Monday, November 24, 2014

Weekly Update (11/24/14): What I'm Reading Now

I have had one crazy week!  My husband went to California for work, so it was just me and 2.5 kids at home.  It was a long, exhausting week, and I didn't get much reading done, but I did do some.  Here's what I've been up to.    


The Finishing School READ ALONG  is almost over!  Tressa from Wishful Endings and I have read the first half of Waistcoats and Weaponry and posted our updates HERE and HERE.  We are reading the second half of the book this week and will post our final thoughts on Friday.  We will also post the read along wrap up on Saturday and announce the giveaway winner! 

What I read last week:
I'm supposed to be pacing myself with the Finishing School book, since I'll be posting my final thoughts on Waistcoats and Weaponry this Friday.  But (cough, cough), I already finished the book.  I couldn't help myself.  I got carried away and the rest is history.  I also read Prada and Prejudice.  It's a fun, light YA.  I'll be posting my review of it soon. Daily Painting was fabulous.  Highly recommended if you're an artist!

What I'm currently reading:
I'm still working on Mortal Heart.  I love this series!  I'm still at the beginning of Curse of the Broomstaff, but I'm making my way through it.   

What I'm Reading Next:
Softly Falling and Anomaly are still on my "next up" list.  I'm hoping to start at least one of these this week, if not both.

My November TBR Pile:

This list hasn't changed since last week.  I'm looking forward to reading all of these books, plus I've added a few more to my shelves that I'm excited about.   

What are you reading?

Giveaways to Enter:

Finishing School Read Along (Win the entire series!)

The Halcyon Bird (Win a signed book!)

Gratitude Giveaway (Win a $10 Amazon gift card!)

Put Me In The Story Giveaway (Win a $500 shopping spree or a personalized book)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Stacking the Shelves #28: Meet My New Books!

Welcome to Stacking the Shelves, hosted by Tynga's Reviews.  This is where I share the new books I've gotten recently.

I tried combining my Stacking the Shelves posts with my weekly update posts and it didn't work so well, so I'm going back to posting them separately.  Here's what I got this week:

Picture Books:

Thank you to Bucket Fillers Inc for sending me their picture book package!  My daughter's kindergarten teacher used Fill A Bucket in class and it was such a great message for the kids.  I am really excited to read these with my kids and share them here on the blog.

Middle Grade Book:

Thank you to T.A. Barron for sending me Atlantis in Peril!  I really enjoyed Atlantis Rising and I can't wait to get started on the sequel.  Bonus, the cover is amazing. 

Nonfiction Book:

Thank you to Cedar Fort Publishing for sending me I Know My Savior Lives!  This is a Family Night resource with lesson plans, activities, and song suggestions.  It even includes a CD ROM with printouts and extra goodies. I used this with my kids for Family Night a few days ago and it went really well!  

What new books have you gotten recently?

Friday, November 21, 2014

#FinishingRA: Read Along Update #3 on Waistcoats and Weaponry

We are most of the way through the FINISHING SCHOOL READ-ALONG hosted by Tressa @ Wishful Endings and I (Dena @ Batch of Books)! There is still time to join if you haven't done so yet. The linky is at the bottom of this post and you can go to the official sign-up here. You don't need to be a blogger to join, you just need someplace online that's public to post updates for the linky, or just leave a comment on either of our blogs.

This week we read chapters 1-8 of Waistcoats and Weaponry.  I can't believe how much I love this series!

Waistcoats and Weaponry:

Class is back in session...

Sophronia continues her second year at finishing school in style--with a steel-bladed fan secreted in the folds of her ball gown, of course. Such a fashionable choice of weapon comes in handy when Sophronia, her best friend Dimity, sweet sootie Soap, and the charming Lord Felix Mersey stowaway on a train to return their classmate Sidheag to her werewolf pack in Scotland. No one suspected what--or who--they would find aboard that suspiciously empty train. Sophronia uncovers a plot that threatens to throw all of London into chaos and she must decide where her loyalties lie, once and for all.

