Biltmore Weekend

I’d like to share with you all my recent trip to the Biltmore.

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I’d like to share with you all my recent trip to the Biltmore. But first let me share a little background about the “house” above. The Biltmore Estate is located in Asheville, North Carolina. It is the largest privately owned house in the United States and was built by George Washington Vanderbilt in 1889. It would take another 6 years before the Biltmore would be complete.  There are 250 rooms with amazing views of the mountains and beautiful gardens.  And the saddest part is George was 26 when he set out to have Biltmore built, the same age I am know and this was only a vacation house.

Oh if only my family had money too.

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Being only about two and half hours away from Asheville you would think that perhaps I’ve been here many times before. But sadly I have only been one time before when I was about four maybe five so I don’t remember a whole lot about that trip. Which is mainly why I wanted to go back again so I left early Saturday morning and made my way to the Biltmore. I arrived at about 9am and because I was also staying at the Village Hotel on the Biltmore Estate that night I decided I would spend my day there as I couldn’t check in until 4pm.  And trust me there is plenty to do there besides touring the house.

Now even though I arrived early there were still a lot of people there within the hour. One thing you should know if you plan on visiting is that on the weekends and during their more popular tourist seasons, reservations are required to tour the house. They do this so that they don’t have too large a capacity of people there at once.

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The rooms inside are stunning. But I wouldn’t expect anything less of a large mansion from a wealthy well-known family.  And the Biltmore is a Gilded Age jewel. Of course I might be a little bias because before I decided to get a business degree I was history major. And I’m proud to say I’m a huge history geek but I especially love historical architecture.

My favorite room in the house is Edith Vanderbilt’s room. In fact it was my favorite the first time I visited as a kid and I loved it so much that the post card of the room was the only thing I wanted in the gift shop. I was entranced by the purple and gold through out and when I walked back through it was like I was four again.

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You may be wondering about the clothes in the room. The Biltmore sometimes runs extra exhibits in the house. From now until July 4, 2016 Fashionable Romance: Wedding Gowns in Film will be going on. The house is also decorated as though a wedding is being hosted there.

And like any modern home (note the sarcasm) they have several amenities to bring entertainment.

Such as a personal library:

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Indoor pool:

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Bowling alley:

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And billiard room:

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Just your normal average house especially for 1895. But this is exactly what makes this place so grand. Not to mention the gardens and though I went too soon for the full blossoming of all the flowers and trees on the estate I still managed to see a few things but I would advise that if you would like to see the garden in all its glory then go some time closer to the middle of April.

Now I stayed at the Village Hotel which just opened last December and what I loved most about it is that it sits right next to the Antler Village and Biltmore Winery.  Antler Village was great. There are a few shops and restaurants which was great for me because I didn’t have to venture into town for dinner that night as I had literally walked about 7 miles that day around the estate and was exhausted.

But I did manage to treat myself to a few things:

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The tea is Passion fruit Peach black tea (exclusive to the Biltmore) and the ceramic mug comes from Tea Forte. The book in the back is a cook book with recipes used in the Biltmore house.  I can’t wait to try a few recipes from it!

I did also bring a book along with me, The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson however I didn’t manage to read a lot because I found myself too busy exploring

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This was a really great getaway and I hope to get back soon. I believe that the Biltmore Estate is a place that should be on anyone’s bucket list for destinations in the US. It’s a prime example of the Gilded Age and a page right out of a history book. So I’d like to offer a few suggests if visiting:

