Friday, December 27, 2013

...And Back

Wow. Doesn't time just fly sometimes?  I had no clue that I would be taking such a long hiatus.  So what took me away from posting book reviews?

Who knew that a 2 1/2 year old and a 6 month old would be so time consuming? Hahaha.  Fortunately my little guy is now able to sit up by himself and play for a few minutes at a time freeing me up a tad bit more.

Rocket and I are still reading a lot.  He currently loves Greg Foley's books.  Here we are reading one of the bear series books Thank You Bear:

He loves the Willoughby books by Greg Foley too.  Here he is "reading" Willoughby and the Lion:

Hopefully I'll be able to catch up to writing a ton of reviews.  Thanks for sticking around!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Nicole Galland: Godiva Interview & Giveaway!

I was so excited when I got the chance to interview Nicole Galland in regards to her new novel Godiva.  You can check out her website for her complete bio - in a nutshell she's a Harvard graduate, from Martha's Vineyard, is a screenwriter and theater co-founder, and has written a handful of novels.

If you haven't checked out my review yesterday, pop over and read it. Stick around and enter the giveaway at the end of the post.

Welcome to A Library of My Own!  Thank you so much for letting me review your novel Godiva and answering a few questions!

1) What I loved about Godiva is that it seems to be a novel about relationships: Godiva and her friend Edgiva, and Godiva and her husband Leofric.  Do you think these relationships were typical or realistic for the time period?  

That’s an insightful question, and two answers come to me at once.

First, yes, relationships are very important to me, I love to write about them... but they are so very context-dependent. We can’t begin to understand or know the emotional rules of engagement in an era so vastly removed from our own; we can only imagine them. I like to imagine them as being familiar to me and my readers. While it is flattering to be told that one has “captured the authentic feeling of an era,” there isn’t really any way to know if that era has been captured authentically unless the person saying so has time-traveled from that era to the present day.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying: there’s no way to know if these relationships were typical or realistic in 1046 England. They are, however, typical and realistic in Nicole Galland’s imagination ;-)

Second: to the degree that I can hazard an educated guess, it is true that women in Anglo-Saxon England had more social and personal clout/freedom/agency than their descendants over the next, oh, 900 years. So these relationships are more realistic for the late Anglo-Saxon era than for the Norman, high medieval, Renaissance, Restoration, Enlightenment, Early Modern, Victorian, etc... Than most of the eras that followed.

2) Lady Godiva is such a fascinating character.  She is wealthy in her own right, married to a well-positioned man, and cleverly smart.  I can see her character being loved or hated because she used her sexual appeal for political purposes. What made her character appealing to you?

She came to me fully fledged, like Athena out of Zeus’s head. I almost didn’t have a say in it (she is, as you have perhaps noticed, like that). Originally, of course, I was drawn to her because she rode naked on a horse as a tax protest, which made her intriguing before I really “knew” her.

The sex-appeal-as-weapon (which as I said, was her idea! She showed up and informed me of it. Very charmingly, of course)... through most of human history, women have been valued largely as sexual objects, which means per their sex appeal. (Not that every woman who was ever made a concubine was “hot,” but the “hot” ones, the flirty ones, generally received more attention.) Even in “modern American society,” there is tremendous pressure on women to present themselves as sexually desirable. We don’t use that as a political weapon but we do use it as a social one – or rather, consumer society is set up to encourage us to do so. And so many of us have internally that message, we don’t even realize it. We mostly notice it as a sense of insecurity or low self-esteem when we are “failing” to appeal.

What I like about Godiva is that she has a clear-eyed understanding of “the male gaze,” and uses that understanding for big-picture, practical purposes. She doesn’t feel persecuted by the pressure to be pretty, nor does she feel offended by it; she accepts that this is how men work, she doesn’t hold it against them, and she doesn’t rely on her beauty to feel good about herself. It is simply a tool to be used for matters of importance to her. She’s not a spring chicken; her allure is largely in her self-confidence, and if no man ever melted under her gaze again, she’d just shrug and find some other way to get on a level playing field with them – and continue to feel good about herself. She’s above having an ego-attachment to her attractivenes; her ego is healthy independent of her attractiveness (to the point that the attractiveness is almost like a costume she likes to don), and I admire that. 

3) I haven’t read many novels set during this time period, the 11th Century.  I especially liked reading about the interactions between the Anglo-Saxons and the Normans and your depiction of King Edward.  How did you do your research and what drew you towards writing about this time period?  

When I was writing my first novel, The Fool’s Tale, I was taken in by a wonderful couple named Alan and Maureen Crumpler, in the town of Leominster, UK. (There’s a great story about meeting them on my website, somewhere. It’s one of the 10 Great Anecdotes of My Life) They told me the story of Abbess Edgiva and Earl Sweyn, which was my initial impulse to write a novel about this era. I was drawn to their story because there are two historical flavors to the events: one sees their story as an act of violence, the other as a genuine romance. I wanted to explore different ways to tell the story... But then, in my research about Leominster Abbey, I learned about Leofric (since he was the abbey’s patron) and then Godiva... And once Godiva showed up, she took control.

4) Besides being an author, you’ve also directed plays and worked in the theater.  Can you envision any actors who’d play your characters?

Funny you should ask, one of the books (I better not say which one) has been turned into a screenplay and is making the rounds, so there’s been a lot of talk about this. It’s hard for me to chime in on it. I see my characters as themselves, for lack of a better way to put it. I think Natalie Dormer from Game of Thrones would be an excellent Godiva when she’s older, although so, in a very different way, would Emilia Clark. Now see, that’s just because I was thinking about Game of Thrones today... Otherwise, I would not have even have been able to come up with those ideas!

