Genre: Historical/Archeological Adventure

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In Delphi, the mountain city deemed by the Greek gods to be the center of the Earth, a cult of neo-pagans re-create with painstaking authenticity ancient rituals to glorify the god Apollo and deliver oracles to seekers from around the world.

When antiquities are stolen from a museum in nearby Thebes, British archaeologist Sarah Weston and her American partner, Daniel Madigan, are drawn into a plot that goes beyond harmless role-playing: someone’s using the Delphian oracle as a smoke screen for an information exchange, with devastating consequences for the Western world.

Pitted against each other by the cult’s mastermind, Sarah and Daniel race against time and their own personal demons to uncover clues left behind by the ancients. Their mission: to find the original navel stone marked with a lost Pythagorean formula detailing the natural events that led to the collapse of the Minoan Empire.

But will they find it in time to stop the ultimate terrorist act?

Pre-Order The Oracle at

Barnes & Noble
Book Depository

About the Author

[caption id="attachment_7307" align="alignright" width="246"]Daphne Nikolopoulos, photography by Lauren Lieberman / LILA PHOTO Daphne Nikolopoulos, photography by Lauren Lieberman / LILA PHOTO[/caption]

Daphne Nikolopoulos in an award-winning journalist, author, editor, and lecturer. Under the pen name D.J. Niko, she has written two novels in an archaeological thriller series titled The Sarah Weston Chronicles. Her debut novel, The Tenth Saint (Medallion Press, 2012), won the Gold Medal (popular fiction) in the prestigious, juried Florida Book Awards. Her follow-up release, The Riddle of Solomon, continues the story of British archaeologist Sarah Weston as she seeks the relics—and mystical secrets—left behind by the biblical King Solomon in remote Israel.

Daphne is currently at work on The Oracle, book 3 in The Sarah Weston Chronicles, which releases in 2015. Also slated for publication in 2015 is her first historical novel, The Judgment, which is set in Israel and Egypt in the tenth century BCE.

In addition to writing fiction, Daphne is editor in chief of Palm Beach Illustrated magazine and editorial director of Palm Beach Media Group. Prior to that, she was a travel journalist who logged hundreds of thousands of miles traveling across the globe, with emphasis on little-known and off-the-beaten-path locales—many of which have inspired her novels.

Daphne frequently lectures about her research on the ancient world. She is an instructor at Florida Atlantic University’s Lifelong Learning Society, teaching on the subject of archaeology. She has also spoken to audiences at the Jewish Community Center of the Palm Beaches’ Academy for Continuous Education, and several libraries and private groups throughout Florida.

Born and raised in Athens, Greece, Daphne now resides in West Palm Beach with her husband and twin son and daughter. You can find her on the Web at djnikobooks.com and connect with her on Facebook (AuthorDJNiko) and on Twitter: @djnikobooks.

The Oracle Cover Reveal Schedule

Monday, June 15
100 Pages a Day
Boom Baby Reviews

Tuesday, June 16
Genre Queen
The Reading Queen

Wednesday, June 17
Book Nerd
Diana's Book Reviews

Thursday, June 18
The Lit Bitch
To Read, Or Not to Read

Friday, June 19
A Book Geek

Monday, June 22
Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Tuesday, June 23
Raven Haired Girl
CelticLady's Reviews

Wednesday, June 24
So Many Books, So Little Time

Thursday, June 25
The Never-Ending Book

Friday, June 26
Passages to the Past


To enter to win an Advanced Reading Copy of The Oracle by D.J. Niko please complete the giveaway form below. Two copies are up for grabs!

⇒ Giveaway is open to residents in the US, UK, and Canada.
⇒Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on June 26th.
⇒You must be 18 or older to enter.
⇒Only one entry per household.
⇒All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
⇒Winners will be chosen via GLEAM on April 27th and notified via email. Winners have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
⇒Please email Amy @ hfvirtualbooktours@gmail.com with any questions.

