Wednesday, September 30, 2015

September Wrap Up

 It's finally fall and I couldn't be happier!  I love this time of year so much.

I normally post my monthly wrap up once the month is over but I know I'm not going to finish anything else so here it is.  I felt like September was a really slow reading month for me but when I look at the numbers, it doesn't really look that bad.  I could have read a lot more but I got really sucked into NetFlix and spent an exorbitant amount of time watching Criminal Minds and Justified.

I'm now at 75 books read for the year so I know I'll meet my reading goal in October.  I'm really hoping that I can get to at least 90 books read this year.  If I read 8ish books a month for the rest of the year, I'll hit 100 which will be awesome!  The most I've read in a year since Julia was born was 88 books so I'm hoping to exceed that this year.

 Here are my September numbers:
-9 books read
   -1 non-fiction
   -3 historical fiction
   -3 review books
   -4 library books
   -2 books I own
   -6 ebooks

What I read in September (reviews for many of these will be coming soon!):

1.) Becoming Lisette by Rebecca Glenn - 4 stars
2.) The Christmas Bargain by Shanna Hatfield - 4 stars
3.) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling - 4 stars
4.) The Perfect Match by Kristan Higgins - 4 stars
5.) Waiting on You by Kristan Higgins - 4 stars
6.) 102 Minutes by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn - 4 stars
7.) Esther by Rebecca Kanner - 3 stars
8.) In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins - 4 stars
9.) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling - 5 stars

Since we only have a few months left in the year, I thought I would do a break down of where I stand for the year.  I'm pretty happy with where I stand except in regards to reading books I own.  I really need to work on that (I say all the time and never do...oops).  I've read more than twice the number of non-fiction books I read last year and have several more to read in the coming month.  I've also done pretty well at limiting review books which is keeping my reading nice and stress free.

Here are my numbers for January-September 2015:
-75 books read
   -11 non-fiction
   -28 historical fiction
   -18 review
   -40 library books
   -17 books I own
   -33 ebooks

How was the month of September for you?  Are you on track to meeting  your reading goals?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Review: "The Sisters of Versailles" by Sally Christie


 Synopsis:  A sumptuous and sensual tale of power, romance, family, and betrayal centered around four sisters and one King. Carefully researched and ornately detailed, The Sisters of Versailles is the first book in an exciting new historical fiction trilogy about King Louis XV, France’s most “well-beloved” monarch, and the women who shared his heart and his bed.

Goodness, but sisters are a thing to fear.

Set against the lavish backdrop of the French Court in the early years of the 18th century, The Sisters of Versailles is the extraordinary tale of the five Nesle sisters: Louise, Pauline, Diane, Hortense, and Marie-Anne, four of whom became mistresses to King Louis XV. Their scandalous story is stranger than fiction but true in every shocking, amusing, and heartbreaking detail.

Court intriguers are beginning to sense that young King Louis XV, after seven years of marriage, is tiring of his Polish wife. The race is on to find a mistress for the royal bed as various factions put their best foot – and women – forward. The King’s scheming ministers push Louise, the eldest of the aristocratic Nesle sisters, into the arms of the King. Over the following decade, the four sisters:sweet, naive Louise; ambitious Pauline; complacent Diane, and cunning Marie Anne, will conspire, betray, suffer, and triumph in a desperate fight for both love and power.

In the tradition of The Other Boleyn Girl, The Sisters of Versailles is a clever, intelligent, and absorbing novel that historical fiction fans will devour. Based on meticulous research on a group of women never before written about in English, Sally Christie’s stunning debut is a complex exploration of power and sisterhood; of the admiration, competition, and even hatred that can coexist within a family when the stakes are high enough.

My Thoughts:  I love reading about the happenings at Versailles!  I found the The Sisters of Versailles to be an intriguing read because it focuses on historical characters that are completely new to me.  I was actually kind of surprised that such a 'scandalous' group of women had fallen into a sort of obscurity. 

