Friday, July 21, 2017

24 in 48/2nd COYER Summer Read-a-thon Reading List



I think I am in the beginning of a summer cold, just in time for back to back read-a-thons. I am sipping some herbal tea (Twinings Lemon and Ginger and Twinings African Rooibos with Vanilla) in the hopes I can nip this cold in the bud.

So what am I reading for 24 in 48 (July22 -23) and the second COYER Summer (July 23 - 30) read-a-thons? Here's the list:

1. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
2. Chaucer's Major Tales by Michael Hoy and Michael Stevens
3. The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
4. The Son of Neptune (Heroes of Olympus #2) by Rick Riordan (adapted by Robert Venditti)
5. A Sultry Love Song by Kianna Alexander
6. Falling for the Enemy by Naomi Rawlings
7. The Soldier's Secrets by Naomi Rawlings
8. The Greek Tycoon's Green Card Groom by Kate McMurray
9. Secret Agent Under Fire by Geri Krotow
10. Killer Countdown by Amelia Autin

The first four titles are prompt fillers for the Pop Sugar Challenge. The other six are category length romances, four of those I got at RT in Atlanta. The rules for the second COYER read-a-thon is that you have to read physical books from your list only (I added the other four books to my reading list), so I just made that my rule for 24 in 48 too - that way if I was in the middle of a book read for 24 in 48 I wouldn't have to put it aside for a week to finish it.

Until next time, happy reading!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Summer Reading Lovin'

It has been a while, huh? Drinking a cupof Twinings African Rooibos, Strawberry, and Vanilla tea while it non-stops raining and cold here in east England. I recommend this tea, it is a perfect balance between sweet and spicy. So here is what I have been up to....

COYER Summer Vacation 2017
So I opted into the reading list part of this challenge. Out of the original 30 books on my list, I have read and reviewed 10 and DNF 1 (let's just say category romance from the 1980s DO NOT AGE WELL). As per the rules of the challenge, I added 10 books to the list and have already read 2 of the added books.

Highlights from the Reading List
1. Author Allie Pleiter - she can deliver in both contemporary romance and historical romance (inspirational in both genres). I have four of her books on my original 30 and have read and enjoyed 3 of them. The Bull Rider's Homecoming is the contemporary and although it is the third book in the series, you can read it as a stand-alone. Homefront Hero and The Doctor's Undoing are set in WWI era and can be read as stand-alones, but work better when you read HH first.

 
2. The Brides of Waterloo series
This was a little noticed series from Harlequin Historical that was published on the 200th anniversary of the Waterloo campaign. I highly recommend you read them in order, due to the different stories picking up along the same time line. I LOVED the first two books, but the third one left me disappointed (I didn't like the heroine).
 
 
3. The Soldier's Dark Secret by Marguerite Kaye
Continuing on the Britain is at war with France theme, this story deals with a long-time Army officer who resigns his commission after the Waterloo campaign and a French painter looking for answers to her parentage. So good! First book in two book series called Comrades in Arms.
 
 
 
Hey notice anything about the books highlighted? Yes, they are all from lines that Harlequin announced in May 2017 that are being shut down. Needless to say, I have many feelings toward that announcement, most that can be summed up as GRRRRRRR WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
 

 

 The Ripped Bodice Summer Bingo
Making my way through this challenge by only using what is on my COYER list. No bingos yet, stayed tuned. If you play, note that the rules set up that any book read starting June 1st counts.

24 in 48 Read-a-thon
I am all signed up and ready to binge read! This read-a-thon takes place at the same time that the second read-a-thon for COYER, so I will be reading my print books off my reading list for 24 in 48. I will be updating throughout 24 in 48 here and at Instagram. Sign up today!


Until next time, happy reading!


 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Update on my Reading Life

Yes it has been a while since I posted...April 2017 is pretty much a blur for me. But I wanted to update my readers on what is going on in my reading and tea drinking life, so I thought now would be a good time.

Upcoming Read-a-thons
1. Dewey's 24hr Read-a-thon - happening this Saturday, April 29th about 1pm in my time zone. The goal is to make it to 12 hours of reading, the stretch goal is to make it to 15 hours. I don't really have a TBR set aside for this read-a-thon; I am just going to finish up any April reads or read a book for a book-related game I am playing with some online friends. I think there is still time to sign up and participate.

2. Bout of Books (Cycle 19) - happening Monday, May 8th through Sunday, May 14th. Again, no real TBR set aside, just the one big book I am reading for the Pop Sugar challenge (fills in the 800+ page prompt) and any book for the bookish game. My real goal is to really participate in the daily challenges - this is one area of the BoB read-a-thon I continually suck at. Sign ups are active; I've done the declaration post on my BookLikes blog.

Reading Challenges
1. Pop Sugar Reading Challenge 2017 - 29/52 prompts filled. Starting in May I will be reading London by Edward Rutherfurd, and 829 page historical fiction about my favorite city. This is to fill in the prompt for 800+ page book. It will take me all of May and June to read it while I also read other books for the online game. If I don't get this prompt done before the first half of 2017 is over, I won't get to it in the second half due to procrastination and lack of enthusiasm for reading long books.



2. Library Love Challenge (OverDrive Junkie level) - 29/36 read; I don't count DNFs. Since I am close to finishing this one early, I might take the summer off from borrowing and picking up again in the fall. This will give me more room to read off my physical TBR shelf.

3. BookLikes/Good Reads Challenge - 57/150

Upcoming Events
1. RT Booklover's Convention 2017 - in just a few days I will be in Atlanta for my first RT convention! This has been on my bucket list for as long as I have known there was such a convention. And I have always wanted to visit Atlanta, so there will be some sight seeing as well as indulging in all things romance. I'm also excited for some warm weather - right now England is in a rain/cold snap weather pattern.

