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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Review: That Book about Harvard by Eric Kester

Title: That Book about Harvard
Author: Eric Kester
Format: ARC
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publish Date: July 1, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the PR; however, this did not affect my review.



Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You like memoirs.
  • You love to laugh out loud.
What's the Story?:

From Amazon.com: " One of the most thrilling and terrifying days of your life is the first day of college, when you step onto campus filled with the excitement of all the possibilities ahead—and panic about if you'll make it and how you'll fit in.

Now imagine that same feeling, but you're in the middle of the lawn at the world's most prestigious university.

In your underwear.

Thus begins one of the craziest years ever at Harvard, in which Eric Kester finds himself in a cheating scheme, trying to join a prestigious Finals Club, and falling for a stunning type-A brunette...who happened to be standing there in shock that first day when he made his red-faced stroll across the Harvard Yard.

That Book about Harvard is the hilarious and heartwarming story of trying to find your place in a new world, the unending quest to fit in, and how the moments that change your life often happen in the most unexpected ways."

My Two Cents:

I love just about any book that can make you laugh out loud and this book did that to me a lot. Luckily I was in the safety of my own home with no one to hear me laughing really, really loudly except for my husband and my cats, who are quite used to it, unlike the grumpy people on the Metro.

When Mr. Kester goes to Harvard for football, he knows that he's in for an uphill climb. Harvard has a reputation of being one of the most difficult schools to get into in the country and is known for rigorous classes. Eric knows that he has a lot on his plate. He manages to embarrass himself in the first hours that he's on campus. He gets himself into some hilarious and absolutely ridiculous situations while he's just trying to fit in and look good in front of his fellow Harvard students. All I can say is that at least this guy seems to have a really good sense of humor!!! I would be forever embarrassed but he seems to simply roll with the punches. If you're looking for a book to give you a good laugh, this is the perfect choice!

One of my favorite stories from the book was the one about the NCAA testing and the calculus test with Dr. Phlegm. It's one of those situations that is absolutely hilarious if it happens to another person but red face inducing if it happened to you.

This is a very funny memoir. I loved Kester's writing style. He writes like he's talking to a friend. There are no bars held. This would be a great book for anyone who likes funny memoirs. It could also be a really funny book for anyone in college or who will be going to college. If the new college students have any fears, Kester will alleviate them by making the college students glad that what happened to Kester did not happen to them.

What I really want to know is whether or not Eric ends up with Hannah??? He does say that he wrote this book for a girl, so...

Bottom line: Laugh out loud funny!


 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Review: The Book Lover by Maryann McFadden

Title: The Book Lover
Author: Maryann McFadden
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Three Women Press
Publish Date: May 1, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the PR; however, this did not affect my review.






Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a fiction fan.
  • You're a book lover.
  • You don't like surprises.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Ruth Hardaway has had one passion all her life: books. For thirty years she's devoted her life to her book store, trying to bury her painful past. But now the store is in jeopardy, and the past is catching up with her. Lucinda Barrett lost everything in a life-shattering betrayal. Desperate, she goes after one last dream—to be an author. Alone and broke, she embarks on a journey, eventually landing on Ruth's doorstep. Ruth takes Lucy under her wing, championing her book and even offering her refuge at a nearby lake cabin. In return, she wants Lucy to keep an eye on her son, Colin, who's recovering from a war injury. As the two women grow closer and begin to face the past, neither has any idea that their toughest decisions lie ahead—or that their friendship is about to fall apart because of a little white lie."

My Two Cents: 

"The Book Lover" is a book for lovers of books. Seriously! There are really two main characters in the book. Lucy is a self-published writer who is struggling to make the next big leap in the world of publishing. Ruth is the owner of an independent book store who is wondering if she's been at the business for too long. With two bookish characters making up the main story line, I already knew that I was in for a treat!

