Friday, October 30, 2015

Review and Giveaway: "Spirit of the Highway" by Deborah Swift

Synopsis:  England 1651.
England has been engaged in a bitter Civil War for nearly ten years. Ralph Chaplin, a farmer’s son, has fallen for beautiful copper-haired Kate. There is only one problem – he is a Roundhead soldier and she is a Royalist lady.

Tired of bloodshed, Ralph volunteers to fight, sensing that the Battle at Worcester will be a chance to finish the fighting for good. He longs for peace, so he can forge a secure future and find a different, more equal way of life for himself and Kate.

But war is not what he imagined, and soon he has made a deadly enemy; one who will pursue Ralph and those he loves, and wreak vengeance. What’s more, Ralph finds he has just as many enemies at home, as on the battlefield.

Told by Ralph’s ghost, Spirit of the Highway is the stand-alone second part of the Highway Trilogy based on the real life and legend of Lady Katherine Fanshawe, highwaywoman and heiress.

My Thoughts:  Spirit of the Highway is the sequel to Ms. Swift's exciting Shadow on the Highway (my review can be found here).  The second installment takes the reader back to the Fanshawe mansion and shows the reader what has been happening to Ralph, Abigail and Kate since we last saw them.  What makes this story unique is that it is told by Ralph's ghost so from the very beginning of the story, you are aware that he will, at some point, meet an untimely death.

The last book focused more on Kate and Abigail while Spirit of the Highway is solely Ralph's story.  I definitely found Ralph to be a sympathetic character; he was coming of age during a very tumultuous period in history and the effects of war were hard on him.  However, at times, Ralph was really annoying and it was hard to be in his head all the time.  He had a quick temper which got him (and Kate and Abigail) into all kinds of trouble and at times it was hard not to be frustrated by him.  He really meant well but he didn't always handle tough situations well.  It was strange to constantly be expecting him to die; he found himself in several dangerous situations and managed to come out of those unscathed.

Speaking of characters, Ms. Swift introduces a new character, Cutch, in this book.  I really liked him!  He started off as being really rough around the edges but he came around as the story progressed and was such a good friend to Ralph and his family.  He was just so endearing.  I really hope that he makes an appearance in the next book in the trilogy.  I also hope Abigail and Kate play a larger role in the next book because I really missed seeing things from their point of view.

I really enjoyed view of the English Civil War that the author presented.  In Spirit of the Highway, you get to see both sides of the war: life on the battle field and on the home front.  I think that was what I enjoyed most about the book.  Ms. Swift painted a captivating picture of the horrors and atrocities associated with battle as well as the struggles the civilians had trying to survive in an era of  uncertainty.  3 stars.

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

About the Author:

Deborah Swift is the author of three previous historical novels for adults, The Lady’s Slipper, The Gilded Lily, and A Divided Inheritance, all published by Macmillan/St Martin’s Press, as well as the Highway Trilogy for teens (and anyone young at heart!). Her first novel was shortlisted for the Impress prize for new novelists.
She lives on the edge of the beautiful and literary English Lake District – a place made famous by the poets Wordsworth and Coleridge.

To win a signed paperback of Spirit of the Highway please enter the giveaway via the GLEAM form below. Three copies up for grabs!
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on November 6th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open internationally.
– 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
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Click here to enter!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Review: "Becoming Lisette" by Rebecca Glenn

From Goodreads:  Independent and beautiful, Élisabeth Vigée, affectionately called Lisette by friends and family, has progressed in the art of oil painting faster than anyone could have anticipated. Having received instruction from her beloved father, Louis Vigée, a prominent Parisian guild painter, Lisette possesses all the qualities of a brilliant young painter, but is saddled with a singular disadvantage – being a woman in 18-century Paris. Undeterred, Lisette believes that she can become a painter.

Approaching a marriageable age, her parents have other plans for Lisette, ones that don’t include painting. Lisette finds support in Queen Marie Antoinette and a dashing art collector and French Army officer named Amante, who is clearly intrigued by her talent and beauty. After Lisette’s father dies unexpectedly, her family is left in dire financial straits. Lisette wants to support her family, but before she can sell a single painting, her mother marries a wealthy merchant jeweler named Le Sèvre. Le Sèvre discovers Lisette’s artistic abilities and soon has her painting portraits of his noble and wealthy jewelry clientele.

It quickly becomes clear that Le Sèvre only wants to control Lisette, leading to severe consequences for her budding career, Amante’s pursuit of her affections and even her safety. Lisette realizes that she must find her own way – before it is too late.

My Thoughts:  I've always enjoyed Elisabeth Vigee LeBrun's paintings so when the opportunity arose to review this book, I jumped at it.  Becoming Lisette was a such a wonderful surprise:  Ms. Glenn has given us a well-written portrayal of this talented artist.

