Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Pregnancy Hibernation and Reading Slump Problems

I went through this too a lesser degree when I was pregnant with The Toddler. Back then it was mostly just a reading slump, since I was working and hibernating wasn't an option. The reading slump was...Extensive. The only things I wanted to read were The Cat Who... books, Spiderwick, and Redwall, and that is literally all I read for over two years. TWO YEARS.

This time I'm in full on hibernation mode and I can feel the slump coming. I'm 200 pages in to A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas and I just can't seem to get into it but I picked up The Cat Who Robbed a Bank and I can't seem to put it down. I'm avoiding leaving the house unless it involves a drive-thru or a bookstore, even though we just bought a new (to us) car so that I'm not stuck at home all day. It's like I just want to be home, and be comfortable, and cozy, and not have to deal with people.

I don't know is pregnancy hibernation is actually a thing or not, but it's pretty real for me. We've had someone at our house almost constantly since we moved in, it seems, and I'm to the point where I just can't stand it anymore. I want to be alone and not have anyone here for anything for like a week, I need some recharging time and I need it fast. But I've also got some reading goals to achieve this year and I do not want another two year reading slump. I need a plan to keep myself from falling into that 'comfort reading' thing that led to the slump last time.

So the plan is as follows, and I'm making this up as I go along so bear with me;

1. Stay home - No leaving the house except grocery shopping and doctors appointments.

2. Read the 'comfort reading books' - That's right. I'm going to read them.

3. Limit the 'comfort reading' - I can easily read one Cat Who... book a day. I can read 3 Cat Who books, then I have to read one other book.

My reading will be slow for a while, and interspersed with lots of Cat Who books. I've read the whole series more times than I can count, and I will probably read them 2-3 times in the next few months but I'm okay with that. So that's the plan for now! Happy reading!

Monday, June 5, 2017

June Book Club Pick

May's Book Club pick was M's pick, The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani. This book was so good. I've known that Adriana Trigiani was a pretty popular author for a long time but I'd never picked up any of her books. After reading The Shoemaker's Wife I've started picking up her books at the library bookstore, because I want to read a lot more of her.
Image from Goodreads 

The writing was so beautiful. The way she described the Italian Alps was amazing. She walked a very fine line between perfect description and over description and managed to stay on the side of perfect. Her characters were unforgettable, Enza's whole family were amazing and I could read a whole book just about the nuns that Ciro grew up with. The romance story was the slowest slow-burn romance I think I've ever read. The story followed how Enza became the shoemaker's wife and it took about a decade for them to finally get together, but it was so worth it.

The only problems I had with the story were that it seemed to go on a bit too long. The majority of the story was, as I said before, how Enza became the shoemaker's wife. Once they were married and off on their life together there was a perfect spot to end the story, with Ciro and Enza walking off into the wilderness of Minnesota to follow their dreams together. But it didn't end there, and I really feel like it should have, the rest seemed like it got chopped off of a different book and tacked on to this one just to fill the word count.

There was also one point where I went 'Wow. Someone's trying too hard.' and that was when Ciro went to Italy to visit after WWI. He was having some internal monologue about how it wasn't his Italy anymore, and how years of poverty had taken it's toll on the people and they'd latch on to the next ideology to come along. And of course that's exactly what happened, Mussolini and the rise of Fascism, was the next ideology to come along. It just seemed so out of place for a young man, even a well read young man, who just left a war zone and was seeing his brother for the first time in over a decade to be sitting in a cafe, smoking and contemplating ideology.

This was a great pick, and I gave it 4 out of 5 stars!

June's pick is from C whose last pick was I am Malala. C always seems to have the most thought provoking picks and this new pick fits right in. For June the pick is The Color of Water by James McBride.
Image from Goodreads

The Color of Water is the story of the authors mother, the daughter of a Polish Rabbi who married a black man in the early 1940's and raised 12 children in the Projects of Brooklyn, I don't know much about it besides what I read in the blurb but it sounds good and I can't wait to read it!

Next month is supposed to be J's pick but she's going to be out of town so I get to pick! I'm pretty excited about it and I think I have my book chosen already, although it might change before the next meeting.

The First Doctor's Appointment

Ok, I'm really late posting this. The appointment was a week ago, but in mu defense I've been really sick. Morning sickness is kicking my butt. Last week there were a couple of days where I couldn't even stand up without getting sick.

Baby 's first picture, 7 weeks 1 day.
And as you've probably guessed from that last statement, everything went great at the doctor's! We got to see the little nugget's heartbeat and it's actually measuring a couple of days ahead of where I thought it would!

So as of today I am 8 weeks pregnant, with a due date of January 15th, 2018. Now I have to decide if I want to try for a VBAC or have another c-section.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

April Wrap Up

April was a crazy month! We sold our house, bought a new one and have started moving. Lots of work is being done in the house right now so we can't really move stuff into the house, it's all sort of piling up in garage. I did manage to read nine books is April, though only one counted for the RMSC, the 'Whole Deal' post about that can be found here. I expected things to slow down a bit as far as reading this month since my books have been packed up for a while now.

***I wrote the above before we moved. I've been working on this post for a while! Please forgive it's lateness and shortness!

Books I Read in April

1. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
2. Some Practical Magic by Laurie C. Kuna
3. The Furthest Station by Ben Arronovitch
4. The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan
5. The Perfect Girl by Gilly MacMillan
6. Welcome to the Farm by Shaye Elliott
7. Falling for the Babysitter by Penny Wylder
8. The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata
9. Molly Bell and the Wishing Well by Bridget Geraghty

The one book that counted for the RMSC puts me at 10 out of 25 for the year. Which means I'm a little behind but have plenty of time to catch up!

