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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Review: Bald New World by Peter Tieryas Liu

Title: Bald New World
Author: Peter Tieryas Liu
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Perfect Edge Books
Publish Date: May 31, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.


What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "What if everyone in the world lost their hair? 

Nick Guan and his friend Larry Chao are a pair of eccentric filmmakers who choose to explore the existential angst of their balding world through cinema. Larry is heir to one of the most lucrative wig companies in the world. Nick is a man who’s trying to make sense of the tatters of his American dream. Taking place throughout China and America, the pair set off on a series of misadventures involving North Korean spies, veterans of an African War, and digital cricket fighters. Their journey leads them to discover some of the darkest secrets behind wig-making and hair in a hairless world."

My Two Cents:

In "Bald New World," author Peter Tieryas imagines a world where one day everyone wakes up and loses their hair. I've been looking forward to reading this book after I read Liu's "Watering Heaven," which I really loved. This book is a full length novel rather than short stories as "Watering Heaven" was but all of the elements that I loved about "Watering Heaven" are present and accounted for. I love a good sci fi tale and this definitely fit the bill. Liu is definitely one to watch when it comes to sci fi and dystopian tales.

World building is always really important to me when it comes to sci fi and this book has it in spades. I really appreciated the way that Liu was able to "normalize" some of the strange things in this book. First off, the book opens with our main character, Nick, waking up and discovering that he has lost all of his hair and he realizes very quickly that he's not the only one. Super weird, right? But Liu is able to do some fancy writing footwork to make this feel completely understandable. There is a lot of good detail that made it very easy to picture what was happening in the book. It reminded me again of Murakami's writing, one of my favorite masters of the extraordinary, high praise to be sure!

There is a lot to like about this book! This book also gives you a good chance for some armchair traveling. A lot of the book takes place in Korea, which I loved reading about. I loved all of the little details that brought the futuristic setting to life. It was subtle but really vivid at the same time. I also liked the writing style as I did with "Watering Heaven." This book is not just about the strange new world that Nick finds himself living in.  There is also a great storyline about what Nick, himself, is going through in his personal life so this book has something more than just the sci fi/ dystopian angle! Overall, this is a great book if you're looking for sci fi with great detail!


Review: The Rise & Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman

Title: The Rise & Fall of Great Powers
Author: Tom Rachman
Format: ARC
Publisher: Dial Press
Publish Date: June 10, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.


What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Tooly Zylberberg, the American owner of an isolated bookshop in the Welsh countryside, conducts a life full of reading, but with few human beings. Books are safer than people, who might ask awkward questions about her life. She prefers never to mention the strange events of her youth, which mystify and worry her still.
 
Taken from home as a girl, Tooly found herself spirited away by a group of seductive outsiders, implicated in capers from Asia to Europe to the United States. But who were her abductors? Why did they take her? What did they really want? There was Humphrey, the curmudgeonly Russian with a passion for reading; there was the charming but tempestuous Sarah, who sowed chaos in her wake; and there was Venn, the charismatic leader whose worldview transformed Tooly forever. Until, quite suddenly, he disappeared.
 
Years later, Tooly believes she will never understand the true story of her own life. Then startling news arrives from a long-lost boyfriend in New York, raising old mysteries and propelling her on a quest around the world in search of answers."

My Two Cents:

"The Rise and Fall of Great Powers" is the story of Tooly, a young woman who spent most of her childhood adrift with a cast of characters that turned everything upside down. Tooly is content to live a quiet life as the proprietor of a small bookstore in Wales and is sure that her life is much better even if she doesn't seem to fully understand how she got there. This book started out with a bang for me and was filled with really interesting characters set against a great backdrop.

I was enamored with Tooly's life in Wales. What reader would not love to own a nice bookstore? This is one book where it would be fun to make a list of all of the books that the characters read and read them. Tooly goes through a lot of books - you have to appreciate it as a reader!  It was really interesting for me to read the contrast between Tooly's chaotic early life and her quiet adult life. Tooly finally has what she really wanted but that doesn't keep her from wanting to try to figure out all the little pieces of her early life. She was a really great character and even though she definitely was not as "out there" and as larger - than - life as some of the other characters, I still liked following her story.

I liked the writing of the book. Rachman has a good way with descriptions that really pulled me into the book and made me see what the characters are seeing. The way that the story was told was a little bit confusing though and took away some of my enjoyment of the book. The book jumps back and forth between several time periods and it was quite confusing where Tooly was in her life because she really doesn't seem to change throughout the book; she is the consummate observer with so much going on around her. I had to keep re-reading in order to figure out where I was in the story. This definitely made my reading a little choppy.  Overall, I like the story but wish that it had been a little more straight forward chronologically.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Review: Epic Meal Time by Harley Morenstein and Josh Elkin

Title: Epic Meal Time
Author: Harley Morenstein and Josh Elkin
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publish Date: March 25, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Do you find yourself craving pizza topped with deep-fried chicken nuggets and fries? Does a six-patty burger buried under a mound of bacon have your mouth watering? How about a 5,800-calorie corn dog? 

