Current Giveaways!

Watch this space!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Giveaway Winners!

I have one giveaway winner to announce today!





Gone Girl bundle:
Kim H.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Review: Hemingway's Girl by Erika Robuck

Title: Hemingway's Girl
Author: Erika Robuck
Format: Paperback
Publisher: NAL Trade
Publish Date: September 4, 2012
Source: Owned






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "“She remembered when Hemingway had planted a banyan at his house and told her its parasitic roots were like human desire. At the time she’d thought it romantic. She hadn’t understood his warning.”

In Depression-era Key West, Mariella Bennet, the daughter of an American fisherman and a Cuban woman, knows hunger. Her struggle to support her family following her father’s death leads her to a bar and bordello, where she bets on a risky boxing match...and attracts the interest of two men: world-famous writer, Ernest Hemingway, and Gavin Murray, one of the WWI veterans who are laboring to build the Overseas Highway.

When Mariella is hired as a maid by Hemingway’s second wife, Pauline, she enters a rarified world of lavish, celebrity-filled dinner parties and elaborate off-island excursions. As she becomes caught up in the tensions and excesses of the Hemingway household, the attentions of the larger-than-life writer become a dangerous temptation...even as the reliable Gavin Murray draws her back to what matters most. Will she cross an invisible line with the volatile Hemingway, or find a way to claim her own dreams? As a massive hurricane bears down on Key West, Mariella faces some harsh truths...and the possibility of losing everything she loves."


My Two Cents:

Oh, Ernest Hemingway, you will slay me every time! I know it's a huge trend and some may consider it overdone but I love all of the books, particularly historical fiction books, that have been coming out about those surrounding really famous people. In the writing world, Ernest Hemingway is still regarded very well. His books are classics. His life was tumultuous, which makes him a perfect subject for a historical fiction writer to tackle. Erika Robuck does it with panache.

Mariella is a young woman who becomes a maid to Hemingway's wife, Pauline, after going through a couple of hard knocks. She is determined to make a better life for herself and is swept up in the chaotic Hemingway web as she starts to do so. The book explores whether or not she is able to create a new life without being derailed by everything that is going on around her and threatening to pull her down into something that she cannot dig her way out of. I really loved her character. She really had a compelling voice in this book. Her strength and fire made her a fantastic foil for Hemingway. I loved reading about how their relationship changed and grew throughout time.

I loved the descriptions in this book. I had wanted to visit Key West for a long time but Robuck's descriptions in this book made me want to visit even more. I look forward to reading more by this author!


 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Arthur C. Clarke: A Guest Post by Elizabeth Eckhart

I am very excited to welcome Elizabeth Eckhart back to A Bookish Affair. Today, she will be talking about Arthur C. Clarke, one of the giants of Science Fiction!







Arthur C. Clarke and His Most Profound Predictions

In a writing career that spanned six decades, Arthur C. Clarke etched his name into the worlds of both science fiction writing and science fact. His most iconic work, 2001: A Space Odyssey became a 1968 Stanley Kubrick directed film classic, with Clarke writing the script. The huge popularity of this work eventually led to three subsequent efforts looking at the Odyssey in 2010, 20161 and 3001.

That original work may actually be supplanted someday by the remarkable insight into the future that Clarke displayed when it came to the future of technology. Below are five areas where his clairvoyance was something to behold:

In May of 1945, Clarke foresaw global communication entities using space satellites, such as satellite internet, television, and the recently popularized satellite radio. The satellites would also be capable of sending rockets into space. Both would become realities within 15-20 years. Clarke’s predictions came just weeks after the end of the European portion of World War II, where he believed that the technology advances by German scientists could be used for more serene purposes than world domination.

Other thinkers derived inspiration from Clarke’s work. Hoard Hughes began work with NASA that yielded the Telstar program in the sixties, which yielded the world’s first transatlantic television broadcast via satellite. That venture ultimately yielded not only satellite tv (details here: http://www.space.com/19756-telstar.html), but also satellite internet (more info here: hughesnetplans.com/satellite-internet). But not only did Clarke help establish the conceptual groundwork for satellite internet as early as 1945, but he also managed to predict the role that the internet would play in a few decades. During a 1974 broadcast on Australian television, Clarke stated that by the year 2000, people would have at their fingertips the capability to do their banking online or make reservations without needing a phone. In truth, the Internet had its origins in the late 1960’s, but it would take nearly another quarter century before the general public would be able to use it in any real capacity. Both of those items Clarke noted were available for much of society 26 years later.

