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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 "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.


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 "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!


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 "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 "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 "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 "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 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!

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