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Friday, October 9, 2015

TLC Book Tours: Mistress of the Court by Laura Purcell

Title: Mistress of the Court
Author: Laura Purcell
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Myrmidon
Publish Date: August 4, 2015
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "Orphaned and trapped in an abusive marriage, Henrietta Howard has little left to lose. She stakes everything on a new life in Hanover with its royal family, the heirs to the British throne. Henrietta’s beauty and intelligence soon win her the friendship of clever Princess Caroline and her mercurial husband, Prince George. But, as time passes, it becomes clear that friendship is the lastthing on the hot-blooded young prince’s mind. Dare Henrietta give into his advances and anger her violent husband? Dare she refuse?

Whatever George’s shortcomings, Princess Caroline is determined to make the family a success. Yet the feud between her husband and his obstinate father threatens all she has worked for. As England erupts in Jacobite riots, her family falls apart. She vows to save the country for her children to inherit – even if it costs her pride and her marriage. Set in the turbulent years of the Hanoverian accession, Mistress of the Court tells the story of two remarkable women at the centre of George II’s reign."

My Two Cents:

"Mistress of the Court" is the second book in Laura Purcell's Georgian Queens series. This book is a standalone but I do suggest that you go back and read the first books in the series "Queen of Bedlam," because it is good historical fiction. This second book in the series takes on Henrietta Howard, a woman who becomes the unwilling (at least at first!) mistress to King George II. She and King George's wife, Caroline, are at the center of this story. This story brought to life two woman at the center of a very volatile time in British history.

I have not read a lot about the Georgian period of British royalty, particularly not in fiction. After enjoying "Queen of Bedlam," I was anxious to read this book. What I found was some interesting characters and a great story line. Princess Caroline understands that there are many things that she can control secondarily if she cannot control them primarily.Henrietta becoming  her husband's mistress is one of those things. The way that the author writes about the dynamic between these two women is so interesting and makes for a really interesting power play that kept me entertained.

I really enjoyed visiting a new setting in this book. I love reading about British royalty and I liked the way that the author added detail to make the story really pop. I will be interested to see what the author comes out with next!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Review: House of Thieves by Charles Belfoure

Title: House of Thieves
Author: Charles Belfoure
Format: ARC
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publish Date: September 15, 2015
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "In 1886 New York, a respectable architect shouldn’t have any connection to the notorious gang of thieves and killers that rules the underbelly of the city. But when John Cross’s son racks up an unfathomable gambling debt to Kent’s Gents, Cross must pay it back himself. All he has to do is use his inside knowledge of high society mansions and museums to craft a robbery even the smartest detectives won’t solve. The take better include some cash too —the bigger the payout, the faster this will be over.

With a newfound talent for sniffing out vulnerable and lucrative targets, Cross becomes invaluable to the gang. But Cross’s entire life has become a balancing act, and it will only take one mistake for it all to come crashing down —and for his family to go down too."

My Two Cents:

"House of Thieves" is the story of the Cross family, a well to do family living in the late 1800s in the middle of New York City. On the surface, the family looks to be a upstanding family, however, they hide a lot of dark secrets. Each member of the family is involved with some of the crime facing the city at the time. They all hide this from each other and begins to affect off of their relationships.

This is the second book from Charles Belfoure. I loved his first book so I was definitely looking forward to reading this book. I think I may have like this one even more. It was so interesting to me to see how the family got twisted up in some of the sordid activity is happening throughout the city. This family goes through great lengths to keep up appearances but are not above committing crimes in order to get what they want. I liked following each of the members of the family and liked how well developed the characters were!

Like I said before, each member of the family is involved with crime. I think the most interesting character is John Cross, who is an architect to uses his clients houses and the plans that he developed for them in order to help one of the my bosses of the city proper houses. He is such a complex character because on one hand he doesn't want to commit these crimes but he definitely gets caught up in all of it. I loved reading about him!

The writing of this book was great. Belfoure has a fantastic way of taking historical detail and weaving it so well into the story that you hardly realize how much detail he's packing in. He is able to world build well so that the reader knows exactly what the Cross family's life is like and everything that they're experiencing. This book is a real treat for historical fiction fans!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Review: The Fragrant Concubine by Melissa Addey

Title: The Fragrant Concubine
Author: Melissa Addey
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Letterpress Publishing
Publish Date: August 10, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the author.

