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Friday, October 11, 2019

Review: Dinosnores by Sandra Boynton

Title: Dinosnores
Author: Sandra Boynton
Format: Board Book
Publisher: Workman Publishing Company
Publish Date: September 3, 2019
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "'Honk SHOOOOOO! Honk SHOOOOOO! . . .'     

The snoring goes on, on and on through the night. They never stop snoring till the first morning light.

Ah, all those dinosaurs look so cute in their pajamas. See them yawn and stretch and brush their teeth. Soon they’ll be sound asleep, and . . . OH NO! SNORING!!!

Little kids love big dinosaurs. They also love the sublime silliness of Sandra Boynton books. So what better way to wind down at the end of the day than with DINOSNORES, a rhyming and rhythmic ritual of getting ready for bed—featuring a pile of loudly snoozing dinos."

My Two Cents:

"Dinosnores" is the latest book by beloved writer of bedtime books, Sandra Boynton! We love her books in my house. My four year olds love the word and we especially liked imitating all of the snoring the dinosaurs do throughout the book. Bedtime is often a good time for us to have one last giggle before we slip off to dreamland and this book definitely is a good fit for that! This short book is a welcome addition to our kiddos' library.

As always, Ms. Boynton's illustrations are fantastic! They are super bright and super cute! My girls are dino obsessed right now and they loved the pictures of the very noisy but still downright cuddly dinos as they snored on through the night. The words are simple and fun and my girls loved repeating the story to me. This was a great book that I know we are going to be revisiting a lot!


Thursday, October 10, 2019

Review: Barbie Forever: Her Inspiration, History, and Legacy by Robin Gerber

Title: Barbie Forever: Her Inspiration, History, and Legacy
Author: Robin Gerber
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Epic Ink
Publish Date: September 30, 2019
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "Barbie Forever: Her Inspiration, History, and Legacy presents a detailed, full-color portrait of this beloved doll through all-new interviews, original sketches, vintage photos, advertisements, a foldout timeline, and much more. Explore how the doll came to be, what it takes to create one of her many looks, and how her legacy continues to influence the world.

Since her debut in 1959, Barbie has been breaking boundaries and highlighting major moments in art, fashion, and culture. She has been an interpreter of taste and style in every historic period she has lived through and has reflected female empowerment through the more than 200 careers she has embodied. Today, an international icon, Barbie continues to spark imaginations and influence conversations around the world.

Barbie Forever is a vibrant celebration for the "Barbie Girl" in all of us."

My Two Cents:

"Barbie Forever" is a positive look back at one of the most iconic toys around: Barbie. Starting from her beginning in the middle of the 20th century, Barbie has been the both the subject of praise and scrutiny. I was definitely a Barbie girl (in a Barbie world) growing up and so this toy has a very special place in my heart and I was interested to get a better look at the history through this book!

As I mentioned before, this is a very positive look back at Barbie's origins and her history. The toy faced much scrutiny for offering unrealistic body types and sometimes problematic story lines. This book doesn't really mention that and focuses on the highlights of Barbie's history. And to Mattel's credit (Mattel is Barbie's manufacturer), the brand has made great strides recently in being more inclusive and honoring the diversity of the real world (it's never too late). I appreciated seeing how the brand had changed throughout time. Barbie goes from being a fashion doll to show off pretty clothes to something more like what she was for me growing up: a tool for my imagination. The book captures that magic!

The book is also beautiful! It has a ton of full color pictures that celebrate both where Barbie has been and where she could potentially be going. This was such a great walk down memory lane for me. My sisters and I had an EPIC collection of Barbies that we loved to play with and we definitely had so many of the Barbies that appeared in the book.

With the holidays being just around the corner, this book would be a perfect gift for those that grew up with Barbie like I did!


Friday, October 4, 2019

Reading Challenge Update!

As a reminder, I am aiming to read a book from or set in each country the Department of State recognizes, which is 195 countries!
This was my best month yet!
I read books from this many countries in September:
You can check out my progress on my map or see a list of where and what I'm reading here.

I have read 87 books for this challenge so far.

Take a look at my list! What else should I be reading?