So that is what I have been up to. Can't wait to share my RT experience, my British Library experience, and more with you in May. Until then - happy reading!




Tuesday, March 28, 2017

#trypod

Hey everyone! I know I have been majorly slacking here on my blog lately; it seems BookLikes is back up and running, so I have been reviewing and blogging there.

Today's topic is about the #trypod campaign - a hashtag that invites people to promote their favorite podcasts to friends, blog readers, family, etc. I am a big fan of podcasts; sorry not sorry but British radio really doesn't do it for me and the one American station here plays the John Tesh radio show for three hours every weekday morning....yeah so I have turned my iPhone into my personal talk radio station. I listen in the car, when I am cleaning the house, or at the gym; I use iTunes podcast app to listen.

So here is a list of my favorite podcasts, in no particular order:

1. Book Riot Media Group podcasts
    There is a group of podcasts from the bookish people at Book Riot. I listened to the Book Riot podcast, All the Books!, and Get Booked. The first and last podcasts are about a hour long; the second runs about 30-40 minutes. All of them release new shows once a week. Price: $Free, the shows are supported with advertisers.

2. Stuff You Missed in History Class
    My first podcast. I have only been listening to this since the current hosts have been doing the podcast. Each episode is about 30-45 minutes long and some topics take up two episodes. You don't have to be a history buff to enjoy this podcast - this podcast has the ability to make you into a history buff! The show releases two episodes each week; if the topic is a two-part subject, I wait until the second show is aired before listening to show number one. $Free, the show is supported with advertisers.

3. Disaster Area Podcast
    A relative new kid on the podcast block. Created, researched, hosted, edited - the whole enchilada is done by Jennifer M. who has a curious fascination with disasters, natural or man-made. There are no ads, so the host has a Patreon account if you want to donate some money towards the upkeep of the podcast. My favorite episodes are the movie breaks - they are hilarious! Episodes released when Jennifer has the opportunity to get them out. Price: $Free, no ads, donations welcomed!

4. Dirt Cast/Big Time Dicks
    The newest additions to my podcast listening, both podcasts are from the team at Jezebel.com. Dirt Cast is all about celebrity news and gossip, but they end up doing some really extensive journalism on some subjects; for example, their show on Scientology is a must listen to. Big Time Dicks is all about US politics and this new administration. Episodes release once a week. Price: $Free, no ads, no donations.

5. Throwing Shade
    I was recommended this podcast by iTunes as I also listened to Stuff Mom Never Told You (a now-defunct podcast). It took me a couple of episodes to get a feel for how Bryan and Erin work and interact, and then I went into the mother of all binge listens and listen to every episode in a matter of weeks. Hilarious, insightful, really great interviews - and cute dogs. Bryan and Erin also just finished their weekly television show (same name) and will be touring soon. Episodes release once a week. $Free, some ads, donations taken at the website.

6. Smart Podcast, Trashy Books
    My favorite romance book blog in podcast form. Sarah is a great host and Sassy knows her traditional Celtic music. My favorite episodes are All the Bitches Assemble (basically when all the bloggers get together and talk about a whole bunch of stuff, some not related to romance) and when the owners of The Ripped Bodice are on. Episodes release once a week. $Free, there are ads, but you can also send donations to Patreon.

7. The Readers
    Simon from Liverpool and Thomas from D.C. are the best trans-Atlantic Odd Couple you could ever listen to. I'm not one for literary fiction, but no worries as these guys read across a wide variety of genres. Usually episodes are released once every other week. $Free, no ads, no donations taken.

Until next time, happy reading podcast listening!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Finished for Challenge


Book Review
Heir to a Desert Legacy
Harlequin, 2013
Read January 2017
1 star
 
 
I usually love Maisey Yates sheikh romances, but this one was a long slog to get through. It took me almost the entire month to read this less than 200 page book. The premise was different, but this was too stereotypical of the Presents line for my taste. The only reason I continued reading this to the end was that it filled a spot on the bingo card.
 
Sayid was a decent hero, but Chloe was all over the place mentally and emotionally and not smart for a doctoral candidate in physics. Their conversations were stilted when they weren't cringe-inducing. I could have done without the constant reminders that she had just given birth (yep, a virgin birth) and she was breastfeeding while sexy times were going on. And rocket scientist in training Chloe didn't realize breastfeeding was not a suitable replacement for birth control when she ends up pregnant at the end of the book (mere months after giving birth - which most medical doctors warn not to do, as it increases complications in second pregnancy and increases the chances of the mother suffering PPD or PPS). 

Damn Good Romantic Suspense

Another book for the Romance Bingo. Downloaded from OverDrive. New to me author that I will be putting on my list of authors to read more from.


 
Book Review
Switched
Harlequin, 2012
Read January 2017
4 stars
 
 
I haven't read a romantic suspense book in a long time. The author is one I haven't read before, but I was aware of her from an interview on a podcast I listen to and she seemed really interesting. I saw the book while browsing OverDrive and decided to give it a shot. I am so glad I did.
 
