Current Giveaways!

Watch this space!

Monday, October 31, 2011

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?


Just Finished:


My review of this one will be up later this week!


Currently Reading:


I'm only 10% into this book (Kindle reading, you understand) but already, I've been sucked in!

Reading this one in anticipation of the third book in the series, which I got a chance to review as part of a book tour. Woot!

Next Up:

I'm anxious to read this one especially considering the economic situation going on right now.
What are you reading?

***Don't forget to enter the giveaway for the Veronica Li books. The giveaway has really low entries and the books are excellent. You know you want to enter!!!***

Indie October Review: When the De La Cruz Family Danced by Donna Miscolta


***Don't forget to enter the giveaway for Journey Across Four Seas and Nightfall in Mogadishu by Veronica Li***

Title: When the De La Cruz Family Danced
Author: Donna Miscolta
Publisher: Signal 8 Press
Publish Date: June 28, 2011
Source: I received a copy from the author. This did not affect my review.


Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You like family dramas.
  • You like stark writing.
What's the Story?: 

From Goodreads.com: "During his one and only return visit to the Philippines, Johnny de la Cruz - plagued by a sense of isolation - succumbs to a quick sexual encounter with an old flame, the attractive and beguiling Bunny Piña.
 

Years later, nineteen-year-old Winston Piña has barely finished eulogizing his recently deceased mother when he finds a letter she wrote, but never sent, to Johnny. This leads Winston into the lives of the de la Cruz family - a family to which he might or might not belong.
When the de la Cruz Family Danced explores the ties within family and how they are affected by circumstances of birth, immigration, and assimilation."


My Two Cents:

Johnny de la Cruz has felt that he kind of doesn't belong with his family. He loves his wife but she seems distant. He doesn't really know how to relate to his three daughters who for the most part are now out on their own. When Winston comes out of nowhere asking if Johnny knew his deceased mother, Bunny, Johnny thinks he may be able to start putting back the pieces of what he thinks is missing out of his life. Winston charms the entire de la Cruz family but there is more than meets the eye.


I really liked the style that this book was written in. It was stark and gorgeous. It really helped to give you the sense of desolation that each member in the de la Cruz family and Winston are feeling throughout the story. I would have liked to know a little bit more about why Johnny was feeling disconnected. Did he just not connect his family anymore? Is he missing his homeland? Why did his brief affair with Bunny affect him after so many years? I had a lot of questions but still felt like the book left me quite satisfied.


Bottom line: this is a great family story.



Sunday, October 30, 2011

Winner of the Alexandra Ares Ebooks!






The winner of The Other Girl, My Life on Craigslist and Dream Junkies is:
Nadine!

The winner has been contacted. Congratulations!

Weekend Cooking: Making the Pizza from Meredith Mileti's Aftertaste






Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up over the weekend. It's hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Back in September, I reviewed Aftertaste by Meredith Mileti (see the review here).  I loved the book. It had food and a little bit of romance but oh, the food!!! I knew that I wanted to try out some of the recipes. My husband and I both love to cook so we were excited to take on the recipe for White Pizza with Tallegio, Prosciutto, Apricots, and Arugula Salad.

Shopping:

We went to our local Italian deli to get a couple of the items on the ingredient list (Vace, we love you so much!). We got fresh pizza dough, prosciutto, parmesan romano and dried apricots (the recipe called for fresh or dried but since apricots are not in season, we went with the dried apricots).

Next, we went to our grocery store to search for tallegio. It's a kind of cheese that I had never come across before so I did a little research on other kinds of cheeses we could use if we couldn't find tallegio. Sure enough, no tallegio so we used fontina, which is pretty easy to find.

Cooking:

The pizza is super easy to cook!

Husband starts working on the dough.


If the whole architecture thing doesn't work out, I think Vace might take him as a pizza maker.

The recipe calls for you to first bake the crust for a bit (with olive oil, salt, pepper, etc. ). Then you put the cheese on and bake some more. We made a couple adjustments to the recipe. The recipe calls for you to not cook the apricots and prosciutto. Instead, you put them on the pizza right before eating. We decided to bake the apricots and the prosciutto on the pizza. Once the pizza is done, you put the arugula salad (arugula, lemon juice, olive oil, spices) right on the pizza. Molto bene!

Finished product before we dug in!


The taste was awesome. You have the saltiness from the cheese and prosciutto and the sweetness from the dried apricots! The hubs and I definitely agreed that it was a keeper! For the full recipe and a great story, check out Aftertaste by Meredith Mileti!

Review: Bright Lights, Big Ass by Jen Lancaster

Title: Bright Lights, Big Ass
Author: Jen Lancaster
Publisher: NAL Trade
Publish Date: 2007
Source: Library






Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You want tons of laughs.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Jen Lancaster hates to burst your happy little bubble, but life in the big city isn't all it's cracked up to be. Contrary to what you see on TV and in the movies, most urbanites aren't party-hopping in slinky dresses and strappy stilettos. But lucky for us, Lancaster knows how to make the life of the lower crust mercilessly funny and infinitely entertaining.

Whether she's reporting rude neighbors to Homeland Security, harboring a crush on her grocery store clerk, or fighting-and losing-the Battle of the Stairmaster- Lancaster explores how silly, strange, and not-so-fabulous real city living can be. And if anyone doesn't like it, they can kiss her big, fat, pink, puffy down parka."


My Two Cents:

Full disclosure: I'm a huge Jen Lancaster fan. This woman makes me laugh and make a fool of myself while reading in public places. She is awesome. In a lot of ways, Jen Lancaster reminds me a lot of myself. We have some key differences but I think we'd be good friends. She's always getting herself into really funny and strange situations and telling the stories of the situations in such a funny way that you find yourself laughing out loud and having to read a couple pages to your husband to show him what you're laughing about.

I can relate to this book on so many levels. My husband and I both grew up in the suburbs and both dreamt of living in the city. We're in the city now living our dream but unfortunately city living, as Ms. Lancaster, points out is not really as glamorous as Sex and the City would have us believe. I love my city but I've gotta say something happens every once in awhile that makes me think, "Gee, let's go back to Suburbia right now." I found myself nodding my head along with Jen throughout the book.

Bottom line: If you're looking for a laugh, both suburbanites and city mice will find something to love about this book!


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Review: Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard

Title: Stolen Life
Author: Jaycee Dugard
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publish Date: July 12, 2011
Source: Library



Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You like strong, resilient characters.
  • You like memoirs.
  • You like true crime stories.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "In the summer of 1991 I was a normal kid. I did normal things. I had friends and a mother who loved me. I was just like you. Until the day my life was stolen.
For eighteen years I was a prisoner. I was an object for someone to use and abuse.

For eighteen years I was not allowed to speak my own name. I became a mother and was forced to be a sister. For eighteen years I survived an impossible situation.

On August 26, 2009, I took my name back. My name is Jaycee Lee Dugard. I don’t think of myself as a victim. I survived.

