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Sorry kids, no feet.

I am a former stay-at-home mom who has given up her hopes and dreams of becoming a professional reader. I now spend my days showing small children how to play games on computers. Right now I'm living vicariously through my 9 year-old who is reading everything she can get her hands on. 

Not-so-Super- Super Bowl

There was a point where I threatened to boycott the Super Bowl. After the way Vikings' fans were treated in Philadelphia, I told myself "Nope. I'm not watching that." 


Then I remembered Justin Timberlake was the halftime show. My 13 year old self said, "You have to watch!" I settled on watching but only for the commercials and the half-time show. And, if Philly happened to get trounced, it would be a bonus. 


So I watched. Here were just some of my thoughts"


-"So what? Philly has a lead. Did you see last year?"


-"Crap (or another word). Now my kid is going to have nightmares about a dinosaur trying to eat her while she sleeps. Thanks Jurassic Park."


-"Tom Brady is still on the other team. This game isn't over yet."


-"The skinny girl in the Diet Coke commercial stole my dance moves."


-"I should have made some food instead of taking a nap this afternoon."


-"Did Morgan Freeman just lip sync to Missy Elliot?!?! Best commercial ever!"


-"I forgot to go to the liquor store on Saturday."


-"Is it halftime yet?" 


-"I want an Alexa but only if she yells at me like Gordon Ramsay."


-"So is JT actually going to sing? Or are we just going to watch him dance?"


-"Where are the other N*SYNC guys?"


-"I wish Prince were alive. This show would be a million times better."


-"Maybe he won't actually do the Trolls' song?"


-"Damn it. Now I have the Trolls' song stuck in my head!"


-"Eli Manning has something funny coming. Maybe I'll keep watching."


-"OMG!! I'm going to pee my pants from laughing! That was the funnies thing I've ever seen!" 


-"Tom Brady is still playing. This isn't over."


-"I feel sorry for anyone who lives within 100 miles of Philly." 


Anyone else have any semi-interesting thoughts during the Super Bowl? Or were you like most of my friends who were just in it to get to the episode of This Is Us?



Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell

Fools and Mortals - Bernard Cornwell

I am a big fan of Bernard Cornwell. His Uhtred makes my list of literary boyfriends. The book Uhtred. Not whatever abomination they have cast in the television show. I don't know who that guy is but he's not Uhtred. Anyway.........I am also a big fan of historical fiction set in Tudor England. When I heard one of my favorite authors was writing a book about one of my favorite time periods? I was immediately sold.


It was purely coincidental that I read this book on the heels of reading another book featuring a Shakespeare brother. However, the Shakespeare brother in Cornwell's novel is an actual historical figure. There is a birth record for a child named Richard Shakespeare born after William. John Shakespeare of the the Rory Clements' novels is not listed anywhere as a brother to William. 


Fools and Mortals centers around Shakespeare's first performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Richard is a member of his brother's theater company, the Sharers. The relationship between the two brothers is far from close. Richard needs money and William is a means for Richard to earn money while doing something he likes (and by all accounts seems to be good at). While the company has found royal favor through their employer, Lord Hunsdon, they are never completely safe from the Percies who are charged with keeping London "moral". By moral, I mean, not Catholic. One of Willam's manuscripts goes missing and chaos follows.


If you read the book's blurb and pick this novel up expecting some deep, twisting mystery, you are going to find yourself disappointed. While there is a missing manuscript that needs finding, the reader immediately knows who took it. To classify this novel as a mystery is a stretch in my opinion. The manuscript doesn't actually go missing until the book is over half finished. The mystery is quickly solved. The bigger focus of this story is the process. How did the theater work in Elizabethan England? What did actors do? How did Shakespeare work? What was life like in London? All of these questions are answered as only Cornwell can do. My biggest problems with novels of this sort generally tend to be issues with setting the scene. An author will completely immerse their reader in Elizabethan London and then BAM! Something horribly out of place and anachronistic comes along to spoil the whole story. Not once did I get that feeling during this novel. Cornwell creates an authentic atmosphere. Not once does the reader feel like something is out of place. The manner in which his character speak and act flows with the addition of the lines from Shakespeare's works. It is wonderfully done. For that reason, I highly recommend this book. The setting, not the characters or the mystery, is the real star here. 


