Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Review and Giveaway: "Days of Sun & Glory" by Anna Belfrage


Synopsis: Adam de Guirande has barely survived the aftermath of Roger Mortimer’s rebellion in 1321. When Mortimer manages to escape the Tower and flee to France, anyone who has ever served Mortimer becomes a potential traitor – at least in the eyes of King Edward II and his royal chancellor, Hugh Despenser. Adam must conduct a careful balancing act to keep himself and his family alive. Fortunately, he has two formidable allies: Queen Isabella and his wife, Kit. England late in 1323 is a place afflicted by fear. Now that the king’s greatest traitor, Roger Mortimer, has managed to evade royal justice, the king and his beloved Despenser see dissidents and rebels everywhere – among Mortimer’s former men, but also in the queen, Isabella of France.

Their suspicions are not unfounded. Tired of being relegated to the background by the king’s grasping favourite, Isabella has decided it is time to act – to safeguard her own position, but also that of her son, Edward of Windsor. As Adam de Guirande has pledged himself to Prince Edward he is automatically drawn into the queen’s plans – whether he likes it or not.

Yet again, Kit and Adam are forced to take part in a complicated game of intrigue and politics. Yet again, they risk their lives – and that of those they hold dear – as the king and Mortimer face off. Once again, England is plunged into war – and this time it will not end until either Despenser or Mortimer is dead.
Days of Sun and Glory is the second in Anna Belfrage’s series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his lord, his king, and his wife.

 My Thoughts: I am so happy to be have Kit and Adam back in my life!  It feels like it's been forever since the last book came out.  This is the 10th book I've read by Anna Belfrage and once again it's a winner!

I enjoyed watching Kit and Adam grow into their marriage and create a really solid partnership.  There are a lot of highs and lows for them in the story but at the end of the day, they were always still there for each other.  I love the little family they've created, not just with their children but with their retainers and extended family members.  I also love their stubborn personalities; it's hilarious to watch them butt heads with each other.

I know I've said this before but Ms. Belfrage creates some nasty villains.  Despenser...UGH.  Could someone be anymore vile?  He was such a despicable character and I just kind of loved to hate him.  I did almost feel bad for him in the end but probably not as much as I should have.

There were a lot of political machinations going on in this book; people conspiring with and against each other seem to serve as a foreshadowing of events to come.  I think Ms. Belfrage did a really good job of laying the groundwork for what will probably in future books.  I know a bit about the historical events but I'm eager to see how Kit and Adam will fit in and what will happen to them and their family.

Days of Sun and Glory is the continuation of a really good story with great characters but what really stood out to me with this particular book is the attention to historical detail.  It was very clear that Ms. Belfrage has done quite a bit of research for this book and I think it made for a very rich tale.  I am eagerly awaiting the next installment in the series!  4 stars.

About the Author:

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does as yet not exists, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing. These days, Anna combines an exciting day-job with a large family and her writing endeavours.

When Anna fell in love with her future husband, she got Scotland as an extra, not because her husband is Scottish or has a predilection for kilts, but because his family fled Scotland due to religious persecution in the 17th century – and were related to the Stuarts. For a history buff like Anna, these little details made Future Husband all the more desirable, and sparked a permanent interest in the Scottish Covenanters, which is how Matthew Graham, protagonist of the acclaimed The Graham Saga, began to take shape.

Set in 17th century Scotland and Virginia/Maryland, the series tells the story of Matthew and Alex, two people who should never have met – not when she was born three hundred years after him. With this heady blend of romance, adventure, high drama and historical accuracy, Anna hopes to entertain and captivate, and is more than thrilled when readers tell her just how much they love her books and her characters.

Presently, Anna is hard at work with her next project, a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. The King’s Greatest Enemy is a series where passion and drama play out against a complex political situation, where today’s traitor may be tomorrow’s hero, and the Wheel of Life never stops rolling.

The first installment in the Adam and Kit story, In the Shadow of the Storm, was published in 2015. The second book, Days of Sun and Glory, will be published in July 2016.

Other than on her website, www.annabelfrage.com, Anna can mostly be found on her blog, http://annabelfrage.wordpress.com – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel. You can also connect with Anna on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Giveaway

To win a copy of Days of Sun & Glory by Anna Belfrage, please enter via the Gleam form below.
Rules
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on September 29th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
 
 Enter HERE.

I received this book from HFVBT and the author in exchange for an honest review.
 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Quick Review: "Karolina's Twins" by Ronald H. Balson


From Goodreads:  Lena Woodward, an elderly woman, enlists the help of both lawyer Catherine Lockhart and private investigator Liam Taggart to appraise the story of her harrowing past in Nazi occupied Poland. At the same time, Lena’s son Arthur presents her with a hefty lawsuit under the pretense of garnering her estate—and independence—for his own purposes. Where these stories intersect is through Lena’s dubious account of her life in war-torn Poland, and her sisterhood with a childhood friend named Karolina. Lena and Karolina struggled to live through the atrocity of the Holocaust, and at the same time harbored a courageous, yet mysterious secret of maternity that has troubled Lena throughout her adult life. In telling her story to Catherine and Liam, Lena not only exposes the realities of overcoming the horrors of the Holocaust, she also comes to terms with her own connection to her dark past.