The Oracle Cover Reveal + Giveaway

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Let Them Eat Cake

One of the reasons I have been MIA lately is because I was busy getting ready to make a wedding cake for a friend's wedding.  It was a long, stressful process that I'm so glad is over.  Almost every month in May was devoted to prepping for it and I'd been testing cake and frosting recipes for 6-8  months prior.  

I baked all the cakes the weekend before the wedding and froze them.  I baked every day for four days (it was Memorial Day weekend).  I had no idea how long it would take to bake all the layers and I baked extras just in case.

Baking Day

The wedding cake was three layers and square.  There was a 6", 10" and 14" layer.  Square cakes suck.  I don't ever want to do one again. When I signed up for this gig, the original plan was for a round cake but the changed their minds.

Practice layer I made the weekend before the wedding.

I took the day off before the wedding because I wanted to get most everything done that day.

 Just getting started.

By the end of the day, all of the layers were iced and ready to go.  And I had cake everywhere.  Did I mention that my kitchen is tiny?  Because it is and that made everything so much harder.

 Cake on the counter

  Cake in the fridge

The day of the wedding, I stacked the bottom two layers, put on the ribbon and did some of the piping.  I did not put the top layer on until I got the venue.  And I'm so glad I didn't because that sucker was HEAVY.  My arms were shaking so bad by the time I got to the venue (I was lucky to have a friend help me deliver!).

 Half done!

I will say that I am not at all happy with the final product.  I felt really good about it when I went to bed Friday night and then when I looked at everything on Saturday, I just wasn't thrilled.  I didn't have a lot of options to fix it or redo things because my babysitter fell through and I was stuck trying to finish the cake with my toddler running around (the hubs was gone because he was in the wedding).

Anyway here is the finished product:

There were a lot of compliments on it and evidently people thought it was delicious.  There were lots of people asking about it so I guess that's a good thing but I couldn't help but see every single flaw and it still upsets me.  But live and learn, right? I guess?  

Anyway, in the future, I will just stick with birthday cakes for Julia because if I don't like them, I can throw them out. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

"The Grip of God" by Rachel Hazell

Synopsis: The Grip of God is the first novel in an epic historical trilogy, The Tiger and the Dove. Set in the thirteenth century, its heroine, Sofia, is a young princess of Kievan Rus. She begins her story by recounting her capture in battle and life of slavery to a young army captain in the Mongol armies that are flooding Europe. Not only is her life shattered, it is threatened by the bitter rivalries in her new master's powerful family, and shadowed by the leader of the Mongol invasion, Batu Khan, Genghis Khan's grandson. How will she learn to survive in a world of total war, much less rediscover the love she once took for granted? Always seeking to escape and menaced by outer enemies and inner turmoil, where can she find safe haven even if she can break free? Clear eyed and intelligent, Sofia could be a character from The Game of Thrones, but she refuses to believe that life is solely about the strong dominating the weak or about taking endless revenge. Her story is based on actual historical events, which haunt her destiny. Like an intelligent Forrest Gump, she reflects her times. But as she matures, she learns to reflect on them as well, and to transcend their fetters. In doing so, she recreates a lost era for us, her readers.

My Thoughts: I think this is the first time that I have seen a work of historical fiction that takes place during the Mongol invasions of Europe so I jumped at the chance to read this. The Grip of God is a very well-researched and detailed story of the fictional Princess Sofia and her time as a prisoner of the Mongols. 

Sofia is a fascinating character; at times her youth is very evident and at others, she seems wise beyond her years. She was smart and tough and very resilient. She handled her trials with so much grace. She was also kind of sassy; I thoroughly enjoyed the scenes where she would be defiant toward Batu Khan and others in power. 

I loved reading all about every day Mongol life and their customs. It was fascinating and Ms. Hazell described everything in great detail. I had no idea that the Mongols were so tolerant of other cultures and religions nor did I know anything about their daily life or ruling structure. I really feel like I need to go read more about them because while they are usually portrayed as savages, I think Ms. Hazell painted a pretty unbiased portrait of them including both the good and the bad.

