Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sunday Post (70) / 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.

Well it looks like winter is here, sort of. Friday was such a beautiful day and it was nearly 80 outside but then Saturday was so cold and we got the first snow of the season. That makes me worried for what the winter will be like if we are already getting snow in November! I had planned to buy some snow tires for my car before getting some bad news. I need new regular tires and there are some other important repairs that have to be done. All together it is going to be over $3,000. Not sure my car is worth it. Ugh. On the bright side, it is Thanksgiving week so I am thinking of all the things I can be thankful for like my family and a job that I love. I've also been reading some holiday books which helps to lift my spirits.

This Tuesday I will be going on a book shopping trip to Barnes & Noble (for the library) to spend my leftover book budget. Then on Wednesday I'll be heading to my parents' house for Thanksgiving. Since we already celebrated it last weekend it will be a quiet holiday. I'm sure we'll be watching Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life on Black Friday. I'm really looking forward to it. 

So I saw Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I liked the movie but it was definitely very different from the Harry Potter films and even the magic was different. It was interesting to see some of the creatures from the Harry Potter books on screen. My favorite was the niffler. It was adorable though I certainly wouldn't want to have one in my home! The story had some interesting parts but some of the creature sequences were kind of slow and felt dragged out. I kind of wish J.K. Rowling had written a series of books featuring Newt but the movies are the next best thing I guess.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Last week on my blog:

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin (review)

Books read:

What Light by Jay Asher

This was a sweet romance and I loved reading about the Christmas tree farm and lot. This was the first book I read for the Ho Ho Ho Readathon. 

Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan

I wanted to read this for the readathon and I liked one of her other Christmas romance novels, Sleigh Bells in the Snow. I liked this book too but something was bugging me while I read and it wasn't till after I finished that I realized it was the heroine. She didn't seem to have any flaws. She came across as this angelic but flat character unlike the hero who had more depth.

A December Bride by Denise Hunter

This has been made into a Hallmark movie which was part of the reason that I read it. The main character, Layla, has to attend the wedding of her cousin to her ex fiance. She is desperate to find someone to go with her when her date gets sick. She ends up going with Seth, the groom's best friend. They have a complicated history but when Layla's cousin (the bride) makes some mean digs, Seth lies and says he and Layla are engaged and things just snowball from there. I liked the story but I thought there were some threads that weren't tied up and the ending was rushed.

Sweetshop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan

I loved this book! It did remind me of The Bookshop on the Corner but strangely I liked it more. Probably because I wasn't as big a fan of the romance in that book. I really liked that in addition to Rosie's story we also got to know about her great aunt when she was a young woman during WWII. I ended up buying the sequel. Hopefully it will be as good. The author certainly romanticizes small town life but it is so enjoyable to read about.

Books listened to:

The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan (reread)

Currently reading:

The Gilded Cage by Lucinda Riley

This is an interesting YA gothic mystery about an American teen and her brother who find out that their wealthy British grandfather has died and they are his heirs. Overnight their lives are changed but things are not they seem at Walthingam and something terrible happens. While it is obvious to me who the "bad guy" is early on, it is still an intriguing story and I'm curious to see how Katherine will get herself out of danger.

Currently listening to:

The Serpent's Shadow by Rick Riordan (reread)

On my TBR pile:

Alterations by Stephanie Scott

Spinning Starlight by R.C. Lewis

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

The Mistletoe Secret by Richard Paul Evans

New books received:

Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan (for review)

A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain (for review)

Christmas at Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop by Jenny Colgan (purchased)

The Mistletoe Secret by Richard Paul Evans (library book)

God Bless Us Every One by Eva Marie Everson (library book)

The Goodbye Bride by Denise Hunter (library book)

Can't Help Falling by Kara Isaac (library book)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Review: Victoria