Reading Habits 

So my favorite tea shop has officially closed. But I haven't been drinking much tea or coffee lately. Right now it's ice water and Gatorade. Reading at Biggby hasn't been happening because I'm in bed by 8:30 PM most nights lately. I also never found that 'toddler-proof' bookmark that The Toddler hid on me, even with packing things up and emptying out the house it never turned up.

I'll write more for my May Wrap-Up in the next couple of weeks.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Quick Update Again

I have internet! Our internet just got installed in the new house today! I have posted a review (here) and I'm hoping to have my April wrap-up ready to post tomorrow! It's only 3 weeks late, right?

And because I didn't clarify in the review, I am still pregnant! No bad things to report on that front.

I haven't done much reading in the last week, but we are buying and installing bookshelves this weekend for me and The Toddler so some bookshelf organization posts should be coming soon!

Upcoming important stuff that will probably get posts;
Book Club meeting - May 30th
1st Prenatal Dr.'s appointment - May 30th
Bookshelves - Middle of next week (I hope)

Review: 10 Things I Can See From Here by Carrie Mac

Image from Goodreads

Think positive.
Don’t worry; be happy.
Keep calm and carry on.

Maeve has heard it all before. She’s been struggling with severe anxiety for a long time, and as much as she wishes it was something she could just talk herself out of, it’s not. She constantly imagines the worst, composes obituaries in her head, and is always ready for things to fall apart. To add to her troubles, her mom—the only one who really gets what Maeve goes through—is leaving for six months, so Maeve will be sent to live with her dad in Vancouver.

Vancouver brings a slew of new worries, but Maeve finds brief moments of calm (as well as even more worries) with Salix, a local girl who doesn’t seem to worry about anything. Between her dad’s wavering sobriety, her very pregnant stepmom insisting on a home birth, and her bumbling courtship with Salix, this summer brings more catastrophes than even Maeve could have foreseen. Will she be able to navigate through all the chaos to be there for the people she loves?
(Blurb from Goodreads)

Sometimes a book comes along exactly when you need it too, and I needed this book. Today my anxiety is through the roof because today I am pregnant and I know that it won't last. I honestly don't think it will last the weekend. And it's Mother's day weekend. I'm going to miscarry on Mother's day. How ironic. I've spent today trying to keep myself busy. I've tried to ignore the fact that I'm pregnant, I've tried to hold it all together and I just can't. I keep thinking about how after the age of thirty (and I'm thirty) the miscarriage rate goes up by 12%. How 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage. How only 76% (I think) of miscarriage women go on to have healthy pregnancies. I'm sure I read that somewhere.
I keep thinking that it can happen to anyone, and every story and blog post I read today, trying desperately to find some hope, some kind of solace to ease my mind just for a little while, was written by a woman who'd had multiple miscarriages. Multiple. So many women, and so much loss, and why should I be exempt from that? If it can happen to them for no apparent reason, it can happen to me. I think I also read somewhere, after my first miscarriage, that only like 4 or 5% of women have multiple miscarriages, and today I think I read every single one of their blogs. The 4 or 5% thing can't be accurate. There's no way that every single woman who's had multiple miscarriages has a blog and/or visits the same forum. They can't. It's not possible. 

And that's anxiety. 

And it's portrayed perfectly in 10 Things I Can See From Here. Today I was not alone in my anxiety. Although Maeve and I were worrying over totally separate things, just to know that her brain worked like mine does, and no one understands that, that made me not alone today. 

The only complaint I'd have about this book is that I wanted more. More of the characters. I want to know more about Salix and if she got into Julliard, what her life was life growing up in a bus, I want to know what happens to Maeve and Salix when Maeve goes home with her mom, I want to know how Maeve's relationship with her mom changes when she comes home, I want to know more about Billy and his sobriety. Just more. 

I need like a whole series of these characters. 

5 out of 5 stars. Highly recommend.  Read it. 

Note: I received a free copy of this book through Blogging for Books, in exchange for an honest review. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Review: The Falconer by Elizabeth May

Image from Goodreads

One girl's nightmare is this girl's faery tale

She's a stunner.
Edinburgh, 1844. Eighteen-year-old Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, has everything a girl could dream of: brains, charm, wealth, a title—and drop-dead beauty.

She's a liar.
But Aileana only looks the part of an aristocratic young lady. she's leading a double life: She has a rare ability to sense the sìthíchean—the faery race obsessed with slaughtering humans—and, with the aid of a mysterious mentor, has spent the year since her mother died learning how to kill them.

She's a murderer.
Now Aileana is dedicated to slaying the fae before they take innocent lives. With her knack for inventing ingenious tools and weapons—from flying machines to detonators to lightning pistols—ruthless Aileana has one goal: Destroy the faery who destroyed her mother.

She's a Falconer.
The last in a line of female warriors born with a gift for hunting and killing the fae, Aileana is the sole hope of preventing a powerful faery population from massacring all of humanity. Suddenly, her quest is a lot more complicated. She still longs to avenge her mother's murder—but she'll have to save the world first.

The first volume of a trilogy from an exciting new voice in young adult fantasy, this electrifying thriller combines romance and action, steampunk technology and Scottish lore in a deliciously addictive read.

(Blurb from Goodreads)

I picked this book purely based on the cover. I love the cover, and was happy that the book lived up to it. There were some really unexpected elements to this story that I ended up really enjoying, the steampunk element being the most surprising. 

