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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Review: Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer

Title: Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town
Author: Jon Krakauer
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Doubleday
Publish Date: April 21, 2015
Source: Library



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Missoula, Montana is a typical college town, home to a highly regarded state university whose beloved football team inspires a passionately loyal fan base. Between January 2008 and May 2012, hundreds of students reported sexual assaults to the local police. Few of the cases were properly handled by either the university or local authorities. In this, Missoula is also typical.

In these pages, acclaimed journalist Jon Krakauer investigates a spate of campus rapes that occurred in Missoula over a four-year period. Taking the town as a case study for a crime that is sadly prevalent throughout the nation, Krakauer documents the experiences of five victims: their fear and self-doubt in the aftermath; the skepticism directed at them by police, prosecutors, and the public; their bravery in pushing forward and what it cost them. These stories cut through abstract ideological debate about acquaintance rape to demonstrate that it does not happen because women are sending mixed signals or seeking attention. They are victims of a terrible crime, deserving of fairness from our justice system. Rigorously researched, rendered in incisive prose, Missoula stands as an essential call to action."


My Two Cents:

"In "Missoula," Jon Krakauer, author of other books like "Into the Wild," he explores a bunch of rape cases that occurred at the University of Montana. Although he looks at one place, he explores a lot of issues surrounding rapes at college campuses around the country. UM had a stunning number of rape accusations and Krakauer explores where these came from and for lack of a better phrase, the complete chaos in which they were dealt (or not so dealt with). I have really enjoyed some of Krakauer's other books and I have family that lives in Missoula so I was very drawn to this book. This is a very powerful, albeit disturbing read.

One thing that I have really liked about Krakauer's other books as well as this one is how he looks at a story from so many different angles. He doesn't jump to conclusions and he doesn't necessarily want his readers to jump to conclusions either. He does interviews and deep digs on both sides of the issue in this book and what he finds is completely mind boggling in my opinion. It is completely outrageous when culture seems to trump justice as it does in the issue of the Missoula rapes. It's truly sad!

Krakauer does a great job of bringing readers right into the fray of what happened in this small college town. His writing made me feel like I was experiencing the very real feelings and fears of the people in the book. The subject matter is difficult to read but oh so necessary. 





Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Beaks and Geeks and a Lyndsay Faye Giveaway!

Obviously, if you're reading book blogs, you're looking for more books to read! I've recently discovered the goodness of bookish podcasts and one that I have really enjoyed is "Beaks and Geeks." It's a podcast from Penguin Random House and it has a ton of great episodes with a ton of amazing authors! I have so enjoyed listening to it!



You can download the podcast but you can easily listen to it through SoundCloud! I've been listening to it a lot and it's made my TBR grow exponentially!

One of the episodes that I most recently enjoyed was the podcast with Lyndsay Faye, author of "Jane Steele." She goes into the book but a lot of other subjects as well! You can listen to this episode here.

Giveaway:

Thanks to the publisher, I am so happy to be able to give away a copy of "Jane Steele" (U.S. only, please!) in celebration of this fantastic podcast! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below...


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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

TLC Book Tours Review and Giveaway: The Last Woman Standing by Thelma Adams

Title: The Last Woman Standing
Author: Thelma Adams
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Lake Union
Publish Date: July 1, 2016
Source: TLC Book Tours



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Two decades after the Civil War, Josephine Marcus, the teenage daughter of Jewish immigrants, is lured west with the promise of marriage to Johnny Behan, one of Arizona’s famous lawmen. She leaves her San Francisco home to join Behan in Tombstone, Arizona, a magnet for miners (and outlaws) attracted by the silver boom. Though united by the glint of metal, Tombstone is plagued by divided loyalties: between Confederates and Unionists, Lincoln Republicans and Democrats.

But when the silver-tongued Behan proves unreliable, it is legendary frontiersman Wyatt Earp who emerges as Josephine’s match. As the couple’s romance sparks, Behan’s jealousy ignites a rivalry destined for the history books…"


My Two Cents:

"The Last Woman Standing" is the story of Josie, a young Jewish woman who cannot see herself continuing to work in her parents' business and letting them decide what path she will take. She wants to make her own decisions. She's a bit adventurous and decides the place for her is out west. It's the 1880s and the western part of the United States is very much still the Wild West. Josie knows that this is the place for her and she leaves to make a life and find a husband. Little does she know who will be vying for her affection.