I would love to see more of this time period from Cornwell. 

I am Livia by Phyllis T. Smith

I Am Livia - Phyllis T. Smith

I am reading books at a rapid pace right now. I've more or less been stuck on a couch with a pair of recovering five year olds for the last four days in addition to being hit with a terrible bout of sudden insomnia. At least I have plenty of books. 


To start, I have a minimal knowledge of Ancient Rome. I know what I've been taught in school. I know what my boyfriend Gordianus has taught me with his adventures. However, Gordianus (to this point) only brings me through Julius Caesar. Livia's tale begins with the death of Julius Caesar. However, my minimal knowledge of Caesar Augustus and his quarrels with one Mark Antony was enough to get me through this book without too much help from Wikipedia. 


I think my minimal knowledge actually worked in this case. I know about Livia and Nero and Claudius. I know who they are but not necessarily where they came from. While this book doesn't go into much detail about Nero or Claudius, it gives the reader an excellent glimpse into the life of the family's real power, matriarch Livia Drusilla. This Livia is not the scheming, poisoning, and manipulative woman we have been told about before. This Livia is slightly manipulative but not in the power mad way you think. At no point does the author lead you to think Livia's actions are meant to benefit anyone but Rome. This author does an excellent job making Livia human. She is a wife who cares for her husband. She is a mother who wants what is best for her children. She is a citizen who cares for her country. She is a woman who is constantly working to keep these three things in harmony even if it requires a personal sacrifice. 


I would have liked to have seen more of Livia later in life. I would have like to seen Livia during Nero. I would have liked to have seen Livia during Claudius even though the glimpses of Claudius we are given suggest that Livia wasn't exactly a fan. 

Reading progress update: I've read 55 out of 384 pages.

Fools and Mortals - Bernard Cornwell

What is it about the playhouse that turns men and women into quivering puppies? All we do is pretend. We tell stories. Yet after the play the audience lingers at the house door wanting to see us, wanting to talk to us as if we are saints whose very touch could cure their sickness? But what sickness? Dullness? Boredom?"

Reading progress update: I've read 55 out of 384 pages.

Fools and Mortals - Bernard Cornwell

I gave up on my Vikings. Kind of like they gave up on playing........nope.......too soon.


Instead, I'm moving on from one Shakespeare to another. 

Revenger (John Shakespeare #2) by Rory Clements

Revenger: A Novel of Tudor Intrigue - Rory Clements

I fell asleep reading this last night. I woke up this morning determined to finish before the Vikings play. SKOL! 


I have seen so many different books toted as comparable to C.J. Sansom's Matthew Shardlake books. More often than not, I find myself disappointed. Truth be told, I have not yet found anything to be as dark, gritty, or politically charged as the Shardlake novels. Enter John Shakespeare. 


Shakespeare and Shardlake both have similar qualities. They are both slightly naive. They both tend to find themselves being used as pawns in someone's political schemes. The biggest different between the two men, Shakespeare is a more of a rogue. While Shardlake strives to use his brains to get himself out of trouble, Shakespeare is not afraid to fight. 


I will confess to liking Shardlake just a little more than Shakespeare. However, I am only two books in to Shakespeare. Things could change. If the second novel is any indication of how things will progress, that could very well be the case.


Much like the first, this book was dark. It was gritty. It was gruesome. It was thick with political schemes. If you are not familiar with Elizabeth's England post-Walsingham or the children of Lettice Knollys, I would highly recommend doing a little background research first. Otherwise, you may find yourself a little lost. 


Easily the most fascinating part of this book was the story of Roanoke. As a child, I was taught all about the mysterious colony of Roanoke. A colony of English settlers come to the New World to create a new life who suddenly vanish without a trace. What happened to little Virginia Dare and the other colonists? Did a mysterious illness overtake them? Did they run foul of the natives? Did they just leave and start a life somewhere else? This book presents an entirely different theory. It's actually quite fascinating. That's all I'm saying about it. 


I would love to start the third novel but the Vikings play today. I have Super Bowl on my mind. SKOL! 




How does this happen?