I usually try to avoid steampunk. I've read a few books with steampunk in them but never really enjoyed it. The ones I read were just too illogical for me to be able to buy into the story, and now I just try to avoid them. This book went pretty light on the steampunk elements, just a few things here and there to let you know it was part of the story, you know, horseless carriages, a personal flying machine, no giant half-machine half-blue whale things flying around bombing the shit out of small towns or anything. 

It was light on the romance. This is a big one! The romance didn't really come into it until the end. I mean through out the book it's clear she's trying to deny feelings for Kiaran, there's a couple of points where I was sure they were going to kiss, but of course they didn't. I can see where the author is trying to get the whole 'love triangle' thing going on but I didn't really get that vibe from Gavin. Like I could see him being gay and them being really good friends but not a love interest. 

This book was a bit frustrating though. There were parts where I was just like "Tell the fricking truth, the whole truth!!" It would have avoided some frustration for the characters and Aileana does start doing that towards the end. 

This book is pretty sterotypical YA fantasy. The main character is beautiful, but she doesn't know it. She's clumsy, except when she's fighting gracefully and effortlessly killing monsters, She's tired of her life being caged in by society, but she's not ready to ditch her comfortable life in order to change it. If you've read a lot of YA you've probably read a lot of books like this one. Fortunately for me, I happen to love books like this and I think this main character manages to set herself apart with her interest in engineering, she builds her own weapons and vehicles, and I love that.  Also, the violence! This main character lives for the rush she gets from killing and the way it is written is wonderful, there are more eloquent prose about killing faeries then there are about the romance elements and I love that even more!

The thing I love/hate most about this book? The ending. OMG THE ENDING! I was reading and all the sudden it just stopped in a place where no book should stop. What? What! WHAT?! I was not happy and I loved it at the same time. It is certainly a cliff hanger and I'm so looking forward to the next book!

As for a rating, this book is not perfect, but I loved it anyway. 4 stars out of 5.
Note; I received this book for free, through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Quick Update

Things have been crazy busy but I wanted to post a quick update on whats been going on. I've acquired a few new books I'm really excited about and there some personal stuff I'm excited about too!

First; I got this!!!!!
  Second; I got this!! It's my first ever physical copy of an ARC!! I'm really excited to read it, it's about anxiety but I don't know much else.

Third: This is happening!!!! Janurary 15, 2018!!
 If that's not exciting I don't know what is! Right now I'm only about 4 weeks along, so it's still super early, and I haven't told anyone except The Husband and my mom, and a few friends, but I'm excited/nervous/terrified and I wanted to tell someone today.

I'm trying to have a few new posts up this week but our official move date is Friday and things are still really busy, but there will be new posts soon!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Review: The Furthest Station By Ben Aaronovitch

Image and blurb from Goodreads
There have been ghosts on the London Underground, sad, harmless spectres whose presence does little more than give a frisson to travelling and boost tourism. But now there's a rash of sightings on the Metropolitan Line and these ghosts are frightening, aggressive and seem to be looking for something.

Enter PC Peter Grant junior member of the Metropolitan Police's Special Assessment unit a.k.a. The Folly a.k.a. the only police officers whose official duties include ghost hunting. Together with Jaget Kumar, his counterpart at the British Transport Police, he must brave the terrifying the crush of London's rush hour to find the source of the ghosts.

Joined by Peter's wannabe wizard cousin, a preschool river god and Toby the ghost hunting dog their investigation takes a darker tone as they realise that a real person's life might just be on the line.

And time is running out to save them.

With this new novella, bestselling author Ben Aaronovitch has crafted yet another wickedly funny and surprisingly affecting chapter in his beloved Rivers of London series.

This is a novella of the Peter Grant series, it's number 5.7. I honestly never heard of this series until I got the E-ARC for this book and now I'm reading them all. This book was so funny, I loved Peter's dry sense of humor. I love the premise of ghost police in London. I'm not a big fan of the mystery genre but supernatural mysteries, like this one, are so fun to read. 

It gave me the same feeling as reading Angie Sage's Septimus Heap series did. It's not that these are children's books by any means, there's an F-bomb every once in a while and it's a pretty adult concept, but the writing style felt similar, and the attitude towards ghosts and magic felt similar to me. And that's a great thing since I adore the Septimus Heap series. 

The Folly is also a pretty interesting organization. Everything is very scientific. The ghosts are classified into categories, there's methods for testing theories, and yet it combines that science with classical education, learning Greek and Latin. 

I jumped into this series with this novella so I didn't fully understand everything right off the bat but it's written so well, giving just enough information so that even if you're reading out of order you can grasp whats happening, but not overloading you with information either. I loved it enough to go back and read the whole series. I currently reading book 2, Moon Over Soho, and I highly recommend this series. 4 out of 5 stars!

This novella is being released June 30th, so you have plenty of time to go read the other books before this one comes out! 

I received this book for free, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Review: Molly Bell and the Wishing Well by Bridget Geraghty

Image and blurb from Goodreads
Molly Bell is an eleven-year old girl who used to be a whimsical, sporty type of a child with a zest for living. All that has been turned upside down by the untimely death of her mother two years ago. To make matters worse, her father is getting remarried to a high-maintenance beauty that Molly seemingly has nothing in common with, and she comes with an annoying six-year old son, Henry, who finds a way to wreck everything in his path. Molly can't find anything about her new circumstances to be excited about, until her Aunt Joan tells her about the wishing well at Molly's grandparents' farm. According to Aunt Joan, every wish she ever made there came true. And it just so happens that Molly and Henry will be staying at the farm for a week while their parents are on their honeymoon. Molly is convinced if she could just find that wishing well, she could wish for her mom to come back to life and everything will be okay again. But Molly is in for a few surprises, and more than a few hard lessons about being careful what you wish for when the consequences of Molly's selfish desires wreak havoc on her entire family. Can Molly make things right again through the wishing well? Or will she need to find it within herself to bring back the joy in her life that has been missing all this time?

