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Sunday, March 29, 2015

News and Giveaway Winners: Live from the Living Room Bed

The past few weeks have been filled with a lot of nothing but a lot of waiting. High risk pregnancy is no joke! Because I'm having identical (mo-di) twins, I'm automatically considered high risk. I'm a worrier by nature so I have been super anxious through this whole process. About a month ago, I ended up in the hospital overnight to be monitored for contractions after a doctor's appointment where my cervix appeared to be shortened. I was terrified!

It was the first time that I had been to the hospital since I was a baby and I was nervous. Even though I couldn't feel it, I was indeed contracting when I got to the hospital and ended up getting admitted for monitoring. While there was never any sign that I was going in to labor, I was terrified. I was only about 28 weeks at that point so it was super early! I don't do particularly well with medical stuff when it comes to myself and I was a little worried about my girls (although they are super healthy).

After a night in the hospital, I got put on modified bed rest. What that means is that I basically am supposed to stay in bed all day. If I go somewhere, it has to be somewhere where I can sit down right away when I get there (the infrequent escapes are much appreciated). My dear husband, Phil, moved our guest bed down into the living room so I could at least have a change of scenery, which is really nice. I've made it through a month of bed rest and have about month more to go (the girls will be delivered early because they are identical and there are some complications that come along with that after about 37 weeks or so).

As somebody who likes being busy, this has been the ultimate test in patience for me. Also, the nesting bug has bit me over the past few weeks and there's nothing I can do about it, which is so frustrating! I feel better because it looks like the bed rest is working but it's hard to fill my time when I'm here all of the time. I'm still able to work from home, which has been the most incredible thing to save my sanity. I am lucky in that regard. I've been doing a lot of reading, of course. I've also been doing some volunteer work for the Gaithersburg Book Festival (if you are in the DC/MD/VA area on May 16th or feel like traveling, it is an amazing festival for book lovers).

The only beings that are loving my banishment to bed are my cats. They think it's great that:
  1. We have a bed in our living room that they can have access to at all times.
  2. I'm not supposed to be moving a lot so cuddles are almost always in order.
Here is Totoro taking advantage of my captivity!
 I'm trying to keep my sense of humor about it and I am incredibly grateful that I have made it to 33 weeks with relatively few problems. Although I am frustrated by being on bed rest, I know that it's the best thing I can do for these babies and it seems to be working! I'm hopeful I can hang on for just a few more weeks!

Giveaway Winners:

I also have a few giveaway winners to announce today!

Lady of the Eternal City:

Mistress Firebrand:
Amy C. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Review and Giveaway: The One That Got Away by Bethany Chase

Title: The One That Got Away
Author: Bethany Chase
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publish Date: March 31, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the publisher and Netgalley; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "Sarina Mahler thinks she has her life all nailed down: a growing architecture practice in Austin, Texas, and an any-day-now proposal from her loving boyfriend, Noah. She’s well on her way to having the family she’s hoped for since her mother’s death ten years ago. But with Noah on a temporary assignment abroad and retired Olympic swimmer — and former flame — Eamon Roy back in town asking her to renovate his new fixer-upper, Sarina’s life takes an unexpected turn.

Eamon proves to be Sarina’s dream client, someone who instinctively trusts every one of her choices — and Sarina is reminded of all the reasons she was first drawn to him back in the day. Suddenly her carefully planned future with Noah seems a little less than perfect. And when tragedy strikes, Sarina is left reeling. With her world completely upended, she is forced to question what she truly wants in life — and in love.

Full of both humor and heartbreak, The One That Got Away is the story of one woman’s discovery that, sometimes, life is what happens when you leave the blueprints behind."

My Two Cents:

"The One That Got Away" is the story of Sarina, a woman who would think she has her life together. She works very hard at her job as an architect. It's truly her passion. Her personal life seems to be moving pretty well too. She believes that she is close to being proposed to by her boyfriend. Unfortunately, not everything is as it seems. The boyfriend that she loves, who is generally supportive, does not seem to support her idea of working after they are married because, you know, it's going to be Sarina's job to stay home and take care of the brood of children that they will start working on having right away. Obviously, this rubs Sarina the wrong way. It takes the reappearance of an old college flame to show Sarina that she really doesn't have everything that she wants. This is fun and funny book that shows that sometimes you have to dig a little bit deeper in order to figure out what you really want.

