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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Review: Watership Down by Richard Adams

Title: Watership Down
Author: Richard Adams
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Avon Books
Publish Date: 1972
Source: Library



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Set in England's Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage and survival follows a band of very special creatures on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of friends, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, to a mysterious promised land and a more perfect society."

My Two Cents:

"Watership Down" is a classic book that I had been wanting to read for a while. Luckily, I had a 2017 reading challenge that fit the book perfectly. This book is about rabbits who try to find a better life for themselves. Along the way, they come across hostile rabbits, dogs, and cats who threaten their lives. This book feels very much like a military novel.

I wasn't expecting for the book to have such a strong religious undertone. Throughout the book the rabbits speak about another rabbit whose story has become so legendary that this particular rabbit almost becomes a spiritual protector for all other rabbits. I was especially interested in the legend of this rabbit as it gives you a lot of insight into the sort of traits that the rabbits care about and look for in others.

In general, I am also very interested in how authors come up with the stories that they come up with. The particular edition of this book that I read includes an author's note that talks about how he came up with this idea for essentially telling a conquest story through the eyes of rabbits. I also thought that it was really interesting that he wanted to make sure that aside from having intelligent thoughts and conversations, the author really wanted to make sure that his rabbits actually acted like rabbits and so he goes into a little bit of the research that he did in order to do so.

Overall, this is an incredibly inventive story and it's easy to see how books like this one have stood the test of time!
 
 


 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Review: How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry

Title: How to Find Love in a Bookshop
Author: Veronica Henry 
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Orion
Publish Date: August 15, 2017
Source: Publisher



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Nightingale Books, nestled on the main street in an idyllic little village, is a dream come true for book lovers--a cozy haven and welcoming getaway for the literary-minded locals. But owner Emilia Nightingale is struggling to keep the shop open after her beloved father's death, and the temptation to sell is getting stronger. The property developers are circling, yet Emilia's loyal customers have become like family, and she can't imagine breaking the promise she made to her father to keep the store alive.

There's Sarah, owner of the stately Peasebrook Manor, who has used the bookshop as an escape in the past few years, but it now seems there's a very specific reason for all those frequent visits. Next is roguish Jackson, who, after making a complete mess of his marriage, now looks to Emilia for advice on books for the son he misses so much. And the forever shy Thomasina, who runs a pop-up restaurant for two in her tiny cottage--she has a crush on a man she met in the cookbook section, but can hardly dream of working up the courage to admit her true feelings.

Enter the world of Nightingale Books for a serving of romance, long-held secrets, and unexpected hopes for the future--and not just within the pages on the shelves. How to Find Love in a Bookshop is the delightful story of Emilia, the unforgettable cast of customers whose lives she has touched, and the books they all cherish."


My Two Cents:

"How to Find Love in a Bookshop" is a multi-layered story that centers on a bookstore in a small English town. First we have the story of Julian and Rebecca and it is a whirlwind romance that took my breath away. Then there is the story of Julian's daughter, Emilia, who inherits the bookstore when her beloved father passes away and she isn't sure that she will be able to do everything that she needs to do in order to keep the bookstore afloat. This book is the perfect book for when your heart needs a little squeeze.

I love the characters in this book! The romance between Julian and Rebecca is so amazing and so passionate! I loved seeing how Emilia deals with trying to make a new life for herself when so much of who she is and what she does seems to have been tied up with her father who did everything he could for her. Then you have all of the secondary characters like Sarah, who is trying to put things together for herself after a lot of friction.

There is something magical about books set in and around bookstores. Sure, being a reader, I love a good bookstore and Nightingale Books seems just like the kind of place that I would like to while away communing among the books. While much of the action is driven by the characters, the bookstore and the descriptions of what it's like factor heavily into this book. The bookstore almost felt like another character in the book. This book is definitely geared for those that believe in the magic of bookstores!


 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Review: The Crowns of Croswald by D.E. Night

Title: The Crowns of Croswald
Author: D.E. Night
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Stories Untold Press
Publish Date: July 21, 2017
Source: PR



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "In Croswald, the only thing more powerful than dark magic is one secret…

For sixteen years Ivy Lovely has been hidden behind an enchanted boundary that separates the mundane from the magical. When Ivy crosses the border, her powers awaken. Curiosity leads her crashing through a series of adventures at the Halls of Ivy, a school where students learn to master their magical blood and the power of Croswald’s mysterious gems. When Ivy’s magic––and her life––is threatened by the Dark Queen, she scrambles to unearth her history and save Croswald before the truth is swept away forever."


My Two Cents:

"The Crowns of Croswald" is the story of Ivy, a girl who is adrift until she gets the chance to go to a school where she will learn to use the magic that has been there all along. Geared for middle grade readers, this book has a lot of fantasy and magic to excite younger readers.