This book was magical. Not in the Harry Potter, Gandalf, Unicorns, kind of way, but in a much more real way. It's about the magic of love, and it's power to heal. It's about how a shift in point of view can change your whole life, and it's about letting kids who are struggling with loss know that they can find a way to be happy again. 

About 20 years ago I was one of those kids. My dad died when I was 1o, from cancer, like Molly's mom in the story, and though I didn't have that shift in perspective that Molly does in the story for many years, reading this book brought me back to that time. 

I loved the way the author wrote about Molly's feelings towards everything going on in her life. Her anger and sadness at her Dad for 'replacing' her mom, her dislike of her new step-mom, her complete indifference to Henry, her anger and disappointment in her friends for seemingly abandoning her when she needed them, and the complete, overwhelming grief for her mom. The part about Molly's friends really hit me because it was so true. When my dad died my friends seemed to disappear, no one at school would talk to me or even look me in the eye; most adults were the same way, murmuring meaningless words before shaking their heads and walking away. People don't know how to handle that kind of overwhelming grief, and that's why I think this is an important book for everyone to read. Having a better understanding of the feelings that go on when a child has lost someone can help them immeasurably, just to know that someone stills sees them the same way, and is still there and willing to sit next to them and look them in eye and say 'I'm here' when everyone else in their life seems to be avoiding them, is an amazing thing for a kid going through that kind of loss. 

The only criticism I'd have for the emotions portrayed in the book is that Molly's anger seemed really downplayed to me. In my experience the anger that comes with that kind of grief runs a lot deeper and is much harder to suppress than it seemed too for Molly. The author could have had a much different experience than I have with grief and everyone does process things differently so I can't say that her portrayal was wrong or bad in any way, though. 

I also loved Molly's Grandpa Cody, in fact he was probably the most emotional character in the story besides Molly.  Grandpa Cody letting go of his anger towards the wishing well was probably something that helped Molly let go of hers and including his PTSD from the war  made him a very real character. 

I loved this book. It's easily 5 out of 5 stars for me and I highly recommend it for everyone. 

Note: I received this as a free e-book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  You can pick it up on Amazon here

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Book Club Pick for May 2017

Image from Goodreads
Book Club met this week to discuss our April pick, Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. It was S's pick, and was quite a hit with everyone. One of the biggest conversation points we had was the topic of 'Mommy Wars'. We talked quite a bit about the role that the internet plays in the 'Mommy Wars' and how it seems that everyone on the internet is very quick to criticize and voice their opinion but in real life very few of us had ever run into a 'Mommy War' type of issue. Big Little Lies also brought up a discussion about domestic violence. Most of us found the domestic violence story line hard to read because it evokes such strong emotions. We all agreed that in Celeste's case the signs would have been hard to spot and it was unsettling to think that you could miss signs of something like that. It also brought us to discuss sexual harassment, and I was sad to hear how women expect to be made to feel uncomfortable by men if they go somewhere alone, that it's viewed as something that just comes with the territory of being a woman. So it was a pretty heavy discussion night at book club, but no one in our group figured out the surprise ending, we were all pretty shocked by the murder victim and the killer.

May is M's turn to pick. Her last book was Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, which was pretty well liked by everyone but me.  Don't get me started on Bill Bryson. But, M's pick this month is.....

Image from Goodreads

I'm pretty excited to read this. I've been eyeing Adriana Trigani's books every time I go to the book store but haven't picked one up yet because I wasn't sure if I'd like them. I'm going to try something new with this one and try checking out the E-book from my library. I've never checked out any of the electronic stuff so I'll find out how that works.

This is part of the blurb from Goodreads;

This riveting historical epic of love and family, war and loss, risk and destiny is the novel Adriana Trigiani was born to write, one inspired by her own family history and the love of tradition that has propelled her body of bestselling novels to international acclaim. Like Lucia, Lucia, The Shoemaker's Wife defines an era with clarity and splendor, with operatic scope and a vivid cast of characters who will live on in the imaginations of readers for years to come.

The fact that it was inspired by her own family is the part that hooked me, and I can't wait to get started on it! 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

What I'm Reading Right Now #13

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time there was a blogger. She was sitting on the couch, a cup of coffee steaming lightly in her hand and her computer on her lap, requesting quotes from moving companies online, so she wouldn't have to make any phone calls. Suddenly, a Toddler jumped onto the blogger's lap, spilling hot coffee all over her chest and her laptop. The blogger yelled, "OUCH!", hot liquid seeping through the thin cloth of her t-shirt, her skin turning bright pink under the steaming wet spot. The Toddler looked shocked and immediately shouted "I sorry, Momma!" 
The blogger recovered from her surprise and said; "It's okay, Sweetpea. Momma's alright." The blogger's Husband comforted The Toddler as the blogger went upstairs to change her slightly damp clothes.When she returned to the living room she once again picked up her computer and wiped coffee off the keyboard. After a few seconds she growled in dismay, her lips curling back off her teeth and her hands turning into fists over the keyboard. Anger, at herself for not making sure to wipe the computer before the coffee had a change to soak in, coursed through her. The mouse refused to move. The coffee had seeped under the mouse pad and only time would tell if it would ever work again. 
Over the next 24 hours the blogger tried to use the computer countless times to no avail, turning it off and on repeatedly and poking angrily at the mouse pad. The next morning she decided to turn the computer off and on again one more time and to her surprise it worked! The mouse pad once again responded under her finger tip and all was right with the world. 
That's my story and I'm sticking too it. 
In other news, we're closing on our house next week! I've been pretty busy and probably will be for the next couple of weeks so for now I'm taking it back down to two posts a week. So, now you know why one post is missing and one is a day late. As far as books this week, this week was a big week for the DNF list. I had to DNF an ARC, which I don't like to do, but I had too. In the second half of this week I decided to take a break from ARCs and just read whatever I wanted. I needed a book that didn't come with an obligation. I didn't finish a whole lot this week but I'm okay with it right now. I finished 3 books, one of them counted for the RMSC, and DNF'd 3. I've updated the DNF list and the 'Whole Deal...' post for the RMSC can be found here