Gather your poison, steel tipped quill, and the rest of your school supplies and join Mademoiselle Geraldine's proper young killing machines in the third rousing installment in the New York Times bestselling Finishing School Series by steampunk author, Gail Carriger.

In this bestselling sequel to New York Times bestselling Etiquette & Espionage, class is back in session with more petticoats and poison, tea trays and treason. Gail's distinctive voice, signature humor, and lush steampunk setting are sure to be the height of fashion this season.

My Thoughts on the first half:

My thoughts on the first chapter:
Like the first two books, Waistcoats and Weaponry opens with Sophronia getting herself into a hilarious disaster.  The first chapter reintroduced all the characters, their personalities, and set up the tone for the rest of the book. 

My thoughts about the characters
I was surprised to see Professor Braithwope out and about, even if it was with a flowerpot on his head.  I was also surprised that we didn't see him at all after the first chapter.  I'm not sure what to think of the characters yet.  They've all grown up quite a bit since the last book and things are more serious.  The stakes are higher and the characters are acting accordingly.

My thoughts about the plot
My favorite book so far!  The plot is lacking nothing.  It is fast paced and completely unpredictable.  I absolutely love where chapter 8 left off!  I can't wait to read the rest of the book and see what's going to happen.

My least favorite part, so far (if any)
The werewolf disaster was a bit confusing to me.  I realize that is partly because it was confusing to Sophronia, and we are limited to her persepective, but I still wish I understood the pack structure better.

My favorite part so far
The ball! I loved Soap in his costume, the secret engagement, and the way everything went haywire at the end.  I loved Sophronia's mother and the way she was scandalized at almost everything.  The other part I loved was the lesson on seduction!  I was laughing (and blushing) as Lady Linette was trying to teach the girls some things, without teaching them everything.

Favorite quotes
"His fangs were extended, causing him to lisp slightly, and he punctuated his quadrille with a maniacal laugh that, if inscribed for posterity, might have been written as 'Mua ha ha.'" (Location 74)

"She flirted shamelessly with Pillover, who told her to stop it in tones of such abject misery she almost pitied him." (Location 1194)

"'We have been members since King Henry's day. Or should I say night? My, but he was fat. And no pickle should relish that sandwich!' He finished there, arms wide." (Location 95)

Predictions for the second half?
I think that things are going to be even more action packed and explosive than in the last book.  I think we are going to finally learn about the werewolves, and I think that things with Felix and Soap might reach a boiling point (but I'm not positive on that). 

Final thoughts
I love this cover!  I think it's my favorite one so far.  I also love the bladed fans the girls learn to use in this book. Preshea is perfectly awful and I can't help but wonder if she will show up in the second half.  

This book is more mature than the last two.  It has more innuendo and suggestive humor.  The characters have grown up quite a bit and their thoughts and actions reflect that.  They are more serious and have deeper emotions.

I'm still wondering if there are any true bad guys in this series.  I am also wildly curious about the Picklemen.  Who are they exactly?  And why do they dislike supernaturals so much?

Your turn!  What do you think of the book so far? Make sure you enter the giveaway too!

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Want to join the read-along? We only have a week left, but you can squeeze a book or two in! Just add yourself to the linky and you're good to go!  We'll be posting  another update next Friday for the rest of Waistcoats and Weaponry.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Art Book Review for Daily Painting by Carol Marine

Daily Painting by Carol Marine

Age Range: Adult and older teens

Genre: Painting and creativity

Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Watson-Guptill (November 4, 2014)

Source: From publisher via Blogging for Books

My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

About the Book:

A unique system for jump-starting artistic creativity, encouraging experimentation and growth, and increasing sales for artists of all levels, from novices to professionals.

Do you want to bring the joy back into your art?