Harley Morenstein (a.k.a. The Sauce Boss), created EpicMealTime for the extreme chef in all of us. His kitchen crew (none of whom, amazingly enough, have had any culinary education or previous cooking experience), brings his artery-clogging visions to life and now you can, too, using ingredients as diverse as waffles, chicken hearts, cake mix, tortilla chips, maple syrup, fast food menu items, bacon grease, Irish creme whiskey, cheese sticks, breakfast sausage, pounds and pounds of bacon . . . and much more!"

My Two Cents:

"Epic Meal Time" is the name of a blog. It's also now the name of a book. Both are extreme. Both take food to the edge. Only the blog has I think this book and the blog that started it all had to have been a product of a heavy night of drinking in a house full of guys with insatiable appetites. It reminds me a lot of what my husband and his group of guy friends might come up with after a late night. While I would probably not try any of the recipes in these pages, it's still a very fun read.

If you're familiar with the Epic Meal Time internet videos, you know what this book is all about. If you're not, picture ridiculous food, like absolutely ridiculous food (like food that has thousands and thousands of calories) and you have what this book is. It is ridiculous! While I wish the book had music like the videos do, this book was not too shabby! Get it for the epic male or lady in your life that likes massive quantities of crazy food!


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

#ArmchairBEA2014 Day 2: Author Interaction

One of my favorite things about book blogging is how many more bookish events I go to now! I never had been to a signing before I started book blogging actually. Now I have been to countless signings and have met so many amazing people. I don't know why I didn't start going before. Here are some of my highlights:

Last weekend, I got to take a selfie with Anthony Marra, author of "A Constellation of Vital Phenomena"

I've met and gotten books signed by Isabel Allende!

I've met and have become friends with Frances Park (and her lovely sister, Ginger). They are authors and they own a chocolate shop. They are truly living the dream!

I've had dessert with authors at places like the Historical Novel Society conference. I believe this was the night where I happened to be sitting at the table with Margaret George and I was so nervous that I couldn't speak to her!

I've had the opportunity to meet so many authors and get so many books signed, which has the magical power to make amazing books even more amazing. I've had authors write really nice things and some have written really hilarious things (ahem, Kate Quinn), and I've had authors draw pictures for me (Anthony Marra again). Reading is fun but when you get all of these other things along with it, it makes things even more fun! 

What sort of author interactions have you had?

Review: The Stud Book by Monica Drake

Title: The Stud Book
Author: Monica Drake
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Hogarth
Publish Date: April 9, 2013
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Sarah studies animal behavior at the Oregon Zoo. An expert on the mating habits of captive animals, she is increasingly desperate to create sweet little offspring of her own. Georgie is busy navigating the terrors of new motherhood—from misplaced postpartum painkillers to the potential sublimation of her identitywhile her husband finds solace in bourbon and televised violence. (Dead girl on the screen? Take a shot!). Dulcet, defiantly married and childless, makes a living stripping down in high school gyms to sell the beauty of sex-ed. Nyla is out to save the earth while possibly losing her own teen daughter to the world of drugs and the occult. As these friends navigate a space between freedom and intimacy, they realize the families they forge through shared experience are as important as those inherited through birth.

     A smart, edgy, and poignantly funny exploration of the complexities of what parenthood means today, The Stud Book demonstrates that when it comes to babies, we can learn a lot by considering our place in the animal kingdom."


My Two Cents:

 "The Stud Book" is a look at what it means to be a parent or to want to be a parent or to want to be a good parent. The book looks at four women who are all in very different places in their life when it comes to having children. Each of the women have different views of their families and family life. This book has a sharp wit and the writing is promising.

I didn't really connect with many of the characters in this story except for Sarah. I do understand how it feels to really, really want to have something and to have it just not work out because of things that are really very much beyond your control. I'm not sure that this story was really geared for me and could see it being a better fit for someone who is already a parent. All of these women are very focused on being (or not being) parents. I'm not a parent and so it was hard for me to identify with the other women and there was not much of anything to endear them to me. Drake has a very dry humored way of writing about them though that kept me engaged. 

The writing in this book was good and definitely kept me reading. Drake has a very sharp and witty way of writing that kept me engaged even if the story did not necessarily grab me. I appreciate a good dry wit and this book had it! I would definitely read more by Drake in the future even if the story was not to my liking!



Monday, May 26, 2014

Giveaway Winners!

I have tons of giveaway winners to announce today!







I Am Livia:
Denise

Bunker Hill:
Heather

Sinners and the Sea:
Katherine

City of Promises:
Cyn

A Girl Called Fearless:
Elizabeth

Congrats to all of the winners! Don't forget to check out the following giveaways, which are still going on:

HF Virtual Book Tours Guest Post and Giveaway: Lynn Cullen, Author of Mrs. Poe

I am very excited to welcome Lynn Cullen here to A Bookish Affair today!