Becoming Lisette is an early look at Vigee LeBrun's life, before she has reached the fame and notoriety of her later life.  I loved reading about Lisette's passion for art and painting; the descriptions of the colors she used and the way she painted were amazing.  I felt like I could almost visualize the paintings as she was working on them.

I also really enjoyed reading about life in Paris during that late 17th century.  Lisette's family wasn't very well off while her father was alive so it was interesting to see lower-middle class life and then the jump to upper-middle class life.  There was such a huge shift in the way Lisette and her mother lived their every day lives and it was fascinating to see how differently people of various classes lived.  I will say that I loved reading about the meals that Lisette and her mother prepared and served.  They were so intricate and there was such a controlled structure to how they were served and in what order.  It made me want to research French food!

I was a little disappointed with how abruptly this story ended but when I realized that there will be second book, it made more sense (can't wait to read the next one!).  Overall, I found Becoming Lisette to be a great book.  4 stars.

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

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-A-Thon October 2015- Master Post

Hey y'all!  It's Read-a-Thon time again!  I'm so excited to participate!  This is my fifth time participating and I'm looking forward to reading and keeping up with everyone else's progress.  I will do most of my updates on Twitter today so if you want to see what I'm up to, follow me at @so_many_books.

I have a lot of books on my stack; two are ebooks and three are physical books.  It's easier for me to read ebooks throughout the day because I can read them on my phone.  My daughter starts toddler soccer this morning but otherwise, I'm going to really try to get some reading done (hopefully my two year old will cooperate!).  I actually had a much smaller stack picked out originally and ended up adding more because I wanted to keep my options open.

My Stack:

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
Enchantress of Paris by Marci Jefferson 

HOUR 0 Questionnaire

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?  I'm in Kansas.  It's supposed to be chilly today so I think it will be perfect reading weather.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?   I'm looking forward to all of them.  I really want to start Six of Crows but because it's a physical copy, it will probably be harder for me to get to.

 3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?  I'm hoping to make a trip to my favorite bakery for some cupcakes.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!  I'm a mom to a rambunctious, non-sleeping 2 year old.  I live with my husband, daughter and crazy dog.  I work in higher education which is an adventure and a half. AND I love to read.   (What's hilarious is that I copied this from April's read-a-thon post, the only thing that's changed is my daughter's age...she still doesn't sleep.)

 5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?  I'm really want to get more reading done.  I may try to sneak off to the library for a few hours so that I can have some uninterrupted reading time.

I'll try to check in again in a few hours!  Happy Read-A-Thon!!

HOUR 14 Check in and Mid Event Survey

1. What are you reading right now? I'm reading Medici's Daughter by Sophie Perinot
2. How many books have you read so far? Only 1 (A Wrinkle in Time)
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? I'm really hoping to put a good dent in Medici's Daughter.
4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?  So many interruptions!  The day has not gone has planned.  I'm happy I've finished one book but I was really hoping to have participated more and it just hasn't happened. My daughter has been a stage 5 clinger today.
5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?  Just that it hasn't gone as planned.

I'm hoping to get another hour or so of reading in before I hit the sack.  My daughter had a rough night last night and I'm exhausted today so we'll see how long I last.  


The readathon is over and though I didn't get to participate anywhere near as much as I wanted to, I did get some reading done.  I read about 20% of Medici's Daughter and A Wrinkle in Time in its entirety.  I had hoped to get more reading in and I wanted to visit more blogs and check out how others were doing but it was just one of those days where things just didn't go as planned.  I got more reading done than on a regular Saturday so that's a plus!  Anyway, I hope everyone had a great time and I'm looking forward to participating again in April.  I think I may try to send my daughter to grandma's for the day next time!

Happy Sunday!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Quick Review: "The Silent Girls" by Eric Rickstad

From Goodreads:  With the dead of a bitter Vermont winter closing in, evil is alive and well …

Frank Rath thought he was done with murder when he turned in his detective's badge to become a private investigator and raise a daughter alone. Then the police in his remote rural community of Canaan find an '89 Monte Carlo abandoned by the side of the road, and the beautiful teenage girl who owned the car seems to have disappeared without a trace.

Soon Rath's investigation brings him face-to-face with the darkest abominations of the human soul.

With the consequences of his violent and painful past plaguing him, and young women with secrets vanishing one by one, he discovers once again that even in the smallest towns on the map, evil lurks everywhere-and no one is safe.

My Thoughts:  The first chapter of this book is crazy scary and got my attention right away.  However, after that chapter, the story slowed down for a bit and it was hard to get into.  I also struggled with understanding how the first chapter was relevant to the story (it's not mentioned again until half way through) so I spent a lot of time waiting for the story to get moving.  Once it did get moving, the story went in fits and starts.  Rath was an interesting character but he had so many demons that I couldn't decide if I liked him or not.  The rest of the characters were kind of vague and I felt like I never really got to know them.

