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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Looking for Good Reading This Weekend?

The Skin of Water by G.S. Johnston, a book I enjoyed,  is free today and tomorrow on Amazon for your Kindle!!! Click here to go to the Amazon site.

It'll almost be like getting a free lolcat!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Title: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Dutton
Publish Date: December 2010
Source: Owned





Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a YA fiction fan.
  • You love cute love stories.
  • You love good settings.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home. As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near - misses end with the French kiss Anna - and readers - have long awaited?"

My Two Cents:

Holy cuteness, Batman! I'm sure this is about the thousandth review for this book that you've seen if you've been hanging around the book- blogosphere (especially that of the Young Adult fiction persuasion) but this is a great book. It's a fun read with a cute story.

Who wouldn't want to spend their senior year of high school in France? Anna Oliphant isn't sure that it's so good at first until she meets Etienne St. Clair (oh that name sounds a little pretentious at first but it's oh-so sexy). He reminded me of every single high school crush ever. He's got gorgeous eyes, a funny sense of humor, sexy hair, so on and so forth as it ever was. Uh yeah, I would have fallen for him as well!!! The relationship was just so perfect. It's the kind of relationship that as a teenage girl, you think is the end all, be all. This book definitely made me feel like I was about 16 or 17 years old again!

The setting is great! I've never been to Paris before but it's definitely on my bucket list. Paris is truly a romantic city and I loved reading about all of the adventures that Anna and Etienne have there. I'm ready to eat crepes and take a walk to Notre Dame!

I loved the writing of the book. Perkins does a fabulous job of getting into the mind of a teenage girl. She made Anna seem really real. I really wanted to see what happened to Anna and Etienne. What happened after the book ended? Did visiting each other at their respective colleges in Cali work out? I so want it to work out! I think when you're wondering about what the characters are doing after the book ends, you know it's a good book.

Bottom line: A fun teenage romance!


  

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Review: The Accidental Encore by Christy Hayes

Title: The Accidental Encore
Author: Christy Hayes
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Self-published
Publish Date: June 2012
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.






Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a fiction fan.
  • You're a romance fan.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Long after crushing heartbreak turned Craig Archer away from women, he calls on beautiful piano teacher Allie Graves when he’s left for two weeks to watch his niece and all hell breaks loose. Their unlikely friendship fuels an attraction they both attempt to stifle.

Optimistic Allie continues her search for love despite a disastrous relationship and a string of bad dates. She never expects to be tempted by a guy like Craig; he’s rude, crude, and his rough edges are sharp enough to draw blood.

The sparks from their smoldering attraction threaten to ignite a tortured past Craig has worked hard to smother. Allie’s fears that a relationship with Craig will end in heartbreak are about to come true when their passion forces an encore that could make or break their chance for a future."
 
My Two Cents: 
 
The Accidental Encore is a romance about two very different people. Allie has been burned by love before but is determined to not let it prevent her from finding her very own happy ending. Craig got burned and any time any love interest presents herself, he runs the complete opposite way. When Allie and Craig get in a car collision, neither one can deny for very long that they just might be what the other has been searching for.

This is definitely a sweet story. Craig took a long time to grow on me. In fact, it wasn't until the very end of the book that I found some common ground and an understanding as to where Craig was coming from then. Up until then, he just did not seem like a nice guy at all and I had a really hard time seeing how Allie, who is incredibly sweet and nice, fell for Craig before he started being nice to her at all. I really just wish that we would have seen Craig's human side or at least a little bit of background into why he is the way that he is a little earlier in the book. I think I would have liked the romance a little bit better then.

The writing in this book is good and kept me reading even though I didn't fall for Craig like Allie does in the book. Hayes has a really good way of writing dialogue. It's is very realistic and definitely pulled me into the story a little bit more.

This is a good romance with really realistic writing. Every relationship is not perfect all the time. A lot of times, relationships do not start in ways that we really understand. There are ups and downs and tons of different emotions that go into them. You get all of that in this book!
 
 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Review: Six Degrees of Lost by Linda Benson

Title: Six Degrees of Lost
Author: Linda Benson
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Publish Date: July 15, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.






Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a fiction fan.
  • You're a Young Adult fiction fan.
  • You're a Middle Grade fiction fan.
  • You're an animal lover.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Olive’s mother is headed to jail and her brother to join the Army, so thirteen-year-old Olive is uprooted from sunny California and dumped in Washington State like a stray. That's exactly what she feels like surrounded by her aunt’s collection of homeless dogs, cats, and horses.

Fourteen-year-old David’s future is already carved in stone. From a military family with two brothers serving overseas, he’s been pointed towards the Air Force Academy his entire life - but a rafting trip gone awry might ruin his chances.

When a runaway dog is almost hit by a car, the search for its owner leads Olive and David, two teens from entirely different backgrounds, to an unlikely bond. Will their growing attraction to each other be enough to keep Olive from a foolhardy journey to find her mother? Will David risk his family’s plans to save her?"


My Two Cents: 

First off, the genre of this book was little fuzzy. It could fall both in the middle grade or young adult genre. The main characters are 13 and 14 years old but sometimes seemed a little on the younger side. That being said, the book deals with some heavier topics (such as having a parent in jail) that may not be ideal for younger readers. This book is probably most appropriate for younger Young Adult readers.

This book is also a great book for animal lovers. After Olive's mom goes to jail, Olive is sent to live with her Aunt Trudy, who takes in all sorts of strays out of the kindness of her heart. It's the sort of thing that I would have loved when I was younger (okay, I'd love to be in a house filled with animals even now!). It's really the animals in the story that first bring Olive and David, the other main character, together in the first place.

The book is told from both the perspective of Olive and David. Their voices narrate alternating chapters. I thought that this was a really good way for the story to be told. You get a little insight into what both characters are thinking. I wish there had been a little more delineation between the voices of the characters. I really had to pay attention to the title space of each chapter to make sure that I knew who was talking.

The story definitely started out a little slow for me at first. Even the incident that David and his friends caused only sped the story up for the tiniest bit. I really got into the book during the end when Olive gets into trouble.

Bottom line: a good, animal oriented YA read!


  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Review: An Echo Through the Snow by Andrea Thalasinos

Title: An Echo Through the Snow
Author: Andrea Thalasinos
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Forge
Publish Date: August 21, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.


Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You're a historical fiction lover.
  • You're an animal lover.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Rosalie MacKenzie is headed nowhere until she sees Smokey, a Siberian husky suffering from neglect. Rosalie finds the courage to rescue the dog, and—united by the bond of love that forms between them—they save each other.  Soon Rosalie and Smokey are immersed in the world of competitive dogsled racing. Days are filled with training runs, the stark beauty of rural Wisconsin, and the whoosh of runners on snow. Rosalie discovers that behind the modern sport lies a tragic history: the heartbreaking story of the Chukchi people of Siberia. When Stalin’s Red Army displaced the Chukchi in 1929, many were killed and others lost their homes and their beloved Guardians—the huskies that were the soul and livelihood of their people.

Alternating between past and present, telling of a struggling Chukchi family and a young woman discovering herself, An Echo Through the Snow takes readers on a gripping, profound, and uplifting dogsled ride to the Iditarod and beyond, on a journey of survival and healing."


My Two Cents:

I was originally interested in reading this book because it's about dogs, specifically husky dogs, which to me is one of the most gorgeous and fascinating breeds of dogs. I'm a huge animal lover and I think that other animal lovers may enjoy this book too.

