Christina’s Review: The First Emancipator by Andrew Levy

Christina’s Review: The First Emancipator by Andrew LevyThe First Emancipator by Andrew Levy
Published by Random House on 2005
Genres: Colonial Period (1600-1775), History, Revolutionary Period (1775-1800), United States
Pages: 310
Format: Hardcover
Robert Carter III, the grandson of Tidewater legend Robert “King” Carter, was born into the highest circles of Virginia's Colonial aristocracy. He was neighbor and kin to the Washingtons and Lees and a friend and peer to Thomas Jefferson and George Mason. But on September 5, 1791, Carter severed his ties with this glamorous elite at the stroke of a pen. In a document he called his Deed of Gift, Carter declared his intent to set free nearly five hundred slaves in the largest single act of liberation in the history of American slavery before the Emancipation Proclamation.How did Carter succeed in the very action that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson claimed they fervently desired but were powerless to effect? And why has his name all but vanished from the annals of American history? In this haunting, brilliantly original work, Andrew Levy traces the confluence of circumstance, conviction, war, and passion that led to Carter's extraordinary act.At the dawn of the Revolutionary War, Carter was one of the wealthiest men in America, the owner of tens of thousands of acres of land, factories, ironworks–and hundreds of slaves. But incrementally, almost unconsciously, Carter grew to feel that what he possessed was not truly his. In an era of empty Anglican piety, Carter experienced a feverish religious visionthat impelled him to help build a church where blacks and whites were equals. In an age of publicly sanctioned sadism against blacks, he defied convention and extended new protections and privileges to his slaves. As the war ended and his fortunes declined, Carter dedicated himself even more fiercely to liberty, clashing repeatedly with his neighbors, his friends, government officials, and, most poignantly, his own family.But Carter was not the only humane master, nor the sole partisan of freedom, in that freedom-loving age. Why did this troubled, spiritually torn man dare to do what far more visionary slave owners only dreamed of? In answering this question, Andrew Levy teases out the very texture of Carter's life and soul–the unspoken passions that divided him from others of his class, and the religious conversion that enabled him to see his black slaves in a new light.Drawing on years of painstaking research, written with grace and fire, The First Emancipator is a portrait of an unsung hero who has finally won his place in American history. It is an astonishing, challenging, and ultimately inspiring book.

I am embarrassed for how long it has been since my last book review and for how long it took me to get through this last book. I have clearly not been on my A-game! However, I am back at it…

I just finished a book I was recommended: The First Emancipator: the Forgotten Story of Robert Carter the Founding Father Who Freed His Slaves by Andrew Levy. I loved the history in the book and the relevance to my work in the Northern Neck at a founding father’s home. In addition, my graduate research focused on freedom suits brought forth by slaves against their masters around the late 18th and early 19th centuries in select Virginia counties. I was looking forward to potential connections I could make from this book and the motivating factors from the period that caused slave owners to emancipate their slaves and the reactions of those surrounding them. I was hoping this book would give me more insight on why Robert Carter made the decisions he did. In the synopsis of the book, Levy noted Carter’s act was “the largest single act of liberation in the history of American slavery before the Emancipation Proclamation.” Carter was a leader… what made him different over other slave owners of the time?

Levy’s book read more as a biography than a thesis-centered piece. Levy began with a background on Carter’s family, from his father, Robert “King” Carter, to his wife and children. He also added interesting insights on the family as recorded by Philip Vickers Fithian, the family’s tutor. (Whose journal is also a well-known and recommended read I hope to get to soon) Overall, the book was good, however, I felt there was not a strong argument or connection that really answered why Carter was a leader in offering the Deed of Gift to nearly 500 slaves.

There was a lot on Fithian, perhaps because his journal contains such well-documented information from the period. There was a lot on Carter’s immediate family, but some of the information I did not find totally relevant. Levy wrote about Carter’s rowdy sons, one of whom was believed to have slid into bed with one of the house slaves, and he wrote about Carter’s troubled wife and her fear of thunderstorms. There was also a daughter who one day shaved off her eyebrow… while the stories of the family members were interesting on their own, they were lost to me and irrelevant to the story as a whole.

The chapter titled “Deed of Gift [1789-1804]” was the chapter I had been waiting for that addressed my questions more directly. So when did this change from slave holder to emancipator begin? From the book, there was not one set event or answer to this question. Some of the factors that may have played a role:

  • Revolutionary sentiments – how can one fight for freedom of tyranny from the British while still holding slaves and denying their freedom?
  • The Enlightenment – Carter did undergo some religious and spiritual transformations like others during this period, and he turned to the Baptist Church.
  • The “Redemption Song” (137) – Taking the ideas above and combining with “a strong marriage, an active church, and an egalitarian government,” according to Levy, Carter became a good man.

