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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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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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What books have "moved" me?

GIVEAWAY: Kindle Fire HDX or $229 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash

This is such a great giveaway hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer every month. Some months I forget to join in, but I thought I would share and join in this month. Good luck!

Enter to win 1 of 2 great prizes both values at $229. Winner’s choice of a Kindle Fire HDX or $229 Amazon Gift Card or $229 Paypal Cash!

The first prize is available via the rafflecopter below. The 2nd is available only to bloggers who post about this giveaway. You can find info on how to enter the 2nd giveaway in the rafflecopter.

July Kindle

Win a Kindle Fire HDX, Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash ($229 value)

The winner will have the option of receiving a 7″ Kindle Fire HDX (US Only – $229 Value)


Or $229 Gift Card (International)

Or $229 in Paypal Cash (International)


I Am A Reader
Feed Your Reader
Author Claudia Burgoa
Candace’s Book Blog
Melissa McClone, Author
Author Alecia Stone
Jennifer Laurens Author
Jessabella Reads
Townsend House
Kelly Walker
I Love to Read and Review Books
A & E Kirk, Author
Rachelle J. Christensen
Hope To Read
Kimber Leigh Writes
Author Ednah Walters
Author Inger Iversen
Goddess Girls: Athena the Proud by Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams
Grimmtastic Girls: Cinderella Stays Late by Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams (tween)
YA Author Fabio Bueno
Author Danielle Annett
Buried Under Romance
Barbara Silkstone, Second Act Cafe
A Leisure Moment : A Casual Conversation about our love for Literature
Donna Feyen – More Than A Review
C.M. Brown
Lori’s Reading Corner
Book Reviews And Giveaways
Karen Ann Hopkins Amish Fiction
Kimber’s Life
Author Ruchi B.
Zharmae Publishing Press
Luthando Coeur
Biscuit & Books
Just Jeanae
Author – P.M. Richter
Charlotte Gerber
LeahSay’s Views
Author Melissa Lemon
Laurie Here – Contemporary Fiction and MORE
Author A. Wrighton
Little Green Eyed Press
Mom Loves 2 Read
Lynda Raymond
Author Elizabeth Parkinson Bellows
Author Ann Swann
Author Georgina Young-Ellis

Sign up to sponsor the next Kindle Giveaway here:

Giveaway Details

1 winner will receive their choice of an all new Kindle Fire 7″ HDX (US Only – $229 value), $229 Amazon Gift Card or $229 in Paypal Cash (International).

There is a second separate giveaway for bloggers who post this giveaway on their blog. See details in the rafflecopter on how to enter to win the 2nd Kindle Fire HDX 7″, $229 Amazon Gift Card or $229 in Paypal Cash.

Ends 7/31/14

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the participating authors & bloggers. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.
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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Cat Thursday - Authors and Cats (34)

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)

The second Cat Thursday of each month is Authors and Cats Thursday. Each time I will feature an author and their cat(s).

I am SO sorry! I can't believe I forgot to post this! I always have it ready to post at midnight, but it completely slipped my mind. Please forgive my absentmindedness.

Today I'm sharing with you author, Juliet Waldron. I reviewed her book, Mozart's Wife last week (HERE) and in her author photo, she is posed with her cat. She is obviously a woman after our own hearts!

About the author
“Not all who wander are lost.” Juliet Waldron earned a B. A. in English, but has worked at jobs ranging from artist’s model to brokerage. Thirty years ago, after the boys left home, she dropped out of 9-5 and began to write, hoping to create a genuine time travel experience for herself–and for her readers. She loves her grand-girls and her kitties, likes to take long hikes, and reads historical/archeological non-fiction as well as reviewing for the Historical Novel Society. For summer adventure, she rides behind her husband of 50 years on his “bucket list” (black, and ridiculously fast) Hyabusa motorcycle.

You can find more information at or connect with Juliet on Facebook.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

HFVBT: Antonia Hodgson's The Devil in the Marshalsea - Review and {Giveaway}

My thoughts
Wow! That's the word I will use to describe this book. An unputdownable romp into history and the world of a murderer.