Karolina’s Twins is a tale of survival, love, and resilience in more ways than one. As Lena recounts her story, Catherine herself also recognizes the unwavering importance of family as she prepares herself for the arrival of her unborn child. Through this association and many more, both Lena and Catherine begin to cherish the dogged ties that bind not only families and children, but the entirety of mankind.


My Thoughts: This is seriously one of my favorite books of the year!  As soon as I finished reading Karolina's Twins, I went straight to the library to check out Balson's other two books.  I was pretty much hooked from the very beginning and could not stop reading until I knew the whole story.

The author does an amazing job of showcasing life in a Polish ghetto; the transports, the workshops and the all pervasive sense of fear. His attention to detail made the setting seem so real.  There are a variety of characters in both the past and present stories and they were all very well-developed.  Liam and Catherine are a great couple and a fantastic team and I really enjoyed reading about them.  Lena and Karolina's stories broke my heart but their friendship and love for each other was beautiful.  

There was an unexpected twist in the story; nothing bad but just really intriguing.  I loved the ending of the story and I was definitely in tears as I finished it.  As a whole, this is an excellent read and I would recommend it to anyone.  5 stars.

***Since finishing this book, I've read another of Mr. Balson's books.  Seriously, go read something he has written. His books are awesome!!

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

September 2016 Wrap Up


 We went to visit the sunflower fields over the weekend.  They were amazing!

Another summer in the books!  This summer felt kind of like a dud so I am glad to be moving into fall, cooler weather and fun holidays.  I've been craving pumpkin so I ended up baking a pumpkin cake over the weekend.  YUM.

I did a decent amount of reading in August but felt like I was in a reading rut nonetheless.  I know I could have read a ton more but instead I just watched Netflix a lot.  Most of what I read just didn't do it for me.  I did hit my reading goal for the year so that was awesome and most of what I read were books I owned so I am happy about that.  I set a goal to read 5 books I own and I ended up reading 6!  I did not meet my non-fiction goal for the month but that's okay; I wanted to read 3 and I only finished 2.  I want to read more non-fiction than I did last year (16 books) and I have read 13 for the year so I am on track.

I don't really have any set reading goals for this month or the rest of the year.  I would like to read 80 books this year and focus on non-fiction and books I own but we'll see how that goes.  With regards to the blog, I don't know what will happen.  I felt pretty good about it for June and July but blew it in August.  I have some reviews to post in the next two weeks but after that, I may take a break for month or so.  I really like doing it but sometimes it feels like a chore and I hate when that happens.  So I'll just have to wait and see how I feel.

Here are my reading stats for August:

-8 books read
   -2 non-fiction
   -5 historical fiction
   -1 review book
   -1 library books
   -6 books I own
   -6 ebooks

What I read in August:

1.) College Unbound by Jeffrey Selingo - 3 stars
2.) The Diplomat's Wife by Pam Jenoff - 3 stars
3.) The Nazi Officer's Wife by Edith Hahn Beer - 4 stars
4.) The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine - 3 stars
5.) Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas - 4 stars
6.) Daughters of the Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt - 3 stars
7.) Duty to the Crown by Aimie K. Runyan - 4 stars
8.) The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy - 3 stars

I hope y'all have a great September!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Review: "The Secret Language of the Stones" by M.J. Rose


 Synopsis:  Nestled within Paris’s historic Palais Royal is a jewelry store unlike any other. La Fantasie Russie is owned by Pavel Orloff, protégé to the famous Faberge, and is known by the city’s fashion elite as the place to find the rarest of gemstones and the most unique designs. But war has transformed Paris from a city of style and romance to a place of fear and mourning. In the summer of 1918, places where lovers used to walk, widows now wander alone.

So it is from La Fantasie Russie’s workshop that young, ambitious Opaline Duplessi now spends her time making trench watches for soldiers at the front, as well as mourning jewelry for the mothers, wives, and lovers of those who have fallen. People say that Opaline’s creations are magical. But magic is a word Opaline would rather not use. The concept is too closely associated with her mother Sandrine, who practices the dark arts passed down from their ancestor La Lune, one of sixteenth century Paris’s most famous courtesans.

But Opaline does have a rare gift even she can’t deny, a form of lithomancy that allows her to translate the energy emanating from stones. Certain gemstones, combined with a personal item, such as a lock of hair, enable her to receive messages from beyond the grave. In her mind, she is no mystic, but merely a messenger, giving voice to soldiers who died before they were able to properly express themselves to loved ones. Until one day, one of these fallen soldiers communicates a message—directly to her.