This book was a slow start for me. We first meet Ivy before she has gone to school when she dreams big dreams. It's not until about halfway through the book that the action really begins to pick up and Ivy begins to interact more with the others at school and begins to uncover the secrets of what her life will eventually be like.

There is some good world building in this book, which I liked and believe will appeal to middle grade readers. From the magic to the names of some of the characters in this book, this book has a very Harry Potter feel to it.

The writing of the book was a little stiff in some places but this was uneven. There would be some passages that had a lot of flow to them and others where every thought and action was told rather than showed.

Overall, I think the fantasy was good but could have flowed more. I am interested to see where Ivy's story goes!


 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

2017 Reading Challenges - July Check In

Here's where I am with my reading challenges! 
Here is the original post about all of the reading challenges I'm taking on. The date listed after each book is the date I completed the book. 



PopSugar Monthly Challenge

  • January (A book with one of the four seasons in the title ): Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell (1/25)
  • February (A book by a person of color): Dragon Springs Road by Janie Chang (2/15) 
  • March: A book about an interesting woman: Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick (3/25) 
  • April (A book with an unreliable narrator): We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (4/6)
  • May (A novel set during wartime ): The Baker's Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan (5/6)
  • June (A book involving travel): News of the World by Paulette Jiles (6/18)
  • July: A book set in two different time periods : The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor (7/27) 

 PopSugar Ultimate Reading Challenge Basic

  •  A book recommended by a librarian: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (1/19)
  • A book you loved as a child: Matilda by Roald Dahl (1/12)
  • A book with a subtitle: Caught in the Revolution: Petrograd, Russia, 1917 – A World on the Edge  by Helen Rappaport (2/3)
  • A book that's published in 2017: The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak (2/5)
  • A book with a red spine: Stalin's Daughter by Rosemary Sullivan (2/8)
  • A book of letters: 100 Love Notes by Hyong Yi (2/13) 
  • A book about food: A Square Meal by Jane Ziegelman, Andrew Coe (2/27)
  • A book written by someone you admire: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher (3/1) 
  • A book by an author from a country you've never visited: Havana Real by Yoani Sanchez (3/5)
  • A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you: Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina (3/5) 
  • A novel set during wartime:The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff (3/10) 
  • A book set in two different time periods: A Bridge Across the Ocean bySusan Meissner (3/12)
  • A book with a cat on the cover: A Few of the Girls by Maeve Binchy (3/14)
  • A book by or about a person who has a disability: The Secret Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach (3/14)
  • A book about an interesting woman: Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton (3/22)
  • A book with pictures: Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher (3/28)
  • A book by a person of color: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (3/31)
  • A book with a title that's a character's name: The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith (4/1)
  • A book from a nonhuman perspective: Watership Down by Richard Adams (4/13)
  • A book involving travel: The Gods of Tango by Carolina de Robertis (4/19)
  • A book set in the wilderness: The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis

Pop Sugar Ultimate Reading Challenge Advanced 

  • A book about an immigrant or refugee: The Radius of Us by Marie Marquadt (1/23)
  • A book about a difficult topic: Windy City Blues by Renee Rosen (3/2) 
  • A book with an eccentric character: Eggshells by Catriona Lally (3/14)  
  • An audiobook: Identical by Ellen Hopkins (5/1)
  • A book recommended by an author you love: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (6/28) 
  • A book from a genre/subgenre you've never heard of: Perilous Undertaking by Leanna Renee Hieber (7/12) 

Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge

  • Read a debut novel: The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee (1/6)
  • Read an all ages comic: Scenes from an Impending Marriage by Adrian Tomine (1/14)
  • Read a book you've read before: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (1/19)
  • Read a book about war: Stolen Beauty by Laurie Lico Albanese (1/29)
  • Read a fantasy novel.: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones (1/31)
  • Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location.: The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams 2/9)
  • Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (3/11)
  • Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+.: Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley (3/23) 
  • Read a book about books: A World Between Two Covers by Ann Morgan (3/26) 
  • Read a book published by a micropress: Concepcion and the Baby Brokers by Deborah Clearman (4/6)
  • Read a travel memoir: Schadenfreude by Rebecca Schuman (4/18)
  • Read a book published between 1900 and 1950: I Change Worlds by Anna Louise Strong
  • Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative: Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
  • Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color.: China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan (5/5)
  •  Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love.: Odes to Common Things by Pablo Neruda (5/12) 
  • Read a book about sports: Moneyball by Michael Lewis (6/6)

