The March Roundup!

Well folks, the first quarter of the year is over.  Wasn’t it just January 1st?  With the first quarter over I feel the need to evaluate where I am on my reading goal.  I need to read 10 books a month to stay on pace for the overall goal of 120 books read.  At the end of March my year-to-date total was 43 books, 13 books ahead of schedule!!  (The 24 books I finished reading in March went a long way in pushing me over the mark).  You can see a full listing of everything I’ve read so far with links to their reviews here.

Completed favors

Now that March is over I can tell you what really kept me so busy in February!  My mother turned sixty on March 20th and as such my family threw a surprise party for her at the beginning of March! (She’s too smart to have done it any closer to her actual birthday).  Anyway, her birthday falls on the first day of spring so we decided on a “spring” theme for the party.  I’m still shocked that my sister, aunts, and father were able to pull it off without her finding out.  Anyway, back to the planning!  As the crafty sister, I was placed in charge of the centerpieces, favors, and cake!  Working off the spring theme I bought different colored ceramic birds, Spanish moss, and cellophane bags to make birds in nests for each guest to take home.  I really need to pat myself on the back. They came out great and everyone loved them!  Also, sticking with the spring idea I got these awesome colored flower pots to put fresh flowers in for each of the tables.  Unfortunately, that wound up turning into a disaster because the pots were wider than I thought and the flowers were all over the place and ::sigh:: it was a mess.  I wound up having to stuff wet paper towels into the pots with the flowers to prop them up and keep them hydrated.  It was all worth it though just to see the shocked look on my mom’s face.

Surprised mom!

Surprised mom!

I don’t think anything can beat that face. Seriously.  Anyway, we kept busy the rest of the month with visits to my cousin’s house in upstate New York as well as a trip to the vet for Belle and Sebastian.  Our bowling league also finished up the last Thursday of the month and I can happily say I killed it this year!  I finished as the highest scoring female bowler in our league with a high score of 181 (WOO-HOO)!

On the reading front I read a wide variety of genres last month.  Time-traveling, historical fiction, mysteries, romances, graphic novels, and even a few paranormal ones! I definitely covered the entire spectrum this month, and I’m proud to say that I enjoyed every minute!  It’s not every month that I get to be this productive, and I’m happy that I was able to accomplish so many goals in such a short amount of time.   It’s difficult to come up with a top read of the month having read so many different genres, but if I was being forced to pick one I’d have to pick Voyager by Diana Gabaldon.  I quite simply cannot put her Outlander series down.  I have so many reviews forthcoming for all the great books I read in March. I have to say there are not many losers in the bunch.  It was hands down a month full of reading surprises!

Looking forward to April, I can tell you I’m part of a few blog tours for new releases from Michelle Diener (author of In A Treacherous Courtand M.J. Rose (author of  The Book of Lost Fragrances). Todd’s currently reading Resurrection Express by Stephen Romano and How To Plant A Body by Terri Ann Armstrong. Adam’s working on his review of Game of the Gods by E.J Dabel, the second book in Dabel’s Pantheons series. Sam’s review for Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason is going to be posted on the blog in the next few days.  Once that’s posted she’s moving on to Firebrand by Gillian Philip and The Rose Throne by Mette Ivie Harrison.  Jess is reading a biography about Sylvia Plath entitled Mad Girl’s Love Song.  Charlie’s working on an interview with Paul Cornell, author of London Falling and writer for Doctor Who!  And Christine is reading Under the Same Stars by Tim Lott and Over the Rainbow by Paul Pickering.  The staff is doing a fantastic job at keeping this blog well-rounded and full of book selections for all genres and all readers.  My thanks and praise goes out to them!

Well folks, that’s March in a nutshell.

Until next time, happy reading!

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2012 – A Year in Review

fireworksAnd with it being  January 1st, 2013 we can officially end 2012 and all its reading goals.  I’m very happy to say that I have succeeded in reading my 110 books for the year and exceeded that goal by a whopping 74 books!  With the success of this year I’ll up my reading goal again for 2013.  Keep an eye out for my annual New Year, New Challenges post for a breakdown of what I’m looking to accomplish.