Aaron Bain is the hottest hero I have read in quite sometime. He has a healthy amount of brains to go along with his brawn, which a nice change of pace from the usual alpha-holes that dominated the subgenre. Risa Peters is smart, funny, and brave - she really was Aaron's equal even though she didn't have any experience in security or military. The two had a few dates prior to the opening of the story, but Bain hadn't called Risa to set up another date in weeks; Risa felt that any potential for a relationship was dead in the water. Until the two meet up when Bain rescues Risa from two hired thugs who were sent to kidnap "a brown haired young woman on the fifth floor" - which unfortunately for Risa, put her in the wrong place at the wrong time. Intense fighting scenes, escape plans, a bombing, and another attempted kidnapping of Risa makes this book 75% suspense, with the other 25%  all about the romance with adults actually talking to each other. The mystery is solved before the romance, which felt realistic. Overall, I want to read more from this author.
 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Tea Review: Twinings of London Christmas Tea

http://www.twiningsusa.com/templates/product.aspx?ProductGuid=F06301&GroupGuid=81

I picked a box of this tea at my base commissary every year around Christmas time. The cover art is full of holiday cheer without being overly fussy, so it can be used as holiday décor in most styles. When you open the box, you don't get a whiff of the tea due to each bag being individually wrapped, which I fill is a bit of a missed opportunity to sell the product.

This is a black tea, and therefore is at full caffeinated strength. Please be mindful if you are sensitive to caffeine. The strength of this tea is a little less than a full English Breakfast tea. There are also artificial flavorings, mostly of the spice variety. Check the box for an ingredients list.

First Impression: the color of the steeped tea is a reddish brown but the smell finally kicks in and is simply soothing and delicious. The scent more than the color is what is appealing about this tea.

First Sip Reaction: A beautifully balanced tea - neither too plain (such as normal breakfast teas) nor overpowering spicy. You can taste the holiday cheer on your tongue via the clove and cinnamon flavor.

Bottom of the Cup Reaction: Well, I wished I didn't put sugar in this tea. Maybe a little honey, but honestly this tea doesn't need milk or sugar - it stands on its own really well. The spice level is a bit lower than in the beginning of the drink.

Final Verdict: The caffeine in this tea didn't keep me awake, so it can be consumed at night if you aren't sensitive to caffeine (or I must have a high tolerance to caffeine....). I went without sugar for the remaining cups of tea and would recommend the reader do likewise. A really great tea to settle down with some cookies and watch a holiday movie.

If you would like to try some, check out Twinings USA.com; the tea is sold in boxes of 20 bags or 12 count K-Cup pods.

Gaffigan Does It Again

By hour 10 of the 24in48 read-a-thon, I just couldn't get any more motivation to read another physical or electronic book, so I switched to an audiobook. I found this book on OverDrive and it fit a Pop Sugar prompt - a book about food, so win-win.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20697471-food

Book Review
Food: A Love Story
Random House Audio, 2014
Read in January 2017
5 stars
 
I have to say that Gaffigan is quickly becoming one of my favorite comedians. His delivery is spot on and his observations are keen without being snarky or mean-spirited. His work is also "clean" - no cursing or explicit material is found here, so you can listen to this with kids present.
 
I think this book is better than Dad is Fat (which I gave 4 stars) because it is the material is funnier, the author seems more comfortable with the subject matter, and the pacing has improved. With Dad, I had to set the speed of speech at 1.25; with Food, I kept it at the standard 1 and still listened through the entire book in one sitting. While I chuckled at the material in Dad, I laughed so hard with Food I gave myself hiccups. He is really passionate about food - as he states, he is not a "foodie" but an "eatie." There are also a lot of material dealing with his travels for his work. Of course, he had a section on Hot Pockets, which made me choke on my tea I laughed so hard.
 
A very pleasant and rewarding end to 24in48. I can't recommend this book enough, but I would suggest getting the audiobook over the print/electronic due to Gaffigan's delivery. 

Does Not Age Well

I read this book for Romance Bingo - Twins square and Pop Sugar Challenge prompt - read as a child.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/529252.Double_Love

Book Review
Double Love (Sweet Valley High #1)
Bantam Books, 1984
Read in January 2017
1 star
 
 
Oh, Sweet Valley High, how I adored you back in the late 1980s and through the 1990s! The twins, their family and friends, the town of Sweet Valley, California was everything I had hoped my teen years would be. My favorite twin was Elizabeth; she was good and kind and going to be a writer! She and Todd were meant to be together 4EVER! My favorite side character was Lila Fowler.
 
Well, I was eight when I first read this book, so cut me so slack.
 
Re-reading this book at 37, and OMG, this book does not age well. Liz and Lila are still my favorites, but now that is like saying my favorite Real Housewife show is NJ; the sane stuff amongst the shit show is pretty easy to spot and stick to. Yet, Liz does not have a backbone whatsoever; she had fortitude of a doormat. And I can't believe just how much Jessica was as an emotionally exhausting character. You could make a drinking game of just Jessica's personality traits that were repeated ad nasuem (take a shot every time she uses "hundred and thirty-seven" or chug a drink when she starts a crying jag - you will be on the floor passed out drunk in no time). But Todd - holy crap, was he this fucking dumb as a box of rocks or what? Seriously, what did Liz see in him? I'm actually glad Liz dumped his ass in the Sweet Valley University series and got with Bruce Patman (as played by Zachary Quinto in my head) in the newer series - she deserves so much better than dull as a dish rag and just as smart Todd.
 
The plotline still holds up though; the battle for SVH's football field is realistic for a YA contemporary. The side plotline of a possible affair within the Wakefield marriage was stupid and if Steven would get his head out of his ass he could have put his sisters' fears to rest long before the end of the book. Steven seemed so mature to me back in the day, now he is just as stupid as Todd and emotionally stunted as Jessica - a real gem.
 
Well, I got some reading challenge mileage revisiting this mess. Glad I stopped myself from buying more than this first book.


