Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: New(ish) Series I Want to Start

It's time for Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's list is:

Top Ten New Series I Want to Start Reading 
(new is defined as first published within the last one to two years)


(1) The Falling Kingdoms series by Morgan Rhodes (YA Fantasy). The first novel is Falling Kingdoms (2012).

(2) The Throne of Glass series by Sarah Maas (YA Fantasy). The first novel is Throne of Glass (2012).

(3) The His Fair Assassin trilogy by Robin LaFevers (YA Fantasy). The first novel is Grave Mercy (2012).

(4)Rick Yancy's 5th Wave series (YA Fantasy). The first novel is The 5th Wave (2013).

(5) Conn Iggulden's Wars of the Roses series (Historical Fiction). The first novel is War of the Roses: Stormbird (2013).



(6) Lindsay Faye's Timothy Wilde series (Historical Mystery). The first novel is Gods of Gotham (2012).

(7) Emma Newman's The Split Worlds novels (Fantasy). The first book is Between Two Thorns (2013).

(8) Django Wexler's Shadow Campaign series (Fantasy). The first novel is The Thousand Names (2013).

(9) Saladin Ahmed's Crescent Moon Kingdoms series (Fantasy). The first novel is Throne of the Crescent Moon (2012).

(10) Sylvia Izzo Hunter's Noctis Magicae series (Fantasy).  The first book is The Midnight Queen (2014). 

Are there any series on this list you'd like to start reading?  Are there any you have started?

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Dewey's 24-Hour Read-A-Thon: October 18, 2014


Today's the day to get your reading on with Dewey's 24-hour Read-A-Thon!

I'll use this post to provide updates on my progress throughout the day.   To start, here are my responses to the opening meme:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

I'm reading from Ottawa, Canada's Capital City.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?


Probably The Martian by Andy Weir.  This is the book I intend to read first.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

I actually haven't any specific snacks lined up.  I'll just grab stuff out of my cupboards or fridge as the mood strikes me.  I do, however, have lots of tea lined up -- my flavours of choice are Pure Chai and Maple Sugar.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

Well, I love to read obviously, but I also love to travel.  My favourite place to visit is England, and no visit there is complete without a trip to Foyles Bookstore in London!   I'm a huge baseball fan, with the Toronto Blue Jays being my favourite team. 
    
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

I'm a first timer, so I'm looking forward to the whole experience :-)

Happy Reading!

UPDATE NUMBER ONE

Well, we are now through three hours of the Read-A-Thon, and I've only managed to get 85 pages read. I'm not off to as great of a start as I'd hoped, but I am enjoyed the book I selected to start with (The Martian by Andy Weir).

I have participated in one of the mini-challenges: Coffee or Tea?  As a tea addict I'm clearly TeamCSLewis on this one. I hope to take part in more mini-challenges as the day progress. 

I will be taking some time off this afternoon to take my daughter to see Alexander and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (at least it's based on a book), and to buy some groceries (turns out I should have planned some snacks in advance after all). 

Once my afternoon activities are completed I'll plant myself firmly back in my reading chair and get back to it.

How is your Read-A-Thon going?

UPDATE NUMBER TWO

I did it!  I finally finished a book!  It was The Martian by Andy Weir and it took me longer to read than I expected it would.  But that's okay, it was totally worth it since it was a great read.  

My next book will definitely be shorter :-)  This one wasn't included on my Read-A-Thon stack, but I'm going to give The Giver by Lois Lowry a try since it really should be quick read.

On another note, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is a really cute movie, and since it's based on a book, I think going to see it was a great way to take a break from the Read-A-Thon. 

I hope the Read-A-Thon is still going well for everyone!

READ-A-THON END OF EVENT MEME

It's hard to believe the Read-A-Thon is already over!  I fell asleep around hour eighteen, intending to get back up and read for the final few hours, but it turns out I slept right through hour twenty-four and then some :-)   So, I'm a little late with my answers to the end of event meme, but here they are:

1.    Which hour was most daunting for you? 

Hour 18, as that is when I determined I needed a bit of sleep or I wouldn't be able to function the next day.  

2.    Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

I think George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series would work well as Read-A-Thon novels.  I found them hard to put down.  Each book in the series is about 1000 pages long though.

3.    Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

None.  This was my first time participating and I thought it was well run and fun!

4.    What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

I enjoyed the fact that people shared their progress on social mediums other than just their blogs, which I admit I had a hard time visiting since I was concentrating on reading.  With Twitter and Instragram I could stay connected without the need to put my book down.

5.    How many books did you read?

Two.  My goal was to finish three, but in retrospect I miscalculated how long it would actually take me to read each book.  