ABOUT THOSE RUMORS…
   
As so often happens with well-known historical figures, Edgar Allan Poe has come down through time to us as a very different person than he was in life.  We think of him as gloomy, wild-eyed, and downright scary, if not insane, when in fact he was known by his peers to be attractive, charming, athletic, and gentlemanly.  Ladies swooned when he recited his work.  Men admired his composure and good manners.  While he was known to not mince words when writing reviews or other pieces of literary criticism, in person, he was invariably polite.   
These portraits from around 1846 show how he looked soon after he wrote ‘The Raven,’ the period of my novel, Mrs. Poe.  The photographs which we most often are familiar with today?  They were from the last year of his life, when his health was failing, and let’s face it, he wasn’t looking his best.
He was not a drug addict or alcoholic, as now so commonly thought, although he did suffer from an inability to handle alcohol.  One drink could make him roaring drunk.  He was not impaired, however, on a daily basis.  This was borne out, to me, upon examining his letters and manuscripts, written over the twenty-year span of his adulthood, that were on display at the Morgan Library in New York during a 2013-2014 exhibition.  To an item, all were incredibly neat, with almost machine-like penmanship, and thoughtfully composed, obviously not the work of someone in their cups.  
Furthermore, Poe didn’t have time to hit the sauce.  He was desperately poor and had to work constantly just to make ends meet--often he wasn’t even able to do that.  Poe was the first American author to try to support himself solely on his writing. Prior to him, authors married well, had family money, or earned money through another business.  Unfortunately, writing was far from a get-rich-quick scheme for him.  He was always broke.
So how did we end up thinking of this hard-working, charming gentleman as a creep?  Two words:  Rufus Griswold.  Griswold hated Poe.  Poe very harshly criticized Griswold’s poetry collection; Poe established himself as one of the most important arbiters of American poetry tastes when Griswold was trying to earn that distinction for himself; and Poe won the attention of the recently abandoned and very desirable Frances Osgood—the “it” girl of her time in New York City—when Griswold would have liked to have shown her off on his own frock-coated arm.  
Griswold bad-mouthed Poe while Poe was alive but it was after Poe’s death that Griswold could really shine.  He managed to make himself the literary executor of Poe’s papers and proceeded to slander Poe with a voracity and maliciousness that startles.  Everything we “know” about Poe comes down to us from Griswold.  Some of it has a grain of truth to it; other bits, like Poe having an affair with his aunt, are completely ludicrous.
Interestingly, we believe Griswold’s rumors.  Maybe it’s because so many of Poe’s works are dark, works written because scary stories sold, and Poe so desperately needed the money. But one thing many people resist believing is that he had an affair with Frances Osgood.  Which puzzles me. No, there is no concrete proof of Poe’s affair with the talented female poet, no photos of the pair in bed, no paternity tests results of the child Frances conceived during the time they were linked together.  There’s no more proof of the consummation of their well-documented attraction to each other than there is proof of JFK’s fling with Marilyn Monroe, yet many of us are willing to believe in the JFK affair.  Why not Poe and Frances?
There is more evidence than you’d think.  First of all, Poe and Frances wrote love poems to each other—and Poe published them in the popular magazine that he edited.  Contemporaries noted how the pair couldn’t stay away from each other at parties.  A would-be suitor noted jealously (and just a wee bit bitterly) how Frances sat at Poe’s feet, looking up adoringly while doing her “infantile” act.  John Russell Bartlett, Frances Osgood’s host in 1845 after her husband had temporarily abandoned her, noted how Poe visited Frances every night that summer while she was staying with the Bartletts…past midnight.  Poe even took a rental house two short blocks away from the Bartlett’s during that time.  So we know that they spent a lot of time together….too much time, according to jealous parties.  Enough time that Poe’s mother-in-law (and also his aunt by blood) is recorded to have gone to Frances Osgood and asked her to leave Poe alone.
The affair must have seemed very real to Poe and Frances’s friends and families.  When another lady poet who wanted Poe for herself claimed to have been shown, by Virginia Poe herself, Frances’s love letters to Poe, the New York literati went ballistic.  Two of Frances’s best friends, Margaret Fuller and Anne Charlotte Lynch, marched straight over to Poe’s house and demanded Frances’s letters, to get them out of circulation.  Whether there were love letters or not, Frances’s friends believed that they existed.  They obviously believed in the affair and wanted to destroy the evidence which would ruin their friend’s reputation.   When Poe denied that he had letters from Frances, they kicked him out of their social circles.  He slunk off to Fordham (in the present-day Bronx,) in spite of his new-found fame upon the publication of ‘The Raven,’ no longer fit to be part of the New York society of which Frances was a member.
Poe’s contemporaries believed in his affair with Frances.  Perhaps it’s time that we did. 

Giveaway:

Win a copy of Mrs. Poe (U.S. only)!

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#ArmchairBEA2014 Day 1: Introductions

Introductions:

This is a Meg.
1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging? Where in the world are you blogging from? 

 I'm Meg and I have been blogging here at A Bookish Affair for about three years. I used to blog on Xanga (may she rest in peace) although that blog was not book focused! I live in the Washington, D.C. area, which is fabulous!

2. Describe your blog in just one sentence. Then, list your social details -- Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. -- so we can connect more online. 

I think the slogan of my blog says it all: "Sometimes reading a good book can be like a great love affair!"

Here is where else you can find me:
Twitter: abookishaffair
Instagram: abookishaffair
Facebook: A Bookish Affair

3. What genre do you read the most? I love to read because ___________________ .

I read really eclectically but my favorite genre is probably historical fiction. I love history and I love how historical fiction can make history really accessible to so many people. Since starting to book blog, I've also joined the Historical Novel Society, which is a great place for people who love historical fiction (both readers and authors).

