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 

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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

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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

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.

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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.
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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.

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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!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Reading Habits Post #2: The Coffee Shop

This is the second post in a series. The first post (Reading Habits Post #1; My Usual Reading Routine) can be found here

I love coffee shops! 

When I was in college my friends and I hung out at one near campus that had Dr. Seuss murals on the walls and live music at night. It was open 24 hours a day and had cheap coffee and biscotti. That coffee shop is still there and The Husband and I go there occasionally to reminisce, but these days it's full of high school kids during the day and hipsters at night. Not that that's a bad thing, we just don't really fit into that scene anymore.
When I was away at college The Husband (who was The Boyfriend back then) would come visit me and I'd walk to the building across from my dorm and get us coffee and bagels from Einstein Brothers. Oh, those bagels were amazing. I went there almost every morning, some days I even skipped my first class so I could sit at a small table and read while I sipped my coffee. Skipping classes is not a good idea, just for the record. 
Once The Husband and I moved into an apartment it was a local Tim Horton's, then when I got my full time job I fell in love with Starbucks and their iced lemon pound cake. I still love Starbucks but I can't afford to spend six dollars on coffee everyday. 
Now when I find myself wanting to go sit somewhere and read and drink coffee I usually go to Biggby. The one I go to is near the library, it has a fireplace with big comfy chairs, I can get a drink that's very similar to my Starbucks order, only slightly sweeter. It's quiet and I find that when I'm reading there it's much easier to get absorbed into my book than it is at home.
When I'm reading at home I'm constantly remembering things I need to do, listening for The Toddler to wake up, and fighting the urge to look at Pinterest. When I'm at a coffee shop, alone, none of that seems to matter. I can stop worrying about everything else and just read and it's quite wonderful. 
In the last month or so it's become a weekly thing. It's not always the same night of the week, but once a week I go to Biggby and read. 
Last week I went on Monday night. I usually try to save my mom-cation for a night when I'm truly overwhelmed and really need to just leave the house and relax for a while but this week that night came early. Anxiety sucks. I might even need a second trip to Biggby this week.

The Biggby reading routine goes like this;

1. Drive to Biggby. If there's a good song on the radio drive around the block a few times so I can turn up the volume and enjoy it.
2. Order drink. I usually get a Mocha Latte but if it's after 8:30 PM I sometimes switch to hot chocolate. It's yummy and relaxing without keeping me up until midnight.
3. Pick a seat. This can be trickier than it seems. I don't like to sit too close to people or have to talk to anyone, and I like quiet. If there is a group of people sitting together I usually pick a spot as far away from them as I can get, Nine times out of ten I get a seat by the fireplace, but if I can't reasonably sit there and read I prefer a table by the windows. I've also found that if I'm reading a big, chunky, hardcover book the table works better.
4. Read. No explanation needed.

There's not really much I want to change about this particular routine. I thoroughly enjoy my reading time at the coffee shop and I think I really do get the most out of it. The only thing I can think of that would improve my reading time is if Biggby started selling donuts and it's probably a good thing for me that they don't!  

What's your reading routine like? Do you read in coffee shops or no? 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

What I'm Reading Right Now #11

This week was an okay week for reading. I had to make the decision to add to the DNF list, which I'm sad about but I needed to do it. I only finished two books, but I'm optimistic for next week looking much better on the reading front.Neither of the two books I finished counted for the RMSC however the 'Whole Deal' post has been updated with the DNF's and can be found here.

Books I Finished

Image from Goodreads
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (spoiler free) - In this book we follow Madeline, Celeste, and Jane as they navigate through their children's kindergarten year. There's lots of drama, as someone is bullying in their class and Jane's son Ziggy is accused of being the bully. Ziggy maintains that he isn't the bully but none of the adults seem to believe him and even his own mother questions his innocence as she finally begins to heal from the rather traumatic events surrounding Ziggy's conception.  The school-yard antics of the parents escalate until someone ends up dead at the schools fundraising Trivia Night.

I really enjoyed this book. It had short chapters, I love short chapters. It was nearly 500 pages but I was able to go through it in three days. I also liked that it kept me guessing. I figured out who Ziggy's father was pretty early on, but I never figured out who was murdered. When I read the murder scene I was so glad it wasn't who I thought it was. I also liked that the characters of all the parents where so real. I feel like I know people who are like some of the characters, and they were so well written they seemed to pop off the page. Especially Madeline, she reminded me so much of Jackie Tyler, Rose's mom from Doctor Who. The part that got to me the most was Celeste. Her whole story just made me want to hug her. I gave Big Little Lies 4 out of 5 stars
Image from Goodreads

Some Practical Magic by Laurie C. Kuna - I received a free copy of Practical Magic through NetGalley for review. I had fun reading it and did a full review, which can be found here.

