Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday Valentine's Day Edition

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. There is a new subject each week and this week's theme is Valentine's Day.

Books to Read for Valentine's Day:

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

When you like your romance with a side of laughter and tears...

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

When you still have some tears left to cry after reading Me Before You...

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

When you want a sometimes sad but ultimately hopeful story of friendship and love...

Persuasion by Jane Austen

When you'd like a second chance at love...

Spring Fever by Mary Kay Andrews

Another second chance love story but with humor and a Southern setting...

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

When you want to read a classic romance about two people who start out despising each other but then fall in love...

The Pursuit of Mary Bennet by Pamela Mingle

If you think Mary Bennet deserves her own love story and happier ending...

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

If you are clueless in love and want to read about someone even more clueless who gets into hilarious situations and misunderstandings...

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

If you have a younger sister who would mail the secret love letters you wrote to boys you have a crush on...

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

When you would rather read a heartwarming story about the love of friends and family...

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Sunday Post (40) / It's Monday, What Are You Reading

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme now hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

It was another quiet week for me. Work has been busy, particularly in the mornings. I had one morning by myself at the help desk and the phone was ringing off the hook. I barely managed to keep up till a coworker came up to help. I guess that makes the days go faster! This week we are supposed to get snow, possibly as much as 6 inches but I am keeping my fingers crossed that it is 1-2 inches instead. I plan to go to the grocery store later today to stock up just in case.

I am working through some programming ideas I have like a chocolate tasting that I hope to do on the night of our second Edible Book Festival this April. The time is just flying by! I need to get things together so we can advertise next month. I had hoped to have a local chocolatier come in but that doesn't seem to be working out so I think I will be running the program myself. Thankfully a librarian at another library near by gave me some really good ideas from her own chocolate tasting program she did last year. I also reached out to a programming group I belong to on Facebook and they have been helpful too. I hope to have the details ironed out by the end of the week. 

I started watching Grease Live! on Hulu this past week. I like it so far but it isn't as good as the film version which is what I am most familiar with. I've also been watching old episodes of Foyle's War on Netflix. I enjoyed that show when it was on PBS. I found last week's episode of The Flash to be a snooze but this week should be interesting as they travel to Earth 2 and Killer Frost is introduced. Arrow is much more entertaining at the moment and Agent Carter is pretty good too.

#FitReaders Weekly Check In

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

Sunday--11,872 steps, exercised 72 minutes
Monday--11,305 steps, exercised 45 minutes
Tuesday--11,726 steps, exercised 62 minutes
Wednesday--11,262 steps, exercised 45 minutes
Thursday--11,074 steps, exercised 45 minutes
Friday--12,774 steps, exercised 60 minutes
Saturday--11,260 steps, exercised 60 minutes

Last week on my blog:

The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth (review)

Books read:

Starflight by Melissa Landers

I liked this one a lot. It is a fun space adventure story that I think readers who don't usually read science fiction would also enjoy. My review will be up later this week.

Currently reading:

These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas

I originally thought this book was set during the Regency (probably because the book description mentions Jane Austen) but it is set in the 1880s which I would have realized if I'd read the description more carefully! I think it is entertaining.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (reread)

I've made more progress and am now in Lothlorien. I hope to finish The Fellowship of the Ring this week.

What I might read next:

The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine

New books arrived:

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken (library book)

The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry (library book)

The Paris Key by Juliet Blackwell (library book)

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (library book)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Review: The Things We Keep

The Things We Keep
By Sally Hepworth
Published: January 19, 2016

Anna Forster, in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease at only thirty-eight years old, knows that her family is doing what they believe to be best when they take her to Rosalind House, an assisted living facility. She also knows there's just one other resident her age, Luke. What she does not expect is the love that blossoms between her and Luke even as she resists her new life at Rosalind House. As her disease steals more and more of her memory, Anna fights to hold on to what she knows, including her relationship with Luke.

When Eve Bennett is suddenly thrust into the role of single mother she finds herself putting her culinary training to use at Rosalind house. When she meets Anna and Luke she is moved by the bond the pair has forged. But when a tragic incident leads Anna's and Luke's families to separate them, Eve finds herself questioning what she is willing to risk to help them.