In that same TV appearance in Australia, Clarke made his comments in a room filled with large computers. He indicated that by the time the year 2000 arrived, people would have access to their own private computer that could not only perform the aforementioned tasks, but would also be able to allow for communication with others. In the latter case, that vision foresaw the arrival of such things as e-mail and other message-related aspects that allow a person with their own computer a wider array of opportunities.

And while it might seem impressive that Clarke managed to predict that the technological interfaces themselves would become more compact, would you believe that he had predicted the iPad (not by name, mind you). One decade before predicting the internet, Clarke appeared on a BBC program related to the New York World's Fair and stated that by the turn of the century, people would be able to be in instant contact with others, wherever they may be. During the litigious battle between Apple and Samsung over who created iPhone technology, Samsung attempted to claim that the concept evolved from the Newspads used in his famed novel 2001: A Space Odyssey. One portion of the book actually describes space travelers heading away from earth while being able to look at any newspaper headline, something the iPhone has made commonplace.

The need for traveling to an office either nearby or across the world was something that Clarke’s 1964 comments indicated would be eliminated. Saying that people would be able to do business wherever they wanted is something that’s come to pass. The best evidence comes from the huge growth in people working from their own home, as well as the rapid growth of videoconferencing. In that situation, businesses have no need to transport workers long distances for meetings that can be handled in their own board rooms over a widescreen device.

While Clarke’s predictions didn’t all come true (such as bio-engineered super chimpanzees which sound more than a little terrifying), the scope of his accurate projections are enough to recognize him for his brilliant contributions to the future.

About the author:

Elizabeth Eckhart is an entertainment and film blogger for Directstartv.com, who finds nothing more compelling than a good story, no matter its medium.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Reality Strikes!

I have really been trying to get myself lost in books recently. I just want a book that totally takes my mind off of dwelling on whatever I am currently dealing with. Don't you ever feel like that?

I have been feeling pretty good with regard to being pregnant so last week was sort of a blow. Because I am having twins and even more so because they are identical twins, my pregnancy is considered high risk and I go to the doctor a lot; a lot as in every two weeks to a specialist on top of my regular OB appointments. Being a natural worrier, I appreciate that I am being watched so closely. I like that I get to see my girls every two weeks. Last week, my husband and I went to yet another specialist appointment. The girls are fine. They continue to be ridiculously active. The downside is that my body is finally starting to strain a little bit from carrying twins.

I haven't been put on bed rest but I am only supposed to be going to work where I am supposed to sit all day and then come home and doing nothing but put my feet up. I am not good at this whole not moving thing. Nothing will make you want to jump up and be active like someone telling you that you are not supposed to be moving much at all! I go back to the specialist at the end of this week to see what's going on.

I was pretty upset last week. I am only 24 weeks along so the thought of the babies coming soon is so scary to me. I know that the doctors are being super careful with me and it does not seem like we are to the point where they are super, super concerned; we're still at the watchful stage.

I am trying to take it easy and to keep my mind off of worrying, a daunting task for someone whose default often seems to be worry.

On the upside, we went to the Norfolk, VA area this past weekend to celebrate the birthdays of my little cousins. I was super fun at the party as I was relegated to the couch where I could kick my feet up and simply watch the party. It was so much fun to see them!

As an added bonus, we have a friend that my husband knows from college that does photography in that area. She is fantastic. Check more of her work out here on her Facebook page! I love her work and was very excited that she could take some maternity photos for us!

Here is one of our sneak peeks!:






I love this picture so much!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Review: The World at Night by Alan Furst

Title: The World at Night
Author: Alan Furst
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Random House
Publish Date: January 2002
Source: Borrowed from a friend






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Paris, 1940. The civilized, upper-class life of film producer Jean Casson is derailed by the German occupation of Paris, but Casson learns that with enough money, compromise, and connections, one need not deny oneself the pleasures of Parisian life. Somewhere inside Casson, though, is a stubborn romantic streak. When he’s offered the chance to take part in an operation of the British secret service, this idealism gives him the courage to say yes. A simple mission, but it goes wrong, and Casson realizes he must gamble everything—his career, the woman he loves, life itself. Here is a brilliant re-creation of France—its spirit in the moment of defeat, its valor in the moment of rebirth."

My Two Cents:

In "The World at Night," we are introduced to Jean Casson, a man whose life as a filmmaker in Europe during World War II is upended by how much the world is changing. Casson knows that he must adapt or get left behind so adapt he does. While I like historical fiction, I usually do not read a lot of historical noir or historical mystery like this book is but after having Furst's books highly recommended to me by a friend, I knew that I wanted to give these books a try and I am very happy that I did!

Jean Casson is a normal, everyday man who gets himself into some extraordinary circumstances in this book. He is asked to join a covert operation with the British, which he knows may put his life in grave danger. He is intrigued though and driven to help the cause. I really liked Casson as a character. Furst adds a lot of character detail and back story to make Casson feel really real, which I liked.