What's the Story?:

From "China, 1760. The Emperor conquers Altishahr, a Muslim country to the west of his empire and summons a local woman from his new dominion to come to the Forbidden City as his concubine.

Meanwhile in the market of Kashgar a girl named Hidligh is kidnapped by Iparhan, a woman scarred by the Emperor’s conquest of her homeland and bent on vengeance. Iparhan offers her a deal: Hidligh will become the Emperor’s concubine, living a life of luxury. In return she will act as Iparhan’s spy.

But when Hidligh arrives in the Forbidden City, she enters a frightening new world. Every word she utters may expose her as an imposter. Iparhan is watching from the shadows, waiting to exact her revenge on the Emperor. The Empress is jealous of her new rival. And when Hidligh finally meets the Emperor, she finds herself falling in love…"

My Two Cents:

"The Fragrant Concubine" is the story of Hidligh, a young woman who becomes mistress to China's emperor. The twist in the book comes when not everything is as it first seems with her. She is asked to be a spy at the Emperor's court by Iparhan, a woman bent on getting even with the Emperor. She wants to use Hidligh to get her vengeance. The author uses a combination of myth and historical fact to weave a story of the fragrant concubine.

I love books set in places that I am not familiar with and with characters that are unlike others that I have read before. The setting was especially captivating to me. This book takes place in the 1700s in China, which is a time and location that I have not read much about. The author takes us into the court of the Emperor, a place that is filled with social rules and obligations. At first, Hidligh is not familiar with any of the rules she will have to follow. One of my favorite parts in the book is when Iparhan and her servants are trying to teach Hidligh how to be a proper lady.

The writing of the book was pretty good. I found myself wanting a little more action in some parts. There were a couple places where the narrative got a little long winded but for the most part, the book flowed nicely. I appreciated all of the historical detail that the author added to the book; it really pulled me into the story. Overall, this was a good read!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

TLC Book Tours: The Art of Crash Landing by Melissa DeCarlo

Title: The Art of Crash Landing
Author: Melissa DeCarlo
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Harper
Publish Date: September 8, 2015
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "Mattie Wallace has really screwed up this time. Broke and knocked up, she’s got all her worldly possessions crammed into six giant trash bags, and nowhere to go. Try as she might, Mattie can no longer deny that she really is turning into her mother, a broken alcoholic who never met a bad choice she didn’t make.

When Mattie gets news of a possible inheritance left by a grandmother she’s never met, she jumps at this one last chance to turn things around. Leaving the Florida Panhandle, she drives eight hundred miles to her mother’s birthplace—the tiny town of Gandy, Oklahoma. There, she soon learns that her mother remains a local mystery—a happy, talented teenager who inexplicably skipped town thirty-five years ago with nothing but the clothes on her back. But the girl they describe bears little resemblance to the damaged woman Mattie knew, and before long it becomes clear that something terrible happened to her mother, and it happened here. The harder Mattie digs for answers, the more obstacles she encounters. Giving up, however, isn’t an option. Uncovering what started her mother’s downward spiral might be the only way to stop her own."

My Two Cents:

In "The Art of Crash Landing," we meet Matilda a.k.a. Mattie. She is an absolute mess. She's 30 years old and has yet to do anything with her life. She doesn't know what she wants and she suddenly finds herself pregnant and alone. She inherits her grandmother's house and begins to realize that she needs to pick up her own pieces of her life.

This is Mattie in a nutshell: "Most people would probably have a hard time totally f--king up their life in under an hour. But then again, I'm not most people. I'm amazing. I'm like some kind of f--kup savant." And I love her for it. This character definitely does not have it all together. She is sharp and hilarious and this often seems to get her into trouble. I loved following her through this book. Mattie feels like she could be a friend with the way that we readers are let into her life.

This author is a debut author and this book made me excited for what else the author might come out with. The writing of the book is good. Again, Mattie feels really real. I liked that the author chose to tell the story from Mattie's perspective. She gives Mattie a very real and very original voice that kept me entertained. This is a sparkling debut!

