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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Review: The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking by Brendan I. Koerner

Title: The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking
Author: Brendan I. Koerner
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Crown
Publish Date: June 18, 2013
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "In an America torn apart by the Vietnam War and the demise of sixties idealism, airplane hijackings were astonishingly routine. Over a five-year period starting in 1968, the desperate and disillusioned seized commercial jets nearly once a week, using guns, bombs, and jars of acid. Some hijackers wished to escape to foreign lands, where they imagined being hailed as heroes; others aimed to swap hostages for sacks of cash. Their criminal exploits mesmerized the country, never more so than when the young lovers at the heart of Brendan I. Koerner's "The Skies Belong to Us" pulled off the longest-distance hijacking in American history."

My Two Cents:

"The Skies Belong to Us" is a stranger than fiction tale of one couple named Roger and Kathy who commandeered a airliner and sort of, kind of, maybe did it as a loose protest against the Vietnam War. These days, with all of their security at an airport, a plane hijacking would be huge news because it just never really happens anymore. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, however, plane hijacking was actually a relatively frequent thing, all things considered (scary!!!). Hijackings were done for different reasons and this book explores some of those reasons as well as the way the occurrence of these hijackings lead to both airline companies (although they went grudgingly) and passengers wanting more security.

I was in high school during 9/11 and now I don't blink an eye at all of the security at airports. Now it's hard for me to imagine not having to go through a metal detector or not having to take off my shoes and take every single thing electronic item out of my bag. There was a time during early commercial aviation when it was just becoming feasible for many people to travel via airlines where security was not really a concern. This book explores that time. It was so interesting for me to see how different things once were. So this story is about Cathy and Roger but it's also about the business of flying in general.

The story of Roger and Kathy is just absolutely crazy! Again as I mentioned before, this is definitely one of those stranger than fiction stories where you can hardly believe that these two people who really didn't seem to know what they were doing got away with something massive. The book follows them from their planning stage to when they actually hijacked a plane to what they did after. I was both entertained and educated by this book and I think it will really appeal to my fellow history lovers who like their history to little bit strange and a little bit off the beaten path.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Review: Platinum Doll by Anne Girard

Title: Platinum Doll
Author: Anne Girard 
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Mira
Publish Date: January 26, 2016
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "Set against the dazzling backdrop of Golden Age Hollywood, novelist Anne Girard tells the enchanting story of Jean Harlow, one of the most iconic stars in the history of film.

It's the Roaring Twenties and seventeen-year-old Harlean Carpenter McGrew has run off to Beverly Hills. She's chasing a dream;to escape her small, Midwestern life and see her name in lights.In California, Harlean has everything a girl could want;a rich husband, glamorous parties, socialite friends;except an outlet for her talent. But everything changes when a dare pushes her to embrace her true ambition :to be an actress on the silver screen. With her timeless beauty and striking shade of platinum-blond hair, Harlean becomes Jean Harlow. And as she's thrust into the limelight, Jean learns that this new world of opportunity comes with its own set of burdens. Torn between her family and her passion to perform, Jean is forced to confront the difficult truth;that fame comes at a price, if only she's willing to pay it. Amid a glittering cast of ingenues and Hollywood titans: Clara Bow, Clark Gable, Laurel and Hardy, Howard Hughes, Platinum Doll introduces us to the star who would shine brighter than them all."

My Two Cents:

"Platinum Doll" is the story of Jean Harlow, golden goddess of the silver screen. It's a historical fiction take on her life and her rise from a young girl to a full fledged Hollywood actress. Harlow went to Hollywood in her late teens and passed away by the time that she was 26 years old. This book focuses specifically on her time in Hollywood. Before reading this book, I really only knew Jean Harlow the actress and almost nothing about her background. I liked how this book shed some light on who she was off the screen.

The book focuses greatly on Jean's relationship with both her mother and her husband. Jean's mother had dreams of her own of Hollywood greatness but was never able to cut it. Once Jean becomes famous, her mother seems to be living vicariously through her and does everything in her power to push Jean's star higher, even if it is not what Jean wants. Their relationship was fascinating. Jean continues to call her mother, "Mommie" and her mother calls her "The Baby" even in Jean's adulthood. The relationship between Jean and her first husband, Chuck, was also very interesting to me. Chuck does not want Jean to go into films and wants her to stay home and be content being a housewife, which is exactly what Jean does not want. I thought that we really saw Jean grow in the book when she was dealing with Chuck. At first, she bends to his will. Then, she stretches further and before long, she realizes that someone who will keep her from her dreams is not the right match for her.