A Stolen Life is my story—in my own words, in my own way, exactly as I remember it."


My Two Cents:

I was very excited for this book to come out after watching ABC's interview with Jaycee Dugard a couple months ago. When I finally got this book from the library, I couldn't wait to start reading it! I was definitely sucked into the book very quickly. It did not disappoint.

Jaycee Dugard's story is frightening. One day, she was a normal little girl living a fairly ordinary life. The next day, she's kidnapped by two people who can only be described as psychotic monsters. Not everyone would come out of that situation with as much resilience as Dugard seems to have. Luckily she seems to be adjusting to the outside world just fine.

The treatment that Dugard received while in captivity is appalling to say the very least and some parts of the book were very hard to read and digest because of the treatment that she received. It's hard to imagine anyone, let alone someone so young, going through such treatment.

This is truly a story of strength. Even if you have seen the interview with Ms. Dugard, this book is still definitely worth a read. There is a lot of detail not discussed during the interview that Dugard sheds some more light on in the book. I was so impressed with her strength for her and her children. This is a really wonderful story of the triumph of the human spirit.

Bottom line: This book is an engaging story of how a person can come back from a really horrible situation.




Friday, October 28, 2011

Indie October Author Interview and Giveaway: Veronica Li

 Today I want to welcome the wonderful Veronica Li, author of Journey Across Four Seas and Nightfall in Mogadishu (you all know you want to read these books so don't forget to read to the end to see how you can win one of the books).


Veronica Li. Photo from Goodreads.com.


 1. Both of your books cover very different subjects. Do you find it hard to switch your
writing style?

 

It was difficult in the beginning. But once I saw the common thread between the two very different subjects, the style I developed in one book became an asset for the other.
 

My first book, NIGHTFALL IN MOGADISHU, is a spy thriller set in Somalia, told in the third person point of view. It’s also a historical fiction based on actual events that led to civil war in the country. The plot contains the suspense and exploits of a James Bond movie. The writing style is fast-paced and action packed. In order to place the reader in an exotic country, I took care to give detailed descriptions of the place. These skills helped me a lot in my second book, JOURNEY ACROSS THE FOUR SEAS: A CHINESE WOMAN’S SEARCH FOR HOME. It’s a memoir of my mother’s life in China. The narrator is my mother, and in the book she’s telling me her life stories in Chinese. Her voice is gentle and conversational, night-and-day from the sinister tone in my spy thriller. But the other elements of story-telling are the same. Actually my mother’s life is as exciting as a thriller. The book contains scenes of her dodging bullets, outwitting kidnappers, fighting TB and braving U.S. immigration officers. The plot is fast-paced and action-packed, and I try to bring her world to life with vivid descriptions.

2. Do you have a favorite out of your books?
 

Both books were inspired by important experiences in my life. NIGHTFALL IN MOGADISHU is the result of my assignment to Somalia. I visited Somalia as an aid worker just before the country collapsed into civil war. The tragedy that befell my Somali friends moved me deeply and I felt compelled to write about it. JOURNEY ACROSS THE FOUR SEAS is the result of my caregiving for my aging mother. Living under the same roof, she had all the opportunity to bombard me with her stories. Since I’d heard them before, I wasn’t too excited about listening to them for the umpteenth time. But my friends, who were hearing them for the first time, were impressed. They suggested that I put them on tape. I was lukewarm at first, but as she started telling her stories in chronological order, they took on a dimension I had never known before.
 

Both books are important to me. But if I’m forced to choose, of course, it has to be JOURNEY ACROSS THE FOUR SEAS. Through this project, my mother and I became much closer. I got to understand her as a person (not just Mom) and I stopped judging her from the perspective of my times. The book was published when she was alive and still well enough to read. She passed away in peace a year later, knowing that she will be remembered.

3. What's the best thing about being an indie author? What's the hardest?
 

The best thing is having control over my fate. I don’t have to sit on my hands and wait for something to happen. This is true of every stage of the process:
 

--I pick my own editor and work with him on a mutually agreeable schedule. There is a range of publishers and formats I can choose from. With print on demand, I don’t have to worry about thousands of books waiting to be sold. With ebook, the publishing can be done in a matter of minutes.
--I retain all rights to my book, including conversion to screen play or any other adaptation.
--I can set the price of my ebook and host discounts and giveaways and any other promotional event.
--I get to meet wonderful book bloggers who support indie authors.

The hardest thing is having to learn the ropes of every aspect of the industry. I’m my own agent/publisher/publicist/salesman.It’s like staging a woman play—rather exhausting and lonesome.
 

But the “hardest” is getting easier every day. As more and more Indie authors succeed, this category of writers is gaining respect and recognition. The takeoff of social networking sites has also revolutionized the industry. Indie authors can reach out directly to readers and reviewers. It’s not so lonesome anymore.

4. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

 

Strike a balance between writing for yourself and writing for an audience. You want to be true to yourself, but you also want people to read your book. The best way is to get feedback on your manuscript by joining a class or a group where writers critique each other. (Nowadays you can do it online from the comfort of your home). There are also nationwide writers associations with local chapters. They’re usually a great resource for sharing ideas and information and making friends. Don’t try to go it alone.

5. What three books would you bring with you on a deserted island?

 

ON WALDEN POND by Thoreau—a deserted island is a great place to contemplate nature and the universe and practice self-reliance.
WAR AND PEACE by Tolstoy—I’ll have all the time in the world to plow through the thousand plus page volume and learn the multiple versions of Russian names.
ROBINSON CRUSOE by Defoe—he may teach me a few survival skills.



Giveaway!:


Now like I said at the beginning, you all know you want to read these books! I have three ebook versions to give away of each book. That means you have 6 chances to win one of these awesome books!


This giveaway is a little different in that you have to be willing to post a blurb about the book once you read it by December 31, 2011.  Coming up with something to say about the book should be easy; If and when you review the book, I will make mention of it on my blog. Not to worry if you're not a book blogger. Posting your blurb on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, etc counts!!!




Rules:
- You must be 13 and over
-  Open internationally!
- You must be a follower of A Bookish Affair
- Giveaway ends November 4!

Just fill out the form below!



Author Guest Post: Lilian Duval's 5 Things I Learned About Being an Author

Today I'd like to welcome Lilian Duval to A Bookish Affair!