The overall story was interesting and completely sucked me in. My only complaint is that at times, it was kind of long-winded and dragged on a bit. Otherwise, I think this was a great book and with such a neat cliffhanger ending, I'll definitely be reading the next in the series. 3 1/2 stars.

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

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Mailbox Monday (45)

Hello! It's a been a long time since I have done a Mailbox Monday post!  I've been trying to get one up for a while so this post is going to include books I have picked up over the last few weeks.

Amazon has had some really interesting kindle books on sale so I've splurged a little recently and am going to have to cut back a bit soon....maybe.

Purchased (ebooks):

 The Amber Keeper by Freda Lightfoot - I can't resist any book that is historical fiction set in Russia!
A Dark Lure by Loreth Anne White -This was a kindle first read book.  I've been really craving thrillers lately so I had to check this one out.
Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka - My child is the definition of 'spirited'.  I've heard this is an excellent book and I'm excited to see if it helps me parent my child better
American Ghost by Hannah NordhausThis is a ghost story and historical narrative wrapped into one.  I can't wait to read it.

For review (ebook): 

The Grip of God by Rebecca Hazell - I don't think I've ever seen a work of historical fiction that dealt with the Mongols and their conquering of Kievan Rus so I had to pick this one up.

From the Library:

America and the Pill by Elaine Tyler May - I know someone who read this recently and they said it was really good.  It sounds intriguing.
Prince of Fire by Daniel Silva - I love the Gabriel Allon books. I'm totally hooked on this series!

What books did you get this week?  Leave a link in the comments so I can check out your hauls!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Pre-Order Blitz! "Medicis Daughter: A Novel of Marguerite of Valois" by Sophie Perinot

The wait is over. Sophie Perinot, author of The Sister Queens, has a new book available for pre-order! Medicis Daughter travels forward three-hundred years from Perinot’s last novel to the intrigue-riven French court of Charles IX, spinning the tale of beautiful princess Marguerite who walks the knife’s edge between the demands of her serpentine mother, Catherine de Medicis, and those of her own conscience. This is a coming-of-age story that will remind audiences that, when it comes to the 16th century, the Valois are even sexier than the Tudors—and just as treacherous.

02_Medici's Daughter_CoverPublication Date: December 1, 2015
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Formats: eBook, Hardcover

Genre: Historical Fiction

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Winter, 1564. Beautiful young Princess Margot is summoned to the court of France, where nothing is what it seems and a wrong word can lead to ruin. Known across Europe as Madame la Serpente, Margot’s intimidating mother, Queen Catherine de Médicis, is a powerful force in a country devastated by religious war. Among the crafty nobility of the royal court, Margot learns the intriguing and unspoken rules she must live by to please her poisonous family.

Eager to be an obedient daughter, Margot accepts her role as a marriage pawn, even as she is charmed by the powerful, charismatic Duc de Guise. Though Margot's heart belongs to Guise, her hand will be offered to Henri of Navarre, a Huguenot leader and a notorious heretic looking to seal a tenuous truce. But the promised peace is a mirage: her mother's schemes are endless, and her brothers plot vengeance in the streets of Paris. When Margot's wedding devolves into the bloodshed of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, she will be forced to choose between her family and her soul.

Médicis Daughter is historical fiction at its finest, weaving a unique coming-of-age story and a forbidden love with one of the most dramatic and violent events in French history.

Praise for Médicis Daughter: A Novel of Marguerite de Valois

“This is Renaissance France meets Game of Thrones: dark, sumptuous historical fiction that coils religious strife, court intrigue, passionate love, family hatred, and betrayed innocence like a nest of poisonous snakes. Beautiful Princess Margot acts as our guide to the heart of her violent family, as she blossoms from naive court pawn to woman of conscience and renown. A highly recommended coming-of-age tale where the princess learns to slay her own dragons!” --Kate Quinn, Bestselling author of LADY OF THE ETERNAL CITY