5) We both agree that authors are rock stars.  What authors do you think are rock stars?

I’ll limit this answer to living authors, as a list of all authors through history would go on forever (although of course, Shakespeare tops the list and Tolstoy is right behind him, followed by Dr. Seuss...and for historical fiction it is absolutely Dorothy Dunnett... but after that, see, it gets tricky because there are at least 5 dozen more I could then rattle off...)

Living authors... Too many again to list, but here are a few categories, because I have wide-ranging taste:

Author who, when I hear he has a new book out, I squeal most loudly with delight: Christopher Moore
Authors who leaves me speechless with astonishment for sundry reasons: David Foster Wallace, David Mitchell, Dave Eggers
Author whose book I have read the most times in a row and I never cease to rave about: Norton Juster, who wrote The Phantom Tollbooth, my favorite book ever
Authors whose work I love so much I wish I had written it: Susan Cooper (the Dark is Rising series) and Barbara Kingsolver (The Poisonwood Bible)
Authors whose use of language makes me want to speak it aloud as I read it: Geraldine Brooks, Ursula LeGuin, and I know I am forgetting others because I’ve spent years of my life trying to read things I like out loud to other people.

That is a partial list... Thanks for asking me to think of them! That was fun.

Now for the giveaway!!  I have a beautiful paperback copy of Godiva for one lucky winner.  Just fill out the form below.  The giveaway is open through October 7th and US residents only.  Thanks!!

This could be your nightstand (lamp and mug not included)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Godiva - Nicole Galland

Title: Godiva
Author: Nicole Galland
Paperback: 305 pages
Publisher: William Morrow
Published date: July 2013
FTC: Received from author to review

Last year I read Nicole Galland's amazing novel I, Iago (my review) and she rapidly rose to one of my favorite authors.  I, Iago is the story of Othello seen through the eyes of Iago, the villian of the story, and I was blown away how sympathetic she made such a character.  When I heard she was coming out with a new novel, Godiva, I jumped at the chance to read it.  I was even more amazed when the author herself emailed me to see if I wanted to do a review AND I got the chance to interview Nicole Galland. I was beyond excited and nervous!  While I, Iago is still my first and favorite Galland novel, I thoroughly enjoyed Godiva.  Come back tomorrow to check out my interview and enter for a chance to win a copy of Godiva

Back of the book:

According to the legend, Lady Godiva lifted the unfair taxation of her people by her husband, Leofric, Earl of Mercia, by riding through the streets of Coventry wearing only a smile. It's a story that's kept tongues wagging for nearly a thousand years. But what would drive a lady of the court to take off everything and risk her reputation, her life, even her wardrobe - all for a few peasants' pennies?

In this daringly original, charmingly twisted take on an oft-imagined tale, Nicole Galland exposes a provocative view of Godiva not only in the flesh, but in all her glory. With history exonerating her dear husband, Godiva, helped along by her steadfast companion the abbess Edgiva, defies the tyranny of a new royal villain. Never before has Countess Godiva's ride into infamy - and into an unexpected adventure of romance, deceit, and naked intrigue - been told quite like this.

My thoughts:

I've always thought Lady Godiva's story must have been quite interesting.  As a history major - and taking some art history classes - who could forget such a classic image as John Collier's Godiva:

Yes, Lady Godiva was a real historical figure and not just a chocolate mascot.  I absolutely loved how Nicole Galland portrayed this historical figure.  This Godiva is a strong and smart woman who understands how politics work and knows how to get things done.  She is financially well off on her own but she also has a strong marriage with her husband Leofric.  I loved that she didn't come off as pretentious, silly, or unnaturally gorgeous.  She just knew what she wanted and didn't mind using her womanly charms to get things done.  If that didn't work she'd just try something else.

Relationships play a big part of this story.  I love that Leofric and Godiva had a strong marriage and Godiva was a faithful and loving wife to Leofric while Leofric was a loving and understanding husband.  It was interesting to note the time period this story took place in.  Godiva was an 11th-century Anglo-Saxon noblewoman.  I don't think I've read any novels about this time period and it's interesting to see the difference in customs and women's roles during this period.  In the P.S. section at the end of the book, Nicole Galland mentions the differences of how after the invasion, the Normans disempowered women.  But women like Godiva, Anglo-Saxon and before the invasion, held political and personal power.  I loved reading about this time period an how different women's roles were before the Norman invasion.

A large portion of Godiva's story revolves around the friendship between Godiva and Abbess Edgiva.  Their interactions were almost like sisters - each loving each other but often not approving or quite understanding the other.  However they both would go through a lot to help the other out. I adore novels about sisters so their relationship and story is ultimately why I enjoyed reading Godiva.


TLC Book Tours held a tour of Godiva back in July so check out what other bloggers thought of Godiva.

Come back tomorrow to check out my interview with Nicole Galland and enter to win a copy of Godiva!

Friday, September 20, 2013

TIME for Kids Dinosaurs 3D

Title: TIME for Kids: Dinosaurs 3D
Author: Dougal Dixon
Hardcover: 80 pages
Publisher: TIME for Kids
Published date: 2013
FTC: Received to review from Goodman Media

I've decided to try and do a some children's books reviews from time to time on my blog.  With two little boys, I'm realizing that a lot of my book reading time is made up of children's books.  My 2 year old and I both know many books by heart.

When I was asked if I wanted to review TIME for Kids Dinosaurs 3D I jumped at the chance.  My son LOVES dinosaurs and to be perfectly honest, I needed to brush up on my dino facts.  I really only knew Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops.  He keeps asking me what his dinosaurs are and I have no clue.