In this chapter, Levy noted the news of Carter’s Deed of Gifts freeing 442 slaves, and how this news did not spread far and wide like one may think. (146) Levy also noted Carter’s fascination with death and the end of the world. He noted Carter was convinced he was dying by the 1800s, in addition to the effects of the French Revolution on his emotions. (163) There were so many interesting facts throughout this chapter and the book, but I still did not receive information that made me fully understand Carter’s decision to emancipate his slaves over other founding fathers (with the exception of Jefferson who was unable to due to his debt).

One thing I would have liked to have seen more information on and statistics related to was the 1782 law in Virginia that legalized manumission. The act of manumitting one’s slaves through their last Will, or through a Deed of Gift (as Carter chose) was not even legal until 1782. Carter would not have been able to legally free his slaves prior to this date… it is a significant date in Virginia and in Carter’s history. The story of Robert Carter would have benefitted with more information on this law and perhaps information on the statistics behind owners who freed their slaves following the passage of this law. Carter’s actions were revolutionary, he was a visionary, and more information on the 1782 manumission law and actions taken as a result of this law would have further demonstrated why.

Another fact that would have been interesting to investigate further was Carter’s move from Virginia’s Northern Neck and his home, Nomony Hall, to Baltimore. During his time in Baltimore, his religious loyalties picked up more. Levy noted he had business motivations to move to Baltimore as well as two daughters in the area. However, Levy did not note that Baltimore was in the north and different from other cities. Baltimore was progressive in the free black labor movement. Without exhausting this review, I recommend checking out Seth Rockman’s book: Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early Baltimore. In his book, Rockman looked at the labor population in Baltimore which consisted of not only enslaved individuals, but also free black and white workers, as well as immigrants. Baltimore had a mixed-race labor population who worked together side-by-side for the same wages, something not seen in many other areas of the country. (Rockman, 47, 56) In my opinion, there may have been more in Carter’s decision to move to Baltimore to live out the remainder of his days.

Overall, The First Emancipator was a very interesting look at a historical leader from Virginia. Robert Carter III has been forgotten by many, so it was refreshing to have a look at his character and influence from Andrew Levy. However, I felt the book needed more… there could have been a stronger focus on the act of manumission itself with more supporting research added to Robert Carter as to his motivations and title as the “First Emancipator.”

Fixing My Netgalley Feedback-Approval Ratio

Lately, I have been reading with singular purpose. Fixing my Netgalley Feedback-Approval Ratio.

But first a bit of an update.

This summer has really taken it out of me. I have been working full time and I believe working hard. I also took two summer classes that each only lasted one month, so therefore was quite intensive. I had class Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. And of course, I’ve been busy planning my wedding. Something had to give, and unfortunately, that was the blog. But I am still very interested in books (obviously) and in staying connected to the blogging community, so I’m not quite entirely disappearing just yet.

Back to the main story.

So I have so many physical copies of books in my office that are completely unread. It’s really quite pathetic. And there are so many books on my to-be-read list that I could easily pick up and enjoy. And what am I reading these days?

Any book I get approved for on Netgalley.

There are a few reasons for that.

The first is that I got a new Kindle. It’s a Paperwhite and is pretty awesome. I love reading on it and I like carrying that to and from work more than carrying a physical book. Reading books that I am approved to read from Netgalley means I have plenty of books to read on that Kindle.

The other reason for this binge of sorts is because I have a horrible feedback/approval ratio. It’s because when I first started blogging, like way back in March 2013, I discovered Netgalley. I started requesting all the books. Oh, it’s a cover? Great! I’ll request it! It’s got a description that sounds okay. Cool, I’ll request it!

I didn’t quite understand the whole archive date thing, or that there was a ratio that was being tracked. I ended up missing out on even getting to read most of the books I had been approved for. I think my ratio was barely at 20% by the time I started actually realizing what happened.

I’m not proud of this. So last autumn, I started requesting a few books here and there to see if I could start to slowly climb back from the hole I had created for myself. Obviously, I don’t get approved for many books, but those that I do, I make sure I download, read, and review in short order.

So by doing this a little piece meal, and then really focusing on it the past couple of months, I have improved my ratio to 43%. Not fantastic still, but better. I am almost done with more book that I was approved for and have another that I will start right away.

