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Historical fiction and Biblical fiction, reviewing since 2008

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Jul 20, 2009

Book Review: "Twilight of A Queen" by Susan Carroll~Giveaway

Twilight of A Queen By Susan Carroll"Twilight of a Queen" A Novel written by Susan Carroll
Category: Fiction; Fiction - Historical; Fiction - Romance - Historical
Format: Trade Paperback, 480 pages
On Sale: July 21, 2009
Price: $15.00
ISBN: 978-0-449-22109-9 (0-449-22109-1)
The Burton Review Rating: 3.5 stars

Fifth in "The Dark Queen" Series (aka The Cheney Sisters of Faire Isle): The Huntress, The Silver Rose, The Courtesan, and The Dark Queen
"As war and treachery loom, an ambitious man’s mission threatens to topple two dazzling realms and their formidable rulers: Catherine de Medici, the Dark Queen, and Ariane, the Lady of Faire Isle. It is 1588, and as the Spanish Armada prepares to besiege England, Paris balances on the brink of revolution. To maintain her grip on the throne and on the dark magic that has become her obsession, Catherine de Medici turns to Louis Xavier, a ruthless corsair who was schooled in the dark arts and has mastered piracy along the Spanish main. But Louis’s basest instincts are held in check by the kindness of Lady Jane Danvers, a British exile whose innate sense of honor is but one facet of her complex and passionate nature.

On Faire Isle, Ariane Cheney, unaware of the escalating threat from the Dark Queen, struggles with the task of protecting the daughters of the earth and their vast store of ancient magical wisdom. Weak and desperate for an advantage, the ailing Catherine makes a devil’s bargain that will cast a shadow over all."

Being that this new release is the fifth in the Cheney Sisters series, the first question I am asked is if I had read the previous four titles. The answer is no, though they all do sit patiently in a quaint cubby hole in my nightstand. In the normal way of things I would not read a series out of order, but in this case I wanted to review this some time this year rather than later. Otherwise it would sit unheeded in my quaint cubby hole with its' mates. As I began to read this, I did not feel at a disadvantage as the story wore on, only that I realized some of the events of the previous books were lightly touched upon throughout so that a new reader would not be lost in the current story. It served to whet my appetite for the other stories though and I do plan on pushing the other reads further up on the list so that I could learn more about the Cheney Sisters. They did not figure prominently in this novel except for Meg, but I could tell that their exciting events were featured in the previous books.

The title 'Twilight of A Queen' refers to the formidable Catherine De Medici, whom many have heard of for her dabbles in witchcraft and sorcery. She was the mother of French Kings, and was the other woman in her husband's life. Her true story is amazing in itself, and in this novel we see Catherine as an aging woman with aches and pains and struggling to maintain control over her witless son Henri; struggling to maintain a grip on the kingdom that despises her. She is intent on finding the infamous Book of Shadows and Meg, who is the person that Catherine believes holds the key to the book. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with the Dark Queen and her Royal son, I have a preference towards the Royal stories themselves and those were my favorite parts of the book.

With Catherine's waning power and obsessing over the secrets of the Book of Shadows is where Louis Xavier comes in as he is contracted by Catherine to procure the book. He is a dashing swashbuckler pirate with family issues. His dialogue was quite amusing to behold and he was really a typical arrogant man, and bastard being the right term here in all ways. The adventure takes off when Catherine pays Xavier to also bring back young Meg, the Silver Rose, from Faire Isle. Unbeknownst to Catherine, Xavier's father is also the Cheney sisters' father, and the twists begin.

For a clue on our Xavier's character, Miri asks what happened to her prized bird and her father's journals:
{Xavier:} "Regrettably I was obliged to eat the bird and I had to use the journals for kindling."
Miri paled, but she rallied, saying, "Well, if you were cold and starving, it is quite understandable. I only hope you remembered to thank the bird for sacrificing his life for you."
Xavier stared at her as though she were mad.

He was quite a rogue, I'd say. And yet all this just serves as the setting and backdrop of the story as this novel is primarily the focus of Jane Danvers who is exiled on Faire Isle from England, suffering from religious persecution of Elizabeth I and her secretary Walsingham. Jane Danvers and her brother Ned had been under Elizabeth's radar before, and I found a connection to Bess of Hardwick an interesting tidbit, as Jane and her brother were wards of Bess at one time. England itself is another behind the scenes feature as the rumors of the Spanish Armada loom and scare everyone in England for a time.

With "Twilight of A Queen" we see the conclusion of The Dark Queen series as a romance develops along with the many adventures of the pirate as he must choose between family loyalty (of which he never was known to do) and risk his life if he does so, or does he choose to be beguiled by a spell of The Dark Medici Queen herself and her money. I found the writing to be fluid and fast paced and did not see any glaring issues, except for the multiple mentions of dark fog in the opening of the novel. There seemed to be more of a predictability to this story since we knew this is the final book in the series, therefore there can not be a lot options logically to it. But despite even that, the storyline and the characters were indeed a delight and since I have not read the other books I do have something to look forward to. For those who have read the previous four and were looking for more of a dramatic conclusion, the actual ending here may not achieve that for you. I enjoyed the book all the way up to the ending and then it felt a bit forced and rushed. Perhaps after 5 novels surrounding virtually the same person the author was getting a little burnt out. But I still think that this is a fun series to tackle and is worthwhile for me to go back and read the others to catch up with the rest of the story.


Are you ready to read Twilight of A Queen by Susan Carroll? You can purchase it now, or enter here to win a copy.
Random House will send one lucky reader in the USA or Canada a copy of this book!
To enter you must do all of the following:
1-Comment on this post with your Email address.
2-Recommend to me a Catherine De Medici book that you have read
OR tell me why you want to read this and if you have read the series yet.

Please pay attention to these qualifications!
Giveaway ends August 7!

Mailbox Monday~ Biblical & Global Histories

Welcome to The Burton Review Mailbox Monday Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share what books that we found in our mailboxes last week. And I am adding what I purchased. Here's what I received during the last week:
Probably can't beat my favorite Mailbox Monday from last week, but I did get a few interesting ones this week. My favorite one I think I will be the Louis XIV one. I love finding old books on royalty (& in good shape)!

From a wonderful win over a month ago, I won the Asian Heritage Month Book Giveaway via Hachette Books. I had recently read several books by Japanese authors and loved them. And you can follow the links for a full description & photos that lead to Goodreads, I am feeling lazy this week, and it's a LOT of books.

Transparency: Stories (Paperback) by Hwang, Frances Short Stories "..captures the thousand minor battles waged in the homes of immigrants--struggles to preserve timehonored traditions or break free of them, to maintain authority or challenge it, and to take advantage of modern excesses without diluting one's ethnic identity."

Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home (Paperback) by Sunée, Kim "At a South Korean marketplace, three-year-old Kim Sunee's mother deposits her on a bench with a fistful of food and a promise to return. Three days later, a policeman takes the little girl and what is now a fistful of crumbs to a police station, where she learns that her mother isn't coming back."

Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans Au of... (Paperback) by Takaki, Ronald "Ronald Takaki relates the diverse 150-year history of Asian Americans. Through richly detailed vignettes--by turns bitter, funny, and inspiring--he offers a stunning panorama of a neglected part of American history."

Free Food for Millionaires (Paperback) by Lee, Min Jin "..her conflicts, relationships, and temperament that inform the novel. She is the child of immigrant Korean parents who work in the same laundry in Queens where they have always worked and are trying hard to hang on to their culture. Casey has catapulted out of that life on scholarships but now that college is over, she hasn't the same opportunities as her white friends.."

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food (Paperback) by
Lee, Jennifer 8* Yes that's an 8 for an initial. Guess there were a lot of Jennifer Lee's and she wanted to stick out. Mission Accomplished. "... her search, Jennifer 8 Lee traces the history of Chinese-American experience through the lens of the food. In a compelling blend of sociology and history, Jenny Lee exposes the indentured servitude Chinese restaurants expect from illegal immigrant chefs, investigates the relationship between Jews and Chinese.."

And also from a win from Hachette Books:
Testimony by Anita Shreve "At a New England boarding school, a sex scandal is about to break. Even more shocking than the sexual acts themselves is the fact that they were caught on videotape. A Pandora's box of revelations, the tape triggers a chorus of voices--those of the men, women, teenagers, and parents involved in the scandal--that details the ways in which lives can be derailed or destroyed in one foolish moment."

From Paperbackswap, I recieved:

Mary :: Janis Cooke Newman Pub. 10/2007

"An engrossing novel about Mary Todd Lincoln – one of history’s most misunderstood and enigmatic women.Writing from Bellevue asylum — where the shrieks of the other inmates keep her awake at night — a famous widow can finally share the story of her life in her own words. From her tempestuous childhood in a slaveholding Southern family through the opium-clouded years after her husband’s death, we are let into the inner, intimate world of this brave and fascinating woman."

Louis XIV And The Greatness Of France by Maurice P. AshleyLouis XIV Publication Date: 2/1/1965
First Sentence: KING LOUIS XIII, the second Bourbon King of France, and Anne of Austria, the sister of the Habsburg Philip IV of Spain, were the parents of Louis XIV, and they detested each other. Read the first page

Thirty-plus years later there is only one review on Amazon, and no sypnopsis. At 192 pages it should be a quick and easy read, and I need to know more about the famous Louis.

The Diary of a Young Girl : The Definitive Edition :: Anne Frank After reading Miep Gies story on how she helped the Anne Frank family, she had suggested this book which is updated and more complete then from the original late 40's version.

Received for Review via Shelf Awareness:
The Brutal TellingThe Brutal Telling by Louise Penny Pub. Sep. 2009 "Chaos is coming, old son.
With those words the peace of Three Pines is shattered. As families prepare to head back to the city and children say goodbye to summer, a stranger is found murdered in the village bistro and antiques store. Once again, Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are called in to strip back layers of lies, exposing both treasures and rancid secrets buried in the wilderness.

No one admits to knowing the murdered man, but as secrets are revealed, chaos begins to close in on the beloved bistro owner, Olivier. How did he make such a spectacular success of his business? What past did he leave behind and why has he buried himself in this tiny village? And why does every lead in the investigation find its way back to him?
As Olivier grows more frantic, a trail of clues and treasures— from first editions of Charlotte’s Web and Jane Eyre to a spider web with the word “WOE” woven in it—lead the Chief Inspector deep into the woods and across the continent in search of the truth, and finally back to Three Pines as the little village braces for the truth and the final, brutal telling."

SOUTH OF BROAD by Pat Conroy Pub. Aug. 11, 2009 "Charleston, S.C., gossip columnist Leopold Bloom King narrates a paean to his hometown and friends in Conroy's first novel in 14 years. In the late '60s and after his brother commits suicide, then 18-year-old Leo befriends a cross-section of the city's inhabitants: scions of Charleston aristocracy; Appalachian orphans; a black football coach's son; and an astonishingly beautiful pair of twins, Sheba and Trevor Poe, who are evading their psychotic father. The story alternates between 1969, the glorious year Leo's coterie stormed Charleston's social, sexual and racial barricades, and 1989, when Sheba, now a movie star, enlists them to find her missing gay brother in AIDS-ravaged San Francisco. Too often the not-so-witty repartee and the narrator's awed voice (he is very fond of superlatives) overwhelm the stories surrounding the group's love affairs and their struggles to protect one another from dangerous pasts. Some characters are tragically lost to the riptides of love and obsession, while others emerge from the frothy waters of sentimentality and nostalgia as exhausted as most readers are likely to be. Fans of Conroy's florid prose and earnest melodramas are in for a treat."

I picked this one for my last Waiting on Wednesday post, and I just received the galley, which should be an interesting interpretation of the Virgin Mary:Girl Mary

Girl Mary: A Novel by Petru Popescu Pub. Date: September 08, 2009 "The epic story of the Virgin Mary--not the icon, but the real teenage girl who seduced everyone, even God, with her soulful simplicity. Brings to life Mary of Nazareth as a beautiful, complicated girl in love, seen through the eyes of famous characters."

I also went shopping to support my local used bookstore, Roma's PreRead Books:

A Queen of this Realm by Jean Plaidy (I already have this but I liked the Three River Press cover better)
An oldie: The Plantagenets No. 4, Lady of the Garter by Juliet Dymoke

The Red Tent - Anita Diamant "The story of the biblical Dinah. Because it is based on a story in the Bible, many readers feel an extraordinary connection to its cast of characters, whose names and tales are part of our culture, and our families"

Wishing on Dandelions :: Mary E. Demuth ISBN-13: 9781576839539 "At seventeen, Maranatha admittedly has some trust issues--her mother abandoned her, a neighbor boy abused her for years, her best friend has left for college and God, ever since He spoke to her underneath the pecan tree three years ago, has remained elusive."

Are you still here!? Congrats to you if you are.. this was a long one (15 books!) All I can say is, I should be reading!

Jul 18, 2009

The Sunday Salon~ Books and BBAW

The Sunday

"What is the Sunday Salon? Imagine some university library's vast reading room. It's filled with people--students and faculty and strangers who've wandered in. They're seated at great oaken desks, books piled all around them, and they're all feverishly reading and jotting notes in their leather-bound journals as they go. Later they'll mill around the open dictionaries and compare their thoughts on the afternoon's literary intake...."