Josie is a great character. I admired her pluck and her seeming inability to be worried about the unknown. The book is told from her point of view, which I really liked. It allowed me to step in her shoes and to see what she saw as she went to a new world, much unlike the one that she grew up in. I don't believe I have read any historical fiction about Wyatt Earp and I really liked getting to see him through Josie's eyes in this book. It's no wonder her heart was drawn to him!

I loved the setting! The Wild West is so exciting but rarely do I read historical fiction books about it. It makes for a great time period. I loved the way that the author is able to evoke the sights and sounds of the time through Josie's descriptions! This book made me want to read more about the setting in this particular time period. I don't think I would have the heart to make it in the Wild West but I definitely do like reading about it!






Giveaway:

Want to win your own copy of this book? Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below (U.S./ CAN only, please!)...


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Monday, June 27, 2016

Review: Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot by Masha Gessen

Title: Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot
Author: Masha Gessen
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publish Date: January 8, 2014
Source: Library



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "On February 21, 2012, five young women entered the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. In neon-colored dresses, tights, and balaclavas, they performed a “punk prayer” beseeching the “Mother of God” to “get rid of Putin.” They were quickly shut down by security, and in the weeks and months that followed, three of the women were arrested and tried, and two were sentenced to a remote prison colony. But the incident captured international headlines, and footage of it went viral. People across the globe recognized not only a fierce act of political confrontation but also an inspired work of art that, in a time and place saturated with lies, found a new way to speak the truth."

My Two Cents:

"Words Will Break Cement" is the story of Pussy Riot, a all-female punk band in Russia who dares to protest against Vladmir Putin, the Russian establishment, and the Russian government in a church. This gets some of the members sent to work camps and ignites passion for freedom of speech around the world. This book is by Masha Gessen, an author who whose previous work centers mostly on Russia. I have really enjoyed some of her previous work and was excited to see how she took on the subject of Pussy Riot.. For many of us, it's hard to imagine getting punished for protesting. It happens but it seems to be much less severe thann it is in places like Russia. Gessen covers the events leading up to the protest and the women behind the protest.

This book is utterly fascinating from the perspective that it's really interesting to see women protesting in Russia. The episode with Pussy Riot opened up Russia to a lot of criticism both at home and abroad. While this marks the first time that Pussy Riot had ever sparked international headlines, the group and its members had been shaking things up for a long time in Russia through their music and their art. It was interesting to hear the history behind each of the women that were involved in the protest and their reasons for protesting even if it meant being punished to the point where they wouldn't be able to see their friends or family for long periods of time.

This book feels very much like long form journalism, which I love. It will be interesting to others who are interested in freedom of speech and international events!


 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Review and Author Interview: You May See a Stranger by Paula Whyman

Title: You May See a Stranger
Author: Paula Whyman
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Triquarterly Press
Publish Date: May 15, 2016
Source: PR



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Miranda Weber is a hot mess. In Paula Whyman’s debut collection of stories, we find her hoarding duct tape to ward off terrorists, stumbling into a drug run with a crackhead, and—frequently—enduring the bad behavior of men. A drivers’ education class pulsing with racial tension is the unexpected context of her sexual awakening. As she comes of age, and in the three decades that follow, the potential for violence always hovers nearby. She’s haunted by the fate of her disabled sister and—thanks to the crack cocaine epidemic of the ’80s, the wars in the Middle East, and sniper attacks—the threat of crime and terror in her hometown of Washington, D.C. Miranda can be lascivious, sardonic, and maddeningly self-destructive, but, no matter what befalls her, she never loses her sharp wit or powers of observation, which illuminate both her own life and her strange, unsettling times."

My Two Cents:

 "You May See a Stranger" is a set of linked stories that follow Miranda, a complicated woman who seems to have a penchant for getting lost in her thoughts and letting them take a hold. The stories follow her from the time that she was 15 years old until she is middle aged. Each story captures a glimpse of her at different stages of her life and we see how she has and has not changed in each one. While feeling at arm's length from the main character, the writing thoroughly drew me in!

This is a really unique story collection. I have found that in many of the other short story collections I've read, they mostly are completely different stories. There are some collections that I have read that have a group of characters that they followed but having each story follow the same character in this book was a really unique experience for me! I loved seeing Miranda change at every age. It was such a great perspective! Obviously she grows up but I love how the author was able to build on her experiences throughout the book and show how some of the things she faced continued to almost haunt her as she got older. It made Miranda feel more real to me. Although the stories followed the same character, I was still especially drawn to one story in particular about Miranda at dinner having lobster. The way that the author plays with words and ideas in that story is especially striking.