4. Share your favorite book or reading related quote. 

Easy!






5. If you were stranded on a deserted island, what 3 books would you bring? Why? What 3 non-book items would you bring? Why? 

AHHHH! This is a really hard one! I would bring "Love in the Time of Cholera" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, "Me Talk Pretty One Day" by David Sedaris, and maybe a book of all of the Harry Potter books (I mean, I couldn't just have one!).

As for non-book related things, a machine that could make umbrella drinks without electricity, a beach towel, and seeing how I currently have a bad sunburn from sitting outside at a baseball game yesterday, I would bring a gallon of sunscreen (hurray for gingers!).




#SRC2014 Review: Cure for the Common Breakup by Beth Kendrick

Title: Cure for the Common Breakup
Author: Beth Kendrick
Format: Paperback
Publisher: NAL Trade
Publish Date: May 6, 2014
Source: BookSparks Summer Reading Challenge


What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Flight attendant Summer Benson lives by two rules: Don’t stay with the same man for too long and never stay in one place. She’s about to break rule number one by considering accepting her boyfriend’s proposal—then disaster strikes and her world is shattered in an instant.

Summer heads to Black Dog Bay, where the locals welcome her. Even Hattie Huntington, the town’s oldest, richest, and meanest resident, likes her enough to give her a job. Then there’s Dutch Jansen, the rugged, stoic mayor, who’s the opposite of her type. She probably shouldn't be kissing him. She definitely shouldn't be falling in love.

After a lifetime of globe-trotting, Summer has finally found a home. But Hattie has old scores to settle and a hidden agenda for her newest employee. Summer finds herself faced with an impossible choice: Leave Black Dog Bay behind forever, or stay with the ones she loves and cost them everything..."


My Two Cents:

"Cure for the Common Breakup" is an epically cute summer story about Summer (of course that's her name) who is trying to rebuild her life after getting in a plane crash (she's a flight attendant) and getting dumped by her almost fiance. While this sounds like a setup for a book that could feel quite twee if not carried out properly, it is a great love story about falling out of love, dusting yourself off, and allowing yourself to fall back in love again. Filled with a great setting and great characters, this is a perfect summer read. It certainly doesn't hurt that the main love interest in this book reminds me of my amazing husband (bonus!).

When I look for a good summer book, I love for something that is light and fun but still has a lot of oomph to totally engage me and keep me turning the pages. This book was a perfect mix of all of that for me. Summer comes to Black Dog Bay to heal. The small Delaware beach town is supposed to cure what ails you when it comes to love. Summer is hoping that it works. I really liked Summer. She is a great character and you really feel for her throughout the book. Dutch is the no nonsense mayor of the small town who is a jack of all trades and seems to be the only one not interested in Summer. Not only are the main characters great but the secondary characters in Black Dog Bay were so much fun as well.

I really liked the writing of the book. Kendrick has a great story telling voice that really got me interested in the lives of the characters. I can be overwhelmed by books with large casts but Kendrick was able to really give each character their own identity so it didn't faze me at all. This book was so much fun!



 

#SRC2014 Review: Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan

Title: Love and Other Foreign Words
Author: Erin McCahan
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Dial Press
Publish Date: May 1, 2014
Source: BookSparks Summer Reading Challenge





What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Sixteen-year-old Josie lives her life in translation. She speaks High School, College, Friends, Boyfriends, Break-ups, and even the language of Beautiful Girls. But none of these is her native tongue--the only people who speak that are her best friend Stu and her sister Kate. So when Kate gets engaged to an epically insufferable guy, how can Josie see it as anything but the mistake of a lifetime? Kate is determined to bend Josie to her will for the wedding; Josie is determined to break Kate and her fiancé up. As battles are waged over secrets and semantics, Josie is forced to examine her feelings for the boyfriend who says he loves her, the sister she loves but doesn't always like, and the best friend who hasn't said a word--at least not in a language Josie understands."

My Two Cents: 

In "Love and Other Foreign Words," Josie's life is turned upside down when her sister, Kate, decides to marry a guy that Josie just doesn't understand why she wants to marry. Geoff is rude and a know-it-all. He insults people at every turn and yet Kate really loves him. It forces Josie to confront her own ideas of love and what she wants in a boyfriend for herself. Sometimes love seems like a foreign language to which Josie doesn't own a dictionary for.

Josie was really a stand out character for me. She is whip smart and incredibly precocious. She is the type of person where if she doesn't like something, you are going to be told very clearly what she thinks about things. She is really, really book smart (and obsessed with languages like I am, which was really cool to see) but when it comes to street smarts, she is a little lacking, which is what the book focuses on. Sometimes it's not a good idea to say every single little thing that you're thinking about without thinking about your audience!

The story itself was okay. Josie confronts a lot of the things that other teens in other books face. Her quirkiness puts a different spin on things though. I wanted a little more closure from the ending as it felt sort of abrupt to me but all in all, this was a really fun book!





