Monday, August 8, 2016

Review: "The Secret Language of the Stones" by M.J. Rose


 Synopsis:  Nestled within Paris’s historic Palais Royal is a jewelry store unlike any other. La Fantasie Russie is owned by Pavel Orloff, protégé to the famous Faberge, and is known by the city’s fashion elite as the place to find the rarest of gemstones and the most unique designs. But war has transformed Paris from a city of style and romance to a place of fear and mourning. In the summer of 1918, places where lovers used to walk, widows now wander alone.

So it is from La Fantasie Russie’s workshop that young, ambitious Opaline Duplessi now spends her time making trench watches for soldiers at the front, as well as mourning jewelry for the mothers, wives, and lovers of those who have fallen. People say that Opaline’s creations are magical. But magic is a word Opaline would rather not use. The concept is too closely associated with her mother Sandrine, who practices the dark arts passed down from their ancestor La Lune, one of sixteenth century Paris’s most famous courtesans.

But Opaline does have a rare gift even she can’t deny, a form of lithomancy that allows her to translate the energy emanating from stones. Certain gemstones, combined with a personal item, such as a lock of hair, enable her to receive messages from beyond the grave. In her mind, she is no mystic, but merely a messenger, giving voice to soldiers who died before they were able to properly express themselves to loved ones. Until one day, one of these fallen soldiers communicates a message—directly to her.

So begins a dangerous journey that will take Opaline into the darkest corners of wartime Paris and across the English Channel, where the exiled Romanov dowager empress is waiting to discover the fate of her family. Full of romance, seduction, and a love so powerful it reaches beyond the grave, The Secret Language of Stones is yet another “spellbindingly haunting” (Suspense magazine), “entrancing read that will long be savored” (Library Journal, starred review).

My Thoughts:  I'm going to apologize ahead of time gushing my way through this review.  M.J. Rose writes the most magical stories!  Her stories are so rich and she does a great job of developing the historical settings of her stories.  I will read anything with a Russian twist to it so I really enjoyed the intrigue, Russian spies and encounters with the royal family.  It added such a unique flair to the story.

It was fun to revisit the family of La Lune and Sandrine.  Opaline is a fascinating character.  I love the descriptions of her work as a jewelry maker; the pieces she made and the gems she worked with were fabulous.  I also enjoyed reading about how she used her powers to help the grieving mothers of Paris; the concept of her being able to connect with dead soldiers through the jewelry she made was super interesting.  The romance was beautiful; it was definitely different than anything I have read but the connection between Opaline and her love interest was amazing.

Also, this book had the best ending.  It was so unexpected and I absolutely loved it.  Overall, this was such a fun read!  I liked the first Daughter of La Lune book but this one was even better!    4 stars.

About the Author:
 

M.J. Rose grew up in New York City mostly in the labyrinthine galleries of the Metropolitan Museum, the dark tunnels and lush gardens of Central Park and reading her mother’s favorite books before she was allowed.

She is the author of more than a dozen novels, the co-president and founding board member of International Thriller Writers and the founder of the first marketing company for authors: AuthorBuzz.com. She lives in Greenwich, Connecticut. Visit her online at MJRose.com.

Connect with M.J. Rose on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Goodreads.


I received this book from HFVBT in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Mailbox Monday (65)

Time for another Mailbox Monday post!

I am so excited about all of the books that came in this week.  Because it's August and classes start in a few weeks, I probably won't get a ton of reading done this month but I know that what I do read will be awesome!

From the Library:






For Review (from HFVBT):



I have read all of Ms. Belfrage's books and I LOVE them so much.  I can't wait to read this one.

For Kindle:

I took advantage of the Kindle First book for August and got $3 from Amazon for being a loyal customer so I picked up two free ebooks this week.  Yippee!



What books did you pick up this week?  

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

July Wrap Up


 We had fun visiting the Natural History museum last week.

Summer is more than half over! I can't believe it!  July was an exhausting month.  We had family visiting on two different weekends and just a lot of stuff going on.

Despite all the goings on, I had the best reading month I've had all year.  I read 11 books!  I am now at 45 books for the year and my original goal was 52.  I know I will raise that goal at some point but I'm not sure how I'm going to raise it.  I also hit my monthly reading goals.  This month I wanted to read 2 books I own and 2 non-fiction books; I read 2 non-fiction books and 5 books I own so I'm really happy about that.  I had planned to post twice per week on the blog but this past week I didn't manage to get two posts up.  Oh well.  I managed to post 13 times on the blog this month so I think that's decent.

For August, I plan to read 5 books I own and 3 non-fiction books.  It's not always easy for me to consistently post twice a week on the blog every week and I don't want to put up garbage just to post something.  So I think I'm going to just shoot for one post a week and if I get more than that, then I'm doing good.

My reading stats for July:

-11 books read
   -2 non-fiction
   -6 historical fiction
   -1 review book
   -4 library books
   -5 books I own
   -7 ebooks

Below are the books I read in July

1.) The Secret Language of Stones by M.J. Rose - 4 stars
2.) The Queen's Daughter by Susan Coventry
3.)  All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior - 3 stars
4.) The Amber Keeper by Freda Lightfoot - 4 stars
5.) See Me For Who I Am: Student Veteran's Stories of War and Coming Home ed. by David Chrisinger
6.) A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas 
7.) Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum - 3 stars
8.) Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson - 5 stars
9.) Don't You Cry by Mary Kubica - 3 stars
10.) America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie - 3 stars
11.) The Good Neighbor by A.J. Banner - 2 stars

I hope everyone had a great July!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Mailbox Monday (64)

 Happy Sunday!  We have had a lazy, relaxing weekend and it has been wonderful!