Books I Finished 

Images from Goodreads.com

Welcome to the Farm by Shaye Elliott - I loved this book. 5 out of 5 stars! Full review here

Falling for the Babysitter by Penny Wylder - I read this whole thing in just a few hours one morning which was nice since I just DNF'd a book the night before and I needed to feel like I finished *something*. This was a super quick romance so I expected instalove, but I found this one kind of hard to buy into. An 18 year old with a crush and a 30 year old guy with a kid. Ok, we'll go with that. BUT- he says something about how the woman he was married too offering to blow him within an hour of meeting him should have been a red flag and then has no problem with 18 year old babysitter girl letting him bang her brains out on day 2, because she's SO DIFFERENT. And the dialogue...Who says words like 'womb' anyway, let alone during sex? He went from barely noticing the neighbor girl to wanting to put a baby in her belly in the space of one day, and decided it was a good idea tell her during sex by saying "I'm going to fuck my seed right into your womb." WHO TALKS LIKE THAT??? NO ONE, THAT'S WHO! So this one gets points for being short but that's about it. 2 out of 5 stars

The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata - I decided to give this one another try after DNF'ing it a few weeks ago. I just wasn't able to get into it then but this time I was hooked. This is a slow burn romance, and I usually get kind of frustrated with slow burns, just because it takes so freaking long to get to the good stuff but this one is so so sweet. I swear, for half the book I was sitting on the couch with a stupid, silly grin in my face because it was just so cute. I love the two main characters, the sweet, slow way you can see them falling in love in the small moments. I loved Vanessa, she was so wonderful and I just couldn't help admiring her after everything she'd overcome. And Aiden, it was so rewarding to slowly watch him change over the course of the story and how he really made an effort to show Vanessa how he felt even when he didn't know how. They were so wonderful together. 
The secondary characters, especially Zac, are really awesome and add a lot to the story, which is uncommon in romance. I also loved that she wrote about football so well. I've read NFL romances before where the author clearly knows nothing about football, and Mariana Zapata is a fan of the game or does really great research. This has officially become my new top romance book I've read this year and I can't wait to read another book by Mariana Zapata. 5 out of 5 stars.  Read it. Seriously, just do it. 

What I'm Reading Right Now

Images from Goodreads.com

Midnight Riot (Peter Grant #1) by Ben Aaronovitch - I'm loving this series. I read an ARC of The Furthest Station last week, and it's book # 5.7 in this series. I picked it up just based off the description, not realizing that it was part of a series, but I liked it so much I decided to read the whole series. I'm about a third of the way through the first book and I have the second one waiting!

The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) Brandon Sanderson - I've been listening to the audiobook of this but it's made me realize I actually need to sit down and read it. I like it so far but I'm missing a lot of it because it's not like I'm sitting in one place paying attention to what's going on, I'm packing and running around and missing chunks. So I'm looking to just buy this series. 

Molly Bell and the Wishing Well by Bridget Geraghty - This is an E-ARC and it's a middle grade book. I'm just at the very beginning and probably won't get too much into it until I finish The Wall of Winnipeg but I think it will be a pretty quick read. 

The DNF List

Beauty and the Baller by Abbi Hemp - 
DNF at 15%. Seriously? The girl in this one is just an awful person. I hated her. Between that and the typos I was ready to DNF but decided to try and keep going because I thought maybe she changes over the course of the story. But then, after meeting the girl twice (once when she harrassed him outside his shrinks office and once when she pretended to be an escort to get in his house and had a conversation that had no substance for all of five minutes) this dude decides he's got feelings for her so strong that it scares him. WTF?!?! Instalove is fine, usually I can go with it, but there's got to be some kind of connection, and some self-centered woman who blames everyone else for her problems acting like a psycho does not a love connection make. SO done.

Carnivalesque by Neil Jordan - I had to DNF this at 53%. I received it as an ARC from NetGalley and I was so excited to read it but I just could not read anymore. The writing is beautiful but it got to the point where it was so bogged down with descriptions I just couldn't read anymore. It has a very ethereal feel too it, very other-worldly, but by the halfway point I still had no idea what the plot was, it just got lost in the writing style.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon - I finally made the plunge and DNF'd this. It's been weeks and I just can't get into it. Maybe when we're done with the move and things are more settled I'll give it another try. 

Book Haul!

My favorite second hand bookstore had a bag sale this weekend! I picked up a few books and I'm pretty excited about them!. 

