Musings From MommyLand

Because sometimes there is more to Mommy…

5 Non-Existent Places I Would Take a Vacation To

In about a month, I am planning a girls night out book exchange party at my house and so I have been doing some “research” on decorations, foods, rules that sort of thing.  This mostly entails browsing around Pinterest and wishful thinking.  I don’t have many (any really) parties or get-togethers so I kind of want to go all out for it.  One of the things I really want to do — have wanted to do for a while and am using the book exchange party as an excuse for — is to make a fictional place road sign.  I book road signdon’t know if you have seen this floating around, but it looks so cool and I would love to have it in the back yard.  So I am determined to make one of these over the next month and I have been thinking about what places I would put on my sign.  My plan is to have a tutorial once I have actually made it, but for now I thought I would share my top 5 fictional places — the ones I would visit in a heartbeat if they actually existed.  I would love to hear yours in the comments!

#5 Winterfell — We are really into Game of Thrones, and while my knowledge of the universe is confined to what I have learned from the show, I would just have to make sure to take my husband along as a guide since he is reading the books (I am fairly certain this would be number one on his list).  For clarification, I mean the pre- stuff hitting the fan and now it lies in ashes Winterfell.  When the Starks would be gracious hosts and there wasn’t quite as much chance of a beheading happening.  And definitely before winter comes.

PeterPan-NeverlandMap#4  Neverland — I really enjoy Disney’s Peter Pan and while this is another instance where my knowledge is limited to the movies (the book is on my list of books to read to the kids), I still think it would be a cool place to visit.  Mermaids and pirates and fairies…sign me up please!  Neverland is a place where you don’t age and magic exists and I am all for that.

#3  Hogwarts —  Speaking of magic…I don’t think that I could have imagined a more amazing place to go to school.  I didn’t even hate school and I think that it could have been immeasurably improved by talking portraits, shifting staircases, and magic lessons.  I think that everyone dreams of a world with magic and that is what makes the Harry Potter universe so appealing to so many.

#2 Terebithia —  I first read “Bridge to Terebithia” when I was in 6th grade and it was the first book that made me cry…in a good way.  I grew to love and relate to the characters so much I became emotionally invested in their fictional lives.  As a middle schooler, I think there is a certain expectation that you are now too old for fantasy type worlds.  This book sort of gives that back to you though.  The real world sucks sometimes and Terebithia is a great place for escape.

#1 Pemberly — So for anyone who knows me, this one really isn’t that shocking.  My favorite book is “Pride and Prejudice” pemberlyand my favorite love story is the one between Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy.  Not to mention the fact that I am sort of an Anglophile in love with the regency period.  Yes, if there were a fictional place machine (whoever is working on a time machine should really switch gears) I would definitely go for a visit to Pemberly.

And just for the record, the 5 places I wouldn’t visit… The Chocolate Factory, Oz, Middle Earth, The Arena, the Giant Peach (don’t judge me.  Those oompa loompa’s and flying monkeys freak me the heck out.)

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Happy Birthday Jane Austen!

jane-austenI know that it is late in the day…even tomorrow in places such as her birthplace actually, but I wanted to say Happy 237th Birthday Jane Austen!  I first read Pride and Prejudice my senior year in high school and ever since then I have been hooked.  I blame her for my addiction to Regency England, romance novels, and even worse, Regency romance novels.  I love her works and the world they take me too and so it is with great admiration that I again wish Miss Austen a very Happy Birthday.

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NaNoWriMo…Or, The Day I Took Leave of My Senses

A couple of weeks ago I was reading a blog post from someone I follow and they were talking about their preparations for NaNoWriMo.  For those of who may not know, this is not some sort of doomsday event (wait, is it?).  It stands for National Novel Writing Month and it takes place every November.  During this month, more than 300,000 participants sit down at their computers/typewriters/notepads and attempt to bang out a 50,000 word (about 175 pages) novel.  It sounds crazy right?

I have never participated in NaNoWriMo before…had never even heard of it before about 6 months ago — but, the idea really struck a chord with me.  I have been saying I am going to write a book since I was in college (almost 10 years…yikes!).  It is even on my bucket list, but I have never gotten further than a couple of chapters.  I have more ideas than I know what to do with written down in random notebooks or word documents so maybe I should take one of those ideas and really run with it finally.

