Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Review and Giveaway: Mistress Firebrand by Donna Thorland

Title: Mistress Firebrand
Author: Donna Thorland
Format: ARC
Publisher: NAL Trade
Publish Date: March 3, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "British Occupied Manhattan, 1777. American actress Jennifer Leighton has been packing the John Street Theater with her witty comedies, but she longs to escape the provincial circuit for the glamour of the London stage. When the playwright General John Burgoyne visits the city, fresh from a recent success in the capitol, she seizes the opportunity to court his patronage. But her plan is foiled by British intelligence officer Severin Devere.

Severin’s mission is to keep the pleasure-loving general focused on the war effort…and away from pretty young actresses. But the tables are turned when Severin himself can’t resist Jennifer Leighton…

Months later, Jenny has abandoned her dreams of stage glory and begun writing seditious plays for the Rebels under the pen name “Cornelia,” ridiculing “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne and his army—and undermining the crown’s campaign to take Albany. By the time Severin meets up with Jenny once again, she is on a British hanging list, and Severin is ordered to find her—and deliver her to certain death. Soon, the two are launched on a desperate journey through the wilderness, toward a future shaped by the revolution—and their passion for each other…"

My Two Cents:

In "Mistress Firebrand," our main character, Jennifer, is both an actress and a playwright in Manhattan. It is the 1770s and the colonies are an ever changing and sometimes dangerous place as it does not take long for Jennifer to find out. Jennifer gets herself entangled with infamous British general, John Burgoyne, but it is his intelligence officer, Severin that falls for Jennifer. What follows is a story of a burgeoning romance set against a very exciting time in American history.

I really liked Jennifer's character. Here is a woman who know what she wants. She has a passion for theater and writing. She is able to be pretty successful in her own right, which was not always the case for women during this time period. I really liked that aspect! I also really liked the romance between her and Severin. Their romance is definitely of the forbidden kind, which made it pretty exciting for me.

The storytelling took me a little while to get into as the characters and story were really being introduced. Once we get to the developing romance between Jennifer and Severin and the dealings with Burgoyne, the story really hit its stride and the writing began to feel a little more flowing and natural to me.

I like historical fiction and I love historical romance. This book really bridges the gap between both genres. There is all of the rich historical detail and grounding in actual historical events that are hallmarks of traditional historical fiction. There is also a really great romance with a lot of passion and a good dose of heat to appeal to those who like historical romance. I really liked that both sides were included in this story. Overall, this was a good story with a memorable romance!


Thanks to the publisher, I am excited to be able to give away a copy of this book! Want to read it? Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below! (U.S. only)

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Monday, March 2, 2015

Blog Tour Review and Giveaway: Lady of the Eternal City by Kate Quinn

Title: Lady of the Eternal City
Author: Kate Quinn
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Publish Date: March 3, 2015
Source: I received a copy as part of the publisher's blog tour; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Elegant, secretive Sabina may be Empress of Rome, but she still stands poised on a knife’s edge. She must keep the peace between two deadly enemies: her husband Hadrian, Rome’s brilliant and sinister Emperor; and battered warrior Vix, who is her first love. But Sabina is guardian of a deadly secret: Vix’s beautiful son Antinous has become the Emperor’s latest obsession.

Empress and Emperor, father and son will spin in a deadly dance of passion, betrayal, conspiracy, and war. As tragedy sends Hadrian spiraling into madness, Vix and Sabina form a last desperate pact to save the Empire. But ultimately, the fate of Rome lies with an untried girl, a spirited redhead who may just be the next Lady of the Eternal City . . ."

My Two Cents:

"Lady of the Eternal City" is the fourth book in Kate Quinn's wonderful The Empress of Rome series. I feel like I have been waiting for this book for such a long time and let me tell you, it was well worth the wait! In "Lady of the Eternal City," the infamous Hadrian is finally emperor. For Quinn's characters, this does not necessarily mean good things. Hadrian's rule will bring many changes, both to Roman rule and in the personal lives of the character. Many of the beloved characters such as Sabina, Vix, and Titus are back in this book as well as many new characters, which I fell for quickly.

This book is the fourth book in the series and takes place about a year after the previous book. You could probably read this book as a stand alone book but you should not! For my fellow historical fiction lovers, this series is such a treat. Filled with memorable characters and exquisite historical detail, this book and the rest of the series will pull you in. You should really treat yourself and read the series from the beginning.