Set in 18th century Georgian London and, more specifically, in a debtor's prison called the Marshalsea, this book took me completely by surprise. While I have been reading some great historical titles of late, I'm afraid I found myself getting into a kind of reading slump. This book has definitely pulled me out. It has been awhile since I've read such an atmospheric book. As I was reading, I was visualizing every scene and action as if I was right there in the middle of the action.

One thing that rings true in the book is that the London of this time was a very dangerous place, inside or outside the Marshalsea. Stumble into the wrong side of town and you were lucky to just come away robbed, not murdered. Being on the constant watch for misfortune had to be exhausting. Even more so for our illustrious main character, Tom Hawkins, inside the Marshalsea. Having to find out who murdered a debtor, who just happened to have been his look alike, while rooming with a man who may very well be the killer, Tom is poised on a perilous precipice indeed.

A reader of historical fiction couldn't ask for a more exciting and well-written novel than Hodgson's debut novel. I've heard that this is the first in a planned historical crime series and I really can't wait to read the next one.

About the book
Publication Date: June 10, 2014
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Formats: eBook, Paperback

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Thrilling new historical fiction starring a scoundrel with a heart of gold and set in the darkest debtors’ prison in Georgian London, where people fall dead as quickly as they fall in love and no one is as they seem.

It’s 1727. Tom Hawkins is damned if he’s going to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a country parson. Not for him a quiet life of prayer and propriety. His preference is for wine, women, and cards. But there’s a sense of honor there too, and Tom won’t pull family strings to get himself out of debt—not even when faced with the appalling horrors of London’s notorious debtors’ prison: The Marshalsea Gaol.

Within moments of his arrival in the Marshalsea, Hawkins learns there’s a murderer on the loose, a ghost is haunting the gaol, and that he’ll have to scrounge up the money to pay for his food, bed, and drink. He’s quick to accept an offer of free room and board from the mysterious Samuel Fleet—only to find out just hours later that it was Fleet’s last roommate who turned up dead. Tom’s choice is clear: get to the truth of the murder—or be the next to die.

Praise for The Devil in the Marshalsea
“Hodgson…conjures up scenes of Dickensian squalor and marries them to a crackerjack plot, in her impressive first novel…Hodgson makes the stench, as well as the despair, almost palpable, besides expertly dropping fair clues. Fans of Iain Pears and Charles Palliser will hope for a sequel.” –Publishers Weekly (STARRED REVIEW)

“The plot develops almost as many intricate turns as there are passages in the Marshalsea…Hodgson’s plotting is clever…the local color hair-raising.” –Kirkus Reviews

“Satisfyingly twisty debut thriller…so well detailed that one can almost smell the corruption, and the irrepressibly roguish Tom makes a winning hero.” —Booklist

“Historical fiction just doesn’t get any better than this. A riveting, fast-paced story…Magnificent!” —Jeffery Deaver, author of the bestselling The Kill Room and Edge

“Antonia Hodgson’s London of 1727 offers that rare achievement in historical fiction: a time and place suspensefully different from our own, yet real. The Devil in the Marshalsea reminds us at every turn that we ourselves may not have evolved far from its world of debtors and creditors, crime and generosity, appetite and pathos. A damn’d good read.” —Elizabeth Kostova, author of The Historian and The Swan Thieves

“A wonderfully convincing picture of the seamier side of 18th-century life. The narrative whips along. Antonia Hodgson has a real feel for how people thought and spoke at the time—and, God knows, that’s a rare talent.” —Andrew Taylor, author of An Unpardonable Crime and The Four Last Things

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About the author
Antonia Hodgson is the editor in chief of Little, Brown UK. She lives in London and can see the last fragments of the old city wall from her living room. The Devil in the Marshalsea is her first novel.

For more information please visit Antonia Hodgson’s website. You can also find her on Goodreads and Twitter.

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

Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter form below to enter for a chance to win one (1) of two (2) a copies of The Devil in the Marshalsea! (Open to U.S. only)

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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 3, 2014

HFVBT: Anna Castle's Murder by Misrule - Review and {Giveaway}

My thoughts
I love a good mystery. And what could be better than a mystery combined with one of my favorite historical eras, the Elizabethan age?! It takes a talent to write a great mystery and also adhere to historical detail and this author has done just that. I'm thoroughly impressed.