My review:

This is not the first book I've read featuring a protagonist with early onset Alzheimer's but in the case of Still Alice, the main character had just turned 50 when she was diagnosed. Anna is 38 and maybe because we are about the same age, I could put myself more easily in her shoes. Anna is at the prime of her life when the disease takes over. She used to be an adventurous person and a successful paramedic but now she lives at Rosalind House where the other residents are elderly with the exception of Luke who has a different kind of dementia. Anna has a twin brother Jack who does not have the disease Anna inherited from their mother. She also has a father who has been out of their lives since they were young. 

It is sad to see Anna's decline even as she begins a clandestine relationship with Luke, whom she refers to as "Young Guy" because she can't remember his name.  The book moves back and forth between the present time and months earlier when Anna and Luke first became a couple. There are some secrets that are revealed slowly to the reader since Anna doesn't remember what happened. 

The other main character is Eve, a single mother with a sad past. I felt bad for Eve and the way people in the town treated her and her daughter Clementine. It was awful and I thought Eve was brave in trying to protect her daughter from it. Eve could be naive when it came to the people at Rosalind House, especially Anna, but she meant well. Clementine is a sweet and precocious girl and I loved her interactions with the seniors at Rosalind House.The secondary characters were fun. I liked Clara and Laurie and especially Bert who could be prickly but kept his wife's memory alive and had a sweet grandfatherly relationship with Clem.

While I really liked this book and it made me think about how I would feel in Anna's situation, I didn't feel quite the same emotional punch that I had when reading Still Alice. That could be because the book was told through Eve's perspective as well as Anna's. I did like how the novel explored the idea of how people love and how that ability to care about another person at such a deep level doesn't fade even though memory might. Overall I thought this was a worthwhile read and I think book groups would find much to discuss.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (174)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly meme to discuss upcoming books we can't wait to get our hands on. Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week, I'm waiting on:

The Forbidden Orchid by Sharon Biggs Waller
Release date: March 8, 2016

The adventures of a British girl in China, hunting for the orchid that will save her family.

Staid, responsible Elodie Buchanan is the eldest of ten sisters growing up in a small English market town in 1861. The girls barely know their father, a plant hunter usually off adventuring through China, more myth than man. Then disaster strikes: Mr. Buchanan reneges on his contract to collect an extremely rare and valuable orchid. He will be thrown into debtors’ prison while his daughters are sent to the orphanage and the workhouse.

Elodie can’t stand by and see her family destroyed, so she persuades her father to return to China once more to try to hunt down the flower—only this time, despite everything she knows about her place in society, Elodie goes with him. She has never before left her village, but what starts as fear turns to wonder as she adapts to seafaring life aboard the tea clipper The Osprey, and later to the new sights, dangers, and romance of China. She comes to find that both the world and her place in it are so much bigger than she’d ever dreamed. But now, even if she canfind the orchid, how can she ever go back to being the staid, responsible Elodie that everybody needs?

This YA historical novel has received a lot of starred reviews. I think the protagonist sounds like a great character and the setting appeals to me too. 

Mata Hari's Last Dance by Michelle Moran
Release date: July 19, 2016

From the international bestselling author of Rebel Queen and Nefertiti comes a captivating novel about the infamous Mata Hari, exotic dancer, adored courtesan, and, possibly, relentless spy.

Paris, 1917. The notorious dancer Mata Hari sits in a cold cell awaiting freedom…or death. Alone and despondent, Mata Hari is as confused as the rest of the world about the charges she’s been arrested on: treason leading to the deaths of thousands of French soldiers.
As Mata Hari waits for her fate to be decided, she relays the story of her life to a reporter who is allowed to visit her in prison. Beginning with her carefree childhood, Mata Hari recounts her father’s cruel abandonment of her family as well her calamitous marriage to a military officer. Taken to the island of Java, Mata Hari refuses to be ruled by her abusive husband and instead learns to dance, paving the way to her stardom as Europe’s most infamous dancer.

From Indian temples and Parisian theatres to German barracks in war-torn Europe, international bestselling author Michelle Moran who “expertly balances fact and fiction” (Associated Press) brings to vibrant life the famed world of Mata Hari: dancer, courtesan, and possibly, spy.