This book does delve in to the in's and out's of the publishing world, something that I feel like I've learned quite a lot about since beginning to book blog. You really get to see Lucy's struggle with whether or not self-publishing makes her a legitimate writer or if she took the easy way out (in my own humble opinion: self-publishing can make you a writer). The book reminded me a lot of the sort of politics that come up in the book blogging world: traditional publishing versus self-publishing. The author of the book has now gone the route of traditional publishing but she started out as a self-published author so it made the perspective that shines through the book very interesting to me.

On the downside, I felt that the blurb on the back of the book gave too much of the story away. The twists and turns are pretty much spelled out for you (hence why I'm not putting the blurb here in my review post). I like being surprised and I just wasn't.

I also had a hard time understanding some of the motivations behind the characters because there wasn't enough explanation. For instance, I did not get why Lucy even considered for a second to go back to her husband after he did what he did (I don't want to give anything away). I just didn't get it as they didn't seem to get on that well in the first place.

Bottom line: a book for book lovers indeed!


  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Freedom to Read G!ve@way: Aftertaste by Meredith Mileti



Welcome to A Bookish Affair! I'm happy to be participating in the Freedom to Read Giveaway Hop, hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer.

Giveaway:

One lucky winner will win an ebook copy of Aftertaste by Meredith Mileti, a thoroughly American tale of food and love (open to US only, book will come from Amazon.com).






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Interview and G!ve@way: Grace Elliot

Today, I'm very excited to have Grace Elliot, author of Eulogy's Secret here on A Bookish Affair. Welcome, Grace!!!



1. How did you get the inspiration for the characters of Eulogy and Huntley?

My fiction is character based and I need the characters firmly established before I start thinking about the plot. The inspiration for Eulogy Foster came from seeing a poster on the London underground with the word 'Eulogy' written on it, (the poster was for a memorial concert at the Royal Albert Hall.) I'm always on the look out for unusual names and this one struck me square between the eyes! What a fantastically enigmatic name 'Eulogy' would make. So sad, and yet tinged with love. What kind of tragedy would make a parent call their child such a name? Of course the obvious answer would be the
babe's mother dying in child birth, but I wanted my Eulogy to have an altogether darker and more disturbing secret in her past ….and so Eulogy's secret was born. As to Huntley - he arose as a foil to Eulogy. I saw a painting of a young Emma Hart (Lord Nelson's mistress) which embodied Eulogy's daring boldness, and making her an artist's model, seemed ideal occupation for her. So enter Jack Huntley, art dealer and socialite, who has issues about trust…and falls in love with a woman hiding a secret.


Note from Meg: I have to show you the cover for Eulogy's Secret again. It's gorgeous!

2. What can we expect in the next two books of the Huntley Trilogy?


The common thread running through the Huntley Trilogy is the three Huntley brothers and the women they fall for. We meet the youngest, Jack, in 'Eulogy's Secret', and in book two, 'Hope's Betrayal' the middle brother, Captain George Huntley sweeps onto the scene. The final book, 'Verity's Lie', is centred on eldest brother and heir, Lord Charles Huntley.

Hope's Betrayal has just been released and here is the blurb:

One wild, winter's night two worlds collide.

Known for his ruthless efficiency, Captain George Huntley is sent to stamp out smuggling on the south coast of England. On a night raid, the Captain captures a smuggler, but finds his troubles are just beginning when the lad turns out to be a lass, Hope Tyler.
 

With Hope as bait, the Captain sets a trap to catch the rest of the gang. But in a battle of wills, with his reputation at stake, George Huntley starts to respect feisty, independent Hope. Challenged by her sea-green eyes and stubborn loyalty Huntley now faces a new threat - his growing attraction to a sworn enemy. But a love where either Hope betrays her own kind, or Captain Huntley is court-marshaled, is not an easy destiny to follow.

Verity's Lie is my current work-in-progress, but as a teaser here is the working- blurb:

Lord Charles Huntley, notorious rogue…and government agent. His latest secret assignment is to protect a politician's daughter, Verity Verrinder, whilst her father negotiates a foreign alliance against Napoleon. Huntley embarks on a campaign of seduction to keep Verity under his watchful eye, but didn’t anticipate falling in love with his charge.
 