  • If planning during a weekend or during the peak season plan to buy your tickets ahead of time. If you buy early on the Biltmore site the tickets will be $10 less than if you buy them at the estate.
  • Try to reserve a time early in the morning or come to the estate early. Even though I got there around nine that morning my reserved time wasn’t until 10:30 and it was already pretty crowded by then.
  • Make sure to bring water with you as the prices like most tourist places are higher than normal. You’ll especially want water when touring the gardens or walking the trail. As a side note: no food is or drink is allowed in the house except water.
  • The tour of the house took me about 90 minutes and I did the audio tour. I highly suggest this because unless your planning on paying for a guided tour not much extra information is offered about the history of the house. And the audio tour is cheaper.
  • Be patient. A lot of people will be there and you can’t really breeze through or go at the pace you want. It’s pretty much one long line of people going from room to room.
  • There are multiple gift shops all over the estate so don’t worry if you can find that one souvenir you want. Don’t worry you can probably find it in another location.
  • Take the time to tour the winery and visit the Antler Village. The winery tour is free and Antler Village has live music and a large grassy area for kids to run around on. Plus the Creamery has the best milk shakes.
  • Enjoy your time and don’t forget to visit the town of Asheville too.  The only regret I have is that I couldn’t spend a lot of time in the town as it was Sunday when I left and either things didn’t open until noon or they were closed.

I hope you enjoyed the post and that this encouraged you to check the Biltmore out someday.

Happy Reading,

Meghan

Bonus Pictures:

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Shades of Doon Review: Book 3 in the Doon Series

**Warning: There may be spoilers for the the other two books in the series.**

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Title: 

Shades of Doon

Author(s):

Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon

 Genre:

Young Adult/Fantasy/Romance

Publish Date:

September 1, 2015

 Dates Read:

March 7 to 10, 2016

Rating:

5/5 Stars

Synopsis:

After cheating death, Veronica Welling is determined to savor every moment in her idyllic kingdom with both her true love and best friend by her side at last. At the same time, Mackenna Reid is enthusiastically building her new life and a theater with her prince. But just as their dreams of happiness are within reach, the world Vee and Kenna have chosen is ripped away, leaving them to face their most horrific challenge yet—their old lives.

Thrust out of Doon, the best friends are confronted with tormentors from their past and no way to return to their adopted land. When the MacCrae brothers rush to their rescue, the girls’ situation turns from nightmare to modern-day fairy tale. But their happiness could be short lived: unbeknownst to them, someone in their closest circle is aiding the witch of Doon in her bid to destroy the kingdom once and for all. (Goodreads)

 

Review:

Shades of Doon picks up where the second book in the series left off. At the end of Destined for Doon, Vee has basically blacked out, leaving the reader wondering exactly what happened to her. And I have to say that ending, I’ve never been more happy to stumble across the first 3 books after they were published because I know I couldn’t wait to know what happens next. Of course the authors of Doon didn’t kill off one of the main characters when the series hasn’t finished yet, but for a moment before reading Shades of Doon you worry. Its safe to say Vee makes it through but finds a very over protective Jamie in the end. As for Mackenna and Duncan they finally make head way and acknowledge the calling they’ve apparently have been having since they were children. So when the start of book 3 begins all is well in the land of Doon, or so it seems. But if you’ve read the first two books you know nothings every happy for long there.

I’ll leave that small part of the summary of the book there for now and go into my review of Shades of Doon. I will say that out of the 3 books so far Shades of Doon is my favorite. I feel like after reading through the first 2 as the reader I’ve learned about the main characters pretty well by now so there doesn’t have to be so much character back story. But don’t get me wrong I know understanding who they are is important but sometimes books can spend a lot of time explaining and not enough time on the actually story line. So I’m really glad that this is a series because I love exploring Doon a little bit more in every book. We get to see more areas of it and learn some Scottish traditions along the way. (Yay Scotland!)

I also loved that the books chapters are even between Mackenna and Veronica because unlike books 1 and 2 where Doon was more from Vee’s perspective and Destined for Doon was more from Kenna’s, Shades of Doon alternates between them. I like it mostly because you can see this story unfold and know how it affects them both without the domination of characters telling of the story. Because I know personally when I read Doon and Destined for Doon I wanted a little more from the other girl’s perspective. And pretty much the other reviews I’ve read or watched have stated the same thing so Shades of Doon really comes through.