My son and his beloved dinosaurs:

This is the best dinosaur book we have...and we actually have a few.  This one is special and he calls it his "dinosaur glasses" book.  He's a bit too young to be left alone with it so we break it out on special occasions.  It's a beautifully large book and at 80 pages it's got a ton of 3D images and packed with information.

I love the book because it goes through the major dinosaurs and gives a handy pronunciation guide.  I can now tell my son he has an Euoplocephalus toy dino and actually know how to pronounce it.  My son loves it because with each dinosaur it gives examples of modern day animals comparing traits and attributes.  And of course - the best part is the 3D.  It seriously is pretty darn cool.  Even my husband snagged it after snapping our picture and was pretty amazed at the 3D quality.  I have a feeling that this book is going to get a lot of use.

What does my son think? In his words "so awesome!"

Friday, September 6, 2013


If you've been reading my blog for any amount of time, you'll know that each year I look forward to September.  Football season, the change in seasons (not so much in Las Vegas but still), and of course, Carl's R.I.P. Experience.

Readers. Imbibing. Peril. Eight

Dark Fantasy.

As I'm sitting here typing this and having a brief few minutes of peace (wait, baby is waking up, nix that) it's thundering and raining outside.  I could never live in Seattle but I'll take a good gloomy rainy Las Vegas any day. I'm drinking a hot cup of Earl Grey tea and overindulging in Hershey's chocolate minis.

Here are snapshots of brief ideas for R.I.P. books.  I'm currently loving The Big Sleep as I've never read a Raymond Chandler novel but LOVE the Bogie/Bacall flick.  Gaiman's going to be a win and we'll see about Setterfield's newest.  Both are review books.  The second photo is of languishing review books that fit this bill. I'm currently mid-way through Three Seconds and while it's not what I was expecting, it's pretty good so far.

I'll also be trying to review some books I read the past year or so that I never got around to reviewing but are classic R.I.P. reads.  I'm talking Shirley Jackson, Dashiell Hammett, and a creepy ghost story by Kate Mosse among others.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Silver - Andrew Motion

Title: Silver: Return to Treasure Island
Author: Andrew Motion
Paperback: 402 pages
Publisher: Broadway/Random House
Published date: 2012 (paperback May 2013)
FTC: Received from publisher to review

I was excited when I got an email from Random  House asking if I wanted to read Silver: Return to Treasure Island. It's been on my to-read list since it came out last year.  While I'm a fan of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters type novels, I'll admit that I'm also a huge fan of the more action packed "boy" classics.  It also gave me an excuse to read Treasure Island for the first time - check out my review.

 Back of the book:

Almost forty years following the events of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver have seemingly put their maritime adventures to rest. Jim has settled on the English coast with his son Jim, and Silver has returned to rural England with his daughter Natty. While their escapades may have ended, for Jim and Natty the adventure is only just beginning.

One night, Natty approaches young Jim with a proposition: return to Treasure Island and find the remaining treasure that their fathers left behind. As they set sail in their fathers' footsteps, Jim and Natty cannot imagine what awaits them. Murderous pirates, long-held grudges, noxious greed, and wily deception lurk wickedly in the high seas, and disembarking onto Treasure Island only proves more perilous. Their search for buried treasure leaves every last wit tested and ounce of courage spent. And the adventure doesn't end there, since they still have to make their way home...

My thoughts:

I loved this sequel to Treasure Island. Wow.  Andrew Motion is quite the writer.  Get this - Sir Andrew Motion was poet laureate for the United Kingdom from 1999-2009 and I think he was the perfect choice to tackle a sequel to such a classic tale.  I read Treasure Island and then picked up Silver and it was almost like Robert Louis Stevenson himself was carrying on the story.  Well done.

The story is so vivid and there are so many scenes that stand out.  When Jim and Natty first meet (I keep picturing a young Thandie Newton as Natty) or when Jim first meets the legendary Long John Silver.  I love that there were so many loose ends in the original Treasure Island that made a perfect sequel set up: the bar silver left on the island, the three pirates left marooned on the island, and the whole Israel Hands thing - the pirate Jim Hawkins killed in an epic scene in the original (totally comes back to haunt his son.)  Like the original, most of the narration is done by young Jim. But also like the original, we get glimpses from other narrators, my favorite being Natty.  The argument is that including a girl in the adventures, the novel is more accessible to all readers.  But I am sure that just like the original, there would be plenty of girls who'd read pirate stories - with or without a cool Natty character.

Such a fun sequel. I'd totally recommend reading Treasure Island first though, if you haven't read it before.  I also loved that Andrew Motion named one of the crew members of Jim and Natty's ship Stevenson. I'd like to think this is an homage to the original author.


I love the paperback cover above but I also really like the hardback version too:

This other hardcover edition is also pretty darn cool:

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson

Title: Treasure Island
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
Publisher: free on iBooks
Published date: 1883
FTC: read for free on iBooks

One of my favorite classic authors is Robert Louis Stevenson.    In high school I read this awesome little compilation of short stories called The New Arabian Nights.  While I still haven't found that same compilation, I did snag a copy of Stevenson's works that include his novels, The New Arabian Nights, and a bunch of poetry I didn't know he wrote.  Seriously, if you have time, check out the short stories The Suicide Club and The Rajah's Diamond.  Anyway, for those of you less familiar, you might have heard of his novels Kidnapped or The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Anyway, I'm not sure why it took me so long to read his classic story Treasure Island. We all pretty much know the basics of the story: boy Jim Hawkins goes on an adventure to Treasure Island to get said treasure and has a bunch of shenanigans with a pirate named Long John Silver who has a parrot on his shoulder and a wooden leg.

"Fifteen men on the dead man's chest- 
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!"