Have you landed in a frustrating rut? Are you having trouble selling paintings in galleries, getting bogged down by projects you can’t seem to finish or abandon, or finding excuses to avoid working in the studio? Author Carol Marine knows exactly how you feel—she herself suffered from painter’s block, until she discovered “daily painting.” The idea is simple: do art (usually small) often (how often is up to you), and if you’d like, post and sell it online. Soon you’ll find that your block dissolves and you’re painting work you love—and more of it than you ever thought possible!

With her encouraging tone and useful exercises, Marine teaches you to:
-Master composition and value
-Become confident in any medium
-Choose subjects wisely
-Stay fresh and loose
-Photograph, post, and sell your art online
-Become connected to the growing movement of daily painters around the world

About the Author:

CAROL MARINE is an artist and the creator of the popular blog A Painting a Day (or Almost). She is a member of Daily Paintworks, a distinguished group of daily painters, and she teaches daily painting workshops around the country. Marine lives in Eugene, Oregon. Visit www.dailypaintworks.com.  

My Thoughts:

Not much makes me happier than a good art book.  Daily Painting was exactly what I needed and left me feeling inspired and motivated.  I agree 100% with what the author suggests in this book — to paint small and to do it every day.  The times when I engaged in daily painting were the few times when I improved my skills dramatically in a short amount of time and felt a greater sense of accomplishment and happiness while doing it. 

The first couple of chapters focus primarily on the benefits of painting every day and featuring successful artists who do so.  The middle section is dedicated to lessons about art — value, composition, proportion, and so on.  The last few chapters are all about keeping your creative mojo, marketing, and selling the art you make. 

I liked the author's upbeat and positive tone.  She wrote the book in a conversational voice, so it's engaging and it feels like you're sitting down for a one-on-one with her.  She shares her ups and downs as well as the successes of others.  I love the advice she gives and I only wish the book were longer.  This is a fantastic book if you are frustrated with your art or have ever considered jumping on the daily painting bandwagon. 

Source: I received a copy of this book through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.

Content: clean


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Book Blast and $50 Giveaway for Spell for Sophia

SpellForSophia_453x680Spell for Sophia

Sophia Perez-Hidalgo’s survival depends upon her mastering magic and the supernatural before her lawless parents and their vengeful boss catch up to her. How far must she flee to escape them forever? Sophia runs until she’s out of stolen money, then…Fate delivers her into the arms of Louisiana teen Shiloh Breaux Martine, and his grand-mère, a voodoo priestess living deep in the bayou.

Breaux knows Sophia is trouble — but he’ll travel through time, battle zombies, and risk his bright future to protect her. While Ainslie, best friend extraordinaire, will jeopardize her sanity to find and aid Sophia. When friendship, magic, and love are not enough, Sophia will have to save herself. But first, she must believe she’s worth saving.
Sometimes the worst scars are the ones you cannot see.

Book Trailer:


teen wytch saga new

The Teen Wytche Saga by Ariella Moon

Think magic will solve your problems?

Bring you love? Cure you? Protect you? Help you find someone who is lost?

Think again.

Magic tests friendships. It hisses, chirps, stinks up the room, backfires, and explodes. Magic forces you to make tough decisions. Shatter limitations. Discover your true self. When you use magic, expect results in the ultimate triple-un—unpredictable, uncontrollable, and so undeniable.

And you thought navigating high school was tough.

Watch for the upcoming blog tour hosted by I Am A Reader

Author Ariella Moon

ariellaAriella Moon is the author of the Teen Wytche Saga, a sweet Young Adult paranormal series. Ariella writes about magic, friendship, high school, secrets, and love in Spell Check, Spell Struck, and Spell Fire from Astraea Press.

Ariella spent her childhood searching for a magical wardrobe that would transport her to Narnia. Extreme math anxiety, and taller students who mistook her for a leaning post, marred her youth. Despite these horrors, she graduated summa cum laude from the University of California at Davis. Ariella is a Reiki Master, author, and shaman. She lives a nearly normal life with her extraordinary daughter, two shamelessly spoiled dogs, and an enormous dragon.

