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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

Title: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
Author: Mark Manson
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Harper
Publish Date: September 13, 2016
Source: Library



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "In this generation-defining self-help guide, a superstar blogger cuts through the crap to show us how to stop trying to be "positive" all the time so that we can truly become better, happier people.

For decades, we’ve been told that positive thinking is the key to a happy, rich life. "F**k positivity," Mark Manson says. "Let’s be honest, shit is f**ked and we have to live with it." In his wildly popular Internet blog, Manson doesn’t sugarcoat or equivocate. He tells it like it is—a dose of raw, refreshing, honest truth that is sorely lacking today. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is his antidote to the coddling, let’s-all-feel-good mindset that has infected modern society and spoiled a generation, rewarding them with gold medals just for showing up."


My Two Cents:

Oh, boy, is this title hard to not to notice?!? Don't let the title fool you; not only is this book funny but it has some pretty salient messages about how you need to live up to your own standards and do what's right for you. You get to choose what to care about but you don't need to worry about what others think. Logically we know this but it is always good to get a reminder and in this case, the reminder comes in a book that is entertaining while still being very informative.

I really liked that this book doesn't take itself too seriously and therefore doesn't feel as didactic as many self-help books can feel. I like the message of this book and the fact that Manson draws so much from his own experience, which really endeared him to me.

This book is perfect for anyone that needs a little boost!


 

Monday, May 21, 2018

Review: Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

Title: Catching Jordan
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publish Date: December 1, 2011
Source: Library



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "What girl doesn't want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn't just surrounded by hot guys, though-she leads them as the captain and quarterback of her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys and that's just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university.

But everything she's ever worked for is threatened when Ty Green moves to her school. Not only is he an amazing QB, but he's also amazingly hot. And for the first time, Jordan's feeling vulnerable. Can she keep her head in the game while her heart's on the line?"


My Two Cents:

"Catching Jordan" is the story of Jordan Woods, daughter of a famous football player who is making her own name as the quarterback of her high school football team. She wants to play football in college but doesn't seem to be getting a whole lot of support. Her favored college doesn't take her seriously and now it looks like she might be replaced as quarterback by new-to-town Ty. If that isn't complicated enough, she's torn between the new guy and her childhood best friend and another member on the team.

I love strong female characters and Jordan is definitely one even at her young age. She is constantly fighting criticism from every angle even when she is a really good football player. Even her own father doesn't seem fully supportive even though he is super supportive of her brother who plays college football. She faces criticism for not being girly enough or not thinking enough about her future plans and relying on football too much. Even though she goes through periods of insecurity, she still fights for what she believes in. You find yourself cheering for her along the way!

The love triangle between Jordan, Ty, and Sam worked even though I usually don't like love triangles (they can be so overdone). I really liked Sam and Jordan together. Their history was so cute and I loved how it informed their present. You're pulling for them to figure it out the whole time! I loved following the ups and downs throughout the book!


  

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Vacation This Week!

Hello, everyone! A Bookish Affair will be on vacation this week but I will be returning next week with more great reviews just in time to start preparing for summer reading!

What are you reading now?

Friday, May 11, 2018

SEVEN OF THE MOST MALIGNED WOMEN IN HISTORY

I am so excited to welcome Mary Sharratt here to A Bookish Affair today.

