Wednesday, July 30, 2014


This month, my book club chose to read our university's common reading book selection.  This is a novel or non-fiction work that all incoming freshman read and discuss prior to the start of classes.  It's usually a selection that makes them think outside of their day-to-day boxes, so to speak. 

This year's selection was Marjane Satrapi's graphic work, Persepolis.  I was a bit hesitant about reading a graphic novel but, from the first page, I was hooked.  It took me a total of four days to read it.

Here's my Goodreads post:

My book group chose to read this, after it was selected as the common reading for our university this year. I had no idea what to make of it - since it's a graphic novel - and I was blown away.

When I started reading this, I didn't want to put it down. "What's going to happen next?!," was all I could think about.

I loved Marji and her story is one that every young person in America should read. We have so many distorted views of Iraq, Islam, and the history of the Middle East. This sheds some light on all of these subjects, from the point of view of a young girl. Highly recommended!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Week Two: Jari Love Challenge

After eating horribly last weekend, I'm super motivated to burn off some serious calories.  Ha! 

I'm trying to amp it up a bit this week, throwing in a new workout by Michelle Dozois from FitnessGlo.  Looking ahead to next week and Las Vegas….I need all the cardio I can get this week!  

Monday: Jari Love's Slim and Lean

For this workout, I only use a few segments: the warm-up, squats, lunges, and abs.  In between each of those, I do 7 minutes of my own cardio drills.  I have a list of these drills and alternate through them.  It gives my legs a break and gets in some good cardio between strength segments.  I used my light weights for the squats and lunges. 

Tuesday: Shape's Bikini Body Transforming

I wanted some good cardio this morning so I did the first section of this workout - cardio intervals led by Michelle Dozois.  It's 30-minutes of "hills" in which each one gets harder and harder - a lot like the Peak workouts but not nearly as intense.  I followed that up with 15 minutes of Lisa Wheeler's section - strength with dumbells. 

Wednesday: Michelle Dozois' Total Body Cardio Strength on FitnessGlo

Since I do my workouts at 5:30am, I was a bit worried this one would be too intense for such a time.  But it was perfect!  It's not as intense as a Peak workout but it's challenging, fun, and enjoyable.  And the length was perfect - 45 minutes.  I added 5 more minutes of cardio and stretching to make it 50 minutes.  I will definitely do this one again and again - in the morning!

Thursday:  Crunch's Super Slim Down: Yoga Pilates Blend by Ellen Barrett

This video always surprises me by using different muscles and muscles in different ways.  My triceps were killing me afterward - and I do tricep work quite often.  I love the yoga fusion at the beginning of this video - so lovely!  But it still made me sweat; not bad for my "light" workout of the week.

Friday: Jari Love's Get Extremely Ripped! - Workout #1 - and Dozois' Hip and Thigh Toner on FitnessGlo

My arms were aching after my "light" workout yesterday, which made all the weights in Jari Love's video painful - much more than usual.  Ack!  But it was a good workout - with no real cardio, I was still dripping sweat.  I finished off with Michelle Dozois' 10-minute Hip and Thigh Toner.  Lots of plies; my legs were shaking something awful!  A good morning combo!

Saturday:  Cathe's Cardio Core Circuit and Glo's Ultimate Dance Extravaganza

I was awoken last night with some serious stomach problems.  Therefore, I worked out much later in the day than I planned, trying to get enough fluids and energy.  I got through Cathe's Cardio Core Circuit and was reminded, once again, how much I hate that workout.  I just loathe it and it's always a struggle to get through.  Why do I do it then?  Because it's so very different from any other workout I do.  I figure it's good for my body, to shake things up.  Ugh.  To reward myself after those torturous 45 minutes, I did 25 minutes of Ilyse Baker's cardio dance on FitnessGlo.  It was so much more fun than I expected!  My sweat from Cathe's workout just kept on pouring off me.  LOL!  

Sunday:  Michelle Dozois' Cardio Interval Burn on FitnessGlo

I'd heard good things about this CIB and they proved to be true - this was a lot of fun but extremely challenging.  The ascents - the "lighter" cardio segments - seemed to be much more intense than usual.  But it was a good to have a new workout by Michelle and good to back into a Peak workout.  I just love them!  

