Thursday, July 31, 2014

Cat Thursday - Random Hilarity

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! Enjoy! (share your post in the Mr. Linky below)

Just some random funnies to get us ready for Friday which is TOMORROW! YAY!

Thanks so much for all the compliments on my new blog look. I really appreciated it!

Images Source: lolcats

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

HFVBT: Barbara Kyle's The Queen's Exiles - Review

My thoughts
I didn't realize that this was book six in the Thornleigh saga, but quickly noticed that it was obvious these characters had interacted previously. However, not reading the previous books did not encumber my reading of this one at all. In fact, the author has a true talent for writing a series book to seem a stand alone novel.

I really enjoyed reading about the whole Elizabeth Tudor, Philip of Spain conflict from an outside perspective. Watching the story untold from eyes other than those of royalty made for a refreshing take on the story. Fenella is a terrific character. I love reading about strong women from that era because there really weren't many of them due to the way women were treated and forced to behave back then. It's one thing to be the queen and act independently - who is going to question you (at least, to your face)? But to be a common woman and so full of spark and independence...well, let's just say that Fenella didn't always have it very easy.

I now must go back to the other books in the series and see how the story began. Barbara Kyle has a true talent for writing the historical novel. Her books will always have a place on my shelves.

About the book
Publication Date: May 27, 2014
Kensington Publishing
Formats: Ebook, Paperback

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Europe is in turmoil. A vengeful faction of exiled English Catholics is plotting to overthrow Queen Elizabeth and install her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne. And in the Netherlands the streets are red with the blood of those who dare to oppose the brutal Spanish occupation. But amid the unrest, one resourceful young woman has made a lucrative enterprise. Scottish-born Fenella Doorn salvages crippled vessels. It is on one of these ships that she meets wealthy Baron Adam Thornleigh. Secretly drawn to him, Fenella can’t refuse when Adam enlists her to join him in war-torn Brussels to help find his traitorous wife, Frances—and the children she’s taken from him. But Adam and Fenella will put their lives in peril as they attempt to rescue his young ones, defend the Crown, and restore a peace that few can remember. With eloquent and enthralling finesse, Barbara Kyle illuminates one of history’s grimmest chapters. The Queen’s Exiles breathes new life into an extraordinary age when love and freedom could only be won with unmitigated courage.


Praise for The Queen’s Exiles
“Riveting Tudor drama in the bestselling vein of Philippa Gregory” – USA Today

“A bold and original take on the Tudors that dares to be different. Enjoy the adventure!” – Susanna Kearsley, New York Times bestselling author

“This moving adventure pulses with Shakespearean passions: love and heartbreak, risk and valour, and loyalties challenged in a savage time. Fenella Doorn, savvy and brave, is an unforgettable heroine.” – Antoni Cimolino, Artistic Director of the Stratford Festival

“Brilliant. A page-turner of love and loyalty in treacherous Tudor times. A truly unforgettable adventure.” – Deborah Swift, author of A Divided Inheritance

“A vivid and compelling novel by an author at the very top of her craft.” – Diane Haeger, author of I, Jane

Praise for Barbara Kyle’s Books

“Kyle knows what historical fiction readers crave.” – RT Book Reviews on Blood Between Queens

“A complex and fast-paced plot mixing history with vibrant characters” – Publishers Weekly on The King’s Daughter

“An all-action thriller, bringing to life the passion and perils of the Tudor period.” – Lancashire Evening Post on The King’s Daughter

“Riveting…adventurous…superb!” – The Historical Novels Review on The Queen’s Gamble

“An exciting tale of the intrigue and political manoeuvring in the Tudor court.” – Booklist on The Queen’s Captive

“Boldly strides into Philippa Gregory territory…sweeping, gritty and realistic.” – The Historical Novels Review on The Queen’s Lady

About the Author
Barbara Kyle is the author of the acclaimed, internationally-published Thornleigh Saga novels which follow a middle-class English family’s rise through three tumultuous Tudor reigns:

The Queen’s Exiles
Blood Between Queens
The Queen’s Gamble
The Queen’s Captive
The King’s Daughter
The Queen’s Lady

Barbara was a speaker in 2013 at the world-renowned Stratford Festival with her talk Elizabeth and Mary, Rival Queens and is known for her dynamic workshops for many writers’ organizations and conferences. Before becoming an author Barbara enjoyed a twenty-year acting career in television, film, and stage productions in Canada and the U.S.