 

Friday, May 23, 2014

HF Virtual Book Tours Review: Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen

Title: Mrs. Poe
Author: Lynn Cullen
Format: Paperback
Publisher: October 1, 2013
Publish Date: October 1, 2013
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "It is 1845, and Frances Osgood is desperately trying to make a living as a writer in New York; not an easy task for a woman—especially one with two children and a philandering portrait painter as her husband. As Frances tries to sell her work, she finds that editors are only interested in writing similar to that of the new renegade literary sensation Edgar Allan Poe, whose poem, “The Raven” has struck a public nerve.

She meets the handsome and mysterious Poe at a literary party, and the two have an immediate connection. Poe wants Frances to meet with his wife since she claims to be an admirer of her poems, and Frances is curious to see the woman whom Edgar married.

As Frances spends more and more time with the intriguing couple, her intense attraction for Edgar brings her into dangerous territory. And Mrs. Poe, who acts like an innocent child, is actually more manipulative and threatening than she appears. As Frances and Edgar’s passionate affair escalates, Frances must decide whether she can walk away before it’s too late..."


My Two Cents:

"Mrs. Poe" is the story of Frances, a writer in her own right, who gets caught by the enigmatic and mysterious Edgar Allan Poe. Now Poe is incredibly fascinating to me. I've always wondered about this fantastic man who was able to come up such creepy and heart racing stories and poems. This book gives us a look at him and the people who surrounded him through the lens of historical fiction. If you've enjoyed other books like Erika Robuck's "Hemingway's Girl" and "Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald" by Therese Anne Fowler, this would be a great pick for you!

Cullen brings so many famous historical figures to life in this book with lots of good detail. Frances was a fascinating character to me. She was strong in her own right but both of the Poe's seem to wield an amazing amount of power over her. The juxtaposition of that strength and weakness was really interesting to read. Poe was so fascinating and it's easy to see how Frances fell for him. I love books that I can learn a little something from. I did not realize that Frances was a writer in her own right. I even learned a little more about Poe!

To some degree, this book feels very much like a gothic novel, a literary genre that I am loving more and more these days. It's a little dark and things are not always what they seem, which kept me on my toes. Cullen was really good at unfolding the story in a way that had me wondering what was next! This book would be a good pick for those that know Poe well and those that want to get to know him!





Follow the Rest of the Tour:


Monday, May 19
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, May 20
Interview & Giveaway at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Wednesday, May 21
Interview & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary
Friday, May 23
Review at A Bookish Affair
Monday, May 26
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Guest Post & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Tuesday, May 27
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, May 28
Review at Turning the Pages
Friday, May 30
Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Monday, June 2
Review & Giveaway at Book Lovers Paradise
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Tuesday, June 3
Review at Kelsey’s Book Corner
Review at Let Them Read Books
Wednesday, June 4
Review & Giveaway at Reading Lark
Thursday, June 5
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Interview at Jorie Loves a Story
Friday, June 6
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Interview & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection
Monday, June 9
Review at Historical Tapestry
Wednesday, June 11
Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Tapestry
Thursday, June 12
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict
Interview & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Friday, June 13
Review at Peeking Between the Pages
Monday, June 16
Review at Unabridged Chick
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Tuesday, June 17
Review & Interview at Layered Pages
Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, June 18
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
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Thursday, May 22, 2014

#SRC2014 Review: The One & Only by Emily Giffin

Title: The One & Only
Author: Emily Giffin
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Ballantine Book
Publish Date: May 20, 2014
Source: BookSparks Summer Reading Challenge






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Thirty-three-year-old Shea Rigsby has spent her entire life in Walker, Texas—a small college town that lives and dies by football, a passion she unabashedly shares. Raised alongside her best friend, Lucy, the daughter of Walker’s legendary head coach, Clive Carr, Shea was too devoted to her hometown team to leave. Instead she stayed in Walker for college, even taking a job in the university athletic department after graduation, where she has remained for more than a decade.

But when an unexpected tragedy strikes the tight-knit Walker community, Shea’s comfortable world is upended, and she begins to wonder if the life she’s chosen is really enough for her. As she finally gives up her safety net to set out on an unexpected path, Shea discovers unsettling truths about the people and things she has always trusted most—and is forced to confront her deepest desires, fears, and secrets."


My Two Cents:

"The One and Only" is Emily Giffin's latest offering. I have really enjoyed some of her previous books and so I was looking forward to reading this book. The setting of this book is very different than Giffin's other books but a lot of the other great elements of her books are here! This is a great summer read!

In Texas, football is a religion. Shea has fully subscribed to that religion. She is still very much ingrained with her college team and her life still very much revolves around thinking or writing about her team. After her best friend's mother, who happens to be the wife of the football coach, dies, Shea begins thinking about her life and whether or not she is happy with the status quo. We get to see Shea's journey and while I didn't always agree with the choices that she made at all, she seemed like a real character and one that you still want to root for, hoping that things turn out a little differently for her.