I really enjoyed this book. Sarina is really great character, who I found a lot of fun to read about. The book is told from her's perspective which made it really easy to get into the story. The story is definitely a familiar one but the author really breathes new life into it. Sarina realizes that she still might be a little hung up on Eamon, a guy who she briefly dated in college before he disappeared with no reasoning. When he reappears, Sarina is just confused. Why did he leave? Why does he still seem so attracted to him? Why is she still so attracted to him? I loved the story about the both of them and their relationship. The romance felt very real to me and it's one of those romances that I know that I am going to think about a lot long after I finished the last page.

As I mentioned before, this story may seem a little bit familiar, which is always a risk for any story. It's the classic story of somebody from the past comes back into you your life and turns it upside down. The story is still entertaining because of the great writing. Chase has a great way of bringing the characters to life and because of characters feel so real, you fall for them and want to see what happens to them.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I will definitely be on the lookout for other things that Bethany Chase writes in the future.


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More Information:

Visit Random House's page for this book for more about this blog tour!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

HF Virtual Book Tours Review: The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M.J. Rose

Title: The Witch of Painted Sorrows
Author: M.J. Rose
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Atria Books
Publish Date: March 17, 2015
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "Sandrine Salome flees New York for her grandmother’s Paris mansion to escape her dangerous husband, but what she finds there is even more menacing. The house, famous for its lavish art collection and elegant salons, is mysteriously closed up. Although her grandmother insists it’s dangerous for Sandrine to visit, she defies her and meets Julien Duplessi, a mesmerizing young architect. Together they explore the hidden night world of Paris, the forbidden occult underground and Sandrine’s deepest desires.

Among the bohemians and the demi-monde, Sandrine discovers her erotic nature as a lover and painter. Then darker influences threaten—her cold and cruel husband is tracking her down and something sinister is taking hold, changing Sandrine, altering her. She’s become possessed by La Lune: A witch, a legend, and a sixteenth-century courtesan, who opens up her life to a darkness that may become a gift or a curse.

This is Sandrine’s “wild night of the soul,” her odyssey in the magnificent city of Paris, of art, love, and witchery."

My Two Cents:

"The Witch of Painted Sorrows" is the latest book from M.J. Rose. This book is a historical fiction set in 1890s Paris with a magical bend to it, which I absolutely loved. In this book, we meet Sandrine, a young woman who is running away from her life in New York to explore the magic of Paris. This is the first book in what promises to be a very exciting planned series.

Magical realism is definitely one of my favorite elements in any book. As with some of the other books that I've read by M.J. Rose, this author definitely knows how to weave in the magic so that it feels really real. This book almost has a fantasy feel to it. This made for some very exciting reading for m!

I loved Sandrine's character. She has had a very difficult life with very horrible husband that she left behind in America. When she comes to Paris, she realizes that there's a lot more out of life that she wants that she was ever going to be able to have staying in New York. As the book goes on, Sandrine quickly learns that Paris is not as safe as it first seems even with her grandmother trying to protect her. She is overtaken by the spirit of la Lune, a ghostly spirit. At first, Sandrine is attracted to the spirit but she quickly realizes that her life may be in danger.

If you like your historical fiction dark and mysterious, this may be a great pick for you. At the deft hands of M.J. Rose, you will find yourself enraptured by the setting of Bella epic Paris. This book is only the opening of the series so I am hopeful that more will be fleshed out in future books but in some places, it feels like the author is setting up a lot for the future stories, which proved a little frustrating in some parts. I am anxious to see what the other books in the series bring.