And of course much like the first two books, Shades of Doon moves quickly. Nothing ever stays in one place too long which can get you to the end of the book before you even realize your there. I was really grateful for the pace of the book because I could read through my least favorite part quickly. Yes I know I gave a 5 out of 5 stars but you can’t love absolutely everything about everything.

So here’s it goes.

I didn’t care for the Vee and Kenna being sent back to their old lives part. Sure the story line only last there for maybe 3 chapters but I still didn’t like it. Nor did I really care for the fact of seeing Duncan and Jamie experience a brief moment in their girlfriends world. As quickly as Vee and Mackenna showed up in Indiana I was absolutely prepared for them to leave. I guess stubbornly I wanted to stay in Doon even though clearly after reading the back cover I knew that would happen. But a girl can dream.

Other than that, Shades of Doon didn’t falter in keeping my attention. Which for some books can be difficult (I’m looking at you Graceling) but Shades of Doon left me wanting more. And sadly I’ll be waiting a while for the 4th book because Forever Doon doesn’t come out until August of this year. And with the way book 3 ended, I need August to be here like yesterday.

Would I recommend? Yes, I think by my other reviews of the series this is no surprise. I think everyone should read this!

So this review wasn’t as long as the others but after reviewing the other two books I didn’t want to sound to repetitive or give too much away. I hope you enjoy the review though. And I’ll be posting again soon because I just got back from the Biltmore and I have a lot of pictures to share.

Happy Reading,

Meghan

 

Quick Update

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I’ve added a contact me page to my blog. It has all my social media links. So go on over and check it out! And check it out periodically as I’ll be updating if/when things might change. I’m also thinking about doing a Youtube Channel on my book reviews. Let me know if you like that idea.

Happy Reading,

Meghan

Destined for Doon Book Review: Book 2 in the Doon Series

**Fair Warning: this review has some spoilers to the series because it is the second book so if you want to read the Doon Series but haven’t read book one you may not want to keep reading.**

Destined for Doon (Doon, #2)

Title: 

Destined for Doon

Author(s): 

Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon

 Genre:  

Young Adult, Fantasy

Publish Date: 

September 2nd, 2014

 Dates Read: 

March 7th to 8th, 2016

Rating: 

4.6/5 Stars

Synopsis: 

In this sequel to Doon, Kenna Reid realizes she made a horrible mistake-choosing to follow her dreams of Broadway instead of staying in the enchanted land of Doon. Worse, she’s received proof she and Duncan are meant to be, along with torturous visions of the prince she left behind. So when Duncan shows up and informs Kenna that Doon needs her, she doesn’t need to think twice. But even if Kenna can save the enchanted kingdom, her happily ever after may still be in peril. (Summary from Goodreads)

Review:

 So book two takes place about 10 months after book one and focuses more on Mackenna where as in Doon Veronica’s story took center stage. I personally really like Mackenna’s character. Not only because I’m a fellow redhead but I was also quite the theater geek back in my high school days. So Kenna is a very relatable character as I can see my 18 year old self in her. Although as a side note, I never became a rising young star as Mackenna does during her time away from Doon in Chicago. Nor did I have a handsome Scottish Prince named Duncan who is in love with me. *Sigh*.

Much like in book one, Destined for Doon is quick paced. In fact when I read the back cover originally I thought there would be a little more time spent with Duncan trying to get Mackenna to come back to Doon. But literally maybe two chapters focus on that as Kenna agrees willingly to return once Duncan simply states Veronica needs her, who at this point in the series is now Queen of Doon. Like she didn’t hesitate at all, and made me scratch my head because why’d she stay back in the first place. But anyway, Duncan and Mackenna are back in Doon fairly fast and the rest of the story remains there. I really liked that because I felt as the reader I was able to visualize Doon a little more and see some of what life would be like to live there.