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Tuesday, September 8th: Books and Bindings
Thursday, September 10th: The Book Bag
Friday, September 11th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Tuesday, September 15th: Literary Lindsey
Wednesday, September 16th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Thursday, September 17th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Friday, September 18th: bookchickdi
Friday, September 18th: Fuelled by Fiction
Wednesday, September 23rd: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, September 24th: Kahakai Kitchen
Friday, September 25: 5 Minutes for Books
Monday, September 28th: BoundbyWords
Wednesday, September 30th: A Bookworm’s World
Thursday, October 1st: A Bookish Affair
Monday, October 5th: Kritters Ramblings
Tuesday, October 6th: Raven Haired Girl
Wednesday, October 7th: Novel Escapes
Thursday, October 8th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Friday, October 9th: My Book Retreat
Monday, October 12th: Snowdrop Dreams of Books
Tuesday, October 13th: Imaginary Reads
Tuesday, October 13th: Broken Teepee
Wednesday, October 14th: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Wednesday, October 14th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Thursday, October 15th: Joyfully Retired

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Review: Pilgrimage by Lucy K. Pick

Title: Pilgrimage
Author: Lucy K. Pick
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Cuidono Press
Publish Date: July 7, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the author.

What's the Story?:

From "The last thing Gebirga of Flanders remembers seeing is the argument between her parents that ended in her mother’s death. In the years since, she has learned to negotiate her family’s castle of Gistel as a blind woman but everyone assumes that one day her home will be the convent founded in her mother’s honor. An accidental encounter offers another path, and Gebirga flees her callous family with a pack of pilgrims that includes a count’s daughter bound for marriage, two clerics writing a guidebook, and a mysterious messenger with an unknown agenda, all headed along the pilgrimage road to Compostela. The journey takes Gebirga from her home on the edge of the North Sea across the kingdoms of France and into the Iberian Peninsula, where her mission to escort a young noblewoman becomes a dangerous adventure involving power-hungry kings and queens and even the Roman Pope. But can a blind woman navigate the shoals of international politics? To find a place where she can belong, Gebirga must learn there are other ways of seeing the truth than with her eyes.

To most of twelfth-century Europe, Spain was a far-off and exotic place, home to the holy site of Compostela, shrine of Saint James. The saint’s tomb drew a perpetual wave of pilgrims, coming for adventure, or seeking a miracle from the saint. Pilgrimage is the story of one of those pilgrims."

My Two Cents:

"Pilgrimage" is the story of Gebirga of Flanders who has lost both of her parents. She feels a little bit adrift and isn't really sure what her life holds for her. The time is 12th century and therefore there not very many options open for women. She ends up joining a flighty young woman on a pilgrimage to Spain to follow the Way of St. James. This is a fascinating historical fiction that took me to a time and a place that I have seldom visited in my reading.

Characters are so important to me in my books! This book has a great main character! Not only is Gebirga a woman in a man's world, she is also blind which makes her life incredibly difficult during that time period. Her opportunities are even more limited because of what she cannot see. I loved this character. She is absolutely fascinating. The way that the author let us readers into her innermost thoughts really sold me on her. She's definitely a character that you're cheering for and hoping that everything will turn out well for throughout the book.

The writing of this book was good. Again, like I said before, I haven't read a whole lot of historical fiction set in the 12th-century and I really enjoyed getting to see the era through this book. The author includes a lot of historical detail that brought to life the pilgrimage that so many people took to travel to Spain, following the way of St. James. The idea of a pilgrimage is sort of foreign to me. I've read a little bit about them but I thought that the way that this book describes a pilgrimage with such detail really made me understand why people would be driven to go on a pilgrimage. The author makes Gerbirga's life come to life. This book is a treat for historical fiction fans! I am excited to see other books that the author comes out with in the future!


Monday, September 28, 2015

Review: Tales of Byzantium by Eileen Stephenson

Title: Tales of Byzantium
Author: Eileen Stephenson
Format: Fiction
Publisher: Self published
Publish Date: May 2, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the author.

What's the Story?:

From "Three stories of love, war, and destiny in medieval Byzantium.

A young empress defies her powerful father for love and her rightful place on the throne.

A charismatic commander takes the gamble of a lifetime to save the lives of thousands of innocents.

An exiled princess finds a new sense of purpose and creates a legacy that will stand through the ages.

These stories provide a glimpse of the dynamic and proud Byzantines who lived during the height of the empire's splendor."