Monday, September 30, 2019

Review: Some Stories: Lessons from the Edge of Business and Sport by Yvon Chouinard

Title: Some Stories: Lessons from the Edge of Business and Sport
Author: Yvon Chouinard
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Patagonia
Publish Date: April 16, 2019
Source: PR

What's the Story?: 

Synopsis: "For nearly 80 years, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard has followed his own advice, pursuing outdoor adventures, business excellence and environmental activism with equal fervor. Since 1950, he has captured the lessons and revelations he’s learned in articles and books, personal letters and poetry, introductions and eulogies."

My Two Cents:

In "Some Stories: Lessons from the Edge of Business and Sport," you get a front row seat with Patagonia-founder Yvon Chouinard. Not only did he start a very successful outdoor gear company, he also believes in the power of nature and the need to protect it for future generations to come. Patagonia as a company has been making waves recently for some of the work that it is doing on topics such as conservation and climate change. 

I was drawn to this book because I have really liked following Patagonia's shifts as a company committed to doing better. I really didn't know much about Yvon Chouniard before reading this book and while a flat-out biography of him would have been interesting, it was really great to get to know him through his own words and specifically reading his words on things he really cared about. This is a man that has a very good sense of himself and what he wants to strive towards. 

The book contains all sorts of stories that Chouniard wants to tell from both his personal adventures and long career. There are essays on wonderful places and the experiences he had there (my to-travel list is so much longer now). There are ruminations on the problems that plague our natural world and seem insurmountable. There are tributes to those that Chouniard loved and lost. One of my favorite essays in the book is a letter that he writes to his daughter as she goes off to school and to make her own way in the world. The essays throughout the book are passionate and often moving. In addition to some lovely odes to this beautiful world we live in, there is also some pretty amazing photography.

This book made me want to go take a long, beautiful walk somewhere with mountains, trees, lakes, and streams and just think about this wonderful place we call home. This book would be a lovely gift for anyone who loves the great outdoors!

Friday, September 27, 2019

TLC Book Tours: No Judgements by Meg Cabot

Title: No Judgements
Author: Meg Cabot
Format: ARC
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: September 24, 2019
Source: TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins

What's the Story?:

From "When a massive hurricane severs all power and cell service to Little Bridge Island—as well as its connection to the mainland—twenty-five-year-old Bree Beckham isn’t worried . . . at first. She’s already escaped one storm—her emotionally abusive ex—so a hurricane seems like it will be a piece of cake.

But animal-loving Bree does become alarmed when she realizes how many islanders have been cut off from their beloved pets. Now it’s up to her to save as many of Little Bridge’s cats and dogs as she can . . . but to do so, she’s going to need help—help she has no choice but to accept from her boss’s sexy nephew, Drew Hartwell, the Mermaid Café’s most notorious heartbreaker.

But when Bree starts falling for Drew, just as Little Bridge’s power is restored and her penitent ex shows up, she has to ask herself if her island fling was only a result of the stormy weather, or if it could last during clear skies too."

My Two Cents: 

In "No Judgements," Bree just wants to hide from her old life. A small island in the Florida Keys during a hurricane seems like a good place to do that, no? Bree is carving out a new life: she has a small apartment and a great roommate, she is working at the cafe in town for a great owner, and she is desperately trying to recover to a bad relationship so when the cafe owner's nephew walks into her life, she is definitely trying to resist his charms. Will she succeed? Will the hurricane knock her off her feet?

This is a satisfying, solid, yet predictable entrance to a brand new series by author Meg Cabot! I have loved so many of Meg Cabot's books and I especially love how they most definitely fall into the category of comfort reads. Nothing was shocking in this book and even some of the surprises in the book were not particularly surprising. That being said, sometimes you are just looking for a warm hug of a book, surprising or not, and the book definitely fits that bill.

This book introduces a brand new cast of characters for a planned series. I think this is one place where the book fell a little flat for me. I really felt for Bree and I really enjoyed the romance in the book. But aside from the main couple, we have a lot of characters who are simply introduced but not really fleshed out so I would love to see if that changes in the next installation of the Little Bridge series.

This was a solid start to a new series!


Thursday, September 26, 2019

HFVBT Review and Guest Post: The Queen of Warriors by Zenobia Neil

Title: The Queen of Warriors
Author: Zenobia Neil
Format: ARC
Publisher: Hypatia Books
Publish Date: September 19, 2019
Source: HFVBT

What's the Story?:

From "Alexandra of Sparta vowed her sword and her heart to the goddess Artemis. And the goddess blessed her. But no warrior lives at peace, and soon, Alexandra loses her title, her troops, and everyone she loves, including the man who holds her heart.

