The Whimsical Mama

<3 Such is the life of a stay at home mommy and Army wife (:

Adult Fiction Beach Reading Recommendations July 7, 2016

Jamie’s post about beach reads really made me think about some reads I’ve loved while I read at the beach, or during a long car ride. Hubs and I really enjoy listening to audiobooks instead of trying to surf radio channels. I’ve already featured non-contemporary young adult reads, non-fiction adult reads, and contemporary young adult reads. Now for the adult fiction reads we’ve enjoyed!


  1. World War Z by Max Brooks. Hubs and I listened to the audiobook of this. It was FANTASTIC. Multi-person performance. MUCH better than the movie too.


2. Angels & Demons by Dan Brown. I read this while I was traveling in Italy & Greece in 2007. It was so neat to travel almost identically along to places Robert Langdon explored in Italy!


3. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. I read this in France in 2006. It was an experience exploring Paris and reading this at the same time!


4. The White Queen by Philippa Gregory. Anything by Philippa Gregory is a great read! (excluding The Red Queen, but that’s a different story lol).


5. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. So much better than the movie!


6. In Defense of the Queen by Michelle Diener. Technically the third book in the series, Michelle Diener wrote these books to be read as standalones. Minimal advantage comes from reading the previous books. Review here.


7. The Host by Stephenie Meyer. I didn’t finish the first time I attempted to read, I read it between Eclipse and Breaking Dawn. I think I was expecting too much of Twilight influence and it was anything but. My second attempt was actually at the beach and I flew through it. I enjoyed it much better than the Twilight series.


8. Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins. I’m not big on Christian lit, but I have loved the Left Behind series for years. I still really need to finish it! haha.


9. Lamb The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore. A hysterical historical fiction. I should actually do a re-read soon.

I don’t really read much adult fiction! Haha. There’s also a whole slew of Star Wars novels that I love too.





Top Ten Tuesday #94: Top Ten Books I Enjoyed That Have Under 2000 Ratings On Goodreads July 5, 2016


Each week, the girls over at The Broke and the Bookish think up a fun theme for the week and participating bloggers around the net join in. The theme for this week is:

Top Ten Top Ten Books I Enjoyed That Have Under 2000 Ratings On Goodreads

This isn’t a pure list as I skipped books from the same series.


  1. The Prophecy by Erin Rhew (all the books in this trilogy are under a dollar on Amazon!) My reviews for The Prophecy, The Outlanders, and The Fulfillment.


2. Waterfell by Amalie Howard (This duology is a great quick beachy read!) My reviews for Waterfell and Oceanborn.


3. Napoleon & Josephine The Sword and The Hummingbird by Gerald & Loretta Hausman. I read this back in high school and fell in love with it!


4. Burning Kingdoms by Lauren DeStefano. The other series I started with book one, but it has over 2k views. Books two and three don’t. This series is fantastic!


5. Rite of Conquest by Judith Tarr. I stumbled across this at our used bookstore in high school. I absolutely loved it! I should do a reread soon!


6. In Defense of the Queen by Michelle Diener. While this is the third book, it can easily be read as a standalone. My review of In Defense of the Queen.


7. The Hidden Prince by Jodi Meadows. Plus the other Black Knife novellas! I would suggest reading The Orphan Queen first though. SPOILERS and all that. (;


8. Artemis Fowl The Arctic Incident: The Graphic Novel by Eoin Colfer. My love for Artemis Fowl goes deep and I finally read the graphic novels last summer.


9. Wolf Pact by Melissa de la Cruz. Companion to the Blue Bloods series. My review for Blue Bloods


10. A Tale of Two Centuries by Rachel Harris. I adore Rachel and her books. The My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century series is so cute and a quick read. My reviews for My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century, A Tale of Two Centuries, and My Not So Super Sweet Life.


What are some of your under 2k rating reads?


