Monday, March 30, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


A weekly event hosted by Sheila from Book Journey to discuss your reading week ~ the books you've read and those you plan on reading in the coming week. I love this meme, it helps me stay on track ... well, most of the time. Thanks Sheila!

On the Home Front: 

Who can believe it's almost Easter?? A busy week on the home front. Started with poor Bella needing a trip to the vet for an ear infection, a week on she is much better. Eldest son did a couple of days electrical work at our place, not only do we now have ceiling fans I got to spend lots of time with Mia and we all had fun in the pool. We had our regular Scandal viewing and Mia stayed for a sleepover. No reading and very little blog visiting and exhaustion by the end of the week meant no inclination to tackle review backlog ... my bad.


9 months old and the cutest toothy grin

My Dad also called in for a couple of visits and got to see his great granddaughter. 

Day 11 today of gluten-free trial, no change with hands. Settling in to it although I've probably eaten my weight in Cherry Ripe bars. For those of you who mentioned not having heard of a Cherry Ripe ... it's made by Cadbury and it's Australia's oldest chocolate bar. Cherries and coconut smothered in dark chocolate (that makes it good for you, right??) 

Thanks to the sweethearts who offered to send US M&M's and the comments that made me laugh after my gluten-free rant last week, nothing like a good laugh to send a bad mood packing ... it's all good, only 17 days to go :)



Hubby and I have started watching Black Sails since we're caught up on Vikings and Chicago Fire and we're still going on Wolf Hall but I'm super excited about the return of GoT and this season is being streamed at the same time as the US... woohoo!! And for Outlander fans have you seen these Outlandish tweets? A giggle to tide you over until 4th April. 




Outlandish Tweets 



FitReaders Weekly Check-In: 


 
#FitReaders co-hosted by Felicia @ Geeky Bloggers Book Blog and Jen @ That’s What I’m Talking AboutFitReaders is a great way to stay motivated, accountable and it's more fun having bloggy friends to check in with. If you also have a fitbit and want to add me, let me know :) 

Fitbit Steps: 
Mon: 12,955 steps ~ walk with Bella to vet
Tue:  6965 steps ~ walk in the park with the fam
Wed: 8685 steps ~ swim & walk with Mia
Thurs: 5603 steps ~ pool fun with Mia
Fri: 4477 steps ~ pool fun with Mia
Sat: 6079 steps 
Sun: 7890 steps ~ gardening

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Giveaway:

THE TAPESTRY by Nancy Bilyeau (Joanna Stafford #3) ~ tour wide giveaway for 3 autographed hardcover copies. Open to North America and UK. Enter here.








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Reviews & Posts: (click on title)

TURTLE REEF by Jennifer Scoullar ~ Australian author, her love of the natural world sings! Special read for me since I've not long played with the turtles on Lady Elliot Island. 

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Finished last week:

GREAT-GRANDMA'S GIFTS by Marianne Jones ~ sweet little children's story

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This Week's Reading List: 

same as last week 



CONSPIRACY GIRL by Sarah Alderson

WILD WOOD by Posie Graeme-Evans ~ 40% loving it

 A BEAUTIFUL PLACE TO DIE by Malla Nunn (audiobook) 

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Reviews Coming:

CONFESS by Colleen Hoover ~ loved it, mostly. Review Tue

LEAVING HOME by Jodi Picoult (audiobook) ~ three short pieces on the subject of leaving home. Review Thurs

THE LAST ANNIVERSARY by Liane Moriarty (audiobook) ~ Review Thurs

INSIDE THE O'BRIEN'S by Lisa Genova ~ Huntington's Disease is an evil bastard. 

TELL THE TRUTH by Katherine Howell (Ella Marconi #8) ~ great installment, sad it's the last in the Ella Marconi series ... for now. I'm not ready for goodbye! 

THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE by Cynthia Hand (audiobook) ~ a departure from Cynthia Hand's usual, very moving. 



Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Review: Turtle Reef by Jennifer Scoullar

Title: Turtle Reef
Author: Jennifer Scoullar
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: 25th March 2015
Pages: 304
Book Source: Penguin Aust & NetGalley

Synopsis: Unlucky-in-love zoologist Zoe King has given up on men. Moving from Sydney to take up an exciting new role in marine science in the small sugar town of Kiawa is a welcome fresh start. Zoe is immediately charmed by the region's beauty – by its rivers and rainforests, and by its vast cane fields, sweeping from the foothills down to the rocky coral coast. And also by its people – its farmers and fishermen, unhurried and down to earth, proud of their traditions.

Her work at the Reef Centre provides all the passion she needs and Zoe finds a friend in Bridget, the centre’s director. The last thing she wants is to fall for her boss’s boyfriend, cane king Quinn Cooper, so she refuses to acknowledge the attraction between them – even to herself. But things aren’t quite adding up at the Reef Centre and when animals on the reef begin to sicken and die, Zoe’s personal and professional worlds collide. She faces a terrible choice. Will protecting the reef mean betraying the man she loves?

My Thoughts: 
I fell in love with Jennifer Scoullar's writing after inhaling Currawong Creek in 2013 and Billabong Bend in 2014, she has a beautiful way with words and her love for the natural world sings.

The beauty and diversity of the region, rainforest to reef, the sugar cane fields and hand-in-hand, the challenges of protecting our reef and marine animals from ignorance, age-old traditions, outdated and often dangerous farming practices. I'm passionate about reef protection so you might have guessed I was cheering Zoe on for actively driving the wheels of change. 

Turtle Reef has an interesting bunch of characters, an intriguing mystery, a splash of romance (but the circumstances surrounding it are just a tad weird) but for me, the stars  of the show were the animals. 

I liked Zoe and Quinn's younger brother Josh and his special affinity with animals was particularly endearing but I loved the dolphins, especially Kane, Echo and Mirrhi, the turtles, Einstein the hammer octopus and the Arabian mare Aisha. I loved learning about the female octopus, seagrass mapping and the principles of operant conditioning and and I got teary over the dugong and Einstein ... animals undo me. 

Turtle Reef was a particularly special read for me, Kiawa and the Reef Centre bringing with it nostalgic memories of my visits to Bargara and Mon Repos Conservation Centre and more recently Lady Elliot Island (southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef) the highly protected "green zone" sanctuary for marine and other wildlife. 


I wonder where Jennifer Scoullar is taking us next? ... can't wait!





 turtle hatchlings - Lady Elliot Island


Connect with Jennifer Scoullar
Facebook

Purchase Turtle Reef
@Penguin Aust
@Amazon













Monday, March 23, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


A weekly event hosted by Sheila from Book Journey to discuss your reading week ~ the books you've read and those you plan on reading in the coming week. I love this meme, it helps me stay on track ... well, most of the time. Thanks Sheila! 

On the Home Front: 
I'm on day 4 of a 28 day gluten-free trial, while I'm waiting for nerve conduction tests on my hands. There's research indicating that some autoimmune diseases and gluten sensitivity go hand in hand and going gluten free may lead to improvement. It would be amazing to have relief but part of me doesn't want this to be the answer. I love bread and scones and cake and pasta and ... yes there are good substitutes now ... mind you there's some pretty awful substitutes that cost an arm and a leg and end up in the bin. Sorry, this was going to be a post on its own for weekend cooking and then day 3 happened ... 