The writing of this book was good. It is up to the reader to fill in some of the spaces between the various stories. I found that I wanted to get to know Miranda a little more between the stories but the writing really kept me engaged in reading about her life. The author has skill with creating realistic dialogue that drew me in. I am looking forward to reading more by Ms. Whyman!





Author Interview:

I am thrilled to have Paula Whyman here on A Bookish Affair today (Sorry, Paula, I don't think Mr. Roth would agree to talk me either! Hah!)


  1. What inspired you to write "You May See a Stranger?"

When The Hudson Review published an earlier version of the story “Driver’s Education,” I visited a school in Harlem to talk with students who had read the story. They wanted to know if I’d be writing more about that girl. (In that story the character now known as Miranda is 15 years old; she ages during the course of the book, which takes her to middle age.) Back then, I had no plans to write more stories about her. But the students’ enthusiasm and curiosity stayed with me. Years later, I found that I was writing stories that could be about the same person at different times in her life. That’s when I began exploring the character intentionally and planning a linked collection.

  1. So many books about Washington, D.C. are about politics or spies. What drew you to showing a different side of the Nation's Capital?

I wanted to write a book about regular people living in the D.C. area. Not everyone here is tied to the government. We’re all operated on by it and interact with it, of course, but the general perspective on D.C. by people who are from elsewhere is that everyone here is ambitious and interested in power. People come here from all over to have that experience, to fulfill that dream. But the rest of us –most of us--are just living our lives, and we have little contact with that world other than getting stuck in traffic when the President makes a “movement.” We hardly ever see that “real” side of DC in books and movies. There are notable, wonderful, exceptions—books by Edward P. Jones and Dinaw Mengestu, for instance.

  1. What's your favorite scene in "You May See a Stranger?"

That’s a tough question. I don’t have a favorite, but I can tell you a few scenes that I’m proud of—the lobster scene in the title story is one; the scene where Miranda discusses the change of life with Dr. Nina is another; and the scene where Miranda is imagining what’s happening with the couple who live in the apartment above her sister’s.

  1. This is your first book! Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

I think there’s no better preparation for writing than reading. Read the classics, read contemporary literary fiction, and read some trashy novels. I learned something different and useful from all of them. People can disagree about one classic versus another, but many of them have lasted for a reason. I found it helpful to examine what it is that makes them work. As a teenager, I alternated among books like The Brothers Karamazov, Light in August…and The Americans series by John Jakes. The Americans is historical fiction in that the characters take their clothes off at important moments in U.S. history. I read those books in the back of algebra class. I don’t remember much algebra.

5. If you could bring any three people (alive, fictional or dead) to a deserted island, who would you bring and why?

I decided to restrict myself to living authors whom I have not met. I’m assuming there will be some writing studios on this island. I’m imagining it a lot like a small artist residency… I would bring Philip Roth, Lorrie Moore, and Edward O. Wilson. I’m a big admirer of all three. Roth would probably not want to spend much time with us, but I hope he’d at least be willing to have dinner now and then. I have to think Lorrie Moore has a good sense of humor, and we could make snarky comments together when Roth refuses to join us for dinner. And Edward O. Wilson has a million great stories to tell that I would love to hear, plus he’d be able to identify all the ants on the island and would know everything there is to know about the island ecosystems. So, can you arrange this? I’ve already started packing.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

TLC Book Tours: The Royal Nanny by Karen Harper

Title: The Royal Nanny
Author: Karen Harper
Format: ARC
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publish Date: June 21, 2016
Source: TLC Book Tours



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "April, 1897: A young nanny arrives at Sandringham, ancestral estate of the Duke and Duchess of York. She is excited, exhausted—and about to meet royalty. . . .

So begins the unforgettable story of Charlotte Bill, who would care for a generation of royals as their parents never could. Neither Charlotte—LaLa, as her charges dub her—nor anyone else can predict that eldest sons David and Bertie will each one day be king. LaLa knows only that these children, and the four who swiftly follow, need her steadfast loyalty and unconditional affection.

But the greatest impact on Charlotte’s life is made by a mere bud on the family tree: a misunderstood soul who will one day be known as the Lost Prince. Young Prince John needs all of Lala’s love—the kind of love his parents won’t…or can’t…show him."