Calorie Counts:
Monday - 2652 - sigh
Tuesday - 1372
Wednesday - 1388
Thursday - 1390
Friday - bad!
Saturday - 1402
Sunday - 1580

Even though I splurged a bit this week, I was proud of myself for being mostly good on the weekend.  Granted, eating 200 extra calories on Sunday isn't great...but it's not bad.  And I still think that the body responds well to being "shocked" with new and different foods and routines.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Salsa Verde Chicken Enchiladas (2014:26)

I love Mexican food.  When you live in Texas, how can you not

When I saw this recipe for Salsa Verde Enchiladas, my mouth started to water immediately!  It combines everything I love - chicken, tortillas, cheese - with very few ingredients. and little fuss.  Quick, easy meals are a must for me!

One weekend, I decided to make a half-batch of 4 enchiladas.  I used fajita sized tortillas - smaller than what the recipe calls for - because I had them on hand and they're fewer calories.  They worked perfectly! 

These were amazing!  I could have eaten five - or eight!  The next night, I made another half batch to use up my tortillas.  Mr. Higgins and I were both practically licking our plates. 

This is a keeper!!  I can't wait to make them again!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Twilight in Babylon

Back in high school, at my local book shop, I stumbled upon a book I'll never forget: Reflections in the Nile by Suzanne Frank.  It's about a woman who accidently falls into a time portal and is transported back to ancient Egypt.  It was a fascinating - and enthralling - read.  There were two follow-up books to make a triology: Shadows on the Aegean and Sunrise on the Mediterranean.  I loved them both! 

I didn't realize for a long time that Frank had written a fourth novel about Chloe and Cheftu, Twilight in Babyon - but now I've found it, purchased it, read it, and loved it!

Here's the review I posted on Goodreads:

When last we heard from Chloe and Cheftu, they were settling down in King David's Jerusalem. Frank's final installment of their journey, Twilight in Babylon, the fourth book, was difficult to find but I'm so glad I did.

Like the second book in this series, this one was hard for me to get into. Less of Chloe herself was first seen in her new body. The time period, ancient Sumeria, also held my interest less. But once Chloe found her own consciousness, and with the appearance of Cheftu, the story was great. Frank has a unique skill at bringing the past alive - it's palpable - and the characters are great.

I will truly miss Chloe and Cheftu. Their stories could keep me entertained for years!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Week One: Jari Love Challenge

After my Peak 10 Challenge, I've decided to change things up a bit.  I'm going to hit my Jari Love videos hard, since those are so very different from Michelle Dozois' workouts.  (In fact, I'll shelve Michelle's Peak 10 videos for two weeks, sadly.)  I'm going to commit to doing at least two of Jari Love's videos per week.   

To start off this challenge, I toyed with the idea of having a rare day of rest to re-coup after all those high-impact Peak workouts.  But then I decided instead to treat myself to two barre/fusion/yoga workouts this week.  Why no day of rest?  The truth is I feel so much better when I get up and workout - physically and mentally.  So even if I do a light workout, it's preferable to doing nothing.

Mini goal for the week: be super strict with my diet because the weekend is going to be BAD!!

Monday: Michelle Dozois' BodyFit 360

When I started this workout, I realized I was super stiff and that my bum hurt like crazy - like I had done 100 squats the day before.  I have no idea why.  I guess the Fit Test did that.  So it felt extra good to get nice and stretched out.  And I always forget how much I sweat during this workout - it's so unique and fun!

Tuesday: Jari Love's Get Extremely Ripped 1000 - Workout 1 and FitnessGlo's Lower Body Power by Jeffrey Scott

My bum was still hurting this morning and I'm sure all the squats in this workout did not help.  The weight repetitions always get me.  Ouch!  I followed that with ten minutes of Jeffrey Scott's Lower Body Power on FitnessGlo.  Dang, that got my legs! 

Wednesday: Michelle Dozois' Rockin' Body Cardio

This workout is an oldie but goodie from Michelle.  It's not nearly as intense as her Peak workouts but that's alright; you can't do those intense workouts every day.  I always enjoy this one and today was no exception.

Thursday: Jari Love's Get Ripped 1000

So many squats and lunges - ouch!  This one alternates between compound exercises and short cardio bursts.  My push-ups were better and I was able to do more weight, thanks to the Peak 10 Challenge!  Yay!  But the lunges hurt. 