5 Things I Learned About Being an Author that I’d Like to Share with You

By Lilian Duval, author of YOU NEVER KNOW: TALES OF TOBIAS, AN ACCIDENTAL
LOTTERY WINNER

1. You have to keep writing every day, even if it’s just a little bit, such
as a paragraph in a notebook. If you don’t, you’ll get out of shape, just
as a musician or an athlete would if they didn’t practice. Writing is an
activity that exercises your mind and your creativity.
2. People often ask, “Is it autobiographical?” And you should always
have an interesting answer ready. Honestly, all writing has to be
autobiographical to some extent, because the author puts herself into
the minds of all the characters.
3. Never lose a tidbit! What’s a tidbit? Well, it’s a gold nugget that can be
as short as one sentence; it’s a set of words that sound good together
and that you can use later on in a story, a novel, or an essay. Write it
down fast, before it evaporates, and save it in an idea box or folder.
You’ll be glad you did when you come across it later on and find its
perfect home in a future writing project.
4. Treat your commitment to writing the way you would a regular job,
because it is. If you’re working on a piece of writing, don’t answer the
phone, read the newspaper, or surf the web. You’re supposed to be
writing!
5. Read what you’ve written out loud now and then to see if it sounds real
and has a lively ring to it. If not, talk it out and go back to the drawing
board. This helps you make your writing compelling and authentic.

About the Author:

Lilian Duval lives with her husband George, a native of Singapore, in a small house
in New Jersey overlooking a large county park. They have two sons and a daughter, all
independent and ambitious, and several cats. She’s an amateur classical guitarist and
enjoys attending concerts and plays in New York City.

But writing has always been her calling. In her own words, “The most enjoyable activity
I can imagine is to invent some characters, make them a little larger than life, set them
bickering and thrashing against each other and their fates, and enact a fictional resolution
that makes more sense than the chaos and unpredictability of our complicated lives.”

Lilian’s latest book is You Never Know: Tales of Tobias, an Accidental Lottery Winner.

You can visit Lilian’s website at www.lilianduval.com. Connect with her on Twitter at
@lilianduval and Facebook at Lilian Duval.

About You Never Know: Tales of Tobias, an Accidental Lottery Winner

What happens when an ordinary person becomes extraordinary?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: Hard


Booking Through Thursday asks:  What’s the hardest/most challenging book you’ve ever read? Was it worth the effort? Did you read it by choice or was it an assignment/obligation?

Oof, this question was really hard for me. I don't usually find any book too hard. It's more about how much effort I have to put in to getting into the book. I usually try to make a good effort to read big chunks at a time because I think it helps me get pulled into the story a little more. That's hard to do when you only read a book in fits and starts.

What say you?

***Don't forget to enter the giveaway for 3 ebooks from author, Alexandra Ares!!!! Giveaway ends 10/28***

Winners of Wings and In Other Worlds!


The winner of In Other Worlds by Margaret Atwood is:

The winner of Wings by Karl Friedrich is:

Both winners have been contacted. If I do not hear from them in 48 hours, I will have to choose new winners.

Congratulations!

Indie October Review: Nightfall in Mogadishu by Veronica Li


Title: Nightfall in Mogadishu
Author: Veronica Li
Publisher: Authorhouse
Publish Date: 2000
Source: I received a copy from the author. This did not affect my review.


Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You want a thriller.
  • You want a book to get sucked into.
What's the Story?:

From Amazon.com: "Nightfall in Mogadishu is a spy thriller and historical novel set in Somalia. It weaves the country’s history, politics and culture into a tale of international intrigue. Susan Chen, a CIA agent is sent to Mogadishu to thwart a plot to overthrow the government. She finds a nation that has lost its soul and is whirling into a vortex of violence and terror."

My Two Cents:

This book is vastly different than Journey Across Four Seas but still sucks you right in. I was born in the mid-eighties so I really don't know much about the issues in Somalia during the early 1990s (except for Black Hawk Down; I know about that) so it was really interesting to get a little perspective on how truly crazy things were in that country at that point in time. I love books that truly give you a sense of place of where the characters are and what they are seeing and what they are doing. I think that creating a true sense of place can be really difficult a lot of times (it can be hard to make a place truly engage a reader if they don't really understand the context of the place)but Li does a really wonderful job.

I also really liked the character of Susan. She's smart. She's strong. And she knows how to kick some you-know-what. It's everything that I like in a hero. Thrillers are not my usual book fare but between the interesting location, the strong characters, and the great story, I found myself flying through the book in no time. I find a lot of times that thrillers are heavy on action but not heavy enough for me in substance. I most definitely did not find that in this book. It was fast-paced but still had a really good foundation.

Bottom line: Thrill seekers and non-thriller lovers alike will both like this fast paced story.



Pump Up Your Book Blog Tour: You Never Know by Lilian Duval

Title: You Never Know
Author: Lilian Duval
Publisher: Wheatmark
Publish Date: January 1, 2011
Source: Pump Up Your Books






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Tobias Hillyer had a promising future until a car accident claimed the lives of his parents. Abandoning his dreams, he dropped out of college to take care of his orphaned, brain-damaged younger brother. Now in his late thirties, Tobias must struggle to provide for his family, working dead-end jobs that fall far short of the academic career he had imagined.
Then he wins the lottery.

His financial worries eliminated, Tobias anticipates nothing but smooth sailing ahead for himself and the people he loves. But he soon finds that his amazing stroke of luck may threaten everything he holds dear.

Over peaks and valleys, this uplifting journey will challenge everything we think we know about luck, life, and what we value most."

My Two Cents: 

I'm sort of mixed on this book. The first part of the story really drew me in. We meet Tobias, a young man, racked with guilt after his parents were killed and his brother was brain damaged in a car crash where although Tobias was driving the car, he did not cause the crash. He is left to take care of his brother, Simmy. Through Simmy's time in the hospital, he meets Carmela, a nurse, and falls in love. About the first two-thirds of the book talk about the building of Tobias' and Carmela's family. This part of the book covers almost 15 years.

They struggle financially but they get by. Then Tobias wins the lottery and everything changes... pretty much for the worse. Everyone wants to borrow money some for good purposes, some for not good purposes. Tobias and Carmela make some not good investments with their money. They're unhappy with each other and their family situation. Their daughter is kidnapped. Just one thing after another. I kept reading because at that point, I really liked Tobias' and his family and was fully invested in the characters but it was disheartening to read about all of their bad luck! The characters are really fantastic and really realistic and they are what drive the story along.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: The Winter Palace

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we are eagerly anticipating! Want to participate? Post your own WOW entry on your blog, and leave your link at Breaking the Spine.

Today I'm waiting on The Winter Palace (out January 2012)! If you remember, I went to Ukraine back in August. One of the places that I visited was Odessa. Odessa is a city on the Black Sea that was built during Catherine the Great's reign and she had a hand in the design. Odessa is a very European city compared to other cities in Ukraine. There are a couple statues of Catherine the Great throughout the city. She seems pretty fascinating! I'm so excited for this book!

What book are you waiting for?

***Note: Don't forget to enter the two current giveaways I have going on!***

Indie October Review: Journey Across Four Seas by Veronica Li


Title: Journey Across Four Seas
Author: Veronica Li
Publisher: Homa & Sekey Books
Publish Date: 2006
Source: Received a copy from the author. This did not affect my review.






Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You want a book to get sucked into.
  • You love stories with vivid characters.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "This is a true and touching story of one Chinese woman¡¦s search for home. It is also an inspiring book about human yearning for a better life. To escape poverty, Flora Li fought her way through the education system and became one of the few women to get into the prestigious Hong Kong University. When the Japanese invaded, she fled to unoccupied China, where she met her future husband, the son of China's finance minister (later deputy prime minister). 

She thought she had found the ideal husband, but soon discovered that he suffered from emotional disorders caused by family conflicts and the wars he had grown up in. Whenever he had a breakdown, Flora would move the family to another city, from Shanghai to Nanking to Hong Kong to Bangkok to Taipei and finally across the four seas to the U.S. Throughout her migrations, Flora kept her sight on one goal: providing her children with the best possible education."

My Two Cents:

I. Loved. This. Book. This is the true story of Flora Li, the author's daughter. Flora is a really amazing person. She moved all over Asia before coming to the United States. All the while, she takes care of her family and makes sure that all of her children are able to meet their full potential. I definitely found myself rooting for Flora as she faces some of the hardships in her life. Veronica Li, Flora's daughter and the author of the book, had the amazing foresight to have her mother, a fabulous storyteller in her own right, make tapes to talk about her life. I know that after my grandma passed away, I really, really found myself wishing that I would have done something like taping my grandma's story. I still remember them, of course, but they'd be so much better if I could still hear my grandma tell them somehow.

Through Flora's narration, we get a great taste of what life was like in Asia during some of our world's greatest turning points. In a way, Flora seemed to come almost before her time. She's strong and realizes how important education is for herself and for her children. The book is incredibly engaging and I was definitely sad when it ended.

Bottom line: AHHH! You all just need to read this book!




Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Interview With Rebecca Coleman, Author of The Kingdom of Childhood

Today I'm pleased to have share an interview with Rebecca Coleman, author of The Kingdom of Childhood, a book that I know is going to have me talking for a long time.

Author Rebecca Coleman

1. When did you first get the idea for THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD (TKOC)?

I was folding laundry in front of the TV, watching the news, and they began broadcasting a report about some new teacher-student sex scandal. I can't remember who the players were, but it was another of these cases where the teacher was attractive and well-respected and had a family, and she had risked all of that-- and lost-- so she could have sex with some young teenage boy. And I thought, why on earth would she do that? What could a kid that age possibly have going for him that would be worth using your entire life as collateral? I thought about the fact that people usually do things for reasons that make sense to them, even if they don't make sense to you. And then it struck me that if I could answer that question-- why a woman like that would consider this a worthwhile risk, a reasonable thing to do-- it would make a great story. Because obviously her thinking departs drastically from the norm, and that can make for a very interesting character.

2. Your manuscript for the TKOC was a semifinalist in the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough
Novel Competition! Tell us a little more about this.


That was a lot of fun. My friend Erika suggested I enter my manuscript-- the contest hadn't been on my radar at all-- so I did, because it's free and I had nothing to lose. And then the book ended up making it through one round after another until it was a semifinalist. I'd gotten a Publisher's Weekly review as part of that process, and it was a very strong one-- they called the book "a scalding, engaging portrait" of two people "caught in a trap of their own making." Having that review in hand was extremely helpful in getting an agent. But the process was also just very fun and exciting-- it was like a horse race, betting on which entries would make the next cut, because Amazon posted excerpts at one stage. One of the finalists that year was Johnny Shaw, who I ran into at BookExpo as he was promoting "Dove Season." He's a great guy, very funny. Entering ABNA is like being on "Survivor"-- you make friends and alliances, and other people you want to vote off the island on the first day.

3. How long did it take you to write the book?

From concept to completion, about two and a half years. That's not a very long time, on the scale of novel-writing, but it feels like a long time when you have no idea whether this is a work
project or just an obsessive hobby.

4. How long have you been interested in the Waldorf School movement?


When I was 14, one of my mother's co-workers took me to a candlelight Christmas event at her young son's Waldorf school, and I found the environment absolutely fascinating. I had never seen such a beautiful school. It reminded me of the schools I attended as a kid in Germany, but with some elements taken to an extreme degree. So as I grew older, I read everything I could find about the movement, and decided that when I had kids I wanted them to go to Waldorf school. Then my oldest son started at a Waldorf preschool, and that didn't work out very well. His teacher actively disliked him, and there's a twisted sort of materialism that I kept bumping into at every turn. In short, I saw a side to it that wasn't as beautiful.

5. Did you do any special research on Waldorf for the book?

I read Torin Finser's "School as a Journey," which is a very detailed look into a Waldorf teacher's mind and classroom, and I read a great deal by Rudolf Steiner, who is the originator of the philosophy. But I also spent a lot of time reading forums and websites by people who felt disenfranchised by Waldorf and critical of it. Because I idealized it for so long, it's oddly painful to be critical. I felt I did my due diligence with research, but mainly I relied upon my real-life experience with it-- attending school events and festivals, observing my son's classroom, and working with the materials-- the toys and art supplies, the storybooks. It's all been a part of my life for many years.

6. Which came first, the characters or the plot?

The plot came first, and the way it emerged, the plot was to answer the question, "Why would anyone do that?" So I began with this situation-- this very common news item, teacher-student affair-- and tried to figure out what kinds of people would do this, and why. From there, the characters emerged. But because of that, I suppose I've been a little naive in being caught off- guard by how many people find the concept of the book shocking. I thought I was taking a very well-established part of the news cycle and turning it into a work of fiction. What the characters are doing is scandalous, for sure, but it's hardly as if they're inventing a new crime.

7. How did “Judy McFarland” materialize?

You know, at first, I'd conceived her as this shy, somewhat chubby, middle-aged blond woman who is tempted by her son's friend but also fascinated by a case in the news of another teacher who has actually been convicted of that crime. I couldn't get the story to gel, and eventually I realized the story of the woman who is in jail is more interesting than the one I was trying to write. But I still couldn't get Judy's point of view right, and finally I decided to throw her out and invent a new Judy. That's when I started imagining this petite, dark-haired wood-sprite of a woman, one who had been rather scary as a child and still carried some of that scary-child demeanor with her. Once I had that version in my mind, the story started flowing much more easily.

8. As a child, you spent a year in Germany – how did your experience influence Judy’s
experience?


I was eight years old that year, which was in the mid-1980s. I had a very good memory, though, and a sense that this was an extraordinary time and I needed to remember it. When writing the book, I had this character who needed to have certain events unfold-- her exposure to the dynamic between her father and the housekeeper, her love for the neighbor boy-- which were not part of my own experience at all. But I gave her all of my sensory impressions of that region, so in a way she sees her fictional experience through the lens of my real one.

9. The story takes place around the same time as the Mary Kay Letourneau scandal – did this
real-life student-teacher relationship inspire any part of the story?