Happy Sunday to you! July is just whizzing by, isn't it?! I have been reading "Twilight of A Queen" by Susan Carroll this past week. This is an entertaining read, more so then I had thought it would be. Not that I expected a 'bad' read, I just assumed it would be dark and moody, but there is a male character here who is just a joy to read about. Although if I knew him in real life I think I would have to slap him a couple times. The novel is regarding 'the Dark Queen' Catherine De Medici, the Dowager Queen of France, mother to three kings. She is a formidable character in a lot of books out there that are begging to be read by me. I am especially waiting for C.W. Gortner's next release, and I do not want to be burnt out on tales of her before I get to his novel. He thinks it is in final draft *crosses fingers!

I have not read the previous 4 in this Dark Queen series by Susan Carroll, but I certainly intend to, especially since I have had them patiently waiting for me for the past year or so. I even have Susan Carroll's 'Bride Finder' series which I snagged first edition hardcovers off of Ebay on a slow day. Have I read those? Nope. (insert sigh here). I am a Book Glutton. I should be a Charter member of Bookaholics Anonymous. Bibliophile. There are so many books yet so little time. I could go on.

I think I am going to read a quickie book next, I've been eyeing "The Blue Notebook" by James Levine so that might coming up. Then I've got some Austen sequels to review for the end of August and that means I have to read Pride and Prejudice! And Phillippa Gregory's The White Queen is in there somewhere also..

If you were around sometime last September, you would remember the first ever Book Blogger Appreciation Event. My Friend Amy has announced this week that it is happening again this year, and I am excited because it will be my first time participating. I didn't start book blogging until December/January, so I'm one of the newbies still. There will be special guest posts, daily blogging themes, and giveaways. I plan on hosting giveaways here and joining in on the community spirit, so I hope to see you there! It is from Sept. 14 to Sept. 18th and you can find all the information on how to register for the event here. Nominations are now open for your fave blog in different categories at this page here.

If you have an iPhone, have you downloaded the Barnes & Nobles iPhone App? I did, and it is pretty neat. Not that I shop there, the closest one is miles away.. But fun if you go out somewhere like a friend's house, take a picture of a book you like there, and the app finds the book for you at B&N Locations. This does not work on the older titles though, as it is only recognizing books from its current databases. I took a shot of Norah Lofts' "A Rose for Virtue" and it came up as an Animal Encyclopedia. Not quite. (The book is old.) It is a very neat idea, though. Download it now for free for a limited time.

My darling sweetcakes husband bought me ANOTHER Bookcase, so now there are 3 bookcases in the hallway, and 2 smaller ones in my room. Woohoo. I have almost an entire bookcase to fill up. Bring it on! I love a challenge. On my booking Through Thursday I mentioned something along the lines "build it, they will come" in regards to my empty bookcase.. then BOOM I get an Email that I won $100 in Alibris cash to use on their site!! WOOHOO I haven't gotten that special coupon code that will allow me to spend the free $100, but I sure have my wishlist filled up and ready to add to cart! Is that an awesome win, or what? That is Special with a Capital S.

Remember my Birthday from a couple weeks ago? Well my mom's gift has finally shown up:
From Cupids Charm (Handmade Vintage Style Jewelry):
Portrait of Marie Antoinette, painted in 1762 by Martin Van Meytens at age 7 years old. The background is handwriting from a copy of the official French Revolutionary inventory of her jewelry, dated 21 August 1795. It is very pretty, the back of the pendant is also the inventory sheet. Just need to find a pretty sterling silver chain now, which shouldn't be too hard online. And thank you to Ms. Lucy for showing me the Cupid's Charm website when she did, I then had some fabulous ideas to tell my family what I actually wanted for my birthday.
I also got a set of Swarovski earrings from Cupids' Charm but I can't find the pics anymore, the website just keeps saying Sold Out. They look to match the beaded drop that is on the pendant. Very pretty.

Mom bought another piece from her, but it hasn't come yet. And she said it was the bigger piece, and I just found out that there will be an extra piece with THAT because of the delay. I love spreading my birthday out. Almost makes turning a year older worthwhile.

I hope everyone else is enjoying their weekend. And remember to sign up for the Book Blogger Appreciation Week, I am starting to think of the giveaways already!

Jul 17, 2009

Friday Fill-In: Guess the Famous Queen #2

Join in the Friday Fill-In Fun we go!

1. Boar meat and bread make a quick and easy dinner.

2. My book of prayers is the book I'm reading right now.

3. July brings back memories of my stillborn son.

4. The fact that I had to give King Henry his heir was obvious.

5. They say if you tell your dreams to be realistic they will come true. I dreamt I would be Queen, and I was. ;)

6. With Elizabeth in my arms, I begged Henry to think it over.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to kissing Elizabeth goodbye, tomorrow my plans include hoping George isn't executed and Sunday, I want to pray for a skilled swordsman rather than the Ax!
Who am I?

Jul 16, 2009

Booking Through Thursday - The Colossal TBR pile

Booking Through Thursday is hosted by Deb; Deb says:

"Follow-up to last week’s question:
Do you keep all your unread books together, like books in a waiting room? Or are they scattered throughout your shelves, mingling like party-goers waiting for the host to come along?"

TBR= To be read

A 'waiting room' I think I am fortunate to not have. It seems the questions from previous weeks are blending together for me, as they all just keep pointing to my bookcases.. Unlike some other folks who have stacks of books throughout the house, I am lucky enough that my books are all shelved in my bookcases. My husband is kind enough to recognize the growing amount of books that have been accumulating and he has accommodated the need for bookcases recently. Another one added last night as I slept. NOTHING is in there yet. So I'm off to buy more books.. (just kidding, honey..maybe). I am more of the 'If you build it, they will come,' mentality. Sounds good, eh?

Within those bookshelves, there are more TBR then not. If it is an ARC that means I am getting to it in the near future and those are all on one shelf. The rest of my books, although part of the TBR pile, they are organized by their genre. So I have the Arthurian/Avalon books on half of a shelf, and then medieval era books, then Tudor books, and the general fiction are about two shelves worth and I have them grouped up with 'like' books.

So to cut back to the question.. I'd say my books are mingling party-goers. Someday the life of the party (hey, that's me!) will come along and play with them. For now, its more like window shopping.

Are you one of those who is always stepping over stacks of books?

Jul 15, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday - 'Girl Mary' by Petru Popescu

Sponsored by "Breaking the Spine". This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Girl Mary

Girl Mary: A Novel by Petru Popescu

Pub. Date: September 08, 2009

Simon and Schuster
ISBN-13: 9781416532637

"The epic story of the Virgin Mary--not the icon, but the real teenage girl who seduced everyone, even God, with her soulful simplicity. Brings to life Mary of Nazareth as a beautiful, complicated girl in love, seen through the eyes of famous characters."