The writing of the book is good. The author uses a lot of good detail to really pull the reader into Harlow's Old Hollywood world. Lots of the Hollywood greats make an appearance in this book. I enjoyed Girard's previous release, "Madame Picasso" and with this book, Girard is rising quickly to my "must-read" list. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Review: Heal: The Vital Role of Dogs in the Search for Cancer Cures by Arlene Weintraub

Title: Heal: The Vital Role of Dogs in the Search for Cancer Cures
Author: Arlene Weintraub
Format: Ebook
Publisher: ECW Press
Publish Date: October 13, 2015
Source: Author

What's the Story?:

From "Drawn from extensive research, on-the-ground reporting, and personal experience, this book explores the fascinating role dogs are playing in the search for a cure for cancer. Learn how veterinarians and oncologists are working together to discover new treatments — cutting-edge therapies designed to help both dogs and people suffering from cancer. Heal introduces readers to the field of comparative oncology by describing several research projects aimed at finding new therapies for cancers that are similar in dogs and people, including lymphoma, osteosarcoma, breast cancer, melanoma, and gastric cancer. Weintraub, who lost her sister to gastric cancer, also writes about the emerging science behind the remarkable ability of dogs to sniff out early-stage cancer, and the efforts underway to translate that talent into diagnostic devices for early detection of the disease. In the course of bringing these dogs and their human companions to life, Weintraub takes her own personal journey from grief to healing, as she shows her readers how man’s best friend might be the key to unlocking the mysteries of cancer."

My Two Cents:

"Heal" is a non-fiction book that looks at the way that dogs are helping scientists figure out new therapies for taming and curing all sorts of different kinds of cancer. I'm a huge animal lover and I have unfortunately had many people in my life taken down by various kinds of cancer. I've also had two dogs suffer for cancer. And in each case, I've found myself wishing that other people and animals did not have to watch their loved ones go through this. This book gave me great hope that scientists are looking at cancer from every angle in order to find a cure once and for all!

As the book points out, dogs develop cancer naturally like people do. Animals such as rats and mice, that often are the subjects of laboratory testing don't often develop cancer naturally. Because of this, dogs are uniquely qualified to help us understand how cancer occurs in humans and perhaps more importantly, how it can be cured. The author looks at a lot of different kinds of cancer and a lot of various trials. It was fascinating to see how much scientists were able to figure out from man's best friend.

The writing of the book was great. The author takes what could be a very technical discussion and turns it into something that can easily be understood by anyone. The book's strength also lies in that the author tackles the issue from so many different angles while inserting a dose of personality. For the author, the issue of cancer is personal. She discusses her sister's gastric cancer case with the reader, which really pulled me into the book. This book is for those that love dogs or have ever had cancer touch their lives.


Friday, February 5, 2016

Interview and Giveaway: Michelle Gable, Author of "I'll See You in Paris"

I am very excited to welcome Michelle Gable, author of the fab "I'll See You in Paris" here to A Bookish Affair.

What inspired you to write "I'll See You in Paris?"

In researching my first book A Paris Apartment, I studied every luminary Giovanni Boldini rendered. When I dug up Gladys Deacon, I knew she’d get top billing in a future novel. She’s too delicious to leave to history!

I used many of the Duchess’s expressions, mannerisms, and real-life stories throughout the novel. Yes, she disappeared from her palace. Yes, she turned up in a dilapidated Grey Gardens-style manse forty years later. Yes, she chased people with guns. This is a small sampling of the bedlam the Dazzling Miss Deacon wrought.

I wanted to incorporate a more modern-day storyline too but couldn’t use the 2010s as the timing didn’t mesh with the historical aspects of the novel. The post-9/11 angle struck me as ideal as much of the storyline takes places in the final years of the Vietnam War. Two wars: one very much supported (at least at first) and one vastly out of favor. The juxtaposition of the two intrigued me.

The Duchess of Marlborough appears in this book. What was the most interesting/ strange thing that you learned about her in your research?

There are too many options! I can’t pick one “most interesting” thing but her hatred for Winston Churchill amused and even shocked me. Gladys complimented Hitler just to get under Churchill’s skin!

Nearly everything she said about him in I’ll See You in Paris is a direct quote. Here are a few:

“When you think how hard it is to create a rising in a small village, well, [Hitler] had the whole world up in arms. He was larger than Churchill. Churchill couldn’t have done that!”

“[Winston] was not a great man. Of course he wasn’t. The English just like to create heroes and worship them.”

“[Winston] used to come to that place where we were…He liked to lay down the law! No compassion. The man was incapable of love. He was in love with his own image - his reflection in the mirror.”

Who is your favorite character in this book and why?

The Duchess is my favorite because it was such fun uncovering her real life shenanigans. Aside from her, I adored (and had a small crush on!) writer Win Seton. He’s rakish and self-deprecating and sly, but self-aware. He makes mistakes but I’m able to forgive him. That’s not always the case with my characters!

Why do you think people are so drawn to Paris both in real life and through books?

The city itself is magically beautiful and has “raised” so many writers and artists. There’s this rich history, yet we think of Paris as being forward-thinking. Paris’s lore is filled with grittiness, glitz, fame, and infamy. And, whether it’s your first time or your twelfth, there’s always something new to discover.

If you could bring three fictional characters or historical figures with you to a deserted island, who would you bring and why?

I would bring Gladys Deacon for her humor, intentional and otherwise. I’d never get bored with her nearby. I’d also have to bring a writer—perhaps John Irving—to write new books for me to read. And the titular Ove from a recent favorite book A Man Called Ove would also make great company. Like Gladys, he’s funny, but, despite outward appearances, he’s a good person and friend. I’m quite partial to curmudgeons. 