Of course the book, much like the first, does have both Mackenna and Veronica’s narrating of the story. But where as Doon had more narration by Veronica, Destined for Doon has more chapters narrated by Mackenna. And with all that said you do still get to see the struggle of Veronica now being Queen of Doon and how that affects her, Jamie, and the towns people.  Not to mention Veronica’s struggle with how to battle the zombie fungus (as Mackenna named it) that invades Doon. And what I love most about the dual narration is that you can see Vee and Kenna’s friendship from both characters, so when Veronica struggles to rule a kingdom or Mackenna can’t see her role in saving Doon the reader not only sees it through the eyes of the character going through but also through the eyes of someone who cares about that character.

Speaking of the friendship, that is what I absolutely love most about this series. Yes there’s romance. Yes there’s adventure. And yes there’s even some mystery. But mostly Doon is a friendship story which is highlighted again and again throughout the books about how these girls are really on each others side. They aren’t catty with one another, they aren’t competing with each other, or putting the other one down. And I think its great what Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon have been able to do with Doon. They didn’t just create one strong female character, they created two who together create even better versions of themselves.  This is really highlighted toward the end, which I won’t spoil, but simply state the message that given in these last few chapters is a great message.

Now on to a few things that bother me or confuse me. So now that two modern American girls and a few new destined are now living in Doon some new changes have happened. And while they aren’t massive changes because Doon still holds it’s medieval charm, I struggled a bit with some of the modern elements that get introduced. For example, Veronica has brought modern clothes to women of Doon such as Maxi dresses, leggings, and yoga pants. And while Mackenna also brings her own things with her when she and Duncan cross back into Doon, I can’t wrap my mind around how easy it was for them to just suddenly be able to wear these clothes. Because in the first book Vee and Kenna are subject to the 1600s wear of the everyday Doonian, but in the second book they have things like spandex running pants. And truly I think the only reason I can’t wrap my mind around it is because education wise I’m getting my business degree with an economic concentration, so automatically my mind wants to understand how they got the materials to make the product or why aren’t the people of Doon shocked with the clothes. Of course of all this is minuscule and in no way detracted me from the story just had moments where I’d roll my eyes when the word maxi came onto the page.

But overall another great book in the Doon series, which ended in a cliff hanger but fortunately for myself I already had book 3, Shades of Doon, purchased and literally began reading the moment I finished Destined for Doon. Because to be completely honest I don’t know if I would have been able to read these books when they would first come out because it would drive me crazy that I couldn’t read the next one.

Would I recommend? Yes, it’s a quick read that had me entertained from beginning to end.

I hope you found this review helpful, and with any new blog I’m learning on the best way to format how I write. I figured with my first review of Doon I didn’t like how I laid it out so I created a template. Let me know if you like that better in the comments below. And I’m sure I’ll tweak it over time as I learn what information I want to give as well as what information you all would like to know.

The review for Shades of Doon should be up soon possible later today, so be on the lookout for it.

Happy Reading,

Meghan

 

Doon Book Review: Book 1 in the Doon Series

 

So within the first week of March I managed to marathon read books 1 to 3 of the Doon Series. If you don’t know what I’m referring to as marathon reading then let me explain, I pretty much started reading book 1 on a Monday and finished book 3 by Thursday. And I’m not a fast reader by any means but this series kept me highly entertained.

Let me break down what Doon is about. There are 4 books but only 3 are published currently with the 4th arriving in fall of this year (or basically not soon enough). The first book is called Doon, the second is Destined for Doon and the third is Shades of Doon. These stories follow two Midwestern best friends, Veronica and Mackenna, who after vacationing in Scotland manage to transport themselves into another realm across the Brig o’Doon in Alloway (which is the picture I inserted above). Where naturally upon arriving meet two very handsome  brothers who are also princes, Jamie and Duncan. But rather than go into more detail here I’m going to review each individual one. So let’s start with the first book Doon:

Doon (Doon, #1)