Cursed by a Babylonian witch, she is forced to return to a city she once conquered to make amends. There she is captured by the powerful Persian rebel, Artaxerxes. As his prisoner, she awaits judgment for her crimes. But Artaxerxes is not what he seems. With death approaching, Alexandra must face her violent past and discover the truth of her captor’s identity before it’s too late."

My Two Cents:

In "The Queen of Warriors," Alexandra of Sparta is a fierce warrior. Her heart belongs to no one beside herself. She believes deeply in her cause, no matter the tradeoffs, which is exactly why she finds herself in the situation she is in in the beginning of the book. She has been captured and her life is in danger but looks can be deceiving. I thoroughly enjoyed this fast-paced, exciting, sexy novel!

The characters are Alexandra of Sparta is very much a Xena the Warrior Princess kind of character. She is strong and she is driven. She is allowed to act like a man in many ways during a time where this was not common. She can fight with the best of them. She beds whomever she wants when she wants it. She is seriously empowered and so wonderful to read about. Artaxerxes is the man that captured the fierce Warrior Queen Alexandra. I don't want to give too much away but I really like how his story is explored and how he is changed by all of the various challenges that he faces. So good! 

This book was a great mix of historical fiction and erotic fiction. The love scenes are really great and sooooo very steamy. I loved how complicated the relationships (and therefore the love scenes) were throughout the book. Sex is used in so many different ways and it's a really interesting exploration. 

The writing is really good. This is the first book that I've read by this author but now I know I need to go back and read more by Zenobia Neil. I loved all of the historical fiction infused into the story! The detail gives a great sense of time and place. This book ends on a great cliffhanger and I have to know what happens! My only regret is that I have to wait until the next book!

Guest Post:

I am so very excited to welcome Zenobia Neil here to A Bookish Affair!

Bringing Long Dead Characters Who Never Existed to Life
Historical Fiction: Writing about Something You (Initially) Know Very Little About

When I first started writing The Queen of Warriors seven years ago, I knew very little about Hellenic Persia. My characters came to me fully formed, with desires and fears. I could clearly see my Persian main character, Artaxerxes, in leather trousers, and my Spartan woman warrior, Alexandra, wearing a leather dress like Xena: Warrior Princess, but I wasn't sure what language they communicated in. I had no idea what they ate or how they illuminated their dwellings. 
Writing a story that takes place thousands of years ago is challenging for several reasons. How can we even know what people thought and felt so long ago? There isn’t much recorded information, and the writings we do have are often lists of exchanges or contracts. There are a good amount of Hellenistic statues, coins, and vases. The visual images left from so long ago were very inspirational, taking into consideration that the heroic nudity portrayed in many ancient works of art was aesthetic and not representational. These images also gave me insight on their hairstyles—Alexander started the trend of Greek men going beardless, and he inspired the model of “heroic” hair (slightly long and wavy.) It tickles me to think that my Greek characters shaved and wore their hair in a style that was modern.
To discover what they ate, I consulted ancient cookbooks, but a lot of them focused on Roman cuisine. I turned to Xenophon and Herodotus, and biographies of Alexander the Great, but what really brought flavor to my story was reading Persian cookbooks—sour cherry rice with lamb and chilled cucumber-mint yogurt soup are a couple of my favorites. 
Early on in my research, my characters became more real when I read about grave goods, specifically, the jewelry ancient people were buried with. I love wearing jewelry, and something about that detail really gave my characters life.
 Alexandra has an ouroboros ring that her mother gave her. For Alexandra, jewelry isn’t something she wears to make her look pretty: it’s a connection to the past, a status symbol, and insurance. She always has a large amount of gold on her. Conversely, Artaxerxes was born rich and is willing to sell his gold armbands for scrolls.
Artaxerxes wears golden armbands capped with lynxes with ruby eyes, symbolic of his house. This jewelry fed my imagination, and I created a title for him based on it—The Golden Lynx of Rhagae. Though it is completely made up, it seemed fitting for a royal Persian struggling to keep his kingdom from Greek colonizers. One aspect of The Queen of Warriors is the idea of telling the tale of colonization from two different perspectives. We are used to reading the Alexander the Great narrative from the Greek perspective, but it’s not hard to imagine that from the Persian side, Alexander was no hero.
During my research I read that the Greeks essentially called all outsiders “barbarian.” Persians did the same. It tickled me to imagine my characters sitting around calling each other barbarian while still admiring each other. 
Despite this idea of “otherness,” both my main characters grew up in a multi-cultural world, rich in language, architecture, textiles, cuisine, poetry, and religion. The diversity of religions and gods at this time is as important to my novel as it was to my characters.  As a Zoroastrian, Artaxerxes strives to uphold the light and never lie. For him truth is paramount. His initial encounter with Alexandra results in a death, and they make a bargain that involves a proper Zoroastrian burial. Ancient texts generally show a great respect for the religions and burial practices of others. I imagine that any warrior would like to think they’d be given the same respect if they were the one to die.
As a Hellenistic Greek, Alexandra of Sparta is a devotee of Artemis. She admires trickery and has no problem telling lies. In fact, lies or exaggeration help her reputation and help her maintain her rule of a mercenary army. The juxtaposition between my two main characters’ cultures was interesting to play with from a romantic and a political perspective. The more research I did, the more dialogue they exchanged, and the more intimate they became, the more real they became.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