By Daisy Goodwin
Published: November 22, 2016

Drawing on Queen Victoria’s diaries, which she first started reading when she was a student at Cambridge University, Daisy Goodwin―creator and writer of the new PBS/Masterpiece drama Victoria and author of the bestselling novels The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter―brings the young nineteenth-century monarch, who would go on to reign for 63 years, richly to life in this magnificent novel.
Early one morning, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria is roused from bed with the news that her uncle William IV has died and she is now Queen of England. The men who run the country have doubts about whether this sheltered young woman, who stands less than five feet tall, can rule the greatest nation in the world.
Despite her age, however, the young queen is no puppet. She has very definite ideas about the kind of queen she wants to be, and the first thing is to choose her name.
“I do not like the name Alexandrina,” she proclaims. “From now on I wish to be known only by my second name, Victoria.”
Next, people say she must choose a husband. Everyone keeps telling her she’s destined to marry her first cousin, Prince Albert, but Victoria found him dull and priggish when they met three years ago. She is quite happy being queen with the help of her prime minister, Lord Melbourne, who may be old enough to be her father but is the first person to take her seriously.
On June 19th, 1837, she was a teenager. On June 20th, 1837, she was a queen. Daisy Goodwin’s impeccably researched and vividly imagined new book brings readers Queen Victoria as they have never seen her before.

My review:

What I know of Victoria, I mostly learned from watching Victoria and Albert and Young Victoria so I learned something from reading this book. I also found it to be very readable and at first I was pulled into the story because I felt bad for Victoria. She was kept so isolated and under the control of Sir John Conroy, her mother's comptroller (it is implied that her mother the widowed Duchess of Kent is in love with Sir John). After Victoria becomes queen, I was happy to see her standing up for herself. Unfortunately because of her upbringing Victoria is woefully unprepared to rule and she leans heavily on Lord Melbourne, the prime minister, for advice. Victoria is also immature and this really shows at times with all her foot stamping and her refusal to appoint the wives of Tory politicians as her ladies. 

While I had thought that we would see the love story between Victoria and Albert, the book instead focuses on the relationship between the young queen and Lord Melbourne for whom it is implied she has romantic feelings. Albert only appears towards the end and his character isn't given much room to develop. Also, the book ends with their engagement. I'm hoping the author will continue Victoria's story to show how she grows after her marriage and as she gains more experience as a ruler.

I would have liked to see more of the Prince Albert/Victoria relationship but otherwise I thought this book was entertaining and I enjoyed it as historical fiction. I think it is an interesting take on a fascinating historical figure. While I doubt it could take the place of Downton Abbey, I am also eagerly anticipating the series on PBS this January. For those looking for more historical details and facts rather than the fanciful, there is a new biography about the queen, Victoria: The Queen: an Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire by Julia Baird. 

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Top Ten Christmas Movies

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 "Top Ten Movies".

Since I am currently participating in the Ho Ho Ho Readathon, I decided to list my favorite holiday movies. Of course some of these "movies" on my list are technically TV specials but I considered them movies as a kid and I watch them every year so they are on my list. If you are wondering why A Christmas Story is not on my list, it is because to my knowledge I have never watched it. I know, right? Maybe this Christmas...

White Christmas

I started watching this one annually when I was in my late teens. My sister and I got a kick out of the Bing Crosby/Danny Kaye take on Sisters. We used to sing along and hit each other with couch cushions. I think the part where we got to hit each other was a big part of the appeal! Now I just enjoy it as a funny and sweet movie set during the Christmas season. I love the song White Christmas though every year I pray we will not have snow at Christmas where I live.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

It doesn't feel like Christmas till I've watched A Charlie Brown Christmas. I love Charlie Brown's Christmas tree, the pageant rehearsal and Linus's speech. It is my favorite Charlie Brown special. Now that I own the DVD I watch it more than once each Christmas.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

I have always loved this classic story and it is another one that I watch every single Christmas. We even had a Grinch ornament for our family Christmas tree. I think Max is my favorite character, poor dog :)

The Polar Express

I wasn't really familiar with this story until an animated version was made but I found it to be charming. I don't watch it every year but I try to if I get the chance. I'm hoping it'll be on Netflix this Christmas.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

I loved this story as a child so I was very happy when a film version was made 11 years ago. I took my mom and sister to see it in the theater at Christmas time. Now I try to watch it every year. 