The characters are definitely a major draw for this book. I was very excited to go back to characters that I loved in the previous books. It was a treat to see what the likes of Vix, a former gladiator, and Sabina, who is married to Emperor Hadrian, were up to. We are also introduced to several more characters that really make for some fun reading. Quinn writes characters that you really begin to feel for and care about. So much happens to these characters and there are so many twists and turns that kept me on my toes (unfortunately, I cannot divulge them as I don't want to give anything away).

As with Quinn's other books, the world building is fantastic. Ancient Rome and her territories are pretty remote in many modern day readers' minds but through great writing and thorough historical detail, these places really come to life. The way that the detail is woven into the story is wonderful. This book is definitely a full body experience.

There are some books that take a long time to read because you are just not into the story. There are the good books that you read a normal pace. There are other books that you fly through because they are just so good. Then, there is a final category of books where you read the book incredibly slowly because you know with every page you turn, you are closer to the end and you know that you're going to have an overwhelming feeling of sadness when you get to the last page because it means that a fantastic story is coming to the end. This is definitely one of those books that fits firmly in the last category! I loved this book and am eagerly awaiting Quinn's next release.


Want to read this fantastic book? Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below to win your very own copy (U.S. only).

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Follow the Rest of the Tour:

March 2
A Bookish Affair—review + giveaway
Jean BookNerd—spotlight + giveaway
March 6
Teddy Rose Book Reviews—spotlight + giveaway
The Mod Podge Bookshelf—spotlight + giveaway
March 23
Celticlady’s Reviews—spotlight + giveaway
March 24
Fresh Fiction—spotlight + giveaway
March 27
Lori’s Reading Corner—spotlight + giveaway
ABCD Diaries—review + giveaway
March 31

Friday, February 27, 2015

TLC Book Tours Review: Girl Runner by Carrie Snyder

Title: Girl Runner
Author: Carrie Snyder
Format: ARC
Publisher: Harper
Publish Date: February 3, 2015
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Girl Runner is the story of Aganetha Smart, a former Olympic athlete who was famous in the 1920s, but now, at age 104, lives in a nursing home, alone and forgotten by history. For Aganetha, a competitive and ambitious woman, her life remains present and unfinished in her mind.

When her quiet life is disturbed by the unexpected arrival of two young strangers, Aganetha begins to reflect on her childhood in rural Ontario and her struggles to make an independent life for herself in the city.

Without revealing who they are, or what they may want from her, the visitors take Aganetha on an outing from the nursing home. As ready as ever for adventure, Aganetha's memories are stirred when the pair return her to the family farm where she was raised. The devastation of WWI and the Spanish flu epidemic, the optimism of the 1920s and the sacrifices of the 1930s play out in Aganetha's mind, as she wrestles with the confusion and displacement of the present."

My Two Cents:

"Girl Runner" is the story of Aganetha, a now 104 year old, who has essentially been shuttered away in a nursing home. She tries not to dwell too much on her past as an Olympic runner for Canada. She seems to be looking for the end. She seems resigned to the idea that her best days are behind her and she is ready for her sunset. A young man and woman come looking for her at the nursing home and it drums up memories of Aggie's life that she never thought she would have to confront again.

This book was a little shaky for me. It took me awhile to get into the book. I was very interested in the part of the book that took place in the past. Seeing how Aggie goes from a farm girl to a runner was so interesting. She does some really amazing things in a time where women athletes were not prevalent at all. Aggie is truly a trailblazer. The present day story did not grab me very much at the beginning until the motives of the two young people who spring Aggie from the nursing home become clear. This does not happen until the middle to the end of the book so I kept wondering where this part of the story was going. I also wanted more out of the ending of the book.

The writing in the book is good and it definitely kept me reading and interested in the story. I really liked how Aggie's voice was captured. Snyder really makes us feel for her and care about her. I would love to read more by Snyder in the future.  