It was fascinating to me that four sisters could be mistresses to the same king especially because they were all so different.  They're personalities were polar opposites and the way the treated the king was so different that I couldn't believe that he was interested in all of them.  I will be honest, all of their personalities were a little over the top to me.  Diane was completely ridiculous.  I liked Louise the best and felt the most sympathetic toward her.  I can't imagine what it must have been like for her to watch her sisters take her place with the king when she was truly in love with him.  I was also sympathetic towards Hortense; she was the only sister who didn't become the king's lover and that seemed to automatically separate her from her sisters.Pauline and Marie-Anne were pretty hateful; they were good villains but really impossible to like. 

I did like seeing a 'behind the scenes' view of Versailles.  There was so much ceremony and intrigue going on; it was like a veritable soap opera.  Ms. Christie's descriptions of the rooms at Versailles as well as the clothing were amazing.  She did a great job of setting the scene for the Nesle sisters' story.  Overall, this was an interesting look at a unique group of women. 3 stars.

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

About the Author:

 

I’m a life-long history buff – and I mean life-long. One of the first adult books I read was Antonia Fraser’s masterful Mary, Queen of Scots. Wow! That book just blew my little ten year old mind: something about the way it brought the past right back to life, made it live again on the page. I date my obsession with history to that time, but I’d been writing (“writing”) ever since I was able to hold a pencil.

If you’d told my 12-year old self that I’d not be a writer when I grew up, I would have laughed you out of the tree house. With a few detours along the way, to work overseas in consulting and development, as well as to go to business school, I’ve finally come full circle to where I think I should be.

I currently live in Toronto and when I’m not writing, I’m playing lots of tennis; doing random historical research (old census records are my favorite); playing Scrabble, and squirrel-watching (the room where I write has French doors leading out to a deck; I avidly follow, and feed, a scruffy gang).
For more information please visit Sally Christie’s website. You can also find her on Goodreads and Pinterest.



Monday, September 21, 2015

Mailbox Monday (52)

Happy Monday y'all!  I'm linking up with Mailbox Monday again this week!

The past few weeks I've gotten a lot of books but life has been crazy so I haven't been posting much. My daughter is, once again, not sleeping so that's making things really complicated.  I'm hoping it gets better soon.  This post is only going to include the books I received in the last week otherwise it would be pages long.

From the Library:


 
For Review:



What books did you get this week? 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Book Spotlight: "Decorum" by Karen Christopherson

02_DecorumDecorum: A Novel
by Kaaren Christopherson


Publication Date: March 31, 2015
Kensington Publishing Corp.
Foramts: eBook, Paperback, Audio
Pages: 425

Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance

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Kaaren Christopherson's brilliantly observed novel captures the glamour and grit of one of the world's most dazzling cities during one of its most tumultuous eras--as seen through the eyes of a singularly captivating heroine...

In 1890s New York, beautiful, wealthy Francesca Lund is an intriguing prospect for worthy suitors and fortune hunters alike. Recently orphaned, she copes by working with the poor in the city's settlement movement. But a young woman of means can't shun society for long, and Francesca's long-standing acquaintance with dashing Edmund Tracey eventually leads to engagement. Yet her sheltered upbringing doesn't blind her to the indiscretions of the well-to-do...

Among the fashionable circle that gathers around her there are mistresses, scandals, and gentlemen of ruthless ambition. And there is Connor O'Casey--an entirely new kind of New Yorker. A self-made millionaire of Irish stock, Connor wants more than riches. He wants to create a legacy in the form of a luxury Madison Avenue hotel--and he wants Francesca by his side as he does it. In a quest that will take her from impeccable Manhattan salons to the wild Canadian Rockies, Francesca must choose not only between two vastly different men, but between convention and her own emerging self-reliance.

Rules Of Decorum

A gentleman should not be presented to a lady without her permission being previously asked and granted. This formality is not necessary between men alone; but, still, you should not present any one, even at his own request, to another, unless you are quite well assured that the acquaintance will be agreeable to the latter.

If you wish to avoid the company of any one that has been properly introduced, satisfy your own mind that your reasons are correct; and then let no inducement cause you to shrink from treating him with respect, at the same time shunning his company. No gentleman will thus be able either to blame or mistake you.