The writing in this book continues to be good. I'm not really one for football (I watch it but I'm not a rabid fan), but Giffin makes the reader understand what it must feel like to be in that realm where football rules everything so even if we don't agree, we can see where the characters are coming from. I also appreciated the way that Giffin was able to handle some delicate subjects with a lot of care and heart. I read this book quickly because I wanted to see what happened next. This would be a great book for when you'





 

Review: The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert

Title: The Memory Garden
Author: Mary Rickert
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publish Date: May 6, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Bay Singer has bigger secrets than most. She doesn't know about them, though. Her mother, Nan, has made sure of that. But one phone call from the sheriff makes Nan realize that the past is catching up. Nan decides that she has to make things right, and invites over the two estranged friends who know the truth. Ruthie and Mavis arrive in a whirlwind of painful memories, offering Nan little hope of protecting Bay. But even the most ruined garden is resilient, and their curious reunion has powerful effects that none of them could imagine, least of all Bay."

My Two Cents:

"The Memory Garden" is the story of Nan, an eccentric woman who may or may not be a witch. One day, she finds a baby left on the steps of her home and takes her in to raise her. When Bay becomes a teenager, Nan finally believes that she needs to tell Bay her origins and that she may be more than meets the eye too. Nan calls on two old friends to help her show Bay what she is. This book is a quiet one filled with magical realism.

This book was sort of a mixed bag for me. On one hand, I absolutely love magical realism and really loved that element in this book. I thought that for the most part, the author did a really good job of making all of the magical and strange things feel really real. I also liked the aspect of Nan coming to terms with what the magic means to Bay and how it is up to Nan to really lead the way for her. If you like magical realism, you'll be into this book.

On the other hand, the book was a little stiff. The writing was a little choppy and it took me awhile to be able to find my pacing with what was going on and what the characters were like. I wanted to get to know the characters better but they seemed to sort of hold me at arm's length. Nan is an incredibly guarded character and it was hard to find my footing with her. Some of the background of Nan's magic and Bay's origin felt rushed. Overall, this would be a good pick for those who like their magical realism quirky.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

HF Virtual Book Tours Guest Post and Giveaway: Stephanie Thornton, author of Daughter of the Gods

I am very excited to welcome Stephanie Thornton here to A Bookish Affair today!


Hatshepsut: Warrior Queen?

As if in a dream, Hatshepsut stepped down from the chariot and walked to the dead man. The lavender intestines quivered as she pulled the ax from his stomach with a sickening squelch. She stared at his right hand.

“Don’t, Hemet. Someone else will do that.”

“Egypt’s men died today. Pennekheb died today.” She clenched the handle of the ax. “This is the only thing I can do for them.”

Stepping on the man’s outstretched forearm, Hatshepsut hacked into the dead man’s wrist.

One thing that surprised me (and by surprised, I mean I was awed by her jaw-dropping awesomeness) when I started reading about Hatshepsut was a record by her court official Ti that he saw Hatshepsut “destroying the land of Nubia” and still another where a man named Djehuty claimed he witnessed her out retrieving the spoils of war after that very same battle.

So here’s your little known fact regarding Egyptian spoils of war: They collected the hands of their enemies, presumably for an official tally of the dead and possibly also to mark the enemy in the afterlife.

So while it’s entirely likely that Hatshepsut accompanied her army south into the sands of Nubia, it’s also feasible that she retrieved a hand or two herself. This was a woman who for whatever reason, was willing to usurp her stepson’s throne and proclaim herself pharaoh. What’s a bloody hand or two along the way?

After Nubia, Hatshepsut focused less on outward military conquest, and instead on peaceful trade expeditions. While her stepson Tutmose III (the very stepson she unseated), would go on to acclaim as ancient Egypt’s Napoleon, Hatshepsut brought back forgotten luxuries from the mysterious land of Punt, namely incense and the famed myrrh trees she planted in the forecourt of her temple at Deir el-Bahri. (The stumps of those trees can still be seen today, which is beyond awesome).

Hatshepsut was an accomplished woman by anyone’s standards: a princess, queen, and then pharaoh in her own right. Still, one of my favorite visions of Hatshepsut is of her as a conqueror, dressed in her blue military helmet, picking over a desert of dead Nubians and relieving them of their hands.

Giveaway:

You can win a copy of "Daughter of the Gods" (U.S./ CAN only)! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, April 28
Review at Unabridged Chick
Guest Post & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, April 29
Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, April 30
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Thursday, May 1
Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Friday, May 2
Review & Giveaway at HF Book Muse – News
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Monday, May 5
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Guest Post & Giveaway at HF Connection
Tuesday, May 6
Interview & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, May 7
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Review & Giveaway at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Friday, May 9
Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Monday, May 12
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading
Tuesday, May 13
Review at The Mad Reviewer
Review & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court
Wednesday, May 14
Review at A Bookish Libraria
Interview & Giveaway at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Thursday, May 15
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Review & Giveaway at The Lit Bitch
Monday, May 19
Review at Tower of Babel
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Tuesday, May 20
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review at She is Too Fond of Books
Wednesday, May 21
Review at Manga Maniac Cafe
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict
Guest Post & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Thursday, May 22
Review at The Most Happy Reader
Review & Giveaway at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Friday, May 23
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Interview & Giveaway at The Most Happy Reader
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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

HF Virtual Book Tours Review: Daughter of the Gods by Stephanie Thornton

Title: Daughter of the Gods
Author: Stephanie Thornton
Format: Paperback
Publisher: NAL Trade
Publish Date: May 6, 2014
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Egypt, 1400s BC. The pharaoh’s pampered second daughter, lively, intelligent Hatshepsut, delights in racing her chariot through the marketplace and testing her archery skills in the Nile’s marshlands. But the death of her elder sister, Neferubity, in a gruesome accident arising from Hatshepsut’s games forces her to confront her guilt...and sets her on a profoundly changed course.