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Tuesday, February 3rd: Bookshelf Fantasies
Wednesday, February 4th: BookNAround
Thursday, February 5th: Broken Teepee
Monday, February 9th: Lit and Life
Tuesday, February 10th: Books on the Table
Wednesday, February 11th: A Bookish Way of Life
Thursday, February 12th: missris
Monday, February 16th: The Discerning Reader
Wednesday, February 18th: Olduvai Reads
Thursday, February 19th: Helen’s Book Blog
Tuesday, February 24th: Fuelled by Fiction
Wednesday, February 25th: Jorie Loves a Story
Thursday, February 26th: A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall
Friday, February 27th: A Bookish Affair
TBD: Bee Splendid

Review: New Uses For Old Boyfriends by Beth Kendrick

Title: New Uses For Old Boyfriends
Author: Beth Kendrick
Format: Paperback
Publisher: NAL
Publish Date: February 3, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the PR; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "After growing up in privilege and marrying into money, Lila Alders has gotten used to the good life. But when her happily-ever-after implodes, Lila must return to Black Dog Bay, the tiny seaside town where she grew up. She’s desperate for a safe haven, but everything has changed over the past ten years. Her family’s fortune is gone—and her mother is in total denial. It’s up to Lila to take care of everything...but she can barely take care of herself.

The former golden girl of Black Dog Bay struggles to reinvent herself by opening a vintage clothing boutique. But even as Lila finds new purpose for outdated dresses and tries to reunite with her ex, she realizes that sometimes it’s too late for old dreams. She’s lost everything she thought she needed but found something—someone—she desperately wants. A boy she hardly noticed has grown up into a man she can’t forget...and a second chance has never felt so much like first love."

My Two Cents:

In "New Uses for Old Boyfriends," Lila's life falls apart and the only place that she can think of to go is Black Dog Bay, her hometown. She finds that even her hometown has changed and the gold status that she once enjoyed is gone. Her mom's financial status is in ruins and she wants Lila to help her keep her home but she may be forced to leave her home behind. This book explores one woman's try at trying to put her life back together when the conditions are anything but easy.

This book takes place in the same super cute town as Kendrick's previous book, "Cure for the Common Break-up," a book that I really enjoyed. I was very excited to go back to Black Dog Bay. Although the story focuses on Lila mostly, we do get to know a great deal about the denizens of Black Dog Bay, which I loved. It is always nice to visit some old familiar characters!

Lila is a great character. She is definitely sort of humbled when she has to come home from a glamorous life that fell apart. Everyone held her in such high regard because of her great marriage and her great career. Lila can't help but to feel like she's coming back to town with her tail between her legs after her so-called perfect life is shattered. I really felt for her. I also liked how for the most part, she really begins to realize that she has to be the vehicle for her own happiness. Some of her ex-boyfriends come out of the woodwork to help her along the way. I really liked how the love matches in the book were dealt with. As with "Cure for the Common Break-up," Kendrick cooks up some leading males that are off the beaten path including a former military man with a penchant for sewing incredible things (a great surprise)!

I did not like this book quite as much as "Cure for the Common Break-up" as I liked the love story in that book a little bit better. However, "New Uses for Old Boyfriends" is still an adorable read with a lot of heart!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Review: The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

Title: The Beginning of Everything
Author: Robyn Schneider
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Katherine Tegan
Publish Date: August 27, 2013
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Golden boy Ezra Faulkner believes everyone has a tragedy waiting for them—a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen. His particular tragedy waited until he was primed to lose it all: in one spectacular night, a reckless driver shatters Ezra’s knee, his athletic career, and his social life.

No longer a front-runner for Homecoming King, Ezra finds himself at the table of misfits, where he encounters new girl Cassidy Thorpe. Cassidy is unlike anyone Ezra’s ever met, achingly effortless, fiercely intelligent, and determined to bring Ezra along on her endless adventures.

But as Ezra dives into his new studies, new friendships, and new love, he learns that some people, like books, are easy to misread. And now he must consider: if one’s singular tragedy has already hit and everything after it has mattered quite a bit, what happens when more misfortune strikes?"

My Two Cents:

In "The Beginning of Everything," Ezra's life changes very quickly after a horrific accident. Ezra has prided himself on being a star athlete but the accident changes all of this. Now he finds himself on the "loser" debate team. He misses his old life but wants to make the best of the situation. I think this quote from the book says a lot about the story: "Oscar Wilde once said that to live is the rarest thing in the world, because most people just exist, and that’s all. I don’t know if he’s right, but I do know that I spend a long time existing, and now, I intend to live."

At first, it took me a little while to warm up to Ezra. He was very woe-is-me at the beginning of the book. While his friends don't seem to want to isolate him, Ezra seems so upset at the prospect of his life changing after the accident that he isolates himself and creates a divide between his old life and his new life. Eventually I warmed up to him as he seems to stop feeling sorry from himself and tries to move on (the divide between his old popular life and his new more unpopular life remains, which was interesting to me).