My currently reading list is at ZERO. I don't even know when the last time was that happened. Probably at some point between the ages of Newborn to three when I didn't know how to read. Not kidding, I was reading at 3 and a half. Not to brag or anything but my mom says I pretty much just picked up a random book and went with it. I kind of wish my brain would have picked up math as quickly. It would have made college slightly easier. 


Anyway, my problem is what to read next. I don't have any library books that are demanding my attention. I have five shelves (and part of a floor) full of books. My Kindle app says it currently has 100 books, 75 of which I have yet to read. It's kind of overwhelming. All I know is that I have to find something and quick. My five year olds are already on their fourth viewing of Scooby-Doo! and Batman the Brave and the Bold. Moana looms in the distance. 


I need to find my next book. 

Artemis by Andy Weir

Artemis: A Novel - Andy Weir

Two reviews in one day? What? And for anyone who is keeping track, I think I've reviewed every book I've read so far this year. Let's talk again in February. 


Science Fiction is not my jam. I tend to avoid that genre more than I avoid direct sunlight. Then people raved and raved about The Martian. Fine. I'll check it out. Surprisingly, I loved it. So when I saw Artemis sitting on my library's new release shelf, I decided I needed to pick it up.


One of the things I loved about The Martian was Mark Watney's wit. I haven't laughed so hard reading a book in so long. Jasmine Bashara is no Mark Watney. There are point where she tries really hard to be. She's not. She's just not. Maybe she could have been. I just didn't feel like the reader was given the opportunity to get to know Jazz. I felt like Weir spent so much time trying to set the scene that I never really got an opportunity to know Jazz. There was so much science. Before you say anything, yes, I know I'm reading science fiction. The science is implied. There was a heavy dose of science in The Martian but I was able to muddle through it. This science was a lot harder to muddle through. There was a lot of physics and a lot of chemistry. I did not do very well in either of those classes in high school. I'm pretty sure I never even took a physics class. Would you be surprised to learn I was more an English/Literature person? 


At the end of the day, I still found this book to be an enjoyable read. If you were a fan of The Martian and you like science fiction more than I do, I think you too will enjoy this book. 


P.S. - While I admit to struggling with a lot of the more science-y things, I think this would make a pretty fantastic television series. 

Reading progress update: I've read 214 out of 384 pages.

Artemis: A Novel - Andy Weir

My five year old twins had their tonsils removed today. The three of us are stuck in the house for at least the next five days. One of those days will be completely devoted to cheering on the Vikings. As for the rest of the days, I'm hoping to knock out some of my reading challenges. 


"Ugh." I rolled my eyes. "I don't do that, Dad. This may shock you, but I haven't had sex with anyone in this whole room."

"Well, it's a small room."


Part of the reason I loved The Martian so much is because when I wasn't confused by all the science, I was laughing like a mad woman. So far, Artemis isn't quite as funny. Every once in a while there's a gem. 

The Paris Spy (Maggie Hope #7) - Susan Elia MacNeal

The Paris Spy - Susan Elia MacNeal

The pace and the action of this book would have normally made it a four star read. Then the end happened. It was such an unbelievable sequence that I had to take a star away. This series seems to have an unbelievable element in every novel but this novel took the cake. 


The meticulous research the author did is obvious. There were a few points where the story pacing suffered from the dreaded information drop. I did not find it took away too much from the story. The history of spies, particularly female spies, in WWII is a pretty fascinating topic. The end where the British master plan is revealed, is particularly fascinating. I'm not on a mission to do some extensive research on people like Henri Dericourt, Vera Atkins, and Noor-un-Nisa Inayat Khan. 


While some have suggested this book could be read as a stand-alone novel, I would highly recommend starting from the beginning. 

Reading progress update: I've read 15%.

Three Maids for a Crown: A Novel of the Grey Sisters - Ella March Chase

I'm giving this book another chapter before I decide whether or not to keep reading. This author clearly subscribes to the theory that the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk were horrid people who didn't love any of their children. That much was made obvious three sentences in. No need to continue to beat the reader over the head with it. 

Prince of Darkness (Justin de Quincy #4)- Sharon Kay Penman

Prince of Darkness (Justin de Quincy ,#4) - Sharon Kay Penman

I really wanted to savor this novel. Knowing that when I finished, there were no more Justin de Quincy books, was kind of a bummer. I didn't want to rush through only to be sad at the end. You know what they say about the best laid plans.........