When Lord Huntley turns his bone-melting charms on her, Verity suspects she's exchanging an overbearing parent, for a domineering rogue. Denying her attraction to the handsome Huntley, Verity goes in search of freedom, only to run into the clutches of French kidnappers. This leaves Lord Huntley with a stark choice between saving Britain's peace negotiations or the life of the only woman he has ever loved.



Note from Meg: I have to show you this cover too because it is also gorgeous. I think I may like this one better than the first :)

3. Why do you think that so many readers today still love reading about Regency England?

That is such a good question! I started writing regency romances because it's my favourite genre as a reader, which means I have to ask myself why I love it so.

For me it's about a time of innocence and yet adventure, when men rode horses and dressed in skin tight breeches and the women wore flimsy muslin gowns. It was an altogether more stylish time but with a lot of political upheaval so people were forced outside their comfort zones. The social restrictions of the day also lend themselves to delicious dilemmas, plus English culture was flourishing with wonderful painters and stunning architecture - what better canvas for an escapist romance read that helps you forget today's worries?

4. What advice do you have for other aspiring writers?

My advice would be don’t think of writing as a career, but as a vocation. Only write if it hurts you not to and you aren’t a whole person if you don’t. That said, don’t be discouraged, trust your instincts and stick with it! As someone far wiser than me once wrote:

'It's not that I don’t believe in good luck, it's just the harder I try, the luckier I become.'

5. Which three fictional characters would you bring with you to a deserted island and
why?


I immediately think of real people who also happen to be survival experts (Ray Mears, Bear Grylls) because when the pressure is on I'm practical and want to survive.

Most fictional characters aren’t the sort of people I'd want to be stuck with and I'm happy they are locked within the pages of a book. I suppose the closest I can get would be Robinson Crusoe (because he has a track record surviving on desert islands), any one of the Cynster brothers (Stephanie Laurens creations, because they are dashing, dark and dependable) and perhaps Doctor Zhivago (because he'd be useful if I was ill.) Not a very romantic answer I'm afraid, but my answer just the same…OK, come to think of it perhaps I could make room for Tarzan….

Giveaway:

Ms. Elliot so graciously offered to giveaway an ebook to one lucky reader of ABA. The winner will have a choice from Eulogy's Secret, Hope's Betrayal, or Dead Man's Debt.


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Review: Ninepins by Rosy Thornton

Title: Ninepins
Author: Rosy Thornton
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Sandstone Press
Publish Date: April 19, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.


Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You're a fiction fan.
  • You like good characters.
  • You like great, understated writing.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Deep in the Cambridgeshire fens, Laura is living alone with her 12-year old daughter Beth, in the old tollhouse known as Ninepins. She's in the habit of renting out the pumphouse, once a fen drainage station, to students, but this year she's been persuaded to take in 17-year-old Willow, a care-leaver with a dubious past, on the recommendation of her social worker, Vince. Is Willow dangerous or just vulnerable? It's possible she was once guilty of arson; her mother's hippy life is gradually revealed as something more sinister; and Beth is in trouble at school and out of it. Laura's carefully ordered world seems to be getting out of control. With the tension of a thriller, NINEPINS explores the idea of family, and the volatile and changing relationships between mothers and daughters, in a landscape that is beautiful but - as they all discover - perilous."

My Two Cents:
 

This will be the second book that I've read by Rosy Thornton. What I loved about Tapestry of Love is the same things that I loved in her latest release, Ninepins. Thornton has a wonderful way of making you care deeply about the characters. They quickly begin to feel like people that you could know and that you care about.

The main characters of Ninepins are all great. You feel for Willow because of her life, which leaves much to be desired. She basically had to mother herself because her mother was too mentally ill to really give her stability. I love stories about flawed characters. None of us are perfect and I think it makes characters easier to relate to. Willow is definitely a character that you will find yourself pulling for. Her story was definitely the most gripping in the book although I did like the other story lines as well.