One thing that I also really liked about this book and the other two books that I have read by Furst so far is that Furst knows how to create atmosphere, which is a real treat for historical fiction lovers who really want to be swept away by world building and armchair traveling. What is most impressive to me is that Furst is able to put a lot of detail into this book without running up the page number tally. Every small thing adds to the overall feeling of the book and makes for an engaging story!


 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

France Book Tours: Rodin's Lover by Heather Webb

Title: Rodin's Lover
Author: Heather Webb
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Plume
Publish Date: January 27, 2015
Source: France Book Tours


Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You're a historical fiction fan.
  • You like strong characters.
  • You're interested in art.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "As a woman, aspiring sculptor Camille Claudel has plenty of critics, especially her ultra-traditional mother. But when Auguste Rodin makes Camille his apprentice—and his muse—their passion inspires groundbreaking works. Yet, Camille’s success is overshadowed by her lover’s rising star, and her obsessions cross the line into madness."

My Two Cents:

"Rodin's Lover" is the latest release from Heather Webb, author of "Becoming Josephine." It is a historical fiction take on Camille Claudel, a woman who dreams of being a famous sculptor. Unfortunately for her, she lives during a time where women are not supposed to be artists and her mother is more interested in making a good love match with an appropriate gentleman. Enter Auguste Rodin, the famous sculptor. Camille finds him endlessly intriguing and falls under his spell. It is not easy to be with him though! This is a passionate tale of love and art that I ate up!

I really enjoyed this story. I was excited to read it after having read "Becoming Josephine." Much of what I liked about that story was present in "Rodin's Lover." Webb spins a great story about art and love and the way that they intersect with each other. It is apparent that Webb spent a great deal of time researching to bring Camille and Auguste as well the rest of the characters to life. I also really loved the setting of Paris. Camille's Paris is a quickly evolving world filled with artists and thinkers

The characters really drive this story and they pulled me into the narrative quickly. These are characters that you want to follow because Webb writes them in such a way that you really care about them. Camille especially felt real to me. Before reading this book, I don't think that I knew a single thing about her. She is such a great character, definitely one that is well ahead of her time. I also really liked the love story between Auguste and Camille. It's full of heat, desire, and storminess. I loved reading about how things evolved between them. I did wish there was a little more about Rodin himself in the book. The story really focuses on Camille alone and Camille and Auguste together but not really on Auguste alone.

Overall, I really enjoyed this story. My fellow historical fiction fans will find so much to love about this book. I am anxiously awaiting Webb's next release.



Giveaway:

There is a tour-wide giveaway for this one! 

 
Entry-Form

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, January 19
Review + Excerpt + Giveaway at Eclectictales
Tuesday, January 20
Review + Giveaway at Unshelfish
Wednesday, January 21
Review + Interview at Jorie Loves A Story
Review + Giveaway at Indiereadergirl0329
Thursday, January 22
Review + Giveaway at Musings of a Writer and Unabashed Francophile
Friday, January 23
Review + Giveaway at Writing the Renaissance
Saturday, January 24
Review + Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Sunday, January 25
Review + Giveaway at The Sabbatical Chef
Monday, January 26
Review + Giveaway at Just One More Chapter
Wednesday, January 28
Review + Giveaway at Words And Peace

Friday, January 23, 2015

Burning Embers Cover Reveal and Guest Post

Hello! Today, I wanted to share you the new cover for Burning Embers by Hannah Fielding, a book that I reviewed in 2013.

Here is the gorgeous new cover:

Isn't it pretty?





And here is a guest post from the author, Hannah Fielding:

Three reasons I wrote my novel, Burning Embers
With my novel Burning Embers, there was a sense that the book had to be written; that I had to sit down and put pen to paper to bring the book to life. Here are the three most compelling reasons that drove me to spend so many hours sitting in my garden and sitting in my writing room to create this romance novel.

The dream of writing
The rambling house I grew up in was built on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean. My bedroom was light and airy and its three windows commanded the most breathtaking views of the ever-changing sea – up to the harbour in the distance – with glowing sunsets and romantic moonlit nights over a scintillating ocean. These spectacular tableaux made my imagination run wild and I would dream of princes that flew in from faraway lands on their magic carpets, of princesses dressed in gowns made of sunrays and of moonbeams, and of dragons lurking in those vast blue depths, rising from the waves that crashed against the rocks underneath my windows. These and many more stories I used to relate to my half-Italian, half-French governess. And so was born the dream of becoming a writer, and it is a dream that has stayed with me ever since.