My Two Cents:

"The Royal Nanny" is the story of Charlotte "Lala" Bill who becomes nanny to the children of King George V and Mary of Teck. The royal couple are not particularly loving parents and Charlotte feels the need to fill the void in the children's life. The two eldest will eventually take the throne as King Edward VIII, who abdicates for his love, Wallis Simpson. An incredibly dedicated woman, Lala will give up love and sometimes her own feelings to give the children the life and love she feels they deserve. This is a great, intimate glimpse at a fascinating family and woman that will appeal to my fellow royal watchers.

So many royal children seem to lead such sullen lives. They may be surrounded by riches, but often seem poor in the amount of love that they are given. I loved how Lala recognizes that and instantly dedicates herself to the royal children in showing them love. She is such a great character and I love that the story is told from her perspective. It really got me involved in the things that she was doing and seeing.

With as much historical fiction as I read, I don't often visit the late 1800s or early 1900s nearly enough. I really enjoyed the time period and the settings! The children spend a lot of time being cloistered away in various palaces and castles and the descriptions of these places were really good. This book made me want to read more about this time period, especially if it were about the royals during this time period!


 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Review: By the Numbers by Jen Lancaster

Title: By the Numbers
Author: Jen Lancaster
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: NAL
Publish Date: June 21, 2016 (Today!)
Source: Publisher



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Actuary Penny Sinclair has a head for business, and she always makes rational decisions. Knowing that 60% of spouses cheat and 50% of marriages end in divorce, she wasn't too surprised when her husband had an affair. (That he did so with a woman their daughter's age? Well, that part did sting a bit.) She just made sure she got everything in the divorce, including their lovely old Victorian house. And as soon as her middle daughter has her hipster-fabulous wedding in the backyard, she's trading it in for a condo in downtown Chicago...

Well within the average market time in her area, Penny gets an offer on the house. But then life happens. Her children, her parents and her ex come flying back to the nest, all in need of Penny's emotional and financial support. Spread thin, Penny becomes the poster child for the sandwich generation, when all she really wanted to do was make managing director, buy a white couch, and maybe go on a Match.com date..."


My Two Cents:

In "By the Numbers," Penny feels like her life is falling apart. In trying to "have it all," she is failing miserably. Her marriage is kaput! Her parents might be moving in with her. Two out of three of her adult children are having major issues and may also be moving home. Penny has worked hard for a living but nothing seems to have stuck and now she feels stuck.

First off, Jen Lancaster is on my must-read list. I fell in love with her hilarious, witty, and wise memoirs and now I'm loving her fiction. In her fiction, she creates characters that you fall in love with even if it takes awhile to get there as it did for me with Penny. Lancaster is brilliant in how she woos you though. We first meet Penny through the eyes of her children. Her daughters are totally over her and think that she's a total drag. Her son is the only one that stands up for her. I was expecting the book to be mostly about the grown children's feelings about their mom but the book is really about Penny, a woman trying to pull it all together! Penny is incredibly endearing and I felt for her throughout the book as if she were a friend.

The writing is great. So much of what I have loved about Lancaster's previous books is present in this book. She has really smart dialogue. She also has a great sense of humor and knows how to make her audience laugh out loud. The other thing that I absolutely loved was the ending of the book. I can't give anything away but I loved, loved, loved it! This is a great story about trying to keep your head above water when everything is going wrong!


 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Review: Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

Title: Anna and the Swallow Man
Author: Gavriel Savit
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Knopf
Publish Date: January 26, 2016
Source: Library



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Kraków, 1939. A million marching soldiers and a thousand barking dogs. This is no place to grow up. Anna Łania is just seven years old when the Germans take her father, a linguistics professor, during their purge of intellectuals in Poland. She’s alone.

And then Anna meets the Swallow Man. He is a mystery, strange and tall, a skilled deceiver with more than a little magic up his sleeve. And when the soldiers in the streets look at him, they see what he wants them to see.

The Swallow Man is not Anna’s father—she knows that very well—but she also knows that, like her father, he’s in danger of being taken, and like her father, he has a gift for languages: Polish, Russian, German, Yiddish, even Bird. When he summons a bright, beautiful swallow down to his hand to stop her from crying, Anna is entranced. She follows him into the wilderness.

Over the course of their travels together, Anna and the Swallow Man will dodge bombs, tame soldiers, and even, despite their better judgment, make a friend. But in a world gone mad, everything can prove dangerous. Even the Swallow Man.
"


My Two Cents:

In "Anna and the Swallow Man," young Anna's father never comes home. It's the middle of World War II and it is not abnormal for people to simply disappear. The Swallow Man comes to take Anna under his proverbial wing. He is a mysterious man who will not tell Anna much if anything about himself. Although they seem to have no connection, the Swallow Man takes care of Anna and saves her from so many things throughout the book.