It’s getting almost a little addictive in a way. I can’t wait until I get it to at least the recommended level of 80%. It’s become almost a game in some ways to see if I can do it. I read and review the books just as honestly as I would normally, but I am definitely focusing more on those books than anything else. I wonder when I start getting tired of reading books dictated by when I’m approved to read it. But so far, I’m in this to reach my goal. 😛

What’s your Netgalley ratio? What reading challenge/binge are you on?

pj - michelle

Christina’s Review: The Lees of Menokin by Suzanne Semsch

The Lees of Menokin by Suzanne Hadfield Semsch
Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform on 2009-09-25
Genres: Biographical, Fiction
Pages: 646
Format: eBook
Francis Lightfoot Lee is known in the annals of Virginia history as one of the colony's signers of the Declaration of Independence. Yet little is known of Lee's personal life, a void which novelist and long-time Virginian Suzanne Hadfield Semsch set out to fill with extensive research and a healthy dose of creativity without distorting historical fact. The result is The Lees of Menokin, a biographical novel documenting Lee's career as well as his courtship and marriage to Rebecca “Becky” Tayloe. A descendant of one of Virginia's “first families,” Lee was a staunch patriot and reputed ladies' man serving in the colony's House of Burgesses when he fell in love with Becky, who was half his age. From the early days at Menokin, their plantation home, through the turbulence of the Revolution, to the lean post-war years, readers will enjoy a glimpse into this formative period of early America. The Lees of Menokin is an engaging love story set against the chaotic backdrop of revolution.

Lees of MenokinI mentioned in my last post I had fallen behind on my reading and blogging because I was moving. I moved to Tappahannock, Virginia and now work in the Northern Neck at Menokin – the home of Francis Lightfoot Lee, one of Virginia’s seven signers of the Declaration of Independence. I LOVE my job! We are working to preserve and interpret Menokin in a revolutionary way – by encasing the house in a glass shell.

I started seeking out new reads on Francis Lightfoot Lee and came across The Lees of Menokin by Suzanne Semsch. I instantly bought it to read on my Kindle… how perfect! The book is a classic love story. It is fiction – important to keep that in mind – but is well researched and has a lot of information on Francis and Becky’s life and the revolutionary period. The story starts with Francis Lightfoot Lee, living in Loudon County, Virginia and heading to the Burgess in Williamsburg. During his time there in Williamsburg, he sees the daughters of John Tayloe in their garden and is enthralled by their beauty, especially Becky’s. They talk, they flirt, he woos her and she plays along… long story short, Becky and Francis fall in love and marry. As a wedding gift, Tayloe grants them approximately 1,000 acres of land and a house, Menokin, in Richmond County, Virginia.

From there, the story progresses through the love of Francis and Becky and the events that give the revolutionary period its name. Becky joins Francis when he is elected to the Second Continental Congress and moves to Philadelphia with him. They have to flee the city as the British come into town, alongside the other delegates fleeing. Politics have their ups and downs, and Semsch captures this. Francis and Becky are seen alongside other founding fathers, including John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and Francis’ brother, Richard Henry Lee.

Semsch builds in conversations and events to connect the reader with the life of Francis and Becky. I felt a new, personal connection with this founding father who was such an influence in Virginia as he picked up that quill to sign the Declaration. He and Becky lived a passionate, loving life together… even though life did not always go their way. For those of you who do not know their story, I will not spoil any more.

It is important to know this book is a work of fiction. Not all of the events and characters are real. But it is a pleasant read and can make the reader feel connected to these important figures in history. It is also a long read… I started the book on my Kindle and regret that decision. I was getting Kindle-fatigue and took almost a month to get through the book (this is not typical for me!) I recommend buying the book itself if you feel you get Kindle-fatigued like I do.

As my final note about The Lees of Menokin, it is a book meant for the history-lover. It is filled with politics and conversations revolving the political nature of the colonies and the turn towards independence. It is long with pages of romance mixed in between the politics and travel. If you are interested in the period, I have other books (fiction and non-fiction) I could recommend. Any questions about the life of Francis Lightfoot Lee, Menokin, or if you want to talk about the book, comment or send us an email!

Happy readings!

pj - christina

Michelle’s Review: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

Michelle’s Review: The Silkworm by Robert GalbraithThe Silkworm by robert galbraith
Published by Little, Brown on 2014-06-19
Genres: Crime, Fiction, General, Mystery & Detective, Thrillers, Traditional
Pages: 464
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible
Private investigator Cormoran Strike returns in a new mystery from Robert Galbraith, author of the #1 international bestseller The Cuckoo's Calling.When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days--as he has done before--and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine's disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives--meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before...A compulsively readable crime novel with twists at every turn, THE SILKWORM is the second in the highly acclaimed series featuring Cormoran Strike and his determined young assistant, Robin Ellacott.