The Mary Kay Letourneau case is an unusual one because it's the rare situation where we actually have the boy's point of view. Vili Fulaau has been pretty outspoken in defending the relationship. I don't challenge him on that, but I think it's unfortunate that we haven't had any counterpoint to it-- any man coming forward and saying, "I had a relationship like that one, and it really screwed me up." Because in my research for the book, I did find anonymous men saying exactly that. Both stories-- the real LeTourneau case, and my novel-- take place in 1998, but I don't think there's much similarity otherwise. Mine is influenced by real cases, but quieter, more ordinary ones.

10. How does the controversial storyline fit into our own cultural narrative about sexuality?


I think as a culture we have a well-established belief now that older men pursuing teenage girls is very creepy. But the same doesn't apply to boys. Every time a new "Twilight Saga" movie comes out, forty-year-old women are making fools of themselves gushing about Taylor Lautner's abs-- and he was 16 or 17 when the first film was made. Just this past spring, the Houston Press published a list of the "10 Hottest Female Sex Offenders," most of whose victims were teenage boys. Popular culture seems to find this whole thing hilarious. I have three sons, so I don't think it's very funny at all. It's very objectionable, this idea that because teenage boys are hormonal, it's all right for grown women to take advantage of them and that they should be considered lucky for it.

So within the novel, what I was trying to show was a teenage boy who does approach the situation as if it's a fun little adventure, but then show everything else he ends up dealing with as well-- the weight of hiding a punishable crime, the guilt at being part of an adulterous relationship, the way it estranges him from a girl his own age who is interested in him. He doesn't have the experience or the sense of authority to extract himself from a relationship with someone much more mature than himself. I think that's realistic, and I think it's something we ought to consider as a society. Because the statistics show that the majority of people don't even believe such a relationship is a crime at all, and in most of these cases, women receive probation for the same offenses that men go to prison for.

11. Some authors are very habitual in the way that they write – do you have any idiosyncrasies you’d like to share?

I can tell you what they aren't-- I don't write at coffee shops, for one thing. Writers always talk about doing that, and I have no idea how they manage it. It's noisy, there are people around, you're on display. I write on my MacBook in my rocking chair, usually between 10 pm and 2 am. My son recently pointed out to me that the upholstery where I rest my elbows has worn completely through. That's the casualty of The Kingdom of Childhood.

12. What do you enjoy most about writing?

The most magical part of it, to me, is when you develop such a firm grasp on a character that the book begins to sort of write itself. You know exactly how they would react to a circumstance, what they would say, what they perceive and how they feel. Writing dialogue becomes effortless. I loved writing Zach in The Kingdom of Childhood because I had that sense of him. My favorite characters to write are ones that struggle between their higher and lower impulses-- who have a well-defined sense of right and wrong, but for some reason have run off the rails.

13. You’ve been in a teaching capacity on many occasions – how does teaching inform your writing?


Yes-- among other things, I did school service seminars as an Elementary Ed major in college, and I'm a Sunday school teacher now. In addition to that, I have four young kids. It makes me acutely aware of the amount of trust we give to teachers, and most teachers are well-deserving of that. That makes it all the more egregious when one violates that trust, because it's such a given and children are taught to anticipate and respect it. In The Kingdom of Childhood, Zach's mother is unquestioning of the amount of time he spends with Judy because she's a teacher, and a Waldorf School teacher, at that-- one whose principles are supposed to define her all the more. Because I've been in both roles-- a teacher of little kids and a Waldorf School parent-- Judy's violation of that trust is a suck-in-your-breath type of crime to me.

14. What else inspires you? Music, art, film, etc.

Much of my writing inspiration comes from photography-- not the super-artistic museum exhibitions, but images I see around. My next book, Merciless Savages, was inspired by a photo on a friend's blog. She's very beautiful, very intelligent and creative, and she posted a photo of herself lying on the ground aiming an automatic rifle. As soon as I saw it, I wanted to write a book about that-- not about her, but about that photo. It's like a writing prompt-- "Why is this beautiful woman lying in the grass shooting a rifle? Explain in 400 pages."

15. What do you like to do in your spare time?

Well, I have four kids, the oldest of whom is 13, and a day job, so "spare time" is sort of a theoretical concept. But I love to go on road trips-- to New York City, New Hampshire, Tennessee. I love the adventure and the discoveries, and the tradition of arguing with my husband over whether we'll stop at Cracker Barrel.

16. What was your favorite book as a child?

I was a child of the '80s, but we had a lot of old story and schoolbooks from the 1940s and '50s lying around, and since I read everything in sight I read those too. My parents had a huge library. When I was very young my mother used to read to me from this ancient-looking, blue-covered book called "The Arbuthnot Anthology." It had belonged to my grandmother and was full of poetry and creepy old fairy tales. At the beginning of "The Kingdom of Childhood," Judy quote a poem that comes from there. My favorite story from it was from "The Hundred Dresses," where the small-town classmates discover that the outcast girl they had bullied had this amazing inner life they had never imagined. That big book came to Germany with us, when we lived there. It was a treasure.

17. When did you know you wanted to become a writer?


Under my senior picture in my high school yearbook, for my career goal, it says "Writer." I think I had only a vague idea of what that meant. I had this idea that I'd have a ton of wild experiences and someday I'd write about them in some form. It wasn't until after my third child was born that I really got serious about it. It was like all of those experiences reached critical mass and now I had to write.

18. Do you do any creative writing exercises to work through writer’s block?

Usually I have two books going at once-- the "official project," which is the one my editor wants, and the "hobby project," which is sort of like my mistress that I spend time with on the side. So if I get stuck, I decide I'll spend a week with the mistress. I get a lot of good writing done, but inevitably within 48 hours I've had all kinds of epiphanies about the other book, now that the pressure is off to produce it. But in my experience, writer's block usually means the story is going in the wrong direction and that's why you can't see it anymore. So taking a few steps back can help you think about what would be more exciting. Discipline in writing is good, but forcing it isn't helpful.

19. Do you ever travel back to Germany?


The last time I was in Germany was as an exchange student when I was 16. That was quite the experience-- a whole group of us American high schoolers landing in a foreign country and discovering we're all legal drinking age. But beyond that, I was thrilled to be back, even for a short time. I have a deep fondness for that country.

20. How does living in the DC area affect your writing?

Well, I've lived here since I was four, and the DC area is a lot like me in that it hovers between a lot of different ways of living. It's not quite the North and not quite the South. I live in the suburbs, so it's neither urban nor rural, and national news and local news are the same thing here, since whatever's going on in Washington is local news. Because of that, when I travel, I find well-defined regional cultures just fascinating. That shows up in my writing very often, when I'm describing Germany or New Hampshire, for example. It's like anthropology. And I make decisions about what I want to write next based on where my mind wants to live for the next couple of years.

21. What are some of your favorite indie bookstores?


I love Greetings & Readings in Hunt Valley, which is near Baltimore-- they're very friendly and the store is so inviting. And outside my home state, I love The Strand bookstore in New York City. Just walking in is blissful. I always stop by when I'm in the neighborhood.