Books I DNF'd 

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Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson - I had to go ahead and DNF this. I enjoyed what I did read of it, and I fully intend to give it another try, but it just wasn't happening right now. From my experience with this series they're pretty dense, and it takes me a lot to get into them. I really have to be able to give it my full attention and I just can't do that right now.
Image from Goodreads

The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata - I have found that although
I can read several books at once, I can only do one e-book at a time. Probably because all book look the same on a Kindle whereas paper books all look different. But since I've got four or five ARC's right now, all e-books, I'm not able to keep going with this one. I do still intend to read it but now is not the time for it.

What I'm Reading Right Now

Images from Goodreads
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon - I've made a bit of progress with this in the last week and I'm really liking it. I'm going to keep going with it now that I'm getting into it.

The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan - I've wanted to read this for so so long! It a mystery/thiller which I don't usually read a lot of but this one had me hooked when I read a preview of the first chapter a while ago.

The Furthest Station (Peter Grant 5.7) by Ben Aaronovitch - This is a novella of the Peter Grant series, which I got as an ARC from NetGalley. I'm loving it so far and I'm going to read the entire series now.

Upcoming ARC's 
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These are books that I've recently received for review through NetGalley. 

In Calabria by Peter S. Beagle - Publication date 2/14/17

Practicing Normal by Cara Sue Achterberg - Publication date 6/6/17

Mightier Than the Sword by K.J. Parker - Publication date 6/30/17

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Review of Some Practical Magic by Laurie C. Kuna (spoiler free)

Image from Goodreads
"Kitchen Witch" Cassandra Hathorne doesn't know what she's getting herself into. To escape her mother's relentless matchmaking, Cassie jumps at the opportunity to go on a book tour headlined by blockbuster horror novelist M. S. Kazimer. Even though Mick's not one of her own kind, sparks fly between them.

But Mick has a secret more disturbing than Cassie's own secret of being a real witch. A serial killer, one who's been copycatting the murders in M. S. Kazimer's books, is now stalking the tour. And Cassie must choose between keeping Mick's love and protecting them all with her practical magic.

I had a lot of fun reading this book! I love reading about witches, and I love a good romance. Cassie was so like-able, and the relationship between her and her familiar, Endora (Yes, that's the name of Samantha's mom in Bewitched), was really refreshing for me. I read a lot of romance books where the main female and male characters are pretty much it as far as cast of the story goes, so to have other characters who are more than just passing by was nice. I liked Cassie mother, Medusa, also. She reminded me of Debbie Reynolds character from the Disney movie, Halloweentown, which is a movie I still love to watch whenever it's on TV. Medusa was a little meddling, but had her daughters best interests at heart and was able to see when she needed to step back and when to interfere. 
Agatha Cromwell (Debbie Reynolds) in Halloweentown.
Image from Buzzfeed

The serial killer thing was something I feel like I've seen on an episode of Law & Order: SVU. It kept the tension up towards the end of the story and brought everyone together when they needed to be though. The romance moved a little fast. I don't have a problem with insta-love but it went from 'hey, he's cute' to 'hey, let's get married' in less than a week, and moving that quickly towards marriage didn't seem to fit with either characters personality. Mick is reserved, and thoughtful, and was still getting over his relationship with Jennifer ending. And Cassie is sensible, and independent, and it just didn't seem to fit with either of them. It did get really mushy towards the end of the story too, with both Cassie and Mick talking incessantly about how much they loved each other. I'm not a very mushy person so that was a little annoying. 

Overall, not terribly original but still a fun book with good characters. 3 out of 5 stars. 

Note: I received a free copy of this book for review, from the publisher.

6 Books I Want to Re-read

Recently I've been trying to better organize my online bookshelves on both Goodreads and LibraryThing. I went and made shelves for most genres and I'm slowly filtering through my lists of books and putting them in the correct genre. On Goodreads I'm just working on the books I've marked as 'Read' since my 'Want to Read' shelf is totally out of control and full of books I don't own and probably never will. LibraryThing is easier since I scanned in all my books over the summer, so my 'Library' list is pretty under control. However going through all the books has made me realize how many of them I want to re-read.