Friday:  Fitness Glo's Conditioning for Long Lean Muscles by Michelle Dozois

Two fusion/flow/barre workouts was my treat for this week after 8 weeks of high-impact Peak 10.  But this was not a "light" workout by any means.  It was a lot like Body Fit 360, which means I was dripping sweat.  I moved in every direction and there was a ton of leg work.  This is definitely a workout I'll have to keep in the rotation.  My only complaint is that I wish there had been more stretching at the end.  But I added my own! 

Saturday:  The Firm's Maximum Calorie Burn Bootcamp

This workout was a nice change.  It alternates with cardio bursts and weight segments.  The instructor is slightly annoying and the cueing/choreography doesn't come close to what is standard for Michelle Dozois…..  But, it's always a good change.  My triceps were aching afterward.  I followed this 45-minute workout with a 10-minute FitnessGlo HIIT segment and then a short arm workout.   I worked out for a total of 75 minutes.  Whew!

Sunday: Cathe Friedrich's Intensity

I always dread this workout.  I don't like the step work and I hate Cathe's way of instructing - you have no idea what your HIIT move is until she's in the middle of it.  No demonstration.  But I like variety with my workouts and this is variety - for better or worse.  Sigh.

Calorie Counts:

Monday - 1349
Tuesday - 1398
Wednesday - 1464
Thursday - 1389
Friday - bad!
Saturday - BAD!
Sunday - BAD!

This was a very bad week of eating.  Next week should be a bit better but the week after that is Las Vegas.  Oy.  So, I'll try to lose weight in August.  LOL!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Thoughts and Conclusions: Peak 10 Challenge #1

As you might as surmised, I loved my first experience with the PeakFit System - and Peak 10 Challenge - by Michelle Dozois.  I've never been so challenged in my workouts for such a long period of time - 8 weeks!  And I finished it!  I stuck with it!  And I loved the results!

Granted, I wasn't eating great during a lot of those 8 weeks.  July 4th was in there as was a lot of eating out.  I look forward to doing the challenge again before a cruise, when I'm back on my very strict diet. 

Even for me, who is OCD about working out, it was difficult, about mid-way through the Challenge, to stay motivated.  This was at about the time I had to add an evening workout during the week for an additional cardio strength.  That was tough and I felt my energy lagging.  But the thought of seeing and feeling results kept me going.

There are many things that numbers don't account for.  The bottom line is that doing these workouts made me feel great!  Push-ups became easier; I mastered the dreaded tuck jump when, before, I could never get my knees up; I lost all fear of lunge jumps. 

When I started the Fit Test on Sunday, I was immediately disturbed.  The first two moves - squats and lunges - saw virtually no change in my numbers.  But then I reminded myself that I do those constantly, neverending-ly, with Jari Love, so my  numbers were already great to begin with.  After that, I saw some good improvements!

                                      Before     After
Prisoner Squats               49          49
Lunges                             40          41
Burpees                            24          29
Tuck Jumps                      36          55
Push-ups                          25          36  (on my knees)
Ankle Grabbers                13          20
Sit-Outs                            22          30
Plank to Frog                    24         30
Fence Hoppers                 68          82
Side Lunge/Jump Shot     31          36

My measurements didn't see a lot of change, but that's alright.  I wasn't looking to significantly change my body; I just wanted to tweak it!

Weight                 -4.0 lbs
Chest                 same
Waist                   -0.5"
Hips                     -0.5"
Thighs                 -0.75"
Arms                  same
Calves                 -0.5"

Going Forward
When I had my Q&A with Michelle Dozois, a light bulb went off in my head.  The idea of breaking up my workouts into 8-week (or any amount of time) sessions blew my mind.  I get so bored with doing the same stuff yet I don't want to spend a fortune on home workout videos.  So this solution of taking a break from some to do others is perfect!  Perfect!

So, for the next 7 weeks, I'm putting together my own Jari Love Challenge (by the time this post is up, I'll be well into my first week!).  I'll do at least two of her workouts per week.  There will still be some Peak 10 workouts here in there and definitely some Michelle Dozois.....  But I won't touch the PeakFit System during that time. 

Then, I'll take a week-long break when my in-laws are in town.  The body needs this.  Never doubt that or feel guilty for taking a vacation from working out.  Over the course of a year, I take about 4-5 weeks off and I've never lost any ground that couldn't be made up. 

After those eight weeks have passed, I'll begin the PeakFit System again.  Woohoo!  And this time, it'll lead up to a November cruise.  Yay!