My Two Cents:

"Tales of Byzantium: A Selection of Short Stories" is a collection of three historical fiction stories set in and around some of the figures of Byzantium. Each of these stories are different and they cover some of the rulers as well as others who left their fingerprints on the era. The author uses a lot of great historical detail in order to bring each of the characters at the center of each of these three stories to life.

My favorite story was probably the last one, which covers Anna Comenena, a woman who is being punished for seeking to overtake her brother's throne, which she feels is rightfully hers. I did not know much about Anna Comenena or the other characters in these stories and this book really whet my appetite to read more about the Byzantines! I love when one book can lead you to wanting to read more on the subject!

The writing of the book was very good. I think one issue with short stories is that there can be the temptation to dump information in order to bring the reader up to speed. There was a little bit of that done here and it bogged down the narrative a little bit. That being said, the historical detail that was included is great and interesting. I just wish that the stories have been a little bit longer to spread all of the information out so it didn't feel like information was simply being dumped on the reader. It's clear that the author did a lot of thorough research into her subject.

Although the stories were great, I especially enjoyed the author's notes that are found at the end of each story. The author gives a little bit of context as to who the historical figures that she was talking about  are and what happened to them. It gave me a greater appreciation for the characters that she chose to write about. I would love to see what this author does in the future, perhaps in a longer form novel!


Friday, September 25, 2015

HFVBT Guest Post: Jeanne Mackin, Author of "The Beautiful American"

I am excited to welcome Jeanne Mackin, author of "The Beautiful American" to A Bookish Affair today!

Why perfume?

When I began creating the character of Nora Tours, the narrator of The Beautiful American, it soon occurred to me that I wanted her to become a ‘nose,’ one of those people in the perfume industry whose sense of smell is so acute they can create those wonderful bottles of sensual pleasure, the Chanel No.5’s and Joy, and L’Air du Temps we love.
I wanted Nora to experience life as a series of fragrances, some pleasant, some not, because it seemed a very likely metaphor for Paris between the wars.  Think of childhood, and we often remember the smells of childhood: cinnamon and pine wreaths and muddy fields.  Think of first love and we might remember the smell of a corsage or a bouquet of roses or the herbs of a garden in the moonlight.  Think of Paris, and I think of the scent of yeasty bread, car fumes, the perfume the women wear, the smell of garlic in a bistro and the bouquet of a good wine.  Paris has changed a lot since the 1930’s, but those things stay constant.  Nora would have known those odors, might have thought of the Café Dome every time someone lit up a cigarette, or of Grasse in southern France, when she smelled lavender.
The truth is, we experience life as much with scents as we do with colors and sounds. And since Nora is in contrast to the other woman of the novel, the model-turned photographer Lee Miller, I wanted her dominant sense to contrast with Lee’s, who was very visual.  Their difficult friendship becomes a kind of imagined perfume, with top notes of laughter and the pleasures of being young and free, the middle notes of shared experiences that unite them in sorrow and a little bitterness, and the bottom notes of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Some readers have said they would never forgive Lee for what she did.  Nora does.  Life, like perfume, is a complex and sometimes messy business.  But if you try, usually you can still find the wonderful scent of flowers and spices somewhere in that complicated odor of experience.

Follow the Rest of the Blog Tour:

Monday, September 21
Spotlight at Let Them Read Books
Tuesday, September 22
Interview at Please Pass the Books
Wednesday, Spetember 23
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Spotlight at What Is That Book About
Thursday, September 24
Review at History Undressed
Review & Interview at Jorie Loves a Story
Friday, September 25
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair
Interview at History Undressed
Spotlight at Book Nerd
Sunday, September 27
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Monday, September 28
Review at I’m Shelf-ish
Guest Post at To Read, or Not to Read
Tuesday, September 29
Review at Build a Bookshelf
Spotlight at Caroline Wilson Writes
Wednesday, September 30
Review at Queen of All She Reads
Spotlight at View From the Birdhouse
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Thursday, October 1
Review at Dive Under the Cover
Interview at The Old Shelter
Guest Post at Books and Benches
Spotlight at The Lit Bitch
Friday, October 2
Review at A Fold in the Spine
Review & Interview at Singing Librarian Books
Spotlight & Excerpt at A Literary Vacation
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