You feel for Laura because she's beginning to contend with probably the most difficult part in any parents life: when their kids begin to get to the age where they want to grow up way too fast and do things that are going to get them into trouble. Laura is conflicted whether to let Beth figure out things on her own or to try to shield her from the bad things. You feel for Beth because she's going through the time period that so many pre-teens go through where all they want is to fit in, which, of course, comes at a price. All of the issues that the characters deal with are very realistic and you can connect with them on some level.

I loved this story. At its base, it's really a story about love and relationships. Thornton draws you in, makes you love the characters, and then leads you through the story with her fantastic writing. In a way, Thornton's writing is sort of understated but beautiful.

Bottom line: This is a great story with great characters.


  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Double Review: Defiant Passion & Dark and Bright by Anna Markland

Because a double review is twice as nice...

Title: Defiant Passion (Sons of Rhodri #1)
Author: Anna Markland
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Bleubelle Press
Publish Date: March 30, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.



Why You're Reading Both of These Books:
  • You're a historical fiction fan.
  • You're a romance fan.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Rhodri ap Owain, the Prince of Powwydd, is a constant thorn in the side of the Norman Marcher lords. His sorties into the border counties of England from his stronghold in the Welsh mountains leave a trail of fear and destruction in their wake. He hates Saxon and Norman equally and burns with Celtic fervour for a Wales free of their domination.

The mention of his name strikes fear into the hearts of those living on the English side of the Welsh border. To them he is a feral force. To his own people he is a folk hero of mythical proportions. Though few have ever met him, all know of his deeds.

Rhonwen Dda is a shy healer, a diminutive woman of peace renowned for her mystical aura. Though she is drawn to Rhodri, she can see no future for them. Rhodri believes she is his destiny. Will he convince her to share his lonely life as the champion of an oppressed people?"


My Two Cents:

This story took me to another time and place. This book is another one that was set in a time that I was unfamiliar with. The year is 1066. England and Wales are at deep odds with each other. Rhodri and Rhonwen come from very different sides of the issue. Rhodri is a Welsh prince who wants freedom for all of Wales. Rhonwen is a more subdued healer in the house of an English nobleman. Rhodri abducts Rhonwen and the nobleman's family in order to press his point of Welsh freedom.

This book is incredibly short (I read it on my Kindle so I'm actually not sure what the amount of pages actually is). It is the first book in a series. The story was very neat, perhaps a little too neat. Rhodri and Rhonwen seem to fall for each other quickly. There doesn't seem to be much of any push back from the noble family when Rhonwen confesses her love for Rhodri even after he abducted all of them. I would be a little mad. I would have liked to see more conflict.

That being said, you really do fall for the characters. I liked Rhonwen. I liked Rhodri. I really, really like Morwenna, another woman who uses her... uh... womanly wiles to get her way. She's a really interesting character to watch. She's kind of terrible to those around her unless they can offer her something and then she's as sweet as they come. Luckily for many of the characters in the book, they see right through her and know exactly what she is up to. Sometimes its fun to like the really, really bad characters. It's so much fun to pour a glass of haterade over a bad character.

The romance in the book was good. There are a lot of steamy scenes that definitely steal your attention away.

Bottom line: This is a light, fast read that would be a perfect vacation read!






Title: Dark and Bright
Author: Anna Markland
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Bleubelle Press
Publish Date: April 2012
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.


What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Rhys ap Rhodri is not a warrior, unlike his father. He believes in negotiation, diplomacy. When his rebellious twin brothers are captured and sentenced to be hanged by the Earl of Chester, Rhys arranges a betrothal that will save his brothers and secure him a wife.

Annalise de Vymont is the daughter of an impoverished and disgraced Norman baron. She has always dreamed of marrying a handsome chivalrous knight—not a Welsh barbarian set to drag her off to his isolated castle. To Rhys ap Rhodri she was a means to an end, a business transaction he’d been obliged to enter into for the sake of his brothers and the need to produce heirs."