The problem was, when I started thinking about doing it, all that came into my head were the reasons it was ridiculous to even think about attempting this.  I have a 4 year old and a 2 year old and this is reason enough to call the whole thing off, but I also have a new Etsy shop I am trying to make successful, and November is so busy with family birthdays and anniversaries, AND we are having some major home issues at the moment (literally I think our house hates us and is seeing if it can break us and I will stop there or I might start crying).  So many reasons not to…always so many reasons not to do it.

And that is when the epiphany hit.  There are always, always going to be reasons why I don’t have time unless I just sit down and set some time aside.  So I went over to the official NaNoWriMo website and signed up and over the last week I have picked out the idea I am going to turn into my first novel and have been working on some character development and plotting in preparation for Thursday when I can officially start writing.   I have a new little widget on my sidebar so you can see the progress I am making and I will post updates periodically.  Hopefully this will help keep me on track.

I may not hit the 50,000 word mark but, I am going to set aside at least a little time each day to write and by November 30th, I will be that much closer to complete novel.  Anyone out there participating this year?  Anyone a veteran of this event with some good advice?

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Book Review: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

With Halloween fast approaching, I thought what better time to put up a review of a vampire book.  So here it is…a spoiler free review of “The Historian” by Elizabeth Kostova.

Jay got this book for me almost 5 years ago and I while I gave it a go shortly after this, I only made it about 4 chapters before it was relegated back to the “to read” pile.  The title really excited me (I was in the first blush of pursuing my graduate degree in history), but when I realized that it was a vampire novel, well those have never really been my thing.  I am more of a happy ending kind of girl.  Fast forward five years…Wow, my “to read” pile is literally like 5 feet tall.  If I don’t start reading some of these rather than adding to it by buying more books it could become a concussion hazard.  So a couple of months ago, I picked “The Historian” back up and I have to say, I am really glad that I did.

As I said, I don’t read a lot of vampire/dracula books…ok, none really…so I can’t really make a comparison  in mythology/approach to any other books, but it does seem like this one had a unique direction in that it brought history (Dracula and his connection to history) to the forefront (hence the title).

I am not going to lie, this is a large book and the first probably 10 chapters or so are pretty slow.  But, if you tough it out (what I didn’t do the first go around), you won’t be sorry you did.  I am not saying this the the best book I have ever read, but I did enjoy it.  And the reason I enjoyed as much as I did has to be because of the world travel and archive digging.  I am sucker for far away lands and this book definitely has that.  London, Amsterdam, Istanbul, Budapest all play prominently into the story and Kostovo does a good job of really taking you along for the ride.  And the archive/library digging in each place, well my four year old could write about that and I would probably enjoy it.  I am sort of a sucker for a musty dusty location chock full of documents and books hundreds of years old -even if it is only fiction.  And I also quite enjoyed Kostova’s discussion about Vlad the Impaler’s history which serves as the backbone of the plot.  I can’t say Medieval Eastern Europe was something I studied a great deal of so I can’t speak to the accuracy, but whether it was accurate or not, it was fascinating to read.

I have read mixed reviews of this book and there are things on each side with which I agree.  As I said before, it isn’t the best book I have ever read -probably not even in my top 20 or 30 – BUT, a book doesn’t have to be the best book ever to be entertaining and I am glad that I gave it another shot.    Let me put it this way, I stayed up until 2 am one weekend night to finish the last chapters which, if you have kids, you know that that in and of itself is a glowing recommendation.

Have you read this book?  What did you think of it?

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RIP Maeve Binchy…A Review of Her Last Book “Minding Frankie”

Monday night I was only half paying attention to my mom on our home phone as I was flipping through Facebook on my cell phone when I scared her by yelling “What?  Maeve Binchy is dead?”  I had come across the news from another author I follow and I was quite saddened by this news of her passing.  I first came across Binchy almost 10 years ago when I happened across her book Lilac Bus.  From then on I was hooked.  I have read and loved all of her books and find it hard to believe that there won’t be any more to come.