So begins a dangerous journey that will take Opaline into the darkest corners of wartime Paris and across the English Channel, where the exiled Romanov dowager empress is waiting to discover the fate of her family. Full of romance, seduction, and a love so powerful it reaches beyond the grave, The Secret Language of Stones is yet another “spellbindingly haunting” (Suspense magazine), “entrancing read that will long be savored” (Library Journal, starred review).

My Thoughts:  I'm going to apologize ahead of time gushing my way through this review.  M.J. Rose writes the most magical stories!  Her stories are so rich and she does a great job of developing the historical settings of her stories.  I will read anything with a Russian twist to it so I really enjoyed the intrigue, Russian spies and encounters with the royal family.  It added such a unique flair to the story.

It was fun to revisit the family of La Lune and Sandrine.  Opaline is a fascinating character.  I love the descriptions of her work as a jewelry maker; the pieces she made and the gems she worked with were fabulous.  I also enjoyed reading about how she used her powers to help the grieving mothers of Paris; the concept of her being able to connect with dead soldiers through the jewelry she made was super interesting.  The romance was beautiful; it was definitely different than anything I have read but the connection between Opaline and her love interest was amazing.

Also, this book had the best ending.  It was so unexpected and I absolutely loved it.  Overall, this was such a fun read!  I liked the first Daughter of La Lune book but this one was even better!    4 stars.

About the Author:
 

M.J. Rose grew up in New York City mostly in the labyrinthine galleries of the Metropolitan Museum, the dark tunnels and lush gardens of Central Park and reading her mother’s favorite books before she was allowed.

She is the author of more than a dozen novels, the co-president and founding board member of International Thriller Writers and the founder of the first marketing company for authors: AuthorBuzz.com. She lives in Greenwich, Connecticut. Visit her online at MJRose.com.

Connect with M.J. Rose on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Goodreads.


I received this book from HFVBT in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Mailbox Monday (65)

Time for another Mailbox Monday post!

I am so excited about all of the books that came in this week.  Because it's August and classes start in a few weeks, I probably won't get a ton of reading done this month but I know that what I do read will be awesome!

From the Library:






For Review (from HFVBT):



I have read all of Ms. Belfrage's books and I LOVE them so much.  I can't wait to read this one.

For Kindle:

I took advantage of the Kindle First book for August and got $3 from Amazon for being a loyal customer so I picked up two free ebooks this week.  Yippee!



What books did you pick up this week?  

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

July 2016 Wrap Up


 We had fun visiting the Natural History museum last week.

Summer is more than half over! I can't believe it!  July was an exhausting month.  We had family visiting on two different weekends and just a lot of stuff going on.

Despite all the goings on, I had the best reading month I've had all year.  I read 11 books!  I am now at 45 books for the year and my original goal was 52.  I know I will raise that goal at some point but I'm not sure how I'm going to raise it.  I also hit my monthly reading goals.  This month I wanted to read 2 books I own and 2 non-fiction books; I read 2 non-fiction books and 5 books I own so I'm really happy about that.  I had planned to post twice per week on the blog but this past week I didn't manage to get two posts up.  Oh well.  I managed to post 13 times on the blog this month so I think that's decent.

For August, I plan to read 5 books I own and 3 non-fiction books.  It's not always easy for me to consistently post twice a week on the blog every week and I don't want to put up garbage just to post something.  So I think I'm going to just shoot for one post a week and if I get more than that, then I'm doing good.

My reading stats for July:

-11 books read
   -2 non-fiction
   -6 historical fiction
   -1 review book
   -4 library books
   -5 books I own
   -7 ebooks

Below are the books I read in July

1.) The Secret Language of Stones by M.J. Rose - 4 stars
2.) The Queen's Daughter by Susan Coventry
3.)  All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior - 3 stars
4.) The Amber Keeper by Freda Lightfoot - 4 stars
5.) See Me For Who I Am: Student Veteran's Stories of War and Coming Home ed. by David Chrisinger
6.) A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas 
7.) Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum - 3 stars
8.) Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson - 5 stars
9.) Don't You Cry by Mary Kubica - 3 stars
10.) America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie - 3 stars
11.) The Good Neighbor by A.J. Banner - 2 stars

I hope everyone had a great July!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Mailbox Monday (64)

 Happy Sunday!  We have had a lazy, relaxing weekend and it has been wonderful!

I have a light mailbox this week but I'm okay with that.  I used some more of my settlement credit to get some books and also got some fun book mail (book mail is the best kind!).

Purchased (for nook):



For Review (from author/publisher):


This is the second book in the Daughters of New France series.  I really liked the first book and can't wait to read this one.


I hope you all have a great week! 
 
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