I have a light mailbox this week but I'm okay with that.  I used some more of my settlement credit to get some books and also got some fun book mail (book mail is the best kind!).

Purchased (for nook):



For Review (from author/publisher):


This is the second book in the Daughters of New France series.  I really liked the first book and can't wait to read this one.


I hope you all have a great week! 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

#FitReaders Weekly Check In (13)



Hey y'all.  I have had a really good two weeks when it comes to my fitness goals.  Last week I finished Couch 2 5K which was great!  The last run was 30 minutes straight and it was hard but I did it.  It was worth it to do the program again because I feel so much better about running.  I'm glad to be done with it because I like to be able to structure my runs around how I am feeling so I have more flexibility now that I'm done with the program.   

Last week I also started the week 2 workout on my Ripped in 30 DVD.  It is super hard but after two weeks I'm starting to feel better about it.  I love that it has really good ab workouts included; week 1's ab workouts weren't very good.  I don't love all the plank exercises.  This week's workout has a ton of plank workouts and my arms feel like jell-o afterwards and I kind of want to cuss out Jillian while I'm doing them.

In the past two weeks, I worked out 11 times.  Last week, I got in 5 workouts - 3 days of running and 2 days of Ripped in 30.  This week, I got in 6 workouts (!) - 3 days of running and 3 days of Ripped in 30.  Now that my husband isn't working nights, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to exercise in the morning anymore but I got in two morning workouts without waking up the toddler so that helped a lot!  I can't use my treadmill in the mornings but I can at least do my DVD workouts which makes my life so much easier in the evenings.

I'm still working on eating better.  Last week I did well at staying within the calories that MyFitnessPal says I can have.  This week I did okay but we went to the fair and then I had a work event so I got a little off track.  I've decided to stop worrying about the scale and just try hard to eat better most of the time and to keep exercising.  Looking at the scale too much stresses me out and makes me feel bad and I'm tired of dealing with that.

Anyway, for the next two weeks I'm planning to get in 6 workouts per week and try to stay on track with MyFitnessPal most days.

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts (17)

Hello and happy Thursday!  I am linking up with Bookish (and Not So Bookish Thoughts) over at Bookishly Boisterous.


1.) UGH.  I just started the next level of my Jillian Michaels Ripped in 30 DVD and I hate it!  It's really hard and some of the moves feel impossible for an uncoordinated person like myself.  I try my hardest but it's a good thing nobody can see me because I'm sure I look ridiculous.

2.) I've been reading a lot of WWII era historical fiction lately and while I love it, I think I'm going to have to take a break from it.  I need to find something really cheerful to read for a change.  Suggestions are welcome!

3.) My mom is visiting this weekend so I've been doing a lot of extra cleaning around the house.  I really wish I wasn't the kind of person who cares about having a clean house because I just don't want to do it anymore.  I used to really like cleaning but now it just feels like one more thing I have to make time for.

4.) My husband is now working a normal day shift which is glorious.  He can now help with bedtime so we are taking turns and it is a beautiful thing.  I've been in charge of bedtime for like 99% of the last three years and it's so nice to have a break!

5.) I bought Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton and while I'm eager to read it, I am a little intimidated by the size.  I'm not sure I'm ready to commit to such a huge book right now.

6.) We've been following a 'no spend' month for July and it's going really well.  I plan to post more about it later but I'm really hoping we can keep up the momentum for the rest of the year.

I hope you all have a great rest of the week!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Mini Reviews (17)




I stumbled across this book when I was just messing around on Amazon and I am so glad that I found it.  I work in higher education and in my role, I'm working with more student veterans so this was a must read.  My brother is also an Iraq war vet so this hit close to home.  It was absolutely fascinating.  It is a book of essays written by student veterans in a first seminar course and the stories are so profound.  Some of the essays go into detail about deployments while others discuss reintegrating into civilian life and some are just about major moments in the student veterans' lives.  Each essay is very different as each veteran had a different experience during their time in the military.  I feel like I learned a lot from this book and I really think that it's a must read for anyone in higher ed and for anyone who is interested in the veteran experience. 5 stars.




I am part of an online book group and everyone has been raving about this series recently so I finally gave in to the peer pressure.  Fantasy is definitely not of my go to genres but I found myself really enjoying this book.  I love that it is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast though it did seem a little Hunger Games-ish in the beginning what with the starving young huntress and her bow and arrow.  Otherwise the story was a very unique and intriguing one.  It was a little slow as the author built the Fairie and human worlds but there was always just enough mystery to keep me wanting more.  The characters were very cool and weird as it may seem, I loved Lucien and Rhysand the best.  Lucien was the sidekick and Rhysand was the anti-hero but I found them to be the most interesting characters in the book.  That's not to say that I didn't really like Tamlin and Feyre (their romance was amazing!) but I kind of gravitated toward the two underdogs.  Overall, this was  great book and I can't wait to read the next one (people tell me it's even better than the 1st!). 4 1/2 stars.
 
Imagination Designs