The story is pretty good but there were definitely some places that had a couple holes for me. There are two parallel stories in the book. The first one takes place in Siberia during toward the beginning of the 20th century and surrounds the story of the Chukchi people. This group of people has made their home in Siberia, a very rough place, for a very long time. When the Soviets sweep through the area, their lives change for forever. I really wish that there had been more of a focus on the Chukchi people. I knew almost nothing about them before the book and I still feel like I don't know much even after reading the book. The other story takes place in the early 1990s in Wisconsin and surrounds a young woman who gets involved in the dog sledding circuit.

There were a couple things that fell flat for me. First off, the connection between the historical story and the more present day story seemed sort of random. I wish there had been a little more connection. Also, the 1990s story jumps a lot of time. The jumping really made me feel like I was missing out on some of the character development. It really made me feel like I was missing out on the character connections. I didn't feel like you got a good sense of how the characters interacted with each other.

Thalasinos has an ear (or hand perhaps) for writing really real dialogue, which helped to pull me into the story a little more than I would have been otherwise.

This book was okay for me but animal lovers will probably still appreciate this book. 



  

Monday, September 24, 2012

Review: Fatty Patty by Kathleen Irene Paterka

Title: Fatty Patty
Author: Kathleen Irene Paterka
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Self-published
Publish Date: May 15, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.






Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a fiction fan.
  • You're a romance fan.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Small towns, long memories. Everyone in the exclusive summer resort of James Bay, Michigan remembers FATTY PATTY, the chubby little girl with the round face and wild red curls. All grown up now, Patty Perreault teaches at the same elementary school where the painful playground memories still taunt her. She hasn’t forgotten the cruel nickname—plus she still hasn’t lost those extra pounds. Convinced her weight is the biggest reason why she’s a four time loser in the semi-finals for Teacher of the Year, Patty resolves to make some changes in her body and her life.

Sam Curtis, an overweight accountant she meets at the community pool, swims into Patty’s life with romance on his mind. But as their friendship grows, Patty finds it hard to see beyond his extra pounds. She’s torn as Sam refuses to deal with his own overweight issues. Her heart tells her one thing, but her eyes see another. She’s not interested in an overweight boyfriend. When it comes to winning the Grand Prize in life and love, Patty has some hard lessons to learn. Will she be able to confront her fears about the kind of woman she yearns to be? Will she be able to put down the fork and give her heart a try?"


My Two Cents:

I think most people can find some common ground in the idea of the struggle to be happy with yourself. It's a very common issue. We're constantly comparing ourselves to other people and it's easy to become sort of trapped in that idea. In "Fatty Patty," Patty is most definitely lost in that trap. She struggles with her weight and is convinced that if she fixes that issue with herself, she will fix the rest of her life.

Not so fast...

Even at the end of the book, Patty is still struggling with herself. She's better but still not happy. To me, I didn't think that Patty was very likeable at all. While she struggles with her weight, she's downright horrible to Sam, an affable guy who also struggles with his weight. Now, believe me, I fully understand wanting to be healthy and wanting others around you to be healthy but there is a diplomatic way to do it and Patty is anything but diplomatic. Sam is awesome and Patty cannot see that at all. I kind of wanted to shake her a couple times throughout the book. She won't give Sam a chance and from the way she talks, it mostly seems to have to do with the way he looks, which is just sad, especially because she should be well aware of how hurtful it is to have someone judge you based on your looks. In fact, Patty basically turns down Sam, the nice guy, because he is fat for Nick, the total cad, because he's hot and very much leads Patty on in a very open way, only Patty is too blinded by her insane crush to see it. Patty just does not seem to get it. Sigh...

I really liked Sam and he kept me reading. I liked some of the side stories. The whole story about how Nick ended up in James Bay was really good and kept me reading to find out the whole story. Even though Patty is ridiculous and sort of mean, I liked the writing of the book. I would definitely read more by Paterka, but Patty was just not my favorite.


  

Friday, September 21, 2012

Review: The Time of Women by Elena Chizhova

Title: The Time of Women
Author: Elena Chizhova
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Glagoslav
Publish Date: January 2012
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.






Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a historical fiction fan.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Life is not easy in the Soviet Union at mid-20th century, especially for a factory worker who becomes an unwed mother. But Antonina is lucky to get a room in a communal apartment that she and her little girl share with three old women. Glikeria is the daughter of former serfs. Ariadna comes from a wealthy family and speaks French. Yevdokia is illiterate and bitter. All have lost their families, all are deeply traditional, and all become grannies to little Suzanna. Only they secretly name her Sofia. And just as secretly they impart to her the history of her country as they experienced it: the Revolution, the early days of the Soviet Union, the blockade and starvation of World War II. The little girl responds by drawing beautiful pictures, but she is mute. If the authorities find out she will be taken from her home and sent to an institution. When Antonina falls desperately ill, the grannies are faced with the reality of losing the little girl they love unless a stepfather can be found before it is too late. And for that, they need a miracle."

My Two Cents:

Russia is such a fascinating place to me. Soviet era Russia is especially fascinating to me. It was interesting to see how each generation saw Soviet Russia differently. The grannies have seen the country change from the Bolshevik Revolution to Communism's hold over the country during the middle of the 20th century. They are retired now. Then you have Antonina, a young woman, who must work in the factory. She is lucky enough to share an apartment with the grannies who take care of her daughter. You get a lot of different perspectives in the book, which is really interesting.

This book is sort of a really subtle day-in-the-life kind of story. It's quiet but a great way to gain some insight into some normal Soviet life.

I also really liked the setting of the book. You get a good feeling for what living in the city must have been like under Communism. You get to really feel what it was like to have to live with people who were strangers at first but who become family. You get to feel what it was like to work in a factory like Antonina does.

One thing that was very confusing about the book was all of the switches between the different characters narrating. There isn't a really clear delineation between who is narrating and where their narration stops and begins. It was very confusing. It definitely took a little away from the book. The book was still very enjoyable but I spent a lot of time trying to figure out who was talking.

Bottom line: A good historical fiction!


 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Review: The Moon and the Tide by Derrolyn Anderson

Title: The Moon and the Tide
Author: Derrolyn Anderson
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Self-published
Publish Date: April 1, 2011
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.







Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a young adult fiction fan.
  • You like myths.
  • You like fantasy.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Just when things seem to be all figured out, Marina discovers that there's a lot more going on behind the scenes than she ever imagined. When she learned the truth about her past she thought the drama was over, but she couldn't have been more wrong.

Shocked to discover her whole life has been a lie, Marina is confronted with more than one kind of betrayal, taking solace in a dangerous new habit. After a terrible accident exposes her secret, a dangerous enemy arrives on the scene. Marina's bravery is put to the test once again, forcing her to use all of her new-found skills to protect her family.

Can good triumph over evil?

Will true love win out over jealousy?"


My Two Cents:

This is the second book in this series. You could probably still "get" the story if you haven't read this first book but the first book was great too, why would you want to miss it???

Anyhow, I loved this book as much as I loved the first one. Marina is still trying to figure out her powers but she understands the stakes so much more in this book. I love her character. She's just really well written. She feels like a really 3-D character; like someone that you might come across in real life. She has real interests. She has a definitive personality. Not everything that you learn about her factors directly into the action of the book, which to me, makes her seem all the more real.

For that matter, I think that one of the highlights of this series continue to be the characters. I love them; especially Marina's group of friends, Megan (great name - by the way, hah), Cruz, and Ethan. I also liked that Shayla gets into the fold in this book. I didn't like her much in the first book of this series. They are all very real characters with different stories and different interests. They definitely help to make the book fun.