2012 has definitely been a year of eclectic reading for me.  It’s difficult to pick my favorite books of the year since I read so many, but here is my best go:

  1. The Girl on the Cliff by Lucinda Riley
  2. The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley
  3. Dangerous to Know by Tasha Alexander
  4. A Million Suns by Beth Revis
  5. The Apothecary’s Daughter by Julie Klassen
  6. When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James
  7. The Siren by Tiffany Reisz
  8. Short Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer
  9. In A Treacherous Court by Michelle Diener/The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick
  10. Fever by Lauren DeStefano

Damn. That was difficult.

My reading challenges wrap up is as follows: I once again blew through the Historical Fiction challenge (woot woot!).  I also succeeded in my first year participating in the Around the Stack challenge!  Now for the bad parts. The TBR challenge and the Audio challenge both got only one completed review each out of me.  I know I failed the audio challenge because of 1Q84 (AH SO LONG), plus my addiction of reading newer books killed any hope I had of finishing the TBR challenge.  A 50% completion rate for the challenges isn’t terrible, but I’d still liked to have completed 100%.

Even though it’s 2013 I still have some books to review that I finished in 2012, so keep an eye out for them.  You can also see a listing of EVERYTHING I read this year, including review links, here.

Well, there you go folks.  My 2012 year in review.  Enjoy the rest of your New Year’s and join me again tomorrow as we kick off a new year and new challenges!

The November Round Up!

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First snow of the season!

11 months down, 1 to go! 177 books down, 23 to go to meet my third reading goal of 200 books for the year!  I have to tell you that I’m shocked at how fast this year has gone.  This past month our days were filled either being with/helping family or beginning to prepare for the holidays. (We also got hit with our first snowstorm!)

As many of you are already aware, Hurricane Sandy came rip-roaring through NY, NJ, and CT earlier in November.  The amount of damage and destruction left behind was absolutely shocking.  Mother nature’s power is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.  I’ve got family in NY and NJ so it was interesting to see and hear the stories of how the same storm hit all of us yet did different things to our states.  Being where we are in CT, Todd and I were fortunate to have minimal damage.  Downed power lines and trees scattered our town, but that was the extent of our damage.  Closer to the shoreline there was a ton of flooding, fires, weeks without power, etc.  My parents in NJ lost their power for several hours but were lucky to get it back so quickly. My sister and brother-in-law live in Manhattan and had no power for 5 days.  They and their menagerie of animals wound up going to my parent’s house to stay so that they could have access to heat and water.  My aunt on Staten Island unfortunately fared the worst.  Her home was evacuated at the beginning of the storm, and upon her return found water in her basement up to the ceiling. The several feet of water took a few days to drain and that’s when we got to work.  We began tearing her basement apart, bringing up all the furniture, appliances, and other odds and ends that were down there as it all needed to be trashed.  We then proceeded to gut the entire basement literally down to the studs.  Framing, molding, heating baseboards, dry wall, etc.  It all came down.  At this point construction workers were able to come back in and begin working, beginning with putting up the drywall for all the new walls.  My aunt has a new ceiling, new framing for closets, and has picked out new appliances and cabinets.  Cable, internet, and power have all been restored as well.  Thankfully things are looking up for her personally, but the island is still an absolute mess.  I urge all of you to participate in any clothing, supply, or food drives taking place near you for Sandy victims.  There are still homes with no power, people with no food, and construction going on everywhere.  The cars that were flooded and totaled by the insurance companies are still being towed away.  It’s truly a very sad sight and any and all help is truly appreciated.

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Thanksgiving with my in-laws!

Not all of November was a downer, though. Todd and I spent Thanksgiving with both of our families where lots of good food was consumed.  My mother-in-law makes this fantastic jello dish that comes from a recipe from her grandmother.  It has celery and apples in it and a great sauce on the side (it truly is fabulous!)  My grandmother makes my other favorite Thanksgiving dish, rice and sausage stuffing.  She throws in craisins and it is just a heavenly dish!  There is almost never any left (of either dish) once Thanksgiving dinner is over.  I think in 2013 I’ll have to fight for these dishes to get made more often, and not just at Thanksgiving.