While You Were Sleeping

I first saw this when I was a freshman at college and every year since, I like to watch it at Christmas at least once. There is just something I love about this movie!

Christmas with the Kranks

I remember being surprised when John Grisham wrote a Christmas story but I read it anyway and really liked it. I think the movie is just as good and it is another movie I watch every year at Christmas. 

Home Alone

I loved this movie as a young teen and watched it several times. I think I was cured of my joy when my younger cousin Shaun made us watch it with him over and over again. After many years, I watched it last year and enjoyed it though I doubt it will become an annual tradition again.

Last Holiday

I have watched this many many times. While it is a little over the top in the "cheesy" department, I still think it is a mostly funny movie and I plan to watch it again this year.

It's a Wonderful Life

I feel kind of funny putting this on my list considering that I've probably only watched the entire movie once. Every year I start out watching it but it is so long that I usually don't stick around for the end. I enjoy the happier parts more anyway :)

Honorable mention:

Christmas in Connecticut

I've only seen this one once at the recommendation of a friend who loves classic movies. I thought it was a fun comedy.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

I first watched this as a kid. I'm surprised my parents let us watch it but we all thought it was funny. 

Frosty the Snowman

I hate snow but I always enjoyed this sweet cartoon movie.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sunday Post (69) / 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.

Boy was it a long week and a pretty depressing one for a lot of us but I'm trying to find the silver lining where I can. I'm currently visiting my parents for the long weekend and we've been bingewatching The Crown. I am interested in all things Britain, especially the royal family and I admire Queen Elizabeth a lot. It is fascinating to learn more about the first year of her reign.

Today is my family's Thanksgiving. I will be making mashed sweet potatoes with maple syrup and pecans. My sister is bringing a Paleo pumpkin pie and my mom will be roasting the turkey and making some other vegetable sides like green beans with sesame seeds. Last year that didn't even make it to the table because my sister and I were hungry :)

Yesterday my mom and I tried out the sock snowman craft for a trial run. My library craft night is next month but these cute little guys will be good for advertising it. My sock snowman is Harry Potter. I had these long Gryffindor socks that I never wore and decided to sacrifice them to the cause. I drew a little lightning bolt on Snowman Harry Potter's forehead to make him more recognizable.

Last week on my blog:

Books read:

Crosstalk by Connie Willis

I really enjoyed this book! The basic premise is that there is a new procedure that will allow couples to sense each other's emotions but for Briddey, it backfires and she can hear someone else--the annoying tech guy at her office. There is satirical comedy as well as romance. One of my favorites for 2016 I think.

The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson

Although I read some mixed reviews, I thought this was a good conclusion to the series.

Currently reading:

Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan

I decided to read this when I signed up for the Ho Ho Ho Readathon. I've enjoyed the author's other romance novels. My favorite is Sleighbells in the Snow. So far this one is entertaining. 

Currently listening to:

The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan (reread)

I should be finishing this today and then I'm going to start The Serpent's Shadow.

On my TBR list:

What Light by Jay Asher

Alterations by Stephanie Scott

The Gilded Cage by Lucinda Gray

Sweetshop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan

New books received:

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (library book)

Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan (for review)

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Review: The Sheriffs of Savage Wells

The Sheriffs of Savage Wells
By Sarah M. Eden
Published: September 27, 2016

Paisley Bell knows the eccentric people of Savage Wells. From the absentminded shopkeeper who always thinks she's been robbed to the young man who has returned shell-shocked from the war, Paisley has compassion for them all. When the sheriff up and leaves town, Paisley steps up and assumes the responsibility, partly because she loves the work, but also because she needs the income to take care of her sick father. So when the town council decides that the position of sheriff should really go to a man, Paisley finds herself fighting to prove that she's the perfect candidate for the job, even though she wears a skirt. 