22. What was the publishing process like for you?

Before the contract with Mira, it was hellish; since then, it's been very exciting. I'd been writing for years, trying to get an agent for years without success. Then I wrote The Kingdom of Childhood, and 91 agents rejected it. I was determined, but I also got jaded like you wouldn't believe. I'd gotten so used to rejection that even after my soon-to-be-agent, Stephany, emailed to say she wanted to talk to me on the phone about my project, I set up a time for the call and then sent out ten more queries. I ended up being glad it took that long, because I love Stephany and she's the perfect agent. But even after she took me on, I had to put the book through three rounds of revision. Once Mira acquired it, though, it was very Cinderella-like-- a lot of traveling, a lot of excitement. It's the kind of thing a writer really hopes for, along the way.

23. What was the last book you read?

That's a funny question, because the last book I read was "Notes on a Scandal" by Zoe Heller - the one other novel about an affair between a teacher and an underage boy. When I started writing "The Kingdom of Childhood" everyone told me I should read it, but I didn't want to then because I was afraid it would influence my writing. A month out from my release date, I figured it was safe, so I finally read it. And I thought it was terrific. I could hardly put it down.

24. How do you find out about new books?

Mainly from friends' posts on Facebook. If someone posts a rapturous review of a book they've just read, I'll probably download it to my Kindle app within ten minutes. That's how I ended up reading "Room" by Emma Donohue and "Infidel" by Ayaan Hirsi Ali and "Downtown Owl" by Chuck Klosterman, all within the past year. And in turn, I've sold so many copies of "Room" and Suzanne Collins's "The Hunger Games" to my Facebook friends that I should get a commission. There's so much to be said for a review from a trusted friend.

25. What’s up next for you?

I just finished up my next book-- a story about a woman whose husband decides to seek revenge on the government for the suicide of his brother, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. It's called Merciless Savages and will be out next August.

Indie October Review: The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu


Title: The Hairdresser of Harare
Author: Tendai Huchu
Publisher: Weaver Press
Publish Date: 2010
Source: Received a copy from the author and The African Book Collective. This did not affect my review.


Why You're Reading This Book: 
  • You like vibrant characters.
  • You're interested in the politics of others countries.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "In a country where homosexuals are condemned by their president as being “lower than pigs and dogs”, where one could be prosecuted and imprisoned for committing “homosexual acts”, comes a story of a young man forced to lead a shadow of a life to avoid the harsh consequences of living openly.

Vimbai, the self proclaimed number one hairdresser in Harare is livid with jealousy when the good looking, smooth-talking Dumisani joins the esteemed Mrs Khumalo’s Hair Salon and snatches the number one spot. Against her better judgement Vimbai soon falls under his infectious charm not knowing that Dumisani holds a shocking secret, one that will turn her views of the world upside-down. The Hairdresser of Harare catapults us into the world of Zimbabwe’s elite society, where stereotypes and prejudices are as abundant as the lavishness. It tactfully tackles the issue of homosexuality that most African literature shies away from."


My Two Cents:

Vimbai, Harare's top hairdresser, is not happy when Dumi walks into Mrs. Khumalo's Hair Salon looking for a job. Dumi becomes a formidable opponent in the Hair Salon but also a good friend and a potential lover when he moves into the extra room in Vimbai's house. 


Zimbabwe is not a country that I know a lot about so I was very excited to read this book. This book can be classified as light fiction but it does cover a lot of heavy topics. It covers some of the politics of Zimbabwe and the environment that the people of the country are dealing with. The people of Zimbabwe have a lot to worry about. Their economy is out of control. Unemployment is wildly high. Vimbai must check her young daughter for signs of abuse because it's plausible that her daughter could be abused while Vimbai was away at work. 

One of the topics that the book tackles is the issue of homosexuality in Zimbabwe. On that topic, Zimbabwe is pretty conservative. Gay people are seen as not fit to be a part of society. They are seen as being dirty and gross. Being "out" in Zimbabwe almost doesn't seem like it's feasible. You can see why Dumi does what he does in the story. 


Bottom line: This is a great book that really brought to light some of the issues of this country in vivid color.





Monday, October 24, 2011

Winner of Deal With The Devil!


And the winner of the ebook copy is:
Lenna!

The winner has been contacted! Thanks for playing!

Review: The Kingdom of Childhood by Rebecca Coleman

Title: The Kingdom of Childhood
Author: Rebecca Coleman
Publisher: Mira
Publish Date: October 4, 2011
Source: Received a copy from the PR company, Media Muscle. This did not affect my review.


Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You want a gripping read.
  • You're a fan of novels by authors like Jodi Piccoult.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "The Kingdom of Childhood is the story of a boy and a woman; sixteen-year-old Zach Patterson, uprooted and struggling to reconcile his knowledge of his mother's extramarital affair, and Judy McFarland, a kindergarten teacher watching her family unravel before her eyes. Thrown together to organize a fundraiser for their failing private school and bonded by loneliness, they begin an affair that at first thrills, then corrupts each of them. Judy sees in Zach the elements of a young man she loved as a child, but what Zach does not realize is that their relationship is, for Judy, only the latest in a lifetime of disturbing secrets."

My Two Cents:

Judy McFarland is lost and watching her family fall apart. Her husband is fixated on getting his doctorate while thoroughly addicted to prescription drugs. Her daughter is at college and rebelling against her Waldorf school (sort of a liberal, whole family approach to education) upbringing. Her son is on his way to rebelling.  In the middle of the turmoil, Judy starts an affair with her son's 16 year old friend, Zach.

The Kingdom of Childhood explores this issue from different angles. Judy has had some traumatizing events in her life and admittedly those events do push Judy to take on an affair with Zach but the things that Judy is going through doesn't make it okay that she does what she does (and I think the author gets at that). An interesting aspect of this book is that it looks at the affect that the affair has on Zach, the student. It goes through all of the different phases of what he feels as the affair goes on. Out of the whole story, I think it's him that gets my sympathy. He goes through a lot and at 16, you just aren't really equipped to deal with what he's going through!

The way the book is written in itself is very interesting. The book goes back and forth between third person and first person (Judy's) point of view, which really added a sort of ominous feeling to the story. It really serves to pull the reader in!!! This is a book that will be on my mind for a long time!

Indie October Review: Coffee at Little Angels by Nadine Rose Larter


 Title: Coffee at Little Angels
Author: Nadine Rose Larter
Publisher: Katalina Playroom
Publish Date: May 26, 2011
Source: Received a copy from the author. This did not affect my review.






Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're looking for a story about friendship.

What's the Story?: 

From Goodreads.com: "Phillip, Sarah, Kaitlyn, Caleb, Maxine, Grant, Melanie and Josh grew up in a small town where they spent their high school years together as an inseparable clique. But high school has ended, and they are all living their own “grown up” lives, each under the impression that their group has basically come to an end. When Phillip dies in a hit and run accident, Kaitlyn summons the others to all come back home, forcing a reunion that no one is particularly interested in partaking in.