Pretty Books!!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Review: Welcome to the Farm by Shaye Elliott

Image from NetGalley, blurb from Goodreads
A fresh, new guide to the backyard lifestyle 

The homesteading movement is continuing to grow, as more people are stepping up to have a hand in where their food comes from. Whether you want to dabble or immerse yourself completely in the do-it-yourself, back-to-basics lifestyle, Welcome to the Farm is a comprehensive, fully illustrated guide to growing the very best food right in your own backyard. Shaye Elliott takes readers on a journey that teaches them how to harvest baskets full of organic produce, milk a dairy cow (and make butter), plant a homestead orchard, can jams and jellies, and even raise chickens and bees. From her experience running The Elliott Homestead, Shaye provides all the how-to wisdom you need to know about: 

The benefits of a home garden The basics of seed starting Building your own greenhouse What belongs in the winter garden Canning, freezing, and dehydrating techniques and recipes The pros and cons of caged vs. free-change chickens keeping a dairy cow and what to do with all the milk Raising animals for meat Making your own cider and wine and so much more!
Welcome to the Farm is aimed to serve homesteaders and urban-farmers alike, guiding them through the beginning stages of small-area farming and utilizing whatever amount of space they have available for optimal and delicious food production.

The first thing I have to say about this book is that it is seriously beautiful! I love the cover and the pictures on the inside are just as amazing as the cover. I also love the tone of the writing. Reading it you feel like a friend is teaching you about seeds, and chickens, and canning. I've been trying to get started with a backyard garden for a couple of years and have yet to be successful but this book makes me think I can give it another try! 

There is tons of information here, on everything from different methods of gardening (even ones that can be used on an apartment balcony), to butchering your own livestock. That being said, not everything in this book will be for everyone, and that's okay. I will probably never have to learn the proper way to wean lambs, and honestly I don't think I'd want too, but I still need lots of help with seed choices and what works for container gardening. 

I honestly did not know there was a difference between organic seeds and heirloom seeds before I read this. I had no idea that you could purchase dwarf fruit trees for orchards in smaller areas. I feel like I've learned so much about gardening from this one book. I love that the author included resources for buying seeds and plants, lists of essential tools, and words of encouragement and wisdom from other homesteaders/ supporters. She also has recipes for just about everything, from how to freeze herbs in olive oil to head cheese, and step by step canning instructions so you can preserve all the yummy stuff you make. I love to cook and honestly the recipes are my favorite thing in this book!

This book has me looking at dwarf fruit trees for the new house and checking on city ordinances for goats. I feel like there is a lot of good information here for anyone who wants to take control of where their food comes from, even if that just means growing your own lettuce and seeing how it goes. I intend to buy a paper copy of Welcome to the Farm when it comes out! There is so much to learn here! The only 'complaint' I would say I have is that the section on fruit trees is not near the gardening section, it's after all the info on animals, which isn't really a big deal. So 5 out of 5 stars! Totally recommend!

I was given a free copy of this book from review through NetGalley.

Review: The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan

Image from Goodreads
"Just because the men have gone to war, why do we have to close the choir? And precisely when we need it most!" 

As England enters World War II's dark early days, spirited music professor Primrose Trent, recently arrived to the village of Chilbury, emboldens the women of the town to defy the Vicar's stuffy edict to shutter the church's choir in the absence of men and instead 'carry on singing'. Resurrecting themselves as "The Chilbury Ladies' Choir", the women of this small village soon use their joint song to lift up themselves, and the community, as the war tears through their lives. 

Told through letters and journals, The Chilbury Ladies' Choir moves seamlessly from budding romances to village intrigues to heartbreaking matters of life and death. As we come to know the struggles of the charismatic members of this unforgettable outfit -- a timid widow worried over her son at the front; the town beauty drawn to a rakish artist; her younger sister nursing an impossible crush and dabbling in politics she doesn't understand; a young Jewish refugee hiding secrets about her family, and a conniving midwife plotting to outrun her seedy past -- we come to see how the strength each finds in the choir's collective voice reverberates in her individual life. 

In turns funny, charming and heart-wrenching, this lovingly executed ensemble novel will charm and inspire, illuminating the true spirit of the women on the home front, in a village of indomitable spirit, at the dawn of a most terrible conflict.

When I started this book I was sure I wasn't going to like it. Two of the characters were pretty horrible people right off the bat and I almost didn't even want to continue reading about them. But, I thought about The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield; I almost quit reading because I didn't like two of the characters but I ended up loving the book at the end. So I kept going, and I'm pretty glad I did. There were things that bothered me but the good far out weighed the bad.

The way the characters change over the course of the story is my favorite part of this book. I would say that there are four 'main' characters, Kitty, Venetia, Mrs. Tilling, and Edwina Paltry. Three of those four go through significant growth over the course of the story and that more than anything is what drives the story. 

Kitty, who is 13 and the daughter of the Brigadier, really grows up through the year the book covers. She goes from being jealous of her older sister (Venetia) to realizing that she can be special on her own. She is loyal and honest and desperate to prove that she is just as good as Venetia, whom everyone seems to love, and I think she comes to realize that she doesn't have to prove that she's important to anyone, she just has to start believing in herself. Her relationship with Venetia really changes as Kitty comes to believe in herself and Venetia becomes less self-centered. 

Venetia is my favorite character and she probably changes the most though the story. Her story is a sad one, and I will admit I was surprised that I was as okay as I was with what happened to her. When we first encounter her she's pretty self-centered, obnoxious, your basic beautiful 18 year-old who thinks she owns the world. She manages to seduce a painter who has recently moved to town and finds herself deeply in love. I have to admit, the love story was a bit hard to believe since even Venetia herself admits she knows absolutely nothing about him and he refuses to tell her even the smallest things about himself. I had to over look the holes in the love story to keep reading but it was worth it. Anyway, Venetia ends up pregnant and before she can tell her lover he disappears, leaving her thinking the worst; he's either dead after an air raid or run off as a Nazi spy. Venetia agrees to marry in order to cover up her indiscretion, but her fiance finds out about her condition and, well, lets just say he's not happy and he lets her know. 