I'm pleased to be able to give away a copy of "I'll See You in Paris" thanks to the publisher. Want to win your own copy of  "I'll See You in Paris?" Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below.

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Review: I'll See You in Paris by Michelle Gable

Title: I'll See You in Paris
Author: Michelle Gable
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publish Date: February 9, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "After losing her fiancé in the Vietnam War, nineteen-year-old Laurel Haley takes a job in England, hoping the distance will mend her shattered heart. Laurel expects the pain might lessen but does not foresee the beguiling man she meets or that they’ll go to Paris, where the city’s magic will take over and alter everything Laurel believes about love.

Thirty years later, Laurel’s daughter Annie is newly engaged and an old question resurfaces: who is Annie’s father and what happened to him? Laurel has always been vague about the details and Annie’s told herself it doesn’t matter. But with her impending marriage, Annie has to know everything. Why won’t Laurel tell her the truth?

The key to unlocking Laurel’s secrets starts with a mysterious book about an infamous woman known as the Duchess of Marlborough. Annie’s quest to understand the Duchess, and therefore her own history, takes her from a charming hamlet in the English countryside, to a decaying estate kept behind barbed wire, and ultimately to Paris where answers will be found at last."

My Two Cents:

In "I'll See You in Paris," recent college grad Annie and her mother, Laurel, travel to a small town in England to take care of what Laurel says is just business. Annie does a little investigating and finds out that there is much more to the story including a run down old house and the mysterious disappearance of the Duchess of Marlborough. This book is the story of secrets that never stay buried and of hiding one's true self. I ate it up but this is one of those books that I also did not want to end.

The book is full of great characters. Annie is sort of spinning through life when we meet her in this book. She is a recent college grad with few career options. She's lost and trying to navigate an at times tenuous relationship with her mom. Laurel has a lot to hide in this book at first until Annie starts unraveling why she is so secretive with so many things.  Then we have Mrs. Spencer, who may be the missing Duchess of Marlborough. She is an incredibly vivacious 90-something when we meet her in this book and she is absolutely wonderful. She's witty, bright, and fiery, which is fantastic. I loved reading about her! The characters truly made the book for me! I know I will be thinking about these main characters as well as some of the secondary characters for a very long time. 

The writing of the book is great. The story hinges on several mysteries and the way that the author slowly gives readers details is really fantastic. I loved the twists and turns. The way that the author brings the main characters together is great (I don't want to give too much away). This was a good read and I look forward to reading more by this author!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Giveaway: Casualties by Elizabeth Marro

Want to win a copy of Elizabeth Marro's "Casualties?" Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below (U.S. only, please!).

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

HFVBT Review and Giveaway: In the Land of Armadillos by Helen Maryles Shankman

Title: In the Land of Armadillos
Author: Helen Maryles Shankman
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Scribner
Publish Date: February 2, 2016 (Today!)
Source: HFVBT

What's the Story?:

From "1942. With the Nazi Party at the height of its power, the occupying army empties Poland’s towns and cities of their Jewish populations. As neighbor turns on neighbor and survival often demands unthinkable choices, Poland has become a moral quagmire—a place of shifting truths and blinding ambiguities.

Blending folklore and fact, Helen Maryles Shankman shows us the people of Wlodawa, a remote Polish town: we meet a cold-blooded SS officer dedicated to rescuing the creator of his son’s favorite picture book, even as he helps exterminate the artist’s friends and family; a Messiah who appears in a little boy’s bedroom to announce that he is quitting; a young Jewish girl who is hidden by the town’s most outspoken anti-Semite—and his talking dog. And walking among these tales are two unforgettable figures: the enigmatic and silver-tongued Willy Reinhart, Commandant of the forced labor camp who has grand schemes to protect “his” Jews, and Soroka, the Jewish saddlemaker and his family, struggling to survive."

My Two Cents:

"In the Land of Armadillos" is a collection of stories all centered on one small town in Poland in the middle of World War II. Short story collections are not always my favorite but this one blew me away. Each story centers on a different few characters although other characters from other stories appear in other stories. Using great characters and good world building, Shankman immerses readers in a world where the stakes are always high and nothing is as it seems. There's also a good dose of magical realism in this book, which is almost always a win for me!

So many of the characters in the stories are merely trying to survive. Survival is such a huge theme throughout the book. One reason that I love reading about World War II is how resilient and resourceful so many of the people had to be. So many of the stories in this book are filled with people like that. The author does a great job of letting the readers into exactly who the characters are and what makes them tick. The writing is really good!

It was hard for me to pick my favorite story in the book but my favorite was called "The Jew Hater." It's about a man who has actually pointed the Nazis towards people who were helping the Jews. He hates them. Suddenly the tables turn and he's suddenly charged with taking care of a young Jewish girl. The character development was oh so good in that story. So many of the other stories really touched me! I know this book will stick with me for a really long time!  


Want to win a copy of this wonderful book? Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below (U.S. only)!

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