For more information visit You can also connect with Barbara at Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Visit other blogs on the tour--Tour Schedule
Twitter Hashtag:  #QueensExilesTour

A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for providing it.


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Monday, July 28, 2014

A Reading Life (30)

I can't believe I haven't posted one of these since March! My, I have become lax. I'm going to change up the format a bit to make it more my own.

Currently reading
The Queen's Exiles, Barbara Kyle
Elizabeth, Robert Stephen Parry
March, Geraldine Brooks
The Lady and the Unicorn, Tracy Chevalier

The Typewriter Girl, Alison Atlee

Family Reading Project
The Crystal Cave, Marty Stewart
Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton

One movie/One TV show I like right now
The Strain (FX) - wonderfully creepy
Lucy (starring Scarlet Johannsen) - deep, yet action packed

Summer break will be over next week and my older son will be a teenager in November. I have been feeling nostalgic about when my boys were little and how quickly time passes.

My divorce was final on June 17. Another chapter of my life officially closed. Moving on.

Upcoming reads at my read-a-long groups
TuesBookTalk - August's read is The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd

Lit Collective - we are reading and discussing the works of Geraldine Brooks in August
Caleb's Crossing
People of the Book

My upcoming events (challenges, read-a-thons, other reading events)
I just announced The Never-Ending Anne Rice Challenge! There is a dedicated blog for it HERE.

I will be hosting Gothic September at Castle Macabre again. I'm thinking of hosting a read-a-long of a Gothic novel. Just have to decide which one. Will most likely be a classic. I'm thinking Nathaniel Hawthorne. Join me for some Gothically good reading in September.

In October at Castle Macabre, Season of the Witch will be back again. A month of scary reads that might not necessarily be about witches, but then very well could.

And don't forget about the FrightFall Read-a-Thon in early October. Sign ups will be posted within the next month at Seasons of Reading.

Recent book acquisitions 

That Night, Chevy Stevens - won from So Many Precious Books, So Little Time
An English Ghost Story, Kim Newman - for review
The Montauk Monster, Hunter Shea - for review

What's been going on in your Reading Life?


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Friday, July 25, 2014

HFVBT: Susan Spann's Blade of the Samurai - Review

My thoughts
This mystery was intricately planned out and executed and to set it in 16th century Japan with such mastery of the time period is amazing. The reader is transported. As I'm reading, I'm seeing in my mind's eye the Shogunate, the town, Hiro and Father Mateo's house. It's this excellent imagery that really brings one into the story. And there are elements of surprise...and even whimsy. Case in point - the foreshadowing in this scene I will share here had me thinking that something alarming was about to happen. And low and behold...

The attack came from behind and without warning. A dozen tiny daggers punctured Hiro's shoulder and upper back. He grunted with surprise and pain and tried to twist away, but the effort made Gato sink her claws even deeper into his flesh. Her free paw batted his hand and grabbed at the saying tail of hair. 

"Ow!" Hiro grabbed Gato, determined to pry the kitten away before her efforts ruined his hair completely.

See! Hiro is attacked not by a human, but none other than his own kitten. A fine example of suspense transitioning to whimsy. Quite clever.

Not to say that the book doesn't have its moments of sheer suspense because it does. There is a murder and sinister doings afoot. Watching as Hiro and Father Mateo navigate the stringent customs of the Japanese Samurai while trying to solve the murder was indeed entertaining and interesting.

This author has a true talent in writing not only mysteries, but also capturing an entire culture in the pages. I can't wait to go back and read the first book in the Shinobi Mysteries, Claws of the Cat, and I look forward to her next offering, Flask of the Drunken Master.