Hatshepsut enters a loveless marriage with her half brother, Thut, to secure his claim to the Horus Throne and produce a male heir. But it is another of Thut’s wives, the commoner Aset, who bears him a son, while Hatshepsut develops a searing attraction for his brilliant adviser Senenmut. And when Thut suddenly dies, Hatshepsut becomes de facto ruler, as regent to her two-year-old nephew.

Once, Hatshepsut anticipated being free to live and love as she chose. Now she must put Egypt first. Ever daring, she will lead a vast army and build great temples, but always she will be torn between the demands of leadership and the desires of her heart. And even as she makes her boldest move of all, her enemies will plot her downfall...."


My Two Cents:

"Daughter of the Gods" is a historical fiction book about Hatshepsut, the Egyptian Queen. This marks the second book by Stephanie Thornton. Since I really enjoyed her first book, "The Secret History," I was anxious to read this book and let me tell you, the wait was definitely worth it. In this book, you have a fantastic main character and a wonderful setting filled with great historical detail; all of the things that make a great historical fiction read for me.

I really like strong characters and Hatshepsut was definitely one of those for me. Before reading this book, I know that I had heard Hatshepsut's name but I don't think I really knew anything about her. Thornton really makes this queen come to life through a mix of vivid descriptions and great historical detail. Hatshepsut has quite a journey in this book. I loved reading about when she first becomes ruler of Egypt. It was interesting to see how she matures from the beginning of the book to the end. This is definitely a story of strength and growth. The book is told from the third person point of view but Thornton is still able to really show the reader Hatshepsut's true character and she really came to life for me because of that!

The setting was top notch too! The more I read of historical fiction set in the ancient world, the more I love it. Thornton has a great way of weaving together description along with historical detail to allow the reader to picture exactly what was going on.

This is the kind of book that you get lost in! I'm again anxious for Thornton's next release, which will be a book about the women of Genghis Khan (oooo!).





Follow the Rest of the Tour:


Monday, April 28
Review at Unabridged Chick
Guest Post & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, April 29
Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, April 30
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Thursday, May 1
Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Friday, May 2
Review & Giveaway at HF Book Muse – News
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Monday, May 5
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Guest Post & Giveaway at HF Connection
Tuesday, May 6
Interview & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, May 7
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Review & Giveaway at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Friday, May 9
Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Monday, May 12
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading
Tuesday, May 13
Review at The Mad Reviewer
Review & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court
Wednesday, May 14
Review at A Bookish Libraria
Interview & Giveaway at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Thursday, May 15
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Review & Giveaway at The Lit Bitch
Monday, May 19
Review at Tower of Babel
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Tuesday, May 20
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review at She is Too Fond of Books
Wednesday, May 21
Review at Manga Maniac Cafe
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict
Guest Post & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Thursday, May 22
Review at The Most Happy Reader
Review & Giveaway at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Friday, May 23
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Interview & Giveaway at The Most Happy Reader
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Review: I'll See You Again by Jackie Hance with Janice Kaplan

Title: I'll See You Again
Authors: Jackie Hance with Janice Kaplan
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publish Date: April 23, 2013
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.






What's the Story?:

From Amazon.com: "Until the horrific car accident on New York State’s Taconic Parkway that took the lives of her three beloved young daughters, Jackie Hance was an ordinary Long Island mom, fulfilled by the joyful chaos of a household bustling with life and chatter and love. After the tragedy, she was “The Taconic Mom,” whose unimaginable loss embodied every parent’s worst nightmare. Suddenly, her life-long Catholic faith no longer explained the world. Her marriage to her husband, Warren, was ravaged by wrenching grief and recrimination. And her mind, unable to cope with the unfathomable, reinvented reality each night, so she awoke each morning having forgotten the heartbreaking facts: that Emma, age 8; Alyson, age 7; and Katie, age 5, were gone forever. They were killed in a minivan driven by their aunt, Jackie’s sister-in-law, Diane Schuler, while returning from a camping weekend on a sunny July morning.

I’ll See You Again chronicles the day Jackie received the traumatizing phone call that defied all understanding, and the numbed and torturous events that followed—including the devastating medical findings that shattered Jackie to the core and shocked America. But this profoundly honest account is also the story of how a tight-knit community rallied around the Hances, providing the courage and strength for them to move forward. It’s a story of forgiveness, hope, and rebirth, as Jackie and Warren struggle to rediscover the possibility of joy by welcoming their fourth daughter, Kasey Rose Hance."

My Two Cents:

"I'll See You Soon" is a memoir by Jackie Hance, whose family became a news headline after her sister-in-law, Diane, drove the wrong way on a highway in New York and got into a car accident, which killed Diane as well as one of her children and all three of Ms. Hance's children. It was definitely a tragedy and was one that outraged many. Hance seeks to show how she coped with this tragedy in this book.