To recap my reading in November, I completed another 10 books.  My favorite of the ten was a historical fiction novel called In A Treacherous Court by Michelle Diener.  That novel has quickly restarted my love of reading about the Tudor period of British history all over again.  I’ve found myself gearing up to read a good amount of historical fiction novels in December.

Looking forward, December will be a lot of catching up for me.  I’m working on getting all the reviews I have to finish by year-end up, along with what challenges I’ll be participating in for 2013!  Todd’s working on his review of Targets of Deception and has some author interviews in store! Adam’s working on a review of the film Lincoln and a review of the historical fiction novel Tragedy and Triumph (he’s excited about December since both of his review items relate to the Civil War!)  Sam’s in the process of reading an illustrated sci-fi/fantasy novel Elfhunter, and Charlie has film reviews of The Hobbit and Lincoln coming as well.

It looks like we’re going to have a busy and productive month!  Until next time, happy reading!

#108 A Review of In A Treacherous Court by Michelle Diener

One of the most awesome aspects of being a book blogger are all the awesome titles you’re introduced to by publishers, authors, and other readers.  I was recently sent a copy of In A Treacherous Court by Michelle Diener due to my interest in all things relating to the Tudor period.  Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl gets the credit for my introduction into that period of British history.  That being said, I was excited to see what Diener had in store from this fascinating time period.

Susanna Horenbout is not your normal woman in Tudor-era Europe in 1525.  She is summoned to King Henry VIII’s court to be his personal illuminator (artist who paints everyday scenes).  When she arrives from Belgium, she is met with an attempt on her life.  She narrowly escapes, and is assigned a man named John Parker to be her personal bodyguard.  He is the most dangerous member of Henry’s court, and is aptly suited to his new job.  It’s a good thing, too, as more attempts are made at Susanna’s life and John works to protect her.  They eventually find that Susanna is unknowingly the crux in an elaborate plan to overthrow Henry and take over the throne.  With pressure mounting as troops are building in France for an invasion, Henry and his court could be harboring a fugitive with the aim of taking them down from within.  Will Susanna and John be able to figure out what the plan is?  Will they be able to stay alive long enough to do so?

The court of Henry VIII holds a certain mysterious flair to me.  The stories of constant scheming, backstabbing, and fake courtly manners are just mesmerizing and enthralling.  I can’t help but to want to read every book about these elements of the court that I can get my hands on.  The Susana Horenbout/John Parker series that Diener is writing definitely fits this mold, embellishing factual pieces of the time period with dramatic flair and captivating characters.

John Parker is a heavenly man.  He is incredibly intelligent, fiercely loyal, and has the brain and brawn to help him in almost any situation.  Susanna, on the other hand, is a woman way ahead of her time.  She is a woman who refuses to be what the court expects of her, instead choosing to pave her own way in life.   She is constantly wondering why woman and men are not allowed the same freedoms both professionally and sexually.  She and John are perfect pairs for one another, as John is 100% on board with her wants and needs out of life.  He understands her want of a profession (painting), and her need to be equal with him.

The book packs a punch from beginning to end, taking the reader on a wild ride that you wish will never end.  I’m eagerly anticipating beginning the next novel in the series, Keeper of the King’s Secrets, and the short novella Dangerous Sanctuary which sets up book two.  I highly recommend reading this fantastic venture into the Tudor period.  Fans of Philippa Gregory, Elizabeth Loupas, and Elizabeth Chadwick should definitely add this book to their to-read piles.

5 out of 5 Stars

This is my forty-fourth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

In A Treacherous Court by Michelle Diener
Gallery Books (2011)
Paperback: 320 pages
ISBN: 9781439197080

Special thanks to Simon and Schuster UK for sending me my review copy!