About the book
Publication Date: July 15, 2014
Minotaur Books
Formats: eBook, Hardcover

Series: Shinobi Mystery
Genre: Historical Mystery

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June, 1565: Master ninja Hiro Hattori receives a pre-dawn visit from Kazu, a fellow shinobi working undercover at the shogunate. Hours before, the Shogun’s cousin, Saburo, was stabbed to death in the Shogun’s palace. The murder weapon: Kazu’s personal dagger. Kazu says he’s innocent, and begs for Hiro’s help, but his story gives Hiro reason to doubt the young shinobi’s claims.

When the Shogun summons Hiro and Father Mateo, the Jesuit priest under Hiro’s protection, to find the killer, Hiro finds himself forced to choose between friendship and personal honor.

The investigation reveals a plot to assassinate the Shogun and overthrow the ruling Ashikaga clan. With Lord Oda’s enemy forces approaching Kyoto, and the murderer poised to strike again, Hiro must use his assassin’s skills to reveal the killer’s identity and protect the Shogun at any cost. Kazu, now trapped in the city, still refuses to explain his whereabouts at the time of the murder. But a suspicious shogunate maid, Saburo’s wife, and the Shogun’s stable master also had reasons to want Saburo dead. With the Shogun demanding the murderer’s head before Lord Oda reaches the city, Hiro and Father Mateo must produce the killer in time … or die in his place.

Blade of the Samurai is a complex mystery that will transport readers to a thrilling and unforgettable adventure in 16th century Japan.

Book One of the Shinobi Mysteries series, Claws of the Cat, was released in 2013.

Praise for Blast of the Samurai

“The second Hiro Hattori mystery (after 2013’s Claws of the Cat) finds the sixteenth-century ninja—and unofficial investigator—presented with an interesting problem…A strong second entry in a very promising series.”—Booklist

“Hiro and Father Mateo’s second adventure (Claws of the Cat, 2013) combines enlightenment on 16th-century Japanese life with a sharp and well-integrated mystery.”—Kirkus Reveiws

About the Author
Susan Spann acquired her love of books and reading during her preschool days in Santa Monica, California. As a child she read everything from National Geographic to Agatha Christie. In high school, she once turned a short-story assignment into a full-length fantasy novel (which, fortunately, will never see the light of day).

A yearning to experience different cultures sent Susan to Tufts University in Boston, where she immersed herself in the history and culture of China and Japan. After earning an undergraduate degree in Asian Studies, Susan diverted to law school. She returned to California to practice law, where her continuing love of books has led her to specialize in intellectual property, business and publishing contracts.

Susan’s interest in Japanese history, martial arts, and mystery inspired her to write the Shinobi Mystery series featuring Hiro Hattori, a sixteenth-century ninja who brings murderers to justice with the help of Father Mateo, a Portuguese Jesuit priest. When not writing or representing clients, Susan enjoys traditional archery, martial arts, horseback riding, online gaming, and raising seahorses and rare corals in her highly distracting marine aquarium. Susan lives in Sacramento with her husband, son, three cats, one bird, and a multitude of assorted aquatic creatures.

For more information please visit Susan Spann’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Visit other blogs on the tour--Tour Schedule
Twitter Hashtag: #BladeoftheSamuraiBlogTour #HFVBTBlogTour #HistNov #HistFic #HistoricalMystery
Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @SusanSpann @MinotaurBooks

A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for providing it.


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High Summer Read-a-Thon - Update #HSreadathon

Well, it hasn't been a real stellar week for the reading, but I have been able to squeeze in a bit here and there.

  • 2 chapters of The Crystal Cave
  • about 100 pages of The Lady and the Unicorn
  • Read Blade of the Samurai, 304 pages (review coming shortly)
Hoping to make a good dent in The Queen's Exiles this weekend and get started on March by Geraldine Brooks.

Twitter chat for the read-a-thon tonight at 8:00pm CST/9:00pm EST. Hashtag #HSreadathon


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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Cat Thursday - Cats getting their read on

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! Enjoy! (share your post in the Mr. Linky below)

In honor of my High Summer Read-a-Thon going on this week, I thought I would share some cats who also enjoy my favorite past time. 

You might have noticed that I redesigned the blog. What do you think?

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Monday, July 21, 2014

High Summer Read-a-Thon - Reading Plans #HSreadathon

I'm late to my own party! Better late than never, right!?