So you knew I was OCD....but did you know I would plan out my workouts months and months in advance?  Well, I do.  It takes out the guesswork and keeps me on track and motivated!

I'm also going to keep posting my weekly workout round-up on Mondays.  This also keeps me motivated and I like the accountability.  Hopefully, it also reminds you, dear readers, than you're not alone in your fitness regimen.  We're all in it together!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

PeakFit System: Core Dynamics (Review)

It's taken me a while to review this workout from the PeakFit System.  Core Dynamics was not my favorite so I guess that must explain my procrastination.

This workout is broken down into four sections, each about 5 minutes long.  It's designed to be done all at once, or broken down individually to add to another workout.  I usually did this after my "light" day with Dynamic Flexibility - both workouts always make me break a sweat, despite their lack of traditional cardio. 

Section one uses a light weight and consists entirely of standing work.  You do twists, ab curls, and side leans.  This was not too difficult and you get some light arm work in due to the weight (I used 6.6 lb weights). 

The second section is floorwork and you only need a soft surface on which to work.  This is my least favorite section and, in my opinion, the most difficult.  There's some plank work and that combined with ankle grabbers and side rolls makes this just torturous.  I hate it all! 

Section three isn't too bad and uses the band.  You do some side leans and twists followed by some ab curls and side planks.  There's also a good booty move with the band. 

The fourth section is more floorwork and begins with a plank that moves to one arm and a side reach - ouch!  Then some traditional core work that ends with some challenging pilates core exercises. 

Prior to my first Peak 10 Challenge, I thought my abs were doing good.  I had some good definition and Mr. Higgins calls them "abs of steel" quite regularly.  But this DVD kicks my booty - er, abs!  And I guess that's why it's not my favorite.  I still love Michelle Dozois and this just reminds me of how awesome she truly is.

In the end, I'm not going to pressure myself or beat myself up about not being able to do all this.  I'm fine with my abs and my hubby is fine with them - and that's really all that matters!

Bottom Line:  This is an advance core workout that makes every muscle in your core burn.  This one will take some time to master! 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Week Eight: Peak 10 Challenge

My last week of this Peak 10 Challenge!  Unbelievable! 

Of course, the last week had to follow a holiday weekend when I ate badly and too much.  Ugh.  But, we'll move on and keep up where we left off!

Mini goal for the week: get back to my diet and routine after the long weekend.

Monday: Pure Cardio

It had been two weeks since I'd done this one and I really enjoyed it.  My least favorite bit is the last circuit that includes lunge jumps.  Ew!  Other than that, I love this one and will miss it when this week is over.

Tuesday:  Cardio Strength 2

I'm glad this was the end of my after work/evening workouts.  It really drains every last ounce of energy from me.  But I do enjoy getting the frustrations of the day out with punches and jabs.  I'll miss this Cardio Strength since I'll shelve it until the next Peak 10 Challenge.  It sure is a doozie! 

Wednesday: Pure Strength 2

I love the results the Pure Strengths have given me.  I'm hoping to keep those results by doing a lot of Jari Love workouts for the next seven weeks.  But even after eight weeks of Peak 10, the tricep push-ups still kill me!

Thursday: Anytime Anywhere No Excuse Workout

I will not miss this one for the next eight weeks.  Ha!  This was one of the few mornings I've woken up feeling yucky the entire challenge.  My head was threatening to hurt and my stomach was icky.  But knowing this was the last Anytime workout for a long while pushed me through.  Yay!

Friday: Dynamic Flexibility and Core Dynamics

I love waking up knowing I get to do a lovely low-key workout of stretching.  It only happens once a week and I treasure it.  Since this is the last time I'll do Dynamic Flexibility for a while, I tried to enjoy it.  After the thirty minutes of stretch, I did the last 10 minutes of Core Dynamics.  This DVD contains some of the most difficult core work I've ever encountered.  Thankfully, the last ten minutes aren't the hardest, but it's still a challenge!

Saturday: Peak 10 Cardio Interval Burn Remix and FitnessGlo's Core & More by Amy Dixon

I was so looking forward to CIB Remix - it's one of my favorites.  Actually, it may be my favorite CIB!  I had a lot of fun doing it so that was a boon at the end of this Peak 10 Challenge.  After 65 minutes of that, I decided to try out one of FitnessGlo's core workouts.  I've always wanted to try a workout by Amy Dixon so her 10-minute core routine won out.  And boy, was it a doozie!  It was hard to finish most of the moves, they were so deceptively difficult!  Ouch!  But it felt good….afterwards.  Ha!