I couldn't take this book slowly. I was hooked from the beginning. The pairing of Justin and Durand was brilliant. I know they have worked "together" in previous novels but never really have they had to make it obvious they are on the same side. If that doesn't make sense, read the books. I promise you won't be disappointed. Anyway, I loved the Justin and Durand pairing. It was medieval good cop/bad cop. I would love to read more books featuring that dynamic.


It's unfortunate Penman has never had the opportunity to really wrap this series up. The end certainly left an opening for future books. However, Penman has said on several occasions that her publisher won't release any more de Quincy books. *Sigh* I guess I will just have to settle for the other Penman novels I have not yet read. 

The Proud Sinner by Priscilla Royal

The Proud Sinner - Priscilla Royal

I was pleasantly surprised to discover this series was still going. I had heard book #12 was suppose to have been the last. Not only was a thirteenth novel released last year but book #14 is due to be published at some point this year.


I wasn't feeling as excited for book #14 by the time I reached the end of 13. Like so many series, I think this one is starting to run dry. This book took a step backwards from what made the previous novels so good. Normally these books are four star reads for me. The lack of focus on the primary characters took this book from four starts to three. 


The story surrounding the visiting abbots just didn't work for me. I can only read about how evil women are so many times before I start to get annoyed. I understand that this was the attitude at the time (and even still to some extent) but I don't need to be beat over the head with it. I get it. Women are the reason we were all expelled from Eden. They are all whores who only exist to attempt to drive all men to the Devil. I don't need to be reminded of this every other page.


Prioress Eleanor has always had to deal with adversity, whether it be due to her age (at the beginning of the series) or her gender. The manner in which she deals with such adversity is part of what makes these books such good reads. There was none of this Eleanor present in this book. Instead we are presented with a Prioress Eleanor who borders on whiny. 


I missed the quick-witted, sassy Sister Anne. While Sister Anne is never really a "primary" character, she is always a welcome addition to any story. She provides a fresh breath and comic relief to a time and setting that can be rather bleak. This Sister Anne was non-existent. 


I still appreciated this book for what the previous novels have been, a quick and enjoyable journey into medieval England. I am going to continue on with the series in hopes that the next novel is capable of capturing some of the enchantment of the previous novels. 

In the Name of the Family by Sarah Dunant

In the Name of the Family - Sarah Dunant

It's rather interesting that I read a book about the Borgia family while reading a book about the Ptolemy dynasty. This wasn't something that was planned. This was just how my TBR list worked out. To be honest it made for some interesting juxtapositions. 


One of the things I appreciate about Dunant's Borgias since Blood and Beauty is their lack of scandal. Considering we are talking about the Borgias that's quite the task. Of course there is the scandal we can prove. Juan Borgia does meet a murderous end. Rodrigo Borgia does keep a mistress. Lucrezia Borgia has a husband who meets an unfortunate end. All of those things happen. Dunant doesn't shy away from any of them. What she does manage to stay away from is the incest and the fratricide one normally associates with the Borgia family. Dunant allows stays away from the more sensational rumors and makes the Borgias shine all on their own. 


There are points where Lucrezia's rumored lovers (brothers, fathers, and other) are mentioned. They are mentioned in passing or mentioned as a joke. Usually Lucrezia is the one making the joke. The same is true of the murder of Juan Borgia's murder. It is brought up but the reader is left to draw their own conclusions. Did Cesare dump his brother in the Tiber? Did the jealous Orsini family take revenge? The author tends to lean more on the Orsini hypothesis. However, I think this is only to further other aspects of the story. I never really got the impression the author believed one or the other. Interestingly enough, there is no mention of the younger Borgia, Jofre, who has also been rumored to have reason to murder his brother. There is actually little mentioned of Jofre or his scandalous wife, Sancha. 


There is no doubt Lucrezia is the star of this story. Dunant creates a Lucrezia the reader can sympathize with. Here is a woman who had little control over her own destiny. However, once the die was cast, she did everything in her power to take advantage of and make the most of her situation. Robbed of the one husband she may have actually loved, she enters into a new marriage with a man she is not the least bit attracted to. Yet, she does everything she can to be a trophy wife. After all, everything for the family.