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, February 16
Review at Unshelfish
Review at The Mad Reviewer
Tuesday, February 17
Spotlight at Let them Read Books
Spotlight at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, February 18
Review at Historical Fiction Obsession
Friday, February 20
Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book
Monday, February 23
Review & Guest Post at Bookish
Review at The Novel Life
Tuesday, February 24
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, February 25
Review at Just One More Chapter
Friday, February 27
Review at Broken Teepee
Guest Post at The Novel Life
Monday, March 2
Review at A Dream Within a Dream
Interview at Reading Lark
Spotlight at Literary Chanteuse
Tuesday, March 3
Review at Book Babe
Wednesday, March 4
Review at Peeking Between the Pages
Thursday, March 5
Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Friday, March 6
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Review & Interview at Mina’s Bookshelf
Monday, March 9
Review at A Book Geek
Tuesday, March 10
Review at Based on a True Story
Thursday, March 12
Spotlight at Historical Readings & Reviews
Friday, March 13
Guest Post at What Is That Book About
Monday, March 16
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Review at Quirky Book Reviews
Tuesday, March 17
Review at This, That, and the Other Thing
Wednesday, March 18
Review at A Literary Vacation
Thursday, March 19
Review & Guest Post at Mari Reads
Friday, March 20
Spotlight & Guest Post at Between the Cracks
Monday, March 23
Review at Book Drunkard
Review at Boom Baby Reviews
Review & Guest Post at Drey’s Library
Tuesday, March 24
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Wednesday, March 25
Review & Guest Post at Bookshelf Fantasies
Friday, March 27
Spotlight at Book Nerd
Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection
Tuesday, March 31
Review at Dab of Darkness
Wednesday, April 1
Review at Genre Queen
Interview at Dab of Darkness
Monday, April 6
Review at Bibliophilia, Please
Tuesday, April 7
Guest Post at The Lit Bitch
Wednesday, April 8
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Monday, April 13
Review at Lita’s Book Blog
Review at She is Too Fond of Books
Tuesday, April 14
Review at The True Book Addict
Wednesday, April 15
Review at A Novel Review
Monday, April 20
Review at Read, Love, Blog
Thursday, April 30
Review at One Book At a Time


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

HF Virtual Book Tours: The Tapestry by Nancy Bilyeau

Title: The Tapestry
Author: Nancy Bilyeau
Format: eARC
Publisher: Touchstone
Publish Date: March 24, 2015
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours

What's the Story?:

Synopsis: "In THE CROWN, Sister Joanna Stafford searched for a Dark Ages relic that could save her priory from Cromwell’s advancing army of destruction.

In THE CHALICE, Joanna was drawn into an international conspiracy against Henry VIII himself as she struggled to learn the truth behind a prophecy of his destruction.

Now, in THE TAPESTRY, Joanna Stafford finally chooses her own destiny.

After her Dominican priory in Dartford closed forever—collateral damage in tyrannical King Henry VIII’s quest to overthrow the Catholic Church—Joanna resolves to live a quiet and honorable life weaving tapestries, shunning dangerous quests and conspiracies. Until she is summoned to Whitehall Palace, where her tapestry weaving has drawn the King’s attention.

Joanna is uncomfortable serving the King, and fears for her life in a court bursting with hidden agendas and a casual disregard for the virtues she holds dear. Her suspicions are confirmed when an assassin attempts to kill her moments after arriving at Whitehall.

Struggling to stay ahead of her most formidable enemy yet, an unknown one, she becomes entangled in dangerous court politics. Her dear friend Catherine Howard is rumored to be the King’s mistress. Joanna is determined to protect young, beautiful, naïve Catherine from becoming the King’s next wife and, possibly, victim.

Set in a world of royal banquets and feasts, tournament jousts, ship voyages, and Tower Hill executions, this thrilling tale finds Joanna in her most dangerous situation yet, as she attempts to decide the life she wants to live: nun or wife, spy or subject, rebel or courtier. Joanna Stafford must finally choose."

My Two Cents:

"The Tapestry" is the third book in the fabulous Joanna Stafford series. This is a very exciting series and I really enjoyed the first two books so I was eager to get my hands on the third book. I feel like I have been waiting for this book for a very long time and my waiting was not in vain! This book is a very exciting historical fiction novel that takes place in the heart of King Henry VIII's court. You will definitely want to start with the first book in the series before you get to this one!

Our heroine is a former novice who it has gotten herself into and out of trouble several times before in defying one of the most frightening monarchs in England's history. Now, she just wants to live a quiet life until she summoned to Whitehall Palace to weave a tapestry for the king. Grudgingly she goes but too quickly realizes that her life is still in danger. I really love this main character! She so interesting and so well written. She definitely feels like she could be a real person. Her background is so interesting to me. If you like your characters on the beaten path, Joanna is your lady! I love that we get to see the court through her eyes. Joanna befriends Catherine Howard (yes, of King Henry's wife fame - not a club I would like to be in). Joanna quickly realizes that the King has his eyes set on her as the next wife. Joanna does her best to try and protect Catherine even though it puts her own life in even more danger. Joanna is definitely quite brave.