Curious Iguana's Read Broader
  • Peek into the Past: Putin Country by Anne Garrels (1/7)
  • Justice for All: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (2/1)
  • Justice for All: Excellent Daughters by Katherine Zoepf (2/6)
  • Choose Your Own Category (Global Voices): The Chosen Maiden (3/5) 
  • LGBTQ+ Perspectives: Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt (3/20)
  • Choose Your Own Category (Global Voices): The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George (3/20)
  • Choose Your Own Category (Justice for All): One Child by Mei Fong
  • Choose Your Own Category (Justice for All): Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
  • Armchair Adventures: Kindred by Octavia Butler (5/7)
  • Global Voices: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (6/1) 
  • Small Press Works in Translation: Before the Feast by Sara Stanisic (6/5)
  • Choose Your Own Category (Peek Into the Past): Bears in the Streets by Lisa Dickey (6/15) 
  • Armchair Adventures: Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian (7/1) 
  • Collections Near and Far: Whatever happened to interracial love? By Kathleen Collins (7/22)
  • Peek into the Past: The Black Calhouns by Gail Lumet Buckley (7/23)
  • Global Voices: The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez (7/24)
  • LGBTQ+ Perspectives: The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North (7/25)
  • Collections Near and Far: Sidewalks by Valeria Luiselli (7/26) 

Challenge Totals:
  • January: 10 books
  • February: 9 books
  • March: 19 books 
  • April: 11 books
  • May: 5 books
  • June: 6 books 
  • July: 8 books 
 
How did it go this month?

I had a little bit of an uptick this month. I'm hoping to finish at least a challenge or two this month!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

My Dear Hamilton Cover Reveal and Giveaway!!!

   

From the New York Times bestselling authors of America’s First Daughter comes the epic story of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton—a revolutionary woman who, like her new nation, struggled to define herself in the wake of war, betrayal, and tragedy. Haunting, moving, and beautifully written, Dray and Kamoie used thousands of letters and original sources to tell Eliza’s story as it’s never been told before—not just as the wronged wife at the center of a political sex scandal—but also as a founding mother who shaped an American legacy in her own right.

We’re celebrating Eliza Schuyler Hamilton’s Birthday today and you get the gift! Don’t miss the beautiful cover below and a special giveaway, and don’t forget to pre-order your copy today!

 

About My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton (Coming 4.3.2018):

Wife, Widow, and Warrior in Alexander Hamilton’s Quest to Form a More Perfect Union

From the New York Times bestselling authors of America’s First Daughter comes the epic story of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton—a revolutionary woman who, like her new nation, struggled to define herself in the wake of war, betrayal, and tragedy. Haunting, moving, and beautifully written, Dray and Kamoie used thousands of letters and original sources to tell Eliza’s story as it’s never been told before—not just as the wronged wife at the center of a political sex scandal—but also as a founding mother who shaped an American legacy in her own right.

A general’s daughter…

Coming of age on the perilous frontier of revolutionary New York, Elizabeth Schuyler champions the fight for independence. And when she meets Alexander Hamilton, Washington’s penniless but passionate aide-de-camp, she’s captivated by the young officer’s charisma and brilliance. They fall in love, despite Hamilton’s bastard birth and the uncertainties of war.

A founding father’s wife...

But the union they create—in their marriage and the new nation—is far from perfect. From glittering inaugural balls to bloody street riots, the Hamiltons are at the center of it all—including the political treachery of America’s first sex scandal, which forces Eliza to struggle through heartbreak and betrayal to find forgiveness.

The last surviving light of the Revolution…

When a duel destroys Eliza’s hard-won peace, the grieving widow fights her husband’s enemies to preserve Alexander’s legacy. But long-buried secrets threaten everything Eliza believes about her marriage and her own legacy. Questioning her tireless devotion to the man and country that have broken her heart, she’s left with one last battle—to understand the flawed man she married and imperfect union he could never have created without her…

   

Pre-Order on Amazon | Barnes & Noble | GooglePlay | iBooks | Kobo

   

To celebrate Eliza Schuyler Hamilton’s Birthday today, we have a surprise for you! Share the cover of MY DEAR HAMILTON and fill out the Rafflecopter below to receive an Exclusive Excerpt!

   
    New York Times bestselling author, Stephanie Dray is an award-winning, bestselling and two-time RITA award nominated author of historical women’s fiction. Her critically acclaimed series about Cleopatra’s daughter has been translated into eight different languages and won NJRW's Golden Leaf. As Stephanie Draven, she is a national bestselling author of genre fiction and American-set historical women's fiction. She is a frequent panelist and presenter at national writing conventions and lives near the nation's capital. Before she became a novelist, she was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the stories of women in history to inspire the young women of today.      