Anyway, when I was asked if I wanted to read Andrew Motion's recent novel Silver I jumped at the chance.  It's a novel about Jim Hawkin's son who returns to Treasure Island.  If you've read the original, and it's really not a huge spoiler, there's a bit of treasure left behind on the island - bar silver.  I was excited to finally have an excuse to read the original and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Is it silly to think that someday I'll read this book to my boys?  Or maybe they'll snag it up and read it for themselves?  While it does have some older language, I'd like to think my kids will be smart enough to read this classic.  

Now I'm going to have to read more of Stevenson's works: The Master of Ballantrae, Kidnapped, and The Arrow.   


Head over to the official Robert Louis Stevenson website and look at the beautiful original artwork from the novel. I'd love a copy of the book with the original artwork. I hope it's ok I post a photo:

Scrolling through Netflix streaming I found the TV movie Treasure Island (2012) starring Eddie Izzard (awesome!), Rupert Penry-Jones, Donald Sutherland and Elijah Woods.  I haven't watched it yet but the trailer looks awesome.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Where'd You Go, Bernadette - Maria Semple

Title: Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Author: Maria Semple
Audiobook: 9 hours, 39 minutes
Narrator: Kathleen Wilhoite
Publisher: Hachette
Published date: 2012
FTC: Checked out from library

What a fun book!  I like to check out audiobooks from my library which help me enjoy doing chores around my house.   I thought the narrator, Kathleen Wilhoite, did such a fabulous job telling this story.  She made the story extremely engaging fun with the different characters' voices.  A definite recommend whether you read or listen to this book.

The synopsis from GoodReads:

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.

My thoughts:

I'm not sure how Bernadette's character comes off while reading, but I found her absolutely hilarious and adored her.  The narrator did a wonderful job - with all her complaining and irritations with others, she comes off more comedic than annoying.  That's a fine line to walk.  I couldn't help but loving her character.

I love the way the story is told through emails and letters.  We hear snippets from Bernadette, Bee (who is also just an awesome and smart girl), Elgin Branch - Bernadette's husband and Bee's father, Elgin's assistant Soo-Lin, and Soo-Lin's friend Audrey.  Don't worry, it works and it's explained as Bee compiling all these snippets to try to find her mother and explain how and why she left.

I thought it was funny as well as poignant that Bernadette's sanity was put into question because of her increasingly reclusive and agoraphobic tendencies.  Because, in all honesty, don't we all walk that fine line between irritation and annoyance and craziness?  I also loved her outsider's description of Seattle because having lived for years in Alaska and understanding some of the Seattle nuances it just cracked me up.

It's refreshing to find characters that, while they don't always make the right decisions and often really horrible ones, I found them to be realistic and didn't feel like slapping them.  Even Elgin.  Again, my only gripe with the book's narrator in the audio version is that sometimes Bee sounded a bit younger than her 15 years - especially being a smart 15 year old.  I kept imaging her more like a smart 8 year old.  I'm not sure why, but sometimes Bernadette's voice made me think New York and not L.A.  Other than that...

Oh, I almost forgot to mention: I love that the story took us to Antarctica.  That's right.  How's that for a tad bit of armchair travel?  And it was realistic too. (I knew it! Maria Semple did go to Antarctica. I thought so.)  It reminded me a bit of the ferry ride down from Alaska but in a much colder and exotic locale.  I've got a book on Antarctica by James McClintock on my shelf right now which is calling to me.  I love when one book inspires me to read another book.

Extra stuff:

It looks like Where'd You Go, Bernadette is going to be made into a movie!  I always love envisioning the actors and actresses who'd play the parts in books.  There's some interesting ideas of Judy Davis or Helena Bonham Carter as Bernadette.  Who would you cast?

About the author:

Interesting note, Maria Semple wrote for shows like Arrested Development, Mad About You, Ellen, and Saturday Night Live.  You can definitely see this in her writing - vivid and funny.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Lavender Garden - Lucinda Riley

Title: The Lavender Garden
Author: Lucinda Riley
Paperback: 399 pages
Publisher: Atria
Published date: June 2013
FTC: Received from Atria Galley Alley

When I saw The Lavender Garden offered on Atria's Galley Alley I eagerly snapped it up.  Last year I reviewed her novel The Orchid House and thoroughly enjoyed her writing which mixes stories of the past and the present.  This novel tells the story of present day Emilie, a French woman who's inherited her family's chateau, and Constance, a British woman who is dropped behind enemy lines in occupied France during WWII.  If you like Susanna Kearsley, Kate Morton, or any story which weaves the past and present, you'll enjoy Lucinda Riley's novels.

Synopsis from GoodReads:

La Côte d’Azur, 1998: In the sun-dappled south of France, Emilie de la Martinières, the last of her gilded line, inherits her childhood home, a magnificent château and vineyard. With the property comes a mountain of debt—and almost as many questions . . .

Paris, 1944: A bright, young British office clerk, Constance Carruthers, is sent undercover to Paris to be part of Churchill’s Special Operations Executive during the climax of the Nazi occupation. Separated from her contacts in the Resistance, she soon stumbles into the heart of a prominent family who regularly entertain elite members of the German military even as they plot to liberate France. But in a city rife with collaborators and rebels, Constance’s most difficult decision may be determining whom to trust with her heart.

As Emilie discovers what really happened to her family during the war and finds a connection to Constance much closer than she suspects, the château itself may provide the clues that unlock the mysteries of her past, present, and future. Here is a dazzling novel of intrigue and passion from one of the world’s most beloved storytellers.