My Two Cents:

This book is about the son of Rhodri and Rhowen, named Rhys. Things have changed a lot since we last visited this family. They seem remarkably calmer. Rhys is getting married to a Norman, something that would have be unheard of in the first book, Defiant Passion.

I liked that you get to see how things ended up for Rhodri and Rhowen. They still love each other very much and still seem happy. You also get to see what happens to their children. I love books that allow you to catch up with characters that you've fallen in love with several years down the road. You really get to see how everything turned out. Even though Rhys and his wife, Annaliese are really the main characters of this book, you do get to see Rhodri and Rhowen's other children and what happened to them.

This book is more of a novella than a book; its quite short. However, Markland is able to really make you like the characters in the book in a short amount of time. You really begin to feel for them and the things that they're going through. While the short length didn't take too much away from the story for me, I did find myself wishing that there was a little more detail about a couple things. First, how have things really changed in the environment that the family is living in so that Rhys could marry a Norman without any issue. Second, what were things like in the place that they're living. This book was definitely very character driven but you don't get a good feel for the setting.


  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

HF Virtual Tours: The Queen's Vow by C.W. Gortner

Title: The Queen's Vow
Author: C.W. Gortner
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Ballantine
Publish Date: June 12, 2012
Source: HF Virtual Tours






Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a historical fiction fan.
  • You love interesting characters.
What's the Story?: 

From Goodreads.com: "Young Isabella is barely a teenager when she and her brother are taken from their mother’s home to live under the watchful eye of their half-brother, King Enrique, and his sultry, conniving queen. There, Isabella is thrust into danger when she becomes an unwitting pawn in a plot to dethrone Enrique. Suspected of treason and held captive, she treads a perilous path, torn between loyalties, until at age seventeen she suddenly finds herself heiress of Castile, the largest kingdom in Spain. Plunged into a deadly conflict to secure her crown, she is determined to wed the one man she loves yet who is forbidden to her—Fernando, prince of Aragon.

As they unite their two realms under “one crown, one country, one faith,” Isabella and Fernando face an impoverished Spain beset by enemies. With the future of her throne at stake, Isabella resists the zealous demands of the inquisitor Torquemada even as she is seduced by the dreams of an enigmatic navigator named Columbus. But when the Moors of the southern domain of Granada declare war, a violent, treacherous battle against an ancient adversary erupts, one that will test all of Isabella’s resolve, her courage, and her tenacious belief in her destiny.

From the glorious palaces of Segovia to the battlefields of Granada and the intrigue-laden gardens of Seville, The Queen’s Vow sweeps us into the tumultuous forging of a nation and the complex, fascinating heart of the woman who overcame all odds to become Isabella of Castile."


My Two Cents:

I didn't know much about Isabel of Castile before I read this book. Here's what I knew:
  • She and King Ferdinand were the ones that financed Columbus' misadventure to the West Indies.
  • I was familiar with two out of her children. First, I knew of Joanna the Mad (also called Juana), who was considered crazy. Second, I knew of Catherine of Aragon, who went on to become King Henry the VIII of England's first wife.
  • I knew about the involvement with the Spanish Inquisition. 
It was fascinating to get to know more about  this queen. I didn't realize that before the reign of Ferdinand and Isabel that Spain was not fully unified. I knew that they came from different kingdoms but I didn't realize there was so much separation. I liked the relationship between Ferdinand and Isabel. They really love each other and because they come from separate kingdoms, their love is forbidden; however, they're able to marry and they lay the groundwork for a Spanish reunification.

There was so much going on in Spain during this time. It was interesting to see  it through the eyes of someone who was at the forefront of so many of the decisions. It was very interesting to me to see how Ferdinand and Isabel's reign worked. They seemed to be very much on equal footing when it comes to making the rules. 

This will be the second C.W. Gortner book. I love his writing because he does such a good job of getting into the brain of his characters and really making you, the reader, feel what the character is seeing. You begin to feel like you could be friends with the characters because you get to know them that well. 