I found this book as enjoyable as the first one, but perhaps a little hard to follow as an audiobook. There are so many characters that it was sometimes hard to keep up with them all without the ability to quickly flip to a previous chapter. The audiobook was well-produced and it was fun to listen to these characters…

…with perhaps the exception of Robin. She is such the eager sidekick and her drama with her fiance is simply not interesting to me. It almost felt like contrived drama and wasn’t a satisfying subplot for me.

If you’re looking for an intriguing mystery with pretty cool characters, I would recommend this book and the series. But if you get frustrated by being able to figure out the ending, or by slower paced mysteries, perhaps this wouldn’t be the pick for you. I imagine that I will be picking up any sequel as a good beach read in the future.

pj - michelle

Apologies and Back At It – A Note (and Review!) from Christina

Apologies and Back At It – A Note (and Review!) from ChristinaThe Chardonnay Charade by Ellen Crosby
Published by Simon and Schuster on 2008-07-29
Genres: Fiction, General, Mystery & Detective, Women Sleuths
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
"The Chardonnay Charade" begins with a daring helicopter flight in the middle of the night. Facing a freak spring frost that threatens to kill the grapes in her vineyard, Lucie Montgomery hires a chopper to fly over the vines in order to blow warm air on them. But her thoughts soon turn from grapes to murder when she discovers the body of Georgia Greenwood, a controversial political candidate, lying near the fields. Georgia's husband, Ross, Lucie's friend and doctor, immediately falls under suspicion. To make matters worse, Ross, a renowned collector of Civil War documents, has just discovered a letter that seems to prove that Confederate president Jefferson Davis had prior knowledge of the plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. In the small town of Atoka, Virginia -- proud home to the "Gray Ghost," the Confederacy's legendary guerrilla commander -- the letter is a bombshell.Three years ago Ross saved Lucie's life after she was involved in a near-fatal car crash. Now she intends to return the favor and prove Ross's innocence. As the search for Georgia's killer escalates, Lucie crosses swords with her attractive but cantankerous winemaker, Quinn Santori, and confronts her own unwelcome feelings of jealousy over his new romance and job prospects. Her worries about her kid sister's out-of-control drinking and a second vineyard-related death further ratchet up the tension. Even though Lucie believes that in vino veritas -- in wine there is truth -- she finds that the path to uncovering a murderer involves making a heartbreaking decision that will alter the lives of those she loves.

I had fallen off of the grid for the past month and am ready to get back on my reading, research and blogging A-game. I am sorry to have been so M.I.A – Recently, I started working in the Northern Neck of Virginia and picked up and moved from northern Virginia. I LOVE my new job, I LOVE the area, I LOVE the history. It has been a wonderful experience! During the moving process, I still found time to read…

The Chardonnay Charade by Ellen Crosby

We read The Merlot Murders by Ellen Crosby, book one of her Virginia “Wine Country Mysteries” series, and the book had overwhelming praise from our book club. A couple of years into the club, Michelle selected book two of her series so we can revisit the wine, the history, and the murder mysteries set in Loudon County. The main characters from The Merlot Murders, Lucie and Quinn, were also the main characters in The Chardonnay Charade.  A little overwhelming that murder seems to follow this couple, but it made character introductions shorter and the characters easy to attach to.

I particularly liked The Chardonnay Charade because: 1) It had more great wine knowledge. The spring frost and the process to keep the fruit from freezing in the cold was intriguing to me. 2) The history in this book was fascinating and right down my alley. There was a mix of Civil War and early American history. I geeked out when I was reading about a piece of furniture in an antique store they said once belonged to Francis Lightfoot Lee… I just started working at his home, Menokin, in the Northern Neck. The additions of the history made me attach myself to the book and kept me engaged.

Overall, another enjoyable read by Crosby… great for book clubs! Paired with a nice Virginia chardonnay, such as the 2013 Reserve from Paradise Springs, and you will be set!