I did like the love story between him and Cassidy. Cassidy is vastly different from the girls that Ezra used to date (who mostly seem to be vapid silouettes of actual people). She is carefree, intelligent, and seems to be a good foil for Ezra but is hiding a lot. Ezra slowly starts to uncover Cassidy's past. This was probably one of the most interesting parts of the book for me.

Overall, this book was a little mixed for me but grew on me as the story went on.


Monday, February 16, 2015

TLC Book Tours: Author Guest Post and Giveaway by Dora Levy Mossanen

I am very excited to welcome Dora Levy Mossanen, author of Scent of Butterflies (see my review of the book here) to A Bookish Affair today!

 The title of this novel has gone through many, many reincarnations, before I decided to settle on Scent of Butterflies, which is a strange title, I know.  Perhaps it is this strangeness, then, that makes this title my favorite among the titles of all my books.

I bet that you had no idea that butterflies give off all types of scents.  But they do.  Just ask Soraya, my protagonist, and she will convince you.  So much so that from now on, your olfactory cells will twitch and tremble every time you come across a butterfly.  Warning: if ever tempted to catch a butterfly to smell it for yourself, make sure you do it gently.  Butterflies can easily lose the powdery scales on their wings, which can cause tears in their wings, which in turn will hamper their ability to fly.

In the twenty years it took me to write and rewrite Scent of Butterflies, my protagonist, Soraya, changed, grew, unraveled, and became increasingly obsessed with butterflies.  Why?  Because the name of her husband’s mistress is Parvaneh, which means Butterfly in Farsi.  So as the line between butterflies, the insects, and Butterfly, the mistress became increasingly blurred in Soraya’s mind, she began to plant butterfly friendly trees and plants in her garden to lure butterflies, which she trapped and studied obsessively in hope of learning more about Butterfly, her nemesis, the woman her husband is having an affair with.

Here then, is the scene in the novel that gave birth to the title of the book.  Soraya is studying a butterfly trapped in her net: “Unlike experts, I don’t have to go through a series of complicated rituals to detect the characteristics of a scent, the base notes and top notes, lock myself in dark rooms, or blow my nose clean, pinch my nostrils, sprinkle a handkerchief with perfume, and wave it in the air to bring out its gaseous state. No! I don’t need any of these rituals to detect that live butterflies smell different from dead ones. Still alive and active, like the one trembling in my net, they give off the odor of predators, acidic and pungent, similar to the stench of Butterfly’s Chanel No. 5. Reaching into the net, I tenderly rub the butterfly’s fuzzy warmth, caress the throbbing underbelly, stroke the quivering antennae. My forefinger crawls up to tease the erogenous spot on top of her head, the spot the aroused male fondles with his antennae…. Scarcely dead and still supple to my touch, she begins to give off the smell of public baths, humid and cloying and a bit dirty. And now, just this instant, limp and rendered harmless, she emits the bland odor of stale flowers.”

Are you convinced now that butterflies have different smells? 

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, February 2nd: My Book Self
Wednesday, February 4th: Bibliotica
Friday, February 6th: Back Porchervations
Friday, February 13th: Reading and Eating
Monday, February 16th: Chick Lit Central
Monday, February 16th: A Bookish Affair – guest post
Tuesday, February 17th: Savvy Verse and Wit
Wednesday, February 18th: Kahakai Kitchen
Monday, February 23rd: Bibliophiliac
Friday, February 27th: Shelf Pleasure – guest post
Monday, March 2nd: Snowdrop Dreams of Books
Tuesday, March 3rd: Too Fond
Thursday, March 5th: Patricia’s Wisdom
TBD: Books a la Mode – guest post


One lucky winner will win a copy of this great book (U.S./CAN only)! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below.

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Favor

Guys, Kate Quinn is a phenomenal historical fiction author and a friend of mine. I will actually be on a panel with her and a few other amazing people during the 2015 Historical Novel Society Conference in Denver, CO in June. I am in awe of her writing and storytelling and not only is she a great writer, she is just an all around awesome person so I was very sad to hear that she and her husband suffered a very scary house fire this week!

There is a Gofundme fund (find it here!) that has been set up for Kate and her husband as they recover from this horrible situation. If you can (and I know money is tight for so many of us), please consider giving a little bit to the cause. 

If you can't contribute, maybe consider pre-ordering Kate's latest release, Lady of the Eternal City, which will be released on March 3rd? I got my hands on a copy early, read it this weekend, and it is absolutely fantastic (review forthcoming)!!! You can also check out any of her back list, which are fantastic as well.

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