I loved all of the twists in this book. The book starts off slow and steady but quickly became increasingly exciting throughout the book. A lot of the twists I didn't see coming at all, which is always very exciting as I love a big surprise. It really made me excited for the next book, which I am hoping to get to next week.

This is a very fun Young Adult fiction series and definitely is a shining example of why reading indie books can be so much fun!

Bottom line: Perfect for the end of summer!



Other Reviews for this Series:
Between the Land and the Sea (1)  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Review: Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures by Emma Straub

Title: Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures
Author: Emma Straub
Format: ARC
Publisher: Riverhead
Publish Date: September 4, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.





Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a Historical Fiction fan.
  • You love Old Hollywood.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "In 1920, Elsa Emerson, the youngest and blondest of three sisters, is born in idyllic Door County, Wisconsin. Her family owns the Cherry County Playhouse, and more than anything, Elsa relishes appearing onstage, where she soaks up the approval of her father and the embrace of the audience. But when tragedy strikes her family, her acting becomes more than a child's game of pretend.

While still in her teens, Elsa marries and flees to Los Angeles. There she is discovered by Irving Green, one of the most powerful executives in Hollywood, who refashions her as a serious, exotic brunette and renames her Laura Lamont. Irving becomes Laura’s great love; she becomes an Academy Award­-winning actress—and a genuine movie star. Laura experiences all the glamour and extravagance of the heady pinnacle of stardom in the studio-system era, but ultimately her story is a timeless one of a woman trying to balance career, family, and personal happiness, all while remaining true to herself."


My Two Cents:

Laura Lamont was born Elsa of Wisconsin. She grew up around her father's theatre, dreaming of the day where she might make it in Hollywood. To me, Old Hollywood is pretty much the ultimate in glitz and glam. I can totally see why Elsa would want to go there.

To me, the title "Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures" has sort of a double meaning. First, yes, this book is about Laura Lamont becoming a movie star. To me, the title could also refer to how the book is written. We only get pictures of Laura/Elsa's life. There is space in time between the different chapters in the book. We get to know Laura but not well. We don't really get to know what's she's thinking or her motivations. And we don't get that for any of the other characters either.

When I read a book, I really want to know what makes a character tick. I want to know why they do what they do. I want to know how they are feeling when they do the things they do. I find that sort of thing really helps me to feel connected to the character. I just wasn't feeling that here.

I loved the story and I loved the detail about Hollywood back in the day. You can definitely tell that the author put a lot of time and effort into researching the setting and time period of the book to make the story come to life. I definitely appreciated that.

Bottom line: If you're looking for a good setting, this is a good historical fiction for you!


  


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Review: Against Their Will by Kevin Begos, et al.

Title: Against Their Will: North Carolina's Sterilization Program
Author: Kevin Begos, Danielle Deaver, John Railey, Scott Sexton
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Grey Oak Books
Publish Date: March 20, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the PR; however, this did not affect my review.





Why Are You Reading This Book:

  • You like non-fiction.
  • You're interested in social issues.
  • You're interested in ethics, especially bioethics
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "They were wives and daughters. Unwed mothers. Children. Even a 10-year-old boy. Some were blind or mentally retarded. Toward the end they were mostly black and poor, and it all took place not in the distant past, but up until the 1970s.
 

For more than 40 years North Carolina ran one of the nation’s largest and most aggressive sterilization programs. It expanded after World War II, even as most other states pulled back in light of the horrors of Hitler’s Germany.

This spring, North Carolina is poised to become the first state to pay reparations to victims of eugenics, or involuntary sterilization.


North Carolina’s historic debate over its eugenic past was launched by Against Their Will, a series in the Winston- Salem Journal. A team of reporters exposed the scientific flaws and racial bais of the eugenics program through interviews with victims, the doctors who operated on them, the bureaucrats who ran the program, and long-hidden documents that historian Johanna Schoen shared with a reporter.


The series led directly to an apology from the governor and the first efforts in the nation seeking to compensate victims of eugenics. Against Their Will has drawn praise from civil rights groups, historians, and the general public."


My Two Cents:

When most Americans think of eugenics, many probably think of some of the insidious activities that the Nazis engaged in during World War II. Not many people realize that many states in America had eugenics programs. States sterilized people they felt were "feeble minded" or suffered from mental illnesses. Many of the people who were sterilized got absolutely no say in whether or not they wanted to be sterilized. It definitely called into question biomedical ethics! Some of these programs, like the one in North Carolina discussed in this book went on until the 1970s. This is a dark, secretive part of history to say the very least.

This book is a collection of articles that ran as part of a series on the North Carolina eugenics program and the possible reparitions to be made to those affected by the program. These ugly programs are definitely worth a discussion but with this book just being a collection of news stories does not venture very deeply into the issue. The articles are very good for newspaper articles but there is a huge difference between a collection of newspaper articles and a real exploration of the issue. That exploration was definitely missing for me. I was looking for more of a connection between all of the articles. I wanted to see the bigger picture. You really don't get much of that in this book.

Bottom line: I still think this is an important subject that more people need to know about but this book is not an all inclusive guide to the subject at hand; it's more just an appetizer.


  

Monday, September 17, 2012

Review: Hidden America by Jeanne Marie Laskas

Title: Hidden America
Author: Jeanne Marie Laskas
Format: ARC
Publisher: Putnam
Publish Date: September 13, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.






Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a non-fiction fan.
  • You love learning about different people.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Five hundred feet underground, Jeanne Marie Laskas asked a coal miner named Smitty, “Do you think it’s weird that people know so little about you?” He replied, “I don’t think people know too much about the way the whole damn country works.”

Hidden America intends to fix that. Like John McPhee and Susan Orlean, Laskas dives deep into her subjects and emerges with character-driven narratives that are gripping, funny, and revelatory. In Hidden America, the stories are about the people who make our lives run every day—and yet we barely think of them.

Laskas spent weeks in an Ohio coal mine and on an Alaskan oil rig; in a Maine migrant labor camp, a Texas beef ranch, the air traffic control tower at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, a California landfill, an Arizona gun shop, the cab of a long-haul truck in Iowa, and the stadium of the Cincinnati Ben-Gals cheerleaders. Cheerleaders? Yes. They, too, are hidden America, and you will be amazed by what Laskas tells you about them: hidden no longer.


My Two Cents: 

There are a lot of unsung heroes in this country. These are the people that if they stopped doing their job, we would notice and quickly! These people don't get a lot of the glory. They're not people whose names we all know. Yet they are a integral part of our society.

Laskas states in the beginning of the book that this book is not meant to be political but it veers in that direction a little bit, depending on the topic and person being discussed. This book is at its best when the people who do all of these different jobs (coal miner, truck driver, fruit picker, etc.) and its at its worse when it veers into the political zone or the fluffy zone.

There is a chapter that is basically a diatribe on gun ownership under the guise of talking about those that work in sports shops selling guns. While this book is not always neutral, it is still a good picture of some of the jobs that have to get done in this country. What I do know is that you could not pay me to be a coal miner. This girl would faint if I had to go in those teeny, tiny passageways (oh claustrophobia, you slay me!).

There is another chapter that deals with a woman who is a construction worker but also a Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader. The chapter focuses way more on the cheerleading aspect and some of the other cheerleading stories. This chapter was very fluffy and almost a little condescending. On the other hand, I found myself wondering why this chapter was even in the book as it seemed to deal with a job that isn't really useful.