TLC Book Tours: After the Flood by Kassandra Montag

Title: After the Flood
Author: Kassandra Montag 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: September 3, 2019
Source: TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins

What's the Story?:

From "A little more than a century from now, our world has been utterly transformed. After years of slowly overtaking the continent, rising floodwaters have obliterated America’s great coastal cities and then its heartland, leaving nothing but an archipelago of mountaintop colonies surrounded by a deep expanse of open water.

Stubbornly independent Myra and her precocious seven-year-old daughter, Pearl, fish from their small boat, the Bird, visiting dry land only to trade for supplies and information in the few remaining outposts of civilization. For seven years, Myra has grieved the loss of her oldest daughter, Row, who was stolen by her father after a monstrous deluge overtook their home in Nebraska. Then, in a violent confrontation with a stranger, Myra suddenly discovers that Row was last seen in a far-off encampment near the Arctic Circle. Throwing aside her usual caution, Myra and Pearl embark on a perilous voyage into the icy northern seas, hoping against hope that Row will still be there.

On their journey, Myra and Pearl join forces with a larger ship and Myra finds herself bonding with her fellow seekers who hope to build a safe haven together in this dangerous new world. But secrets, lust, and betrayals threaten their dream, and after their fortunes take a shocking—and bloody—turn, Myra can no longer ignore the question of whether saving Row is worth endangering Pearl and her fellow travelers."

My Two Cents:

In "After the Flood," the world has been devastated by an enormous flood that lasted for years and years. Now only the tops of the world's mountains are visible and livable and most of the remaining population of the world is relegated to living on boats or living on the small slivers of land that still exist. Myra is a mother on a mission. While her youngest daughter, Pearl, is right by her side, she is still affected by the loss of her eldest daughter, Ro, who was taken away from her by her husband in the chaos of the flood. Myra has learned how to carve out a living for her and Pearl through her wonderful fishing skills. This is a story of a mother's love for her children and her drive whenever she feels that they might be in danger.

The book is told through Myra's point of view. I thought this was a really smart choice. You get to know her innermost thoughts and why she is so driven to find Ro, even if it means searching the whole world for her. A mother's love knows no bounds! Myra must constantly rely on her cunning to get to where she thinks Ro might be. It means that she has to be deceptive and sometimes ruthless with those around her. I admired her drive all the way through! The secondary characters are really great. I loved Pearl, who must display such a high level of maturity and strength at such a young age. I also liked the comedic relief of her and her snakes! The crew of the ship that Myra and Pearl link up with was such a great addition as well!

I love dystopian fiction and really good dystopian fiction has really good world building, which I absolutely adore. I love wondering about what might be and what you would feel going through different situations. This book definitely allows you do it! The author includes so many little details that you can feel the sea breeze, you can see the ocean made rocky by the mountain tops piercing through, and you can understand the thoughts of the characters as they go through everything they go through in the book.

This is Kassandra Montag's debut novel and it is an exciting kickoff of what is hopefully to come for her! Supremely imaginative and well-detailed, this was a great ride!

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