Day 1: I can do this, it's only 28 days, shopping was fun.
Day 2: this is a novelty, can still eat lots of my faves. YAY for cherry ripes.
Day 3: kill me now, I hate everything and can't stop fantasising about hot cinnamon donuts ... my hands are on fire, my omelette was slightly burnt, the smell of our neighbours bbq is making me feel sick, my tv shows keep freezing and I'm so cranky the sound of 'someone' breathing is pissing me off. 
Day 4: day 3 sucked, glad it's over! LOL 


FitReaders Weekly Check-In: 


 
#FitReaders co-hosted by Felicia @ Geeky Bloggers Book Blog and Jen @ That’s What I’m Talking AboutFitReaders is a great way to stay motivated, accountable and it's more fun having bloggy friends to check in with. If you also have a fitbit and want to add me, let me know :) 

Fitbit Steps: 
Mon: 14,342 steps ~ walk with Bella
Tue:  10,060 steps 
Wed: 9137 steps ~ walk to appointments
Thurs: 7236 steps
Fri: 8905 steps ~ short walk with Mia and Bella
Sat:  5241 steps 
Sun: 5102 steps 

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Giveaway:

THE TAPESTRY by Nancy Bilyeau (Joanna Stafford #3) ~ tour wide giveaway for 3 autographed hardcover copies. Open to North America and UK. Enter here.








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Reviews & Posts: (click on title)

MIST OF MIDNIGHT by Sandra Bryd (The Daughters of Hampshire #1) ~ wonderfully atmospheric; mystery and mist.

THE TAPESTRY by Nancy Bilyeau (Joanna Stafford #3) ~ superb series, excellent final installment. 

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Finished last week:

INSIDE THE O'BRIEN'S by Lisa Genova ~ Huntington's Disease is an evil bastard. Review Thurs

CONFESS by Colleen Hoover ~ loved it, mostly

THE LAST ANNIVERSARY by Liane Moriarty (audiobook) ~ pretty good

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This Week's Reading List: 



CONSPIRACY GIRL by Sarah Alderson

WILD WOOD by Posie Graeme-Evans ~ can't wait

GREAT-GRANDMA'S GIFTS by Marianne Jones

 A BEAUTIFUL PLACE TO DIE by Malla Nunn (audiobook) 

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Reviews Coming:

TURTLE REEF by Jennifer Scoullar ~ extra special since I've not long played with the turtles on Lady Elliot Island. Review Tue

TELL THE TRUTH by Katherine Howell (Ella Marconi #8) ~ great installment, sad it's the last in the Ella Marconi series ... for now. I'm not ready for goodbye! 

THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE by Cynthia Hand (audiobook) ~ a departure from Cynthia Hand's usual, very moving. 

LEAVING HOME by Jodi Picoult (audiobook) ~ three short pieces on the subject of leaving home. 



Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Review: Mist of Midnight by Sandra Byrd

Title: Mist of Midnight
Author: Sandra Byrd
Genre: Historical Fiction/Christian/Romance 
Series: Daughters of Hampshire #1
Publication Date: 10th March 2015
Pages: 384
Book Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Synopsis: In the first of a brand-new series set in Victorian England, a young woman returns home from India after the death of her family to discover her identity and inheritance are challenged by the man who holds her future in his hands.

Rebecca Ravenshaw, daughter of missionaries, spent most of her life in India. Following the death of her family in the Indian Mutiny, Rebecca returns to claim her family estate in Hampshire, England. Upon her return, people are surprised to see her…and highly suspicious. Less than a year earlier, an imposter had arrived with an Indian servant and assumed not only Rebecca’s name, but her home and incomes.

That pretender died within months of her arrival; the servant fled to London as the young woman was hastily buried at midnight. The locals believe that perhaps she, Rebecca, is the real imposter. Her home and her father’s investments reverted to a distant relative, the darkly charming Captain Luke Whitfield, who quickly took over. Against her best intentions, Rebecca begins to fall in love with Luke, but she is forced to question his motives—does he love her or does he just want Headbourne House? If Luke is simply after the property, as everyone suspects, will she suffer a similar fate as the first “Rebecca”?

A captivating Gothic love story set against a backdrop of intrigue and danger, Mist of Midnight will leave you breathless.

My Thoughts:
I really enjoyed Sandra Byrd's Ladies in Waiting series and jumped at the chance to read the first in her new Daughters of Hampshire series, set in Victorian England. 

Mist of Midnight is wonderfully atmospheric with Headbourne House, the family graveyard and chapel shrouded in mystery and mist. The gothic feel with that delicious sense of foreboding was one of my favourite parts of the novel. 

