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

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (173)

"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:

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Release date: March 8, 2016

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mythical beasts still roam the wild and remote areas, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinn still perform their magic.  For humans, it’s an unforgiving place, especially if you’re poor, orphaned, or female. 

Amani Al’Hiza is all three.  She’s a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim, but she can’t shoot her way out of Dustwalk, the back-country town where she’s destined to wind up wed or dead.
Then she meets Jin, a rakish foreigner, in a shooting contest, and sees him as the perfect escape route. But though she’s spent years dreaming of leaving Dustwalk, she never imagined she’d gallop away on mythical horse—or that it would take a foreign fugitive to show her the heart of the desert she thought she knew.

Rebel of the Sands reveals what happens when a dream deferred explodes—in the fires of rebellion, of romantic passion, and the all-consuming inferno of a girl finally, at long last, embracing her power.

I started reading an excerpt of this and I really liked it. I think this YA fantasy definitely has potential.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Top Ten Bookish Sountracks

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 Bookish Soundtracks".

I was trying to come up with a topic for this week's freebie Top Ten and thought this might be fun. My list includes soundtracks and scores that are connected with books. 

The links will take you to Amazon where you can listen to clips from the soundtracks. *I am not an Amazon affiliate so I get no money if you use the link to buy anything*

The Lord of the Rings (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King)
Score by Howard Shore and novel by J.R.R. Tolkien

I recently started rereading The Fellowship of the Ring and I decided to listen to the soundtrack while I read which made it more fun, especially during the suspenseful parts. I'd say The Fellowship of the Ring is my favorite score followed by The Two Towers because I love the Rohan theme an then The Return of the King.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (and other films in the series)
Score by John Williams and novels by J.K. Rowling

John Williams is known for creating memorable movie scores and the Harry Potter score was no exception. Hedwig's Theme is probably my favorite piece from the movies and the most popular (a lot of people had it for their ringtones). When you hear it you immediately connect it to Harry Potter. Of course John Williams didn't score all of the films but his themes are used for all of them in different variations.

The Hunger Games
Soundtrack by various artists (The Civil Wars, Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, etc.) and novel by Suzanne Collins

I think this soundtrack is a good match for the novel, especially the songs by The Civil Wars and Arcade Fire. There is a folk rock kind of sound to a lot of the songs that puts me in mind of District 12.

Score by Bear McCreary and novel by Diana Gabaldon

My favorite song from the soundtrack is of course The Skye Boat Song but I also like the Scottish traditional songs (Clean Pease Strae which I believe was also used in Braveheart) and the score in general has a Celtic feel to it. I think it would be fantastic to listen to this while reading the books or just for fun. There is a video on YouTube from last Christmas of a yule log in front of a crackling fire with music from the series. I would put it on my TV and relax and read.

Game of Thrones
Score by Ramin Djawadi and novels by George R.R. Martin

The main theme is my favorite and a ringtone on my phone (though it is harder to hear when my phone is in my purse). I also like some of the other themes used throughout the series. I haven't listened to the soundtrack while reading the books yet but I may have to do so.

Star Wars (original trilogy)
Score by John Williams and novels by Timothy Zahn

While these soundtracks could be connected with any Star Wars novelization or novel, I particularly like Timothy Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy. The audio books actually incorporate music from the films and sound effects and that makes the listening/reading experience that much more enjoyable.

The Help
Soundtrack by various artists (Johnny Cash,The Four Seasons, Ray Charles, etc.) and novel by Kathryn Stockett

I love music from the 60s so the soundtrack really appealed to me and as the novel is set during that time period, it was a perfect fit. 

Pride and Prejudice
Score by Dario Marianelli and novel by Jane Austen

This soundtrack is just so pretty. My favorite songs are Liz on Top of the World, The Living Sculptures of Pemberley and A Postcard to Henry Purcell (from the dance scene at Netherfield Ball). I am also a fan of Carl Davis and Melvyn Tan's score from the Pride and Prejudice miniseries. I own CDs of both versions.

The Last of the Mohicans
Score by Randy Edelman and Trevor Jones and novel by James Fenimore Cooper

The movie is very different from the book (I tried to read it after seeing the movie but didn't finish) but I love the soundtrack so I'm putting it on the list! It is used really well in the film to dramatic effect.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Score by Harry Gregson-Williams and novel by C.S. Lewis

This soundtrack really adds the right touch to the movie and some of the songs seem to really capture the magic of Narnia (especially The Wardrobe and A Narnia Lullaby) which is why I put it on the list. The first movie and book are my favorite. I have yet to read the whole series but hope to do so this year.