Sunday: PeakFit Test and Pure Strength 1

I was really dreading my final Fit Test of the Challenge but it turned out really good.  The first two moves had me worried though.  I made virtually no progress with prisoner squats and lunges.  Then again, I do these by the hundreds with Jari Love's videos so I guess I was already in top form when I started.  The other moves - tuck jumps, ankle grabbers, sit outs - proved to show a big improvement.  That made me happy!  The biggest surprise was that the test itself did not wipe me out, like last time.  I went on to do Pure Strength 1, which was my final PeakFit workout of the challenge.  I was a little sad.  

Calorie Counts:

Monday: 1381
Tuesday: 1390
Wednesday: 1381
Thursday:  1401
Friday:  BAD!
Saturday:  1450
Sunday:  1455

I mostly stayed on my diet this week and splurged slightly on the weekend - but there was no BAD food on the weekend.  

Tune in later this week to see more posts about my Peak 10 Challenge results and final thoughts!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Healthy Banana Blueberry Muffins (2014:25)

When my co-workers decided to have a breakfast for a new employee, I volunteered to bring a baked good.  And then, because I love finding great new recipes, I decided to experiment on my co-workers.  Ha!

I had very ripe bananas and I love blueberries - so these Healthy Banana Blueberry Muffins caught my eye.  I whipped them up one Sunday evening for breakfast the next morning. 

Since blueberries are in season, I used gloriously fresh ones.  For the four, I used half all purpose and half whole wheat.  They needed only the minimum amount of time in my oven.

When I tasted them, I was underwhelmed.  They were good, but not great, in my opinion.  However, the ladies at work - and Mr. Higgins - loved them.  So perhaps I should give them a second chance.  Perhaps!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Strawberry Shortcake Martini (2014:24)

For the fouth of July, I decided to make a new and different cocktail.  When I saw a recipe for Strawberry Shortcake Martinis, I was instantly intrigued.  Everyone in the family loves strawberries and vodka is cheap and effective.  And so I was sold on this recipe.

I made the strawberry puree with Splenda, to make these more diet and diabetes friendly.  The puree tasted amazing and was super easy to make.

When we combined the puree with vodka, I was underwhelmed.  I didn't really taste shortcake.....only strawberries.  Everyone liked the drink, they just had the same reaction I did. 

I'll keep this recipe for the strawberry puree.  It can be used with tons of stuff- either with Splenda or sugar.  Yum!  But next time, I'll try a different alcohol (rum, tequila) or different flavored vodka.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Week Seven: Peak 10 Challenge

Wow!  Only two more weeks to go!  Amazing!

I'm more than a little bummed that my last week will be the week after July 4th - and more bad eating - and will coincide with that wonderful once-a-month-visitor all of us females are blessed to have.  Ugh. 

BUT.  I'm so happy with the results of this system - and I haven't even done any measurements since the start.  If it can keep my weight in check with all the bad eating I'm doing, it's downright miraculous!  Ha! 

Mini challenge for the week: don't go overboard on July 4th weekend and still workout while visiting my parents for the holiday.

Monday: Pure Strength 2

Wow, the tricep work in this video just about kills me.  Luckily, I'm usually too sleepy to think about it much; I just go through it all rather mindlessly. 

Tuesday: FitnessGlo's Cardio Strength 1 by Michelle Dozois

With my 15-day free trial to FitnessGlo, I decided to try some of the Peak 10 workouts Michelle Dozois recorded for the website.  They're brand new workouts - three in all - and this comes at a time when I really need to freshen things up to keep me motivated.  And new workouts always motivate me!  These Peak 10 workouts just amaze me: no matter how many I've done or how many times I've done one, they always kick my butt.  In a good way.  This one was no exception.  Whew!

Wednesday: Anytime Anywhere No Excuse Workout

This still ranks my least favorite PeakFit System workout.  I dread it like nothing else - well, not as much as a Cathe Friedrich workout, but still.  The dread factor for this one is big.  But I did it at 5:30am, which gave my conscience no opportunity to back out.  I shortened one peak but that was it.  I made it through.