The High Summer Read-a-Thon started today at 12:00am over at Seasons of Reading (my read-a-thon blog). In case you may have missed it, you can still join us by signing up here. I'm hoping I can focus some time on reading this week while still trying to eke out some word count for Camp NaNoWriMo (#epicfail so far, once again).

Here's what I plan to read:

  • The Lady and the Unicorn, Tracy Chevalier - catch up on the section for tomorrow's TuesBookTalk and finish it at the end of the read-a-thon
  • The Blade of the Samurai, Susan Spann - for review on Wednesday
  • Elizabeth: The Virgin Queen and the Men who Loved Her, Robert Stephen Parry - finish
  • Jurassic Park (Michael Crichton) and The Crystal Cave (Mary Stewart) - books I'm reading with my sons for our Family Reading Project. We average about 20 minutes per night, alternating titles. That's all I can squeeze out of them. lol
  • March, Geraldine Brooks - Finally time to crack open one of the selections for Lit Collective in August. 
  • The Queen's Exiles, Barbara Kyle - get started on this toward the end for review on Tuesday.
What are you reading this week? Are you joining me for the read-a-thon? I hope so!


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Friday, July 18, 2014

Mini-Bloggiesta July 2014

It's that time again. Not sure how much I'll get done because I'm supposed to be writing too, but we'll see. Here's my tentative list...

  • Is cleaning out your email a Bloggiesta task? If most of the emails are blogging related, I would say yes! This is my number one goal.
  • I need to do a mini-challenge contest post for my Stephen King Challenge.
  • I need to set up a Wheel of Fortune spin for The Fantasy Project
  • I'm thinking of creating another long term reading challenge. Hint: it surrounds my favorite author. A virtual cupcake if you can guess who and leave me a comment. *wink*
  • I wonder if I'll get around to finally listing my books read from the past two years here on the blog? Maybe this time.
  • I'd like to work on my library blog, but this may have to wait until the full blown Bloggiesta in the Fall.
  • Starting post for High Summer Read-a-Thon.
  • ....
  • ....
(Some blanks in case I want to add anything. Yeah, I'm crazy!)

What are your Bloggiesta plans? Not signed up, you can do so here.


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HFVBT: Vincent B. LoCoco's Tempesta's Dream - Review

My thoughts
Tempesta's Dream is a book that is really about opera at its core. The author's passion for opera really shines through and that's what I liked about this book. As a music lover and singer myself, anything associated with music and its history is something I enjoy. The author really incorporates the history and music of the opera here.

However, the story itself was somewhat labored. While I enjoyed Giovanni as a character, his passion and ambition to achieve his greatest dream is highly admirable, the interactions between the characters could have flowed more smoothly. Giovanni and Isabella were supposed to have this great love, but I just really didn't feel it. In the end, the saving grace is Giovanni and the message that one should never give up on their dreams.

If you're passionate about opera, you should definitely read this book because there is a wealth of historical accounts included. This, and the unflinching spirit of Giovanni, make this a book which is worth taking a look at if one can overlook the slightly stilted story and dialog. Not bad for a debut novel. There's promise here so I will look forward to checking out the author's future works.

About the book
Publication Date: September 26, 2013
Cefalutana Press
Formats: eBook, Paperback

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Tempesta’s Dream is the story of an aspiring opera singer coming of age in Milan; a tender and moving love story; a testament to the bonds of friendship; and, at its core, a tribute to the beauty, majesty and miracle of opera.

Giovanni Tempesta always dreamed of becoming an opera tenor and one day singing from the stage of the La Scala Opera House in his hometown of Milan, Italy. But with no real training, his dream has little chance for fulfillment . . . One day, he meets and immediately falls in love with Isabella Monterone, a dark-haired beauty, whose father, a very rich and powerful Milanese Judge, refuses to allow his daughter to date a penniless musician . . . At the lowest part of his life, Giovanni comes upon the Casa di Riposo, a rest home for musicians established by the great opera composer, Giuseppe Verdi . . . It is at the Casa Verdi that Giovanni meets Alfredo del Monte, a blind, retired opera singer with a secretive past who gradually becomes his mentor . . . Could Alfredo be the one person who could assist Giovanni in finding the break he needs? Or is Giovanni destined to be on the cusp of reaching his life long dream, only to find failure? . . . Tempesta’s Dream, at its core, is an Italian opera love story. The author tells the story simply and swiftly with an ending that is both an emotional and poignant moment of both “amicizia e amore” (friendship and love.)