Rebecca Ravenshaw returns to her family home in England after her parents are killed in the Indian Mutiny, expecting safety and financial security. What she gets instead is the onerous task of proving her own identity and the 'other' Rebecca Ravenshaw an imposter.  

I liked Rebecca's forthright character and I loved her flirty interactions with Luke and naughty sense of humour, all within the bounds of propriety of course. Luke was really likable but for a 'Gothic' hero I expected a little more brooding intensity so whilst the author gave us reason to be suspicious of him, I actually didn't mistrust him.

Mist of Midnight is marketed as Christian fiction, which I don't read much of but I found it very subtle and completely in keeping with Rebecca's missionary family. I loved the contrast in cultures and Rebecca's effort to 'fit' in her native England while embracing what she loved of both countries. 

Next up, Bride of Poseidon in 2016 :)


Connect with Sandra Bryd

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Follow the Tour Schedule
Twitter Hashtag: #MistofMidnightBlogTour 

Visit Sandra's website for fantastic prizes to celebrate the release of Mist of Midnight








Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Tapestry by Nancy Bilyeau ~ Review & Giveaway

Title: The Tapestry
Author: Nancy Bilyeau
Genre: Historical Fiction Mystery
Series: Joanna Stafford #3
US Publication Date: 24th March 2015 
UK Publication Date: 24th April 2015
Pages: 390

Book Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Synopsis: In THE CROWN, Sister Joanna Stafford searched for a Dark Ages relic that could save her priory from Cromwell’s advancing army of destruction. In THE CHALICE, Joanna was drawn into an international conspiracy against Henry VIII himself as she struggled to learn the truth behind a prophecy of his destruction.

Now, in THE TAPESTRY, Joanna Stafford finally chooses her own destiny.

After her Dominican priory in Dartford closed forever—collateral damage in tyrannical King Henry VIII’s quest to overthrow the Catholic Church—Joanna resolves to live a quiet and honorable life weaving tapestries, shunning dangerous quests and conspiracies. Until she is summoned to Whitehall Palace, where her tapestry weaving has drawn the King’s attention.

Joanna is uncomfortable serving the King, and fears for her life in a court bursting with hidden agendas and a casual disregard for the virtues she holds dear. Her suspicions are confirmed when an assassin attempts to kill her moments after arriving at Whitehall.

Struggling to stay ahead of her most formidable enemy yet, an unknown one, she becomes entangled in dangerous court politics. Her dear friend Catherine Howard is rumored to be the King’s mistress. Joanna is determined to protect young, beautiful, na├»ve Catherine from becoming the King’s next wife and, possibly, victim.

Set in a world of royal banquets and feasts, tournament jousts, ship voyages, and Tower Hill executions, this thrilling tale finds Joanna in her most dangerous situation yet, as she attempts to decide the life she wants to live: nun or wife, spy or subject, rebel or courtier. Joanna Stafford must finally choose.

My Thoughts:
It's not often I say a book is superb let alone the entire trilogy but Nancy Bilyeau ticks all the boxes with The Tapestry and its predecessors. Maintaining historical integrity while blessing the reader with a pacy entertaining read is no mean feat. 

I'm a glutton for all things Tudor. Being well read in that particular historical period I confess I've become quite picky discerning and really appreciate a fresh approach which is exactly what Nancy Bilyeau gives readers with her Joanna Stafford trilogy. Viewing the oft-covered Tudor era and Henry VIII's court, roiling with religious instability, political treachery, conspiracies and betrayals from the perspective of former Dominican novice Joanna Stafford has been an exciting reading experience. 

I loved the direction Bilyeau took in this final installment. Despite best intentions Joanna is drawn back into service to King Henry, intrigue and danger follow her doggedly. King Henry is working on ridding himself of wife number 4, Anne of Cleves and has Catherine Howard in his sights for wife number 5 spot, much to Joanna's horror, being a long-time friend of Catherine's. 