Jul 14, 2009

Teaser Tuesday - Sarah Dunant's Sacred Hearts, released today!

TEASER TUESDAYS is hosted by ShouldBeReading and asks you to:
♠Grab your current read.
♠Let the book fall open to a random page.
♠Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page.
♠You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
Please avoid spoilers!

In honor of today's release of the new novel by Sarah Dunant, I direct you to my review below this post. I definitely recommend the read!

Sacred Hearts: A Novel

"Before the screaming starts, the night silence of the convent is already alive with its own particular sounds."

"So that in the end the only real choice open to a young woman was to yell herself into crazed silence or, with God's grace, find the wit to turn rebellion into acceptance of what cannot be resisted. Just as so many others had done before her."

Sacred Hearts: A Novel by Sarah Dunant is available today at all major bookstores.

Read the first chapter at Book Glutton.

Jul 13, 2009

Book Review: "Sacred Hearts" by Sarah Dunant

Sacred Hearts review by The Burton Review

Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Random House (July 14, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400063825
The Burton Review Rating: 4.5 stars

The 'Sacred Hearts' Book Trailer:

"Santa Catarina, a convent near Venice, is home to over one hundred women in 1567. But with powerful forces for change raging outside the convent, and with the world of the women within threatened by a new arrival, passions, hysteria, and conflict will come to threaten their very survival."

Honestly, in the back of my mind as I was enjoying the words of this book that I was reading, I had the seed of doubt already planted that I would be able to have the fortitude to write a review that could do this novel justice. Given the truth that on the outside, the setting may seem a bit bland to some - a nunnery back in the old days- 'how exciting can that be?'- I was intrigued, enthralled, engrossed with everything that went on within those convent walls.

And there is not a wide cast of characters here. We have the abbess of the convent Madonna Chiara, the dispensary nun Zuana, and the novice nun Serafina, along with the additional cloister of nuns who add depth and flavor to the story. This is a story that is multi-faceted from the struggles of the faith of the women, from lessons on herbs and medicine, young love, stigmatas and on to the descriptions of what lengths the convent goes to in order to promote a woman's worthiness for God. What happened in mid-1500's to the unwed women in Italy is that they went to a nunnery. The dowries were so high that if there was more than one daughter in the house, they could barely afford for one daughter to wed. That is where the novel opens up as we meet the newest unwilling member of the convent, Serafina, who is thrust into this unknown world by her family who have cruelly abondoned her. Sister Zuana is chosen to be a guide for Serafina, though with all the strict confines and rules of a nunnery it is difficult for them to gauge each other's character or even ask questions of each other. Throughout the story we are touched by these two women as they each struggle with their own questions of faith, of their needs, of friendship, and how they prepare themselves for God.
"So that in the end the only real choice open to a young woman was to yell herself into crazed silence or, with God's grace, find the wit to turn rebellion into acceptance of what cannot be resisted. Just as so many others had done before her."

Serafina, a young woman, was in no way prepared to be forced into the society of saintly and religious routines, and how and if she accepts this fate is what the novel's events center on. Zuana is reminiscent of how she once was in Serafina's shoes as a novice nun unprepared for the abrupt change in the way to live within this restrictive society sixteen years before Serafina's own arrival. Although Zuana does not show outward compassion towards Serafina, she tries subtly to make her understand that 'resistance is.. fruitless', and Zuana is fully drawn to this young woman. We experience Zuana's whimsical thoughts of what life would be for her if she had not entered the convent decades earlier, as Zuana was also not bred merely for convent life to serve God, she had a natural calling to serve others with her expertise of herbal remedies.

Each of these women possess a talent that uniquely separates them from the rest. Zuana is the dispensary clerk and through her rare upbringing she has the knowledge that rivals that of a doctor, and is invaluable with her medicinal herbs for the convent. And Novice Serafina is young, beautiful, rebelliously in love, and is a song bird that outshines any other. The realization that their lives are meant for God is something that both the women think about and we are let into their minds to witness their profound journeys. Within these walls of which they are trapped they are required to conform to the strict rules of the convent. Even sheltered from society they are not immune to the religious reformation taking place and how their church believes that they should be doing more honoring of God then is already being done; things have the potential to get even stricter than they are accustomed to and simple luxuries that are already few and far between may be taken away right down to the Choir.

Sacred Hearts was well-written with its flair of nostalgia and historical importance as I found the writing to be fast paced within a slow moving yet suspenseful spiritual journey; the pleasing prose had me from the onset. I valued the small psalms, prayers, quotes that were interspersed into the story and also appreciated the fact that this was treated as a novel and not as an effort to preach to whether God exists and how we should feel about that. The rare criticism of the writing is that there were a few times when the story was being told through one nun's eyes and then we stopped the timeline and went back to the other nun and their point of view of the same event which was really unneccessary and disrupted the flow, but thankfully occurred only a few times. It was difficult to get used to the idea of the women being in cells, in essentially a prison, regardless of what they had wanted out of their life. It brings to mind the thought of how many women truly perished within a nunnery, whose life meant nothing to no one but themselves and God, all because they did not have the money to marry. There is an intriguing plot that wraps you up in the suspense of how Serafina reacts to her fate, as she believes that her only way to survive is to escape. And when she attempts that, her reversal of fortune is life threatening and shocking.

And as expected, I can not do this novel justice within my review for fear of giving away the whole thing.. but this is a must read, I loved it, and felt very introspective while reading it. I am blessed to be born in these modern days so that I can have the freedom make my own life altering choices.

Mailbox Monday~ A Royal Mailbox, My Best Mix!

Welcome to The Burton Review Mailbox Monday Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share what books that we found in our mailboxes last week. And I am adding what I purchased. Here's what I received during the last week:

I had a most wonderful week, that actually began last Monday. I got an awesome birthday card with some beautiful bookmarks from Arleigh at, Thank you so much Arleigh! Your friendship is special to me :)

From Paperbackswap I received:

CJ Sansom 2nd in Shardlake SeriesDark Fire by C. J. Sansom (Pub. 2005, 2nd in the Shardlake Series that is set in Tudor Times)

"It is 1540, and Matthew Shardlake, the lawyer renowned as "the sharpest hunchback in the courts of England," is pressed to help a friend’s young niece who is charged with murder. Despite threats of torture and death by the rack, the girl is inexplicably silent. Shardlake is about to lose her case when he is suddenly granted a reprieve—one that will ensnare him in the dangerous schemes of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s feared vicar-general.
In exchange for two more weeks to investigate the murder, Shardlake accepts Cromwell’s dangerous assignment to find a lost cache of "dark fire," a legendary weapon of mass destruction. Cromwell, out of favor since Henry’s disastrous marriage to Anne of Cleves, is relying on Shardlake to save his position at court, which is rife with treasonous conspiracies."