The story did wind up getting pretty freaky later in the book though I still had questions when everything was all over.  The bad guy was even creepier than I expected and man, did I have trouble sleeping after reading about that freak.  Once I thought everything was resolved, things took a turn I never expected and the story ended with a huge cliffhanger.  I didn't realize that this book would have a sequel and even though the story had flaws, I will definitely have to read the next book to find out what happens.  3 stars


Monday, October 12, 2015

Quick Thoughts on The Blue Heron Series by Kristan Higgins

1.) The Best Man
2.) The Perfect Match
3.) Waiting on You
4.) In Your Dreams

My Thoughts:  I don't usually read a lot of chick lit/romance type books but over the summer, I just really wanted to do some nice fluffy reading.  I kept hearing out awesome this series was so I decided to check it out.  OMG.  This series is the absolute best!  The characters are wonderful and the stories are each fun and romantic in their own right.  

The stories focus on the Holland family, their unmarried members and unmarried friends.  I love that all the characters are so normal; the woman aren't Barbie dolls and they all have their own unique set of problems and idiosyncracies.  Because they are so normal, they are incredibly relatable.  There are also a ton of funny one liners and some of the characters are just plain hilarious (Prudence is the best!).

All of the books are a little predictable/formulaic and all have a happy ending but I think that was what made them so enjoyable.  The Perfect Match is probably my favorite; I loved Honor and Tom's story so much and I think Honor is my favorite character of the whole series.  

The fifth book comes out in December and I can't wait!  If you are looking for a great romance series, be sure to check out this one! 

All books rated 4 stars.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Bookish (and Not So Bookish) Thoughts (13)

Hey y'all!  I'm linking up with Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts over at Bookishly Boisterous again.
1.) Our library book sale was last weekend and I bought these Baby Sitter's Club book for 50 cents each.  Yes, I'm already hoarding books for my two year old to read when she's older.

2.) I also may have just bought a couple of the Russian language Harry Potter books on ebay.  I read the first two books in Russian and now would like to try continuing to read them to practice my Russian.  We'll see how that goes.  They were about half the price that I paid for each of the first two so it was pretty good deal.

3.) I don't know what my problem is but I haven't finished a book in like a week.  I like the books I'm reading right now, I just don't feel compelled to read.

4.) We went out for some amazing Chinese food last week and this was my fortune. I sincerely hope it comes true.  I desperately want to travel the world.

5.) I have been so lazy for the last few weeks and haven't wanted to exercise or do anything.  I really need to get back on the wagon with taking care of myself.

6.) Is it bad that I'm super excited for Christmas?  Because I am.  I always love the holidays and I can't to do all kinds of holiday stuff with Julia now that she's old enough to kind of know what's going on.

7.) One of the books I'm reading right now is called Raising Your Spirited Child.  I feel like the author wrote the book about my child.  There are even situations she describes that are exactly like things that happened to me when Julia was a baby.  It's the weirdest thing ever but I'm hopeful that it will provide me with some good tips for dealing with my child.

I hope y'all have a great week!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Quick Review: "102 Minutes" by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn

From Goodreads:  At 8:46 am on September 11, 2001, 14,000 people were inside the twin towers-reading e-mails, making trades, eating croissants at Windows on the World. Over the next 102 minutes, each would become part of a drama for the ages, one witnessed only by the people who lived it-until now.

Of the millions of words written about this wrenching day, most were told from the outside looking in. New York Times reporters Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn have taken the opposite-and far more revealing-approach. Reported from the perspectives of those inside the towers, 102 Minutes captures the little-known stories of ordinary people who took extraordinary steps to save themselves and others. Beyond this stirring panorama stands investigative reporting of the first rank. An astounding number of people actually survived the plane impacts but were unable to escape, and the authors raise hard questions about building safety and tragic flaws in New York's emergency preparedness.

Dwyer and Flynn rely on hundreds of interviews with rescuers, thousands of pages of oral histories, and countless phone, e-mail, and emergency radio transcripts. They cross a bridge of voices to go inside the infernos, seeing cataclysm and heroism, one person at a time, to tell the affecting, authoritative saga of the men and women-the nearly 12,000 who escaped and the 2,749 who perished-as they made 102 minutes count as never before. 

My Thoughts:  I have been wanting to read this book for a long time and strangely enough my hold came through at the library right before the anniversary of 9/11 this year.  

102 Minutes is a compelling read.  It made me look at what happened in the Twin Towers in a whole other light.  The authors did extensive research and painted a chilling picture of what was happening in both towers that morning.  They mixed stories of real people, phone calls, etc. in with information about how the Towers were built and how the airplanes damaged them structurally.  At times, it was hard to read.  There were points where you saw people who happened to be in the right place at the right time and others who I just wanted to scream at to 'get out!' It was actually overwhelming at times and it upset me a lot more than I expected.  

Despite being hard to read at times, 102 Minutes was still an excellent book.  I would recommend it to anyone.  5 stars.
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