Top Ten Tuesday #49: Authors I’ve Only Read One Book by and Want to Read More September 16, 2014


Each week, the girls over at The Broke and the Bookish think up a fun theme for the week and participating bloggers around the net join in. The theme for this week is:

Top Ten Authors I’ve Only Read One Book By

1. CJ Redwine (Defiance)

2. Aimee Carter (Pawn)

3. Rainbow Rowell (Fangirl)

4. & 5. Aime Kaufman & Megan Spooner (These Broken Stars)

6. OR Melling (The Summer King)

7. Sophie Jordan (Uninvited)

8. Joy Hensley (Rites of Passage)

9. Michelle Diener (In Defense of the Queen)

10. Victoria Scott (Fire & Flood)


Hello October, Goodbye September! September 30, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Maura @ 10:00 pm
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Wow. September is already over. I can’t believe it. September was definitely action packed. One of our friends came in for Labour Day while his fiancee had her bachelorette party. A few weekends later it was time for their wedding and a family getaway weekend in Murfreesboro. The wedding was BEAUTIFUL and I’m so happy we got to be a part of their day. The kiddos had fun at the MTSU game. We had a great time catching up with friends, too! We had a week at the beach with my dad and I got so much accomplished. I finished four books and wrote three reviews which are coming soon! I’m really looking forward to October though. My birthday and Hallowe’en. Two of my favourite days of the YEAR! (:

Books I read in September (in order of completion)
The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory

The White Princess by Philippa Gregory

In Defense of the Queen by Michelle Diener

Everbound  by Brodi Ashton.

World War Z by Max Brooks (audiobook)

The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

Seven Day Fiance by Rachel Harris

Hourglass by Myra McEntire

Timepiece by Myra McEntire

Oh. Wow. These books. I loved all of them. I really enjoyed the audiobook of World War Z. I wasn’t so crazy about the movie. Well, as a page to screen adaptation I didn’t care for it. It was a pretty cool movie. The Madman’s Daughter was spectacular. I can’t recommend it enough! Keep an eye out for a review for Seven Day Fiance. It’s full of hotness! The Hourglass series is spectacular. I can’t wait to finish Infinityglass! I’m also looking forward to discovering some pretty incredible reads in October.

The kids and I read about 20 books this month. We were kinda bad about reading at the beach. We did read some good ones this month! Looking forward to some great trips to the library this month. They were remodeling when I was there before we left for the beach! Can’t wait to see how it looks now!

Coming up in October

  • My birthday!
  • MTSU’s blackout game! (We’re hoping we can go)
  • Hallowe’en. OMG SO excited for Hallowe’en!
  • Publishing/Writing event in Asheville I’m hoping to attend

In Defense of the Queen by Michelle Diener September 23, 2013

Filed under: Book Review,Books,Interview — Maura @ 12:00 am
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affiliate links used

I was granted a digital review copy of In Defense of the Queen by the publisher (Season Publishing) in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4 stars
Pub date: 1 Aug 2013
Publisher: Season Publishing
Genre: Historical Fiction, Adult, Mystery, Thriller
Format: e-ARC
In Defense of the Queen (Susanna Horenbout & John Parker) (Volume 3)

*Disclaimer* From the author of In a Treacherous Court and Keeper of the King’s Secrets comes In Defense of the Queen, the third book in the Susanna Horenbout & John Parker series of Tudor-set historical suspense. However, you don’t need to have read the first two novels to enjoy In Defense of the Queen. As of the reading this book and publishing of this post, I have not read the first two books.

An artist never betrays her patron . . . especially one of the world’s most powerful kings.

Susanna Horenbout has learned this lesson from the cradle. But when she receives a letter from her father telling her to do just that, she faces a dilemma. Betray Henry VIII, or carry out the request of her father’s employer, Margaret of Austria, and pass secret information to Henry’s queen, Katherine of Aragon.

Caught between the machinations of her husband and her nephew, the Emperor Charles, Queen Katherine needs all the allies she can get. But what can Susanna really do to help her, and even if she does, will it be enough?

Susanna and her betrothed, Parker——one of Henry’s most trusted courtiers——balance on the knife’s edge of treason as they try to make sense of both international and domestic conspiracies. Sometimes, it’s better the enemy you know . . .

About the author:
Michelle Diener writes historical fiction. Her Susanna Horenbout & John Parker series, set in the court of Henry VIII, includes In a Treacherous Court and Keeper of the King’s Secrets, with In Defense of the Queen set for an August 1st, 2013 release.