I'm a sucker for WWII fiction. I love it! I love being sucked into another time and place where the stakes are so high. For Anna and the Swallow Man, there is danger around every corner. I loved the way the author describes what they have to do to survive and to stay together. The Swallow Man also teaches Anna a lot of things throughout the book and there are some really beautiful passages and turns of phrase throughout the book.

The ending of the book certainly did not give me very much closure at all. The reader is free to imagine what happened to Anna after the last page, which will have me thinking about the book for a very long time. I did want there to be a little more hint of closure. Where do they go after the book ends? Are they traveling forever? I did want a little more detail towards the end but I'm torn because I think the option to imagine what happened to Anna is a great one for the reader. On the other hand, I would love another book to see where Anna's story goes.


 

Friday, June 17, 2016

TLC Book Tours Review: The Woman in the Photo by Mary Hogan

Title: The Woman in the Photo 
Author: Mary Hogan 
Format: ARC
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: June 14, 2016
Source: TLC Book Tours



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "1888: Elizabeth Haberlin, of the Pittsburgh Haberlins, spends every summer with her family on a beautiful lake in an exclusive club. Nestled in the Allegheny Mountains above the working class community of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the private retreat is patronized by society’s elite. Elizabeth summers with Carnegies, Mellons, and Fricks, following the rigid etiquette of her class. But Elizabeth is blessed (cursed) with a mind of her own. Case in point: her friendship with Eugene Eggar, a Johnstown steel mill worker. And when Elizabeth discovers that the club’s poorly maintained dam is about to burst and send 20 million tons of water careening down the mountain, she risks all to warn Eugene and the townspeople in the lake’s deadly shadow.

Present day: On her 18th birthday, genetic information from Lee Parker’s closed adoption is unlocked. She also sees an old photograph of a genetic relative—a 19th century woman with hair and eyes likes hers—standing in a pile of rubble from an ecological disaster next to none other than Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross. Determined to identify the woman in the photo and unearth the mystery of that captured moment, Lee digs into history. Her journey takes her from California to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, from her present financial woes to her past of privilege, from the daily grind to an epic disaster. Once Lee’s heroic DNA is revealed, will she decide to forge a new fate?"


My Two Cents:

"The Woman in the Photo" is set in two time periods. Elizabeth, living in the late 1800s, is lucky enough to be among the wealthy set of those who come to vacation in Johnstown, PA. She rubs elbows with the likes of the Carnegies and the Fricks among other titans of energy. When a tragic flood decimates the town, Elizabeth will have to find new courage. In the present day, Lee is a young woman who was adopted as a baby in a closed adoption. One small clue (the photo alluded to in the title) will lead her on a journey to understand where she came from.

I was definitely more drawn to the historic story as I often am in books told in two times. Families like the Carnegies and Fricks fascinate me. I ate up the History Channel series, The Men Who Built America, and would love to see more of them in historical fiction, my genre of choice. I loved the rich world that the author created around these people who could afford leisure. I also appreciated how the author was able to show their lifestyles in contrast with the people who actually lived in Johnstown. Elizabeth's story is so interesting and really kept me engaged!

Having the book told in two times worked but I really wanted to know more about Johnstown. While Lee's story is interesting, it was not nearly as interesting as Elizabeth's. I did like seeing how the author brought the two stories together.

The writing of the book was okay. I liked how much detail the author included in the historical part of the book to include the inclusion of historical photographs from the time period (a very nice touch indeed)! The narrative often veered into telling too much rather than showing. The book definitely could have been streamlined a bit!


 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Giveaway: Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford

Today I have a giveaway in store for you all for Radio Girls (so hoping to get to this soon)!


What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "London, 1926. American-raised Maisie Musgrave is thrilled to land a job as a secretary at the upstart British Broadcasting Corporation, whose use of radio—still new, strange, and electrifying—is captivating the nation. But the hectic pace, smart young staff, and intimidating bosses only add to Maisie’s insecurity.

Soon, she is seduced by the work—gaining confidence as she arranges broadcasts by the most famous writers, scientists, and politicians in Britain. She is also caught up in a growing conflict between her two bosses, John Reith, the formidable Director-General of the BBC, and Hilda Matheson, the extraordinary director of the hugely popular Talks programming, who each have very different visions of what radio should be. Under Hilda’s tutelage, Maisie discovers her talent, passion, and ambition. But when she unearths a shocking conspiracy, she and Hilda join forces to make their voices heard both on and off the air…and then face the dangerous consequences of telling the truth for a living."