Currently reading…

I currently have a list of books on my to-read shelf, which has grown tremendously since my last blog post. I am now finishing up The Lees of Menokin by Suzanne Semsch and am then turning to The First Emancipator, a story on Robert Carter of Virginia by Andrew Levy. Following these books, I also have: The Lees of Virginia by Paul C. Nagel, Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen, A Tale of Two Plantations by Richard S. Dunn, and a few others. I expect I will be busy these next couple of months playing catch up! Stay tuned for future posts from me, not only on the books, but also on the history of the Northern Neck and historical sites paired together with some of these historical fictions and non-fictions.

Happy readings!

pj - christina

Stacking the Shelves: My Own Little BEA


Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews where we share the books that have been added to our overflowing shelves in the last week (or you know, whatever period of time we choose). 

If you have been a visitor to my blog for any amount of time, you’ll see that I haven’t done any type of book haul post in a very long time. I went through a period where I would grab too many books and then never read them. Space is definitely at a premium and I tried to be a little smarter about buying/receiving books.

Well, then last week Hannah from The Irish Banana Review had many, many books sent to her from publishers for the BEA YA Party that still needed homes. I drove over 100 miles there and back to her house to shop her basement. It was a beautiful thing.

So consequently, I added 25 books to my floor (I can’t say shelves because my bookshelf is already too full. There isn’t any space left for another book on them). Some might end up being used for giveaways, but the vast majority of them I am very thrilled to have. I wasn’t able to go to BEA this year (or last year) so this in many ways was my own little BEA.  


Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (I haven’t read this despite all the hype. I figure I should at least see what it’s all about and make up my own mind.)
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson (I have heard many good things about this series and am very excited to have gotten the first in the series.)
Tracked by Jenny Martin
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey (I have been wanting to read this since it came out and even more after it gained more hype.)
A Million Miles Away by Lara Avery
Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anne Heltzel
Lizard Radio by Pat Schmatz (Love the cover!)
A Whole New World by Liz Braswell (One a few retellings coming out this year. I actually prefer the ARC cover than the one on Goodreads.)
The Murdstone Trilogy by Mal Peet
Exquisite Corpse by Penelope Bagieu (A graphic novel!)
I am Princess X by Cherie Priest
Dove Arising by Karen Bao
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon (I actually got the ARC for this at BEA 2013 but couldn’t get into it and gave the ARC away. Hoping to try again and get into it.)


The Black Prism by Brent Weeks
Thief’s Magic by Trudi Canavan (Gotta love fantasy!)
Storm Siren by Mary Weber
Siren’s Fury by Mary Weber
Bloodkin by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
The Winter Horses by Philip Kerr
The Emperor of Any Place by Tim Wayne-Jones
The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (I have only read the Scorpio Races by her so I’m curious to see how much I like her other work.)
Powerless by Tera Lynn Childs and Tracy Deebs
Don’t Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout (Many of my book friends liked this book.)
Never Never by Brianna R. Shrum (Another retelling. Very cool cover!)

If you check out my Instagram account, you’ll see I also got a few more things this past week. My #OTSPSecretSister got me The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, I bought Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt, and there were some totes involved with Hannah’s book party. Needless to say, it was a great book week!

How will I pick which books to read first? Why, the Seasonal TBR Challenge of course! Check it out, sign up, and win prizes!

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Review: The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne – Books 0.4 through 4.5

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen a series of tweets, just about a single series:


I hadn’t binged read a series in a while and I actually referenced my “I am craving a good series” post to remember which ones I was interested in diving into. I chose The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne and became obsessed. I literally listened to the short stories 0.4 and 0.5, relistened to Book One, and then raced through the rest of the short stories and books all the way to the short story that’s 4.5 in the series. The audiobooks were just so good and it was refreshing to listen to books instead of reading them, particularly when I was feeling tired and stressed. I would listen while going to sleep, listen during my commutes, or when I was doing a particularly boring task. I raced through the books and only stopped once I found myself getting a little tired of them and was ready to listen to something else. I still plan on finishing the rest of the series, but I thought I’d share my thoughts on all the books I listened to in one post so I’m not posting like five different reviews on the same series. Also, if you want more details on the book itself, I recommend visiting their Goodreads’ pages. I don’t necessarily want to repost each synopsis in this post…that would make this entirely too long!

But to give a very brief description of the series:

Atticus O’Sullivan is not his real name but the name he has used for the past decade or so. He is the last living druid, a man with the ability to tap into nature’s power to wield magic to deflect danger and safeguard the planet. All the world’s gods exist (Egyptian, Norse, Greek, Christianity, Irish, etc.) and they all seem to want different things. Atticus, along with his trusty Irish Wolfhound companion, Oberon, has to deal with different challenges and adventures when events are set into motion that prevent him from hiding anymore.