Michelle’s other historical novels include Daughter of the Sky, The Emperor’s Conspiracy and Banquet of Lies (loosely connected to The Emperor’s Conspiracy), which will release on October 22nd, 2013.

Michelle also contributed a short paranormal story to the ENTANGLED Anthology entitled BREAKING OUT. All the proceeds of the sale of ENTANGLED go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Michelle was born in London, grew up in South Africa and currently lives in Australia with her husband and two children.

When she’s not writing, or driving her kids from activity to activity, you can find her blogging at Magical Musings, or online at Twitter and Facebook.


Ms. Diener was nice enough to grant me an interview (via email) to go along with my review! (:

Concerning In Defense of the Queen:
Why did you decide on Henry VIII’s court?
Henry’s court came with Susanna Horenbout, so I had no choice, there :). I was doing some historical research into interesting women the history books often don’t mention, and stumbled upon Susanna Horenbout. My imagination was immediately fired up with ideas at the thought of an accomplished woman painter at Henry VIII’s court, and I just had to write a book about her. My first novel with her as the protagonist was In a Treacherous Court, and I just found I wasn’t done, yet. She, and her betrothed, John Parker, had a lot more story to tell, hence Keeper of the King’s Secret and In Defense of the Queen. I’ve since been in correspondence with a number of Susanna’s descendants, which has been great fun, too. They love my portrayal of their great x 10 grandmother!

What was the most difficult scene to write?

I always find action scenes quite hard to write, and spend a great deal of time on them. Parker’s race to get to the Tower of London before Cardinal Wolsey was incredibly difficult, juggling a lot of action with a great deal of emotion.

How much further will we see the Tudor court go? Will we get to see Susanna and Parker wed?

There is definitely at least one more book to be written, and Susanna and Parker deserve to finally get married, I think. 🙂

In Defense of the Queen is part of a series, but set up to read alone. What made you decide to set up the series this way?

I just think it’s respectful of new readers to make each book stand on its own as much as possible. That way, they can still go back and enjoy the other books in the series, but it doesn’t diminish the enjoyment of reading the later one they picked up.

What’s next after In Defense of the Queen? Do you have anything in the works?

My next release will be Banquet of Lies, which is coming out on October 22nd through Simon & Schuster’s Gallery Books, so quite soon! It is connected to my November 2012 release, The Emperor’s Conspiracy, with some of the characters in The Emperor’s Conspiracy making an appearance in Banquet of Lies – although again, the books stand on their own. They are set during the Napoleonic Wars in London.

*** Right after I received Ms. Diener’s interview answers, I received an email from NetGalley that I was approved for Banquet of Lies! Keep an eye out for THAT review, too!***

Would you like to see In Defense of the Queen be obtained to make it to the big screen?

Oh, definitely! I don’t think there is enough historical action-thrillers out there on the movie scene, and I would LOVE to see these characters on the big screen. 🙂

Concerning your writing process and career:

What is your writing process?

I write a short outline before I start a book, and often write short paragraphs before I tackle each scene, so I know where I’m going, but I still have a lot of leeway.

What is your favourite writing environment?

My own home. It’s quiet, which I like when I’m working, and I have a good coffee machine :).

How do you get your plot ideas?

I love history, and there is so much material for stories in history, I simply can never run out of inspiration.

Do you get any say in your cover designs?

I am really lucky, in that my publisher, Simon & Schuster, always ask for my input before they hold the cover conference for my books. I’ve loved all the covers they’ve come up with for me. For my two self-published novels, I obviously had the full say in the look of the cover, and I love those, too.

What do you do to combat writer’s block?

The best way for me is to shake things up. Write with pen and paper, change the place where I write. Or reread really good books I love, to get reinspired.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I’m one of those annoying people who always wanted to be a writer, ever since I was very young.

Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?

There has never been a better time to be a writer than the present. Opportunities are opening up that where never there before, and as long as you are committed to working hard at your craft, and not cutting any corners, the world is your oyster!

Getting to know you outside of your books:

Do you prefer hardback, paperback, audiobook, or e-book?