The setting
Burning Embers began not as a story, but as a vivid landscape in my mind. 
The seed of the ideas was sown many years ago when, as a schoolgirl, I studied the works of Leconte de Lisle, a French Romantic poet of the 19th century. His poems are wonderfully descriptive and vivid – about wild animals, magnificent dawns and sunsets, exotic settings and colourful vistas. (See http://www.hannahfielding.net/?cat=7 for some translations of Leconte de Lisle poems.)
Then later on, I went on holiday to Kenya with my parents and I met our family friend Mr Chiumbo Wangai, who often used to visit us. He was a great raconteur and told me extensively about his beautiful country, its tribes, its traditions and its customs. I was enthralled. What a beautiful, wild, colourful, passionate country in which to set a love story!

The story
The idea for Burning Embers came to me one night at my home in France. I couldn’t sleep, and I was sitting up in my bed gazing out at the Mediterranean, watching the silver full moon shimmering on the sea. Then an ocean liner, all lit up, glided past. It was such a romantic sight that I found myself wondering about the lives of the people on board that ship. Who were they? Where were they going? And into my head walked the heroine of Burning Embers, Coral, a beautiful, naïve young woman returning home to the land of her birth. I grabbed the notebook beside my bed and began to write, and the skeleton of the first chapter of the novel took place – Coral alone on the deck of a ship grieving for her father and a love that was destroyed, and an enigmatic man, the alluring Rafe, who offers her the classic comfort of strangers.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

TLC Book Tours Review: Migratory Animals by Mary Helen Specht

Title: Migratory Animals
Author: Mary Helen Specht
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Publish Date: January 20, 2015
Source: TLC Book Tours






Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You like stories about sisters.
  • You don't mind tough subjects.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "When Flannery, a young scientist, is forced to return to Austin from five years of research in Nigeria, she becomes torn between her two homes. Having left behind her loving fiancé without knowing when she can return, Flan learns that her sister, Molly, has begun to show signs of the crippling genetic disease that slowly killed their mother.

As their close-knit circle of friends struggles with Molly’s diagnosis, Flannery must grapple with what her future will hold: an ambitious life of love and the pursuit of scientific discovery in West Africa, or the pull of a life surrounded by old friends, the comfort of an old flame, family obligations, and the home she’s always known. But she is not the only one wrestling with uncertainty. Since their college days, each of her friends has faced unexpected challenges that make them reevaluate the lives they’d always planned for themselves."


My Two Cents:

Flannery believes that she will spend the rest of her life abroad. She is happy there, maintaining distant connections with her family. She only goes home when her vibrant younger sister, Molly, is diagnosed with Huntington's Disease, which is the same disease that took their mother. Flannery knows that she must give up her wants to go home to the sister who never left. This story is about different coping mechanisms in the face of the unknown.

This is a powerful debut that I enjoyed. Flannery and Molly's relationship is at the center of the book but they are surrounded by friends that are dealing with Molly's diagnosis as well. Each character has suffered their own heartbreak. It's not always a romantic heartbreak; it could be heartbreak over a broken family or a career that once started out so promising that has changed into something else. These characters are pulled together by Molly's illness and each of them faces it in a different way.

I really wanted to know more about these characters outside of the group. Each one very much has their own identity within the group that seems to limit them in some way. The book is really about how they relate to each other but not really to anyone outside of the group, which made me feel in some places that I was being held at arm's length.

Overall, I really enjoyed the writing in this book. It is the best part of the book. There were some really beautiful turns of phrase in this book that I really enjoyed. This is a good debut! 



Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Tuesday, January 20th: Based on a True Story
Wednesday, January 21st: Read Her Like and Open Book
Thursday, January 22nd: A Bookish Affair
Friday, January 23rd: A Patchwork of Books
Monday, January 26th: Olduvai Reads
Tuesday, January 27th: Book Loving Hippo
Wednesday, January 28th: Lavish Bookshelf
Monday, February 2nd: Ageless Pages Reviews
Tuesday, February 3rd: Peppermint PhD
Wednesday, February 4th: Books and Things
Tuesday, February 10th: Tina Says …
Wednesday, February 11th: Jorie Loves a Story
Thursday, February 12th: Books and Bindings
 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Review: Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm

Title: Unbecoming
Author: Rebecca Scherm
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Viking
Publish Date: January 22, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.






Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a fiction fan.
  • You like a book with a lot of twists and turns.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "On the grubby outskirts of Paris, Grace restores bric-a-brac, mends teapots, re-sets gems. She calls herself Julie, says she’s from California, and slips back to a rented room at night. Regularly, furtively, she checks the hometown paper on the Internet. Home is Garland, Tennessee, and there, two young men have just been paroled. One, she married; the other, she’s in love with. Both were jailed for a crime that Grace herself planned in exacting detail. The heist went bad—but not before she was on a plane to Prague with a stolen canvas rolled in her bag. And so, in Paris, begins a cat-and-mouse waiting game as Grace’s web of deception and lies unravels—and she becomes another young woman entirely."