Giveaway:

Want to win your own copy (U.S. only, please)? Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below!

 


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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Review: The Girls by Emma Cline

Title: The Girls
Author: Emma Cline
Format: ARC
Publisher: Random House
Publish Date: June 14, 2016 (Today!)
Source: Publisher


What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong."

My Two Cents:

 As the decade of the 1960s closes, Evie Boyd is adrift. Her family life is a mess. Her only friend has moved away and she is drawn in to a brand new world by Suzanne, the girl with the long, dirty hair in the pass-me-down dress. This world is dangerous and exciting and Evie feels like she has found somewhere she belongs, another family. At first, this cult seems like the answer to Evie's thoughts but her obsession will soon lead her down a dangerous path. With shades of the story of Charles Manson and the Manson family cult, this book had me rapidly turning pages to answer the question of will she or won't she?

Evie is such a typical teenage girl. All she wants is to belong. She wants to feel like she's a part of something. She wants to feel good about herself. She is dealing with so many of the things that normal teenage girls deal with: first loves, fights with friends, thoughts of sex, etc. Teenaged girls are incredibly vulnerable without a good support system, which Evie definitely doesn't have in this book. Her parents' marriage is in shambles and she is basically left on her own. The author does a great job of showing why she is so driven to join this cult even if it means doing things in her heart of hearts that don't feel right. We also get a glimpse of what Evie sees looking back on her situation as an adult, which I really liked. In a way, she is still greatly affected by all that happened during her time chasing the cult.

Cults are so fascinating to me so I was interested to see this fictional take on Manson's cult. The time period is the same but the setting has been moved from the L.A. area to the Bay Area. Manson has been replaced by another charismatic leader. This leader is still surrounded by very young women, many of them teenagers. The book goes into a lot of detail about how this guy is able to prey upon very sad girls. He finds an angle and uses it to exploit them. It was fascinating and incredibly scary as well.


I think this book was definitely a gamble for the author; so many people still vividly recall the Manson family crimes and even now, many of the things that he does from jail still end up making the evening news. This gamble pays off in a page-turning account of a very naive girl.


Monday, June 13, 2016

TLC Book Tours Review and Giveaway: We're All Damaged by Matthew Norman

Title: We're All Damaged
Author: Matthew Norman
Format: ARC
Publisher: Little A
Publish Date: June 1, 2016
Source: TLC Book Tours


What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "
Andy Carter was happy. He had a solid job. He ran 5Ks for charity. He was living a nice, safe Midwestern existence. And then his wife left him for a handsome paramedic down the street.

We’re All Damaged begins after Andy has lost his job, ruined his best friend’s wedding, and moved to New York City, where he lives in a tiny apartment with an angry cat named Jeter that isn’t technically his. But before long he needs to go back to Omaha to say good-bye to his dying grandfather.

Back home, Andy is confronted with his past, which includes his ex, his ex’s new boyfriend, his right-wing talk-radio-host mother, his parents’ crumbling marriage, and his still-angry best friend.
As if these old problems weren’t enough, Andy encounters an entirely new complication: Daisy. She has fifteen tattoos, no job, and her own difficult past. But she claims she is the only person who can help Andy be happy again, if only she weren’t hiding a huge secret that will mess things up even more. Andy Carter needs a second chance at life, and Daisy—and the person Daisy pushes Andy to become—may be his last chance to set things right."

My Two Cents:

I read Matthew Norman's debut book, "Domestic Violets" and really enjoyed it so I was looking forward to reading this book. "We're All Damaged" is another story about family ties. Andy changes his entire life after his wife cheats on him. He leaves everything behind in Omaha to make a new life for himself in NYC. He may be done with the past but the past is not done with him.

Poor Andy can't catch a break! The book follows him as he goes back home to Omaha to see his dying grandfather and contend with his mother, who dreams of being one of the pundits on lovely Fox News. I really like how the author explores the relationship between the members of the Carter family. Andy's family feels like he abandoned them and all they want is for him to come home. Andy isn't ready.  The relationship between Andy and Daisy and Daisy and Andy's family was also very interesting. This is very much a character driven book.

As the title suggests, everyone in this story is a damaged in some way. What damaged means for each character differs from character to character. Some of the damage is very apparent. Some of it is very hidden at first. These differences made for a great story!