I prefer paperback and e-book. I buy a mix of these. I would probably buy more e-books, but I live in Australia, and often the books I want aren’t available due to international rights restrictions. So I have to buy the print copies. I find my mind drifts too much with audiobooks, although when we are in the car on a long trip, my whole family loves listening to them. It makes the journey seem much shorter.

What book is currently on your nightstand?

The Outcast Prince by Shona Husk.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?

I love baking and cooking. Which worked out well for me in Banquet of Lies, my upcoming release, as there is a lot of cooking in that book.

(If they’re old enough)Do your kids enjoy reading your books?

My daughter would love to read my books, but she is still too young. My son is even younger than my daughter and hasn’t even considered the possibility of reading my books yet.

Thank you for having me, Maura!

Thanks for letting me interview you! (: Can’t wait to read past and future books!

When I started this, it was skipping over Pretty Dark Nothing. I hit a wall while reading it and decided to go on to my next eARC. I’m glad I did. I was not very far into the story, and the action was already gripping. Susanna’s brother shows up and there’s an assassin on the loose. So fascinating!

The more I read of this the better it got. The pace kept going faster and faster and the intrigue kept getting deeper. I have a particular fondness for the Tudor era of England. This takes place right in the early years of Henry VIII’s reign. He is still married to Katherine of Aragon, his first wife. The main premise is the different spy ranks for various world powers are either trying to get a message to the Queen or keeping her from finding out. What is this mysterious message? Currently, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, is betrothed to the little Princess Mary, daughter of Katherine and Henry. As she is such a young child and years away from marriage, Charles is contemplating breaking the betrothal in order to marry a wealthier, older bride. Margaret of Austria is trying to inform Katherine of this so she has time to persuade Charles to keep from breaking the betrothal. If the betrothal is broken, the already strained marriage of the king and queen may falter even more.

Susanna’s brother carries a message he needs Susanna to get to the queen. She reads it and is then forced with the decision on what to do. Should she betray her employer, King Henry, and warn his queen, or does she do nothing? She shows it to Parker, but before they can fully weigh their options, an assassin attempts to kill them. Parker is convinced it is Jean, another spy, and jumps out the window to pursue him. Very quickly, things escalate, fall apart, and Susanna finds herself accused of treason and locked in the Tower.

While she is playing a game of survival in the Tower, Parker is playing a similar game trying to prove to the king that Wolsey has falsified evidence against Susanna because the information he received had been faked. As a court painter and despite being imprisoned in the Tower, Henry has commissioned her to paint his bastard son, Henry Fitzroy. Wolsey’s hand is forced by the king, and he decides he must get Susanna to the dungeons of the Tower. Parker is chasing Wolsey, and Susanna with Parker’s aids, try to escape the Tower. During this, the mysterious French spy/assassin Jean makes his play. He takes Susanna prisoner. His plan is to force her to to reveal the hiding place of a French jewel and to convince her to run away with him. He also reveals an assassination plot to take out Henry Fitzroy. She refuses to accompany him and manages to escape into Parker’s arms while Jean goes to look for the jewel. Susanna quickly tells Parker of the plot and they race off to save the young bastard prince.

They arrive just in time to save Fitzroy, and race off to safety. They split into groups to confuse the attackers. Once Susanna and Fitzroy reach the Tower, they are refused entry. Finally, they reach the safety of the king. Henry is overjoyed with the rescue of his only male child. He quickly forgives Susanna of their past difficulties. He also says he will never speak against her upcoming marriage to Parker again.

****My thoughts****

When I saw this title on NetGalley, I was immediately drawn to it. I love all things Tudor. I also liked that this was in a series, yet could be read as a standalone. There were a few things I was a bit foggy on understanding, a few minor things that would be crystal clear had I read the previous books. I enjoyed it and definitely plan on reading the other books in this series and I’m HOPING for a wedding and another book! (: I believe I have found another historical fiction author I will enjoy for years to come. I’m also very excited that I’ve been approved for another eARC of Ms. Diener’s. I fell in love with the fierce devotion and loyalty of Parker and Susanna. I’m very excited to go back to the first two books of this series and see where their relationship started!

Recommended for: History and Tudors lovers. Those who love a fast paced mystery.

Not recommended for: Those who dislike historical fiction.


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