My thoughts:

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed reading The Lavender Garden.    But...ok there are a few buts.  Since I've only read one other Riley novel it's hard not to compare the two.  I didn't think the writing was as smooth in The Lavender Garden as The Orchid House.  My main issue was the modern day story of Emilie.  For growing up in a wealthy French family, Emilie is such a wallflower.  It was hard for me to find her sympathetic or believable.  She falls for a guy named Sebastian and the way he talks is so unrealistic and I immediately got that yuck feeling for him.  For loving both modern and past stories in The Orchid House, I was a bit disappointed with the modern story in this novel.  That said, Ms Riley can really describe her environment and I totally picture the French countryside with Emilie's chateau.  I definitely did some armchair traveling.

The novel picks up quickly though with Constance's story.  I'm such a sucker for WWII French Resistance stories.  This is where the writing gets better, the characters are deeper and less annoying, and I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the book.  My only complaint is that the bad guys in both time periods are just a little too evil bad.  I like my evil characters to be a bit more realistic and human.  Most people aren't just pure evil and I didn't completely buy their reasons for being bad guys.

While I didn't enjoy The Lavender Garden as much as The Orchid House, I'm still a fan of Lucinda Riley's novels and really want to pick up a copy of The Girl on the Cliff.  I've read great reviews of that one.  I think Lucinda Riley is fast becoming one of my go-to authors for curl up and read books.

Other versions:

In the UK this book is called The Light Behind the Window.  I think it's a more appropriate title  I even like the cover a bit more.  What do you think?

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Crown - Nancy Bilyeau (Paperback) Giveaway

Thanks to Touchstone publisher, I received a copy of The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau along with a copy of The Chalice to review for TLC Book Tours.  Since I already owned The Crown, I'm giving away my paperback copy to one lucky winner!  Yes, you too can join the awesome bandwagon that is Nancy  Bilyeau's series.

Check out my review of The Crown (#1) and The Chalice (#2)

Giveaway is open US residents only (sorry I'm a stay-at-home mom) and open through Monday, August 19th.

Good luck!

Contest is closed!

The winner is: ANNE!!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Chalice - Nancy Bilyeau

Title: The Chalice
Author: Nancy Bilyeau
Hardcover: 482 pages
Publisher: Touchstone
Published date: March 2013
FTC: Received to review for TLC Book Tours

Remember how I recently raved about Nancy Bilyeau's first novel The Crown?  I was so excited when TLC Book Tours asked if I wanted to be on tour for her second in the series novel, The Chalice.  I am so addicted to this series.  I heard from TLC Book Tours that book #3 The Covenant is going to be out at the end of 2014.  Arg!  I have to wait so long!  If you haven't read this series yet, seriously what are you waiting for?  Good news! Tomorrow I'll be hosting a giveaway for the paperback version of The Crown so one lucky person will be able to get as addicted to this series as I am.

The synopsis:

'The Chalice' is a historical thriller told from the point of view of a young woman caught in the crosswinds of time: She has pledged to become a Dominican nun in an England ruled by Henry VIII, who has ruthlessly smashed his country's allegiance to Rome. By 1538, the bloody power struggles between crown and cross threaten to tear the country apart. Joanna Stafford has seen what lies inside the king’s torture rooms and risks imprisonment again, when she is caught up in a shadowy international plot targeting the King. As the power plays turn vicious, Joanna understands she may have to assume her role in a prophecy foretold by three different seers, each more omniscient than the last. The life of Henry VIII as well as the future of Christendom are in her hands—hands that must someday hold the chalice that lays at the center of these deadly prophecies. As she struggles to forge a life for herself in a country that rejects her faith, she must also decide if her future should be shared with a man--and if so, which of the two men who love her should be chosen.

My Thoughts:

First of all, The Chalice is book #2 in a series starting with The Crown.  Do you have to read The Crown to enjoy The Chalice?  I've read quite a few reviews where the reviewer raved about The Chalice without having read the first book.  I also noticed that Ms Bilyeau did a pretty darn good job about explaining a bit of the back story in a way that would catch you up pretty well if you haven't read any of her books without being tedious if you have.  But The Crown is seriously awesome so just go read it first. It won't take you long.

The Chalice starts out with Joanna Stafford and her fellow nuns and monks left in the aftermath of Henry VIII and Cromwell's closure of her abbey and other monasteries.  Again, Joanna gets caught up in the political intrigues of protecting her faith against Henry VIII's destruction.  She is also torn between her love and admiration of two men in her life: fellow monk and brother Edmund Sommerville and Constable Geoffrey Scovill.  This part is done really well without you feeling like your reading a romance novel, feeling that it's not historically realistic, or feeling like the love triangle is overdone.

I gave The Crown five stars on GoodReads but only four stars for The Chalice.  The only reasons is because like second books I'm kind of stuck in that limbo of "what happens next??!!"  That and Joanna Stafford kind of disappointed me -- just a tad.  In The Crown she is such a strong and noble character while in The Chalice she makes a few mistakes that just make you want to yell at her a bit.  But I loved that she acknowledges those mistakes and definitely has to atone for them.  So while I wanted to shake her, I love that she became a bit more human, a bit less nun perfect.

Do you also remember how in my review of The Crown, I thought that I knew the reasoning behind Ms Bilyeau's titles?  I was totally wrong.  I loved that I was surprised.  The Chalice was not in reference to what I thought it was going to be.  So I am so excited to see where Ms Bilyeau takes Joanna in book #3.  We got a brief glimpse of Henry VIII towards the end of the book so I wonder if he and his court will be more prominent in the last book.  I also love Joanna's connection to Mary Tudor.  I think that in history Mary is a bit maligned since the adoration usually always goes to her half sister Elizabeth.

I love this series because while historically I know what happens in Tudor era England, she still leaves me excited to know what happens next.