6.    What were the names of the books you read?

The Martian by Andy Weir and The Giver by Lois Lowry.  

7.    Which book did you enjoy most?

Definitely The Martian by Andy Weir.  It was suspenseful, had great characters and surprisingly funny.  

8.    Which did you enjoy least?

The Giver by Lois Lowry.  I recognize this is an award-winning novel, and that lots of people love it, but it didn't work for me.  It was entertaining enough that I could easily finish it, but it left me with a lot of unanswered questions.

9.    How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

So long as future Read-A-Thon's don't fall on holiday weekends, I definitely plan to participate again -- and hopefully make it longer than hour 18 before falling asleep :-)



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Thursday, October 16, 2014

24-Hour Readathon: Book Stack


This coming Saturday I'll be taking part in the Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon for the very first time (click here for more information).  After following previous Readathon's via Twitter, I'm super happy that I'm finally able to participate! 

After careful consideration of my tremendously large TBR pile, I've decided upon the following books for my readathon stack:

Melissa's 24-Hour Readathon Book Stack
While there is no way I'll possibly be able to read all of the books on my reading stack, I like having options to chose from.  My goal will be to read three of the seven books I've picked. 

Has anyone read any of the books I've selected?  Are there any books I simply must make sure I read on Saturday?   Are there any I should stay away from?

Happy Reading! 

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Places Books Have Made Me Want to Visit




It's time for Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's list is:


Top Ten Places Books Have Made Me Want to Visit (real or fictional)

I'm going to divide this list in two, the first five spots will focus on the real places I'd like to visit thanks to books, while the remaining five spots will focus on the fictional places I'd like to visit. 

Real Places:

(1) The Scottish Highlands -- thanks, in part, to Diana Gabaldon's Outlander novels.  I've had the opportunity to visit Edinburgh, Scotland, but never made it as far as the Highlands, a place of stunning beauty that Gabaldon vividly brings to life in her novels.    

(2) Australia -- thanks to The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough. This was one of my favourite books as a teenager, and I've wanted to go to Australia ever since I finished reading it.  

(3) Northern Wales -- thanks to Sharon Kay Penman's England/Wales historical fiction trilogy.  I've been to Cardiff and Caerphilly, Wales, but ever since reading Sharon Kay Penman's England/Wales trilogy I've longed to go to Northern Wales and visit the castles of Caernarvon, Beaumaris and Conwy.  

(4) Pompeii, Italy -- thanks to Robert Harris' historical novel, Pompeii.  My next trip to Italy will include a stop to see the ruins of Pompeii. 

(5) Versailles, France -- thanks to pretty much every historical novel I've read set in France.  I've visited France several times, but somehow none of my trips included a visit to the palace of Versailles. 

Fictional Places:

(6) Hogwarts -- I don't think I even need to explain why or what books inspired this selection :-)

(7) Middle Earth -- thanks to JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings novels.  I do imagine it would look exactly as envisioned on the big screen by Peter Jackson...which means I also want to visit New Zealand where the movies were filmed.

(8) Westeros -- thanks to George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series.  I'd love to visit Westeros as a whole, keeping clear of all the fighting!, but I'm most interested in seeing The Wall up close...and maybe visit Jon Snow while I'm there. 

(9) Anne Shirley-era Green Gables in Prince Edward Island -- thanks to Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables novels.  While Prince Edward Island isn't fictional, and I've visited several times (including stops at "Green Gables"), I'd like to go back in time and visit PEI and Green Gables during the era in which the Anne of Green Gables novels are set. 

(10) Thursday Next's England -- inspired by Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next novels.  Any place that features literary detectives and allows you to jump into a book is a place I'd like to visit. 

Where would you like to travel thanks to books?



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Monday, October 13, 2014

Blogging Update and Giveaway Winner

Hello fellow book bloggers!

As you may have noticed, it has been two months since I last posted here. While I've generally enjoyed my time as a book blogger, over the course of 2014 I lost my blogging mojo -- not only in terms of writing up my own posts, but also in taking the time to visit other blogs. I blame much of this on the fact that I over committed to reviews during the past year. Even though I only accepted review copies of books I genuinely felt I would enjoy, the number of books I accepted meant that all of my reading time became devoted to finishing these books and writing reviews of them. My own (extremely large) TBR pile was neglected, leaving me wondering if I'd ever get to it again, and blogging (and reading) began to feel less like a hobby and more like a job. As a result, I decided to go on hiatus. This hiatus has been good for me. I've only read books from my own TBR pile, and have been able to choose what I want to read based solely on my reading mood, and not on a requirement to meet a review deadline.