There are also really good stories in here. The coal miners really stand out to me. Here are some people who really risk their life (even the flash from a camera down in the mines could set off a massive explosion) but who go and do their job everyday. Then there are the fruit pickers. Fruit picking is a job that not a lot of Americans will do. It's hard and tedious work. There are whole groups of people that follow different fruit harvests throughout the country in order to have a job. It's really amazing.

Laskas goes in search of these people to learn about their lives and why they do what they do everyday. The majority of the stories (the gun sellers and cheerleaders just didn't do it for me) that make up this book are all interesting. These people don't get a lot of glory but they really keep this country moving. It was nice to get a little more insight into their lives!

Bottom line: a great non-fiction read!


  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Review: The Victory Lab by Sasha Issenberg

Title: The Victory Lab
Author: Sasha Issenberg
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Crown
Publish Date: September 11, 2012
Source: Netgalley






Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You love politics.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Renegade thinkers are crashing the gates of a venerable American institution, shoving aside its so-called wise men and replacing them with a radical new data-driven order. We’ve seen it in sports, and now in The Victory Lab, journalist Sasha Issenberg tells the hidden story of the analytical revolution upending the way political campaigns are run in the 21st century.
     

The Victory Lab follows the academics and maverick operatives rocking the war room and re-engineering a high-stakes industry previously run on little more than gut instinct and outdated assumptions. Armed with research from behavioural psychology and randomized experiments that treat voters as unwitting guinea pigs, the smartest campaigns now believe they know who you will vote for even before you do.  Issenberg tracks these fascinating techniques—which include cutting edge persuasion experiments, innovative ways to mobilize voters, heavily researched electioneering methods—and shows how our most important figures, such as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, are putting them to use with surprising skill and alacrity.
     

Provocative, clear-eyed and energetically reported, The Victory Lab offers iconoclastic insights into political marketing, human decision-making, and the increasing power of analytics."

My Two Cents:

We're only a couple of months away from the elections here in the United States (this cannot come soon enough; I live in Maryland and we're being bombarded with nasty commercials because of Virginia being a battleground state... sigh). Anyhow, I thought that this might be an appropriate book for the election season.

This book gets into the nitty,gritty of ways that campaign planners and pollster can figure out how to win elections. It's an interesting study to say the least. I was really surprised at how many different ways there were to poll people in order to figure out how an election might go. There are so many creative ways that you can test the waters for your candidate as well as to win voters over.

I thought it was striking how many of the things in the book that the author prescribed in order to win elections are not being done right now. Some of the players from the ongoing campaigns may enjoy this book in order to get some fresh ideas.

I had a couple issues with the book though.

First, when I say nitty, gritty, I mean nitty, gritty. This book delved into a lot of various studies that social scientists and others had done and it was hard to follow along at times as just a casual election observer. There also wasn't a lot of flow between the author introducing one concept before moving on to another concept and I got lost several times. At times, the book feels like a series of footnotes. This book may be better suited for people who have already worked within the realm of polling or have a background in something like statistics.

Bottom line: This book is for someone who loves endless detail about political campaigns.  


 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

BBAW 2012 Day 3: What Does Book Blogging Mean to You?


I've been at this book blogging this for about the past year and a half. It's been an awesome adventure.

Here's a list of some of the doors that blogging has opened for me:

  • Virtually meeting some really cool book bloggers.
  • Meeting some really cool authors IRL
  • Reading awesome books
  • Getting to participate in all sorts of book tours. 
  • Learning about the book business (oh man, it's so much different than I thought it was). 
All of this stuff is still really cool to me; however, the thing that probably means the most to me is finding other bookish bloggers like me out there. I don't have a lot of friends IRL that read a lot and of those that read, I don't have any friends that read as much as I do. But there are book bloggers that do! I've found kindred spirits out there in the great wide world of the interwebz! 

Knowing that there are other people who share my bookish obsessions and a love of reading makes the world feel like a little bit better of a place.

What has book bloggin meant to you?

Review: Jane by Robin Maxwell

Title: Jane
Author:  Robin Maxwell
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Tor
Publish Date: September 18, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the PR; however, this did not affect my review.






Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You love adventure.
  • You love great settings.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Cambridge, England: 1905. Jane Porter is hardly a typical woman of her time. The only female student in Cambridge University’s medical program, she is far more comfortable in a lab coat, dissecting corpses, than she is in a corset and gown, sipping afternoon tea. A budding paleoanthropologist, Jane dreams of travelling the globe in search of fossils that will prove the evolutionary theories of her scientific hero, Charles Darwin.

When dashing American explorer Ral Conrath invites Jane and her father on an expedition deep into West Africa, she can hardly believe her luck. Rising to the challenge, Jane finds an Africa that is every bit exotic and fascinating as she has always imagined. But she quickly learns that the lush jungle is full of secrets—and so is Ral Conrath. When danger strikes, Jane finds her hero, the key to humanity’s past, and an all-consuming love in one extraordinary man: Tarzan of the Apes.

Jane is the first version of the Tarzan story written by a woman and authorized by the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate. Its 2012 publication will mark the centennial of the publication of the original Tarzan of the Apes."


My Two Cents:

Admittedly, I have never read any of the original Tarzan books by Edgar Rice Burroughs; however, I'm familiar with some of the movies. Tarzan and Jane are still very well known characters even today. The relationship between Tarzan and Jane is still interesting to many today. They are definitely a timeless pair. This book marks the first "spin-off" authorized by the author's estate, which is very cool! I really enjoyed this book. You definitely don't need to be familiar with the story to find some enjoyment in the book.

Jane Porter of the Tarzan stories is an awesome character. The story takes place during the early part of the 1900s when women adventurers and scientists were very few and far between. In her mid-twenties, Jane's unmarried status was already a little bit of an anomaly. She's tough, strong, and determined to do what she wants. Jane is the narrator of the book, which I thought really helped to pull you into the story. It takes awhile to get there but throughout the book, Jane really grows and becomes more comfortable with herself, which was cool to see.

Yes, this is an adventure book but there isn't a whole lot of action, especially not at the beginning. This book is definitely more of a sort of quiet adventure with a lot more focus on the characters and setting than an actual adventure. The real adventure only comes in the latter half of the book.

Some of the changes in time were a little bit confusing. At least in the ARC version (which is the version I read), there are very few indications of how much time had passed between each event. It confused the flow a little bit as the book jumps around a little bit.

Overall, I really liked this book. Jane is awesome. Tarzan is a fantastic character. It seems like there possibly could be a sequel to the book, which I would absolutely love.

Bottom line: A quiet story for both those new and not so new to the Tarzan stories.


 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

BBAW Day 2: Interview with The True Book Addict

It's Day 2 of BBAW! Today, we're interviewing our fellow book blogger. I am excited to have Michelle of the True Book Addict here to A Bookish Affair for an interview. Welcome, Michelle!






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1. How would you describe your blog for someone who has never visited before?   

That's a hard one.  I'm terrible at describing myself or anything relating to myself.  I guess I would say my blog is the essence of my blog tagline, "An eclectic reader with an affinity for history and historical fiction."  I would probably tell them that it's a mash-up of a lot of historical fiction with some contemporary and classics thrown in with a dash of cats.

2. How did you decide to start book blogging?   

About three years ago, I was big into MySpace.  My page was book related and I had a little blog on there where I used to write about the books I read...and no one read it.  Then I found out about Twitter and started lurking around on there and I met some other book-minded people.  One of my new friends (Ryan, who blogs at Wordsmithonia) told me about book blogging and said I should start a blog.  And I did.  The rest is history!