Frenchman's CreekFrenchman's Creek by Daphne du Maurier (reprint 2009) "The electrifying tale of love and indecency on the high seas.
Daphne du Maurier's Frenchman's Creek is the scandalous tale of one woman's will to seize adventure by the horns and become the fugitive of her own fate. Jaded by frivolous Restoration London and the numbing civility of its hollow members, Lady Dona St. Columb revolts against polite society. She rides into the countryside, guided only by her restlessness and the indomitable longing for escape.
But when chance leads her to meet a French pirate hidden within Cornwall's shadowy forests, Dona discovers that her passions and thirst for adventure have never been more aroused. Together, they embark upon a quest rife with death and glory, and one which bestows upon Dona the ultimate choice: sacrifice her lover to certain destruction or gamble away her own to save him."

Mists of Avalon

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley (Pub. 1982) 912 pages!! "Here is the magical legend of King Arthur, vividly retold through the eyes and lives of the women who wielded power from behind the throne. A spellbinding novel, an extraordinary literary achievement."

"Watching the Tree Limbs" by Mary E. Demuth The author is visiting my library in August & I am hoping to bring you a video of her lecture.

"In this debut faith-based novel, DeMuth transports readers to the hot East Texas town that is nine-year-old Mara's home. Amid the red dirt and pecan trees, Mara struggles to find her way through a painful and mysterious family situation. Who were her parents? Is her aunt Elma really her aunt-and does Elma really have a tumor? What will happen to her if her aunt dies? The pain in Mara's life multiplies when she meets General, the teenage neighbor who repeatedly rapes her, threatening her life if she tells anyone. DeMuth captures the horrific situation-from Mara's inability to keep her body from shaking to her determination to watch the tree limbs to keep her mind off of what is going on-while providing hope of redemption and healing. Her characters are expertly drawn, and encompass meanness, evil, great kindness and the confusion of generally good people who don't know how to handle what life has given them. Christian themes are woven throughout as a natural expression of the characters and situation. Readers may be surprised at the dark subject matter, but this book will appeal to many readers both as a thoughtful, powerful reflection on a difficult topic and as a compelling story."

I ordered and received from Abebooks for my Jean Plaidy Bookcase (click for pic):
Madame Du Barry
The Pleasures of Love: The Story of Catherine of Braganza
Queen Jezebel
Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill (Georgian Saga 7)
Battle of the Queens (Plantagenet saga)
The Bastard King (The Norman Series; Volume 1)

And for the EXTRA WONDERFUL NEWS.. I recieved two special books that are going to be a treat to my readers as well.. as I review the next two books I will also be giving away a copy of each of the following:

Win The White Queen from The Burton Review!"The White Queen": A Novel By Philippa Gregory
The winner will receive an unread copy of the ARC (shown) of The White Queen, and it will be a quick giveaway in August, so stay tuned or you may miss it!
"The first in a stunning new series, The Cousins War, is set amid the tumult and intrigue of The War of the Roses. Internationally bestselling author Philippa Gregory brings this family drama to colourful life through its women, beginning with the story of Elizabeth Woodville, the White QueenThe White Queen tells the story of a common woman who ascends to royalty by virtue of her beauty, a woman who rises to the demands of her position and fights tenaciously for the success of her family, a woman whose two sons become the central figures in a mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the Princes in the Tower whose fate remains unknown to this day. From her uniquely qualified perspective, Philippa Gregory explores the most famous unsolved mystery, informed by impeccable research and framed by her inimitable storytelling skills."

Win Twilight of a Queen from The Burton ReviewTwilight of a Queen by Susan Carroll On Sale: July 21, 2009
This giveaway will be coming up.. I just started reading this & I will begin the giveaway with my review when it posts, so stay tuned in the next few weeks for this one!
Fifth in The Dark Queen Series aka Cheney Sisters of Faire Isle Series:
"As war and treachery loom, an ambitious man’s mission threatens to topple two dazzling realms and their formidable rulers: Catherine de Medici, the Dark Queen, and Ariane, the Lady of Faire Isle.It is 1588, and as the Spanish Armada prepares to besiege England, Paris balances on the brink of revolution. To maintain her grip on the throne and on the dark magic that has become her obsession, Catherine de Medici turns to Louis Xavier, a ruthless corsair who was schooled in the dark arts and has mastered piracy along the Spanish main. But Louis’s basest instincts are held in check by the kindness of Lady Jane Danvers, a British exile whose innate sense of honor is but one facet of her complex and passionate nature.On Faire Isle, Ariane Cheney, unaware of the escalating threat from the Dark Queen, struggles with the task of protecting the daughters of the earth and their vast store of ancient magical wisdom. Weak and desperate for an advantage, the ailing Catherine makes a devil’s bargain that will cast a shadow over all."

Was this an awesome Mailbox Week or what?!

Jul 11, 2009

The Sunday Salon ~ Socially Online

The Sunday

"What is the Sunday Salon? Imagine some university library's vast reading room. It's filled with people--students and faculty and strangers who've wandered in. They're seated at great oaken desks, books piled all around them, and they're all feverishly reading and jotting notes in their leather-bound journals as they go. Later they'll mill around the open dictionaries and compare their thoughts on the afternoon's literary intake...."

I wanted to firstly Thank each and EVERY ONE of YOU SPeciaL Friends who commented on my Pity Birthday Party Sunday Post last week. Marie and Ollie, July 11 WebCam FunI've appreciated the comments, and I am so glad that you took the time to write a special something back to me, I needed the pick me up, as Debnance said.. and having you guys out there in CyberWorld when I needed a boost was awesome for me. Thank you so much! I even took some new webcam pics and with a little softening and unsharpening they won't be so bad. Thanks for all of your Happy Birthday wishes!

This week I have been thoroughly entertained by Sarah Dunant's latest book, Sacred Hearts. If I was given half the chance I would have read within a few days but such is not the case when one works and also has little ones wreaking havoc. But I will be wrapping it up today so that I can get a review in time for its release July 14th. I posted the review on Fitten's "Valeria's Last Stand" on Monday, which was a quirky and fun read.

There is one more week left to the "Partners" by Dave McGowan giveaway that I am hosting.
And that's pretty much it in my book world.. except for the excellent Mailbox Monday that I get to post tomorrow. My little girl went fishing for the first time and I am waiting for her to come home so I can hear all about it. If they used Chum, then I don't think she'll ever look at Spongebob's rival restaurant "Chum Bucket" the same again.