Another P&P Re-telling

I read this book for Romance Bingo - YA square.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8369681-prom-and-prejudice

Book Review
Prom & Prejudice
Point Publishing, 2011
Read January 2017
3 stars
 
A quick read, entertaining but a bit shallow in terms of feelings. Lizzie attends Longbourne Academy as a scholarship student, making her an outcast at the school. She has just two friends, Charlotte (fellow scholarship student) and Jane (Lizzie's room mate). At the beginning of the book, Lizzie meets Charles and Darcy (from Pemberly Academy, the sister school to Longbourne) at a welcome back party and is in instant dislike of Darcy; likewise, Darcy is immune to Lizzie's charms due to her status at school. Add there is Charles' twin sister, a Pemberly drop out named George Wick, and Jane's little sister Lydia, and well, the gang's all here (here being small town Connecticut).
 
The story was fun to pass to the time to and gain another square completed for the bingo. Lizzie and Jane are adorable and you can really tell their friendship runs deep. Lydia is just exhausting as a human being and just as stupid/naïve to fall for Wick as in the original. I connected with Darcy more here than I did in the original, but he was a little too thirsty for Lizzie's affections so soon into the story. Lizzie was the best character - she knew herself and had no problems standing up for herself and her friends. She also kept her wits about her, especially in dealing with Darcy and Wick. Wick is still an asshole of the highest order. The fact that she and Darcy were together in the end and both of them opted out of prom rang true for the story and was the best ending.

Timely Read

I read this book on the same day as the Women's March in Washington, D.C. and the sister marches all over the world. Pretty timely reading I must say. I read the first volume in March of 2016.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22487952-march

Book Review
March Book Two
Top Shelf Productions, 2015
Read January 2017
5 stars
 
March Book Two comes after the success of the cafeteria and luncheon sit-ins in Tennessee. Lewis star is rising among the different Civil Rights groups and within his own SNCC. The SNCC decide to take on the bus companies in the wake of the US Supreme Court decision of Boynton v. Virginia. This new campaign would become known as the Freedom Riders. The book ends with the 1963 March on Washington and Lewis' speech.

The pictures and story were engrossing and powerful, but still historically accurate. Lewis begins to spend some time with MLK Jr. but also describes how Malcolm X was a part of the struggle, even though the two men had differing ideas of how to go about fighting. Lewis also has no issue with mentioning Bayard Rustin and his role (and the backlash that came with him) in the planning of the march. Lewis talks about the divide within the SNCC between the voter enfranchisement sect and the direct (non-violent) action sect. Both would play a key part in continuing the fight, and much like MLK Jr and Malcom X, both showed a range of personalities and ideas within the Civil Rights Movement, making the movement less monolithic than simple history lessons often show the movement being.

I decided I needed the entire trilogy for my own personal library (the first two volumes were borrowed from the library). This is the type of story you give to your children to help expand their knowledge of their country's history. 

Fun with Liz and Nate

I read this for Romance Bingo - Love is Murder square.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26169607-lowcountry-bordello

Book Review
Lowcountry Bordello (Liz Talbot Mystery #4)
Henery Press, 2015
Read January 2017
4 stars

I love this series. Liz is smart, dedicated, and funny while trying to figure out a murder inside a modern bordello run by a friend's (Olivia Pearson) great aunt. Nate really shines in this book too, as both her future husband and as a partner in their detective agency - he balances Liz's theories with his own without talking down to her or dismissing her. I could have done without all the wedding talk; I am just not one for paragraphs of dress fittings, mom of the bride demands, or snobby wedding planners. I would have rather Liz and Nate tie the knot in between books off the page or maybe a novella so I could skip it altogether. The wedding plans kept interrupting the investigation and I skimmed those paragraphs after a while. Also, wedding + Christmas time + intense investigation = over kill and a feeling of the story being rushed so each plotline could be resolved by the end of the book.

The murder mystery was cleverly plotted, as were how the bordello was started and how it was run by the great aunt. There was a variety of suspects and back story; I would suggest not swimming pool if you knew what laid beneath. But the ending sealed the 4 star rating - the author really knows to finish off both a book and a small plotline with a big bang. Plus, Colleen's presence continues to work in regards to the mystery, but her presence at the wedding made me tear up a little.

Diseases and Disasters Reading List (Part I of 15)

So the first book I read off my Diseases and Disasters Reading List was this book. I found it while browsing OverDrive.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15771862-wave

Book Review
Wave
Knopf Publishing, 2013
Read January 2017
4 stars

Wave is a first person account of the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 in the Indian Ocean. Deraniyagala was visiting her native country of Sri Lanka with her family (husband Steve, their two boys Vik and Mal, and her parents) at the coastline city of Yala when the wave struck their getaway car and hotel. She was the only one in her family to survive.

The book starts out in the hour before the wave hit; the hotel room was peaceful, with the adults (Sonali and a friend) lingering over breakfast and the kids playing with their Christmas gifts. Steve was in the loo. Word came from another friend that they should leave the coast immediately and that friend was coming to pick them up. Sonali rounded up her two kids and Steve and ran to meet the car; she never stopped to knock on her parents' door to tell them to leave. They just had minutes to leave the area - and never made it to safe ground when the wave it the car and they were separated. Sonali surfaced within the hours but could not find her family. She was rescued and sent to the local hospital. And that is where the heartbreak of that tragedy begins.

This was a heartbreaking story to read, but beautifully written at the same time. Sonali laid bare all the ugly emotions and the mental toll of the event impacted survivors. It took years for Sonali to heal enough to remember her family in a way that honors them, and she did so much of it on her own - there were few people who were really there for her, especially in her lowest points. She is honest and that honesty made me connect with her on so many levels - as a daughter, as a mother, as a wife. The tsunami that struck Japan years after the Indian Ocean one triggered an outpouring of emotions that only a survivor of a similar events can have.