Social Media Website Social Media Blog Social Media Facebook Social Media Goodreads

book blast button

Book Blast Giveaway

$50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash

Ends 12/23/14

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com 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 author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

#BookMagic! Win a $500 Shopping Spree at Put Me In The Story!

I am so excited to share this amazing giveaway with you.  Books have been a source of happiness throughout my life and the lives of my kids.  So what better way to enjoy the holidays than with a personalized book?

I read with my kids every day — I have since my first child was born.  Reading together has always been a way for us to bond.  It's a time that we all look forward to, a time when we can put everything else away and spend time with each other.  As a result, both of my kids love reading and being read to.

My six year old just started first grade and her reading has improved so much in the last couple of months that she's started reading chapter books all on her own!  She reads everything she can get her hands on, but she especially loves books about outer space, ancient Egypt, and animals.  She likes princesses every now and again, but she would rather read history or science books.  That's why I'm ordering My Name Is Not Isabella for her, because it's a story about a girl who has big dreams.  She wants to be like the astronaut Sally Ride or like the sharpshooter Annie Oakley, but her biggest hero is her own mom.  The story fits my daughter's interests perfectly, and with the personalization, it couldn't be better.

My four year old has always had a soft spot for animals, babies, and especially ... baby animals. She is feminine to the core and spends hours acting out imaginary scenes with her stuffed animals.  She especially likes to "doctor" her toys — listen to their heartbeat, give them kisses, and patch up their booboos. It is no surprise that she loves the TV show Doc McStuffins.  When I saw the option to personalize a McStuffins book for her, I knew she would love it. 

In the book, my daughter will get to go along with Doc to help the toys get feeling better.  I'm so excited to see her face when we read it for the first time!

If you want to learn more about these books or see what other personalized books are available (there are books for boys and babies, too), then visit the Put Me In The Story website.  They have a great selection of books to choose from.

Giveaway Details:

Prizes (Drawn December 6th):

Grand prize: $500 shopping spree on Put Me In The Story

50 winners will receive a free personalized book of their choice

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Monday, November 17, 2014

SIGNED BOOK GIVEAWAY! Win a copy of The Halcyon Bird

Welcome to my tour stop for The Halcyon Bird by Kat Beyer!  This is the second book in the Dream Catchers of Milan series.  I had the wonderful opportunity to interview the author, and you are going to love her answers to my questions!  Read on for more details on Kat and to enter to win a SIGNED copy of The Halcyon Bird!

Interview with Kat Beyer:

1. If you could only read 3 books for the rest of your life, what would they be?
—Persuasion (Austen), Animal Dreams (Kingsolver), and The Other Wind (Le Guin). But let’s hope that never, ever, ever happens.

2. Do you have a favorite TV show?
—I don’t watch a lot of TV. Friends & I used to get together and cook a giant dinner and watch “West Wing.” It’s a social event when it does happen, really. I loved Firefly but am afraid to go back and watch it, because I’ve learned a lot as a feminist in the last five years, and almost everything I see available is really anti-woman, or anti-man, or anti-age, or anti-people of color, or anti-something. I’d like to see more that’s pro-human. But mostly I want to be outside, or playing with my kid, or listening/dancing to live music, or hanging out with my people.

3. Where do you get your inspiration from?
—Everywhere. Just stepping out into my everyday life, and letting everything I’ve learned, or read, or experienced coalesce into scenes and moments in my stories. Sometimes a really interesting little cultural note will inspire me. A good example was learning that a traditional Japanese tea house will have a door so low that you have to remove your weapons to enter. I wrote a flash fiction piece based on that idea, about a women’s martial arts class taught by a war veteran who teaches her students about the roots of peace.