3. What's your favorite part about book blogging? What about your least favorite?  

 Of course, it's talking about books, which I love, but it's also the interaction with others, the camaraderie with fellow book bloggers is wonderful.  Just knowing there are so many others out there with like minds is comforting.  And it does a heart good that reading is not dying out in our society.  My least favorite would have to be the obligation.  Now don't get me wrong.  I have loved being offered books for review and I love reading them and working with authors.  That being said, I went a bit overboard and I'm so severely backlogged that I don't know if I'll ever reach the end of the pile.  Consequently, I have stopped accepting review books (with the exception of a few tours) until I can dig myself out of this hole.  Plus, I have a home library of 3000+ books and I'm trying to work my way through them too.

4. Where do you usually read? When?  

 At home, I read in the living room in my comfy chair.  But I also always have a book with me so I read in the car while waiting in the kids' car rider lanes, etc.  I also listen to audio books whenever I'm driving.  I usually read all day long at different times.  I work from home so when I don't have a task to work on, I read (or blog).  I also read during commercials when I'm watching TV.

5. What's your favorite book that you've read this year and why? What about your favorite book that you've read since you started book blogging?   

For the first question, I'm going to mention two because they're such different genres.  In historical fiction, my favorite so far this year is easily The Queen's Vow by C.W. Gortner.  Gortner is a great voice in historical fiction.  This is the second book I've read by him and his novels are so accurate and I feel such a connection with the main characters.  The Queen's Vow is about Queen Isabella of Castile (yes, the Columbus Queen Isabella).  In horror, it was Ghost Story by Peter Straub (which I loved), but I'm afraid I'm going to have to replace that with Breed by Chase Novak.  I just finished reading it and it is...wow! I'll be reviewing it this week on my horror blog, Castle Macabre (http://castlemacabre.blogspot.com/)   Regarding the second question, my favorite since I started blogging...that's a tough one.  There have really been so many in the past three years.  I'll have to go with A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin.  I read it last year and it immediately took a place in my top ten reads of all time.

6. What book are you most excited for to come out this year?   

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

7. I'm also a fellow cat lover (I have two) and I can't get enough LOLcats. How did you come up with the idea for Cat Thursday?   

One Thursday, I was looking at some lolcats pics and I decided to post them in a blog post because they just made me smile.  I already posted about my cat, Alice, periodically.  I asked my readers what they thought about me making it a weekly meme/feature and the answers were in the affirmative so I've been doing it ever since.  It has become very popular since I started.  My cats (I also have two now) are like my kids too and they will probably be the only daughters I ever have (I have sons).  I'm sure you can relate to the cat love.  You should join us.  We would love to have you!

8. If you could bring any 3 historical people or fictional characters with you to a deserted island, who would you bring and why?  

 It would have to be Queen Elizabeth I, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and William Wallace (of Braveheart fame).  QEI and Eleanor because they were two strong women and I'm sure the conversation would be lively and enlightening.  William Wallace would be great for protecting our freedom from interlopers on our island.  Plus, I admire him so.  I admire all of them.

_______________________________________________________
Note from Meg: Check out Michelle interviewing me on her site!


Monday, September 10, 2012

BBAW 2012 Day 1: Appreciate!

It's Day 1 of Book Blogger Appreciation Week! Today we're showing appreciation for some of our favorite book blogs. I had a really hard time picking just a couple to highlight as there are so many good book blogs that I read on a constant basis.

I've found a lot of kindred spirits in the book blogging world. These people have become friends! That's what's so cool about book blogging; there truly is a community out there! So first off, if you are reading this, you are my friend and I appreciate you guys so much!!! I would copy and paste my entire Google Reader list but that would be absolutely ridiculously tl;dr.



There are a couple blogs that I want to highlight though :

Bibliophile By The Sea - I came to know Diane through her meme: First Chapter, First Paragraph. She's an awesome lady who seems to make me add an awful lot to my TBR list.

Kill Me If I Stop - Okay, confession time: I'm scared of classics. I have so many that I want to read but I am really, really intimidated by many of them. KMIIS reads mostly classics and has shown me that I shouldn't be so scared!!!

Passages to the Past - Historical Fiction is probably my most beloved genre. There is almost nothing I love more than getting sucked into a good historical story. Amy at Passages to the Past supplies me with the latest on all things Historical Fiction and I love every second of it.

The Book Garden - Anne is another lady that has very similar reading taste to me. If she likes a book, I know that I'm probably going to like the book. Here's another one that makes my TBR grow by leaps and bounds.

Write Meg - Meg is a fellow Meg and a fellow Marylander (two good things in my book). Not only does she have really good taste in books but her blog is filled with gorgeous photos and interesting musings that have a tendency to make me nod in agreement.

What book bloggers do you want to show appreciation for?

Review: Charmed Thirds by Megan McCafferty

Title: Charmed Thirds
Author: Megan McCafferty
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Publish Date: April 24, 2007
Source: Library


Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You're a Young Adult fiction fan.
  • You like snarky.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Jessica Darling’s in college!

Things are looking up for Jessica Darling. She has finally left her New Jersey hometown/hellhole for Columbia University in New York City; she’s more into her boyfriend, Marcus Flutie, than ever (so what if he’s at a Buddhist college in California?); and she’s making new friends who just might qualify as stand-ins for her beloved best friend, Hope.

But Jessica soon realizes that her bliss might not last. She lands an internship at a snarky Brooklyn-based magazine, but will she fit in with the überhip staff (and will she even want to)? As she and Marcus hit the rocks, will she end up falling for her GOPunk, neoconservative RA . . . or the hot (and married!) Spanish grad student she’s assisting on a summer project . . . or the oh-so-sensitive emo boy down the hall? Will she even make it through college now that her parents have cut her off financially? And what do the cryptic one-word postcards from Marcus really mean?

With hilarious insight, the hyperobservant Jessica Darling struggles through her college years—and the summers in between—while maintaining her usual mix of wit, cynicism, and candor."


My Two Cents:

Jessica Darling is back for a third installment of pure snark. Although she seems to have matured slightly from the second book, a good thing indeed (no, seriously, thank goodness). I liked this book a lot better for that reason.

Anyhow, Jessica is in college at Columbia in NYC in this book. I loved that the author was able to capture so many things that you go through in college: the trials and tribulations of long distance relationships, trying to make friends like the really good ones that you have from home, getting to your first internship and realizing that things are not always as good in reality as they are in your mind! McCafferty did a really good job of capturing the events and the emotions tied to the events of college. I have not come across a lot of books that really cover the college experience. I think everyone's experiences are probably a little bit different but Jessica deals with a lot of common themes that so many college students face. It's very realistic.

This book does cover a few years. It made it a little confusing to try to figure out how much time had actually passed between a couple of the events in the book. There are markers in the beginning of each chapter but it was hard to keep track since time was going so quickly.

As I mentioned earlier, this book is the third in the series. You would be able to follow along with the story even if you haven't read the first two books; however, the first two books were pretty good (even if Jessica was a little whiny in the second book) so you should still read the first books.






My Reviews for the Other Books in this Series:

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Author Interview: C.C. Humphreys

Today, I'm very happy to welcome C.C. Humphreys to A Bookish Affair. C.C. is the author of  the wonderful "A Place Called Armageddon."



1. All of your books seem to focus on different people and different times. How did you come up with the ideas for your books?

Yes, I do jump about a bit! Tudor, 18th Century, medieval epic – and my last teen book was a fantasy!

For me its all about story. An idea hits me, or a place overwhelms me – as in the case with this book. Occasionally I make a purely commercial decision to begin: Vlad, my novel about the real Dracula, was calculated to appeal to all those new Vampire fans out there. But really, I just get intrigued by a set of characters and their dilemmas.