Overall, I highly recommend this book. I would like to read more about the event itself, but reading a survivor's story you get a sense of the emotional and mental impact that a science or history book can lack.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Musty Monday January 23 - 30, 2017


Musty Monday
January 23 -30, 2017

This weekend was spent participating in the 24in48 Read-a-thon. I completed 17 hours and 4 books. At about the 10 hour mark, I couldn't get the motivation to read anymore, so I switched to an audiobook to bring me through the final stretch. I read one graphic novel; next time I will probably have a few graphic novels comics on hand as easier reads between longer works. The only downside I see for being so productive during a read-a-thon is that I have 5 reviews to write. Last week's list was only half-completed; those books will be priority this week. This week is all about finishing up books I started to read so they can count for my January stats and challenges.
 
Here is this week's list:
1. Finish Heir to a Desert Legacy by Maisey Yates
         If I wasn't reading this for Romance Bingo, it would have been labeled a DNF and I would have moved on already. Still at 49% completed.
 
2. With Every Letter (Wings of a Nightingale #1) by Sarah Sundin
         I didn't even get to read a page from this yet. But I am looking forward to reading this book because it is a historical set in the time/land of Not Regency.
 
3. Key of Knowledge (Key Trilogy #2)  by Nora Roberts
         Normally, I would not start a trilogy by reading the second book, but I needed a title or cover photo with a key and this is the one my library had.
 
4. Switched by Helen Kay Dimon
          I am really getting back into romantic suspense. I picked this one from OverDrive because the author did an interview and I really liked what she had to say about writing and the genre.
 
5. The Sun Trail (Warriors: The Dawn of the Clans #1) by Erin Hunter
         The only one on the list not for Romance Bingo. It is a YA fantasy about a clan of cats that go on a journey to find a new land that could sustain them and help them thrive.
 
Until next week, Happy Reading!
 
 

 
 


Monday, January 16, 2017

A New Series for Me

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17570417-a-bit-of-bite?ac=1&from_search=true
Book Review
A Bit of Bite
Cynthia Eden
Entangled Publishing, 2011
Read January 2017
3.5 stars
 
 
I downloaded this book as a NOOK freebie a long time ago, and I needed an urban fantasy/ paranormal story for Romance Bingo, so I figured now would be a good time to read it. The story was a great way to spend time while at the base Laundromat. It is a short paranormal novella (about 95 NOOK pages) about Ava, a human liaison/town sheriff of Crossroads, Mississippi and Julian, the werewolf alpha. I dig werewolf shifter romances, and Julian came to impress and did he ever impress me. Ava was actually a smart heroine when it came to dangerous situations. They worked together as a romantic couple and as partners to find and bring in the killers after them. It was a little short, but page turning. I want to read a lot more from this author in the future and this series!

New Feature! Musty Monday January 16-22, 2017

Musty Monday TBR
January 16-22, 2017

Hey fellow readers! Welcome to my new blog feature, Musty Monday TBR! This is a new feature of the blog designed to break down my big yearly challenges into bite-sized goals to keep me progressing. The name comes from how much dust is accumulating on my physical TBR book shelf.

Today is MLK Jr Day, but living overseas the holiday doesn't have the same recognition or activity as it does back in the U.S. If you spent the holiday volunteering, engaging in political activity, or reading, I hope it was a good one. I spent the day with hubby and kids watching movies - yes, I FINALLY got to see Star Trek: Beyond and loved it! Also, yet another viewing of The Smurfs 2 (my kids are obsessed with all things Smurfs).

I am getting ready for 24in48 read-a-thon, coming up this weekend. I decided that, rather than have a dedicated TBR for the read-a-thon, I am just going to use the weekend to finishing what I was already reading this week. This way I am not putting books on hold to read after the read-a-thon and do not gain a list of half-read books.



My Musty Monday TBR:
 
1. Finishing Heir to a Desert Legacy by Maisey Yates (Romance Bingo)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16116355-heir-to-a-desert-legacy?ac=1&from_search=true

2. Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala (Diseases and Disasters challenge)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15771862-wave

3. With Every Letter (Wings of the Nightingale #1) by Sarah Sundin (Romance Bingo and Physical TBR)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13459177-with-every-letter?ac=1&from_search=true

4. Lowcountry Bordello (Liz Talbot #4) by Susan M. Boyer (Romance Bingo)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26169556-lowcountry-bordello?ac=1&from_search=true

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Dad is Funny

http://www.jimgaffigan.com/books/dad-is-fat

Book Review
Dad is Fat
Random House Audio Publishing Group; Unabridged edition, 2013
Read January 2017
4 stars

I knew of Jim Gaffigan from his stand up specials on Comedy Central, so when I was looking for a short audiobook to fill in a prompt from the Pop Sugar challenge, I went with a known name. Gaffigan reads his own book, and his delivery is just as good here as it is in his stand up. I don't think I would have liked this book as much if I had read it. It kept my attention even though I was playing video games (a time I reserve for listening to podcasts).

Gaffigan has such great observations about every day life in his stand up; with this book, he talks of those observations on parenting - and he has plenty of experience as a father of five kids under the age of 10 (at the time of the writing/publishing the book). He does do funny voices (just like in his stand up), although those voices help the listener define the jokes. He never pokes fun at his kids to get a laugh; a lot of the material here is Jim making fun of himself as a father. The part where he talks of birthday parties really stuck with me as a parent; the part where he talks about taking kids to Mass stuck with me as a kid who grew up Catholic.

For the first 45 minutes, I listened to this at the normal speed; the rest of the book I listened at 1.25 speed and it worked better for me. This was my first audiobook ever and it was a delightful experience thanks to Jim Gaffigan. I am definitely planning on reading Gaffigan's other book via audiobook sometime this year.