Once again I loved the mix of notable historical figures and fictional characters, I enjoyed learning about German painter Hans Holbein the younger and I was especially happy to spend time with many (King Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell, Bishop Gardiner, Thomas Howard, Jane Boleyn, Thomas Culpepper and Catherine Howard) from the safety of a book's pages. 

A compulsive read that has you turning the pages for ...  just one more chapter. 

Recommend: hell yes!! Read them all. 

Follow the Tour Schedule
Twitter Hashtag - #TheTapestryBlogTour

See my reviews
Book 1 The Crown  
Book 2 The Chalice


Connect with Nancy Bilyeau


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Giveaway:
To enter to win one of three signed hardcover copies of The Tapestry, please complete the form below


Rules:
Giveaway starts on March 16th at 12:01am EST and ends at 11:59pm EST on April 3rd.
Giveaway is open to residents in North America and the UK.
You must be 18 or older to enter.
Winners will be chosen via GLEAM on April 4th and notified via email.
Winners have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.



 



Monday, March 16, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


A weekly event hosted by Sheila from Book Journey to discuss your reading week ~ the books you've read and those you plan on reading in the coming week. I love this meme, it helps me stay on track ... well, most of the time. Thanks Sheila! 

On the Home Front: 
Dodgy week for book reviews and not much reading but on a good note I spent some time with a girlfriend and did a pile of photo editing and then put an order in for canvases while there was a terrific sale on. Can't wait to see some of my photos on canvas. It's hard to pick favourites from so many beautiful places but Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland was top of the list of favourite places to photograph. 



Love these 2 views of Eilean Donan

Thames River & boardwalk



I do have 2 reviews completed for book tours this week. Very unlike me to have posts scheduled in advance ... yay me :) and don't fall over, I might even try and get an audiobook review post done for the weekend (no pressure lol)

Friday was our standing 'Scandal' date and then we had Mia for a sleepover, I love that it's become a regular thing. Mike and I have so much fun with her. She's now climbing and moving like a little demon :)


video

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Giveaway:

Winner of ONE WISH by Robyn Carr (Thunder Point #7) ~ Congrats to lag123

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Reviews & Posts: (click on title)

THE VIOLETS OF MARCH by Sarah Jio ~ I love Sarah Jio's writing and enjoyed this little treasure. 

#FITREADERS WEEKLY CHECK-IN ~ a reasonable week, a walk to the local pet store and the cutest photo of Mia patting an orphaned baby Sun Conure ... what a treat!

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Finished last week:

TURTLE REEF by Jennifer Scoullar ~ extra special since I've not long been on Lady Elliot Island with the turtles. 

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This Week's Reading List: 


INSIDE THE O'BRIEN'S by Lisa Genova ~ page 57 

CONFESS by Colleen Hoover ~ can't wait

THE LAST ANNIVERSARY by Liane Moriarty (audiobook) ~ chapter 20, don't seem to be able to concentrate on this one, maybe I'm just not in the mood?

THE BRAIN THAT CHANGES ITSELF by Norman Doidge (audiobook) ~ 50% done. Fascinating stuff but I can only listen to so much before my eyes glaze over ;) 

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Reviews Coming:

THE TAPESTRY by Nancy Bilyeau (Joanna Stafford #3) ~ book tour review Tue

MIST OF MIDNIGHT by Sandra Bryd (The Daughters of Hampshire #1) ~ book tour review Wed.

TELL THE TRUTH by Katherine Howell (Ella Marconi #8) ~ great installment, sad it's the last in the Ella Marconi series ... for now. I'm not ready for goodbye!

THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE by Cynthia Hand (audiobook) ~ a departure from Cynthia Hand's usual, very moving. 

LEAVING HOME by Jodi Picoult (audiobook) ~ three short pieces on the subject of leaving home. 

THE TUDOR VENDETTA by C.W. Gortner (The Spymaster Chronicles #3) ~ enjoyed it and surreal to be visiting Westminster, walking London and Southwalk while reading this one.