4.5/5 Stars

I first heard of this book through a daily email I get from a web site called Bookbub (not sponsored unfortunately) which finds deals on ebooks that might interest the user and sends them directly to your inbox. When I read the summary it peaked my interest but I didn’t have high hopes because I had started another book from the YA Fantasy genre that I just couldn’t read (more on that later). However I was pleasantly surprised and can say that before I even finished this book I went ahead and bought books 2 and 3, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

As I had written above the first book Doon begins with Veronica (Vee) seeing vivid day dreams of a blonde, kilt wearing boy in her school parking lot in Bainbridge, Indiana. Who then seems to follow her to Alloway, Scotland with her and her best friend Mackenna (Kenna or Ken) when they go there to spend the summer. Which can I say that I’m absolutely jealous that at 18 these two girls get to spend an entire summer in Scotland…Anyways the visions of this boy is so real to Veronica that she is can’t imagine he can’t be real so she is determined to figure out who he is, which leads to the discovery of the Doon.

The best way to describe the land of Doon without describing too much (because trust me you’ll want to read it) is it is a land that seems like it is in the past but isn’t really because it is only accessible by the modern world once every centennial  by the portal in the bridge it is more or less frozen in time while the rest of the world ages.  And I only explain it this way because this isn’t a time traveling novel like “Outlander” as Vee and Kenna don’t travel back in time so much as they enter a land that isn’t being affected by the outside worlds modern advances. And I’m only really cryptic about the concept of the land of Doon because it’s a large part of the plot in the first book.

Overall I rated this a 4.5 out of 5 stars because it did entertain me and I felt immersed into the world of Doon. Which is what I look for in a book because I want to visually be able to see the world that book is representing. And I also really enjoyed how it was written as it is told by both Veronica and Mackenna’s points of views, which the girls names appear at the beginning of each chapter so you know who point of view it is. This was also the first fiction book I’ve read that has co-authors. The series is written by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon, so I’m not entirely sure if one writes for one girl and the other writes for the other girl but surprisingly it worked out well for the book. And another thing I liked is that they write the accents out, meaning when I read the dialogue of Jamie, Duncan, or the other people of Doon I can hear their accents in my head. Because even though I know they’re Scottish sometimes I can have a tendency to read them as American’s because as an American that is the accent I have. So having it written that way really helped me as the reader.

Of course at times the writing can also be a little off for me. For example there is no cussing in the series (which I have no problem with what so ever) so Mackenna especially ends up replacing those words with playwright’s names. Which could throw me off when I would read. But that’s a small thing so it doesn’t get into the way of the story.  And while this book if you’ve ventured into my favorites page (shameless plug) is on the list I didn’t give it a full 5 stars because it isn’t the GREATEST book I’ve ever read. In fact I don’t know if there is the greatest book I’ve ever read but Doon is high on my list none the less. And as for the rest of the series I will review Destined for Doon and Shades of Doon because this post is getting quite long and I feel like I’ll be rambling by review of book 3. Much like I’m doing right now.

So I hoped you enjoyed the review. Again I didn’t write too much about the plot because I don’t want to give anything away if someone reading this might want to read the book. But look out for the other two reviews this weekend and hopefully I should have a twitter account just for this blog up by tomorrow too.

Happy reading,

Meghan

 

 

 

 

Hello!

Welcome to my blog and my first blog post!

My name is Meghan and if you want to learn a little more about me or my blog you can click on the About Me page.  As for now I’ll just quickly state that I’m glad you’ve chosen to visit here today and give a little preview of what I hope (but could change as it goes along) my blog will be.

If you haven’t figured out by the title my blog is about my love of books. What I would like to do is share some book reviews and recommendations as well as anything else I think might be great to share too. Also any suggestions of your own are highly encouraged. I will also be setting up a tumblr and twitter to interact with you all outside of the blog. I’ll give an update whenever I have those ready.

I’ll check back in with you guys later!

Happy reading,

Meghan