1950s Romance

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23249978-long-gone-girl


Book Review
Long Gone Girl
Self-Published, 2014
Read January 2017
2 stars


I read this for Romance bingo, historical square. This book had so much potential and it squandered all of it. It took me two days to read a 95 page e-book, it was so boring. The couple (Ginny and Jett) are the kind of characters you find in a modern contemporary romance, just stuck with 1950s wall paper. Ginny is home from the Korea War where she served as a MASH surgical nurse and a widow (her husband serving as a doctor on the front lines). YES - FINALLY we get a heroine who served in the military!!! It seems us female service members often are overlooked as potential mates in romance. Ginny is living at home with her parents and working a tireless job as a nurse at the county hospital when she gets a couple of days off and heads to the Point Pleasant (one of the many stops along the Jersey shore). She also has an interview with a prestigious hospital in NYC, which will hopefully land her a job with a future different from Jersey roots.

Jett is a fighter pilot who served in Korea as well and is working off the last months of his commission before settling down to a life as a long-haul airline pilot and a wife and kids deal. Again, back story with a lot of potential. He also takes off for a few days at the shore, meeting up with Ginny for the first time since he broke her heart at prom, nine years ago.

Ginny can hold a grudge, Jett explains his side of the story, she forgives him, they have sex - the weekend is done. Boring weekend with predictable side character to bring in a reminder of the conflict which led to the grudge in the first place. Back in their hometown, Jett gives it one more shot and Ginny folds like a house of cards. It is a HFN type of ending. This read more like a contemporary New Adult than a historical set in the 1950s. It was also very shallow in terms of emotional development. Just overall disappointed in what was a potential winner.


Expanding My Reading Horizons

https://www.boaeditions.org/products/antidote-for-night



Book Review
Antidote for Night
Marsha De La O
Read January 2017
2 stars

I picked up this book due to the Pop Sugar challenge prompt of reading a book from a genre you don't normally read - and for me, that genre is poetry, specifically modern poetry. This is a collection of poems centered on the people and landscapes that make up California. For the most part, I understood the imagery the author tried to create with her words; at times she got much too flowery for my taste, but overall she kept the wording in check. There was one poem that was written in a weird, unrecognizable way that screamed "trying to hard." My favorite poems were "Chinese Lantern", "Sanchez", the first verse of "Northridge Quake", "Anna Mae", and "Crossing Over". "Sanchez" was heartbreaking, but the story unfolded beautifully. I didn't see as much variety in the different aspects of California life; to me, the author just described Southern California over and over again, especially Los Angeles (the grittier, less Hollywood-ish part of LA). Still, I expanded my reading horizons and gave modern poetry a shot.

An Important Book, A Mediocre Story

http://us.macmillan.com/ifiwasyourgirl/meredithrusso/9781250078407/

Book Review
If I Was Your Girl
Meredith Russo
Flatiron Books, 2016
Read January 2017
2.5 stars

I saw the discussion on Twitter about how some reviewers found this book too happy or too idealistic. That discussion is why I picked up this book to read, so who says "negative reviews" (the reviewers gave it a 2.5-3 stars, which in my opinion is not negative, it is average) don't get readers to pick up a book? It worked on me, even though I knew about this YA contemporary book before the discussion took place.

I needed a YA romance for Romance Bingo and figured this story would fit the square after reading the jacket blurb. Yes and no....it is about a romance between a cishet boy and a trans girl, but the ending was not a definite HEA or HFN; it was very much left up to reader if the relationship would continue in the romantic way or if the couple would stay friends. So I am back to finding another YA romance from my library's shelves.

All the same, I am glad I read this book. Yes, it is highly idealistic and aspiring - however, I think that kind of representation is just as needed as the more realistic representation kind in diverse literature. The author even addresses this very aspect in her letter to readers in the back of the book. With that said, I (a cishet woman) learned a lot about how a trans person experiences life before, during, and after transition. I think this may be a good starter book for kids and teens to learn more about trans people. I grieved and cried over Andrew and the abuse he took, but I rooted for Amanda to live her truth - in my mind, they were two separate people.

The story itself was a typical YA contemporary that relied heavily on stereotypes (except those of trans people - they got a range of characterizations). If Amanda was cishet woman, this story would be completely mediocre high school stuff. Even with Amanda as a trans girl, this was still a simple story of stereotypes and gossip. And the stereotypes brought this story down for me. The worst of the stereotypes was embodied by the character Bee. I did love Chloe; she would make a great main character in another book (hopefully one with a lot less stereotypes). I felt at the end of the book that Amanda was going to be okay through her final semester of senior year and make a good life for herself. But most likely not with Grant.



Keeping Up with the NYPSD

https://www.littlebrown.co.uk/books/detail.page?isbn=9780349410838

Book Review
Apprentice in Death (...In Death #43)
Berkley, 2016
Read January 2017
4 stars
 
Forty-three books into the series (not counting the novellas, which I have read all but two), and I am still here for the gang from NYC circa 2061. Over the last ten books, some have kicked my reading ass in a good way (hello, Treachery in Death!), some have enraged me (Brotherhood in Death!), and some were just piss poor and didn't deserve to be in such a great series (looking at you Thankless in Death!). This book falls solidly into the great group of reading.
 
So why not 5 stars? Because it is another serial killer story line which Lt. Eve Dallas figures out the identities of the killers half-way through the book and chases them throughout NYC. It has been done already, several times. I prefer the intimate killings, the murders that are singular but have a dozen suspects who may legitimately had a beef with the dead. Apprentice in Death is a little of both; some of the victims were specifically targeted, others were random - while a nice twist, it still is another serial killer story.
 