I'm a fan of Michelle Moran's historical fiction and I don't know much about Mata Hari so this novel sounds fascinating to me. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Top Ten Historical Settings

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. There is a new subject each week and this week's topic is "Top Ten Historical Settings".

World War II

Whether it's on the home front in the U.S. and England or in war-torn Europe I like reading books that are set during this time period. When I was a teen, I read both true accounts like Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl and The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom and fiction like the Zion Covenant series about a young violinist smuggling Jewish children to safety. More recently I read Sarah Sundin's inspirational Wings of Glory series about three American brothers who serve in the armed forces and the excellent Maggie Hope mysteries by Susan Elia MacNeal. Other favorites are The Nightingale, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Book Thief. I also loved the TV series Home Fires, which is based on the nonfiction book Jambusters (published in the States as Home Fires--haven't read it yet), about the role of the Women's Institute during the war. Really I have too many books to list here...

Tudor and Elizabethan England

I love studying about this time period and really got into it in college when I took a course called British History from the Tudors. It covered other time periods but the Tudor period was my favorite. I l enjoyed reading about Henry VIII and his six wives as well as Mary Tudor, Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. So much drama and scandal, it's hard to believe its true! I love reading historical novels either about real people that lived back then or ordinary people whose lives intersected. Some of the books I've enjoyed include The Maids of Honor series by Jennifer McGowan,The King's Rose by Alisa Libby, Tarnish by Katherine Longshore, the Lacey Chronicles by Eve Edwards (The Other Countess, etc.), The Queen's Governess by Karen Harper, My Lady of Cleves by Margaret Campbell Barnes and Fiona Buckley's Lady Ursula mysteries. I also like the nonfiction titles of authors like Alison Weir and Antonia Fraser.

Roaring 20s and the 1930s

I wasn't really into this time period until recently after watching shows like Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (based on the Kerry Greenwood mystery novels) and Downton Abbey, which now is set in the 20s. Deanna Raybourn's City of Jasmine, Night of a Thousand Stars and A Spear of Summer Grass all take place in the 20s as does Lauren Willig's The Other Daughter and Libba Bray's The Diviners and Lair of Dreams. Rhys Bowen's fun Her Royal Spyness mysteries are set in the 1930s and feature real historical figures. Ashley Weaver's Amory Ames mysteries (Murder at the Brightwell) also take place during that time.

Early 20th Century-World War I

I think Downton Abbey really impacted the publishing industry as the market filled with books set during this time period to fill the growing demand for books "like Downton Abbey". Some of the titles I've read include Cinders and Sapphires by Leila Rasheed and Summerset Abbey by T.J. Brown which are very similar to Downton Abbey by covering the lives of servants and aristocrats. A Question of Honor by Charles Todd is a historical mystery (part of the Bess Crawford series) set during this time period as are Velvet Undercover by Teri Brown and These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly.  Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery also takes place in the early 20th Century. 

Regency England

Jane Austen's novels are among my favorite books, especially Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. I also enjoy reading other novels set during this time whether spin-offs from Austen novels like The Pursuit of Mary Bennet, mysteries like A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin, fun spy/romance novels like the Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig, or historical romances like Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson and A Heart Revealed by Josi S. Kilpack.

Victorian England

This is another time period I like to read about from classics like Dickens' Great Expectations and A Christmas Carol to Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South and Cranford. Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia mysteries take place in this setting as does Y.S. Lee's fantastic Agency mysteries for teens. 

Pioneer fiction

I find this time period in American history fascinating. What drove people to pack up and move to the West? The journey there and the hardships they faced leave me with awe. I couldn't imagine doing that or starting over somewhere new in those conditions. I loved Little House on the Prairie as a little girl (both the show and the books) and later became interested in reading about the Oregon Trail and the Gold Rush. Some books I've read during this time include True Sisters by Sandra Dallas and Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson. 

1950s-1960s America

I think this was an interesting time in our recent history because of all the changes in society from the Civil Rights Movement to women's rights, the space race and protesting the Vietnam War. Some books that I've read that are set during this time are The Help by Kathryn Stockett, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman, The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore, Lay That Trumpet in Our Hands by Susan Carol McCarthy, A Fireproof Home for the Bride by Amy Scheibe, Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain and the YA novel I'm Glad I Did by Cynthia Weil.