Score by Carter Burwell

I may not be a big Twilight fan anymore (my copy of the book was shredded for the Guess the Book in the Jar contest at the library last year) but I still enjoy the music from the movies, particularly Bella's Lullaby which was my ringtone for awhile. I think the score is lovely even if the film was not and it definitely reminds me of the novel's setting. The soundtrack is pretty catchy too. It brought groups like Paramore and Muse to my attention. I also enjoyed the soundtrack to Breaking Dawn Part 1 with the memorable songs by Christina Perri and Bruno Mars.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sunday Post (38) / 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.

I had a quiet and chilly week with not much going on (but at least we didn't get all the snow!). It was nice to have a free weekend. I watched some movies (The Intern and Learning to Drive) and finished my book discussion book. I also worked on getting my reviews caught up. Some reviews were from books I read early last year or in 2014 so I won't be publishing them here. I still have a lot more to go. 

This week I have my Coloring and Cocoa for Grownups program on Saturday. I am looking forward to it. I believe I now have 15 people signed up to attend and so far it looks like the weather will be cooperating. I bought Crayola markers and colored pencils and now I am waiting for the gel pens to arrive from Amazon. I have to find and print some coloring pages but thankfully there are a lot of free ones online and they are easy to find on Pinterest. 

I was happy to be able to book a ballroom dancing instructor. We will be offering three classes and then if there is interest, we will have four more to complete the session. I am also toying with the idea of a trivia night. I've been wanting to do one for a few years. We had hoped to partner with a local brewery for a fundraiser trivia night but it never happened so I might just have one at the library without the beer. Now that my summer reading program is almost planned I need to think about spring programs like the edible book festival. I enjoy planning programs and the creativity involved but it can also be stressful. I think this is the first year I've been so organized about it. I know last year I was planning the summer reading program in May and it started in June!

#FitReaders Weekly Check In

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

There were a few days that I didn't get that many steps in at work this past week. Part of the problem is that it was so cold out that I didn't leave the library on my break like I usually do. I spent a lot of time sitting at my desk so when I got home I worked out again to make up for it. I found a quick (15 minute) workout video that I like on YouTube from Leslie Sansone. It is supposed to be part of a new DVD later this year and I think I may end up buying it because I like it so much. This week I'm going to try harder to get up and move at work! 

Sunday--11,032 steps, exercised 62 minutes
Monday--10,224 steps, exercised 41 minutes
Tuesday--10,315 steps, exercised 41 minutes
Wednesday--10,871 steps, exercised 50 minutes
Thursday--10,231 steps, exercised 30 minutes
Friday--10,133 steps, exercised 43 minutes
Saturday--11,138 steps, exercised 53 minutes

Last week on my blog:

Death Wears a Mask by Ashley Weaver (review)

Books read:

All In by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I love this series! This book was full of suspense and twists and turns. I couldn't figure out who the killer was and the ending was shocking. Can't wait for the next one!

Once this story got going, I liked it. It reminded me of other books I've read in my book group and I look forward to hearing what other members thought of it.

Currently reading:

This is slow going. I love the mention of all the books but it is kind of like a cozy without the mystery.

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

Still in Rivendell. Not much progress for me or the characters.

The Last Command by Timothy Zahn (reread)

I was surprised by how much I forgot about this story. I know I read this series several times as a teen and then picked it up again in 2011 or 2012 and I love the books but for some reason I forgot some of the details so it/s almost like reading it for the first time.

What I might read next:

Starflight by Melissa Landers

I absolutely loved Alienated and Invaded so I'm pretty excited to read Starflight, the first book in a new series.

The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine

New arrivals:

The Dressmaker's War by Mary Chamberlain (library book)

Baking with Mary Berry by Mary Berry (library book)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Review: Death Wears a Mask

Death Wears a Mask
By Ashley Weaver
Published: October 13, 2015

Amory Ames is looking forward to a tranquil period of reconnecting with reformed playboy husband Milo after an unexpected reconciliation following the murderous events at the Brightwell Hotel. Amory hopes a quiet stay at their London flat will help mend their dysfunctional relationship. However, she soon finds herself drawn into another investigation when Serena Barrington asks her to look into the disappearance of valuable jewelry snatched at a dinner party.

Unable to say no to an old family friend, Amory agrees to help lay a trap to catch the culprit at a lavish masked ball hosted by the notorious Viscount Dunmore. But when one of the illustrious party guests is murdered, Amory is pulled back into the world of detection, enlisted by old ally Detective Inspector Jones. As she works through the suspect list, she struggles to fend off the advances of the very persistent viscount even as rumors swirl about Milo and a French film star. Once again, Amory and Milo must work together to solve a mystery where nothing is as it seems, set in the heart of 1930s society London.

Death Wears a Mask is the second novel in Ashley Weaver's witty and stylish Amory and Milo Ames mystery series.

My review:

I enjoyed this sequel to Murder at the Brightwell. Once again, I couldn't figure out who the killer was until the end and the novel balances the lighthearted moments well with the mystery. 