The writing in the book is good. Like I saw in "Domestic Violets," Norman has a great knack for writing vivid characters. This book was a treat!


 Giveaway:

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Friday, June 10, 2016

TLC Book Tours Review: The Girl from the Savoy by Hazel Gaynor

Title: The Girl from the Savoy
Author: Hazel Gaynor
Format: ARC
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: June 7, 2016
Source: TLC Book Tours



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Dolly Lane is a dreamer; a downtrodden maid who longs to dance on the London stage, but her life has been fractured by the Great War. Memories of the soldier she loved, of secret shame and profound loss, by turns pull her back and spur her on to make a better life.

When she finds employment as a chambermaid at London’s grandest hotel, The Savoy, Dolly takes a step closer to the glittering lives of the Bright Young Things who thrive on champagne, jazz and rebellion. Right now, she must exist on the fringes of power, wealth and glamor—she must remain invisible and unimportant.

But her fortunes take an unexpected turn when she responds to a struggling songwriter’s advertisement for a ‘muse’ and finds herself thrust into London’s exhilarating theatre scene and into the lives of celebrated actress, Loretta May, and her brother, Perry. Loretta and Perry may have the life Dolly aspires to, but they too are searching for something.

Now, at the precipice of the life she has and the one she longs for, the girl from The Savoy must make difficult choices: between two men; between two classes, between everything she knows and everything she dreams of. A brighter future is tantalizingly close—but can a girl like Dolly ever truly leave her past behind?"

My Two Cents:

"The Girl from The Savoy" is a historical fiction by Hazel Gaynor. It's set in the 1920s in London and is told from the perspective of three characters. It is the story of Dolly, a young woman who dreams about being on stage singing and dancing. For right now, she is a maid at one of the nicest hotels in London, The Savoy. There is also Loretta May, a woman who is already famous on the stage. The third narrator is Teddy, Dolly's first great love. This is a story of love and making a life for one's self under the constant shadow of war.

Oh, the 1920s in one of my favorite cities of the world - this book drew me in from the beginning. There are so many parallels between Dolly and Loretta. Dolly is striving to be a singer. Loretta already has made it. Both of them have been greatly affected by the war. Although Teddy is Dolly's boyfriend, I was a bit confused by his part in the story. Dolly and Loretta have so much in common and Teddy's narrative was vastly different. It was a bit jarring to go from Dolly or Loretta to his narrative. 

I loved the setting! The 1920s in London are so exciting. I thought the author did a really good job of showing the glitz and glamour of the decade set against the shadow of war that still is affecting the characters even though the war is over. It was interesting to see what London was like during that time period.

Overall, this was a great introduction to Gaynor and I would really like to read more from her going forward. She has a great way with creating characters and evoking a very vivid time and place! 


Thursday, June 9, 2016

HF Book Tours Guest Post: Donna Russo Morin, Author of "Portrait of a Conspiracy"

PORTRAIT OF A CONSPIRACY IS AN HISTORICAL MYSTERY, BUT IT’S ALSO A TOUR OF FLORENCE

    Thank you so very much for hosting me today. It’s always a pleasure to have a chance to chat with bloggers and their readers.
    PORTRAIT OF A CONSPIRACY: Da Vinci’s Disciples has its historical basis rooted firmly in truth…one of the greatest conspiracies of the 15th century, a conspiracy that reached all the way to the Vatican. An assassination plot history now calls the Pazzi Conspiracy. With such a firm historical foundation, it allowed me to immerse myself fully in the city of Florence, as it was in 1478. And thanks to the many resources, both paper and virtual, the details of the setting found their way onto my page. It even allowed me to create a map, something I’ve always wanted to do.


    Today, I’d like to share some of those remarkable architectural delights with you.
    We must start where the story starts, where the assassination takes place: in Brunelleschi’s Duomo. In truth the Gothic style basilica, part of the complex of Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Saint Mary of the Flowers Cathedral), was originally designed by Arnolfo di Cambio. Built on the ruins of the 7th century Santa Raparata Church, construction on the new structure began in 1296; it wasn’t complete, as it stands today—as it was in 1478—until 1436.
 

    The exterior façade is a checkerboard of marble using three different colors and strains of the opulent stone. Only in comparison, can the inside be called rather plain. By far one of its most enchanting features is the mosaic pavements that cover the floor.
    But it is the dome itself that has always made the Duomo not only one of the greatest tourist attractions in the world, but one of its most innovative. Using buttresses was forbidden in Florence, for it was a favored technique of their enemies to the north. Creating an unsupported dome had never been done before. Only a Renaissance genius such as Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) would dare attempt it. For decades, Florentines feared it would fall upon their heads, especially during times of unrest, when they believed the wrath of God would strike the dome, burying any beneath in a fatal rubble. Today, the golden-bricked dome is one of Florence’s most recognized monuments and dominates the skyline.


    Giuliano de’ Medici is murdered. His brother, the powerful Lorenzo de’ Medici survives. But he would never be the same again. He sets out on a rampage of vengeance that would eventually find close to one hundred executed. Lorenzo’s preferred method of eliminating his enemies…throwing them out a window of the Palazzo della Signoria (now known as the Palazzo Vecchio), a rope wrapped around their throats.
    The government palace is made of solid rusticated stonework and is enhanced with two rows of Gothic windows. It is from these windows that the Otto, the eight that ruled the police forces of Florence, flung the Medici enemies.
    Built in 1299 by the citizens of the original Florence commune, it has been enlarged and enriched by decorative details in the many years since. It is at one of the main entrances to the palace that Michelangelo’s David originally stood. This most famous sculpture has since been replaced with a copy when the original was damaged in one of Florence’s many military challenges.

 
    The secret society of women artists that inhabit Portrait of a Conspiracy are a product of my imagination only. Santo Spirito, the church in whose sacristy the woman have their ‘secret studio’ is very real.
    The Basilica of the Holy Spirit (simply known as Santo Spirito) is located in the Oltrarno quarter of the city, in 15th century Florence, one of the wealthiest sections of the city.  The original structure was also built in the 13th century. The existing structure was also designed by Brunelleschi after it suffered both physical and spiritual ruin during a period of the city’s civil unrest. The first cornerstones of the building, the pillars, were delivered ten days before Brunelleschi’s death. His followers Antonio Manetti, Giovanni da Gaiole, and Salvi d'Andrea completed the work begun by the master.
    Santo Spirito will play a major role in all volumes of the Da Vinci’s Disciples trilogy. It is not only the home of this secret art society, it is the location of some of their most decisive challenges.
    I hope you enjoyed this little tour of Florence. You’ll find more, including the actual names of the streets as they existed in the 15th century, within the pages of my books.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Review: The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe

Title: The Gilded Years 
Author: Karin Tanabe
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Publish Date: June 7, 2016
Source: Publisher



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "
Since childhood, Anita Hemmings has longed to attend the country’s most exclusive school for women, Vassar College. Now, a bright, beautiful senior in the class of 1897, she is hiding a secret that would have banned her from admission: Anita is the only African-American student ever to attend Vassar. With her olive complexion and dark hair, this daughter of a janitor and descendant of slaves has successfully passed as white, but now finds herself rooming with Louise “Lottie” Taylor, the scion of one of New York’s most prominent families.

Though Anita has kept herself at a distance from her classmates, Lottie’s sphere of influence is inescapable, her energy irresistible, and the two become fast friends. Pulled into her elite world, Anita learns what it’s like to be treated as a wealthy, educated white woman—the person everyone believes her to be—and even finds herself in a heady romance with a moneyed Harvard student. It’s only when Lottie becomes infatuated with Anita’s brother, Frederick, whose skin is almost as light as his sister’s, that the situation becomes particularly perilous. And as Anita’s college graduation looms, those closest to her will be the ones to dangerously threaten her secret."


My Two Cents:

"The Gilded Years" is the story of college senior, Anita. The year is 1915 and it is still quite rare for women to go to college in the first place. Anita is incredibly unique though. She is a black woman passing for a white woman so that she can attend the prestigious Vassar. For the first three years of college, Anita has been incredibly careful not to reveal her true background in order to be allowed to stay at school. Things are threatened by a new roommate and a new love.

I was drawn to this book by the idea of what it meant to pass as another race. Anita realizes the importance of a good education and so she is willing to hide her true self in order to do so. We see how she has to compromise some of her character in order to "pass." One powerful scene in the beginning of the book talks about how Anita is forced to defend Plessy vs. Ferguson, one of the most famous segregation related court cases, in her debate club. It's a hard road to go but education is paramount to her! I was so nervous for her throughout the book as she continued to run into situations that could unmask her.

The writing of the book is good. The author takes a very important subject and infuses characters into the situation to help modern day readers to understand what perils those trying to pass as another race faced every day. The flow of the story works well. There were a few places sprinkled throughout the book where the author did more telling than showing but overall, the story kept me engaged and entertained!


 
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