2017 Monthly Status Update: March

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Monthly Stats:
# books read this month: 15
# pages read this month: 2,722
# books read year-to-date: 28
# pages read year-to-date: 7,156

Favorite Books I Read:

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If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio – 4.5 stars

Other Posts this month:

Last Night with the Duke BLOG TOUR!!
The Enemies of Versailles BLOG TOUR!!
Wine and Cocktails – New Releases!

Status of 2017 Reading Challenges:

  1. Finish 2016 ARC’s from NetGalley that I missed – I got a chance to read one this month, so one down! Only 27 to go
  2. Participate in 2 reading challenges – Scheduled for May and August
  3. Other goals:
    1. Write shorter reviews – I’m trying! I think this past month I was able to get out a few shorter ones
    2. Continue establishing relationships – I think I’m doing it, we’ll see how it goes I guess!

Next Month TBR List:

-Windswept by Sabrina Jeffries (part-way through now)
-My One True Highlander by Suzanne Enoch
-I Sared the Duke by Anna Bennett
-The Lady and the Highlander by Lecia Cornwall
-Geekerella by Ashley Poston
-Hannah’s Moon by John A. Heldt
-The Young Widower’s Handbook by Tom McAllister
-Running With Scissors by Auguston Borroghs
-Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse
-The Whole Art of Detection by Lyndsay Faye
-The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo
-Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens
-Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach
-The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

That’s the general reading plan. Fortunately, tax/busy season will be ending for me in less than 3 weeks (only 16 more workdays!!!!!!) and then I have about a week and a half off where I will be spending a lot of time reading. So I am hoping to read everything in the list above and maybe catch up on a few other ones I missed in March as well!! Plus my husband and I are taking a couple trips that I’m really looking forward to, including a new quilting retreat in Ogunquit, ME! So stay tuned for some serious reading in April!

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2017 Book #28 – Stormswept by Sabrina Jeffries

51r+upTVeTLTitle: Stormswept
Author: Sabrina Jeffries (Originally published under pen name Deborah Martin)
Date finished: 3/30/17
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication Date: June 28, 2016 (Reprint, originally published July 1995)
Pages in book: 401
Stand alone or series: #1 in (Reworked) Wales series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

New York Times bestseller Sabrina Jeffries reignites a daring love affair in this intriguing tale of desire and deception—originally written as Deborah Martin and newly revised for today’s audience.
The first wedding night that Lady Juliana St. Albans spent with the dark and daring Rhys Vaughan was intoxicating, the heady culmination of her new husband’s driving hunger and her own awakened sensuality. When he mysteriously disappeared the next morning, she waited for him in hope and desperation. And when he was finally proclaimed dead in a shipwreck, she bitterly mourned the loss of her love.
The second wedding night that Juliana spent with Rhys Vaughan was six years later, after he returned to claim her just as she was about to wed another. This Rhys was different—bolder, harder, and convinced that she’d betrayed him. Only their blazing passion remains from their years apart. But is it enough to light their way through the maze of mystery, menace, and mistrust—to the love they once shared and would have to find again?

My rating:  3.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Juliana St. Albans, who falls in love with Rhys Vaughan. Juliana is the daughter of an earl and Rhys is the son of a squire, and their match is an unusual one. It is made even more unusual due to the fact that Juliana’s father recently took ownership of Rhys’s father’s estate after winning it in a game of cards. Nothing can keep these two apart though, so despite the evidence that they should be enemies they decide to run away together and get married. Only on the night of their wedding (after it though) Juliana’s brothers kidnap Rhys and force him (through impressment which apparently was an actual thing) to join the Navy. After 7 long years, Juliana decides that its time to give up hope and re-marry, and that’s when Rhys comes waltzing back in. Not to save the day though! To punish Juliana for “her part” in his impressment. But still despite the odds, neither Juliana nor Rhys can deny the attraction between them. Can they resolve the issues of their past in order to move forward though?
Overall I liked this book ok. Juliana was such a lovable character and I really admired how patient and forgiving she was. At the same time I thought Rhys was pretty pig-headed and not as appealing as I’d hoped. And the plot line, while riveting, was slightly horrifying. I can’t believe that impressment was something that was actually allowed to happen. And while they are still her brothers, I can’t believe that after her brother had her husband literally banished and then lied to her about it that she could even say that a relationship could attempt to be repaired. I would’ve just been like “Bye have a nice life you suck.” If you can get past those couple pieces though and overlook the glaring awfulness that happened to Rhys, this book was pretty good.