I've had mixed feelings on Francis Bacon, as I've read other books with him as a character or background figure and it seems the portrayals are not always favorable. However, I really liked him in this book and his apprentice, Thomas, was a refreshing addition to the story.

The mystery itself is labyrinthine and carries much suspense. It's rare for a historical novel to be "edge of the seat" reading. Don't get me wrong. Everyone knows I love historical fiction and it can be exciting, but when you add an element of suspense to the genre, it's even better. I'm thinking along the lines of C.W. Gortner's Spymaster Chronicles or Ariana Franklin's Mistress of the Art of Death series. This book is a worthy addition to that type of series and this too is a planned series so I'm looking forward to reading Bacon's continuing adventures.

I'm recommending this book to anyone who loves mysteries. Don't let the historical fiction genre dissuade you. Even if you do not normally read historical fiction, you are going to want to read this one purely for the excellent mystery writing. The historical bits are just icing on the cake!

About the book
Publication Date: June 8, 2014
Formats: Ebook, Paperback

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A Kirkus Indie Books of the Month Selection for July.

Francis Bacon is charged with investigating the murder of a fellow barrister at Gray’s Inn. He recruits his unwanted protégé Thomas Clarady to do the tiresome legwork. The son of a privateer, Clarady will do anything to climb the Elizabethan social ladder. Bacon’s powerful uncle Lord Burghley suspects Catholic conspirators of the crime, but other motives quickly emerge. Rival barristers contend for the murdered man’s legal honors and wealthy clients. Highly-placed courtiers are implicated as the investigation reaches from Whitehall to the London streets. Bacon does the thinking; Clarady does the fencing. Everyone has something up his pinked and padded sleeve. Even the brilliant Francis Bacon is at a loss — and in danger — until he sees through the disguises of the season of Misrule.

The Francis Bacon Mystery Series
This series of historical mysteries features the philosopher-statesman Francis Bacon as a sleuth and spymaster. Since Francis prefers the comfort of his own chambers, like his spiritual descendent Nero Wolfe, he sends his pupil, the handsome young Thomas Clarady, out to gather information. Tom loves the work, not least because he meets so many interesting people, like Lord Burghley, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Christopher Marlowe. Murder by Misrule is the first book in the series.

Praise for Murder by Misrule
“Though the plot keeps the pages turning, the characters, major and minor, and the well-wrought historical details will make readers want to linger in the 16th century. A laugh-out-loud mystery that will delight fans of the genre.” – Kirkus Starred Review

“Murder by Misrule is a delightful debut with characters that leap off the page, especially the brilliant if unwilling detective Francis Bacon and his street smart man Tom Clarady. Elizabeth Tudor rules, but Anna Castle triumphs.” – Karen Harper, author of Mistress Shakespeare

“Well-researched… Murder by Misrule is also enormously entertaining; a mystery shot through with a series of misadventures, misunderstandings,
and mendacity worthy of a Shakespearean comedy.” – M. Louisa Locke, author of Bloody Lessons

“Historical mystery readers take note: Murder by Misrule is a wonderful example of Elizabethan times brought to life.” — D. Donovan, eBook Reviewer, Midwest Book Review.

About the author
Anna Castle has been a waitress, software engineer, documentary linguist, college professor, and digital archivist. Historical fiction combines her lifelong love of stories and learning. She physically resides in Austin, Texas, and mentally counts herself a queen of infinite space.

For more information please visit Anna Castle’s website and blog. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Visit other blogs on the tour--Tour Schedule
Twitter Hashtag: #MurderbyMisruleBlogTour #HistNov #HistFic
Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @annacastl

Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter form below to enter for a chance to win a paperback copy of Murder by Misrule! (Open to U.S./Canada entries only)

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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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Cat Thursday - Happy Independence Day!!!

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)

Short one this week, as I'm leaving today to go out of town for the weekend. Hope everyone has a fun and safe 4th of July!

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