Maeve Binchy was a master of bringing the reader in and making them part of day-to-day Irish life.  There is no magic or turning and twisting plot lines to her stories.  There are doctor’s appointments, the daily grind of jobs, the awkwardness of meeting new people and first dates.  There are nosy neighbors and family turmoil and expectations.  But, most importantly her books have friendship and love and a spirit of making it work.  Just real people with real human issues who feel like family by the end of the book.

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RITA Winners Announced

As promised, here is the link to the RITA winners which were given out last night.  It appears that I missed the mark on choosing the winner of the Regency Historical Romance Category, but I am okay with that.  The winner was………

Tessa Dare and her book A Night to Surrender.

Photo credit: Raphael Maglonzo via http://www.tessadare.com

As I said, I am in no way upset about this book being chosen the winner.  I really enjoy Tessa Dare’s books.  I actually had read all of her books before this one and am happy to see that she was recognized for her talent.

If you are looking for some new romance author’s, I would recommend that you take a look at the list of finalists in all of the categories.  You are sure to find something that you will enjoy.  The next time I am in need of a new book and don’t know where to look, I know I will be turning to this list for a suggestion.

Happy Reading!

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RITA Reading Challenge Update

Well, I am finally ready for an update on my RITA reading challenge and none too soon considering the annual RWA conference is well under way and the awards being given out…well tonight.  The bad news is, I only managed to finish all the books in one category. The good news, I managed to finish all the books in one category!  What can I say, life happens and sadly-so sadly- reading does not make it to the top of my list as much as I would like.

The category that I did manage to make it through was Regency Historical Romance.   And, if there was one I wanted to get through it was this.  It probably isn’t a shocker that historical is my sub-genre of choice and while I enjoy any historical romance, the ones set in Regency England are the ones that really pique my interest. They are a nice escape from reality every once in a while.  

I know that I don’t have the time to do each of these books justice with a review here, but I have linked each book to its Goodreads page where you can find some amazing reviews and I have also linked the authors names to their websites so you can visit there and find out more information about them and the other books they have written.

And the finalists are…

The Devil in Disguise by Stephanie Sloane (also nominated for best first book),  Heiress in Love by Christina Brooke,   How to Marry a Duke (another book also nominated for best first book) by Vicky Dreiling,  How to Seduce a Scoundrel also by Vicky Dreiling, Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish by Grace Burrowes, A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare, To Seduce an Angel by Kate Moore, and finally When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James.

I should start by saying that I enjoyed all of these books and can’t say that I would be upset by any of these being chosen as a winner.  That being said, of the nominations, my favorite in this category had to be Vicky Dreiling’s How to Marry a Duke.  This book is also nominated in the Best First Book category where I can imagine it also has a good shot to win.  The book was fun, witty and of all the nominations this one made me want to read the next book by this author more than any of the others.  This book was sort of a take on the Bachelor television series and while you know in your head just how implausible this would have been during the real regency time period, it is so well written and fun that you can just look past that aspect.  Luckily, I actually got to read the next book in the series as it was also nominated in this category.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book as well and look forward to reading the next and final book in this trilogy.

So the main goal of this exercise was to find some new authors to read and I definitely did that.  I will be returning to several if not all of these authors in the future.  I can’t wait to see which one takes home the RITA and will be sure to post an update once the winners are announced tonight.

Happy Reading!

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Book List for the 1916 Easter Uprising

So here is my annotated bibliography if you will, for my last post on the Easter Uprising.  I have read all of these and added a blurb about some of my favorites.  If you want to read more about the Uprising and/or the people involved, hopefully this list will give you a starting point.

1.)  Poems of the Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood edited by Padraic Colum and Edward J. O’Brien

This book is fun to read because it is the poetry of Padraic Pearse, Joseph Plunkett, and Thomas MacDonagh.  They were definitely writing their poetry to try and inspire nationalism among the Irish people.

2.)  1916: The Easter Rising by Tim Pat Coogan

Tim Pat Coogan is a noted Irish historian and this book gives a great in-depth look at everything from the events leading up to the Uprising, to the actual fighting, to the aftermath and executions of the leaders.  If you want a good overview of the Easter Uprising this is a great book to pick up.