The bottom line: I liked this book, Juliana was an immensely sweet, patient, and generous heroine. I wasn’t a huge fan of Rhys or the plot for the most part (impressment sounds barbaric) but I still found the book to be engaging and heartfelt. I would recommend it but with a caution that you will be frustrated/saddened by certain points in the book.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2017 Book #27 – The Bridge of the Golden Wood by Karl Beckstrand

61sHHHPZy5L._SX260_Title: The Bridge of the Golden Wood
Author: Karl Beckstrand
Date finished: 3/27/17
Genre: Fiction, children’s fiction
Publisher: Premio Publishing
Publication Date: January 25, 2017
Pages in book: 26
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Author/Publisher NOTE: I received this book for free from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

A child with a knack for solving problems helps some hungry fish and finds a treasure. Illustrated folk tale teaches how to spot opportunities to help others and make money; comes with ideas for businesses; money-making activities; and online resources on finding customers, managing money, job ideas and moving up in an organization (for ages 5 and up). Young children will be captivated by the story; older ones will want to apply the things they learn. Teach someone to fish: a how-to book on careers, small business, and learning how to serve/earn money.

My rating:  3.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book is a children’s book that teaches a lesson about earning money. More than that though, it really is about teaching children to take a step back and think creatively about how situations they are presented with could not only benefit themselves but also allow them to help other people. I thought the illustrations in this book were beautifully done and I think it would be an interesting addition to a child’s library.

 

The bottom line: This was a cute book and an interesting approach to teaching kids a particular lesson. Obviously not my usual type of read. I really loved the illustrations.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2017 Book #26 – If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio

51jEpw+Dl0L._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_Title: If We Were Villains
Author: M.L. Rio
Date finished: 3/26/17
Genre: Fiction, suspense
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Pages in book: 354
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: BookBrowse NOTE:I received this book for free from BookBrowse in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Oliver Marks has just served ten years in jail – for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the man who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened a decade ago.
As one of seven young actors studying Shakespeare at an elite arts college, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extra. But when the casting changes, and the secondary characters usurp the stars, the plays spill dangerously over into life, and one of them is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.
Intelligent, thrilling, and richly detailed, If We Were Villains is a captivating story of the enduring power and passion of words.

My rating:  4.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of a group of fourth year theater students attending Dellecher Classical Conservatory, an elite college for the arts that has a slightly unorthodox approach to advancement. Each year only certain students are allowed to advance to the next year’s level, which for this particular story resulted in a group of 7 unusually close senior year theater students. In this particular group, the line between friend and enemy is continually blurred and tensions reach new heights. The story is narrated by one of these seven students, Oliver Marks, who when we first meet him is at the end of his 10 year prison sentence. We meet him as he begins to tell the story of what actually happened a decade ago to Detective Colborne, his arresting officer. Colborne has been haunted by this case the past ten years because he never believed that Oliver was actually the killer. And as the story of that year unfolds, there are many layers to be peeled back before the truth can be uncovered. There are heroes and damsels, tragedy and comedy, lovers and friends. And in the end, there is more than one villain.
Overall I really liked this book a lot. I thought it was so different and so interesting. As the theater student’s curriculum centers mostly around Shakespeare, there were many different passages from his various works woven into the story line and the conversations, and I just loved it. You could feel how young the group of them were, even though they were dealing with such intense adult problems. And Oliver was perhaps the most innocent of them all, and seeing the story through his eyes added that extra layer of naivete. After the murder Oliver and his remaining friends fall to pieces, each of them dealing with their own feelings of guilt and responsibility in different ways. Centered within Oliver’s story is his best friend, James, and his love interest, Meredith. The roles here even are oftentimes blurred, as Oliver’s feelings for James are not so easily categorized into the label of “friends.” That was one of the things I loved most about this book was how well it portrayed that love and hate are on the same spectrum of emotion, and if you feel one it is very easily turned to the other side of the spectrum when a person is pushed to their limit. I also thought the character development in this novel was really well done, I could feel everything that Oliver felt with such strength that I felt sucked into the story itself. The story was heart-warming and heart-breaking all in one and while I was a little surprised at the ending I really just enjoyed this book so much. I would most definitely recommend and I can’t wait to see more from this author in the future!