In this second novel, Amory gets involved in investigating a jewelry theft. She is sure that there is nothing harmful in helping out a family friend but then someone is murdered. Is it related to the theft of the jewelry or something entirely separate? Once again Amory is part of a murder investigation and also doubting Milo's faithfulness. 

The setting of this novel is fun with the masked ball and high society. Amory's mistakes also add to the humor as she tries to figure out the identity of the jewel thief and the killer and there are plenty of suspects and some red herrings. My only annoyance was the repeat of the storyline with Milo. By now it is obvious that he loves his wife and she just needs to be able to trust him. Unfortunately he is popular with ladies and newspaper reporters love to write about scandals, even made up ones.

I think readers who like Rhys Bowen's Lady Georgiana mysteries would love this series. I suggest reading Murder at the Brightwell first. Although Death Wears a Mask could be read as a standalone, readers will get a better introduction to Amory and Milo by starting at the beginning.

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

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sunday Post (37) / 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.

So snow finally arrived this past week and I ended up staying home from work on Tuesday. Thankfully it didn't stick around long and the roads were fine after that. This week it is supposed to be pretty cold (high of 12 F tomorrow). I am not looking forward to it!

This week our winter reading program kicks off at the library and I will be busy planning the adult summer reading program. It is normal to start planning big events this far in advance and performers often fill their schedules quickly. Usually I don't have outside performers come in but this year I am partnering with the Children's department to bring a penguin to the library (even though it has nothing to do with our theme of Exercise Your Mind!). Penguins are one of my favorite animals and what I like about this program is that patrons can actually pet the penguin. I was very happy that we were able to book the Newport Aquarium and now I need to figure out my other programs. One idea is to offer a one time ballroom dancing class if I can convince our local Center for the Arts to do it.

Sad to hear that Alan Rickman passed away. He was such a talented actor! I first saw him in Robin Hood as the villainous Sheriff of Nottingham and then in Sense and Sensibility as Colonel Brandon. I will always remember him for the way he brought the character of Severus Snape to life in the Harry Potter movies. I can't reread the books without picturing him as Snape.

#FitReaders Weekly Check In

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

I was very happy that I reached my step goal every day this week though some days were definitely harder than others. Something that I struggle with is that my life is naturally sedentary and even at work I have a job that requires me to sit at a desk to answer phones or people's questions. I've been challenging myself to get up and move around more at work (though some days it just isn't possible) and to exercise every morning. Some days this week I exercised twice to make up for all the time I spent sitting at a computer. My hope is that when the warmer weather arrives this spring I can go for half hour walks outside on my lunch break.

Sunday--11,406 steps, exercised for 82 minutes
Monday--10,282 steps, exercised for 41 minutes
Tuesday--12,260 steps, exercised for 79 minutes
Wednesday--10,233 steps, exercised for 41 minutes
Thursday--10,557 steps, exercised for 35 minutes
Friday--11,017 steps, exercised for 51 minutes
Saturday--10,433 steps, exercised for 41 minutes

Last week on my blog:

A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern

Books read:

The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth

I liked this book though it didn't have the same emotional impact for me that Still Alice did. I liked the main characters and even the little girl Clem. I think that perhaps the way the story was told created some distance for me.

Dark Force Rising by Timothy Zahn (reread)

The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

I really liked this book and it surprised me when I expected the story to go in one direction and it went in another. The main character is Anil, a young Indian man who moves to Texas to study medicine and has to deal with the challenges of being a hospital intern and family matters back home. The other main character is Leena, his childhood friend and crush who has entered an arranged marriage and finds things to be very different from what she'd thought. Leena's story really touched me and made me angry for all she had to go through.

Currently reading:

The Last Command by Timothy Zahn (reread)

I'd forgotten some of the things that happen in this story so in a way it is like reading it for the first time. Once I finish this I'll need to think of what audio book to read next.

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

Right now I'm in Rivendell in the chapter "Many Meetings". This is one of the slower parts of the book but we are introduced to important characters. I've noticed before how Frodo and company will be in danger and then have a period of rest somewhere safe and then be in danger again and then have some rest and safety, etc. That seems to be the pattern for The Fellowship of the Ring but not the rest of the book as far as I can remember. 

What I might read next:

We will be reading this in my evening book group this month. I have had it on my TBR pile since last year since it is also a review book but I'm just now getting around to it.

The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine

I keep hearing good things about this book. Hopefully the worldbuilding is good as that is something I'm picky about when it comes to fantasy.

New books received:

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi (for review)

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (for review)

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard (library book)

The Secret Life of Anna Blanc by Jennifer Kincheloe (library book)

The Seafront Tearoom by Vanessa Greene (library book)