French Revolution

I've been fascinated by this time period since I read The Scarlet Pimpernel as a kid. I know that it is a pretty macabre topic and it is still hard to believe that so many innocent people died to end the monarchy in France. Some novels I've read that are set during this time include Madame Tussaud by Michele Moran,  The Queen's Dollmaker by Christine Trent, Love's First Light by Jamie Carie, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner and The Bad Queen by Carolyn Meyer.

17th and 18th Century Scotland

I have been interested in Scottish history since I was a kid but this time period captured my attention as a teen when I read Lady of the Glen by Jennifer Roberson about the Glencoe Massacre in the 1600s. Then I discovered Outlander by Diana Gabaldon which takes place partly in the 1940s and then the 1700s when Claire travels back in time. I loved the setting and the historical details the author included. Another favorite is The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. Some of her other novels also tie in with Scottish history like The Firebird and A Desperate Fortune which are about Scottish people in Exile. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sunday Post (39) / It's Monday, What Are You Reading

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme now hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

It is so nice to see weather in the 50s in January! I am going to enjoy it for as long as it lasts! I plan to do some shopping later this afternoon. I like to go to the grocery store on Sunday afternoons when I can. I also might visit the craft store though if I go in I know I'll be leaving with more coloring supplies I don't need. I think I have an addiction. I just bought a set of Fiskars gel pens on Amazon though they were a good deal so I can sort of justify it.  :)

I didn't get much reading done this week. Part of the problem was the book I was reading that failed to hold my attention and I ended up deciding not to finish it. It is sad when a book receives rave reviews but it turns out to be a disappointment. I think some people will love it but I just couldn't care about the characters or the story. I did finish one book. I listened to the final hours of The Last Command while coloring yesterday evening and it was very relaxing. Now that I'm done listening to that one I need to decide what I want to spend my Audible credits on. I may just buy a couple of the Harry Potter books and start rereading that series. I like to get audio books that I know I'll listen to more than once otherwise it isn't worth it to me.

I spent a lot of time catching up on TV shows this week with new episodes of Agent Carter (still need to watch the latest one) and the new Arrow/The Flash spin off, Legends of Tomorrow (watched the first part of the pilot). I now have six shows that I watch (Jane the Virgin, Arrow, The Flash, Agent Carter, Legends of Tomorrow and Downton Abbey). Thankfully Once Upon a Time is still on a hiatus. I am not sure if I will continue watching Legends of Tomorrow but we'll see. Agent Carter usually only has 8 episodes a season so by spring I should be able to reduce my TV viewing again. Of course Fuller House will be on Netflix in February. Not sure if I will like that one. I'm more excited about the Gilmore Girls revival which was just confirmed by Netflix. I can't wait to see it!

Yesterday was the Coloring and Cocoa program at the library and while I had 18 people signed up, only 10 people showed up. I suspect the unseasonably warm weather and sunshine had something to do with it! Everyone who attended had a good time. I printed off free coloring sheets on card stock and regular paper and they really seemed to like coloring with the gel pens and Sharpies. Some people used the colored pencils too but the Crayola Twistables were not a big hit. My next coloring program is at the end of February. I'm hoping that we won't have bad weather but that it will be a little colder so people will show up!

#FitReaders Weekly Check In

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

I've now had my Fitbit One for a month and I noticed that it's definitely motivating me to move more. I've been trying to get more exercise in lately and have taken to working out in the morning and then again in the evening with a quick 15 minute workout before supper. Don't be too impressed :) --it's just walking workouts with Leslie Sansone so it is very low impact compared to some of the other workouts I've tried. I can't do anything that involves jumping up and down due to acid reflux issues but the real problem is that I don't feel like I'm hitting my target heart rate by walking.