For my Blogging Buddy, Sheri: I did want to call attention to a fellow blogger's new feed address. Everyone has been busy with summer and getting burnt out on the Book Blogging in general so a lot of people have failed to notice that A Novel Menagerie's website address and feed address has changed. Please update your google readers and subscriptions and Blogrolls for Sheri at A Novel Menagerie to otherwise you are not getting all her new updates anymore. And she promises an Awesome Blogiversary Spectacular coming up so you really need to make sure you have her right web address!! And of course she always runs different giveaways and has fun entertainment posts to read as well. If anyone is reading this and is feeling kind, please copy and paste this paragraph onto one of your own blog posts to help Sheri out! She is bummed she lost all her readers and she can't reach out to each and every one of you!

And on to the Gossip of the week that I found.. which I also posted on Facebook.. Are you on facebook? {Friend me}
Novelist Hoffman apologizes for blasting a book reviewer on Twitter
Novelist Alice Hoffman, pictured here, found herself in hot water today after she printed the phone number of a critic who had disliked Hoffman's latest book.

Writers behaving badly, chapters three and four
Ayelet Waldman, pictured in this file photo, recently lashed out at a critic on Twitter. She's the third author this month to take to the Web to get some retribution for a bad review.

Features Authors Behaving Badly. The first one shows the author Alice Hoffman blasting a critic in a most immature way, and then deleted her stupid comments regarding the validity of reviewers, issues an almost apology but not really.. but the thing is that she had posted the female critic's email address and PHONE NUMBER!!!! Gimme a break and get a grip, lady. She made the New York Post, so she got publicity. I will never read or PROMOTE an Alice Hoffman Book.

And saw this article also today: "Mom bloggers become powerful online force".. Yup, the Social Media thing is evolving into something CRAZY I tell ya.

Are you on Twitter? Follow me at BurtonReview

And just for the heck of it:

And that's all I've got for ya~ My brain has been fried by The Wonder Pets, Barney and Spongebob. Sigh.

Calgon... take me away....

oh that's right.. my dear son has poured out all my bubble bath..

Jul 10, 2009

Friday Fill-In- Guess the Queen

Friday Fill-In's is Hosted by Janet we go!

1. The last thing I ate was venison and nuts.
2. Skeins of embroidery thread for a new tapestry is something I recently bought.
3. When it rains, it streams through my prison windows at Bolton Castle.
4. Besides my faithful maids, that horrid Lord Scrope was the first person I talked to today.
5. Hugs are few and far between for me, I am a Queen and I should be treated as being closest to God.
6. My little Skye Terrier brings me extra comfort.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to attempting to escape, tomorrow my plans include racing for the river on horseback and Sunday, I want to be on a boat heading back to Scotland!

{But her escape was fruitless, and instead she was on her way to her next prisons at Tutbury and Sheffield Castles}

Who am I?

Jul 9, 2009

Booking Through Thursday - To Be Read Hopefully This Year, But I Know I'm Dreaming

Booking Through Thursday is hosted by Deb; Deb says:

An idea I got from The Toddled Dredge (via K for Kat). Here’s what she said:
“So here today I present to you an Unread Books Challenge. Give me the list or take a picture of all the books you have stacked on your bedside table, hidden under the bed or standing in your shelf – the books you have not read, but keep meaning to. The books that begin to weigh on your mind. The books that make you cover your ears in conversation and say, ‘No! Don’t give me another book to read! I can’t finish the ones I have!’ “

I have .. oh I don't know.. 200 books to read... and the list grows and grows and grows. These are the books that I chose to share, that are on my shelf, waiting to be read. The selections show a variety of topics that I am interested in. You can see my Goodreads shelf which also shows ones that I would like to read but does not necessarily mean I own them here.

I own these & have not read them yet:
Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette (Hardcover) by Naslund, Sena Jeter

The Girl Who Stopped Swimming (Paperback) by Jackson, Joshilyn

Beach Trip: A Novel (Hardcover) by Holton, Cathy

The Turnaround (Hardcover) by Pelecanos, George P.

The King's Rose (Hardcover) by Libby, Alisa M.

Revolution on Canvas, Volume 1: Poetry from the Indie Music Scene (Paperback) by Balling, Rich

The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (Paperback) by Dickinson, Emily

The 100 Best Poems of All Time (Paperback) by Pockell, Leslie

Surviving High Society - Lots of Love Trumps Lots of Money (Paperback) by Mulholland, Elizabeth Marvin

Pride and Prejudice (Mass Market Paperback) by Austen, Jane

The Queen of Subtleties: A Novel of Anne Boleyn (Paperback) by Dunn, Suzannah

Through a Glass Darkly (Paperback) by Koen, Karleen

The Kite Runner (Paperback) by Hosseini, Khaled

Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of the Sun King (Hardcover) by Fraser, Antonia

The Truth Will Out: Unmasking the Real Shakespeare (Hardcover) by James, Brenda

Who Do You Think You Are? by Myers, Alyse

The Lady Penelope: The Lost Tale of Love and Politics in the Court of Elizabeth I (Hardcover) by Varlow, Sally

The Red Rose and the White: The Wars of the Roses, 1453-1487 (Hardcover) by Sadler, John

Anne Boleyn (Hardcover) by Lofts, Norah

Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire (Modern Library Paperbacks) Foreman, Amanda

1603: The Death of Queen Elizabeth I, the Return of the Black Plague, the Rise of Shakespeare, Piracy, Witchcraft, and the Birth of the Stuart Era byLee, Christopher

Dark Prince (Carpathians, #1) by Feehan, Christine

In the Shadow of the Sun King (Darkness to Light, #1) by Parsons, Golden Keyes

Daughters of England (G K Hall Large Print Book Series) by Carr, Philippa

Uppity Women of Medieval Times (Paperback) by Leon, Vicki

The Glister: A Novel (Hardcover) by Burnside, John

Etta: A Novel (Hardcover) by Kolpan, Gerald

BoneMan's Daughters (Hardcover) by Dekker, Ted

Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe (Paperback) by Gulland, Sandra (& the rest of the Josephine series)

Mistress of the Sun: A Novel (Hardcover) by Gulland, Sandra

Pope Joan: A Novel (Paperback) by Cross, Donna Woolfolk

A Rose for Virtue: The Very Private Life of Hortense, Stepdaughter of Napoleon I, Mother of Napoleon III (Hardcover) by Lofts, Norah

My Lady of Cleves: A Novel of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves (Paperback) by Barnes, Margaret Campbell
And of course there is always my slowly growing Jean Plaidy bookshelf as shown:

I have probably only read about 6 or 7 of these shown. So, what books do you own that you have been really wanting to read for awhile now?