I also loved the story telling in the book. If you are looking for a book to get lost in, this is a great pick. Every time I think that I might possibly be tired of the Tudors, I pick up a book like this one and under the skills of a great author, I realize that I'm not quite ready to quit the Tudors. I liked that this book tackled a era of the Tudors that I have not read a whole lot of about - Henry VII's courtship of Catherine Howard. The author uses a lot of great historical detail and great characters to really make this part of history come to life.

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, March 16
Review at Peeking Between the Pages
Review & Interview at Words and Peace
Tuesday, March 17
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review at The Eclectic Reader
Review at Let Them Read Books
Wednesday, March 18
Review at Writing the Renaissance
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Thursday, March 19
Review at A Book Geek
Review & Interview at Tea at Trianon
Interview at Writing the Renaissance
Friday, March 20
Review at Impressions in Ink
Monday, March 23
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, March 24
Review at The Lit Bitch
Review at Broken Teepee
Wednesday, March 25
Review at Luxury Reading
Guest Post at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Thursday, March 26
Review at She Reads Novels
Friday, March 27
Review at 100 Pages a Day – Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Monday, March 30
Review at Bibliophilia, Please
Tuesday, March 31
Review at The True Book Addict
Guest Post at Bibliophilia, Please
Wednesday, April 1
Review at Library of Clean Reads
Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Thursday, April 2
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Friday, April 3
Review at Layered Pages
Review & Guest Post at Always With a Book
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Monday, March 16, 2015

Review: Madison's Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America by David O. Stewart

Title: Madison's Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America
Author: David O. Stewart
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publish Date: February 10, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "Historian David O. Stewart restores James Madison, sometimes overshadowed by his fellow Founders, to his proper place as the most significant framer of the new nation.

Short, plain, balding, neither soldier nor orator, low on charisma and high on intelligence, Madison cared more about achieving results than taking the credit. To reach his lifelong goal of a self-governing constitutional republic, he blended his talents with those of key partners. It was Madison who led the drive for the Constitutional Convention and pressed for an effective new government as his patron George Washington lent the effort legitimacy; Madison who wrote the Federalist Papers with Alexander Hamilton to secure the Constitution's ratification; Madison who corrected the greatest blunder of the Constitution by drafting and securing passage of the Bill of Rights with Washington's support; Madison who joined Thomas Jefferson to found the nation's first political party and move the nation toward broad democratic principles; Madison, with James Monroe, who guided the new nation through its first war in 1812, really its Second War of Independence; and it was Madison who handed the reins of government to the last of the Founders, his old friend and sometime rival Monroe. These were the main characters in his life.

But it was his final partnership that allowed Madison to escape his natural shyness and reach the greatest heights. Dolley was the woman he married in middle age and who presided over both him and an enlivened White House. This partnership was a love story, a unique one that sustained Madison through his political rise, his presidency, and a fruitful retirement."

My Two Cents:  

"Madison's Gift" is the latest offering from historian David O Stewart. Stewart has written several books about several big names, mostly in American history. James Madison is a very interesting subject that has not had much written about him recently compared to a lot of the other Founding Fathers. As Stewart shows in this book, Madison has a large list of accomplishments under his belt and definitely is deserving of more consideration and study.

In this book, Stewart focuses on five partnerships that helped James Madison to reach some of the greatness that he achieved. The partnerships include those with George Washington Alexander Hamilton James Monroe, Dolley Madison, and Thomas Jefferson. Each of these partnerships are very different from each other; however, they each impacted Madison's life greatly. My favorite partnership to read about was between James and Dolley Madison. I've always been fascinated by Dolley Madison. She seems like she would've been a lot of fun to hang around with. It was really interesting to me to see how the Madison marriage was balanced. Dolley seemed a lot more outgoing and vivacious than James but she also seemed to rub off on him. I really liked seeing how she encouraged his work.