Now that I feel my reading life is getting back to where I want it to be, I've decided it's time to give blogging another shot. My approach will be different this time, however. I'm no longer going to accept any books for review -- no matter how badly I might want to say 'yes'. Instead, any reviews I post from here on out will be for books I purchase myself and want to share with other readers. Although the focus of this blog has primarily been on historical fiction novels, my reading tastes are much broader than this one genre, and my new approach will reflect this -- although there is no need to worry historical fiction fans, I still plan to share my thoughts on titles in this genre too :-)

In addition to recommitting myself to blogging, I also plan to become active once again in the blogging community. I've missed interacting with others. My TBR pile is the size of small mountain in large part due to the great posts, reviews, and lists created by my fellow book bloggers.  

Happy Reading and Blogging!

The Lost Duchess by Jenny Barden - Giveaway Winner

I do have one giveaway winner to announce, one that I should have announced a long time ago!  My apologies for the delay.   I'm pleased to announce that Sarah from A Geek's Bookshelf has been selected (using Random.org) as the winner for my giveaway of Jenny Barden's The Lost Duchess.  Many thanks to Jenny for offering a giveaway copy.   The winner has been notified by email. 


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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Book Review and Giveaway: The Lost Duchess by Jenny Barden

Synopsis:

Once a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth, Emme Fifield’s only hope of surviving the scandal that threatens to engulf her is to escape England for a fresh start in the new America.

Emme joins Kit Doonan’s rag-tag band of idealists, desperados and misfits bound for Virginia, but such a voyage will be far from easy and Emme finds her attraction to the mysterious Doonan inconvenient to say the least.

As for Kit, the handsome mariner has spent years imprisoned by the Spanish, and living as an outlaw with a band of escaped slaves; he has his own inner demons to confront, and his own dark secrets to keep…



Ebury Press | June 2014 (Paperback) | ISBN: 978-0-091949-67-9

My Review

Jenny Barden's latest release, The Lost Duchess, is not your typical work of Elizabethan-era historical fiction.  While the novel opens at Queen Elizabeth I's court and includes a familiar cast of aristocrats (Edward Seymour, Earl of Surrey), adventurers (Sir Walter Raleigh) and political advisors (Francis Walsingham), it is the Roanoke Colony and the people who sought to establish it that are at the heart of this novel. 

Young Emme Fifield is a lady in waiting to the Queen, one with the world seemingly at her feet.  But when a brief encounter with an unscrupulous man jeopardizes her position at court, Emme is forced to reconsider her future.  Faced with few options, Emme pins her hopes on an upcoming expedition to the Americas financed by Sir Walter Raleigh and led by John White that seeks to establish a colony on the Island of Roanoke.  Unfazed by the dangers associated with an ocean crossing and the hardships involved with settling in the New World, Emme convinces the Queen to let her go.   Accompanying the expedition is Kit Doonan, a sailor who was once held captive in the Spanish Main and escaped to lead a band of Cimaroons.  While Kit and Emme have instant chemistry, the secrets they harbour threaten their chances for happiness; a situation made more pronounced by the harsh realities of living in a colony that is surrounded by enemies intent upon its destruction.   The Lost Duchess explores not only the fate of Emme and Kit, but also that of the Roanoke colony itself.

Having enjoyed Jenny Barden's debut novel, Mistress of the Sea (click here to read my review), I was eager to read The Lost Duchess.  I wasn't disappointed.  Jenny Barden has once again crafted a beautifully written and well-researched historical novel, one that features a memorable cast of characters, and an entertaining and informative narrative.  My favourite aspect of this novel is its New World setting.   I've read many works of historical fiction set in the Elizabethan era, but The Lost Duchess is the first that features the Roanoke colony at its core.  While little is known about the fate of the colony and its inhabitants, Barden's interpretation is a plausible one.  While the political and strategic considerations that impacted on the future of the colony receive only minimal attention in the book, Barden includes just enough detail to ensure that the reader understands the key issues.   This detail has also left me wanting to read more about England's first attempts at colonization and the strategic considerations behind them. 

While Kit Doonan's character is first introduced in Mistress of the Sea, enough of Kit's back story has been included in The Lost Duchess to ensure that the novel stands well on its own, and that reading the books in publication order is not necessary. 

Recommended to readers who enjoy historical fiction set during the Age of Discovery, as well as to readers interested in a fictional account of the lost colony of Roanoke. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Source: I was provided with a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

Giveaway

I'm pleased to host a giveaway for one copy of The Lost Duchess courtesy of Jenny Barden.  Giveaway details are as follows:

- The giveaway is open internationally;
- To enter, simply leave a comment below with your email address;
- Only one entry is allowed per person;
- The giveaway will be open until midnight (EST) August 24th; and
- The winner will be selected using random.org and will be notified by email.  