Coffee at Little Angels follows how each character deals with the death of a childhood friend while at the same time dealing with their own ignored demons after years of separation. Events unfold as the group tries to rekindle the friendship they once shared to honour the memory of a friend they will never see again."


My Two Cents:

This book is the story of a group of childhood friends who come back together when one of them (Phil) is hit by a car. None of them are particularly interested in coming back to their small town in South Africa but they come because of the memories that they had from growing up.

Each person deals with Phil's death in a different way. I found it sort of hard to keep track of all of the different characters. The "voices" in the book don't really seem to stand out from one another and the way that the review copy that I received of the ebook made it even more difficult to follow who was talking. Every couple pages there is a picture that says "Review Copy" and takes up about half the page on a regular sized Kindle. That being said, the regular ebook copy may make it easier to follow who was talking at what time. In general, it was hard to keep track of so many different main characters in the first place. One of the highlights of the book was seeing how differently each of the characters coped with such an event.

One thing that I noticed is that in the beginning when Phil is hit, it's a hit and run but everyone just sort of seems to accept that he was hit and the person didn't stop. It was interesting to me that no one wanted to figure out who killed their friend.

Bottom line: This book had a few high points but is more character driven than plot driven.



 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Indie October Author Interview and Giveaway: Alexandra Ares



Today I'm happy to introduce you to Alexandra Ares, author of Dream Junkies, My Life on Craigslist, and The Other Girl. Check the end of the post and you'll have a chance to win ebook versions of all three of the books!

1. All of your books are so different from each other. How did you come up with the ideas for the
books? Is it hard to switch up the way you write?

I love the process of exploring a new style and theme each time I take on a novel, and by the time I
finish it, I’m ready to move to something entirely new. I’m not a workshop writer, and this may explain
my shape shifter style. I’ve never been to a writing workshop, because in Europe, where I was born,
people don’t go to workshops for writing a novel. Most European writers are not workshop authors.
Not that I have anything against writing workshops, I think they’re great, but many people end up
writing in a very similar style, following the same rules. It often turns out like competent ‘factory’
writing, and I recognize it from the first page.

Before I write anything new, I am deliberating in my mind for a few months not only over the story, but also the style, mood, and what am I trying to say about human experience that could be relevant today. In Dream Junkies it was the demise of the American dream and how hard it’s been for New Yorkers after 9/11; we’ve all lived the perpetual recession. In My Life on Craigslist, it was about moving the social experience from real life to the Internet, about all the people hit by the recent financial meltdown who had to make do with nothing, and about the rampant promiscuity facilitated by the Internet. In The Other Girl is about the tension between generations and the double standard women still experience, years after the feminist revolution, when older men are still socially accepted to date and marry much younger women, unlike older women who still have a total different bill of “rights.” Once I decide on the theme and the story, I try to make each novel as entertaining, readable, simple, and thought provoking as possible. And I try to reach a fine balance between what people expect (for the respective genre) and what people don’t expect.

To answer your question more directly, in my stories there is a blend of invention and things that
happened to me or people I know. My first novel, Dream Junkies, like most first novels, was quite
autobiographic. Style wise, I remember that at the time I was a big fan of the Sex and The City series,
and I was wondering how come the characters in that series were so lovable but unidimensional -- they
had fun, talked about guys and dating and shoes, but they didn’t have that extra feeling and thought
and opinion and struggle that real people experience. So I’ve tried to write a novel that blended the
Sex and the City cool and light feel with something more authentic. With my second novel, My life on
Craigslist I wanted to write something that everyone could relate to, and describe how social interaction has largely moved from real life to the Internet; how lonely most single girls in New York are if they scratch the Internet as their main window to the world. Most singles that I know in Manhattan go on several dates a week, people picked up from various dating sites, which gives them the illusion of having a social life, but most are uprooted, isolated, and don’t belong to a real community. Besides, Craigslist is a fascinating jungle of people tags - to quote a user - such as “narcissistic personality disorder, egomaniacs, adulterers, cheaters, liars, users, selfish, delusional, midlife crisis, bald, potbelly, bad teeth, unibrow, runt, stalkers, dominant, arrogant, child of divorce, bullying, abuse, nymphomaniacs, ghetto trash, white trash, eurotrash.” So for a writer, this landscape is utterly fascinating! In The Other Girl, I felt guilty for writing a novel as commercial and with such a wide popular appeal as My Life on Craigslist and I wanted to write something literary pure, disregarding all commercial conventions, yet simple and honest.

2. What's the best thing about being an Indie writer?

Freedom. You are not pigeonholed to write in any way decided by an agent or editor, so you can grow
freely. Most agents and editors want to fit you into a selling standard and turn you into a cash machine.
A famous New York agent once told me that the only way I can make it as a writer is if I’ll write a
vampire book. And I thought, gee, who needs another vampire book? You see, if I was born in Romania I am supposed to be an expert at vampires! I think it’s unfair that Indie writers still don’t enjoy the same prestige and trust that indie filmmakers enjoy for example; major newspapers and magazines don’t review indie books, most prestigious books awards, unlike the Cannes film festival, don’t accept indie books, and it doesn’t make any sense. A good book should be a good book regardless of its label.

3. What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Try to read as much as possible, go to the core of ‘you’ when you write, believe in yourself when others don’t, and remember that each writer has her or his own luck. Dan Brown wrote 4 books before he landed a publishing deal with a mainstream house, while other authors go to a workshop, like young
Anne North, and find an agent just by showing the first pages of un unfinished novel. Writing a book is
the easy part, the rest is like speed dating on arid Mars, the query letters to agents, pitching the editors,
and all the marketing without a budget. You need to be lucky. In this tough business, try to remember
that Yates sold only 200 self-published books before he died and only got bad reviews. So my last advice is to write and publish (or self-publish) the best book you can, and don’t wait for anyone to anoint you. If it happens, great, but stay detached.

4. Do you have a favorite out of your books? Why?

Dream Junkies is my favorite book because it was the first one I wrote, so it’s pretty much the first love
for me. But my novels are like my children, so I love them all.

5. What three books would you bring with you to a deserted island?

Something new (that I haven’t read), something old, and something spiritual. The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, a Chinese classic historical novel of 1700 pages that I really look forward to reading after watching the fascinating TV series in Europe; Rumi, the poetry collection translated by Coleman Barks, and the I Ching oracle, most likely the classic Wilhelm translation, which I consult every day.

Giveaway!:

One lucky A Bookish Affair follower will have a chance to win ebook copies of all three of Alexandra Ares' books!


Rules:
- You must be 13 and over
-  Open internationally!
- You must be a follower of A Bookish Affair
- Giveaway ends October 28

Just fill out the form below:


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: Reading on Vacation


It's been a bit since I've participated in Booking Through Thursday but today's question is: Do your reading habits change when you’re on vacation? Do you read more? Do you indulge in lighter, fluffier books than you usually read? Do you save up special books so you’ll be able to spend real vacation time with them? Or do you just read the same old stuff, vacation or not?