I’m quite proud of that little summary! Now, for the reviews!


First up was The Grimoire of the Lamb, a short story with events that precede those in the first book. I had already read the first book a while ago, but wanted to go back and listen to these short story companions. The Grimoire of the Lamb introduces the Egyptian pantheon which is pretty exciting. Despite having read a lot of the stories in this series back to back, this story still stands out to me. I can still remember details which is a pretty good standard as to how I enjoyed the story. I rated this one 4/5 (I really liked it).

clan rathskellerClan Rathskeller is another short story (0.5 in the series). I actually read it online first a few years ago, but listened to it again when it came with another of the audiobooks. I think I agree with my original assessment of the story.

Taking place 10 months before the events in Hounded, it was enjoyable. Perhaps it was too short to really judge, but I think it was missing some of the earnest/innocence/untainted (really can’t think of the right word) of Hounded. But you always got to love Oberon. I rated this one 3/5 (I liked it).

There’s actually another short story in the series, Kaibab Unbound, but it was not available on Audible and I haven’t managed yet to find it online (though I’m sure if I tried hard enough I could figure out how to purchase/read it.

Hounded is book one, and while I read it a few years ago, I listened to it again to refresh my memory. If you want to hear my thoughts on it, I actually already posted my full review a while ago. I stand by my initial rating of 5/5 (it was amazing).hexed

Next was book two, Hexed. Hexed introduces witches and the powers that they have. I enjoyed the expansion of the world and it made sense. That said, you have to be able to take the world with the humor that it has. It is meant to be fun and light, so when things start getting ridiculous, like the neighbor hording rocket propelled grenades, you just got to roll with it.

The humor is enough to make me smile and it was definitely a nice pick me up to listen after the end of a long day. I think I started getting a little weary of the stories by this point, but the way that it ends makes you forget the moments when you were ready to go to a different book and read the next one straight away.

The narrator is absolutely amazing and I would highly recommend listening to these books! I rated this one 4/5 (I really liked it).


Continuing on with the ‘H’ theme, the third book is Hammered. I think this was my least favorite of those I binged listened. Instead of a solid 4 stars or even a 4.5, I felt like Hammered was a 3.5. I simply couldn’t buy into the whole mission of having to go kill Thor. I didn’t fully understand why Atticus would go through with it, despite his overtures on being from the Iron Age and keeping his word. It just seemed like such a dumb decision for a druid that had stayed alive for so long by being smart. Because I didn’t quite enjoy the mission at the heart of the book, it wasn’t one of my favorites.

And still, and still…I enjoyed it enough. Barum (or however the Russian God of Thunder’s name was spelled) was one of my favorite characters. I liked the rest of the supporting characters and hearing their backstories. That was the best part–hearing their stories through their own voices.

And of course, the ending had that hook that immediately had me wanting to read the next. I rated this one 4/5 (I really liked it) but again I think this was really more of a 3.5.

And so the binge continued…

There’s A Test of Mettle, a short story that technically has events that run concurrent with Hammered. I did some speed reading of it to quickly understand what was going on with Atticus’s apprentice while he was dealing with the craziness of Hammered. It was okay, but I didn’t really want to rate it or write a review because of how I only sped read it.

trickedBy the time I started listening to Tricked, I was getting worried that perhaps the series had lost its momentum after Hammered. But as the change of the title letter would denote, Tricked is the beginning of a new story arch. Taking a break from the Norse pantheon, we are introduced to the Navajo gods, in particular, the specifics of Coyote and these monsters called Skinwalkers.

It was refreshing in that it was dealing with new myths, new characters, and a new setting. I enjoyed learning more about the druid training.

If you don’t have a sense of humor, these books may be a little too nuts for you. But it’s very funny and clever, and there are some very memorable characters in it that make it a great series to read.

Again, if you have the opportunity to listen to these books, I’d recommend it as long as they have the same narrator. He’s amazing! Because of him and the overall enjoyment, I rated it 4/5 (I really liked it).

two ravensFinally, I ended my binge with Two Ravens and One Crow. As a short story that comes after the events in Tricked, Two Ravens and One Crow does a great job at setting up the stage for what I imagine the next few books will be about. The highlight was definitely learning about more of the druid magic and the Morrigan. I did feel that was something was lacking by this point and perhaps the action was getting a little redundant.

And so ended my series binge because 6 books of a series in a row was enough for me. I rated this story 3/5 (I liked it).

I definitely intend on continuing with the series to see where things end up. And continuing listening them…so good!