Women who stand out and dare to seize their power have been maligned throughout history. Even today many people are uncomfortable about the very idea of a powerful woman. Witness how Hillary Clinton was demonized in the 2016 presidential campaign. What other U.S. presidential candidate has been called “nasty” by their opponent or had their opponent literally looming over them during a live televised debate? Even women who would never dream of running for political office face every day misogyny and threats of violence for daring to speak out on the internet. It doesn’t matter what the woman has to say—the fact that she has spoken out at all has made her a target.  
I certainly encountered the “such a nasty woman” phenomenon while researching Alma Schindler Mahler, the protagonist of my new novel Ecstasy. Born in Vienna in 1879, Alma Maria Schindler was an accomplished pianist and aspiring composer who gave up her own music as a condition for her marriage to the great composer, Gustav Mahler. Later, after a marital crisis, she returned to composing and published three collections of her songs. She was married to—or had affairs with—some of the greatest creative geniuses of her time, including Gustav Klimt, Walter Gropius, Oskar Kokoschka, and Franz Werfel. She was also a pioneer in the field we now call artistic management and her networking skills benefitted the men she loved. But one would hardly know about her talents and gifts to read the biographies written about her.
Most of the Alma biographies are what Susanne Rode-Breymann, co-editor of the German edition of Alma’s diaries, has called “moralizing scandal biographies.” They focus almost exclusively on the sensationalistic aspects of Alma’s life—namely the fact that she dared to rewrite the feminine life script and claim her sexual freedom. Even the more “scholarly” of these tomes tend to read in places like trashy, voyeuristic novels. The biographers use Alma’s sexuality as a selling point for their books while standing in stern moral judgement of her and having nothing good to say about Alma as a human being, much less as a composer. This lurid focus on Alma’s sexuality, at the expense of all other areas of her life, demeans and degrades her. Alma is reduced to the men she was involved with and how she failed to be the ideal woman for them. Can you even imagine a biographer doing this to a “great man” like Picasso—ignoring his art to condemn him as a terrible husband and serial womanizer?
In my humble opinion, novelists have a much more difficult vocation than biographers. Unlike biographers, I must make Alma compelling and inspire the reader’s empathy. I must offer insight as to why Alma made the choices she did. I must show her in her full humanity.
At least I know Alma is in good company. Here is a short history of “nasty women” and some excellent books that portray them in all their nuanced, multi-faceted glory.    

  1. Mary Magdalene, 1st century CE
The most influential woman in early Christianity has been distorted beyond recognition as a weeping, humiliated ex-prostitute, despite there being no scriptural evidence to support this depiction. If that were not enough, we have the Da Vinci Code to thank for the most recent flood of new age conspiracy theories surrounding her. All of this obscures Mary’s key importance in the canonical Gospels. As one of Jesus’s closest disciples, she stood by him at the foot of the cross—after his male disciples fled. Present at his tomb, she was first witness to the resurrection. The risen Christ then bade Mary to tell the others the good news. And so she became Apostle to the Apostles. The noncanonical Gospel of Mary reveals her influence in early Christianity when her importance rivaled that of Peter’s. Whether or not she wrote the gospel attributed to her, this document certainly recognizes her authority. However in 590, Pope Gregory I decided to downgrade her by officially proclaiming her a whore. The Catholic Church didn’t recant this position until 1969.

Must read: Mary, Called Magdalene by Margaret George

  1. Empress Wu Zetian, 624 – 705 CE

The only female emperor in the history of China, Wu rose from humble beginnings as the fourteen-year-old concubine of Emperor Taizong, who was so captivated by her intelligence, he made her his secretary. After his death, Wu should have bowed to social expectation, shaved her head, and disappeared inside a Buddhist nunnery. Instead she married Taizong’s son Gaozong and ruled as empress consort, the true power behind her ineffectual husband’s throne. After Gaozong’s death, Wu ruled as empress dowager and placed first her eldest son and then her second-born son on the throne. When their leadership skills failed to impress her, she forced them to abdicate. From 690 to her death in 705 Wu ruled as emperor in her own name. She founded the Zhou Dynasty, introduced sweeping reforms to benefit her people, and declared herself an incarnation of the Maitreya Buddha. Ever uncomfortable with female leadership, her enemies spread many rumors about her, accusing her of all manner of treachery, including murdering her own baby daughter. After Wu’s death, they tried to erase her legacy, but all in vain. She is now remembered as one of the greatest leaders in Chinese history.

