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Monday, October 31, 2016

Review: Sandlands by Rosy Thornton

Title: Sandlands
Author: Rosy Thornton
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Sandstone Press
Publish Date: October 28, 2016
Source: Author



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "This beautifully written short story collection is inspired by coastal England, by the landscape and its flora and fauna, as well as by its folklore and historical and cultural heritage. Several of the stories focus on a bird, animal, wildflower, or insect characteristic of the locality, from barn owl to butterfly. The book might be described as a collection of ghost stories; in fact, while one or two stories involve a more or less supernatural element, each of them deals in various ways with the tug of the past upon the present, and explores how past and present can intersect in unexpected ways."

My Two Cents:

"Sandlands" is a collection of short stories by Rosy Thornton, an author who I have enjoyed greatly in the past. Short stories are not always my favorite but I thought that perhaps I would be in good hands with her and I definitely was! The stories in this book are interconnected with each other but each one has a different feel. They definitely pulled me in!

All of the stories take place on the English Coast in Suffolk, a place that I have never visited before. The setting is so detailed that it really began to feel like another character throughout the story. I loved the way that the author was able to make the location so stand out. It really began to feel like a place I had been. It was really difficult for me to pick out my favorite story because of how much I enjoyed all of the details!

I also liked that the book had some supernatural and magical realism elements to it. Magical realism is one of my favorite book elements and I really like how the author was able to weave them in. It really added a lot of atmosphere to the story. When the weather begins to turn cold, I am always on the lookout for books with a lot of atmosphere and this book has it in spades.

Overall, I really enjoyed this collection a lot and recommend it for those who seek to be truly enveloped by a book!




 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Review: Maiden Flight by Harry Haskell

Title: Maiden Flight
Author: Harry Haskell
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Publish Date: October 1, 2016
Source: Publisher



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Maiden Flight is the true-life story of the Wright sister who in 1926 left her world-famous and intensely possessive older brother to marry newspaper editor Harry Haskell, the man she loved, and suffered the unhappy consequences. An international celebrity in her own right, Katharine embodied the worldly, independent, and self-fulfilled New Woman of the early twentieth century. Yet she remained in many ways a Victorian. Torn between duty and love, she agonized for months before making her devastating break with Orville at age fifty-two.

Cast in the form of three interwoven first-person memoirs, Maiden Flight is imaginatively reconstructed from personal letters, newspaper reports, and other documents of the period—in particular, Katharine’s lively and extraordinarily revealing love letters to Harry. In allowing Katharine to step outside of Wilbur and Orville’s shadow, it sheds new light on the central role she played in their private lives, as well as on her often misunderstood contribution to their scientific work. Above all, Maiden Flight celebrates Katharine’s abundant store of what she called “human nature”—her lively and perceptive outlook on life, her great capacity for both love and indignation, and her acute and sometimes crippling self-awareness."


My Two Cents:

If you're a history lover, you probably know that Wilbur and Orville Wright were the first men to fly and they were renowned for their plane. They were true pioneers and innovators but did you know they had a sister? I had no idea until I read this book! Katharine Wright was a vivacious woman who helped her brothers deal with their fame, trials, and tribulations. She was successful in her own right as well. Told in three voices: Katharine, Orville, and Katharine's eventual husband, Harry Haskell (the author is the grandson of the Harry in the book), this book sheds light on a woman who has largely been lost to history as have so many of those women that have supported the famous men in their lives.

Oh, historical fiction! You do me so right! This book largely takes place well after Wilbur and Orville made their famous flight. What I didn't realize is that for decades, literally decades, the Wright brothers were tangled in a battle with the Smithsonian Institute over who really flew first. The Smithsonian contended for many years that it was actually Samuel Langley, a name that has now fallen out of common knowledge, who was the first to fly. The Smithsonian did not admit that it was the Wright Brothers until 1942! The detail of the battle is fascinating and you can feel the frustration by all sides in the book. I love learning something that I haven't known about before!

Not only is there a strong historical element of this book but there is a very human element as well. Katharine spends a lot of her young life supporting her brothers and their work. She takes care of them and many times seems to put them before herself. Eventually she falls for Harry Haskell, a friend from school, and she falls hard. She realizes that this is something that she wants to pursue and it may mean facing difficult times with her brother. I really liked how the author explores this change in dynamic between Katharine and Orville.

I also have to mention the writing style. The way that the book is set up feels very much like a memoir. Our three characters are looking back into the past. It was great to get a perspective of the action from these different points of view. The author does a great job of creating very separate voices for each of the characters. This was a great book!


 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Review: Overseas by Beatriz Williams

Title: Overseas
Author: Beatriz Williams
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's
Publish Date: May 10, 2012
Source: Library



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "When twenty-something Wall Street analyst Kate Wilson attracts the notice of the legendary Julian Laurence at a business meeting, no one’s more surprised than she is. Julian’s relentless energy and his extraordinary intellect electrify her, but she’s baffled by his sudden interest. Why would this handsome British billionaire—Manhattan’s most eligible bachelor—pursue a pretty but bookish young banker who hasn’t had a boyfriend since college?

The answer is beyond imagining . . . at least at first. Kate and Julian’s story may have begun not in the moneyed world of twenty-first-century Manhattan but in France during World War I, when a mysterious American woman emerged from the shadows of the Western Front to save the life of Captain Julian Laurence Ashford, a celebrated war poet and infantry officer.

Now, in modern-day New York, Kate and Julian must protect themselves from the secrets of the past, and trust in a true love that transcends time and space."

My Two Cents:

After reading several of Beatriz Williams' historical fiction books, I wanted to go back and read one of her first releases: "Overseas." This book is a little bit different in that it has historical fiction elements but it's also a book about time travel. I was interested to see how she carried it out.

Some of the hallmarks of her writing her are present in this book. I really like her character development for both Kate and Julian. The crux of the story seems very familiar to other readers of time travel fiction. Kate and Julian are together in the present day. Kate must go back in time in order to save Julian's life. The romance between Kate and Julian is incredibly intense and really carried the story for me.

The way that the author deals with the science of time travel isn't quite clear in this book. Your full participation in suspension of disbelief is definitely needed here. I was not as engaged in the book because of this. Overall, this was an interesting trip back to see where Beatriz fully started. I have to say that I like her historical fiction books better than this one but this was a good romance.






Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Review: Girl Trouble: An Illustrated Memoir by Kerry Cohen, Tyler Cohen (Illustrator)

Title: Girl Trouble: An Illustrated Memoir
Author: Kerry Cohen, Tyler Cohen (Illustrator)
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Hawthorne Books
Publish Date: October 11, 2016
Source: Publisher



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Bestselling memoirist and psychotherapist Kerry Cohen (Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity) explores complicated female friendships in Girl Trouble. Beginning with her relationship with her sister Tyler Cohen, who illustrates the memoir, Kerry examines the many ways female friendships can affect a girl’s life. From bullying and failed friendships to competition and painful break ups, Girl Trouble brings forth a story of how one girl learned to navigate the many difficulties of feminine friendships. Girls and women everywhere will relate to the confusion, the hurt feelings, and they will also learn along with Kerry how to make better choices over the years."

My Two Cents:

The "Girl Trouble" in the title of this book refers to the girl trouble that comes from navigating female friendships. Author Kerry Cohen lays out a lot of the friendships that she has had throughout her life. Some of the friendships are incredible and lifelong. Some of them are incredible and short-lived. So many of them are the kind that you wonder if they were simply put in front of you to learn something and grow from. Each chapter focuses on a different friend in Cohen's life and is illustrated in 

There is nothing more magical than true friendship. This book reinforced the idea of how lucky I am to have the friends that I have carried with me for so many years (it is more like we've carried each other). It even made me thankful for the friendships that broke up (and thankfully there hasn't been many). It reiterated that even from bad things can come good. Sometimes it takes a bit of time and an extra dose of perspective to realize that. This is a great book for all women. The friendships we have with other females are so intricate and so important!


The writing of the book was good. Some of the stories to be more poignant or have more of a message or some sort of closure to them than others. There were a few that could have been stripped in order to give greater attention to the stories that really had major point or revelations.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Review: The Guineveres by Sarah Domet

Title: The Guineveres
Author: Sarah Domet
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publish Date: October 4, 2016
Source: Publisher



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Vere, Gwen, Ginny, and Win come to The Sisters of the Supreme Adoration by different paths, delivered into the rigorous and austere care of Sister Fran. Each has their own complicated, heartbreaking story that they safeguard. But together they are the all powerful and confident The Guineveres, bound by the extraordinary coincidence of their names and girded against the indignities of their plain, sequestered lives. Together, they learn about God, history, and, despite the nuns' protestations, sex. They learn about the saints whose revival stories of faith and pain are threaded through their own. But above all, they plot their futures, when they can leave the convent and finally find a true home. But when four comatose soldiers, casualties of the War looming outside, arrive at the convent, The Guineveres’ friendship is tested in ways they never could have foreseen."

My Two Cents:

This book is about four teenaged girls all named Guinevere. They go by different nicknames: there is Vere (who narrates most of the book), Gwen, Win, and Ginny. All four have ended up at a convent for all different reasons. They cling together and none of the other teenaged girls in the convent are never allowed to be in their inner circle. This is a novel about those relationships that you only seem to develop as a young person where you're almost creating a family rather than just making friends.

This book took a little while to get going. On it's surface, when the book starts out, it seems like a story about four girls who do what four girls are want to do when they have little adult supervision. They cause a ruckus. They dream about the future: all four to varying degrees dream of big lives for themselves, something much different from the convent. I was wondering where the book was going because at first, it just covers what the girls are experiencing at the convent and the small amounts of ruckus that they cause. Eventually it shifts to something deeper as we learn about why the girls end up in the convent. Several men fighting the war end up at the convent and the girls are charged with taking care of them, which leads to them exploring what they want for the future.

There are a lot of layers to explore within the story. The writing was good but confusing at some parts. Most of the book is told from one point of view with other points of view thrown in here and there. It worked well but I wish that there had been more delineation. The book could have also been streamlined a bit to get to the salient points and to make them have a bigger impact. I did like how the author created different voices for the different points of view. They were distinct and heartbreaking in different ways. This was a good debut!


 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Guest Post: Marie Benedict, Author of The Other Einstein

Hello! Today I am pleased to welcome Marie Benedict, author of "The Other Einstein" here to A Bookish Affair.

 Growing up, I always wanted to be an archaeologist. Admittedly, my notion of an archaeologist was a bit fanciful, greatly influenced by Indiana Jones. Still, the idea of unearthing long-forgotten secrets from the ground and astonishing the world with a fresh understanding of our past captivated me.
Even though I studied history and archaeology in college with the intention of fulfilling that dream, I got derailed. I took the safer path of law school and a decade practicing as a commercial litigator in New York City, but the unknown past still held its allure, particularly the hidden history of women. My interest became piqued when I learned that Albert Einstein’s first wife, Mileva Maric, was a physicist herself, and that she had been married to him during his 1905 “miracle year” when he published four papers with his most ground-breaking theories. I couldn’t stop thinking about the role Mileva might have played in his life and work, and so I began digging.
THE OTHER EINSTEIN is the result of that excavation, one made challenging by the fact that, while a wealth of evidence existed about her famous scientist husband, very little in the way of artifacts remain about Mileva’s life. Sifting through the extant papers and remembrances and filling in the gaps with fiction and logic, I recreated the story of a woman who made an astonishing climb from Eastern Europe where it was illegal for women to attend high school to become one of the few female physics students at a European university, where she met Albert Einstein. Hers was a life that deserved to be uncovered. So I have become a different sort of archaeologist than the one of which I originally dreamed, a writer excavating women from the dusty corners of the past where they’d been buried or forgotten, building stories of their forgotten lives, and finding their places in history.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Review: A Most Extraordinary Pursuit by Juliana Gray

Title: A Most Extraordinary Pursuit
Author: Juliana Gray
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: October 4, 2016
Source: Publisher



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "As the personal secretary of the recently departed Duke of Olympia—and a woman of good character—Miss Emmeline Rose Truelove never expected to be steaming through the Mediterranean on a luxuriously appointed yacht under the watchful and jovial eye of one Lord Silverton. But here they are, as improper as it is, on a quest to find the duke’s heir, whereabouts unknown.

An expert on anachronisms, the adventurous Maximilian Haywood was last seen at an archaeological dig on the island of Crete. And when Truelove and Silverton disembark, they are met with incidents of a violent nature: a ransacked flat, a murdered government employee, an assassination attempt. And as they steam from port to port on Max’s trail, dodging danger at every turn, Truelove will discover the folly of her misconceptions—about the whims of the heart, the desires of men, and the nature of time itself..."


My Two Cents:

In "A Most Extraordinary Pursuit" is the story of Emma Truelove. She is a very traditional woman who is interested in maintaining her appearance as a fine, upstanding woman. After the Duke of Olympia dies, his secretary Emma is forced to go to Greece in order to find his heir. Lord Silverton, a  guy who doesn't seem to take himself too seriously and seems to think that there may be something more to Emma hiding under her prim and proper exterior. Emma seems to think that he might just be a bother on this journey but understands that a woman must be accompanied wherever she goes!

This is a new historical fiction by Juliana Gray, a new pen name for well-known histfic writer Beatriz Williams. I have read a lot of Williams' books and really enjoyed them. I was anxious to see what this book was like. This book has more mysteries than Williams' other books. Haywood, the heir to Olympia, has disappeared without a trace. Emma and Silverton discover many clues that they have to put together in order to figure out where he might have gone.

The writing of the book was good. The relationship between Emma and Silverton took me a little while to get into. It seems sort of contrived at the beginning. Emma is playing coy and being prim and proper. Silverton is pushing her to be more real with him. Eventually this hit a good pace for me but it was a little touch and go in the beginning.

There are a lot of interesting elements that made this book a lot of fun. First off, there was the setting. This book is set in Greece, a place that I don't get to visit often enough. I loved the detail that the author added. I also liked that the author added elements like the ghost of Queen Victoria (as feisty as she ever was) makes an appearance in the book. This book is the first in a new series according to Goodreads and will engage fans of series such as the Maisie Dobbs books (you can see the fanbase they are going for with the cover that seemed eerily familiar).


 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Review: The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

Title: The Other Einstein
Author: Marie Benedict
Format: ARC
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publish Date: October 18, 2016 (Yesterday!)
Source: Publisher



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "What secrets may have lurked in the shadows of Albert Einstein’s fame? His first wife, Mileva “Mitza” Marić, was more than the devoted mother of their three children—she was also a brilliant physicist in her own right, and her contributions to the special theory of relativity have been hotly debated for more than a century.

In 1896, the extraordinarily gifted Mileva is the only woman studying physics at an elite school in Zürich. There, she falls for charismatic fellow student Albert Einstein, who promises to treat her as an equal in both love and science. But as Albert’s fame grows, so too does Mileva’s worry that her light will be lost in her husband’s shadow forever."

My Two Cents:

In "The Other Einstein," we meet Mileva Maric, a gifted young woman who moves to Zurich (where she knows no one) from her native Serbia. Isolated at home because her main interests include physics, something that many thought was not something women should be involved with at the time, she is looking forward to finding common ground with some of her classmates at the university in Zurich. The year is 1896 and few women went to university and she is the very first woman to enter the program at Zurich. She meets a young Albert Einstein and they fall in love. He promises her that they will be an equal Bohemian couple but his promises eventually go astray.

I had never heard of Mileva before reading this book. Come to think of it, I knew very little about Albert Einstein's earlier life before reading this book. I love when histfic can teach me something and introduce me to new people. This book certainly does that! Not only do you have the love story between Albert and Mileva, which starts with a bang but the book explores a lot about Mileva's position as a woman and what it means for her brilliant mind and her potential career. She is definitely a woman limited by the place and time in which she lives in. It was disheartening to read about but really made me realize just how far that we've come!

The relationship between Mileva and Albert is so fascinating. At first, Albert seems really interested in making sure that their relationship is a partnership: both romantically and professionally. Mileva is thrilled because she believes that it will get her foot in the door with actually having a career as a physicist. As we see in the book, Albert becomes jealous and decides that he wants a dedicated wife after all. He takes some of Mileva's ideas and renegs on publishing her name on papers after promising to in the first place. I felt horrible for Mileva and this was a side of Albert Einstein that I had never read about. It's always fun to have your assumptions turned on their heads. 

Told from Mileva's perspective, this book gave me so much to think about. I really enjoyed learning about Mileva from this book. It is so sad that she has largely been lost to history. This is a well written book that I was happy to dive into.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

TLC Book Tours Review: Earning It by Joann S. Lublin

Title: Earning It
Author: Joann S. Lublin
Format: ARC
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publish Date: October 18, 2016
Source: Thanks to Harper Collins and TLC Book Tours for the review copy!



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Among the first female reporters at The Wall Street Journal, Joann S. Lublin faced a number of uphill battles in her career. She became deputy bureau chief of the Journal’s important London bureau, its first run by women. Now, she and dozens of other women who successfully navigated the corporate battlefield share their valuable leadership lessons.

Lublin combines her fascinating story with insightful tales from more than fifty women who reached the highest rungs of the corporate ladder—most of whom became chief executives of public companies —in industries as diverse as retailing, manufacturing, finance, high technology, publishing, advertising, automobiles, and pharmaceuticals. Leaders like Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, as well as Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, and Brenda Barnes, former CEO of Sara Lee, were the first women to run their huge employers. Earning It reveals obstacles such women faced as they fought to make their mark, choices they made, and battles they won—and lost."


My Two Cents:

"Earning It" is a non-fiction business book geared for women in the workplace. Being a working woman today, I am so appreciative for those women who have gone before me and have paved the way for me. There is a long way to go but oh-so-many of the stories in this book show how far we've come. It gives me hope that we're on the right track!

This book is filled with stories of women from many different sectors of the economy. The author tells the stories of a ton of different women. There are some you may recognize like Mary Barra or Carly Fiorina, who made a run for the White House just earlier this year. There are also a lot of other woman that I had never heard of so there was even more to learn in this book. They are tales of irritation and hard won respect. They are tales of difficult circumstances and triumph. The author delves into her own experiences as one of the first female reporters for the illustrious Wall Street Journal. This experience gives her personal insight into some of the things that these women went through.

The stories were fascinating. Some of them disheartened me but some of them really made me excited for how far we've come. Most of the book is involved with telling individual women's stories but there was not much to hold them all together. I wanted a little more from the book, some sort of connection. This is a great book for learning more about what individual women have faced in marching towards success in the workplace!





Monday, October 17, 2016

Review: The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza

Title: The Knockoff
Author: Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Doubleday
Publish Date: May 19, 2015
Source: Library



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "When Imogen returns to work at Glossy after six months away, she can barely recognize her own magazine. Eve, fresh out of Harvard Business School, has fired “the gray hairs,” put the managing editor in a supply closet, stopped using the landlines, and hired a bevy of manicured and questionably attired underlings who text and tweet their way through meetings. Imogen, darling of the fashion world, may have Alexander Wang and Diane von Furstenberg on speed dial, but she can’t tell Facebook from Foursquare and once got her iPhone stuck in Japanese for two days. Under Eve’s reign, Glossy is rapidly becoming a digital sweatshop—hackathons rage all night, girls who sleep get fired, and “fun” means mandatory, company-wide coordinated dances to Beyoncé. Wildly out of her depth, Imogen faces a choice—pack up her Smythson notebooks and quit, or channel her inner geek and take on Eve to save both the magazine and her career. A glittering, uproarious, sharply drawn story filled with thinly veiled fashion personalities, The Knockoff is an insider’s look at the ever-changing world of fashion and a fabulous romp for our Internet-addicted age."

My Two Cents:

"The Knockoff" is a hilarious riff on the changing times in the magazine publishing world. Imogen is good at her job. She knows she is. When she comes back after a hiatus, she finds that she is in the process of being replaced but Imogen will not go without a fight. This book explores how Imogen is able to get her groove back and squash Eve, her former assistant, back to where she belongs.

This book took me awhile to get into because of the characters (it takes awhile to get to know them) but I ended up liking the book. I really liked this book because it speaks to the way that so many industries are changing with the advent of new technology. New technology is great but if there is no substance behind what you're doing or selling, you will still fall flat. Imogen realizes this. Eve does not. I loved seeing the tug-of-war between Imogen and Eve. You're pulling for Imogen the whole time as she is trying to find her footing.

This is a fun read that shed some light on the fashion and magazine world for me. It's a light read! It also happens to be Lucy Sykes' debut novel.  


 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Author Guest Post: Phyllis Edgerly Ring

I am very pleased to welcome Phyllis Edgerly Ring to A Bookish Affair today! 



A highlight for me as my novel, The Munich Girl, came into the world was my return to the first place in Germany where my family lived when I was a child, On the cloudy November afternoon that the book published, I faced the Main River in the tiny village of Dorfprozelten and offered my thanks at the grave of Herr and Frau Geis, who shared their house with my family back in the early 1960s.

It was because my military family lived “on the economy” with them that my sense of myself as a citizen of the world began so early. The fact that my family established close ties with German people in post-war Europe also inevitably led me to want to understand the experience of Germans themselves during the war.

I’d never have imagined this path would take me through Hitler’s living room as it drew me into the life of his longtime mistress, later wife, Eva Braun. “How will you ever get readers past the fact that it’s her – that she’s such a large part of the story?” is a question I grew used to hearing.

I wouldn’t. I knew that from the start. Readers would embark on that particular journey only if they were willing to.

This story in no way seeks to exonerate or “redeem” her, Rather, she makes a good motif for looking at the ways in which many people, women in particular, suppress our own lives – or often don’t even claim those lives fully at all.

The story of The Munich Girl is about many things, including, of course, Hitler’s mistress, Eva Braun, and many facets of history from the time of the war in Germany. It is also about the power of friendship, and the importance of our often ignored and overlooked inner life, without which our world careens increasingly out-of-balance, as it did in those wartime days.

Much like the book’s protagonist, Anna, I repeatedly experience what invites me to look beyond what I think I know, and have understood about life. The process of uncovering the story has helped me remember many kinds of homecomings, spiritual and material, that life brings to us.

At its heart, it’s a story about outlasting that chaos and confusion that unavoidably visit us, in both public and private wars. We seem to do that by valuing, and believing in, the stronger possibility in all of the good that we are willing to contribute to building together. Part of our ability to do that, I’ve come to believe, rests in being able to recognize that human beings aren’t usually all good, or all bad, but a complex mix of where our experience, understanding, and choices have led us.
As one character in The Munich Girl observes: “Sometimes, we must outlast even what seems worse than we have imagined, because we believe in the things that are good. So that there can be good things again.”

Eight years ago when the process of this book began, I also couldn’t have imagined what those words might come to mean in the atmosphere of our world today. I thank every reader who’s giving the book time, and also offering thoughtful reflection that helps me to continue learning from the pathway of this story, every day.

Eva


Author info:

Phyllis Edgerly Ring lives in New England and returns as often as she can to her childhood home in Germany. She has studied plant sciences and ecology, worked as a nurse, been a magazine writer and editor, taught English to kindergartners in China, and frequently serves as workshop facilitator and coach for others’ writing projects. Her published work includes fiction and inspirational nonfiction.

Twitter: http:// www.twitter.com/phyllisring

BUY LINKS:
https://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast-ebook/dp/B01AC4FHI8
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast-ebook/dp/B01AC4FHI8
https://www.amazon.ca/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast-ebook/dp/B01AC4FHI8

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Review: The Munich Girl by Phyllis Edgerly Ring

Title: The Munich Girl
Author: Phyllis Edgerly Ring
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Whole Sky Books
Publish Date: November 14, 2015
Source: Author



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Anna Dahlberg grew up eating dinner under her father’s war-trophy portrait of Eva Braun. Fifty years after the war, she discovers what he never did—that her mother and Hitler’s mistress were friends. The secret surfaces with a mysterious monogrammed handkerchief, and a man, Hannes Ritter, whose Third Reich family history is entwined with Anna’s. Plunged into the world of the “ordinary” Munich girl who was her mother’s confidante—and a tyrant’s lover—Anna finds her every belief about right and wrong challenged. With Hannes’s help, she retraces the path of two women who met as teenagers, shared a friendship that spanned the years that Eva Braun was Hitler’s mistress, yet never knew that the men they loved had opposing ambitions. Eva’s story reveals that she never joined the Nazi party, had Jewish friends, and was credited at the Nuremberg Trials with saving 35,000 Allied lives. As Anna's journey leads back through the treacherous years in wartime Germany, it uncovers long-buried secrets and unknown reaches of her heart to reveal the enduring power of love in the legacies that always outlast war."

My Two Cents:

In "The Munich Girl," Anna loses her mother in the mid-nineties and becomes keenly interested in learning more about her mother's life in Germany in World War II. Although Anna was incredibly close to her mother, she knows very little about her life in her younger years. As Anna begins to put the pieces together, she realizes that her mother knew Eva Braun (yes, that one), whose portrait hung above their table at home throughout Anna's life. Anna thought the portrait was simply war booty her father brought home and didn't know that perhaps her mother was hiding a personal connection to Hitler's infamous mistress.

Eva Braun is infamous. Even as a history lover, I did not know much about her at all besides the fact that she was Hitler's mistress. This book sheds light on the fact that at one point, she was just another German schoolgirl as Peggy, Anna's mother is in this book. The juxtaposition between who she was and who she became was absolutely fascinating. It is easy to see how the author was drawn to telling this story. 

There is also the juxtaposition of Peggy and Eva's lives. They both start out as schoolgirls when they first meet. The narrative moves forward a few years per chapter so we don't get a good sense of how entangled they are or how much they really see of each other. I wish we would have gotten more of a sense of it throughout the book. Peggy goes on to have her life totally upended by the war. Because of who her lover is, Eva still lives a fairly luxurious life. She can still have strong coffee overlooking the mountains. It was so interesting to see this comparison and this really pulled me into the book.

It is clear that the author did a lot of research in order to write this book. A lot of the detail is fascinating and adds to the story. In some cases though, the narrative veers into too much telling and not enough showing, which took me out of the book both with facts as well as what characters are thinking or doing. The book definitely could have been streamlined in order to further pound the salient points of the book home.


Overall, this was an insightful historical fiction read!




Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Review: Good Taste: Simple, Delicious Recipes for Family and Friends by Jane Green

Title: Good Taste: Simple, Delicious Recipes for Family and Friends
Author: Jane Green
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: NAL
Publish Date: October 4, 2016
Source: Publisher



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Jane Green’s life has always revolved around her kitchen...
 
... from inviting over friends for an impromptu brunch; to wowing guests with delicious new recipes; to making sure her ever-on-the-move family makes time to sit down together. For Jane, food is enjoyable because of the people surrounding it and the pleasures of hosting and nourishing those she cares about, body and soul.
 
Now, Jane opens wide the doors of her stunning home to share tips on entertaining, ideas for making any gathering a cozy yet classy affair, and some of her favorite dishes, ranging from tempting hors d’oeuvres like Sweet Corn and Chili Soup, to mouthwatering one-pot mains like Slow-Braised Onion Chicken, to sinfully satisfying desserts like Warm Chocolate and Banana Cake."

My Two Cents:

"Good Taste" is a new cookbook by Jane Green. I have read a lot of her fiction books and have really enjoyed them. I had no idea she liked to cook! These recipes run the gamut from delicious starters to decadent desserts. With the recipes, Green doles out stories and sometimes advice throughout the book. The recipes in this book look really good and you certainly don't need to be familiar with Green's other books in order to enjoy this one!

Some of the recipes are Green's own. Some of the recipes came from other places and were tweaked (some very slightly) by Green so the collection may not feel totally original. I really liked that Green included recipes for all occasions. I also liked that she includes some recipes on the healthier side as well as some treats. Balance in everything is so important to me! Typically, I try really hard to eat low carb, high protein because it makes me feel better and I was incredibly pleased to see a few recipes that fit that diet in this book. I guess Green typically tries to eat the same way.

The recipes vary in level of difficulty but most of the recipes seem accessible to the casual cook, which was great to see. This is a beautiful cookbook filled with lovely pictures and I am anxious to start cooking out of it!


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

TLC Book Tours: Life After Coffee by Virginia Franken

Title: Life After Coffee
Author: Virginia Franken 
Format: ARC
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publish Date: September 13, 2016
Source: TLC Book Tours



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Last week, high-powered coffee buyer Amy O’Hara was trekking through the Ethiopian cloud forest on the verge of a discovery that could save the coffee bean from extinction. This week, she’s unexpectedly fired. 

Suddenly Amy’s days are no longer filled with meetings and upscale tastings, but with put-together PTA moms, puke-ridden playdates and dirty dishes. Her husband has locked himself in the garage in order to write the Great American Screenplay, while both kids are steaming mad at her because she insists on dressing them like normal people and won’t give up sending them to school with healthy lunches. 

It’s becoming clear that Amy may just be the world’s most incompetent mother, and she’s beginning to wonder if the only thing she’s good for is bringing home the bacon. When salvation appears in the form of a movie mogul ex-boyfriend who wants to employ her husband and rekindle their relationship, Amy starts to find she’s sorely tempted. . . .

One thing is certain: whatever happens, she’s going to need a lot more caffeine."

My Two Cents:

After Amy suddenly loses her globe-hopping job as a coffee bean buyer, she finds herself home with her kids after five years. The adjustment for her is hard to say the least and she feels like she is constantly failing. Add to that, her husband thinks he has written the next great American screenplay and won't make any of the changes that Hollywood wants because he believes it's perfect. Amy also meets up with her old lover and dreams of what might have been in another life. 

Ah, the balance of life between working and being a mom. We all struggle with it. Even a year and some change after going back to work, I still feel like I'm constantly trying to find a balance. Amy has spent the past several years basically being an absentee mother as she jet-sets around the world for her job. She's in an even more precarious state with figuring out what is going on with her children because of it. While I didn't identify with some of her choices (Amy is an absolute mess in some parts of the book), I felt for her with trying to be a good mother. It's hard and we see how Amy comes to terms with that in her own way throughout the book. Her choices did lose me at some parts of the book and I definitely wanted to know more about her motivation. 

I loved some of the details in the books. I'm a coffee lover and the description of the beans and cupping them were divine. These sections also helped me understand Amy's drive and passion, which make for a great contrast when she is out of work and at home.

The author definitely has a way of writing dialogue. It felt real and definitely endeared some of the characters to me. This is a light read that puts the spotlight on the fight that so many women have between their self-identity and their identity as mothers, wives, and lovers.


Monday, October 10, 2016

HF Virtual Book Tours: Author Interview with Julie K. Rose

I am very excited to welcome Julie K. Rose, author of Dido's Crown to A Bookish Affair.







What inspired you to write this story?
I was terribly blocked when I was trying to finish Oleanna and started this book as a diversion.
The story itself grew out of a few scenes of Will and Tom as scholars at Oxford prior to WWI. It was clear that they had an amazing relationship, but the underlying secrets and lies fueled what eventually became the plot of Dido's Crown. It was fun to exercise a different set of creative muscles.

This book feels way different than your other books; it's very thriller-esque! Was your writing process any different than your other books?
In some ways it was very much the same (angst, draft, percolate, revise, etc.) but in other ways it was very different. Oleanna was very character driven, and this book is much more action and plot driven, so it took discipline to keep myself straight and reduce frustration. I implemented some logistical things that have made the process easier, which I actually talk about in a video on my YouTube channel.

Who is your favorite character in this book and why?
I really do love them all for different reasons. I love Mary's voice and sense of self, Collins' sense of humor, Tom's kindness, Will's steadfastness. But first among equals, I suppose, is Alain. He's so suave, but that charm hides the real pain and conflict he deals with every day. And yet he's still such a good person.
One of the things that I love best about the book are the settings. France may be familiar to many histfic readers but there does not seem to be much histfic about Tunisia. What drew you to write about Tunisia?
I've always had an affinity for North Africa but had never planned on writing about the Maghreb. A few years ago I had a really powerful, visceral dream about Tunisia (flying, like Supergirl, over the beaches) and I suppose I took it as a sign. I love reading historical fiction set slightly off the beaten track, so that sense of wanderlust definitely encouraged me to keep going. Being an historical novelist and historical fiction reader means you get to be a lifelong learner, and researching this area and timeframe was no small inducement.

What was your research process for the settings like?
Modern travel guidebooks were a good starting place, as was YouTube. There are quite a few videos showing modern Tunisia, and a surprising number of videos of Tunisia and southern France in the 1930s. Google Earth and Google Maps were both helpful in getting a sense of distance and topography, and I actually used Pinterest quite a bit for all manner of photos. My friend Mouna from Tunisia kept me honest in terms of descriptions as well.
If you could bring three people, fictional or non-fictional, with you to a deserted island, who would you bring and why?
This is such an impossible question, and I'll probably have a different answer next week, but here's what I'm thinking this week: I'd bring my husband Craig, because he makes me laugh every single day (and I love him, obviously). Aragorn from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, because he'd make sure we were fed and sheltered, and could tell us no end of amazing stories. And the third would have to be a musician of some variety – someone with an acoustic guitar and a soothing singing voice.

Friday, October 7, 2016

TLC Book Tours: The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

Title: The Bookshop on the Corner
Author: Jenny Colgan
Format: ARC
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publish Date: September 20, 2016
Source: I received this book for review from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Nina Redmond is a literary matchmaker. Pairing a reader with that perfect book is her passion… and also her job. Or at least it was. Until yesterday, she was a librarian in the hectic city. But now the job she loved is no more.

Determined to make a new life for herself, Nina moves to a sleepy village many miles away. There she buys a van and transforms it into a bookmobile—a mobile bookshop that she drives from neighborhood to neighborhood, changing one life after another with the power of storytelling.

From helping her grumpy landlord deliver a lamb, to sharing picnics with a charming train conductor who serenades her with poetry, Nina discovers there’s plenty of adventure, magic, and soul in a place that’s beginning to feel like home… a place where she just might be able to write her own happy ending."


My Two Cents:

"The Bookshop on the Corner" is a wonderfully warm story about Nina, a woman who loses her job as a librarian. She isn't sure what the next step for her is and so she decides to follow her dream of starting a bookstore even if it seems like a silly dream to many of her friends. She isn't sure that she will succeed but along the way, she meets an amazingly supportive group of friends. This is a celebration of dreams and of books!

I've read a few of Jenny Colgan's other books but this one has to be my favorite. I love that this one surrounds a love of books. The author starts out with giving readers a guide on the best places to read the book that I absolutely loved. Readers are automatic friends and I felt that I had an automatic friend in Nina. She is so passionate about her love for literature and sees connecting people with books a labor of love, which I loved.

The characters in the book are great. Nina was a fantastic main character. She is so sweet and smart. I loved how she wasn't afraid to follow her dreams. I also really liked how any time she was trying to figure out what to do next, she thought about what her favorite book characters would do. Now there's a woman after my own heart!

This is a fast read and a bit predictable but still very good for my fellow book lovers!


 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

HF Virtual Book Tours: Dido's Crown by Julie K. Rose

Title: Dido's Crown
Author: Julie K. Rose
Format: Paperback
Publish Date: September 29, 2016 
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Mary Wilson MacPherson has always been adept at putting the past behind her: her father's death, her sister's disappearance, and her complicated relationship with childhood friends Tom and Will. But that all changes when, traveling to North Africa on business for her husband, Mary meets a handsome French-Tunisian trader who holds a mysterious package her husband has purchased — a package which has drawn the interest not only of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, but the Nazis as well. 

When Tom and Will arrive in Tunisia, Mary suddenly finds herself on a race across the mesmerizing and ever-changing landscapes of the country, to the shores of southern France, and all across the wide blue Mediterranean. Despite her best efforts at distancing herself from her husband's world, Mary has become embroiled in a mystery that could threaten not only Tunisian and British security in the dangerous political landscape of 1935, but Mary's beliefs about her past and the security of her own future."

My Two Cents:

In "Dido's Crown," Mary is good at running. When she comes across a mysterious package and becomes embroiled in a chase, she realizes that she can't run from her problems and sometimes confronting them is the only way! Buoyed by two friends from school, Tom and Will, Mary will put together the pieces of a mystery that had me on the edge of my seat.

Julie K. Rose knows how to spin a good story! One way to describe this book is that it felt very movie-esque to me. It feels like a old black and white classic filled with intrigue, snappy dialogue, and lots of adventure. I loved how the author gave the characters more depth than just talking about the action that they are witnessing. You get a good sense of where Mary, Will, and Tom came from and what makes them tick. The action is exciting and would have held my attention alone but I did like getting to know the characters. It certainly made the book more striking!

One of the stand outs in the book for me was the settings. Sure, France is probably pretty familiar to anyone who has spent any time checking out the HistFic genre. Tunisia was not someplace that I had read a lot of fiction about and I ate it up. The author does a great job of immersing the reader in a new world with lots of great historical and landscape detail. I loved it and was not ready to leave when I finished the book.

This book would be a great fit for someone who wants to be very immersed in a story. It is a true treat for historical fiction readers. I am certainly looking forward to more books by this author in the future!


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