There was a time, mostly when I was in college, that I always read books twice, just to make sure I fully grasped the plot and the characters and everything the author was trying to get across to the reader. In recent years I've given up on reading twice, which is a bit of a shame and something I intend to try to change, at least a little bit. There are a few books that I really want to read again. This doesn't mean I'll get to them any time soon. Maybe it's a challenge for another year? But here is a list of the books I most want to re-read.

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1. The Name of the Wind & The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss - So this is two books. The first two books in the King Killer Chronicles series. The third book, Doors of Stone, is not out yet and as far as I know does not have a release date yet. Rothfuss is following in George R.R. Martin's footsteps as far as keeping his readers waiting for an insane amount of time, as it's been over five years since The Wise Man's Fear came out. However, the first two books were awesome, I'm still excited for book 3 and I really want to re-read these gigantic books. These books follow the life of Kvothe, our hero, who has yet to kill a king. They have a really dark background, lots of war, and fear, and death but they're full of magic, and mystery, and are just really great reads.

Image from Goodreads
2. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly - I read this a few years ago and loved it. It is set
during WWII, in Britain. A boy, named David, goes through his mother's death and his father getting remarried and having a baby with his new wife. David is angry, and lonely, and still grieving his mother. He retreats more and more into his imagination and when a bomb lands on the countryside property his family is staying at, David finds his way into a world full of fairy tales characters, who aren't exactly what you'd expect. This whole book was not what I expected it too be in the very best way and I can't wait to pick it up again.

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3. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt - In this book we follow Theo, who lives with his mother in New York. His mother is killed in a terrorist attack on a museum and in his shocked/concussed state Theo tries to help a dying man
and 'rescues' a painting. We follow Theo as he moves from his friends uptown apartment to Las Vegas with his estranged father, and back to New York again. All the time bringing with him the 'rescued' painting that he never found a proper way to return. There are some amazing characters in this book. Boris, the friend Theo makes in Las Vegas, is one of my favorite characters of all time. Boris is just amazing. The reason I most want to reread it is that this book is a chunker. I believe it was just over 900 pages. I feel like reading it once, and really quickly at that, was just not enough to really grasp the details, to really understand the characters and the story.

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4. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - I don't remember a whole lot of details about this book. I know there is a 'game' being played by two magicians using their apprentices as pieces, and a love story between those two apprentices, but I read it so long ago that the details escape me. What I do remember, is the otherworldly feeling, the ethereal writing, the darkness, and the beauty of this book. This was my first real 'book hangover' and I did not experience another one like it until I read A Court of Mist and Fury (which I'm obsessed with right now). It left me stuck in the world of this book for days after I finished it, stuck with the feels these characters and story left me with. It was glorious and I have been meaning to reread it for a while.

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5. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness - This book is about a woman, a witch who hates her magic, who is doing research in the library at
Oxford and finds an ancient book, a book that is also being sought by a vampire. She has to team up with said vampire for...something? I honestly did not like this book the first time I read it. In fact as soon as I was done with it I gave it away. But I have had a feeling I should read it again for a while now. The first time I read it I loved the beginning. Misty, rainy fall days at Oxford. Hot tea and big sweaters. But then it turned into a Twilight level vampire obsession thing, with the main female character seeming pretty weak and needing to be protected and coddled and I hate that. However, I spotted a copy of it at the used book store last week and I've been fighting the urge to go buy it again. I'll probably go pick it up on Saturday.

Image from Goodreads
6. Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy - I read this book in a tenth grade English class. I remember almost nothing of it except the ending and even that is vague. The teacher of the class was incompetent at best; when we did Hamlet we never actually read any of the play, we watched one scene from the Lawrence Olivier version of the movie over and over again for a week, I had to borrow the book from another teacher so I could read Hamlet. However, for Tess of the D'Urbervilles Mr. Incompetent actually passed out copies of the book, so I went ahead and read it while the rest of the class was waiting for Mr. Incompetent to get his act together. (He never did. He got fired after having an affair with one of the librarians and telling his sixth hour class all about it.) But for as much as I don't remember the story, I remember how I felt after reading about Tess. It was the first book that me go 'WOW! I love this!' I mean, I loved reading before then because it was an escape, I read mostly Young Adult or middle grade fantasy back then and this was the first time I read what I guess would be considered a Classic on my own. I want to reread so I can maybe remember the story this time.

Those are just six of the many books I want to reread. Maybe, if I'm doing well with the RMSC I can do a mini-challenge later this year, just for rereads! There are quite a few series I want to finish that would require rereading earlier books also, but that is another post! What books are you planning to reread?