Must read: The Moon in the Palace by Weina Dai Randel


  1. Malinche 1501 - 1551

The most hated woman in Mexican history, Malinche was Hernandez Cortés’s indigenous lover and chief strategist during his annihilation of Muctezuma’s Aztec Empire. Caught between clashing worlds, Malinche was one of twenty women that Tabascan chieftan Potonchan offered Cortés. Regarded initially as nothing more than a sex slave, Malinche soon distinguished herself by her negotiating skills. Fluent in both the Nahuatal languages of the interior and the Mayan languages of the coast, Malinche quickly learned Spanish and became Cortés’s main translator and guide. A complex figure, she played a pivotal role in history, bearing Cortés’s son Martin, the first mestizo of note, and later marrying the Castillian nobleman, Don Juan Xamarmillo. Has Malinche been unfairly slated? Pre-colonial indigenous Mexicans were not one unified people, but a collection of distinct cultures. To many of these people, the Aztec Empire was the hated enemy because it demanded tribute in the form of human sacrifice from subjugated tribes. What if Malinche, a woman of non-Aztec origin, was not a traitor so much as a warrior within her own context?

Must read: Malinche by Laura Esquivel

  1. Mary I of England 1516 - 1558

The first woman to successfully claim the throne of England was the most reviled British monarch of all time. The fact that she burned 283 Protestants as heretics earned her the moniker “Bloody Mary” and history remembers her as the evil foil to her celebrated sister, “Good Queen Bess.” Yet Mary was no bloodier or more brutal than other rulers of her time. As the violence of the Reformation and Counter Reformation swept Europe, countless Catholics and Protestants on the “wrong” side of the sectarian divide were put to death—as were Jews and accused witches. On the plus side, Mary built up the British navy and reformed the militia, paving the way for Elizabeth I’s victory against the Spanish Armada. Used first by her father, Henry VIII, and later by her husband, Philip II of Spain, as a political pawn, Mary had no easy life and died in her forties. If anything, Elizabeth I was such an effective leader because she learned from her sister’s misfortune—Elizabeth made the radical choice to remain a “Virgin Queen” lest some man try to steal away her sovereignty.  

Must read: Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen by Anna Whitelock

  1. Catherine the Great 1729 - 1796

In the 34 years that she ruled the massive Russian Empire, Catherine the Great was the most powerful woman in the world. Born to a Prussian prince, she married into the Romanov family and became the unhappy wife of the unpopular Tsar Peter III. Catherine soon found herself involved in a coup to unseat her husband and install herself as empress. Eight days after abdicating, her husband was assassinated. Contrary to dark rumors, there’s no evidence Catherine was responsible. A highly educated polymath who corresponded with Voltaire and wrote an opera in her spare time, Catherine dragged a country still mired in a medieval mindset into the Enlightenment. Her lovers were many and she made one such paramour the King of Poland. A formidable military leader, she quelled more than a dozen uprisings. But most of her brave deeds have been forgotten—the average person on the street is more likely to know the urban myth that Catherine died having sex with a horse. She actually passed away after suffering a stroke.

Must read: The Winter Queen by Eva Stachniak

  1. Billie Holiday 1915 - 1959

Despite the fact that she never learned to read music and despite her struggles against racism, misogyny, and poverty, Billie Holiday triumphed to become one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time. Over fifty years after her death, her voice remains distinctive and unforgettable. Her 1939 song “Strange Fruit,” about the lynching of an African American man, was so controversial, it couldn’t be played on the radio. A powerful indictment of racism, “Strange Fruit” would become the first protest song of the 20th century. Yet for all her achievements, Holiday’s reputation remains steeped in sensationalism, especially regarding the heroin and alcohol abuse that eventually killed her at the age of 44. Why is she primarily remembered for her addiction and not her ground-breaking brilliance? “You don’t do the same thing when you talk about Sigmund Freud,” contemporary jazz musician Cassandra Wilson has pointed out. “Everyone knows he was a coke addict . . . but we don’t talk about that. We talk about him being the father of psychoanalysis.” (Link to Wilson quote: http://www.poisedmag.com/cassandra-wilson-reflects-on-billie-holiday-at-100/ )