However, the writing is intense and the characters seem to have come back to their senses and normal traits that made them special (making Brotherhood in Death's bizarre turn in characterization a mirage that hopefully won't happen again). We get the entire Homicide squad on the case for this one, plus Commander Whitney makes several appearances. Somerset's history in and skill set from the Urban Wars plays a part in the murder case; Somerset's relationship to both Roarke and Eve plays into the emotional under story that makes this series so damn good. Also, anytime the Urban Wars come into play I am a happy reader. Nadine Furst is an asset again, as well as Dr. Mira. Roarke decides to take a few days off from buying up the world to play e-geek with Feeney and McNab. Peabody is once again one-liner expert and professional detective again, without mentioning her weight for once. The killers are given a deep back story that unfolds a little at time but always made sense and added to the story. There are moments that harken back to previous books; most notably, the re-opening of Madison Square Garden after the bombing by terrorists in the Cassandra plot. Those little hints of storytelling is one of the reasons I love this series, even with some warts.
 
 


Weak Book in a Good Series


http://merryfarmer.net/other-works-by-merry-farmer/

Book Review
Sarah Sunshine (Montana Romances #2.5)
Self-Published, 2013
Read in January 2017
2 stars
 
 
I think my expectations were a little too high for this novella. This is my fourth book from this author and from this series, so I knew Ms. Farmer could write some great romance. In fact, I recommend Our Little Secrets (Montana Romances #1), Seeks for Her (Montana Romances #6), and The Indomitable Eve (Montana Romances #5). I really enjoyed my time in Cold Springs, Montana in the 1880s (and really need to get Phineas' story already!). And that makes this book all the more disappointing.
 
The plotline: Sarah's contract with the local saloon is up and she is free to pursue her dreams of finding a stable job, a husband, and kids. She wants the last two items with Roy, a bell-hop who worked his way up to being general manager of the new hotel. Yet Paul, the saloon owner and father-figure to Sarah, often butt heads with Roy. There is also Delilah, the hotel owner and former employee and lover of Paul; and Ms. Jones, a spinster and moral crusader of the religious kind. They all work to keep Sarah from pursuing new employment and creating a new reputation in town.
 
I could not stand any of these characters or the circular plotline. Just dumb fights after dumb fight, then lots of crying, then more fighting, then moral crusading. There was no point to the story at all. Roy was an immature moron; Sarah had the self-esteem of a slug and the spine of a jelly fish; Ms. Jones was a complete stereotype of a Christian; Paul was a hot head and a bigot; and Delilah was the only sane one in the group. Delilah's few scenes and lines were a breath of fresh air to the stagnant smog that was the Roy and Sarah show. Honestly, Ms. Farmer did the prostitute with a heart of gold story better in The Indomitable Eve than she did here. 

Note: The cover found at the beginning of this review is from the NOOK edition. The Kindle edition of the cover is very different (and in my opinion, much more appropriate for a historical romance).

Monday, January 9, 2017

#boutofbooks Final Update




I really tried to read all the way up to the last minute last night so I could give this cycle of Bout of Books all the time I could.

Books Read:
My Writing Professor by Nicolette Dane (Romance Bingo square - New Adult)
My Friend the Bride by Nicolette Dane (Romance Bingo square - Wedding Bells)
Sarah Sunshine (Montana Romances #2.5) by Merry Farmer (review coming!) (Romance Bingo square - TSTL)
Apprentice in Death (...In Death #43) by J.D. Robb (review coming!)

Books Started:
Heir to a Desert Legacy by Maisey Yates (29% completed) (Romance Bingo square - secret billionaire)
If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo (44% completed) (Romance Bingo square - YA)

Final Thoughts:
I only participated in one social media challenge; I did the first day introduce yourself in six words via Twitter. I tried to read through all the wonderful responses from Saturday's Twitter chat; however, I couldn't participate due to driving home from Heathrow.

I finished three books for the Romance Bingo; unfortunately one book ended up filling a different square than the one it was intended for, so I am juggling some to fill in the now empty slot. Both books I am currently reading will also go towards filling out the bingo card.

For the Pop Sugar challenge, I got one prompt filled by a book that was finished during BoB (Prompt: author with a pen name/J.D. Robb is the pen name for writer Nora Roberts). The ...In Death book and the Russo work are from the library, which gives me 2/36 books done for the Library Love Challenge.

Overall, in spite of how busy I was this week, I at least got to six books which was my goal, so I am calling this cycle a success. Thursday was a weird day reading wise for me, as I couldn't quite settle on one book to read so I did a fair amount of sampling.

Happy Reading!
Melissa

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Two-in-One Book Review

http://www.nicolettedane.com/free-lesbian-romance-books/

Book Review
My Writing Professor
Self-Published
Read in January 2017
1 star
 
This felt like a teaser excerpt for a longer novel, but unfortunately, it is a stand alone novella. There are major gaps in the story, such as the narrator's (yep, first person POV) entire back story/characterization. The only thing the reader knows about the narrator is that is in her early twenties, is in a MFA for writing program in Chicago, has no job/has no need for a job, and is a student of the title character. The writing professor character has a little more back story, but nothing deep enough to connect the reader to the character. There is a lot of sex and a lot of mental analyzing what all this sex means to their relationship. In the end, the student follows the professor to New York City (even though the student mentions how rural life is more her preferred environment) and leaves the writing program and Chicago without a thought as what she will do in NYC, other than have sex with her girlfriend. Honestly, there was no deep feelings or thinking by anyone in this story and no point in reading this.
 