Have you read any books in this series? What did you think of them? Have you binged on a series like this recently? What series should I binge on next?

pj - michelle

My Seasonal TBR Challenge Choices: June Tasks

Seasonal TBR Challengev2

If you haven’t already seen it, I’ve created a Seasonal TBR Challenge for summer! Basically it’s different fun little tasks to try to identify books that are already on your TBR and read them this summer. Once you read them, you can post about it and the reader with the most points from completing the tasks wins a prize! It’s just a little fun and not necessarily meant to grow that TBR any larger than it already is, but it’s also a good opportunity to see what other books people are going to read that match the tasks.

So what books have I chosen to work towards this summer with the June tasks?

5.1 Summer Heat. The sun is definitely here and that means raising temperatures! Read a book with one of the following words in the title: hot, scorch, heat, warm, sun, blaze, hazy, or any other similar variations.

For this task, I plan on reading:

White Hot Kiss by Jennifer L. Armentrout. This is a book that I know other reading friends have really enjoyed, it’s the first in a season, and I’m curious about it. I have only read one Armentrout book and liked it so I’d like to think perhaps I’d enjoy this one too.

atlantia5.2 Summer Vacation to the Water. I hope you all are able to go on a vacation this summer, but let’s make sure we go on one to the water! Read a book that has a cover with a beach, river, lake, or pond on it or has the word beach, vacation, holiday, or other related words in the title.

For this task, I plan on reading:

Atlantia by Ally Condie.. It may not be exactly a lake or a pond, but it’s got a seashell and clearly some body of water on the cover so I think that counts.

5.3 Warning, Contents are Hot! Read a book with a cover that is predominately made up of hot colors (red, orange, yellow).

For this task, I plan on reading:

Talon by Julie Kagawa. It’s a mostly red cover and has been on my shelf for a few months. And who can say no to a dragon story?

talon10.1 Hurricane Season. June is the beginning of hurricane season, which can definitely dampen vacation plans! Each year, the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center releases the names that will be used for each hurricane. Read a book whose author has a name on the 2015 list.

For this task, I plan on reading: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. The sequel is going around right now and I hate feeling like I already missed the boat so I’d like to read the first in the series.

10.2 Anniversary of D-Day. On June 6, 1944, the invasion of Europe, known as D-Day began. Read a book with a title beginning with the letter ‘d’, or has a plot that centers on an invasion.

For this task, I plan on reading:

The Dyerville Tales by M.P. Kozlowsky is a book I got about the same time as Talon and would love to read it and I think shakes things up a bit in terms of my summer reading list.

10.3 Summer Reading List. School summer reading lists were never all that fun, but the internet is full of different lists recommending different reads for summer. Read a book that is featured on a summer reading list and share the link to the list.

For this task, I plan on reading:

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins has been a book with a lot of buzz and I’m all about reading it. I found it on one of the lists I offered as an example on the original task, the EveryGirl’s list, and their pick for a beach read.

So I think that’s some good books that match up with the tasks. Some are books that I already own and wanted to read anyways, others are books that I’m aware of and may have been moving a little slowly towards.

What are your picks? Have you signed up yet? Definitely sign up at the original post and share the challenge with others!

pj - michelle

Waiting on Wednesday: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

waiting on wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is the popular meme to highlight upcoming releases that we are excited about. It was created and is run at the Breaking the Spine.

go set a watchmanGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Expected publication: July 14th 2015 by Harper

Originally written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman was the novel Harper Lee first submitted to her publishers before To Kill a Mockingbird. Assumed to have been lost, the manuscript was discovered in late 2014.

Go Set a Watchman features many of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird some twenty years later. Returning home to Maycomb to visit her father, Jean Louise Finch—Scout—struggles with issues both personal and political, involving Atticus, society, and the small Alabama town that shaped her.

Exploring how the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird are adjusting to the turbulent events transforming mid-1950s America, Go Set a Watchman casts a fascinating new light on Harper Lee’s enduring classic. Moving, funny and compelling, it stands as a magnificent novel in its own right.

Who is not excited for this book? For a classic that was always assumed to be a standalone, it is certainly an exciting find and release. The controversy regarding this book is confusing and is not fantastic, but I still think I will read this and be excited for it.

Are you looking to figure out what which book to read next from your TBR? Or want a fun way to discover new books? Check out the Seasonal TBR Challenge!

pj - michelle

Release Day Blitz: Never by Younger, a charity anthology


Join me in being excited about some great authors writing Shakespeare retellings for charity! Some of these authors are friends of mine and I know they work very hard on their writing and are quite talented. Check it out!