Here's the book trailer for The Chalice:

Nancy Bilyeau’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Sunday, June 30th:  Booktalk & More – review of The Crown
Monday, July 1st:  Tiffany’s Bookshelf - review of The Crown
Monday, July 15th:  Bookish Whimsy - review of The Crown
Wednesday, July 17th:  A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, July 18th:  Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Friday, July 19th:  Col Reads
Monday, July 22nd:  No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, July 24th:  Lit and Life
Thursday, July 25th:  Books Without Any Pictures – review of The Crown
Thursday, July 25th:  Book Addict Katie
Monday, July 29th:  Scandalous Women
Tuesday, July 30th:  Laura’s Reviews - review of The Crown and The Chalice
Tuesday, July 30th:  Fiction Addict
Thursday, August 1st:  Bookish Whimsy
Monday, August 5th:  Read Lately
Wednesday, August 7th:  A Library of My Own
Thursday, August 8th:  Literally Jen
Friday, August 9th:  A Reader of Fictions
Monday, August 12th:  Books Without Any Pictures
Tuesday, August 13th:  Booktalk & More
Wednesday, August 14th:  2 Kids and Tired
Thursday, August 15th:  Patricia’s Wisdom
Date TBD:  Royal Reviews

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Now that Google Reader is kaput I'm switching over to following the blogs I read on Bloglovin'.  I actually really like it because it pops me to everyone's actual blog instead of reading the posts in the reader.

What I don't like is I can't search all the blog posts like I could in Google Reader.  I don't know how many of you utilize that feature, but I like to add links to other people's reviews so you can get more that just my opinion.  I'm not sure how much I'll be able to do that any more.

Mainly, I have to write this post to claim my blog on Bloglovin'.  However you follow my blog, thanks for reading my posts!  Cheers!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Siege and Storm - Leigh Bardugo

Title: Siege and Storm (Grisha #2)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Hardcover: 435 pages (My version: ARC paperback)
Publisher: MacMillan
Published date: June 2013
FTC: Received to review from publisher

Shadow and Bone (my review) was one of my favorite books last year.  I had so much fun reading this first book of Leigh Bardugo's new trilogy.  I ranked it up there with gems like Divergent and The Hunger Games.  So no surprise when I heard that the Harry Potter producer and Dreamworks were going to make this a movie series too.  Magic, Russian-esque folk-lore, and so many awesome scenes I can't wait to see how it's depicted in a movie.  This series has already garnered so much attention I didn't think I'd be lucky to get book #2 as an ARC -- but I did!! Woohoo!  If you haven't read Shadow and Bone -- go read it now so you can catch up on the series.

The synopsis: 

Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her--or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

My thoughts:

It's always hard to review past book one in a series.  I mean, unless you've read book one, you are going to be completely confused by the review AND probably read a bunch of spoilers.

That said I had fun with Siege and Storm although I do think it fell just a tad bit into the pit of second book blahs.  What I mean is that while it's jam packed with good action scenes - I'm still left waiting to see the final showdown.  The interesting thing to see in Siege and Storm is the relationship between Alina and Mal.  In book one Mal was a bit too perfect.  I loved that he made mistakes in this book, got jealous, and they both did thing that made me want to slap them.  But it was a bit more realistic than perfect Mal from book one.

Spoiler Section
For those of you who've read both books:  What do you think of Mal? Does it bother you that Mal seems the happiest when Alina doesn't have her full powers?  How creepy stalker is the Darkling in this book?  What do you think about the pirate/prince?  Swoon! Is it ok to admit that I liked him better than Mal in this one?
Spoilers Over

Reading Siege and Storm, I am too impatient to see how it all plays out to truly enjoy it.  That said, I think if the movies go through then Siege and Storm would make one awesome movie. There are a ton of action sequences that I think would look amazing on the big screen.  And how cool would the Russian-esque costumes be?

Tap tap tap....when does Ruin and Rising come out?  Sigh.


My ARC copy:

Check out her short story/Russian fable The Too-Clever Fox which is pretty darn good:

And I need to read her other one, The Witch of Duva:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Crown - Nancy Bilyeau

Title: The Crown (Crown #1)
Author: Nancy Bilyeau
Hardcover: 402 pages
Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster
Published date: 2012
FTC: Won copy from Peeking Between the Pages

I haven't given a book a five-star rating on GoodReads in quite a while.  How refreshing to finally do that!  I'd been hearing some awesome things about Nancy Bilyeau's Crown series.  I won my beautiful hardcover copy over at Peeking Between the Pages but hadn't gotten around to reading it yet.  But when I started hearing rave reviews about her follow up novel, The Chalice, and THEN I was asked to join the TLC Book Tour for the second novel, I jumped at the chance.  I'll be reviewing that book at the beginning of August and I'll be having a giveaway for The Crown.  Woop!

Synopsis from GoodReads:

In this debut historical thriller, an aristocratic young nun must find a legendary crown in order to save her father’s life and preserve all she holds dear from Cromwell’s ruthless terror.

When novice nun Joanna Stafford learns her rebel cousin is condemned by King Henry VIII to be burned at the stake, she makes the decision to break the sacred rule of enclosure and run away from her Dominican Order in Dartford to stand at her cousin’s side.

Arrested for interfering with king’s justice, Joanna, along with her father, Sir Richard Stafford, is sent to the Tower of London. Joanna’s father is brutally tortured by Stephen Gardiner, the Bishop of Winchester who leads the Catholic faction bent on saving England’s monasteries from destruction. In order to save her father, Joanna must submit to Gardiner’s will and become a pawn in the struggle between religious extremes. Gardiner forces Joanna to return to Dartford Priory with a mission: find the long hidden crown worn by Saxon King Athelstan in AD 937 during the historic battle that first united Britain. Gardiner believes the crown itself to possess a mystical power that will halt the Reformation.