My Two Cents:

In "Unbecoming," all Grace has wanted is somewhere to belong. She thought she had found it once with the family of the boy that she loved until a crime stole it all away. Grace fled from everything she knew in Texas. She now calls herself Julie and works in a store where she repairs antiques. She still hasn't gotten away from a life of crime but she is hopeful that the crime of her former life doesn't come back to haunt her. Grace quickly learns that you cannot run from the past.

Billed as a psychological thriller, this book is much quieter that that genre bills it. Grace was once in love with Riley, one of the guys who got in trouble in an art heist crime that Grace was involved in. She is in love with Alls, the other guy who took the fall. Grace could never fully pull herself away from Riley. Grace spends much of the book waiting for the proverbial books to come tumbling down.

The book is split between Grace growing up in Texas and Julie living in France in the present day. I liked seeing the story of Grace's childhood as it gave me a chance to see what happened to get Grace to the point of turning into Julie. Although we get to see her story, I don't feel like we ever get to really know Grace and how she thinks. I wanted to be able to connect with her more throughout the book. I really wanted to understand her. Overall, I thought the premise of the book sounded interesting and I will be interested to see what the author does in the future.  



Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Review: The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson

Title: The Secret of Magic
Author: Deborah Johnson
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: January 6, 2015
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 don't mind tough subjects.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Regina Robichard works for Thurgood Marshall, who receives an unusual letter asking the NAACP to investigate the murder of a returning black war hero. It is signed by M. P. Calhoun, the most reclusive author in the country.

As a child, Regina was captivated by Calhoun’s The Secret of Magic, a novel in which white and black children played together in a magical forest. The book was a sensation, featured on the cover of Time magazine, and banned more than any other book in the South. And then M.P. Calhoun disappeared.

With Thurgood’s permission, Regina heads down to Mississippi to find Calhoun and investigate the case. But as she navigates the muddy waters of racism, relationships, and her own tragic past, she finds that nothing in the South is as it seems."


My Two Cents:

 "The Secret of Magic" takes place in the mid-1940s. It's just after World War II and the United States is starting to put itself back together again as its young men come home. In the South, a young black man comes home as a decorated soldier and he hopes that his life and that of his family will be able to be better than it was before the war. It's not to be though and he is murdered, which will set off the main events of this book.

Regina is our main character in this book. She is a young lawyer who leaves New York to come South after her law firm receives a letter from a reclusive author who just happens to have written on of Regina's favorite childhood stories. Regina is a fascinating character. She starts out wanting to take on this case due to personal interest. Eventually she realizes that her help could help so many other people throughout the story. I did wish that we had more concrete things to go on with regard to Regina. So many of the things that Regina did seemed to hinge on a feeling that Regina had and perhaps not on what was there. It made it hard to find common ground with her in some parts of the book for me.

I was really excited about the premise of the book. It was interesting to see what life was like for the characters. So many of them had hopes that World War II would be able to change American society and were unpleasantly surprised when it did not work out. Overall, I did enjoy the story. There were a couple places in the story that dragged for me and pulled me out of the story. 


 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Giveaway Winners!

I have several giveaway winners to announce today!



Angels Sing:
Bernie

The Maze Runner Prize Pack:
Marie

Moth and Spark:


The Novel Cure: 
Elliot

Congrats to all of the winners and happy Friday!!!

Review: HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes

Title: HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton
Authors: Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Crown
Publish Date: February 11, 2014
Source: Owned






Why You're Reading This Book:

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

From Goodreads.com: "Hillary Clinton’s surprising defeat in the 2008 Democratic primary brought her to the nadir of her political career, vanquished by a much younger opponent whose message of change and cutting-edge tech team ran circles around her stodgy campaign. And yet, six years later, she has reemerged as an even more powerful and influential figure, a formidable stateswoman and the presumed front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, marking one of the great political comebacks in history. "

My Two Cents:

"HRC" is one of the latest in an onslaught of books that will probably come out about probable Presidential candidates for 2016 (it's not that far away in political terms, guys!!!). I had been wanting to read this book for quite awhile as Hillary Clinton is absolutely fascinating to me. She is definitely a divisive figure. Some really, really like her and have very high hopes for her chances in 2016. Others absolutely hate her and are terrified what another Clinton administration (this one presided over by the first Clinton's spouse) could mean for the country. This book looks mostly at Clinton's years during the 2008 election and her being chosen to be the chief diplomat for the country, the Secretary of State.