This was definitely a hard read for me for a couple reasons. First off, the subject matter is difficult. I'm not a parent but I can only imagine how horrible it would be to lose all of your children due to someone else's negligence. Second off, the book is supposed to be about how Hance copes with the loss of her children but she never really seems to cope fully with moving on with her life. I think we all realize that grieving is not a linear process at all. Hance has much of her identity tied up with being a parent and I realize that she must feel lost but she never seems to get over that hump of how to move forward without holding yourself back in some way.

This book seems to be much more about the process of grieving (healthy or unhealthy) than the solution to how you grieve. This book really left me with many more questions than answers. On the other hand, it is hard to say that there should be answers in these sorts of books- they are memoirs of course and sometimes we don't get full answers in life. I was more interested in how Hance related to her brother-in-law (Diane's husband). We get a taste of it but we really don't get the full story. How could Diane's husband deny what the toxicology reports showed? Why was she drinking and taking drugs? Was this a random event or had something like this happened before? So many questions and not many answers!

Overall, I enjoyed this memoir but wanted more!


Monday, May 19, 2014

HF Virtual Book Tours Review: My Lady Viper by E. Knight

Title: My Lady Viper
Author: E. Knight
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Knight Media, LLC
Publish Date: October 1, 2013
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "May, 1536. The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen.

When Anne Boleyn falls to the executioner's axe on a cold spring morning, yet another Anne vows she will survive in the snakepit court of Henry VIII. But at what cost?

Lady Anne Seymour knows her family hangs by a thread. If her sister-in-law Jane Seymour cannot give the King a son, she will be executed or set aside, and her family with her. Anne throws herself into the deadly and intoxicating intrigue of the Tudor court, determined at any price to see the new queen's marriage a success and the Seymour family elevated to supreme power. But Anne's machinations will earn her a reputation as a viper, and she must decide if her family's rise is worth the loss of her own soul."


My Two Cents:

"My Lady Viper" is the story of Anne Seymour, who becomes a lady in waiting to Jane Seymour, who is, of course, one of Henry VIII's queens. This is the first traditional historical fiction offering from E. Knight, who also writes romances under the name Eliza Knight. It was neat to see the author make a jump to traditional historical fiction and after reading this book, I can say that the jump was worth it.

Now Tudor fiction can be tricky and it's a tricky subject for me. I was going guns a'blazin for Tudor fiction a couple years ago but fell out of it when it seemed like so many Tudor historical fiction books were the same. I was a little hesitant to read this book because of that but the author makes it worth it. This is a very different take on what could be a well tread subject. I feel like Jane Seymour is one of Henry VIII's lesser known queens so I liked seeing her and getting to know her through this book. Because Anne is so close to Jane, we get to see a really intimate picture of Jane that I really enjoyed. Anne is a really interesting character in her own right. There is a good infusion of romance in this book so that Knight's previous fans will not feel so at sea.

The writing of the book is pretty good and the pacing moves nicely. This book has a lot of drama and intrigue that keeps it moving at a good clip. E. Knight breathes new life and new scandal into the Tudors. This is an engrossing historical fiction tale that readers will love!



Follow the Rest of the Tour:


Monday, May 5
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Spotlight & Giveaway at The Tower of Babel
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, May 6
Spotlight & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Wednesday, May 7
Review & Giveaway at The Tudor Enthusiast
Monday, May 12
Review & Giveaway at The Tudor Book Blog
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Tuesday, May 13
Review at Historical Fiction Obsession
Wednesday, May 14
Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Thursday, May 15
Review at Luxury Reading
Friday, May 16
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict
Interview & Giveaway at Luxury Reading
Monday, May 19
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Giveaway at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time
Tuesday, May 20
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Wednesday, May 21
Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection
Thursday, May 22
Review at Bibliophilia, Please
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Review at Curling Up By the Fire
Friday, May 23
Review at WTF Are You Reading?
Review at The Musings of ALMYBNENR
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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Gaithersburg Book Festival!

I had a very book filled weekend (just how I like it)! On Saturday, I held a meeting of the Historical Novel Society - Chesapeake Bay chapter at my house. If you like historical fiction, I definitely suggest finding a local chapter. I have met so many amazing people through my chapter and I love meeting with them. I believe I am the only book blogger in the group. Most of the group is made up of published authors and aspiring authors with a sprinkling of readers. It's a lot of fun. Our meetings are always both fun and entertaining. But I digress... we had a great meeting and then went over to the Gaithersburg Book Festival to watch one of our fellow members, Erika Robuck, speak about her latest release "Fallen Beauty."

This was my first time at the Gaithersburg Book Festival and it is amazing to me how many amazing people they get to come to this festival. If you're in the area, it's definitely worth stopping by.


Here are some of my pictures from the day:

Here's the lovely Erika Robuck speaking!

Here's Brigid Schulte and Scott Stossel speaking about stress and anxiety. They definitely gave a good talk.
Here's Anna Holmes from Jezebel.
And last but not least, this was probably the highlight of the festival for me.... I got Anthony Marra (who has the distinct honor of having written one of my very favorite books last year and ever, "A Constellation of Vital Phenomena") to take a selfie with me. He was so nice and so kind! He took time to speak to everyone that was in his line and drew me a little picture in my book.

Anthony Marra and I.

What did you do this weekend?
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