2. What was your research process like for "A Place Called Armageddon?"

The usual mix. I spend a lot of time in books – though I use the internet to fact check or visit specialized websites, there’s nothing like a hard cover and my note pad beside it. I also need field research. Maybe it’s an excuse because I love to travel; but going to such a place as Constantinople throws up all sorts of details both historical and sensual. There truly is nothing like experiencing the light on the Bosphorus, or the scent of the Judas Tree.

3. Do you have a favorite character in "A Place Called Armageddon?" Why?

You are asking me to choose between my children! Whenever I am writing, or re-reading that character whoever it is becomes my favourite for that moment. I know all the effort I put in to make them as they are. This book is filled with leading roles, since it tells the tale from multiple viewpoints, and a villain appeals as much as any hero.

Forced to choose? I have a soft spot for my morose Scot (and real life figure) John Grant. I am still a little in love with Leilah, the sorceress-assassin. But Gregoras, the wounded core of the story moves me the most. There’s something about redemption that is very powerful to me.

4. What's the last great book that you've read?


Great? Man! I recently re-read ‘Warrior Scarlet’ by Rosemary Sutcliff. A children’s historical novel, I have loved her since I was a child and still do. Talk about redemption! But I also loved Kazuo Ishiguro’s ‘When We Were Orphans’. A brilliant unreliable narrator.

5. What 3 fictional/historical characters would you want with you on the deserted island?

Am I allowed to choose my own? Jack absolutely, because he’d be such fun and quite good at hunting. (I wouldn’t choose Vlad because he’d try to impale then eat me when the food ran out!)

I’d want Shakespeare there (my new novel, just finishing, is about the Bard’s fight choreographer).

And Leilah, from ‘Armageddon’. So sexy - and very useful with a crossbow. A good combo for a deserted island.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Review: A Place Called Armageddon by C.C. Humphreys

Title: A Place Called Armageddon
Author: C.C. Humphreys
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publish Date: September 1, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.






Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a historical fiction fan.
  • You love great characters.

What's the Story?: 

From Goodreads.com: "Gregoras had vowed never to return to Constantinople, the cursed home that had betrayed and scarred not only in his mind, but his face for all to see. But now with 100,000 Muslim soldiers outside its walls, he can hear its desperate calls for his help, as it can only be held by men and mercenaries as skilled in battle as Gregoras, of which few remain.
His return home, though, will mean not only having to face the constant hum of arrow and cannon, but also Theon, twin brother...and betrayer. And with him his beloved Sofia, lost when Gregoras was cast from his home, now bound to Theon in marriage. But the rewards of victory would not only be the glories of the battle, but the redemption of his name and his soul."


My Two Cents:

This story takes place in the 1400s during the siege of Contantinople, where the Turks invaded the city in order to wrestle away power. Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) was at the crossroads of the world at that time. It was where the East and West met and therefore, there were a lot of different groups that wanted to control it. You had the Italians, Turkish, and Greeks all vying for dominance in the city.

Yes, this is a war story but there is so much more to it than that. As the book synopsis points out, the story of the city and the siege cannot be separated from the people who lived there and the people who invaded. The story is mostly told through stories (a mix of fictional and non-fictional characters)of the people who witnessed the siege. I really liked this touch. I'm not really into long, drawn out scenes of battles but you definitely don't get that here. Yes, there are some battles and some fighting in the book (as to be expected in a book about a siege) but the main story is really about the characters and how they deal with the events. I think that using the characters to tell about this historical event helped to make the book really accessible to someone like me who really doesn't like just straight war novels.

The characters are all good and all add something to the story. I don't think that I really had a favorite (although I had a soft spot for Gregoras) as all of the characters really needed to be in the book in order to make it work. One thing I will say is that there are a lot of characters in the book and I had some trouble keeping track of them so if you're easily confused by huge casts of characters, this may not be for you. Luckily for me, there was an easily accessible guide to the characters in the front of the book, which made life much easier for me.

This was a historical event that I really was not familiar with before this book. Humphreys writes in a way that allows people unfamiliar with this event to understand what's going on but I think that even those who know a lot about this historical event will get something new out of the book.

Bottom line: A great historical fiction for those that like seeing history through those that were there!


 

 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Review: Sourdough Creek by Caroline Fyffe

Title: Sourdough Creek
Author: Caroline Fyffe
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Self-published
Publish Date: February 22, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.





Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a historical fiction fan.
  • You're a romance fan.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Nevada Territory, 1851

Sam Ridgeway is on a mission. He’s determined to find the deed to his gold claim, along with the low-down, thieving bum who stole it from his saddlebag. Arvid Angel would pay!

Cassie Angel has a plan. She and her little sister will sneak out of Broken Branch before being left alone in the dying town with the despicable Sherman brothers. Thank goodness she now has a place to flee to. On his last visit, her Uncle Arvid stashed a deed to a gold claim in her dresser drawer. Even though it means traveling to California, she’s set on trying her hand at gold panning—just like thousands of others flooding to that still-wild state. Unfortunately, before she and her sister are able to depart, Klem Sherman shows up looking for trouble. Just when Cassie thinks all is lost, a tall, good-looking cowboy appears and comes to her rescue."


My Two Cents: 

"Sourdough Creek" is a historical romance set in the Wild West (first in the Nevada territory and then in Coloma, California) during the 1800s. The romance is subtle and contains few love scenes for those of you who do not like them. The book takes place during the height of "Gold Fever" that overtook the country during that time period.

I love a strong character and Cassie Angel definitely fits that bill. During the time period in which this book takes place, women are not allowed to be particular independent, if you can imagine. However, Cassie is very headstrong and decides that staying home in a town that's dying with little family except her sort of evil uncle is not for her. She's also incredibly protective of her little sister, Josephine, which really endeared her to me.

The love story between Cassie and Sam, the cowboy, was just okay for me. I wish that the love story had been a little more detailed. Their love seemed to go from 0 to 60 in no time. I wanted to understand a little more about the "why" of their relationship. What drew them to each other? You get that they really loved each other but the intermediary was not there for me.

And this isn't really a criticism but with the contest (I'll leave it vague as I don't want to give anything away) that Sam, Cassie, and Uncle Arvid have to participate in to get the rights to the land deed. It seems like sort of an interesting way to sort things out. I sort of want to do some research to see if people really sorted out their differences like that.

I really enjoyed the story's setting. I haven't read a lot of books about the West before it was really settled. Fyffe gives a great amount of detail to really pull you into the story. You can really sense all of the different obstacles that Sam, Cassie, and Josephine face as they make their way from the Nevada territory to California.

Bottom line: A subtle love story with great characters and a good setting!


  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Review: Flying Lessons by H. Lovelyn Bettison

Title: Flying Lessons
Author: H. Lovelyn Bettison
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Nebulous Mooch Publishing
Publish Date: May 26th 2012
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.






Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a fiction fan.
  • You like family stories.
  • You like love stories.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Henry and his daughter, Chandra, are stuck. Haunted by the past, they sleepwalk through life until unexpected relationships shake up their perceptions of reality. Henry’s new friendship with a neighbor blurs the boundaries between the living and the dead, and Chandra starts to see possibilities she’s never noticed before."

My Two Cents:

I really liked the storyline in Flying Lessons. From a lot of books, you might get the picture that a love story is only for the young. There are two love stories in Flying Lessons and while one does deal with a young couple, the other story deals with two older widowers finding love again after their spouses pass away. It was definitely refreshing to see that love comes in all different shapes, sizes, and of course, ages.