All in all, I thought this was a very even keeled book about Clinton (a lot of other books out there are not so balanced). The authors do make some leaps to conclusions in some places but for the most part, it is left up to the readers to make a decision on how they feel. I think this can be incredibly difficult to do with such a polarizing figure like Hillary Clinton. The authors definitely succeed here. I really appreciated that the authors drew on a lot of interviews with people who have known and worked with Clinton. Not all of the sources have been named but you can tell what kinds of people that the authors were dealing with.

Although Clinton did many things before her time presiding over the Department of State, I think her years there most clearly show how she worked and made strategic decisions that changed how people saw both her and the Department of State. You get some insight into her psyche here. I also liked all of the recounts of her stories from the road. Clinton traveled a lot when she was Secretary of State and seemed to strongly believe in the ability to "reach out and touch" rather than conducting business all of the time from Washington. Overall I thought this was a pretty good book.


  

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Giveaway: Gone Girl!

Today, I am very excited to give away a Gone Girl blu-ray and book bundle!  I am so excited to see this movie. I read the book and it might be one of the most twisted books that I have ever read!


Want to win (U.S. only)? Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Exciting News!

2015 has just barely started but it has already brought with it a lot of changes. Some of those changes started late in 2014. Let me shed a little light for you!

It all started during a vacation to Yellowstone National Park. We had just spent some time with my family for a wedding for my gorgeous cousin in Colorado. My husband and I decided to tack on a trip to Yellowstone and the Tetons. We had an absolutely amazing time.

Is this not gorgeous?

We hiked a lot and drove a lot. We saw tons of animals. We had great weather (weather can be a little touch and go in this part of the country during the end of September). It was a fantastic trip!

We stayed in a great lodge just between Yellowstone and the Tetons. Our cabin was overlooking the Tetons and at night, the sky was so clear that you could see the Milky Way, which is something that Phil and I don't get to see often enough being that we live in the land of light pollution on the East Coast.

Everything was perfect until the last night before we drove back to Denver, which was a Thursday night. We ate at the lodge and had a great dinner. I was not feeling very good all night long and was convinced that I had food poisoning (I had never had it before so I didn't know what it felt like). The next day, I slept pretty much from the time that we left Yellowstone until we got back to the Colorado state line. I felt horrible! We got back to Denver and I tried to eat dinner and do a little sightseeing with Phil but I just felt so bad. I got up the next morning and still felt bad but I tried to put on my game face for Phil because I didn't want him to just sit in the hotel. We did a little more sightseeing and finally called it quits to go watch a Penn State football game (Go Nittany Lions!) in bed. Well, it was more like Phil watched the game and I just slept.

We at least made it to Tattered Cover, a fantastic Indie bookstore in the heart of Denver.
 We flew home and I slept all the way on the plane. By Sunday, I was still was not feeling great and promised Phil that I would go to the doctor that week. He had an inkling that maybe I didn't really have food poisoning and that maybe it was something else. He thought that I might be pregnant. After feeling so bad for a few days, I agreed to take a test and was shocked (in a really fantastic way) when it came back positive.

We got right into the doctor to confirm the pregnancy. Phil came with me and we sat in the exam room holding hands. I got on the table and the doctor doing the ultrasound started looking. She said, "Oh, here's one and oh, here's another one!" I looked at Phil and we both started laughing and then I started crying. I was in shock (very happy shock but shock nonetheless).

So our lives have been a roller coaster since October. We found out that we are having identical twins. And then we found out that they will be girls. We have been so incredibly excited. I have definitely gone through my share of fear and anxiety. When you want something so badly, it is hard to stop feeling like it is all going to disappear right before your very eyes. I still have a lot of anxiety and probably will for a very long time. It's just so amazing!

I am about five and a half months along at this point. I am feeling pretty good besides just being tired all of the time. In fact, besides those first couple days of my fake food poisoning incident, I have not really been all that sick as long as I ate something when I first woke up and had frequent snacks throughout the day.

The girls are due in May but because of some of the complications that go along with identical twins, they will probably be April babies. We are so excited to meet them!

You knew that I had to have a book related pregnancy announcement, right?
Anyhow, as we prepare for the girls, I am still obviously blogging. Because I have been so tired, my reading has definitely slowed down and I am no longer taking solicited reviews so you will be seeing a lot more of my own book picks in the future!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Review: A Sister to Honor by Lucy Ferriss

Title: A Sister to Honor
Author: Lucy Ferriss
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: January 6, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.






Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a fiction fan.
  • You like learning about different cultures.
  • You like family stories.
  • You want to read a very emotionally charged story.