Written by nine authors, Never Be Younger is a Young Adult collection of Shakespeare retellings. From Othello to Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet to The Winter’s Tale, each story has been crafted with a new spin.

nbyFrom the halls of a high school to hip night clubs to the depths of space, Never Be Younger gives Shakespeare’s classic plays and sonnets a fresh spin for a new audience. Nine authors pay tribute to the Bard by taking his timeless tales to new heights, entrancing readers all over again. A Shakespeare story by any other name still reads as sweet.

All proceeds from the sales of Never Be Younger go to United Through Reading, a charity dedicated to uniting military families through reading.


About the Authors

Rachel Bateman: Editor
Rachel Bateman is a writer and editor who spends too much time rachelthinking she can out bake the Cake Boss. (Spoiler: She can’t.) She lives in the middle of Montana, but dreams of the South. Rachel is the owner of Metamorphosis Books, an author services company offering formatting and interior layout for independent authors. When not writing, editing, or reading books, she can be found playing with her husband, young son, and small zoo of pets. You can find Rachel on Twitter, and her website.


S.M. Johnston: Star Crossed Lovers & A Gargoyle’s Prom Nightmare
sharonS.M. Johnston is a writer of weird fiction and soulful contemporaries from sunny Queensland, Australia. Her family includes a husband, two sons and a number of fur babies of the feline and cavy variety. You can find Sharon on Twitter, and her website.


Jessica L Pierce: A Day of Errors
jessicaJessica is a somewhat crazy – yet loving – blond. She lives in Green Bay, WI, hates the cold, and loves her completely awesome camo coat. She is passionate about football, baseball, photography and writing, and won’t go near cooked peas. (Raw peapods are fine.)

She is a student at the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, and will graduate in December 2015 with a degree in Communication with emphasis in Journalism. She is a sports photographer and her work can be found at: You can also find Jessica on Twitter.

Cortney Pearson: The Undreamed Shores

CORTNEY Cortney Pearson is the author of Phobic and Such a Secret Place, a mother, musician, and a lover of pink and sparkles. You can find Cortney on Twitter, and her website.


E.L. Wicker: Star Crossed Lovers & A Gargoyle’s Prom Nightmare

EmE.L. Wicker lives in Hampshire, England with her husband and two children. Fueled by the bossy voices in her head, she writes New Adult fiction with a side of romance. You can find E.L. on Twitter, and her website.


Nicole Zoltack: Any Way the Wind Blows

Nicole Zoltack loves to write in many genres, especially romance, whether fantasy, paranromal, or regency. When she’s not writing about knights, superheroes or zombies, she loves to spend time with her loving husband and three energetic young boys, with another little one on the way. She enjoyes horse riding (pretending they’re unicorns, of course!) and going to the PA Renaissance Faire, dressed in garb. She’ll also read anything she can get her hands on. Her current favorite TV show is The Walking Dead. You can find Nicole on Twitter, and her website.

Olivia Hinebaugh: Mark The Music

oliviaOlivia Hinebaugh spends her free time writing. Obviously. The rest of her time is spent playing and reading with her two young children. She also loves: watching Sia’s music videos, quoting Mean Girls, and folding laundry. She actually really does. You can find Olivia on Twitter, and her website.



Adrianne James: A Witch’s Life


Growing up Adrianne James couldn’t get her hands on enough books to satisfy her need for the make believe. If she finished a novel and didn’t have a new one ready and waiting for her, she began to create her own tales of magic and wonder. Now, as an adult, books still make up the majority of her free time, and now her tales get written down to be shared with the world.

During the day, Adrianne uses her camera to capture life’s stories for clients of all ages and at night, after her two children are tucked up in bed; she devotes herself to her written work. Adrianne is living the life she always wanted, surrounded by art and beauty, the written word and a loving family.

As a New Adult Paranormal (and sometimes contemporary) author, Adrianne James writes strong women, powerful magic, and love that lasts a lifetime. You can find Adrianne on Twitter, and her website.

Christina June: The Scarf

christinaChristina June writes young adult contemporary fiction when she’s not writing college recommendation letters during her day job as a school counselor. She loves the little moments in life that help someone discover who they’re meant to become – whether it’s her students or her characters. Christina is a voracious reader, loves to travel, eats too many cupcakes, and hopes to one day be bicoastal – the east coast of the US and the east coast of Scotland. She lives just outside Washington DC with her husband and the world’s most rambunctious four-year-old. You can find Christina on Twitter, and her website.