Must read: Lady Sings the Blues by Billie Holiday and William Dufty

  1. Ethel Rosenberg 1915 – 1953

In 1953 Ethel Rosenberg and her husband Julius were executed by electric chair for betraying U.S. nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. Both Rosenbergs protested their innocence up until their deaths. In the 1930s, Ethel had joined the Young Communist League, which did not help her case. While on trial for espionage in 1951, Ethel endured the heartbreak of having her own brother, himself an admitted spy, testify against her. Her refusal to burst into tears in court was interpreted to prove that she was an unwomanly monster who cared more about communism than her two young children. After the Rosenbergs’ execution, their sons, Michael and Robert, were adopted by Abel Meeropol, activist and writer of the song, “Strange Fruit.” Michael and Robert spent years trying to prove their parents’ innocence until they discovered declassified documents which indicated that their father was indeed involved in espionage. But Ethel’s role in any conspiracy seemed negligible. Her sons unsuccessfully petitioned President Obama to have their mother exonerated.

Must read: The Hours Count by Jillian Cantor

Bio: Mary Sharratt is on a mission to write women back into history in their full nasty glory. Her novel, Ecstasy, about celebrated bad girl Alma Mahler, was an Amazon Best Book of the Month for April, a Chicago Review of Books Book of the Month, and a New York Post Must Read Book. Visit her website: www.marysharratt.com

Thursday, May 10, 2018

TLC Book Tours Review: Same Beach, Next Year by Dorothea Benton Frank

Title: Same Beach, Next Year
Author: Dorothea Benton Frank
Format: Paperback
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publish Date: April 24, 2018
Source: TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "One enchanted summer, two couples begin a friendship that will last more than twenty years and transform their lives.

A chance meeting on the Isle of Palms, one of Charleston’s most stunning barrier islands, brings former sweethearts, Adam Stanley and Eve Landers together again. Their respective spouses, Eliza and Carl, fight sparks of jealousy flaring from their imagined rekindling of old flames. As Adam and Eve get caught up on their lives, their partners strike up a deep friendship—and flirt with an unexpected attraction—of their own.

Year after year, Adam, Eliza, Eve, and Carl eagerly await their reunion at Wild Dunes, a condominium complex at the island’s tip end, where they grow closer with each passing day, building a friendship that will withstand financial catastrophe, family tragedy, and devastating heartbreak. The devotion and love they share will help them weather the vagaries of time and enrich their lives as circumstances change, their children grow up and leave home, and their twilight years approach."

My Two Cents:

 "Same Beach, Next Year" is about two couples: Adam and Eliza and Carl and Eve. Once upon a time, Adam and Eve were an item so when Adam suggests that the two families start vacationing together, Eliza is not a fan. But as they spend more time together, she begins to see that the two couples enjoy each other's company and it becomes an annual event until everything is shattered. I have enjoyed Frank's book in the past and was looking forward to diving into this one!

We only see the two couples and their families a few times each year over a series of years so it was sometimes hard to follow how things were changing between the two families and within the two families. It's up to the reader to put together what happens to the families in the interim. All of this made the pacing a little hard to follow even though I liked the story. I wanted to understand more about the motives of the different characters.

One of my favorite parts of this book was the descriptions of the characters. They are great! Frank also has such a gift for writing dialogue. It's fun and insightful at different turns. Some of the descriptions made me laugh, others made me want to cry. I love when books can make you feel so much in a short period of time! 


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Review: Sofia Perovskaya, Terrorist Princess: The Plot to Kill Tsar Alexander II and the Woman Who Led It by Robert Riggs

Title: Sofia Perovskaya, Terrorist Princess: The Plot to Kill Tsar Alexander II and the Woman Who Led It
Author: Robert Riggs
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Global Harmony Press
Publish Date: April 24, 2018
Source: PR



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "More than ever, terrorist acts command enormous attention. Concerns about terrorism have led to sweeping new restrictive government policies on such matters as immigration and airline security. In an often repeated syndrome, the one lasting legacy the departed terrorists leave behind them is a grossly exaggerated overreaction by governments to their suicidal exploits. The overreaction derails the faith in liberty and the respect for diversity that characterize an enlightened civilization.