My reading habits don't change all that much when I'm on vacation. I want to bring books with me that will really suck me in (but then again, that's all I ever really like to read ;P ). I do have a tendency to save up special books to bring with me. I also love reading books about the place I'm going on vacation to before and during my vacation. When I went to Ukraine back in August, I looked for fiction and non-fiction books about Ukraine right before I went (a side note: there is not much written about Ukraine apparently).

What say you?

***I have several giveaways going on right now. Take a look at the top of the page and make sure you enter!!!***

Indie October Review: Dream Junkies by Alexandra Ares

Title: Dream Junkies
Author: Alexandra Ares
Publisher: Smart Media New York
Publish Date: June 8, 2011
Source: Received a copy from the author. This did not affect my review.







Why You're Reading This Book?:

  • You want to see how good dialogue is written.
  • You like memorable characters.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "A novel about love, uprootedness, friendship, hope and deception, Dream Junkies presents an America where the chimerical chase painfully contrasts with the difficult realities of life. Kitty Roman and Desert Rose, the two main characters of the novel, take us on a fascinating journey through the heart of the American Dream, from New York, filled with intellectual and artistic elites, to glamorous Los Angeles with its movie moguls and jetsetters. Although they have different backgrounds, hopes and ambitions, at the end of the road they find the same thing: true love. A page turner in which self irony and lucidity blend wonderfully with lyrical interludes, Dreams Junkies, offers the reader a "deconstructed" view of the American dream."

My Two Cents:

Kitty, an immigrant from Romania who has been in the States for quite awhile, is in search of the much storied American Dream. A chance meeting with an Iranian artist who calls herself Desert Rose confirms for Kitty that obtaining the American Dream may not be that out of reach. Desert Rose isn't so sure of that herself. They'll travel from NYC to LA in search of their different ideals of what the American Dream is supposed to be.

I really enjoyed this book. I think everyone who lives in this country, immigrant and native born, can appreciate the struggle of wanting to find your niche here in this country. We're told that if we go after what we want, we can have it. This is supposed to be the land of opportunity where if you have a desire, you have the freedom to go after it. It sounds simple enough,no? Unfortunately as Kitty and Desert Rose find out, it's not that easy to get, let alone figure out what exactly the American Dream is to each of us. It's more trial and error than we think it is. You really feel for their situation and they are definitely two characters that I found myself rooting for throughout the book. This book is part friendship story and part self soul searching story.

This book has a little of everything. It has funny parts. It has sad parts. It has parts that will make you think. It's hard to quantify the overall feeling of the book. As you may have counted, this will be the third book that I've reviewed by Alexandra Ares and one thing that is consistent among all three of the books is that they have great dialogue. It's really realistic and well written. The writing itself is good but it's the dialogue that really keeps the books going along. That is true for all of the books, especially for Dream Junkies.

Bottom line: This is a fun ride that looks at some big questions. 


 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

TLC Book Tour Stop and Giveaway: Wings by Karl Friedrich

Title: Wings
Author: Karl Friedrich
Publisher: McBooks
Publish Date: April 1, 2011
Source: TLC Tours


Why You're Reading This Book?:
  • You're a historical fiction lover
  • You love great characters
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Based on the true World War II stories of America’s first female military pilots, this historic novel follows the story of a young woman from a dirt-poor farm family. Sally Ketchum has little chance of bettering her life until a mysterious barnstormer named Tex teaches her to fly and to dare to love. But when Tex dies in a freak accident, Sally must make her own way in the world. She enrolls in the U.S. military’s Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program at a special school known as Avenger, where she learns to fly the biggest, fastest, meanest planes. She also reluctantly becomes involved with Beau Bayard, a flight instructor and aspiring writer who seems to offer her everything she could want. Despite her obvious mastery of flying, many members of the military are unable to accept that a “skirt” has any place in a cockpit. Soon Sally finds herself struggling against a high-powered Washington lawyer that wants to close down Avenger once and for all."

My Two Cents  

World War II opened up a lot of opportunities for American woman. For the first time, many of them were welcomed into the workforce and welcomed into positions that men generally held. It totally changed the course of history in our country. Some women were even able to fly for the military. They weren't able to fly in combat but they were allowed to help transport goods throughout the country to help the military under the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program. Technically a civilian organization, women were trained to fly military planes to support the war effort.

Sally Ketchum is a barnstormer, a pilot who does tricks and flies around the country, with her boyfriend, Tex. When Tex is killed in a plane accident, Sally decides that she still wants to fly so she goes to Texas to join the WASP. When Sally joins, the WASP program is under attack. Congress doesn't want to pay for it anymore because they don't see the value of training women flyers. Mr. Waterman, a Congressional liaison is sent to "observe" the WASP program but he seems to go above and beyond his call of duty and maybe even causes a little trouble himself. Because Sally is an incredibly talented pilot, Waterman seems to go out of his way to make her life a living nightmare. There's a huge twist towards the end of the book involving Waterman that I totally didn't see coming.

The characters in the book are fabulous. I loved Sally and how strong she was. I loved her friend, Dixie, and how she doesn't take anything from anyone. I liked Beau even though he royally screws Sally over in the beginning book. He definitely redeems himself in the end, I thought. You really feel for the characters and they are what really make this story.

I really, really liked this book. You all know that I love any kind of fiction about World War II but this covered a topic that I know very little about. I knew what a game change for women WWII was but I didn't know a lot about some of the different jobs that women took on. This book definitely filled a void for me.

Bottom line: This is a great historical fiction story that covers a little known part of history.




Giveaway!:


Thanks to the TLC tours, the author and the publisher, I have a copy of Wings to give away!


Rules:
- You must be 13 and over
-  Open to US/CA residents only
- You must be a follower of A Bookish Affair
- Giveaway ends October 26

Just fill out the form below:







Follow The Rest of the Tour:

Monday, October 3rd:  A Bookish Libraria
Tuesday, October 4th:  Life in Review
Wednesday, October 5th:  Acting Balanced
Monday, October 10th:  The Life (and lies) of an inanimate flying object  (guest post/giveaway)
Tuesday, October 11th:  Diary of an Eccentric
Wednesday, October 12th:  “That’s Swell!”
Thursday, October 13th:  Man of La Book
Monday, October 17th:  A Cozy Reader’s Corner
Tuesday, October 18th:  Reviews from the Heart
Wednesday, October 19th:  A Bookish Affair
Thursday, October 20th:  Bags, Books & Bon Jovi
Friday, October 21st:  Flight to Success
Monday, October 24th:  Melody & Words
Tuesday, October 25th:  Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, October 26th:  Staircase Wit
Thursday, October 27th:  2 Kids and Tired
Tuesday, November 1st:  Joyfully Retired
Wednesday, November 2nd:  The House of the Seven Tails
Thursday, November 3rd: Life on the Road as a Pilot
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