4. Why did you decide to write young adult fiction?
—I didn’t. My agent decided for me. She said, “Your heroine is sixteen, so this is YA.” She was right, of course. I said, “Do I have to dumb it down?” “No,” she said. “Good,” I said. That was that.

5. Is there anything about writing or illustrating that you find particularly challenging?
—I don’t illustrate a great deal right now, though I would love to pick up a brush again. I found deadlines difficult when I made my living as a painter and illustrator. Novel deadlines I find much easier. I find defending my work time difficult. I’ve got nearly all my friends, family etc trained but there are still people who ask, “How serious are you about this work day? Is there any flexibility?” And I have to say, “No” while trying not to lose my temper. Then I explain that I have exactly three kid-free workdays a week, 8:30 to 4:30, and that’s all I get—and that has to include some martial arts training and physical therapy, and all my business correspondence, and blog tours like this one, and writing entire novels. That’s it.

6. When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
—It was always out there, once I got over being utterly bored by learning how to read and write. I couldn’t see the point, originally. But the moment I knew I wanted to be a professional writer is crystal clear in my memory: a clear, bright California morning, me sitting at a table looking out at my garden, having just received an email from a publisher rescinding my contract. I felt like I’d been socked in the stomach. But five minutes later I was wondering if Dell would take my book. That’s when I thought, “Wow. I’m in for the duration. I want to do this for forty years.”

7. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
—Mint chip.

8. Any hidden talents?
—I can sing the entire “Philosophers Song” from Monty Python and I am good at finding things (once found a friend’s contact lens on the floor of a packed night club).

9. Do you like milk chocolate or dark chocolate?
—Dark chocolate. Equal Exchange Panama 80% cacao to be precise.

10. Other than your own, what is you favorite book of 2014 so far?
—The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From the Future. It is a dispassionate look back at climate change from the far future that lays out what we need to do right now without making me feel like a deer in headlights. It does one of the great things fiction can do, which is stir me to action.

About Kat Beyer:

Kat Beyer has an M.A. in medieval history and has loved all things Italian for as long as she can remember. Her first novel was The Demon Catchers of Milan. She lives with her daughter in Madison, Wisconsin. Visit her online at http://www.katspaw.com/blog/.

About the Book:

The Halcyon Bird (The Dream Catchers of Milan #2) by Kat Beyer

Age Range: 12 and up

Grade Level: 7 and up

Series: The Demon Catchers of Milan #2

Hardcover: 352 pages

Publisher: EgmontUSA (November 11, 2014)


For fans of Lauren Kate and Cassandra Clare, a romance with a paranormal streak.

Mia has settled into her life with the Della Torres -- Milan's premier demon-catching family, accompanying them to exorcisms and even learning some way to be useful in the family trade. Then Bernardo comes into her life, handsome, well-mannered, someone who makes her forget her impossible crush on Emilio, her cousin. But always lurking in the background is the demon who possessed Mia once before, and who has not given up on possessing her again--this time for good.

*"Mia has a strong gift for the family trade, which, like the novel's other elements...are portrayed in exquisite, affectionate detail. This one goes to the head of the class." - Kirkus, starred review

"Sets the stage for a thrilling sequel. By the book's close, Mia is armed and ready--she whispers to the demon lurking beyond, 'You'll have to wait. But I'm coming. Believe me, I'm coming.' Readers will be ready, too." - Booklist

"A supernatural novel with a fresh promise, worthy of note." - School Library Journal

Giveaway Details:

Win a signed copy of The Halcyon Bird!

Open to the US and Canada

Ends Nov 30, 2014

Use the Rafflecopter below to enter.  Entrants must be 13 or older or have their parent/guardian enter for them.  Winner must respond to my email within 48 hours or a new winner will be chosen.  Winner is picked randomly.  Contest is void where prohibited.  Good luck!

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Next Tour Stop:

Kat will be stopping by Fandom Monthly tomorrow with another Q&A and another chance for you to win a signed copy of the book!  Make sure you stop by!

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