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goodreads…A Fun Place for Book Lovers!

As I was getting things together to start my RITA reading challenge, I decided that I wanted to incorporate goodreads to help with reviews and in keeping track of everything I was reading.  Of course in deciding this, I realized that not everybody might be familiar with it so maybe I should give a little introduction.

I came across goodreads a few years back and while I signed up for it, I didn’t really start using until just the past six months or so.  goodreads is a social media outlet for book lovers.  You might be thinking, oh right, just what we all need…more social media.  Well, this one is a little different.  My Facebook friends list and my goodreads friends list don’t have a lot in common.  I enjoy the social aspect of this because all the people on here are people who are bibliophiles like myself.  We all share a passion and love for books.

While I enjoy the social aspect, I actually use it for more practical/organizational reasons.  I love having a place to log what I have read and what I thought about it.  I keep a book journal too, but I reserve that more for the books I really enjoyed because of space.  With goodreads, I can log as many books as I want good or bad.  And then, based on what and how I rate, goodreads generates a recommended reading list.  I do like this feature and have found several new books from here.

However, what I most enjoy about goodreads is its mobile app.  This has become a go to place for me when I am in a book store.  I used to have a list of books I had heard good things about and wanted to read, but I never seemed to have this with me when I was in a store.  So then it just became a game of hit and miss.  Does the blurb on the back sound interesting?  Have I heard of the author before?  How do the first few pages read?  But, with the goodreads app on my phone, I can read real people reviews of books I am considering buying and by adding books I want to read to my “To Read” list, I always have my list with me when I am in a store.  No more guessing games…or less of them anyways.

For my RITA challenge I will be using goodreads quite a bit.

This is my profile pic...so you know you have found me.

I have added all books in the category I am reading at the moment to my “Currently Reading”list.  You all can see this list on the widget on the right side toolbar on my blog page.  I will leave all the books up on this list until I have finished them all and then I will put up the new list.  In addition to this, I will write reviews for the individual books on there while doing only a large category review on here.  I thought it would be a good way to mix a couple of the things I love.

Feel free to friend me on there that way I can see what you are reading too!

Happy Reading!

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My RITA Reading Challenge

Stefanie Sloane...finalist in both Regency Historical Romance and Best First Book.

I haven’t really shown it through my reviews here, but the bulk of my reading usually involves romance novels.  I didn’t used to be quite so vocal about this because well, romance gets a bad wrap and I didn’t want to be judged for reading them.  Today, mostly I am older and just don’t care anymore and I have also realized that romance novels are THE biggest selling genre out there, so I have company.  No, I am not exaggerating.  Last year, the sale of romance novels totaled $1.38 billion…the most of any other genre with the nearest competitor more than a half a billion dollars behind.

Eloisa James...a finalist in Best Regency Historical Romance

Let me just say, there is no bodice ripping, no weak females who need a man to save them, no wishy-washy flimsy plot lines.  As with any genre, some books are better than others, but these aren’t the books from the ’80s that spawned all the negative stereotypes.  Are they predictable?  To an extent.  I always know in the end, the hero and heroine will end up together, but the how they get there part varies wildly and is where the entertainment lies.  This is a great article I have found from the Yale Herald that gives some insight into the modern romance novel.

Lately, I have been searching for some good romance reads, but trying a new author can be such a hit or miss process.  This is how I came to develop the RITA Reading Challenge.  Perhaps I should explain what a RITA is. The short answer…it is like the Oscar of the romance writing world.  Every year, the Romance Writers of America— RWA– take nominations and then narrow down the field to the best of each sub-genre within the romance field.  Then, at their annual conference, this year on July 28th, they announce the winners.

Tessa Dare...finalist in Best Regency Romance.

The goal I have set forth, is to read all the books in as many categories as possible before the actual awards in July.  With these finalists being the best of the best, hopefully I will find a new author or two to continue reading.  Here is the list of nominations.  I know I won’t get through every category, but hopefully I will get through quite a few.  I will update along the way as I finish categories with my opinions and picks for the winners and then we will see how well I did when the RWA announces their winners in July.  Feel free to join me in the challenge and share your progress here too.

Happy Reading!

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