This story is about coping with loss and forging a way forward. Henry loses a loving wife and Chandra loses a loving mother when Ava dies. It takes both of them a very (very, very) long time to totally deal with her death. While I understand that when you lose someone very close to you that you never really get over it (been there, done that more times than I would have liked too unfortunately), you do move forward. The timing of the book just seemed strange. When Chandra and Henry begin their respective love affairs, Ava has been gone for over a decade. While I realize that you would definitely still think of a spouse or a parent who passed away after that amount of time, I didn't really understand from the book why Chandra and Henry seemed so stymied in their growth.

The writing in this book is decent. At first, there was a little more telling rather than showing. We learn exactly what the characters typically say what they are feeling rather than showing through their actions at the beginning of the story and things felt a bit forced. However, the story eventually evens out and finds its stride in a very pleasing and enjoyable way.

This story also has a little taste of magical realism, an effect that I really loved. This element is where the title of the book comes from. It's subtle but it definitely adds a lot to the story.

Bottom line: This is a great book for those who love a subtle love story!


  

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Authors, Are You Looking for a Book Tour?

I came across this opportunity on Twitter and thought I would share it with some of my author friends! As you may know, I've been participating in quite a few book blog tours for TLC Book Tours since I started A Bookish Affair. I think they're a great tour company. They're good to their authors and their bloggers! I'm envious of their supernatural organization skills.

Now, they're giving away a 10 stop tour to the debut author (must be traditionally published) that can convince them why they need this tour the most. It's a very cool contest! Check it out here!

(Note: I'm posting this contest out of my own volition because I think it's good information :) )

Review: Wax by Therese Ambrosi Smith

Title: Wax
Author: Therese Ambrosi Smith
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Blue Star Books
Publish Date: August 1, 2011
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You're a historical fiction fan.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Young women come of age in the shipyards during WWII, only to lose the best jobs they've ever had to returning soldiers after victory. When, post-war, Tilly builds a business making candles, and an arsonist destroys it, she is forced to face the truth about her life. Wax is set in the 1940s, as the seeds of the civil rights and feminist movements are sown - along with victory gardens."

My Two Cents:

While the synopsis of this book makes the book sound like it's the story of some Rosie the Riveter type women during World War II and it's also about what happens after the war. This is what initially got me interested in the book as I had never read a historical fiction about this group of women. WWII opened so many doors for so many women. Jobs that men traditionally had like some of the ones that the women had in the book were finally open to women. It's amazing how much changed during this time period! After the war ended, women were pushed out of some of the positions that they held during the war as the men came back home.

I found myself wishing that the book had focused a little more on the main characters, Tilly, Doris, and Sylvia during the war. Only the very beginning chapters of the book focus on what happened during the war. The majority of the story takes place after the war ends. Since the friendships and relationships between all three of the women are pretty much established when the war ends as they've worked together for several years at that point, I didn't really feel that I got a good sense of who the women were and why they connect with each other. It felt a little bit disjointed to me.

I almost thought that the book could have been expanded a little and divided into two books maybe. I thought that what the women did during World War II and the bonds that they formed then could have been a really compelling story. Because you don't really get a lot of the back story in this book, Wax kind of rang hollow for me. If I could have felt for the characters and their relationships a little more, I would have liked this book a little bit better.

That being said, the historical detail in the book was really good and was very vivid. I would love to see what else Smith writes in the future.

 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

TLC Book Tours: So L.A. by Bridget Hoida

Title: So L.A.
Author: Bridget Hoida
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Lettered Press
Publish Date: June 20, 2012
Source: TLC Book Tours






Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a fiction fan
  • You love rooting for characters.
  • You like satire.
  • You don't mind darker stories.
 What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Magdalena de la Cruz breezed through Berkeley and built an empire selling designer water. She’d never felt awkward or unattractive… until she moved to Los Angeles. In L.A., where “everything smells like acetone and Errol Flynn,” Magdalena attempts to reinvent herself as a geographically appropriate bombshell—with rhinestones, silicone and gin—as she seeks an escape from her unraveling marriage and the traumatic death of her younger brother, Junah. Magdalena’s Los Angeles is glitzy and glamorous but also a landscape of the absurd. Her languidly lyrical voice provides a travel guide for a city of make-believe, where even Hollywood insiders feel left out."

My Two Cents:

This book talks about all of the stuff that I hate about L.A. I've only been once and it definitely was not my favorite place. I'm definitely an East Coast girl, who would be driven crazy by being in LA-LA-Land. I wouldn't last that long. This book is definitely about the darker side of L.A. Hoida's L.A. is not glamorous. It's actually sort of dark, especially for the main character.

The main character is great. Magdalena is fascinating. She comes to L.A. with her husband, Ricky, as an idealistic young woman. The couple owns a designer bottle water company that starts out with very good intentions and turns into something completely different, much like the owners themselves. Magdalena throws herself into becoming the ideal L.A. lady (read: blonde, blingy, and large...uh... assets) after her brother dies in her accident. She's lost. This is definitely a case where the character in the book is not very likeable (I wanted to shake Magdalena so many times and tell her to wake-up) but you feel for them so much that you care about them. I really wanted Magdalena to change and for things to work out for her. She's just spiraling out of control throughout most of the book. I know that it's hard to see if you are the one that is spiraling out of control but I wish someone would have stepped in. Magdalena is surrounded by people who are totally oblivious though and really doesn't have anyone "real" in her life. There's no one to be her sounding board. There's no one who gives her a sense of reason. There's no best friend or lover to take her aside and get her help. It made me even sadder for her.

I also really liked the writing. Hoida has a very interesting way of writing. It's both sharp and lyrical at the same time. It's sort of hard to describe. I loved the way that the chapters were broken up. In a way, they almost feel like Magdalena is actually having a conversation with you, going back ever so often to tell you a back story or a little bit more information so you can really get what's being said. Magdalena's character is also very snarky and sarcastic and that definitely shines through in the writing.

Bottom line: This is a gritty picture of a woman fumbling towards trying to find her place in the world. 






Guest Post by Bridget Hoida: 

A Note From Meg: Guys, I am so excited about this guest post. Like ridiculously excited!!! Music and books together? I'm in heaven! Click on the titles of the songs to get a feeling for the novel, "So L.A." Now, please welcome Bridget Hoida, author of So L.A.



Dear Readers,

I must admit, when A Bookish Affair asked for a So L.A. playlist, I was tempted to reach into the tight back pocket of my L.A. iconography jeans and grab some Southland song classics like: “Hotel California” by The Eagles; “California Girls” both—the David Lee Roth & The Beach Boys versions; Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.”; or even the fabulous—and fabulously appropriate— “L.A. Woman” by The Doors, but I didn’t. Even though these songs make me smile, and I’ll openly admit to singing them loudly while driving the 405, or cheering at a Laker’s game, they weren’t “So L.A.”, at least not in the bookish sense.

Although some have mistakenly taken So L.A. for “chick lit” or a “light summer read,” (maybe it’s the cover? maybe it’s the title? maybe it’s because I’m a blonde woman writing about a blonde woman who lives in L.A.?) it’s actually a much darker satire about love and beauty myths and the necessary emotions everyone feels in the face of intense personal loss. Yes, it has rhinestones, movie stars, fancy cars and a whole lot of Hollywood sass, but So L.A. is more than just tinsel. It’s a woman from a small town who is struggling to reinvent herself, after the loss of her brother and the process, although eventually redeeming is oftentimes very messy. So turn the radio up and listen with me, as we explore a lesser heard So L.A.