Thursday: Pure Strength 1

I definitely think this one is easier thatn Pure Strength 2 - but it still packs a punch.  The good news is that I think my triceps are really stengthening up.  In this workout, you do side tricep push-ups and they're getting easier.  But it's been a very slow process.

Friday: Dynamic Flexibility

This was a struggle.  We were at my parents' house in the country and everyone, mostly unintentionally, tried to dissuade me from working out.  I got in thirty minutes of stretching and that was it.

Saturday: Cardio Interval Burn

My mom and I did this one; I was still at her house.  It's pretty advanced for her but since it's the easiest of the cardio interval burns, I thought it a good compromise.  

Sunday: FitnessGlo's Cardio Strength 1 by Michelle Dozois

I revisited this one from earlier in the week because I wanted to try to become more familiar with it.  And I still really like it!  It's definitely challenging and different in some really good ways.  I look forward to doing it again!

Calorie Counts:
Monday: 1582
Tuesday: 1382
Wednesday: BAD!
Thursday:  1422
Friday:  Holiday!
Saturday:  BAD!  

Sunday:  bad - but not as bad!

Next week I'll do much better in regards to diet!!

Friday, July 4, 2014

PeakFit System: Pure Strength 2 (Review)

I'm always excited to try a new workout and this was no exception.  With Pure Strength 2 being the second Pure Strength, I was worried it would be a lot tougher than the first.  It is and it isn't.

Michelle gives you a good warm-up to get the blood flowing in your arms and legs.  This is good for me since I've usually just rolled out of bed.

The first section is BACK.  You start with bentover rows, using the band.  This is always tough for me: keeping my back straight and not hurting.  You then move on to wide chest pulls with the band. This is similar to the first Pure Strength.  Michelle then takes you to the floor for seated rows and the deadbug - both with the band.  You end with squat weight swings. 

The next section is CHEST.  Ugh.  Travel push-ups: hate.  Then, a kneeling chest fly with the band, which is the hardest arm exercise in the video for me.  Ouch!  Then, more push-ups and plank toe taps.  At this point, my arms are on fire!  That heat in the arms gets worse with kneeling chest flies with dumbells.  You end this section with squats and a side lean with overhead press. 

Repeat BACK section but with some added ab work during the seated rows.  Fun! 
Repeat CHEST with some push-up variances.

Next up: LEGS.  Okay, this section kills me!  You start with a lot of squats holding heavy dumbells.  You pulse, go quick, pulse, etc.  And then on to lunges.  Followed by three pulse tick-tocks and then single pulse tick-tocks.  This is excruciating.  Repeat on the other leg.  And just when you thought your legs would give out: curtsy lunges.  Mind you, all of this is while still holding heavy dumbells. 

Last section: ARMS.  Tricep push-ups: hate!  Tricep kickbacks with light weights.  Then runner arms, up over your head with weights.  Front press, runner arms, front press.  And then: curls with the band.  My arms are always aching at this point.  Circles with the band. 

Repeat LEGS and then ARMS. 

Cool-down and stretch: this focuses a lot of the arms, which is nice.  I always keep stretching after the video ends. 

This gets my arms in a way that Pure Strength 1 does not.  I think this one is tougher due to the higher amount of push-ups and those blased tick-tocks that are just painful.  But I like feeling the burn!  Michelle is motivating as always and she and her husband, who stands to her right in the workout, are super cute.  For a preview, go here

Bottom Line: This is a great addition to the PeakFit System.  Michelle moves quickly so you must know basic forms before beginning.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Daughters of Rome

I recently finished another Kate Quinn book about ancient Rome, Daughters of Rome.  This was the second book in the series but a prequel to the first, Mistress of Rome, which I loved. 

Here is the review I posted to Goodreads:

After reading Kate Quinn's Mistress of Rome, I ordered the next book in the series - Daughters of Rome - the next day.  The year of the four emperors has always fascinated me; but it's also a time in Rome's history that I always skipped over since the four different emperors were never committed to my memory. 

Quinn brings that year to stunning life.  From the four different view points of four cousins, you see how that year's turbulence affected the populace.  Each cousin is so completely different from the other and each one witnesses history in a different way. 
I had no idea this novel would precede the first one.  It was interesting seeing who Domitian's wife was - before Domitian got ahold of her. 

Kate Quinn is becoming one of my new favorite authors!