Venetia ends up miscarrying. However, with the tone of the book, and everything that happens, it's not unexpected. From pretty early on in her pregnancy I got the feeling it was going in that direction, so when it happened I was not shocked. It wasn't the slap in the face that the miscarriage was in another book I read recently, and i feel like it was a big part of her growth. The realization that her actions can have severe consequences, and that she's not invincible, bad things can happen to her, really contributed to her change in attitude. Not that I think she deserved it, by any means. No one deserves that, but it definitely changed her.   

Mrs. Tilling's change was more subtle. She starts the story out quiet and meek, and ends by really coming into her own. She learns that her voice is important and that she has a lot to contribute to the village. I love how things end up for her. I don't want to spoil her story by saying too much about her but I really liked her. 

I loved the attitude of all the women in the village of 'keeping calm and carrying on' and 'stiff upper lip' and all that. They really come together and keep going in the face of all their husbands and sons being gone for the war. I was really disappointed that we didn't get to find out what happened to Mrs. Tilling's son. David. Once he leaves for the war we never hear from him again and at the end of the book it's not even 1941 yet and the war is still going strong. 

This was a good, intriguing read, with great characters who really made it successful for me. 3.75 out of 5 stars.  

I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review. The cover image and blurb are both from Goodreads

Saturday, April 15, 2017

What I'm Reading Right Now #12

This week has not been a good reading week. I realized on Tuesday that if everything happens when it is currently scheduled than we are moving in about three weeks. Which means I'm really behind on packing. So that has been my focus this week...Well, sort of. Truthfully I haven't been able to focus on much at all since I feel like everything needs to be done at once. I keep starting one thing then thinking of something else that needs to be done, so I go start that, and then I think of something else, and its a pretty nasty cycle. And it means that my house is a torn apart disaster area and nothing is actually finished. Since the house is torn apart I don't have anywhere I can sit and relax to read, so reading hasn't happened much, not that I could relax much anyways with so much stuff that needs to be done.

However, I realized yesterday that this presents a new opportunity. I can listen to books! I had an Audible subscription a few years ago and bought a ton of audiobooks but only ever listened to a handful, so yesterday I started listening to a book, and I really enjoyed it. I only got about halfway through the first chapter but I found listening easier if I sped up the audio to x1.50, Listening at the normal x1 was just too slow and any faster and I couldn't even hear the words.

As far as the RMSC, I've made no progress this week. Only the audiobook will count towards it for my currently reading books. Still at 9 out of 25 but I've still got the rest of the year to finish so I'm not worried. I expected things to slow down around moving time, so I'm sure it will pick back up once we get settled in the new house.

Books I Finished This Week

Image from Goodreads

The Furthest Station (Peter Grant 5.7) by Ben Aaronovitch - I got an E-ARC of this book from
the publisher, through NetGalley. I'm doing a full review of it closer to the actual release date but let me tell you, this book is pretty awesome. The whole premise of the series is cops who hunt ghosts on the London Underground (subway), and I love it! Release date it June 30th, so look for the full review in a few weeks!

Image from Goodreads
The Chilbury Ladies Choir by Jennifer Ryan - I got a free copy of this book through Blogging for Books. When I first started it I wasn't sure I liked
it. Some of the first characters we're introduced too are pretty unlikable people and I wasn't sure I wanted to read about them, but I kept going and I'm pretty glad I did. I'm doing a full review of this one next week so look for that on Monday or Tuesday!

The Perfect Girl by Gilly MacMillan - This book is a mystery/thriller book and I don't usually read a ton of those but lately they've been cropping up more and more. This one I really enjoyed. The main character is Zoe, a teenage piano prodigy, who was convicted three years ago of killing three
Image from Goodreads
other teens in a drunken car accident. When we meet her in the book it is the night of her first concert since her release from jail, she's performing with her new stepbrother as her mother and new stepfather watch. But the concert is interrupted and by the next morning Zoe's mother is dead and Zoe finds herself facing the police again.
I have some mixed feelings about this book. I found it interesting but not for the 'who killed the mother' plot line, it was the story of what happened to Zoe the night of the car accident and afterward that kept me reading. I didn't really get into the death of Zoe's mother until the end because I just knew in my gut that Zoe didn't do it. The ending was interesting, Zoe got the ending she wanted, probably what was best for her, her stepbrother, and baby sister, but not in the most ethical way. She found a way to use everything she learned from her own trial and in 'The Unit' to her advantage. The thing I didn't like about the ending is that we don't get to see how everything turned out for everyone. I don't like endings that tie things up too neatly but this one I felt left too many loose ends. How did Uncle Richard deal with his alcohol abuse, did he go to AA like he said he would? Is Tessa still seeing Sam behind Richard's back or did she and Richard make up and find a way to save their marriage? What happened to Zoe's dad? Tom Barlow? Sam with his health issues?
I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Book I'm Reading Right Now

Images from Goodreads and NetGalley

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon - I've packed up most of my books so this one is the only paper book I'm reading right now. I'm going to try and focus on one paper book and one e-book at a time right now, so hopefully I can get though this one this week.

Canivalesque by Neil Jordon - This one is an E-ARC and I'm going though it pretty quickly, I started it this morning and I'm already at 15%.

Welocme to the Farm by Shaye Elliott - This is another E-ARC I picked up through NetGalley. I'm at about the 30% mark and I love this book. I might have to buy a copy so I have one I can write in and mark up, it seems like the kind of book you can make your own like that. Not that I intend to be a farmer at any point...I just want to be able to grow a damn tomato, a skill that has some how alluded me in my 30 years of life.