1.     Red Dirt Girl by Emmylou Harris
Magdalena, the protagonist of So L.A. was born and raised in the agrarian San Joaquin Valley, in the small grape town of Lodi, California. This song, about two best friends who grew up in the dusty farmlands of another small American farm town, really speaks to much of the ranching backstory of So L.A.  In “Red Dirt Girl,” which Emmylou Harris admits is more of a story set to music, one of the friends loses her brother and after his death she, like Magdalena, is forever changed. In So L.A. I named Magdalena’s childhood dog Gideon, in homage to this song.


2.     I’m New Here” by Gil Scott-Heron
I originally heard this song as performed by songwriter Bill Callahan of Smog. It was good. But OMG! When I heard Gil Scott-Heron’s recording I melted. No really, I lost my legs and fell into a heap of sunglasses and a-lined skirts on my kitchen floor. It. Was. Just. That. Stunning. And what the song speaks to is perhaps Magdalena’s biggest struggle: how to turn herself and her life around. The song opens with Gil’s aged yet melodic voice straining to sing: “I did not become someone different / That I did not want to be” and I want to stress the intentionality of this sentiment and how it directly applies to Magdalena (and many other women in L.A.) So often in life (and L.A.) people, especially women, are perceived to be “victims” of their “circumstances.” They are forced into cosmetic surgery or other such drastic measures by “the pressure of the male gaze” or “our phallocentric world view” but as Magdalena (and many real women) will tell you, she wanted desperately to reinvent herself. In fact, one of the most touching moments in the novel is when her husband Ricky quietly asks her to stop. When he tells her he liked her (and her boobs) better before she went under the knife.  But when you’re “new here” or want to be “new,” Heron’s advice can be hard to remember and even harder to follow as he sings (and I grow faint from the sound of his voice) “No matter how far wrong you've gone/ You can always turn around.”


3.     Look At Me by John Lennon
This song is sung so softly, and with such endearingly sweet emotion, it’s hard not to be swept away by the pretty picks of the guitar chords. However, underneath this Lennon lullaby are questions that speak directly to Magdalena and her process of physical and emotional transformation. The song begins with the line “Look at me.”  After Junah’s death Magdalena can no longer bear to look herself in the mirror, as her resemblance to her dead brother is just too painful, so she moves to L.A. where she begins the (damaging and damning) process of cosmetic surgery. But she soon learns (though refuses to admit) even after she’s “augmented everything” her pain is still present. The lyrics of this song: “Who am I supposed to be? What am I supposed to do?” continue to speak to Mags throughout most of the novel.

4.     Blonde on Blonde” by Nada Surf
If So L.A. were a movie, and not un coincidentally, I’ve written it as such, this would have to be the track playing at Linda Carter’s Malibu party. Not only does the song mention “Wonder Woman” but it also takes the California “blonde” and makes her even blonder. How, might you ask, is that even possible? Let me give you the number for Magdalena’s stylist, Jersi. If he can’t bleach you blonder, Sugar, nobody can.

5.     L.A. River” by Honey Honey
Los Angeles, as Magdalena learns, is so much more than the stars on Hollywood Blvd. or the shops on Rodeo Drive. Beyond Beverly Hills and the beaches of Malibu and Santa Monica there is another, less iconic L.A. And as this song reminds everyone, it is equally beautiful, if not more so.

6.     “Little Miss Queen of Darkness” by The Kinks
After living in Southern California for well over a decade I’m convinced that even though the movies, pictures and “reality” television shows will tell you otherwise, nothing is as it seems. But more to the point: Californians try really really hard to keep things that way. The hair, the cars, the boobs, the exceptionally high heels… they are all a part of a huge yet-to-be-produced-film called: Hide Everything.  And to be “So L.A.” is to belong to this material culture. When considering Magdalena and her obsession with materialism I first went to Madonna’s “Material Girl,” but I think The Kinks explore the emotional damage of this showy lifestyle better when they sing: “Although she looked so happy,/ There was sadness in her eyes. / And her curly false eyelashes / Weren’t much of a disguise. / And her bright and golden hair, / Was not all that it might seem. / Little miss queen of darkness / Dances sadly on.”


7.     Pale Blue Eyes” by The Velvet Underground
This song is a love note from Magdalena to all the men in the book. To Ricky it is an explanation: “Sometimes I feel so happy,/ Sometimes I feel so sad. / Sometimes I feel so happy,/But mostly you just make me mad.” To Puck, it is her apology and her pleading, “If I could make the world as pure and strange as what I see,/I'd put you in the mirror,/ I put in front of me.” To Quentin, it is an invitation: “It was good what we did yesterday./ And I'd do it once again./ The fact that you are married,/ Only proves, you're my best friend./ But it's truly, truly a sin.To Junah it is a swan song. A goodbye in the way only music can speak: “Thought of you as my mountain top,/ Thought of you as my peak./ Thought of you as everything,/ I've had but couldn't keep./ Linger on, your pale blue eyes.” I’ve loved this song for more years than I care to admit and yet it never tires. Every time I hear Lou Reed’s musical whisper across my speakers I yearn for the run-down Berkeley loft of my early-twenties. I blame the tambourine.

8.     “Blues Run The Game” by Laura Marling
As every woman eventually learns, you can only run so far before the cities run out and start to become one in the same. Magdalena runs from Lodi to Berkeley to Los Angeles to the Beverly Hills Hotel to escape who she was and the memory of Junah. However, there’s only so much room service a girl can take before the lonely sets in. Even with Quentin’s occasional company, life at the Beverly Hills Hotel begins to break Magdalena’s “Hollywood gloss” as she realizes that no amount of whisky, gin or room service, will save her, nor will it bring her beloved Junah back. “When I'm not drinking, baby,/ You are on my mind,/ When I'm not sleeping, honey,/ Well you know you'll find me crying.”

9.      Stuck In Lodi” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
So I know I promised above that I was going to avoid the “cliché” but when you’re writing a book about a town as small as Lodi and it just so happens that there is also a fairly well known song about that same said town, well, you kind of have to include it. Especially when, near the end of the book Magdalena really does find herself “stuck in Lodi. Again.”

10.  “Everybody’s Gotta Live” by Arthur Lee
Hearing this song was a turning point for me. And equally important, it was a turning point for the book. I was deep into writing the pages of Magdalena’s depression, writing the worst and most despicable parts about her. When you’re doing dark writing like this it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the anger and the despair. I was struggling to write the scene where Mags comes to a resolution and forgives herself for Junah’s death, but I just couldn’t get the words out. A friend sent me this song and like Arthur Lee says, “Everybody’s gotta live and everybody’s gotta die.” Accepting Junah’s death allows Magdalena to live. She just has to “know the reason why.”

11.  Our Lips Are Sealed” by The Go-Go’s
This song is spiritual for me. Especially when paired with the video. There’s something that’s just, well, so L.A. about it. Convertibles with their tops down, girls who are insanely beautiful, but not in a manufactured way (e.g. L.A. in the early 80’s and not 2012) and dancing, fully clothed, in a public fountain in Beverly Hills. For me, this is Magdalena before Junah died: self-confident and joyful, and it is Magdalena in Take Six, which is not in the printed version of the book.  Splashing in a public fountain while singing with a “hell-if-I-care-who-sees-me” attitude is where I hope Magdalena’s headed, off the page, after the book ends.


Thanks for turning the radio dial up with me, and while you’ve got the music going, why not stretch out on the couch and turn a few pages of So L.A.?

Truly,
Bridget Hoida

  
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