Sofia Perovskaya is a fascinating case study. She came from a privileged family with royal connections. She was not victimized by poverty, class or social stigma. She was known for being kind to the sick and devoted to her mother. We have much to learn from examining her peculiar turn of personality, one that takes over people who are generally intelligent, ascetic, creative, and motivated, and makes them killers who thirst for martyrdom.

This book is part of a series of profiles of historical terrorists. The profiles demonstrate the folly of the many in government and media who continue to confuse the desperate "cause" adopted by the terrorist with the real cause of the terrorist act. Terrorism has deep roots in an irrational facet of the human psyche. Through this series we explore how, as society itself has moved toward pluralism and respect for human life, the terrorist act of self-immolation has emerged and grown in its appeal to the dark side of the psyche."


My Two Cents:

 "Sofia Perovskaya, Terrorist Princess" is the story of Sofia, a woman from a family of connections who seemed to have no reason to plot against the Russian monarchy. But plot she did, upending the country and striking fear into so many. It's this act of creating fear that makes Perovskaya a terrorist. This book is part of a series on terrorists throughout history and what drove them to such desperate acts.

The writing of this book was very in depth. I wasn't familiar with Sofia Perovskaya so I appreciated all of the detail that the author put into the book to talk about her background and what drove her to plot against Tsar Alexander II. The author also gives a lot of detail about terrorism itself and sometimes verged into feeling very textbook like. It's clear that the author did a ton of research. The facts sometimes came too fast and furious to digest easily.

Overall, this is a great introduction to both what terrorism is and what drove Perovskaya. 



Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Review: Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer

Title: Only Time Will Tell
Author: Jeffrey Archer
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publish Date: August 30, 2011
Source: Library






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "The epic tale of Harry Clifton’s life begins in 1920, with the words “I was told that my father was killed in the war.” A dock worker in Bristol, Harry never knew his father, but he learns about life on the docks from his uncle, who expects Harry to join him at the shipyard once he’s left school. But then an unexpected gift wins him a scholarship to an exclusive boys’ school, and his life will never be the same again.
As he enters into adulthood, Harry finally learns how his father really died, but the awful truth only leads him to question, was he even his father? Is he the son of Arthur Clifton, a stevedore who spent his whole life on the docks, or the firstborn son of a scion of West Country society, whose family owns a shipping line?
This introductory novel in Archer’s ambitious series The Clifton Chronicles includes a cast of colorful characters and takes us from the ravages of the Great War to the outbreak of the Second World War, when Harry must decide whether to take up a place at Oxford or join the navy and go to war with Hitler’s Germany. From the docks of working-class England to the bustling streets of 1940 New York City, Only Time Will Tell takes readers on a journey through to future volumes, which will bring to life one hundred years of recent history to reveal a family story that neither the reader nor Harry Clifton himself could ever have imagined."

My Two Cents:

In "Only Time Will Tell," Harry Clifton believes that he will end up working at the docks like his father, whom he never met, and his uncle. When his singing talents allow him to land a scholarship to a super fancy school, his fate will change. Filled with family secrets and stories of the different ways life can take us, this book was the great kick off to what promises to be an exciting series!

I love characters that you can root for! Harry is the definitive underdog character. He is being raised by a single mother in a time where this was not common. Harry seems content to follow his father's footsteps. He isn't that interested in school and then fate intervenes and sends him on a different path.

I also really liked the setting. I loved the juxtaposition through Harry's relatively calm, no frills life with his mother and the lives of Harry's newfound friends at his new school. They are so different from each other but are still able to find common ground and really solidify their friendship. There are also some secret connections throughout the book that I'll go into more detail on below.

The biggest reason I enjoyed this book is all of the family secrets. Oh, there are some doozies in here. I don't want to give anything away but there are a lot of secret connections between Harry and some of the other characters in the book and I loved seeing them unraveled throughout the book.

Overall, this was an intriguing start that will definitely keep me reading!
  


 






 
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