"The riveting story of a 16th century French princess caught in the throes of royal intrigue and religious war. From the arms of the charismatic Duke of Guise to the blood-soaked streets of Paris, Princess Marguerite runs a dangerous gauntlet, taking the reader with her. An absolutely gripping read!" --Michelle Moran, bestselling author of THE REBEL QUEEN

"Rising above the chorus of historical drama is Perinot's epic tale of the fascinating, lascivious, ruthless House of Valois, as told through the eyes of the complicated and intelligent Princess Marguerite. Burdened by her unscrupulous family and desperate for meaningful relationships, Margot is forced to navigate her own path in sixteenth century France. Amid wars of nation and heart, Médicis Daughter brilliantly demonstrates how one unique woman beats staggering odds to find the strength and power that is her birthright." --Erika Robuck, bestselling author of HEMINGWAY'S GIRL

Médicis Daughter: A Novel of Marguerite de Valois Available for Pre-Order at

About the AuthorSP Small

SOPHIE PERINOT is the author of The Sister Queens and one of six contributing authors of A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii. A former attorney, Perinot is now a full-time writer. She lives in Great Falls, Virginia with her three children, three cats, one dog and one husband.

An active member of the Historical Novel Society, Sophie has attended all of the group’s North American Conferences and served as a panelist multiple times. Find her among the literary twitterati as @Lit_gal or on facebook at www.facebook.com/sophie.perinot.author.

Médicis Daughter Pre-Order Blitz Schedule

Monday, June 8
The True Book Addict
Peeking Between the Pages
So Many Books, So Little Time

Tuesday, June 9
100 Pages a Day
A Book Drunkard
The Reading Queen
The Never-Ending Book

Wednesday, June 10
Broken Teepee
Passages to the Past
Just One More Chapter
Historical Fiction Connection
Historical Readings & Reviews

Thursday, June 11
A Bookish Affair
Let Them Read Books
Caroline Wilson Writes
Svetlana's Reads and Views

Friday, June 12
Boom Baby Reviews
CelticLady's Reviews
Book Lovers Paradise
What Is That Book About

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

May Wrap Up

Hello!  I know I've been MIA lately but I'm hoping to start coming back slowly!  Thank you for your patience with me.

May was an awesome reading month!  I read 11 books which is a TON for me especially considering May was so busy.  I guess it helped that I reread several Laura Ingalls Wilder books and those are pretty easy to read.  I have now read 38 books this year; I'm almost halfway to my goal of 80!  I read a wide range of books this month and it was really nice to just kind of pick up what I wanted without the pressure of review books.

In addition to reading a lot in May, the hubs, toddler and I went to Colorado to visit my brother.  It was a really nice little trip and Julia did pretty good on the 8/9 hour car ride.  We also went to 4 kid's birthday parties, celebrated Mother's Day, the hubs' birthday and a friend's high school graduation and I made my first wedding cake.  It was kind of a whirlwind. June won't be quite as busy but we will be working on spring cleaning our house before Julia's 2nd birthday (!) at the end of the month.  She's still not sleeping great but we've kind of adjusted to it (even though it is really annoying at times).  Anyway, I'm glad May is over and looking forward to June and summer!

Here are my May numbers:
-11 books read
   -1 non-fiction
   - 6 historical fiction (I am now at 17/25 for the Historical Fiction Challenge)
   -0 review
   -6 library books
   -3 books I own (ebooks) - I'm not counting the Little House books I reread in this total

Next month I'll try to update where I stand with regards to my reading goals for the year since it will be the halfway point.

What I read in May:

1.) The Shadows by J.R. Ward - 3 stars
2.) These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder - 5 stars
3.) The Agincourt Bride by Joanna Hickson - 3 stars
4.) Young Pioneers by Rose Wilder Lane - 3 stars
5.) Missoula by Jon Krakauer - 5 stars
6.) Mean Streak by Sandra Brown - 3 stars
7.) The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder - 3 stars
8.) A Death in Vienna by Daniel Silva - 4 stars
9.) Sekret by Lindsay Smith - 3 stars
10.) Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich - 3 stars
11.) Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel - 4 stars

What did you read in May?
Imagination Designs