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http://www.nicolettedane.com/free-lesbian-romance-books/

Book Review
My Friend the Bride
Self-Published
Read in January 2017
1 star
 
Again, first person narrator without much characterization to separate herself from a mannequin. The bride is the narrator's secret ex-lover and present day best friend. Narrator is the maid of honor, and thus in charge of helping bride plan her big day while fantasizing about being lovers again. The opportunity to bump uglies one more time during a weekend bachelorette party. The bride comes from a religiously conservative political family and is marrying a guy from another equally religious, conservative, political family. I really felt that the groom got a raw deal in this story. The narrator does everything to convince the bride to call off the wedding, come out of the closet, and get into a serious relationship with her. The bride wants her cake (big, expensive wedding and honeymoon bought and paid for by her family) and eat it too (secret intimate relationship with narrator) - so the basis of this relationship at the end of the story is that the bride is cheating on her new husband. The narrator seems to be content with being a side dish and complicit in her girlfriend's cheating. There is a lot of sex and no relationship building, so there is no reason for the reader to root for the girlfriends' relationship over the bride's and groom's relationship.
 
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Both books were free via the NOOK store.
 



Meh, It Was Decent

The last book I read for 2016 was a short celebrity essay collection. My final tally for 2016 is 180 books, 20% over my goal.


http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/231576/why-not-me-by-mindy-kaling/9780804138161/

Book Review
Why Not Me?
Crown Archetype, 2015
Read December 2016
3 stars
 
 
This was entertaining in parts, but overall disappointing read. Kaling is a bit shallow in my opinion and her thoughts are nothing more complicated than a Twitter conversation between two entertainment reporters. I just could not connect with Kaling; I felt like I was reading a book written by her on-screen personas. She does have some real laugh out loud one-liners that kept me reading. She seems like a hard-working person who is a talent for writing television shows and acting on them; however, there is a certain amount of immaturity she is holding onto and her fascination with LA life is boring to read.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Reading Goals for 2017


Happy 2017 to everyone! So this is the week that everyone gets on their blog or social media and talks about their reading goals for the new year - and I am no different, so here we are. One thing to help me be more organized and make tracking my progress easier this year is dedicated shelves on Good Reads for each challenge.

First, the personal challenges:
 
1. I have an affinity for books about either diseases or disasters. I think this stems from my work in the military, which was the emergency management career field. I taught CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear) Warfare Defense classes and gave a weekly newcomers' briefing on local EM hazards (mainly weather-related).  It is time to get these books off my shelf, read, and donate/keep depending on how I feel about the book. So I am calling this goal the Diseases and Disasters Challenge (DDC for short).

2. I have got to return to reading to my kids for their allotted 15-20 minutes a day. I was really good about carving out the time within their bedtime routine, and then Halloween happened (and the rest of the holidays) and many days off happened and the routine fell apart. The problem is, my son is going to be six in February and my daughter is going to be four, also in February (because I timed that so well, didn't I?). My son is at that stage where he wants to start reading out loud himself, with lots of help from Mom. He also is wanting longer books. My daughter is not close to that stage yet and just wants her brother to shut up so she can enjoy Mommy reading five to six stories to her. So I am now going to carve out two 20 minute segments in my day and read to the kids separately.

3. Bookish Traveling - I have my first ever RT Booklover's Convention in Atlanta in May and I swear I am actually going to make the time/effort to visit the British Library sometime this year.

4. Physical TBR (for short, pTBR) pile NEEDS to go down. We PCS (for those not military-affiliated, it means moving to our next base) in about 18 months and I don't want to pack up all these unread books AGAIN and bring them to our next assignment. So the NOOK and Kindle are going to see action, just not as much as last year. The DDC books and pTBR pile books have a dedicated shelf on my bookcase so there is no excuse to pull them off the shelf and read. Much like DDC, pTBR pile will be read and either donated or kept depending on how much I liked the book.


Second, the external challenges:
http://boutofbooks.blogspot.co.uk/
https://24in48.com/




 


1. Read-a-thons! I have signed up for two, both starting this month. The first is Bout of Books cycle 18, which starts tomorrow (see widget); the second one is 24in48, a read-a-thon where you try to read for 24 hours within a full weekend (January 21st and 22nd). I am also planning on doing the Bob in May and August, and the summer edition of 24in48 in July.





2. Romance Bingo 2017. This bingo was designed by two BookLikes friends (Bookish Pursuits is their blog) and started today and runs through February 28th. Why yes, I do have books from my personal library already slotted to fit each square (two squares are to be filled by books from the library)! Since I am armed with a list already, my goal is to once again black out the bingo. My BoB cycle 18 will be filled out with books picked from the Romance Bingo reading list.


www.goodreads.com
3. Good Reads Challenge. I have debated this damn number all month. Finally, I settled on 150 books for the second year in a row (even though I read 30 books over the 150 mark in 2016). If I make the goal before November 1st, I may up it to 175.



http://angelsguiltypleasures.com/2016/12/sign-up-2017-library-love-challenge/
4. Library Love Challenge. I used my public libraries (two base libraries and the local British library) extensively in 2016, and that won't change in 2017. Plus, my base libraries do inter-library loans with base libraries across Europe, so anything not found on OverDrive or in the physical libraries can be requested. I chose OverDrive Junkie level, so 36+ books I read in 2017 will come from the library. First time I am doing this challenge.



https://www.popsugar.co.uk/love/Reading-Challenge-2017-42802963

5. Pop Sugar's Ultimate Reading Challenge. My friends in California talked me into doing this challenge with them (and others) and even built a group page on FB so we can keep ourselves accountable and show off what we are reading for the different prompts. I am already reading the first book for this challenge (Apprentice in Death by JD Robb for the "author with a pen name" prompt). I have about a quarter of the prompts slotted with a particular book; the rest is going to just wing it. The two prompts that are my worst nightmares: 800+ page book (focus issues with my epileptic brain) and audiobook (I have a very hard time focusing on listening to someone speak for hours on end).
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That is it for my reading goals for 2017. Let's get this reading party started (quietly)!