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Afia Satar is studious, modest, and devout. The young daughter of a landholding family in northern Pakistan, Afia has enrolled in an American college with the dream of returning to her country as a doctor. But when a photo surfaces online of Afia holding hands with an American boy, she is suddenly no longer safe—even from the family that cherishes her.

Rising sports star Shahid Satar has been entrusted by his family to watch over Afia in this strange New England landscape. He has sworn to protect his beloved sister from the dangerous customs of America, from its loose morals and easy virtue. Shahid was the one who convinced their parents to allow her to come to the United States. He never imagined he’d be ordered to cleanse the stain of her shame..."


My Two Cents:

"A Sister to Honor" is one of those books that just sucks you in from the very beginning. It is a story of cultural clashes, honor, and family. At the center of the book is Afia, a Pashtun Pakistani woman who comes to Smith College in the United States to study to be a doctor. She falls for a guy in a way that would be totally okay for any American girl to do but for a Pakistani woman brings shame to her family. Shahid, her brother, was supposed to protect her and her dishonor is his to take care of now in order to absolve the shame from their family. This was a very powerful story that had me turning the pages as quickly as I could to see what would happen to Afia.

Afia is a fascinating character. She is torn between two worlds. On one hand, she loves her new found freedom as a college student in America. She struggles between wanting to do all of the things that her new friends do while trying to keep the customs of her family and home country. It is an incredible amount of pressure. I really felt for her throughout the book. It was a little hard for me to understand why she made the choices that she made until the author was able to show just how ingrained some of her beliefs were.

This book had a lot of twists and turns, which I really enjoyed as they kept me on my toes. I love learning about different places and cultures so I liked all of the detail that the author included about where Afia, Shahid, and their other very evil brother, Khalid, came from and what their family life in Pakistan was like.

This is definitely a book that I am going to be thinking about for a long time. The conclusion of the book definitely made me think (and of course, I don't want to give anything away so I will leave it there). This wasn't an easy read in a lot of places due to some of the brutality but I found that the author's detail was necessary in order to really understand what was going on.  



Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Review: The British Spy Manual: The Authentic Special Operations Executive (SOE) Guide for WWII

Title: The British Spy Manual: The Authentic Special Operations Executive (SOE) Guide for WWII
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Aurum Press
Publish Date: October 31, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Imagine sitting behind a desk, in a classroom, miles from anywhere in the English countryside, alongside dozens of fellow students, dreaming of being parachuted into Occupied France to undertake daring missions against Hitler's forces. What were you taught? What text books did they give you, and what homework and exams were you expected to pass in order to make the grade?"

My Two Cents:

I was really interested to read the spy manual for Brits during World War II because I have a keen interest in World War II. I just think that it is such a fascinating time. And it is still by far one of my favorite historical periods to read about! Basically what this book is, is a replica of the actual manual that British spies would've received during World War II. It covers all of their materials as well as some of their tactics. This book definitely opened my eyes to what it must have really been like to be a spy during WWII. It is truly a great gift for history lovers.

But I really liked about those book is that it gives you a really unique perspective and to just how knowledgeable spies had to be in many different disciplines in order to carry out their jobs. The book covers everything from the equipment that each spy had to know how to use to details on how to do undercover make-up and also how to set traps for their enemies.

This would be a great pick for those who love history or those who are interested in World War II. I am making my husband read this book because I know that as a history lover, he will definitely enjoy it! I think you will really enjoy getting this unique perspective on some of the things that happened during World War II.


 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Review: House Broken by Sonja Yoerg

Title: House Broken
Author: Sonja Yoerg
Format: Paperback
Publisher: NAL
Publish Date: January 6, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "For veterinarian Geneva Novak, animals can be easier to understand than people. They’re also easier to forgive. But when her mother, Helen, is injured in a vodka-fueled accident, it’s up to Geneva to give her the care she needs.

Since her teens, Geneva has kept her self-destructive mother at arm’s length. Now, with two slippery teenagers of her own at home, the last thing she wants is to add Helen to the mix. But Geneva’s husband convinces her that letting Helen live with them could be her golden chance to repair their relationship.

Geneva isn’t expecting her mother to change anytime soon, but she may finally get answers to the questions she’s been asking for so long. As the truth about her family unfolds, however, Geneva may find secrets too painful to bear and too terrible to forgive."


My Two Cents:

"House Broken" is the story of Geneva, a mom who is trying to deal with her husband's crazy close-knit family, two wild teenagers, and her mother who seems to be hell-bent on destroying herself and the family. This is a story of family secrets and the strength that it takes to keep the family together when the family has gone through a dramatic event or two. I really enjoyed the story. It's a very realistic look at one family and their struggle to understand one another.