Bottom line: This is a great book with vivid descriptions. It's perfect for all you historical fiction lovers out there!


Don't Forget to Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Tuesday, June 12th
Review at Devourer of Books
Review at The Novel Life
Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, June 13th
Review at Book Fan Mary
Review at A Novel Affair

Thursday, June 14th
Review at Drey's Library
Author Interview at From the TBR Pile

Friday, June 15th
Book Spotlight at Teresa's Reading Corner
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at The Maiden's Court
Author Interview at The Novel Life

Monday, June 18th

Tuesday, June 19th
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading

Wednesday, June 20th
Author Interview at The Owl Bookmark Blog
Live Author Chat Night & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Thursday, June 21st
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Friday, June 22nd
Author Interview at Confessions of an Avid Reader

Monday, June 25th

Review at Broken Teepee

Tuesday, June 26th
Review at A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, June 27th

Thursday, June 28th
Author Interview at The True Book Addict

Friday, June 29th
Author Guest Post at The Book Faery Reviews

Monday, July 2nd
Review at Book Drunkard
Author Interview at Reading the Past

Tuesday, July 3rd
Review & Giveaway at Royal Reviews
Review at Acting Balanced

Wednesday, July 4th
Review at The Book Garden

Thursday, July 5th
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Friday, July 6th
Author Interview at Acting Balanced

Monday, July 9th
Review at The Bookworm
Review, Author Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Libraria

Tuesday, July 10th

Wednesday, July 11th

Thursday, July 12th
Author Interview & Giveaway at Always with a Book

Friday, July 13th
Author Interview at Just One More Paragraph



 

Monday, June 25, 2012

BookTrib Scavenger Hunt Review and Guest Post: An American Family by Peter Lefcourt

Title: An American Family
Author: Peter Lefcourt
Format: ARC
Publisher: Ebook Only (only available in ebook form)
Publish Date: January 1, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the PR and BookTrib as a part of the scavenger hunt. This did not affect my review.





Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You're a fan of vivid writing.
  • You like stories about families.
What's the Story?:

Synopsis: "AN AMERICAN FAMILY is told through the shifting points of view of the five Perl siblings born in the 1940’s, between the two iconic dates of the last fifty years: the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the catastrophe of 9/11. Within this time frame the Perl family is swept up in the sweeping cultural changes of those years: the Vietnam War, the sexual revolution, rock and roll, drugs, women’s liberation, and the civil rights movement.
 
During this turbulent time, we meet the Perls -- Meyer, the immigrant tailor with a weakness for Yiddish theater actresses, whose nephew, Nathan, would become a fabric cutter on Seventh Avenue and the patriarch of the clan; Jackie, the young lawyer with a weakness for women, alcohol and Italian-American “clients”; Michael, the business genius intent on building his fortune; Elaine, the married school teacher who wants more from her life than being merely a wife and mother; Stephen, the brilliant and sensitive artist who struggles with his talent and his sexuality; and Roberta, the rebel hungry to experience perhaps a little too much of what life has to offer."

My Two Cents:

I love stories about families! The Perl family is a Jewish family living in and around New York City and the story covers from the early 60s to 2001. One cool thing is that the author used stories from his own family's history, which I loved. The focus of the story is definitely the Perl family but there is a ton of historical detail interwoven within the family's story. So even though I wouldn't call this book purely historical fiction, there are a lot of things that historical fiction lovers will enjoy. I especially enjoyed the detail about the late 1960s and early 1970s counter-culture. That's such a fascinating time for me.

I really liked Bobbie's story probably the best. As the youngest Perl child, she's sort of the wild card in the family (it's between her and Steven, the son who is confronting whether or not to be true to himself and risk alienating his family). Bobbie is coming of age right during the hippie movement. She gets into a lot of trouble and seems to be bent on becoming the black sheep of the family. She goes to Woodstock and after a drug induced one night stand, she becomes pregnant and creates a really elaborate story about the parentage of her daughter, who she names Grace Slick. Bobbie is incredibly lost but the sort of beautiful thing is that on the whole, her family is still ready to help and try to make life a little more normal for Bobbie and Grace Slick.