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This is the coat of arms for Dellecher Classical Conservatory mentioned in the novel. I found this picture on the author’s website and thought it was a neat addition!!

The bottom line: I really liked this book a lot. I loved that quotes from Shakespeare’s plays were interwoven so skillfully throughout the text and I loved the strength of emotions portrayed by all the characters in the book.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2017 Books #18-25 – Tough Justice series

51xOPnG8JdLTitle: Tough Justice series: Exposed (1), Watched (2), Burned (3), Trapped (4), Twisted (5), Ambushed (6), Betrayed (7), and Hunted (8)
Author: Carla Cassidy, Tyler Anne Snell, Carol Ericson, Gail Barrett
Date finished: 3/23/17
Genre: Fiction, crime, detective
Publisher: Harlequin Special Releases
Publication Date: February 23, 2016
Pages in book: 649
Stand alone or series: Series, 8 books in the set
Where I got the book from: Harlequin Romance Insiders NOTE: I received this book for free from Harlequin in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Special Agent Lara Grant has finally put her life as an undercover agent in the Moretti gang behind her and started a new assignment in New York City. Until a dramatic sniper attack leaves Lara’s face — and real name — all over the media. In the blink of an eye, her cover is blown, her identity exposed.
Then a woman’s body is found, branded with the ritual Moretti tattoo. Someone knows who Lara is…and exactly how to make her pay…

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This is an 8 part series about FBI Special Agent Laura Grant. Laura recently went undercover within the Moretti crime syndicate and was able to make it all the way to the top, arresting Moretti and cutting the head off this particular snake. The undercover operation took a lot out of her though, more than she can really admit to anyone, especially her new team with the FBI. Her new partner Nick Delano doesn’t realize how badly scarred Lara is after this last assignment, but his sexy good looks bring her aroung to trusting him in the end. And when Moretti starts coordinating attacks on/near Lara from inside prison, Lara’s whole team must come together to put a stop to it.
Overall I liked this series. The plot line for this series was so interesting and there were some great plot twists. Some of the plot twists I kind of saw coming but they were still really good. I also thought it was really great that even though the series was written by 4 different authors it was still a cohesive story line and the plot line flowed well in between the books. That being said there were some things I didn’t love about the books. There were some holes in the story line and things that were introduced with the other characters that I’m not sure if they’re supposed to lead to another series or if they were just not followed up on. Also, similar to my issue with Rizzoli from The Surgeon series, I didn’t like that Lara was so insecure but also thought she was the coolest thing at the same time. And she broke some rules along the way which I also didn’t like. And her life was just so sad, the last book especially was heart-breaking. I still really liked the series overall though, it was an easy read (the books were shorter than a normal size book and the chapters were nice and short) and I would recommend it.

The bottom line: I liked this series, though the conclusion of it wasn’t my favorite. The series itself though was very interesting and had some great plot twists. I would recommend it.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2017 Book #17 – The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen

510KMAZR9FL._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_Title: The Surgeon
Author: Tess Gerritsen
Date finished: 3/15/17
Genre: Fiction, mystery, thriller
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: August 21, 2001
Pages in book: 356
Stand alone or series: #1 in the Rizzoli & Isles series
Where I got the book from: Terryville Public Library

Blurb from the cover:

In her most masterful novel of medical suspense, New York Times bestselling author Tess Gerritsen creates a villain of unforgettable evil–and the one woman who can catch him before he kills again.
He slips into their homes at night and walks silently into bedrooms where women lie sleeping, unaware of the horrors they soon will endure. The precision of the killer’s methods suggests he is a deranged man of medicine, propelling the Boston newspapers and the frightened public to name him “The Surgeon.”
The cops’ only clue rests with another surgeon, the victim of a nearly identical crime. Two years ago, Dr. Catherine Cordell fought back and killed her attacker before he could complete his assault. Now she hides her fears of intimacy behind a cool and elegant exterior and a well-earned reputation as a top trauma surgeon.
Cordell’s careful facade is about to crack as this new killer recreates, with chilling accuracy, the details of Cordell’s own ordeal. With every new murder he seems to be taunting her, cutting ever closer, from her hospital to her home. Her only comfort comes from Thomas Moore, the detective assigned to the case. But even Moore cannot protect Cordell from a brilliant hunter who somehow understands–and savors–the secret fears of every woman he kills.
Filled with the authentic detail that is the trademark of this doctor turned author . . . and peopled with rich and complex characters–from the ER to the squad room to the city morgue–here is a thriller of unprecedented depth and suspense. Exposing the shocking link between those who kill and cure, punish and protect, The Surgeon is Tess Gerritsen’s most exciting accomplishment yet.

My rating:  2.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I read this book for the Terryville Library’s Fiction Lover’s Book Discussion group discussion for this month (March). This book tells the story of a homicide case under investigation in Boston, MA. Some crazy person is running around murdering women and cutting out their uteruses, and Detective Moore and Rizzoli is one of the people assigned to the case. Through their research, Moore and his team come to discover that this exact MO was also unique to a string of murders in Savannah, GA. And the only person to survive that murderer is now living in Boston. Rizzoli feels outnumbered as a woman on the force and feel like she has a lot to prove, so she’s determined to solve this case and put a win in her column, whatever it takes.
Overall I didn’t especially like this book. I thought Rizzoli was a total jerk and didn’t like her character at all. I felt like she was just whining the whole book and her surliness was way past tolerable. I’m all for the underdog but she put herself and her whole team in danger repeatedly. She kept complaining how she was better than everyone else but didn’t get the recognition because she was a woman but to be honest she didn’t seem all that better than everyone else to me. I didn’t understand how one character could be so insecure and so full of themselves at the same time. Also the conversations and other interactions between the characters seemed stilted and forced to me. The tension in this book, which I would have expected to be high due to the sick and twisted nature of the killer, just wasn’t there for me and I found it hard to work up any kind of emotion towards the plot. The mystery itself was good, if somewhat predictable. I enjoyed the plot twists though and found myself somewhat engaged in that piece of the story at least. If you like detective shows or novels then this book might work for you but it just feel flat for me.

The bottom line: I didn’t care for this book very much. The mystery plot line was alright but I hated Rizzoli as a character and the conversations and interaction between the characters was pretty stilted. I have heard this is a popular series but I personally didn’t enjoy this one.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

Wine and Cocktails – New Releases!

So I have some wine and cocktail books that I was approved to review through NetGalley recently. I don’t really count these as “books read” since when I read a collections of information like this, I don’t necessarily read every single page. But I thought I would still share these books with you guys in case something snags your interest!

The Periodic Table of Cocktails by Emma Stokes – 4.75 stars

41VZ4n1CyBL._SY346_I really enjoyed this book a lot, I actually added it to my Amazon wishlist to purchase in the near future! This was a really creative way to present groups of cocktails with similar characteristics. There was a great chapter on martinis that I learned a lot from. There’s too much information in this book to really retain everything long-term but this would make a great reference book for cocktails, both classic and modern recipes. I loved too that there was so much information included on the background/history of the cocktail and how it originated. This book gave me some great ideas on new cocktails to make and I can’t wait to try them!

The Periodic Table of Wine by Sarah Rowlands – 4.0 stars

41Cpv3xCVALThis was a good book about a lot of different kinds of wine, and it includes a great general description of flavor characteristics and different wine-making styles of grapes and regions. Again, this isn’t something that you can retain all the information but it is a great reference text for types of wines. I also really liked that the grapes were grouped into similar categories and each wine gave recommendations for other wines to try if you liked that wine, making it easy to find a new wine that you might like!

Rose All Day by Katherine Cole – 3.5 stars

414mPAa8SRL._SY346_This book had a great amount of history included as to how Rose as a wine came about and also how it became popular, there was much more history there than I ever realized. I also didn’t realize there was quite so many variations of Rose from the different regions of the world. This is, again, not something that you can retain all the information from but is a great reference text for a Rose lover.