Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Review: "Hungry Heart" by Jennifer Weiner

From Goodreads:  Jennifer Weiner is many things: a #1 New York Times bestselling author, a Twitter phenomenon, and “an unlikely feminist enforcer” (The New Yorker). She’s also a mom, a daughter, and a sister; a former rower and current cyclist; a best friend and a reality TV junkie. In her first foray into nonfiction, she takes the raw stuff of her personal life and spins into a collection of essays on modern womanhood as uproariously funny and moving as the best of Tina Fey, Fran Lebowitz, and Nora Ephron.

Jennifer grew up as an outsider in her picturesque Connecticut hometown (“a Lane Bryant outtake in an Abercrombie & Fitch photo shoot”) and at her Ivy League college, but finally found her people in newsrooms in central Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, and her voice as a novelist, activist, and New York Times columnist.

No subject is off-limits in this intimate and honest essay collection: sex, weight, envy, money, her mom’s newfound lesbianism, and her estranged father’s death. From lonely adolescence to modern childbirth to hearing her six-year-old daughter’s use of the f-word—fat­­—for the first time, Jennifer Weiner goes there, with the wit and candor that have endeared her to readers all over the world.

By turns hilarious and deeply touching, this collection shows that the woman behind treasured novels like Good in Bed and Best Friends Forever is every bit as winning, smart, and honest in real life as she is in her fiction.

My Thoughts:  I fell in love with Jennifer Weiner's books when I read Good in Bed in college. Since then, I have read quite of few of her books and I feel like her books always speak to me.  She writes about topics I can relate to and I think that's why I enjoy her books so much.  
This memoir, like her novels, spoke to me in ways that I can't even describe.  I know it's her life story but there were so many parts of the book that felt so familiar to me.  I was an awkward, bookish kid from a dysfunctional family and reading the stories of her childhood made me feel more normal. I especially loved her descriptions of the difficult children in her family, they reminded me very much of my own little girl and cracked me up.  Everything she wrote about motherhood was spot on!  I also enjoyed her discussion of  books and reading and how they impacted her life; as someone who has always been an avid reader, her stories really hit home for me.

 Hungry Heart is an incredibly funny book and I found myself laughing out loud multiple times (which is kind of embarrassing when you're in the middle of an airport).  But it was also really poignant to read about her father, his issues, and how she and her family dealt with that.  I was impressed with her strength and ability to overcome the situation with her father.

Overall, I really, really loved this book.  I was impressed with Ms. Weiner's activism, ties to her family and how goal oriented she is.  Honestly, after reading this book, I personally see her as a role model for women everywhere.  I am so glad I read this book and I would highly recommend it to anyone (even you haven't read Ms. Weiner's works of fiction).  4 1/2 stars.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

September 2016 Wrap Up

It's fall and the holiday season is fast approaching!  I am so excited as the next few months are my favorite time of the year!  My daughter and I read a bunch of Halloween books yesterday, did a Halloween craft and we watched Halloweentown this morning.  I love the holidays! I've also already started listening to Christmas music (don't judge!). : )

September felt like a slow reading month but I still managed to read 9 books this month so I can't really complain.  Since I already met my goal of 52 books for the year, I decided to bump it up to 80.  I only have to read 6 books a month for the rest of the year to hit that goal so I think it's doable.  I haven't been super excited about most of the books I'm reading and I'm hoping that will change soon.  I'm really close to beating my non-fiction numbers from last year and I'm so happy about it!  I'll have to back and see what my non-fiction goal was for the year but I'm pretty happy with where I'm at.

Here are my reading stats for September:

-9 books read
   -3 non-fiction
   -2 historical fiction
   -1 review book
   -6 library books
   -2 books I own
   -5 ebooks

What I read in September:

1.) Dreamers by Eileen Truax - 4 stars
2.) Finding Rebecca by Eoin Dempsey - 3 stars
3.) My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me by Jennifer Teege - 3 stars
4.) Days of Sun and Glory by Anna Belfrage 
5.) The Marriage Pact by Linda Lael Miller - 3 stars
6.) Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas - 4 stars
7.) The Marriage Charm by Linda Lael Miller - 3 stars
8.) The Marriage Season by Linda Lael Miller - 3 stars
9.) Higher Education in the Digital Age by William Bown
I hope you all have a great week!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Mailbox Monday (66)

I haven't done a Mailbox Monday post in a while and since I got a ton of books this week, I decided to go ahead and put one up.  It's been such a relaxing weekend and today is my 6 year wedding anniversary so it's been a good few days!

My local library had their big fall sale this week; I had two coupons for free books and decided to stop by.  I meant to only get two books and wound up getting 10 books and visiting on two different days.  They had an amazing selection of non-fiction books this time and all of the books I got are practically brand new so I couldn't resist the price! 

For Review:

From the Library:



My Life by Bill Clinton

What books did you get this week?

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,, Anna can mostly be found on her blog, – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel. You can also connect with Anna on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.


To win a copy of Days of Sun & Glory by Anna Belfrage, please enter via the Gleam form below.
– 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

August 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: She lives in Greenwich, Connecticut. Visit her online at

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

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