Uncovering only dark betrayals and murder at Dartford, Joanna flees with Brother Edmund, a troubled young friar, and with time running out, their hunt for the crown leads them through royal castles, to Stonehenge, and finally to the tomb of the mysterious King Athelstan under Malmesbury Abbey. There Joanna learns the true secret of the crown, a secret tracing all the way back to Golgotha and the Relics of the Passion. Now, as Cromwell’s army of destruction advances, Joanna must finally determine who to trust and how far she is willing to go to protect a way of life that she passionately loves.

My Thoughts:

I wanted to review The Crown before I delved into The Chalice.  I can not believe how awesome this book is.  Who'd have thought that a novel about a Tudor era nun would be so fascinating, fast paced and even a little romantic?  Awesome job Ms Bilyeau!

I think there are a lot of people out there who are little bit over the plethora of Tudor era books - especially Henry VIII period books.  There are just a ton!  I remember being fascinated by Anne Boleyn back in high school and there were seriously about two books out on her.  So what grabbed my attention was that while Joanna Stafford's story is set during Henry VIII's reign - it's not from the viewpoint of the court but through the eyes of the religious community that went through a huge upheaval after good ol' Henry eradicated Catholicism, abbeys and monasteries.

Joanna Stafford is also a pretty awesome heroine.  From a wealthy family who's fallen from Henry VIII's grace, she is intelligent, educated, steadfast in her belief in God, and loyal to her family.  There's a lot going on in this novel: political machinations, Joanna getting thrown into the Tower of London, a search for a long lost treasure, hidden passages and even a bit of romance.  I thought I was going to be a tad skeptical of the romance angle but it is believable and not overly done.  Perfect.

I can't wait to dig into The Chalice.  If you haven't figured it out yet - it took me reading the book to notice - that the books are named after religious relics.  I wonder what book #3 will be called!

Also Reviewed By:

Peeking Between the Pages
Devourer of Books
S Krishna's Books
Let Them Read Books
The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Firebird - Susanna Kearsley

Title: The Firebird
Author: Susanna Kearsley
Paperback: 530 pages (ARC version)
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Published date: June 4th, 2013
FTC: won from Sourcebooks FB page

After reading Susanna Kearsley's book The Winter Sea (my review) last year, I knew it wouldn't be my last.  I had so much fun with her combination of past and present and her unique "sort of not really time travel" romance books.  Haha. Wonder what category they fall into?  When I saw Sourcebooks had a little contest on their Facebook page I entered to win her newest one re-published by Sourcebooks.  It was already published in the UK by Allison & Busby but Sourcebooks publishes her US books. I just love the covers they do...gorgeous!  The Firebird does not disappoint. In fact, while I liked Ms Kearsley's books before, I am now a solid fan.  I'm tacking her up in my list of go-to feel-good get you out of your reading slump authors.

Back of the book:

With a simple touch, she can see an object's past. All who have wanted it. All who have owned it. All who have stolen it.

Nicola Marter was born with a gift so rare and dangerous, she keeps it buried deep. But when she encounters a desperate woman trying to sell a modest wooden carving she claims belonged to Russia's Empress Catherine, Nicola knows the truth.

There is one with greater powers than Nicola's, but he's a man she can neither love nor lose. Together, they'll pursue answers' and perhaps untold rewards. In once-glittering St. Pettersburg, the tale of The Firebird unfolds, irrevocably changing all who've pursued its secrets.

My thoughts:

It was just coincidence that the only other Kearsley book I've read is The Winter Sea - which if you look on Goodreads is touted as Slains Book #1 and The Firebird as Slains Book #2.  Don't think that you have to read The Winter Sea first or anything.  Mainly it's fun for Kearsley fans to see repeat characters and locations.  And I think that Rob is a repeat character from her novel The Shadowy Horses but I haven't read that one yet.

What originally drew me to this story is the Russian connection.  I had known from some college courses the significance of the firebird in Russian lore so I was excited to see how a Slains Castle in Scotland, the Jacobite Revolution, and Russia had in common.  The story was just a smidgen slow but once the characters entered Russia then the story really took off.  While I enjoyed Nicola Marter and Rob's story of their search for the history of a small wood carving of a firebird, it was Anna's story that made me hunker down and devour the book.  How this Scottish girl flees during the Jacobite Revolution and ends up in Russia is fascinating.  Ms Kearsley's description of St Petersberg - one of my top five places to visit - is so vivid.

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of catching a chat night with Susanna Kearsley on Sourcebook's Facebook page.  She is so down to earth and awesome.  I believe they still have the transcripts up.  I loved hearing how she developed her characters, how she researched (a lot of her characters are actually historical figures!), and her take on genetic memory.

Other covers:

While beautiful, I don't think this cover really depicts the time period or subject matter of the book:

Also Reviewed By:
Burton Book Review
Drey's Library
Historical Novel Review
Historical Novel Society
Library of Clean Reads

Monday, June 24, 2013

Upcoming Good Reads

I thought I'd do a little post about my upcoming reads.

Nicole Galland's newest book Godiva is my next read.  The book comes out July 2nd and I've been emailing her and it looks like I'll be able to do a little interview with her.  Yippee! I fell in love with her work after reading I, Iago (my review) last year.  I also have her novel Revenge of the Rose on my shelf to read which will hopefully get read before the summer is out.  If you notice, Nicole sent me a copy and I got another copy so I'll be able to do a giveaway!