The mode in which the avowal of love should be made, must of course, depend upon circumstances. It would be impossible to indicate the style in which the matter should be told... Let it, however, be taken as a rule that an interview is best; but let it be remembered that all rules have exceptions...

PRAISE


“Reminiscent of Washington Square but with a more modern heroine, Decorum illuminates the dark world beneath New York society. …” - RT Book Review, 4 stars

“Christopherson provides the reader with a fully-realized world of brazen and aspiring women, ambitious men and strict expectations regarding how to conduct one's private and/or social life. The characters are so beautifully drawn that I felt like I could start casting the mini-series the minute I put the book down. And, this book would make a wonderful TV series with settings ranging from early New York City to the Canadian Rockies. …I loved every minute.” - Nancy, Goodreads reviewer

“…the novel is remarkable in its similarities to the work of Edith Wharton. The reader feels drawn into a world of glamour, glitz, and supreme hypocrisy. Everything is permissible as long as one does not get caught. It is a drama of manners and the stakes are high—one misstep could mean social oblivion. … This novel will appeal to a wide range of readers, particularly those who enjoy period novels such as Age of Innocence and The Portrait of a Lady." - The Historical Novel Society

“New York, 1890, and the glitz and glamor of the time and setting, are the backdrop for this novel about a young heiress who suddenly finds herself alone in the world. I loved how each chapter began with a rule of etiquette based upon the societal norms of the time. The story gave me a glimpse of what it would have been like to live among the wealthiest and most prominent citizens. Of course, all is not perfect, for the heroine must maneuver her way through treachery, greed, and scandal to find which of the two men in her life is her true love. I thoroughly enjoyed how the characters interacted, and how authentic they felt to me. Lots of wonderfully rich descriptions of places and gowns really brought the era to life. … I definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys New York in the Gilded Age. A good historical read!” - Mirella Patzer, Historical Novel Review

”A fantastically engaging book with everything you need for a really good read, probably best summed up as the American Downton Abbey meets Jane Austen. It starts a little slowly, but when it gets going, it really is difficult to put down.

The plot and the various subplots are fascinating, with so many twists and turns, it never stops weaving a new thread. You constantly feel that the story will be coming to an end, but then there is more... and more... and more.

The characters are well-developed, credible and, though not always likeable, possessing some magical quality that makes us feel like we know them so well. The central character manages to make herself someone to admire and someone we almost want to dismiss at the same time, whilst she metamorphoses throughout the novel, constantly changing on her journey of discovery. She presents a sense of strength and courage as she is faced with the most heart-wrenching and, often, downright embarrassing situations, yet she wins through in the end, despite overwhelming odds against a woman at this time.

Throughout the novel, there is a quality that makes it feel like a movie—and this would make an excellent movie, without a doubt. The pace is just right and it keeps you gripped until the end. Excellently written and a thoroughly enjoyable read.” - Annemarie Macken, Goodreads review

"In this remarkable first novel, Christopherson takes us back to 1890s New York -- to tell a tale so pitch perfect it hurts. Bridging the divide between historical fiction and literary fiction, the story of the rising immigrant Connor and the unlikely pairing with orphaned socialite/settlement house worker Francesca is beset with conflict from her devious fiance Tracy, Connor's lover the scandalous Blanche and Francesca's meddling guardians the Jeromes. Some of the most gorgeous scenes are set in an art warehouse examining paintings that have just arrived from Paris, a hat shop, a delightful tea house and of course, tangled in the bedsheets! Between murder, trials, and lies, this tale takes us to Argentina and Louisiana, Ireland and Chicago, the lower east side to the upper west side and finally to a real resort in Banff Canada where our unlikely pair will finally get a chance. Or will they?" - Booksmart, Amazon review

ABOUT THE AUTHOR03_Kaaren Christopherson


Kaaren Christopherson is the author of Decorum—a novel about Gilded Age New York—that began taking form in 1999 during a course on writing historical fiction. From that moment, Connor O’Casey (who had been rattling around in her brain for months) finally appeared one night and said, “All right, woman. Here I am. What are you going to do about my story?” So she began to put his words on paper, and he hasn’t kept quiet since. Soon Francesca, Blanche, Tracey, Vinnie, and the rest of the characters began arguing, gossiping, loving, and forming themselves into Kaaren’s first novel.