The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson - This is the audiobook! I'm not very far into it but I'm making progress!

Upcoming Stuff

Bookshelf organization plan for the new house - I intend to do a post on this soon, I need to write it all out to figure out the actual plan.

Bookish crafts with The Toddler - We did fun stuff last week and I'm going to share a bit!

How to get cheap (or free!) e-books - It's very rare that I pay more than 99 cents for an e-book and I'm going to share how I do it.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

5 Historical Fiction Authors to Read and Love!

I originally started writing this as a post recommending specific historical fiction novels. I got four or five books listed and then I realized that I was going to have a few authors on the list several times. At that point I decided it would be easier do recommend the authors themselves, rather than listing 10 books by the same three or four authors. I love historical fiction and I've read quite a bit of it so here are my top historical fiction authors.
All cover images from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads
1. Philippa Gregory - I love Philippa Gregory's books. The Other Boleyn Girl is my favorite book of all time, it's the bee's knees. Seriously, I talk about it all the time. Just read it. The Boleyn Inheritance, which is kind of a sequel to The Other Boleyn Girl, is excellent and made me love Anne of Cleves. The White Queen, The Virgin's Lover, The Constant Princess, I could go on and on about her books all day. Three Sisters, Three Queens is the next book of her's that is on my TBR pile and I can't wait to get too it, although it will have to wait till after the move. It's about Henry VIII's sisters, Margaret (who becomes Queen of Scotland), and Mary (who is Queen of France for a very short time), and his first wife (Margaret and Mary's sister-in-law) Katherine of Aragon (who is, of course, Queen of England) and the not so smooth relationship they have with each other.

Image from Jeannekalogridis.com
2. Jeanne Kalogridis - I love her books, too. Jeanne Kalogridis is a close second to Philippa Gregory. The Burning Times was the first book of hers that I read and it is so captivating. It starts during the Black Death, and this is going to sound weird but I love the Black Death, it's such and interesting point in history. The Burning Times has a lot to do with The Inquisition, hence the title, and love, and magic, its a beautiful story.  The Borgia Bride, is another amazing story about Sancha of Aragon who marries one of the sons of Rodrigo Borgia (AKA Pope Alexander VI), and its just full of sex, and love, and politics, and murder, and family drama, and its awesome. The Devil's Queen, is about Catherine de Medici, the woman who came from the famous (and incredibly rich) banking family from Italy, and became Queen of France. Again, it's full of political scheming, and court intrigues, and I just love stories like that.
Image from Alisonweir.org.uk

3. Alison Weir - Alison Weir is one of my favorite non-fiction history writers and I was a little shocked when I saw her name in the fiction section for the first time, but her fiction books are so good! Innocent Traitor is my current favorite, but she has an historical fiction book about Anne Boleyn coming out this year so that might not last. But Innocent Traitor is about Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Days Queen, and it is absolutely heartbreaking. Jane's life was so short, and she had very little to do with being put on the throne, I've read several biographies about her and this book really fleshes out the whole story. The Captive Queen, about Eleanor of Aquitaine is excellent also.

Image from Goodreads
4. Jeanne Plaidy - Plaidy is probably one of the most prolific historical fiction writers ever. She used 7 pen names and, according to wikipedia, published over 200 books. I've read about 10 of her books and they've all been great but with such a prolific author it's hard to know where to start. The best thing you can do with her books is to just pick one. Sometime in the last 30 or so years her books were organized into 'series' by the publisher and the order of these 'series' have absolutely nothing to do with the order in which the books were published so really you can read them in any order. I started with To Hold the Crown, which focuses on Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. The Reluctant Queen, about Anne Neville, the wife of Richard III, is very good, and another one of my favorites. You really can't go wrong with Plaidy, just chose a time period and go for it.

Image from Anneeastersmith.com

5. Anne Easter Smith - The thing I love most about Anne Easter Smith's books is surprisingly, not the history parts. I love how she describes her setting, it just makes the books so beautiful, and easy to get lost in. My favorite one of her books is A Rose for the Crown, which tells the story of Richard III through the eyes of Kate, his mistress and mother of his illegitimate children. Richard is often portrayed as a monster through history, and is often blamed for the disappearance of his two nephews from the Tower of London (which there is no conclusive evidence for), and this book does a good job of portraying him in a more sympathetic light.

Honorable Mentions

A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner - I wouldn't call this strictly historical fiction because part of it does take place in modern day NYC, but its an excellent book. It is about the experiences of two women, one who witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in 1911 and one who witnessed 9/11, and how they heal from what they saw and what they lost on those days. Warning; it's a tear-jerker.

Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of the Sun King by Antonia Fraser - This book is non-fiction but it reads like fiction. It's about Louis XIV and his series of 'Maitresse en Titre' or official mistresses. They were an interesting group of women, some holding an immense of amount of political power and 17th century France is an interesting setting for anything.

Through a Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen - I've seen mixed reviews on this book, it appears you either love it or hate, but I loved it. It takes places in the early 1700's, and most of it goes back and forth between the French and English courts. The main character is a young girl named Barbara who is engaged to a much older man, and there's affairs and politics, and basically all the stuff I love in historical fiction.

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff - This is the only book I've read by Ebershoff so I couldn't put him as a 'must read' author but this book is a must read! It's about a young woman who's family follows Joseph Smith, the founder and leader of the Mormon church, and her subsequent marriage to Brigham Young, as his '19th' wife. It also follows the story of a young man who has left a polygamist community in Utah and is trying to get his mother out. It really is a must read.  

Which books should be added to the list? I'm always looking for new authors to love!