The book is told in the third person perspective from Geneva, Geneva's daughter, Ella, and Geneva's mother, Helen. I really liked how the author chose to give us the perspective of these three characters. Each of the characters has a really unique voice and a very unique perspective on what's going on in the story. I really feel like by having these three different perspectives that it pulled me further into the book.

The family drama at the center of those book was sometimes hard to read about. Geneva's family has never been close. Geneva is close to her only brother but the rest of the siblings almost never speak. At the center of this discontent are things that have been kept secret from Geneva and some of her siblings for decades. It's the unearthing of these horrible secrets that really are at the center of this book. Through these horrible secrets, we really get a good sense of what the family has been through and why some of the characters still seem to be so affected by events of so long ago. The intricacy of all of these family secrets really pulled me into the book as well.

I will start this next paragraph with a personal caveat: to me, a mark of a good book is when you are not ready to let go of the characters when the last page ends so take this next section with a grain of salt. This book has a very open-ended ending that has me pining for a sequel (please say there is a sequel!!!). I really wanted to know what happened to Helen and why even after everything that she and Geneva have been through why she still decided to do what she did. I don't want to give anything away so I won't give you any more detail but the way the book ended was very unsatisfying for me. I want more!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I liked how realistic the family seemed. I especially think kudos go to the author for the character of Ella. I think teenagers can be particularly difficult to write; however, this author does it with panache. I would love to read more about Geneva's family sure or maybe another selection by this author!


 

Monday, January 5, 2015

HF Virtual Book Tours: Oracles of Delphi by Marie Savage

Title: Oracles of Delphi
Author: Marie Savage
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Blank Slate Press
Publish Date: October 15, 2014
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "All Althaia wants on her trip to Delphi is to fulfill her father's last wish and enjoy time away from her tiresome new husband. Finding the body of a young woman on the altar of Dionysos in the theater of the Sacred Precinct on her first day in town is not in her plans. Neither is getting involved in the search for the killer, falling for the son of a famous priestess, or getting pulled into the ancient struggle for control of the two most powerful oracles in the world. But that's exactly what happens when Theron, Althaia's tutor and a man with a reputation for finding the truth, is asked to investigate. When a priest hints that Theron himself may be involved, Althaia is certain the old man is crazy-until Nikomachos, son of the famous priestess of Dodona, arrives with an urgent message. As Theron's past, greedy priests, paranoid priestesses, visions, prophecies, and stolen treasures complicate the investigation, Althaia finds herself falling for Nikomachos whose dangerous secrets may hold the key to the young woman's death. When another body is found and Althaia discovers Nikomachos is being blackmailed, she devises a plan to coerce the killer to reveal himself and, in the process, forces Nikomachos to confront his own past. As the plan unfolds, she comes to realize that love often comes at a high price and that the true meaning of family is more than a blood bond."

My Two Cents:

"Oracles of Delphi" is a historical mystery set in the ancient city of Delphi. This is a fascinating historical fiction tale with a lot of good historical detail. This book takes place in fourth century Greece, a time and place I have not read a lot about (this book was a great opportunity for armchair traveling). This book gave me a good opportunity to visit someplace new through my reading while being entertained by this mystery.

What made those books so interesting to me is that we really get a front row seat to the murder, which this story surrounds but we also get to see how the various characters deal with this mystery. Believe it or not, knowing whodunit doesn't make this book any less interesting. Even though we know who committed the murder readers will still be pulled into the story by watching the other characters try to figure out who did it.

The beginning of the book starts with a bang when the murder is committed. It did lose a little bit of traction for me during the middle but comes to very satisfying conclusion. The middle of those books went much slower for me than the beginning or the ending of the book. I think some of the detail could have been slimmed down for pacing's sake. I did appreciate the mysticism that is woven throughout the story. I really enjoy magical realism as a literary element within a book. Overall, I think this book gives a really interesting insight into a time and place that was not familiar to me.






Follow the Rest of the Tour:


Monday, December 8
Review at The Mad Reviewer
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading
Tuesday, December 9
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Wednesday, December 10
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Thursday, December 11
Interview at The Maiden’s Court
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More
Monday, December 15
Review at Book Nerd
Thursday, December 18
Guest Post at Just One More Chapter
Saturday, December 20
Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Monday, December 22
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Tuesday, December 23
Review at Book Babe
Monday, December 29
Review at 100 Pages a Day – Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection
Tuesday, December 30
Guest Post & Giveaway at The Book Binder’s Daughter
Friday, January 2
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Monday, January 5
Review at A Bookish Affair
Tuesday, January 6
Review at Book Drunkard
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Wednesday, January 7
Review at bookramblings
Review & Giveaway at Brooke Blogs
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Friday, January 9
Review at Book Dilettante
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