Peter Lefcourt has a background in screenwriting and you can definitely tell in this book. He really has a way with words that made the stories of the various characters really come alive. You can imagine exactly what is happening. His writing is incredibly vivid and really makes you care for all of the members of the Perl family.

I really loved getting to know all of the members of the Perl family. They're an interesting group of individuals who have very different ideas of what it means to live but they're still a family. This book will appeal to fans of mulch-generational family stories with lots of interesting characters.





Guest Post by Peter Lefcourt:

I'm very excited to have Peter here today for a guest post. How has your personal experience as a Jewish American influenced the book?

My experience growing up as a first-generation Polish American Jew in New York was the genesis of this book. I wanted to capture the emotional and psychological effects of the clash of the immigrant Jewish culture with the adopted American one. I was not interested so much in telling my story personally – this book is not an autobiographical novel – but the story of all immigrant cultures, Italian, Irish, African-American, Vietnamese, as well as Jewish. My father came to New York from a shtetl village in Poland in 1922 not knowing a word of English and became a lawyer; I grew up playing stickball on the streets of Queens and became a writer; my son grew up in Los Angeles, went to Yale and became a humanitarian worker who at the moment is in Kyrgyzstan. This evolution, over merely three generations, fascinates me. Our life experiences have been so different, and yet there is an identity linking us together.

I wanted to set this story against the enormous social changes that took place in the second half of the twentieth century: the cultural rift created by the Vietnam War, the rise of feminism, gay identity, the pervasive influence of music. And to show how my characters navigated these changes. I created the fictitious family, the Perls, and decided to tell the story through the shifting point of view of five siblings, all, like me, born in the 1940’s. I chose the two iconic dates of this period – November 22, 1963 and September 11, 2001 – as a parenthesis to enclose the era.

I was interested in the evolution of the family through all these changes – how it adapts to the most dramatic and sweeping changes and still survives as the emotional focus of our lives. I disagree with Tolstoy: all happy families are not alike.

Thank you for being here, Peter!


Don't forget to follow the rest of the scavenger hunt for new content from An American Family!



Sunday, June 24, 2012

Review: Eulogy's Secret by Grace Elliot

Title: Eulogy's Secret
Author: Grace Elliot
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Self-published
Publish Date: October 18, 2011
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.



Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You're a historical fiction fan.
  • You're a romance fan.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "In the four weeks since her guardians' death, Eulogy Foster has lost everything.

Penniless and alone she seeks the help of her estranged brother, Lord Lucien Devlin. But Devlin throws Eulogy onto the streets and the mercy of a passing stranger, Jack Huntley, who becomes an unlikely ally. As Eulogy seeks the truth behind her birth, she is drawn into the world of art and artists, where her morals are challenged and nothing is as it seems.

Jack Huntley: bitter, cynical and betrayed in love. He believes women are devious, scheming, untrustworthy creatures - and when he rescues a naïve Miss from being raped, his life is about to change forever. There is something about Miss Foster that haunts him and challenges his emotions. But despite their growing attraction, Eulogy will not share her secret, which means he cannot trust her. Caught in a deadlock, both denying their true feelings, events take a sinister turn as someone seeks to silence Eulogy...permanently."


My Two Cents: 

Eulogy's Secret takes place during a time in England that I really enjoy, the Regency. It is the first book in a trilogy called The Huntley Trilogy. You really get a good sense of place in this book. England was going through a lot of changes during this time and you can feel the energy of London pulsing throughout the story. Eulogy is a newcomer to the city of London so we get to see the city through her eyes, which is very cool. I absolutely love London and I love reading about the city throughout the years.