If you head over to Book Bath's blog, you'll see she's gearing up for Paris in July.  I love love this idea and for the past couple of years can't help but join in the fun.  I snagged the library book sale copy of Foreign Tongue last year in anticipation for this.  I have no clue about the author or book so we'll see.  I've also been sitting on The Paris Wife for WAY too long.  I read almost a 100 pages and loved it but somehow got sidetracked a while back.  I'll be starting over and finishing it up.  I might be biased though because I'm fascinated with Hemingway.  I adore For Whom the Bell Tolls but so far haven't loved any of his other works as much as that one.

I won this copy of Nancy Bilyeau's novel The Crown from Peeking Between the Pages. I've heard such great things about this series so when I was asked to join the TLC Book Tour for her second novel The Chalice in August I jumped!  I just DEVOURED The Crown - absolutely loved it - and am so excited they sent me a paperback copy as well. So I'll be able to do another giveaway!  Yay!

So far this has been a great summer to read.  For those of you who don't know, my toddler Rocket is about to get a little brother in just a few weeks so lately I've been having to just kick up my feet and take it easy. Which means more time to read!  This was my view from my chair yesterday:

I hope everyone else is having a great summer and enjoying their reads!  What have you been reading or looking forward to read?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Book Envy - The Ocean at the End of the Lane

I was beyond excited and surprised when this showed up in my mail a couple of days ago. I did not think I'd get so lucky to get Neil Gaiman's latest.  How beautiful is this little gem?  Today is the publication date so you too can run out and buy it.

Because everyone should look this happy when they read a book:

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Doctor Who Giveaway Winner!

Thanks to everyone who entered my giveaway for Doctor Who!  Not to waste any more timey wimey, the winner is:

Scott D.!

Congratulations!  I'll be emailing you and asking to confirm which of the three books you'd like.  I'll admit that Who-ology is AWESOME for any new or old fan.

Monday, June 10, 2013

My Name is Memory - Ann Brashares

Title: My Name is Memory
Author: Ann Brashares
Hardcover: 324 pages
Audiobook: 10 hours, 55 min
Narrators: Kathe Mazur & Lincoln Hoppe
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Published date: 2010
FTC: Hardcover bought at library bookstore, audio from library

I snagged a hardcover copy of My Name is Memory from the library bookstore. I remember a few years ago it receiving pretty good reviews and I read her novel The Last Summer of You (and Me) and thought she was a pretty good author (my review).  I'm trying to make room on my rapidly bulging bookshelves right now so when I saw the library had the audiobook I snagged it up.  Note: I pretty much always will have a different opinion of a book solely based on audio - there's just so many different things to judge when listening versus reading.

Back of the book:

Daniel has spent centuries falling in love with the same girl. Life after life, crossing continents and dynasties, he and Sophia (despite her changing name and form) have been drawn together-and he remembers it all. Daniel has "the memory", the ability to recall past lives and recognize souls of those he's previously known. It is a gift and a curse. For all the times that he and Sophia have been drawn together throughout history, they have also been torn painfully, fatally, apart. A love always too short.

Interwoven through Sophia and Daniel's unfolding present day relationship are glimpses of their expansive history together. From 552 Asia Minor to 1918 England and 1972 Virginia, the two souls share a long and sometimes torturous path of seeking each other time and time again. But just when young Sophia (now "Lucy" in the present) finally begins to awaken to the secret of their shared past, to understand the true reason for the strength of their attraction, the mysterious force that has always torn them apart reappears. Ultimately, they must come to understand what stands in the way of their love if they are ever to spend a lifetime together.

A magical, suspenseful, heartbreaking story of true love, My Name is Memory proves the power and endurance of a union that was meant to be.

My thoughts:

My Name is Memory is such an original and unique love story.  I really enjoyed Daniel's narration and part of the story.  Lincoln Hoppe did an excellent job telling his story and perhaps it's because I love history but the narrations of his previous lives were fascinating.  Although I couldn't help but think that after all of his lives and the fact that he could remember everything, he still seemed so young and naive.   His basis for his great love with Sophia also seemed a bit weak.  It's what I'd think a person married to their soul mate and true love for 50 years would compare to a high school kid with their first crush.  Daniel seemed more on the high school crush level.  But whatever.

The writing, as I was expecting from my experience with The Last Summer of You (and Me) is awesome.  But there's still something I didn't like.  Both My Name is Memory and The Last Summer of You (and Me) are touted as Adult books versus her YA series Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.  But I just don't see it.  While My Name is Memory starts with Daniel and Lucy meeting in high school, the majority of the story takes place while Lucy is in college and grad school - so adult right?  I guess it just still seems like a YA book.  Maybe like I said above, it's because it's still got a bit of that cheese of high school crush/first love stuff.

Lucy wasn't my favorite character.  I mean she just seemed like one of those blase bland Twilight Bella characters who just kind of course through like waiting for something or someone to happen rather than take control. That always bothers me.  The narration in the audio book was also a bit odd.  When flash backing to Daniel's past, Lincoln Hoppe narrated.  But present-day Lucy was narrated by Kathe Mazur - makes sense.  But sometimes present-day Daniel was narrated by Ms Mazur as well.  Seemed odd.  But they both did a great job: weren't annoying and easy to follow along.

The other irksome thing is the ending.  It doesn't really wrap up nicely and just leaves you hanging.  Ann Brashares said on her blog that she plans on writing a sequel but I'm not sure how that is going.  Will I read it if/when it comes out?  Hmm.  Maybe.  I think that it's because of despite the well written and unique story, the relationship between Daniel and Lucy still seemed too YA and juvenile for me.  Would I have loved this story when I was younger? Absolutely. But touted as an "adult" novel it just didn't do it for me.