Cade O'Brien is heartily sick of shooting people. In his many years as a lawman, Cade has seen his share of blood and violence. So when he answers an advertisement for a sheriff job in the sleepy town of Savage Wells, he believes he's found the peace and quiet he's always desired. But when he discovers that his biggest competition for the job is a woman, he begins to question his decisions. 

Tension between the two begins to sizzle when both Cade and Paisley realize the attraction they have for each other, but when Paisley's former beau shows up in town, along with a band of bank robbers, the blossoming relationship between the two sheriffs is tested. They will have to work together to thwart the bank robbers and keep the town safe.

My review:

Paisley is a genuinely likable heroine. She's smart and caring and brave. I felt bad for her because people just don't take her seriously as a possible sheriff. The town doesn't realize that she has been acting as sheriff even before the previous sheriff left (he just took all the credit for her work). Being the sheriff is so important to her. She is good at her job and she enjoys it. She also wants to provide for her dad who has dementia. Unfortunately the town council decides to bring in outside candidates for the job, including legendary lawman Cade O'Brien. Sparks fly between Cade and Paisley and he grows to respect her but only one person can be the new town sheriff.

The Sheriffs of Savage Wells is entertaining and a touching romance with a little mystery mixed in. It's a pleasant kind of story you can read in an afternoon. I found this book to be charming. I liked the setting and the characters, even the quirky secondary characters that made up the town. I thought the author did a nice job of showing why both Paisley and Cade are good candidates. I wasn't 100% sure which character would ultimately get the job but I think the right decision was made. I also liked how the author portrayed Paisley and her father. It was so sad to see him decline. Although it wasn't too hard to figure out the mystery there was one little detail that did surprise me.

While it isn't inspirational (Christian) fiction, I think readers of Christian historical fiction would really enjoy this. Other similar authors include Mary Connealy, Susan Page Davis (The Sheriff's Surrender), Vickie McDonough and Robin Lee Hatcher. The Sheriffs of Savage Wells is part of the Proper Romance line published by Shadow Mountain.

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

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Ho-Ho-Ho Readathon

So I've decided at the last minute to join the Ho-Ho-Ho Readathon, hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer. The goal is to read holiday or winter themed books.

I do not know how much I will be able to participate. I currently have one book that is set during Christmas, What Light by Jay Asher. I'll have to see if I can find some more!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Top Ten Books I've Added to My TBR List Lately

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 "Top Ten Books I've Added to My To-Be-Read List Lately".

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

This sounds like an intriguing retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Also I love the green cloak on the cover.

The Wish Granter by C.J. Redwine

I really liked The Shadow Queen and this Rumpelstiltskin retelling is set in the same world. 

By Your Side by Kasie West

I read my first Kasie West book this year and thought it was fun so I am looking forward to reading some more of her books next year.

Gem & Dixie by Sara Zarr

I love that this book is about sisters plus it's Sara Zarr. She knows how to write emotional contemporary fiction.

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

This historical novel looks at the Tulsa race riot of 1921.

The Chilbury Ladies Choir by Jennifer Ryan

I thought this sounded really promising. It is set in England during WWII.

Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister

A historical fiction novel about the first female detective in the U.S.? Yes, please!

A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain

I loved the first book about FBI agent Kendra Donovan who accidentally goes back in time and solves murder mysteries. This sequel looks like it will be just as good.

Heartstone by Elle Katharine White

This is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice with dragons and wyverns and direwolves, oh my! I must read it :)

The Supremes Sing the Happy Heartache Blues by Edward Kelsey Moore

The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat was one of my favorite books last year so of course I am thrilled about the sequel.