It's clear that Stewart did a lot of research in order to bring all of these different historic figures to life. I love the way that he was able to take his research and really make these people feel like people that you could actually come across now. I love nonfiction history but admittedly it can be a little bit boring sometimes. In the case of this particular book, however, that is definitely not what you find. Stewart has a great way of making history come to life through a lot of detail. This is a great book about one of the more unsung Founding Fathers!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Review: Love and Freindship by Jane Austen

Title: Love and Freindship (Note: this is the actual title of the book, not a typo!)
Author: Jane Austen
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Penguin
Publish Date: January 27, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "Jane Austen’s earliest writing dates from when she was just eleven-years-old, and already shows the hallmarks of her mature work. But it is also a product of the times in which she grew up—dark, grotesque, often surprisingly bawdy, and a far cry from the polished, sparkling novels of manners for which she became famous. Drunken heroines, babies who bite off their mothers’ fingers, and a letter-writer who has murdered her whole family all feature in these highly spirited pieces. This edition includes all of Austen’s juvenilia, including her “History of England” and the novella Lady Susan, in which the anti-heroine schemes and cheats her way through high society. With a title that captures a young Austen’s original idiosyncratic spelling habits and an introduction by Christine Alexander that shows how Austen was self-consciously fashioning herself as a writer from an early age, this is a must-have for any Austen lover."

My Two Cents:

I was very excited to get my hands on Jane Austen's "Love and Freindship." As a big Austen fan, I was looking forward to this book as it's a collection of Austen's very early writings. It seems like a lot of times we don't get a chance to get to read a lot of things from writers early in their writing life. Unless the author is super famous, most of our reading is limited to whichever books were actually published. Because Jane Austen is such a prolific and famous writer, it's easy to see why so many people would have interest in reading some of the stories and other things that she wrote prior to publishing her books. This book almost feels as if you're getting a behind the scenes glance at what Austen was like is a younger person. Many of the stories were written when she was merely a teenager. And a lot of the hallmarks from some of her books that she went on to publish are there. She writes a lot of stories about love that are filled with fun and a lot of wit.

One thing that I found very interesting is that in this particular version, which is a Penguin Classics version (I collect the Penguin Classics - they are gorgeous), is that the publishers chose to keep a lot of the errors that Austen made it in the book. Even the title of the book is an Austen error with the misspelling of the word friendship. In some places, this makes the book a little bit difficult to read however I was driven by wanting to get more insight into one of my favorite classics authors! This book is a must-read for my fellow Austen lovers!


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Review: Blackwell's Homecoming by V.E. Ulett

Title: Blackwell's Homecoming
Author: V.E. Ulett
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Old Salt Press
Publish Date: January 2015
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "In a multigenerational saga of love, war and betrayal, Captain Blackwell and Mercedes continue their voyage in Volume III of Blackwell's Adventures. The Blackwell family's eventful journey from England to Hawaii, by way of the new and tempestuous nations of Brazil and Chile, provides an intimate portrait of family conflicts and loyalties in the late Georgian Age. Blackwell's Homecoming is an evocation of the dangers and rewards of desire."

My Two Cents: 

"Blackwell's Homecoming" is the third and final book in the Blackwell's adventures series by V.E. Ulett. I have really enjoyed the series and am sad to see the trilogy come to an end. Admittedly, I always have a little trepidation when starting the final book in a series that I've enjoyed. I'm always hopeful that the author is going to be able to end the story of the characters that I have come to know in a satisfying way but sometimes it doesn't happen. Luckily, in the case of "Blackwell's Homecoming" the ending is very satisfying.

This book can definitely stand on its own; however, I think you will appreciate it a lot more if you start from the very beginning of the trilogy. This third book takes up the story of Capt. Blackwell and his wife, Mercedes, as well as their children who are now fully grown. The adventure in the story definitely hasn't stopped. The entire family is hoping for a little more stability; however, it is not to be. This book bring them from England to Brazil Chile and finally to Hawaii all of which are filled with brand-new people who will change and affect the family in ways that they could never foresee.

As with the other books in the trilogy, this book continues to follow the love story of Capt. Blackwell and Mercedes. I love their love story and I love the way that the author portrayed their love as it matures. They care for each other now more than ever. The couple goes through a lot of really difficult things in this book; however, their love for each other shines through. This book also follows the love story of their daughter and their adopted son. I really liked how the author chose to incorporate two different love stories: one old and one new into the book. That being said this book is so much more than historical romance. There's definitely the backdrop of adventure and danger as there has been in the previous two bucks.

I really enjoyed those setting of the book. I loved reading about the Blackwell's time in so many different places. I always love reading about Latin America so I was very excited to read about Brazil and Chile during the Georgian period. The author adds a lot of historical detail to really bring all of these different places to life!

This was definitely a solid and end to the trilogy and I'm very sad to be finished with these books. This entire trilogy has lots of adventure, lots of romance, and lots of wonderful settings that will thrill any historical fiction reader.

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