Jul 6, 2009

Book Review: "Valeria's Last Stand" by Marc Fitten

Valeria's Last Stand: A Novel (Hardcover)by Marc Fitten
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (April 28, 2009)
ISBN-10: 1596916206
ISBN-13: 978-1596916203
The Burton Review Rating: 4 Stars

Product Description:
"A comic romp celebrating late-flowering love in a Hungarian village that will appeal to readers of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian.
Valeria is a whale in a puddle. She harrumphs her daily way through her backwater Hungarian village, finding equal fault with the new, the old, the foreign, and the familiar. Her decades of universal contempt have turned her into a touchstone of her little community—whatever she scorns the least must be the best, after all. But, on a day like any other, her spinster’s heart is struck by an unlikely arrow: The village potter, long known and little noticed, captures her fancy, and Valeria finds herself suddenly cast in a role she never expected to play. This one deviation from character, this one loose thread, is all it takes for the delicately woven fabric of village life to unravel. And, for the first time in a long time, Valeria couldn't care less. With humor and sensitivity, author Marc Fitten delivers an unexpected and entirely inspiring first novel that will leave you begging for more."

Set in a small village in Hungary, this is the story of the locals; their socializing and their meager way of life. And it is not a story that is only central to Valeria, it is about these villagers of Zivatar which is a tiny town that time and technology has left alone, save for the mayor's meager efforts. The characters we meet are interesting to read about, though not many are instantly likable. There are some female characters with names while the men simply go by their profession: the potter, the apprentice, the chimney sweep, the mayor. Surprisingly, it works.

The story opens up to Valeria, a woman approaching seventy years of age and is set in her ways, having no qualms to tell you what's what. She has no friends, she does not have a purpose in life except to harass others when she sees fit. The villagers enjoy poking fun at her and ridiculing her. Oddly enough, she sees the local potter in the market and is completely mesmerized by him. At this point she seems human enough and we get to empathise with her; otherwise she really was easy to hate. We are then introduced to another strong willed woman, Ibolya, the local tavern owner. Of course these two women hate each other, especially now that they learn they both have eyes for the potter. What transpires now is an engrossing and a spicy story that wraps its arms around you and doesn't let go. We witness the growth of the characters with delight and chagrin.
The third party narrative works splendidly in this book as it gives us unique point of views from each of the main characters to help add to the nuance of the village as the story develops. As opposed to a family saga, this is more of a saga of the villagers and the two women that help define it as the village reaches it critical turning point of survival of the fittest. How the villagers react to one another, and to the events that transpire, was absorbing to read. The women fight over the potter, other relationships are ruined and made, the chimney sweeper becomes a murderer - it all becomes wrapped in a strangely engaging little story about senior citizens struggling to keep up with the world around them.
There is also a back story of capitalism and power that the author broaches with the mayor who is trying to bring technology and renewal to his citizens, who have mostly been stuck in their black hole of a village while the rest of world left it behind. The novel built up a lot of momentum with its provocative storyline and made my stomach churn as I was getting towards the climatic ending. The author did compose a fine debut novel, although a bit more on the crude side with some of the language, and I would have enjoyed it with a bit less sex, but I am intrigued as to the fact that he plans this novel to be the first of The Paprika Trilogy. I am definitely going to read the next one to see if it is as compelling as this one was, as this was a perfect weekend read for me. This is one of those types of books that you either love it or hate it, depending on your mood. I enjoyed it for being a quick read, the unique storytelling and the unforgettable characters.

Mailbox Monday - A Bit of Everything

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share what books that we found in our mailboxes last week. And I am adding what I purchased. Here's what I received during the last week:

Not a huge book week over here, which is fine since I have a lot of reading to do already.

From Paperbackswap I ordered:

"Gloriana's Torch" by Patricia Finney
"1587 and the Spanish are preparing to launch the Armada, their Holy Enterprise of England, to rescue the English from heresy and Elizabeth, their Witch-Queen. Ex-soldier David Becket, now responsible for the Queen's Ordnance but struggling to deal with his tortured past in the Tower of London and on the battlefields of Europe, discovers that large quantities of gunpowder are going astray. Can someone in the heart of the English government be selling it to the Spanish? Unaccountably he is plagued by vivid dreams of England invaded, an alternative story where the Armada is victorious. Simon Ames, Becket's old friend, has been captured by the Inquisition in Lisbon as he attempts to elicit vital information for the Queen. His wife, Rebecca; a black slave, Merula, and Becket are permitted to rescue him on one condition. They must also infiltrate the Spanish fleet and unravel the riddle of the Miracle of Beauty. But Simon has been sentenced to work as a galley slave on the Armada and, chained to an oarbench, is now bound for England. Patricia Finney's brilliant reworking of the Armada legend is an imaginative tour de force and illustrates how different England's history could have been had the Spanish landed. Thrilling, intricate and inspiring, this is a tale of gods, of courage, of love, and, ultimately, of redemption."

I am still recovering from my burnt-out on Elizabeth I phase but I hope to get back into the groove soon as I do truly love her.

Received for Review:
"The Hidden Man" by David Ellis "THE HIDDEN MAN introduces attorney Jason Kolarich, a Midwestern everyman with a lineman's build and an easy smart-ass remark. He's young, intelligent, and driven, but he's also saddled with an overwhelming emotional burden - one that threatens to unravel his own life, and possibly the lives of those around him.

Twenty-seven years ago, two-year-old Audrey Cutler disappeared from her home in the middle of the night. Her body was never found. All the detectives had to go on were vague eyewitness accounts of a man running down the Cutler's street, apparently carrying someone.
Without enough evidence to suggest otherwise, Griffin Perlini - a neighbor with prior offenses against minors - was arrested, but never convicted.
The case is long closed when Perlini is murdered in his apartment nearly thirty years later. Now a man named Mr. Smith appears in Jason Kolarich's office offering him a suspicious amount of money to defend the lead suspect in Perlini's murder, saying only that he represents an interested third party and that Kolarich is perfect for the case. Sure enough, the man on trial is Audrey Cutler's older brother Sammy, Kolarich's childhood best friend, a man he hasn't seen since a falling out almost twenty years prior. And just when it seems like the case can't get any more complex, the mysterious third party starts applying pressure to Kolarich. With his own life and Sammy's in the balance, Kolarich has to not only put aside the mounting anxiety of the case but also a heart wrenching personal tragedy in order to find out what really happened to Audrey all those years ago."
I really enjoy Lee Child so I am hoping this has the same flair.