Kaaren has had a professional career writing and editing for over 30 years and is a senior editor for an international development nonprofit organization in Washington, DC.

She has written fiction since her school days, story poems, children’s books, historical fiction, and time travel, and continues to be active in writer’s groups and writing workshops. In addition to her career as a writer, Kaaren was the owner of a decorative painting business. She loves to travel and prowl through historical sites, galleries, and museums. She is active in several churches in DC and in her local Northern Virginia community, where she shares her home with feline brothers, Archie and Sammy.

A Michigan native, Kaaren received her BA in history and art and her MA in educational administration from Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.

For more information visit Kaaren Christopherson's website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE


Monday, August 24
Review at Bookish
Spotlight at The Lit Bitch

Wednesday, August 26
Review, Guest Post, and Giveaway at History Undressed

Thursday, August 27
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Friday, August 28
Review at Book Nerd

Monday, August 31
Review at Book Lovers Paradise

Tuesday, September 1
Review at A Book Geek
Spotlight & Giveaway at Unshelfish

Wednesday, September 2
Review at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, September 3
Guest Post & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Friday, September 4
Review & Giveaway at View From the Birdhouse
Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book

Monday, September 7
Review at I'm Shelf-ish
Interview & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Tuesday, September 8
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews

Wednesday, September 9
Review at Queen of All She Reads
Spotlight at Please Pass the Books

Thursday, September 10
Spotlight at Svetlana's Reads and Views

Friday, September 11
Interview & Giveaway at The Bookdragon
Spotlight at So Many Books, So Little Time

Monday, September 14
Review at Griperang's Bookmarks

Tuesday, September 15
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Guest Post at Books and Benches

Wednesday, September 16
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Thursday, September 17
Review at Kinx's Book Nook
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Friday, September 18
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Review at Just One More Chapter
Review at To Read, or Not to Read

04_Decorum_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Bookish (and Not So Bookish) Thoughts (12)

Hey y'all!  
I'm linking up with Bookish (And Not So Bookish Thoughts) over at Bookishly Boisterous this week.

1.) I'm feeling a little burned out on historical fiction right now.  I have one historical fiction book for review right now but otherwise, I think I'm going to take a little break from the genre and read other things.  Usually more than half of what I read is HF but this year that is so not the case.

2.) As always, I've been a terrible blogger lately.  I have lots of things I want and need to post but just haven't had the motivation to do it.

3.) I'm so excited for Fall!  I love when the weather starts to get cool and I love all the fun holidays.  I'm also excited to start baking pumpkin treats.  I hate pumpkin spice flavored things but I love pumpkin bread, pie, cookies, cake, etc.  Last year my favorite pumpkin treat was this pumpkin pie cake.  It's so good!

4.) Speaking of Fall holidays, I ordered this Rockford Peach costume for Julia for Halloween.  I hope it fits!  If it doesn't, I think we'll just have her dress up as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz.  I'm trying to take advantage of the fact that I can still pick her costumes because I'm guessing that won't be an option next year.

5.) Since I'm not reading much historical fiction these days, I've been filling my time with a Harry Potter re-read and silly romance novels.  It's embarrassing to admit but my brain just can't take more than that these days.

6.) We got rid of cable early this summer and now use NetFlix and AmazonPrime.  I've started binge watching Criminal Minds and I'm now more paranoid then ever.  That show is creepy as all get out and that's coming from a huge Law and Order: SVU fan.  Number one thing I've learned: ALWAYS lock your doors.

I hope you all have a great week!

Friday, September 4, 2015

#FitReaders Weekly Check In (8)


#FitReaders is hosted by The Geeky Blogger and That's What I'm Talking About.

I really should stop calling these 'weekly check ins' because I haven't posted one in over a month.  August was a rough month for my diet.  I started off the month having 8 lbs and was hopeful I could lose the last 4.  Well, that hasn't happened.  I have consistently exercised 5 days a week (except one week where I only exercised 4 days) but my diet has been a mess.  I am about 50/50 when it comes to staying within the calories that MyFitnessPal allows.  I haven't weighed myself (too scared) but I'm guessing that I have gained some weight back.