Sunday--10,326 steps, exercised 41 minutes
Monday--12,304 steps, exercised 38 minutes
Tuesday--11,848 steps, exercised 52 minutes
Wednesday--11,438 steps, exercised 53 minutes
Thursday--11,101 steps, exercised 52 minutes
Friday--10,488 steps, exercised 55 minutes
Saturday--14,643 steps, exercised 67 minutes

Last week on my blog:

Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan (review)

Books read:

The Last Command by Timothy Zahn (reread)


I wanted to read this book because the premise sounded interesting and I'd heard so many good things about it. Unfortunately it didn't turn out to be the book for me. There are too many view points and characters to keep track of and it just created this distance between me and the characters. Maybe it is just the translation but it felt like the author was trying too hard to give us a quirky book with quirky and charming characters in their quaint town. It didn't work for me.

Currently reading:

Starflight by Melissa Landers

The author described this book as Overboard (the Goldie Hawn/Kurt Russell film) meets Firefly. While I'm not familiar with Firefly, I can definitely see the similarities with Overboard and I like it so far.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (reread)

I made some progress with this one and I am now in the mines of Moria. Things are definitely picking up!

What I plan to read next:

These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas

I was beyond thrilled to be approved for an ARC of this though it is published next week. I think it sounds like fun. I think the ARC might expire soon which is why I moved it up the list ahead of The Impostor Queen

The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine

New books received:

These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas (for review)

Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell (for review)

The Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright (library book)

My Fair Gentleman by Nancy Campbell Allen (library book)

The Illegal by Lawrence Hill (library book)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Review: Sword and Verse

Sword and Verse
By Kathy MacMillan
Published: January 19, 2016

In a sweeping fantasy that award-winning author Franny Billingsley called "fascinating and unique," debut author Kathy MacMillan weaves palace intrigue and epic world building to craft a tale for fans of Rae Carson and Megan Whalen Turner.

Raisa was just a child when she was sold into slavery in the kingdom of Qilara. Before she was taken away, her father had been adamant that she learn to read and write. But where she now lives, literacy is a capital offense for all but the nobility. The written language is closely protected, and only the King, Prince, Tutor, and Tutor-in-training are allowed to learn its very highest form. So when she is plucked from her menial labor and selected to replace the last Tutor-in-training, who was executed, Raisa knows that betraying any hint of her past could mean death.

Keeping her secret guarded is hard enough, but the romance that's been blossoming between her and Prince Mati isn't helping matters. Then Raisa is approached by the Resistance—an underground rebel army—to help liberate the city's slaves. She wants to free her people, but that would mean aiding a war against Mati. As Raisa struggles with what to do, she discovers a secret that the Qilarites have been hiding for centuries—one that, if uncovered, could bring the kingdom to its knees.

My review:

Raisa has been a slave since childhood when the Qilarites raided the island where she grew up. All she has left is the heart verse that her father gave her and it is her dream to one day learn to read it. But learning to read and write is forbidden for slaves and she spends her time cleaning the palace library rather than reading. When a chance encounter with Prince Mati leads to her being tested to be a tutor in training, Raisa's fortunes start to change for the better. Just because she now has plenty to eat and better clothes and more freedom doesn't change the fact that she is still a slave however and the Resistance wants her to help them the way her late predecessor did. But Raisa has fallen in love with Mati and though she wants to help her people she also doesn't want to betray him.

Whenever I see a new book compared to something I love (in this case the novels of Rae Carson), I am skeptical but I was surprisingly pleased with this YA fantasy debut. I liked the main character and even though I was frustrated with her reticence over joining the Resistance, I could still understand why it was a difficult choice for her to make. I admired Raisa's determination to learn and the way she was still looking out for the child slaves in the palace. She isn't without flaws but she is a likable protagonist. While Prince Mati was nice, I kind of wished the romance was a little less prominent. Their relationship goes through ups and downs as they have to hide it and Mati is expected to marry someone suitable. 

The novel had excellent worldbuilding and a detailed mythology. In between each chapter, there is a brief segment about the gods and how language was given to man. I found the mythology to be interesting and it is important to the story. I also liked the political intrigue. Things at court are definitely complicated with lots of plotting going on. In a way I was reminded of some other YA fantasy novels I've enjoyed like An Ember in the Ashes and The Winner's Curse and maybe just a hint of The Girl of Fire and Thorns. Another big plus is that the novel can be read as a standalone even though there will be a companion novel. I think readers who like YA fantasy and forbidden romance will enjoy Sword and Verse

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss