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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Novel Expressions Spotlight: THE SECRET LIFE OF MRS. LONDON by Rebecca Rosenberg

Rebecca Rosenberg, author of the new historical novel, The Secret Life of Mrs. London, revealing the love triangle between Houdini, Charmian and Jack London.
Only One Woman Could Beguile Two Legends!
Join Rebecca in a visual romp back to San Francisco, 1915, when famed author Jack London and his wife, Charmian London, attend the Great Houdini’s Chinese Water Torture Escape in San Francisco. What happened next was almost lost to history!

San Francisco, 1915. As America teeters on the brink of world war, Charmian and her husband, famed novelist Jack London, wrestle with genius and desire, politics and marital competitiveness. Charmian longs to be viewed as an equal partner who put her own career on hold to support her husband, but Jack doesn’t see it that way…until Charmian is pulled from the audience during a magic show by escape artist Harry Houdini, a man enmeshed in his own complicated marriage. Suddenly, charmed by the attention Houdini pays her and entranced by his sexual magnetism, Charmian’s eyes open to a world of possibilities that could be her escape.
As Charmian grapples with her urge to explore the forbidden, Jack’s increasingly reckless behavior threatens her dedication. Now torn between two of history’s most mysterious and charismatic figures, she must find the courage to forge her own path, even as she fears the loss of everything she holds dear.
About the Author:

California native Rebecca Rosenberg lives on a lavender farm with her family in Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon, where she and her husband founded the largest lavender product company in America, Sonoma Lavender. A long-time student of Jack London’s work and an avid fan of his daring wife, Charmian, Rosenberg is a graduate of the Stanford Writing Certificate Program. THE SECRET LIFE OF MRS. LONDON is her first novel, following her non-fiction, LAVENDER FIELDS OF AMERICA.
Rebecca Rosenberg’s next historical novel is GOLD DIGGER the story of BABY DOE TABOR.
Buy the Book:
Blog Tour Schedule:
July 9th- Book Review - Kate Braithwaite
July 10th – Book Excerpt – Just One More Chapter
July 11th -Book Spotlight and Highlighted Reviews – before the second sleep
July 12th- Book Review -Book Babble
July 13th – Book Review - Strange & Random Happenstance
July 14th – Book Spotlight – Fictionophile
July 15th - Book Spotlight- Layered Pages
July 16th – Book Spotlight & Book Review – Svetabooks
July 17th- Book Spotlight – A Bookish Affair
July 18th – Guest Post – A Bookaholic Swede

Monday, July 16, 2018

Review: The Summer Sail by Wendy Francis

Title: The Summer Sail 
Author: Wendy Francis
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Touchstone
Publish Date: May 1, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "A trio of college friends who reunite aboard a cruise ship experience an unforgettable vacation in this compelling novel from the author of The Summer of Good Intentions, which was hailed as “everything a summer read should be” by Elin Hilderbrand.

Three college roommates are celebrating a twentieth wedding anniversary by taking a cruise to Bermuda. As the ship pulls away from the pier, everyone is looking forward to lounging by the pool, sipping sunset cocktails, and reminiscing. Abby, the mother hen of the group, will be celebrating her wedding anniversary in style, even as she and her husband keep a secret from the group. Ambitious career woman Caroline happily anticipates several stress-free days away from her magazine job with her boyfriend, Javier, who may or may not be finally inspired to propose. And single mom Lee (annoyingly gorgeous and irresistibly popular in college) hopes she’ll win back the affections of her formerly sweet daughter Lacey, who after her first year in college, has inexplicably become a little bit of a monster.

As the balmy pink shores of Bermuda come into view, tensions simmer, and old jealousies flare, sending the temperature from soothing to scorching in this engrossing tale of three best friends on a vacation they won’t soon forget—but not for the reasons they expect."

My Two Cents:

In "The Summer Sail," Abby has the idea to bring her two best friends from college, Lee and Caroline. on the cruise. Lee wants to bring her college age daughter, Lacey, to get closer to her and repair their frayed relationship but Lacey may be hiding a secret of her own. Caroline is bringing her long term boyfriend and hoping for an engagement or at least some sign that he wants to be with her for the long haul. Abby is hiding her own secret and reason for bringing everyone together.

I really liked this story. It's a good story of friendship and why it's so important to surround yourself with really good people. Although Abby is definitely hiding the biggest secret (no spoilers), everyone else is hiding their own hopes and fears throughout the book. Part of the fun of this book is seeing how the characters initially hide things from each other only to realize how important it is to let your friends in to help you when you need it!

The pacing and the writing of this book was great. I really liked how the author captured the warmth of the relationship between Abby, Lee, and Caroline! The author does a really good job of giving the reader just enough of a hint of where the story was going to keep you reading. I read this book super quickly because of that. This was a great summer read about friendship!


Thursday, July 12, 2018

HFVBT Review: The Romanov Empress: A Novel of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna by C.W. Gortner

Title: The Romanov Empress: A Novel of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna
Author: C.W. Gortner 
Format: ARC
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publish Date: July 10, 2018
Source: HFVBT

What's the Story?:

From "Narrated by the mother of Russia's last tsar, this vivid, historically authentic novel brings to life the courageous story of Maria Feodorovna, one of Imperial Russia's most compelling women who witnessed the splendor and tragic downfall of the Romanovs as she fought to save her dynasty in the final years of its long reign.

Barely nineteen, Minnie knows that her station in life as a Danish princess is to leave her family and enter into a royal marriage--as her older sister Alix has done, moving to England to wed Queen Victoria's eldest son. The winds of fortune bring Minnie to Russia, where she marries the Romanov heir and becomes empress once he ascends the throne. When resistance to his reign strikes at the heart of her family and the tsar sets out to crush all who oppose him, Minnie--now called Maria--must tread a perilous path of compromise in a country she has come to love.

Her husband's death leaves their son Nicholas as the inexperienced ruler of a deeply divided and crumbling empire. Determined to guide him to reforms that will bring Russia into the modern age, Maria faces implacable opposition from Nicholas's strong-willed wife, Alexandra, whose fervor has lead her into a disturbing relationship with a mystic named Rasputin. As the unstoppable wave of revolution rises anew to engulf Russia, Maria will face her most dangerous challenge and her greatest heartache.

From the opulent palaces of St. Petersburg and the intrigue-laced salons of the aristocracy to the World War I battlefields and the bloodied countryside occupied by the Bolsheviks, C. W. Gortner sweeps us into the anarchic fall of an empire and the complex, bold heart of the woman who tried to save it."

My Two Cents:

I love historical fiction but I always wonder about why there are certain areas of the world and time periods that never seem to get the HistFic treatment. Imperial Russia is one of those. I have been absolutely craving more historical fiction set in Russia and after reading "The Romanov Empress," I only want more! Isn't that always the problem with really good books?

In this book, we meet Minnie, a royal in her own right who is betrothed to the heir to the Russian throne. Several twists of fate have Minnie's life looking much different than she ever expected. Through it all, she maintains a keen sense of just how to use her power. I love stories about strong women and Minnie certainly is super strong. Although women at the time did not have much power, she learns quickly how to wield what she does have in order to shape her own life and the lives of those around her.

Russian history is fascinating to me. It was especially fascinating to see it through Minnie's eyes as she had a front row seat to so many seismic changes in that country. Gortner adds a lot of really great detail that brings Minnie's travels and Russia itself to life. Gortner does an amazing job of world building in this book and weaving in the detail for a fully immersive experience.

This book also had a feature that I have liked in so many other Gortner books. He has a great ear (err... hand) for writing really great dialogue. You can actually hear (err.. read) the characters speaking and their tones!

It has been really hard for me to focus on reading since the Great Tree Debacle of 2018 and this is really the first book since then that I have been able to just get lost in and that's a beautiful thing!


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

CATASTROPHE!!! (Or why I'm not answering your emails)

Well, it's safe to say that A Bookish Affair will be on hiatus for a little bit. We had a tree come down on our house. We were not home at the time and we were able to get our cats out so all the living things are just fine. The house is pretty damaged but the house is just a thing. We feel very lucky!

Image may contain: sky, tree, plant and outdoor

Review: The Mermaid by Christina Henry

Title: The Mermaid
Author: Christina Henry
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: June 19, 2018 (Today!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Once there was a mermaid who longed to know of more than her ocean home and her people. One day a fisherman trapped her in his net but couldn't bear to keep her. But his eyes were lonely and caught her more surely than the net, and so she evoked a magic that allowed her to walk upon the shore. The mermaid, Amelia, became his wife, and they lived on a cliff above the ocean for ever so many years, until one day the fisherman rowed out to sea and did not return.

P. T. Barnum was looking for marvelous attractions for his American Museum, and he'd heard a rumor of a mermaid who lived on a cliff by the sea. He wanted to make his fortune, and an attraction like Amelia was just the ticket.

Amelia agreed to play the mermaid for Barnum, and she believes she can leave any time she likes. But Barnum has never given up a money-making scheme in his life, and he's determined to hold on to his mermaid."

My Two Cents:

Once upon a time, a mermaid left the sea behind to become a woman. She fell in love with a human and as he grew older, she stayed forever the same age. Eventually he passed away and Amelia the mermaid had to find a new life. Enter P.T. Barnum, circus master and master manipulator, who promises Amelia a living in exchange for dignity. Will Amelia ever be able to get back to making it on her own?

What initially drew me to this book was P.T. Barnum. He's the kind of guy that you love to hate. Exploitative, conniving, lying - there isn't much to recommend him! This book definitely shows that. He's pretty terrible to Amelia but I loved how Amelia is able to give it right back to him, often times without even saying a word. We get an inside perspective of how driven-at-any-cost P.T. Barnum is and while he isn't a great person, he's a fascinating one to read about.

And then the mermaids! We are obsessed with mermaids in my house and even as an adult, I still love the idea of mermaids. I loved how Amelia wasn't portrayed as simply a half woman, half fish but something more fantastical. I loved how the author put a lot of the legends of mermaids into this book. This is a great book for those that love some fantasy with their historical fiction!

Oh, and I have to mention the love story between Amelia and Levi, P.T. Barnum's (much nicer, much kinder) right hand man. At first, it seems like perhaps Amelia is drawn to Levi because he can protect her from P.T. Barnum's worse ideas but it becomes clear that they really love each other. This eventually results in one of the happiest endings that I have read in a long time!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Review: Pax by Sara Pennypacker

Title: Pax
Author: Sara Pennypacker
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Publish Date: February 2, 2016
Source: Borrowed

What's the Story?:

From "Pax was only a kit when his family was killed, and “his boy” Peter rescued him from abandonment and certain death. Now the war front approaches, and when Peter’s father enlists, Peter has to move in with his grandpa. Far worse than being forced to leave home is the fact that Pax can’t go. Peter listens to his stern father—as he usually does—and throws Pax’s favorite toy soldier into the woods. When the fox runs to retrieve it, Peter and his dad get back in the car and leave him there—alone. But before Peter makes it through even one night under his grandfather’s roof, regret and duty spur him to action; he packs for a trek to get his best friend back and sneaks into the night. This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their independent struggles to return to one another against all odds."

My Two Cents:

"Pax" is the story of a young boy, Peter, and his pet fox, Pax. They live in a world at war and Peter's father is caught up in the middle of it. He tells Peter that he needs to release the fox before he goes to war. Peter does so very grudgingly but quickly realizes that he doesn't think he can live without Pax so he goes on a journey that will force him to grow and change his perspective.

This is a bildungsroman in every sense of the word. Peter has a very different understanding of the world when the book first opens. He is aware of the love he feels for Pax. Pax is aware of the love that Peter feels for him and is confused about why he is put out into the world. Peter's sadness is mostly focused on himself but as he goes through the book, he realizes that there are many things outside of his control that are much bigger than himself.

This book is filled with a lot of messages and I like that the author never seems to talk down to her readers - this is especially important in books geared for middle grade readers. There are the messages about how terrible war is and how devastating it can be. I did find myself wanting to know more about what the war was over but perhaps that was author's message: no matter what the war is about, it is still devastating. And then there is the message about letting something go and if it comes back to you, it's yours. If it doesn't, it was never yours in the first place.

Overall, I enjoyed this book even if the ending was not what I wanted it to be. Things are not always the way we want them to be.


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Review: Little Big Love by Katy Regan

Title: Little Big Love
Author: Katy Regan
Format: ARC
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: June 5, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "About a Boy meets Parenthood in this smart, big-hearted love story about a family for whom everything changed one night, a decade ago, and the young boy who unites them all.

Told through the eyes of Zac, Juliet, and grandfather Mick, Little Big Love is a layered, heartfelt, utterly satisfying story about family, love, and the secrets that can define who we are."

My Two Cents:

"Little Big Love" is a story about Zac, an overweight boy who dreams of having a father; Juliet, Zac's mother who goes from one disastrous relationship to another; and Mick, Juliet's father and Zac's grandfather who is hiding secrets of his own that affect both Juliet and Zac. Families can be full of love or they can be messy or they can be both. This family has both love and messiness in spades. This is a heartwarming book!

This book started a little slowly for me but I am glad I stuck with it because when it hits its stride, it really hits it stride and becomes a lovely rumination on how the secrets we think it's safer to keep really should be out in the open.

Zac was definitely my favorite character in this book. He is terribly precocious and all he wants is to know who his dad is, a secret that his mother has refused to tell him. So he decides to find out on his own with the help of his best friend Teagan. Meanwhile, he is being teased and bullied mercilessly by other kids at school. Will he fold or remain resilient? I loved watching him throughout this book on his journey. The tale of his father takes a lot of twists and turns that I didn't see coming, which kept the book moving well.

Overall, this was a great story!

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