The addition of Machiavelli was a welcome addition. If Cesare Borgia was a teen pop star, Machiavelli would have been the leader of his fan club. Seriously, who could blame him? If it weren't for the syphilis, I'd time machine back for that. Unlike the whiny, brat prince from my beloved Assassin's Creed games, this Cesare is a cunning, devious, calculated......Sorry. My fan girl is showing. I'll stop. But seriously, this Cesare, is a man to be reckoned with. 


Not related to the book at all- I would just like to pat myself on the back for getting two reviews for two books done on the same day. One of my goals for 2018 is to read and review more. So far, so good! 

The Drowning King by Emily Holleman

The Drowning King (A Fall of Egypt Novel) - Emily Holleman

There's a mythology out there surrounding Cleopatra. Whether it's the manner in which she presented herself to Caesar or the intrigue surrounding how she died. *Side note- I can't remember which History Channel show (one of the ones that use to actually discuss history, I imagine) but there was one that proved the whole rug thing, could have never happened. She would have died before she got to Caesar. *  Everyone has an opinion of the woman. If you are one of the few people who don't have an opinion, plenty has been written about the woman. An opinion would be easy to come by. This story, however, cares very little for Cleopatra. This is a story about Ptolemy and Arsinoe, Cleopatra's siblings/spouses/pains in her backside. 


Actually, this is a story about Ptolemy and what happens when little boys become men. Somewhere among the constant descriptions of wet dreams and the use of the f-word (Which by the way, I need to do some research on. Was that even a word ancient Egyptians would have known?), Ptolemy is fighting to earn the respect he deserves as the rightful king of Egypt. The reader is introduced to an 11 year old Ptolemy who is struggling to mature into the powerful ruler Egypt needs in order to keep Rome at bay. The author would have your believe that the most important aspect of presiding over a dynasty is "conquering" the women around you. I guess that comes with a lot of nocturnal emissions. The fact that Arsinoe (and occasionally Cleopatra) are the focus of his wet dreams doesn't bother me. I am well versed enough in my ancient dynasties to know that if you are a Ptolemy, it means you have to marry your sister, or in some cases, your step-mom. I get that. It doesn't bother me. What drove me bonkers was the constant focus on Ptolemy and his penis. If I wanted to read a book about what goes on when a boy becomes a man, I'd go back to 7th grade health. And to be perfectly honest, as a mother of girls, I'm trying to avoid thinking about the primal urges of teenage boys before I absolutely have to. I'm going to loose enough sleep over that at some point in my life. 


When the reader isn't asked to feel bad for Ptolemy and his penis, we are asked to feel sorry for Arsinoe. Apparently Arsinoe has some major choices to make. Should she f*ck her brother or Alexander, her childhood playmate? Or does she just throw herself into being Cleopatra's minion? The last one is kind of an afterthought. Arsinoe feels like an afterthought (which she kind of is in the grand scheme of things). This was one of the biggest let downs for me. In the previous novel, the reader is introduced to this spunky, tough little Arsinoe who literally fights to survive a shattered Egypt. Suddenly, Cleopatra is back! So now, she turns into a mopey teenage girl who only wants Alexander to throw her against the way and have his way with her? Ugh. 


Maybe at this point you are starting to wonder how I could possibly give this book as many as three stars. Why would I even continue to read this book after the fifth Ptolemy wet dream? Because I was hoping the author would bring back some of what made the previous novel so good. She did. For about the last 75 pages. The battle at sea between Arsinoe and Caesar? The writing was exceptional. Had that style been on display for the entire novel, this would easily be a 5 star book. It also means, I'm probably going to pick up the third and final novel. I have to see how this ends, right?  

Reading progress update: I've read 40%.

In the Name of the Family - Sarah Dunant

I stopped reading this book months ago. I always meant to come back to it. That never happened. So I hit the reset button and started over. I have plowed through nearly half of this book in two days. Why is this time so different? Machiavelli. I am fan-girling pretty hard over how hard Machiavelli is fan-girling over Cesare Borgia. If I could avoid the syphilis, I Cesare Borgia would make my list of historical boyfriends.