Praise for Tempesta’s Dream
“The novel has enormous heart and a few times my eyes filled with tears. I was vividly involved with this young tenor, his dreams, and the wonderful old man who taught him. It is not an easy thing to convey the passion for song. However, the way the author did it, I could physically feel the young tenor singing and hear his voice.” -Stephanie Cowell, Author of Marrying Mozart

“The story holds charm and appeal. There is beauty in the depiction of the relationship between Giovanni and Isabella, as well as in the bond between Alfredo and the young tenor. Giovanni, Isabella and Alfredo will remain in ‘memoria mia’ for years to come.” -George Shirley, Tenor, University of Michigan Emeritus Professor of Music (Voice)

“Within a very moving story of romance and friendship, the author has created a realistic portrait of a young singer’s pursuit of an operatic career. This lovely tale allows one to acquire an understanding of and an affection for opera.” -Audrey Schuh Redmann, Soprano

“This novel is a thorough pleasure.” -Christina Vella, Author of Intimate Enemies, The Two Worlds of Baroness de Pontalba

“The story surprised me and involved me. The development of the book was very intriguing and moving.” -Cecilia Gobbi, founder of the Associazione Musicale Tito Gobbi, an organization devoted to preserving and celebrating the record of her famous baritone father’s contribution to opera

“What a story! Quite possibly, the best novel about opera I have ever read. The passion of opera pulsates throughout the entire novel. Highly recommended.” -John Gehl, Opera historian and the only American collaborator on The Oxford Concise Encyclopedia of Opera

“The author’s contagious love of opera and his faith in human decency sing through this loveable page-turner of a story.” -Susan Nicassio, Author of Tosca’s Rome

“An intelligent and entertaining lyrical journey . . . A rare, beautiful story with passion and opera pulsating through each page. LoCoco has woven a unique novel with exceptionally developed characters, realistic dialogue and a well-balanced narrative.” -Penn Book Review

“A Powerful novel . . . Tempesta’s Dream is all about the music, it’s all about the passion; and it’s all about pursuing one’s dream . . .a moving, engrossing story.” – D. Donovan, Ebook Reviewer, MidWest Book Review

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Amazon US (Kindle)
Amazon US (Paperback)
Barnes & Noble (Nook)
Barnes & Noble (Paperback)
Book Depository

About the Author
Chip LoCoco was born and raised in New Orleans. He is an attorney, with an emphasis on estate planning. A lifelong lover of music, Chip’s passion for opera dates back many years now. He has seen operas all over the world at some of the greatest opera houses. Chip has been asked to give talks on opera as well as the Sicilian-American culture of New Orleans.

Chip’s second novel, Bellafortuna, has been named a Short List Finalist in the William Faulkner Writing Competition. A date for publication has not been set yet for his second novel.

Chip is married to his wife of 15 years, Wendy. They have two children, Matthew and Ellie and a beagle, named Scout. They reside in their beloved city of New Orleans, where if you try to find them on a Sunday in the Fall, they will be somewhere rooting on their Saints.

For more information please visit Chip LoCoco’s website. You can also connect with him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Visit other blogs on the tour--Tour Schedule
Twitter Hashtag: #TempestasDreamBlogTour

A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for providing it.


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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cat Thursday: Cats in Art (3)

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! Enjoy! (share your post in the Mr. Linky below)

I really love these paintings I keep discovering. I'd like to thank Barbara at It's About Time for always posting such wonderful art. 

Lilla Cabot Perry American artist (1848-1933) Woman with Cat

Alfred Stevens Belgium painter (1828-1906) The Lady with the Fan

And because tomorrow's Friday and I've gotten to the point where I can't wait for the weekend every week...

Have a wonderful weekend!

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