"The Invention of Everything Else" by Samantha Hunt "From the moment Louisa first catches sight of the strange man who occupies a forbidden room on the thirty-third floor, she is determined to befriend him.Unbeknownst to Louisa, he is Nikola Teslainventor of AC electricity and wireless communicationand he is living out his last days at the Hotel New Yorker.Winning his attention through a shared love of pigeons, she eventually uncovers the story of Teslas life as a Serbian immigrant and a visionary genius: as a boy he built engines powered by June bugs, as a man he dreamed of pulling electricity from the sky.The mystery deepens when Louisa reunites with an enigmatic former classmate and faces the loss of her father as he attempts to travel to the past to meet up with his beloved late wife. Before the week is out, Louisa must come to terms with her own understanding of love, death, and the power of invention."

From a win at Dan's Journal, (Thank you!) I received:

"The Night Gardener" by George Pelecanos "Gus Ramone is "good police," a former Internal Affairs investigator now working homicide for the city's Violent Crime branch. His new case involves the death of a local teenager named Asa, whose body has been found in a local community garden.
The murder unearths intense memories of a case Ramone worked as a patrol cop twenty years earlier, when he and his partner, Dan "Doc" Holiday, assisted a legendary detective named T. C. Cook. The series of murders, all involving local teenage victims, was never solved. In the years since, Holiday has left the force under a cloud of morals charges, and now finds work as a bodyguard and driver. Cook has retired, but he has never stopped agonizing about the "Night Gardener" killings.
The new case draws the three men together on a grim mission to finish the work that has haunted them for years. All the love, regret, and anger that once burned between them comes rushing back, and old ghosts walk once more as the men try to lay to rest the monster who has stalked their dreams. Bigger and even more unstoppable than his previous thrillers, George Pelecanos achieves in The Night Gardener what his brilliant career has been building toward: a novel that is a perfect union of suspense, character, and unstoppable fate."
What was in your mailbox?

Jul 5, 2009

The Sunday Salon - The Struggle of 36

The Sunday

"What is the Sunday Salon? Imagine some university library's vast reading room. It's filled with people--students and faculty and strangers who've wandered in. They're seated at great oaken desks, books piled all around them, and they're all feverishly reading and jotting notes in their leather-bound journals as they go. Later they'll mill around the open dictionaries and compare their thoughts on the afternoon's literary intake...."

I hope my fellow Americans had a pleasant Independence Day. The only family we have close by is my mother, but she worked the closing shift so we managed to occupy ourselves with a zillion kids DVD's. We can't go in our backyard because we have new grass growing so we were pretty much sheltered till we went out to watch the fireworks show.

This past week I finished reading and reviewed Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman who Helped Hide The Franks by Miep Gies. I loved that book very much, it was quite poignant and thought provoking for me. I strongly recommend it. You can find it on the Amazon UK site for now, and they just got it on the Simon & Schuster UK site. I cannot wait to read more WWII accounts, from the personal memories to the more military history ones. I am very intrigued by the history of it.

Also courtesy of Simon And Schuster UK, I read and reviewed Crowner Royal by Bernard Knight, which is the thirteenth in a Crowner John Medieval Mystery series for this author. He received high reviews on Amazon for this one, and my own review is posted here.

I just started Valeria's Last Stand by Marc Fitten which I received as an ARC a while ago and just couldn't get around to it. Better late than never, and it is definitely different. A bit crude but the story is interesting that it has a lot of potential to be a page-turner as soon as I have a moment's peace.

Mo at Unmainstream Mom Reads posted the other day that she lost her reading mojo. She's in a slump. She only read 20 books as opposed to her norm of average 33 and she is upset by the decrease. I commented that it's okay to give it your best shot, and what results from that is what was meant to be.

But of course it got me thinking, because I feel a bit of the same way. I do enjoy reading, and now that I have been blogging about reading (*& reading other blogs) I definitely am not using my time wisely. I follow along on twitter when you wouldn't even know I'm there, and I also do the Facebook thing, for which I just figured out how to sync my tweets to post to my Facebook status so I can annoy more people elsewhere. I have the Google Reader on which I think I stay up to speed on. but today I just deleted over 1,000 posts. When did I sign up for all these subscriptions?! So now I'm starting fresh again.

For the Bloggiesta a few weeks ago I spent like 15 hours doing minor updates to my blog that were barely noticeable. Why did I spend so much time doing that?? I thought there would be book awards, but I only saw one winner out of all the mini challenges. I definitely would not have spent so much time on it if there was only one winner out of all the participants. But .. then again, maybe I would have. I am addicted to this laptop, and learning new tweaks is always invigorating.

Some people read 20 books a month and easily write a thorough review on it immediately. And although anything more than 5 books a month for me is awesome, I also hate it when I feel like a book is holding me back.. particularly when I am reading specifically to review it and I'd rather just throw it against the wall. Marireads just mentions this quandry which everyone has been in the situation before. As for myself, I work Full-time, I have a 7 year old and a 2 year old, a house that they are destroying.. and reading was my one little enjoyment that was mine all mine!! Now that I have shared that passion with the entire Book Blogging Community and the publishers or authors for whom I agree to review a book, I feel a bit like it's a struggle. It is summertime, the kids are out of school, I should be enjoying life with them but I am obsessed with checking out what everyone else is blogging about and what new book is out there that I must add to my shelf.. And I am still swamped with my own pile of books that I have yet to review. Before I started this reviewing thing it seemed like I was reading about 10 books a month. I guess that was because I didn't have to stop in between books and compose a thoughtful and concise review on it. And then of course the main thing is that I obviously had hand-picked the books out and they were not offered to me by anyone else. These were books that were specifically and only in the 'I really want to read this' genre, and therefore seemed to be devoured quickly.

I posted my Friday Fill In and NO Fill-In Meme participants (of which there were at least 71 that day) came by to check it out. So why do I bother? I guess because this blog is still Mine All Mine and if I enjoyed creating that post then it should have been worthwhile to me.. which I thought it was pretty special. And so did Ms. Lucy who must be my biggest fan, I love her to pieces for her support.

Am I feeling a little extra crappy because OH MY GOD I am freaking 36 today?!! Yes, probably so. Where did the fun skinny blond haired (other days red or brown, depending on my mood) girl go? Reincarnated into my light-brown haired daughter, who has 110% of my attitude and who unabashedly flings it back at me 100 times a day. I once was the girl that could not gain a pound if I ate McDonald's and pizza all day long, and then boom! I hit 30 and I think of McDonald's and I immediately gain a pound, and yet I still eat there an insane amount. INSANE. My face has teeny wrinkles, my freckles aren't cute, my once non-existent boobs have turned into droopy ex-milk producers, and even my toes don't look as pretty in those cute strappy sandals. But it's my birthday, I have the day off, so I should be happy and excited, right?

{And I will be once my husband shows me what he bought for me!! teehee}

And here is a picture of some of my Birthday Presents!