For September, I'm hoping to keep up the exercise 5 days a week AND do a better job of sticking to my eating plan.  I've started a new Jillian Michaels DVD (Ripped in 30) and I like it so much more than the 30 Day Shred so that's helping my motivation.  I plan to weigh myself every week because it keeps me accountable (when I'm struggling to stay on track, I don't weigh myself because I don't want to see the numbers go  up but it is a really good reminder of how I'm doing).  I'm also going to try to post more updates because that, too, helps me stay accountable.

With regards to reading, this week I finished The Best Man by Kristan Higgins and Becoming Lisette by Rebecca Glenn.  I'm currently reading The Christmas Bargain by Shanna Hatfield and am loving it!

Have a great long weekend! 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Quick Review: "The End of Tsarist Russia" by Dominic Lieven






From Goodreads:  World War I and the Russian Revolution together shaped the twentieth century in profound ways. In The End of Tsarist Russia, acclaimed scholar Dominic Lieven connects for the first time the two events, providing both a history of the First World War’s origins from a Russian perspective and an international history of why the revolution happened.

Based on exhaustive work in seven Russian archives as well as many non-Russian sources, Dominic Lieven’s work is about far more than just Russia. By placing the crisis of empire at its core, Lieven links World War I to the sweep of twentieth-century global history. He shows how contemporary hot issues such as the struggle for Ukraine were already crucial elements in the run-up to 1914.

By incorporating into his book new approaches and comparisons, Lieven tells the story of war and revolution in a way that is truly original and thought-provoking.


My Thoughts:  The End of Tsarist Russia is an incredibly well-researched work.  I'm fascinated by Russian history and Wor and I thoroughly enjoyed this book as much as I have enjoyed Lieven's work in the past.  The level of detail is intense; this is definitely not a book you can rush through. 

The End of Tsarist Russia is a comprehensive look at Russian domestic and foreign policy in the years leading up to World War I.  It discusses events in various parts of Europe and Russia's relationships with other countries and how they led to the political climate in 1914 that sparked the war.  It definitely wasn't as simple as Austria's heir being assassinated; as is portrayed in this book, there were tensions for years, the assassination was just the straw that broke the camel's back.

The one thing that I felt was lacking in this book was more about the internal struggles within the Russian state that led up to the fall of tsarist Russia.  I felt like the title was a little misleading and I expected more about what was going on within the country with the common people.  

Overall, this was an excellent read and I highly recommend it to someone looking for a scholarly work of non-fiction.  4 stars.


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

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

August Wrap Up

I'm so glad August is over.  I felt like I was in a funk for the whole month and I am hoping that September will be better!  Surprisingly, I did pretty well with my reading.  The first half of the month was pretty slow for me with regards to reading but I picked up some speed during the second half of the month.  I read 9 books this month for a total of 66 books read this year.  My goal is to read 80 books which I'm very confident I will meet; I'm actually hoping to make it to 90 this year but we'll see.

I have completely failed at blogging this month (see above mentioned funk) and am hoping to get my butt back in gear this month.  I hope to have posts up more frequently and I'm considering participating in RIP this year.


Here are my August numbers:
-9 books read
--3 Non-Fiction
--7 Library Books
--2 Historical Fiction
--2 Review
--5 ebooks
--0 Books I own

What I read in August:

1.) Making the "Terrible" Twos Terrific by John Rosemond - 1 Star
2.) The Liar by Nora Roberts - 4 stars
3.) The End of Tsarist Russia by Dominic Lieven - 4 stars
4.) The Witness by Nora Roberts - 4 stars
5.) The Messenger by Daniel Silva - 3 stars
6.) The Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie - 3 stars
7.) One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child and the Joy of Being One by Lauren Sandler - 3 stars
8.) A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley - 4 stars
9.) The Best Man by Kristan Higgins - 4 stars

How was August for you?  Are you on track to meet your reading goals?
 
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