Stephanie’s Website | Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter

  New York Times bestselling author, Laura Kamoie has always been fascinated by the people, stories, and physical presence of the past, which led her to a lifetime of historical and archaeological study and training. She holds a doctoral degree in early American history from The College of William and Mary, published two non-fiction books on early America, and most recently held the position of Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Naval Academy before transitioning to a full-time career writing genre fiction as the New York Times bestselling author, Laura Kaye. Her New York Times bestselling debut historical novel, America's First Daughter, co-authored with Stephanie Dray, allowed her the exciting opportunity to combine her love of history with her passion for storytelling. Laura lives among the colonial charm of Annapolis, Maryland with her husband and two daughters.    

Laura’s Website | Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter Sign-Up

   

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Review: The Sworn Virgin by Kristopher Dukes

Title: The Sworn Virgin
Author: Kristopher Dukes
Format: ARC
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: August 8, 2017 (Today!)
Source: Publisher



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "When 18-year-old Diana’s father is mysteriously shot dead in the cobblestone streets of 1910s Albania, Diana must abandon her dream of studying art in Italy as she struggles to survive in a remote mountain village with her stepmother Mirlinda.

Nearing starvation, Mirlinda secretly sells Diana into marriage with Edi, the cruel heir of a powerful clan. Rather than lose her freedom, Diana swears to remain a virgin for the rest of her life, a tradition that gives her the right to live as a man: she is now head of her household, can work for a living and carry a gun. She may participate in the vengeful blood feuds that consume the mountain tribes, but she may not be killed—unless she forsakes her vow.

When an ill stranger stumbles into her life, she nurses him back to health, saving his life but risking her own when she falls in love with him. . ."


My Two Cents:

"The Sworn Virgin" is the story of Eleanora, a woman who chooses to live as a "sworn virgin," a tradition that will allow her to basically be the master of her own destiny and be in control of her own life as long as she keeps to her promise. But promises are hard to keep and love may find her whether she wants it to or not.

I was very interested in the custom of "sworn virgins" in Albania. It is a concept that I had never heard of before. It's so interesting to me to learn about new customs like this through books. "Sworn Virgins" could carry guns (something that gets our heroine into a lot of trouble in the book). They could wear men's clothing and could work the way that men are allowed to. I really liked all of the detail that the author packed into this book about the custom.

While the story and historical context was interesting, the writing felt a little stiff in some places. There would be passages that would flow very nicely and then others that seemed to get mired into telling rather than showing. Eleanora is a strong character and I liked that but a lot of her strength is explained rather than shown, which did take me out of the book a little.

Overall, this was a fascinating subject that I would love to read more about!


 

Monday, August 7, 2017

HF Book Tours: Blood Moon: A Captive’s Tale by Ruth Hull Chatlien

Title: Blood Moon: A Captive’s Tale
Author:  Ruth Hull Chatlien
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Amika Press
Publish Date: June 14, 2017
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Southern Minnesota, August 1862. Smoke fills the horizon and blood soaks the prairie as the Sioux fight to drive white settlers from their ancestral homeland. Sarah Wakefield and her young son and baby daughter are fleeing for their lives when two warriors capture them. One is Hapa, who intends to murder them. The other is Chaska, an old acquaintance who promises to protect the family. Chaska shelters them in his mother’s tepee, but with emotions running so high among both Indians and whites, the danger only intensifies. As she struggles to protect herself and those she loves, Sarah is forced to choose between doing what others expect of her and following her own deep beliefs."

My Two Cents:

 "Blood Moon" is the story of Sarah, a woman who had a very tough early life and was thrown out of the house for not sins of her own but the sins of her stepfather. When she marries a doctor after being abandoned by her family, she finally thinks that the rough part of her life is over. On the frontier of Minnesota, there is still danger all around as Sarah and her children are taken by warring Native American tribes. Sarah will once again have to use her mental toughness to survive and to help her children survive.

The characters in this book are all well drawn and fascinating. Our main character, Sarah is especially interesting. While other white captives seem to fight the Native Americans every step of the way, Sarah strongly believes that showing kindness and respect to her captors is the way to ensure her life and the lives of her children are not taken. This will not make her many friends among the other white captives who begin to see Sarah as a traitor who actually cares for the Sioux that have taken them. I found the juxtaposition between how Sarah treats her captors (and how they treat her back) and how the other captives act (and how the Sioux treat them) absolutely fascinating. Yes, this book is about the Sioux wars of the mid-1800s but it also has a more universal message, which I really enjoyed.

I will admit that I didn't know much about this time period and the events in the book. I really liked how much historical detail the author packed into the book. I loved reading about the home life of the settlers as well as the Native Americans. The author does a great job of bringing both the characters that fill this book as well as the vast settings to life. This is a good book that brought me to a new time and place!






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