Good Luck! 

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Book Review: The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier

Synopsis:

From the author of the New York Times bestseller Juliet comes a mesmerizing novel about a young scholar who risks her reputation—and her life—on a thrilling journey to prove that the legendary warrior women known as the Amazons actually existed.

Oxford lecturer Diana Morgan is an expert on Greek mythology. Her obsession with the Amazons started in childhood when her eccentric grandmother claimed to be one herself—before vanishing without a trace. Diana’s colleagues shake their heads at her Amazon fixation. But then a mysterious, well-financed foundation makes Diana an offer she cannot refuse.

Traveling to North Africa, Diana teams up with Nick Barran, an enigmatic Middle Eastern guide, and begins deciphering an unusual inscription on the wall of a recently unearthed temple. There she discovers the name of the first Amazon queen, Myrina, who crossed the Mediterranean in a heroic attempt to liberate her kidnapped sisters from Greek pirates, only to become embroiled in the most famous conflict of the ancient world—the Trojan War. Taking their cue from the inscription, Diana and Nick set out to find the fabled treasure that Myrina and her Amazon sisters salvaged from the embattled city of Troy so long ago. Diana doesn’t know the nature of the treasure, but she does know that someone is shadowing her, and that Nick has a sinister agenda of his own. With danger lurking at every turn, and unsure of whom to trust, Diana finds herself on a daring and dangerous quest for truth that will forever change her world.

Sweeping from England to North Africa to Greece and the ruins of ancient Troy, and navigating between present and past, The Lost Sisterhood is a breathtaking, passionate adventure of two women on parallel journeys, separated by time, who must fight to keep the lives and legacy of the Amazons from being lost forever.


Ballantine Books | March 2014 | 608 pages (hardcover) | ISBN: 9780345536228

My Review

Anne Fortier's latest novel, The Lost Sisterhood, is a fast-paced adventure that transports the reader between modern day Europe and North Africa, and the classical world of Ancient Greece and Troy.  When Oxford philologist and Amazon enthusiast Diana Morgan is approached by a mysterious stranger and offered the chance to decipher an obscure ancient language, it presents her with an opportunity she can't turn down.  Diana soon finds herself in North Africa studying inscriptions left on an ancient temple that had been buried for centuries, inscriptions that lead Diana to uncover not only the name of the first Amazonian queen, Myrina, but also to trace the origins of the fabled, female-only tribe.   Excited by her discovery, Diana sets off on a quest to trace Myrina and the Amazon's path and, hopefully, unearth the treasure supposedly removed by the Amazons from Troy in the aftermath of the Trojan War.  Diana is joined on her quest by Nick Barran, a perplexing and secretive man employed by the same foundation that hired her.  As Diana and Nick attempt to retrace Myrina's steps and uncover the mythical treasure, it isn't long before they realize that their own movements are also being tracked.   It seems Diana and Nick are not the only ones searching for the treasure, and that their opponents will stop at nothing to keep Diana and Nick from it.

There are many aspects of The Lost Sisterhood that I enjoyed, not the least of which is the novel's heroine, Diana Morgan.  Diana is an intelligent, resourceful,  and curious woman, one who is committed to the truth and advancing knowledge.  Most important to me, however, is that even though she is a fictional character Diana felt very real.  As such, while the quest Diana undertakes is a remarkable one, readers will nevertheless be able to easily relate to Diana herself.   Diana is not the only heroine of this novel, however, as Diana's story is complemented by that of Myrina's.  Like Diana, Myrina is a well-drawn character, and I enjoyed how Fortier used her to convey the story of the Amazons.  Often times when reading novels that feature dual time narratives I find myself strongly drawn to one narrative over the other.   In The Lost Sisterhood, however, I found both Diana and Myrina's story lines to be equally compelling.  Both are quick moving and captivating, and Fortier is able to seamlessly move between the two without interrupting the novel's flow.    

Another strength of The Lost Sisterhood is how Fortier  successfully fuses many aspects of Amazon, Greek and Trojan myth with history, and it is obvious that Fortier undertook a significant amount of research in order to write this novel.  While debate exists as to whether or not the Amazons really did exist, at least in the form depicted by legend, by drawing on this history Fortier makes a compelling case for their existence.  As a result, the Amazons are now a subject I'd like to explore further through non-fiction.  

If you're a fan of adventure novels, books that feature strong heroines, dual-time narratives or books that are set (at least in part) in the classical world, I highly recommend giving The Lost Sisterhood a try.   I can't wait to read what Anne Fortier writes next! 

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Source: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.


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