This book is a romance but with only one real steamy scene (for those sensitive to that sort of thing). I loved the romance in this book. It's sort of unexpected in a way. You have Eulogy, a newcomer to London, who is hiding a deep, dark secret about her family. Huntley falls for her even though he's been burned by women in the past. Eulogy and Huntley fall deeply for each other. I liked the romance because you can see how much they really love each other. There is a ton of sexual tension between Eulogy and Huntley at first. It was interesting to see how everything unfolds between them in that respect. You keep waiting for things to fall together and then they don't but not to give too much away, everything falls together.

The mystery of Eulogy's origins definitely kept me reading. Elliot does a great job of weaving in little details of the mystery so you can start to put things together. She does it in such a way that you really want to continue reading to see what happens next. As I said before, this book is the first in a trilogy and I would definitely like to hear how things continue to unfold for all of the characters in the book!

Bottom line: Eulogy's Secret was a fun, light read with a little bit of mystery and a little bit of romance. 


 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

G!ve@way W!nners!





I'm excited to announce some giveaway winners.

The winner of Oleanna by Julie K. Rose (Indie Author Giveaway Winner) is:
Aldelei

The winner of Equal to the Sun by Anita Amirrezvani is:
Lara

Friday, June 22, 2012

HF Virtual Book Tour and G!ve@way: Interview with Sandra Byrd


Today, I'm very happy to welcome Sandra Byrd, author of The Secret Keeper, here to A Bookish Affair.


1. In The Secret Keeper, there is an element of magic or the paranormal. How did you decide to include Juliana's power in the story?

Since we are all three-dimensional: body, mind, and spirit, I wanted to include an angle that more overtly recognized that. There was a real woman at the court and in the book, Anne Calthorpe, Countess of Sussex, who seemed to have a prophetic gift and was at the court when Parr was queen. Women have traditionally had very active prophetic gifts, something that has largely been overlooked. I wanted to bring that forward in a book wherein women were actively using their intellectual and spiritual gifts as well as whatever power they had at hand. I also thought made for a fun story value - seeing if and how her prophetic visions would come to pass!

2. Kateryn Parr hasn't been covered all that much in historical fiction. Why do you think this is? What drew you to writing about her?

She's so often overlooked as a somewhat mild nursemaid to Henry's oozing leg, a quietly learned woman who "survives." And I think that sometimes people believe that all of the heavy dramatic action died when Henry did - but that's not true. I found Parr to be warm, witty, and wonderful. She was a warm and loving wife and stepmother, a generous emotional and financial benefactress, a learned and devout woman whose extraordinary books sold tens of thousands of copies and went back for many printings. She was also a beautiful woman who had a blind spot for a bad boy, and that got her into a heap of trouble. I would have liked her as a friend.

3. What's the most difficult thing about writing historical fiction?

The audience is so varied. Some people want as many of the familiar characters in the book as possible so the court seems robust and they can revisit with "old friends." Some people are confused by many names and changing titles. Some readers enjoy the use of some sixteenth century language, while some don't like it at all. It can be difficult to please everyone, and you find a variety of opinions on almost every work. I try to make everyone happy, and tell a good story, and keep historically accurate. Sometimes it's difficult to do all three at once.

4. What is the last great book you read and why did you enjoy it?

Right now I'm reading, Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch by Sally Bedell Smith. It's been great fun to see what has - and what hasn't - changed for a queen regnant in the past 400+ years!

5. If you could bring three fictional characters with you to a deserted island, who would you bring?

The three women whose points of view my Tudor-set Ladies in Waiting books have been told from, because we've become such great friends through the pages. I hope the readers of my books will become great friends through the pages with them, too!

Giveaway:

I'm pleased to be able to give away one copy of The Secret Keeper to a US/CAN reader of ABA!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't Forget to Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, June 4th
Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, June 5th

Wednesday, June 6th

Thursday, June 7th
Review & Giveaway at The Calico Critic
Review at Always with a Book

Friday, June 8th
Author Interview & Giveaway at The Owl Bookmark Blog

Monday, June 11th
Author Guest Post at A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, June 12th
Author Interview & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Thursday, June 14th
Review at Reviews by Molly

Monday, June 18th

Tuesday, June 19th
Review & Giveaway at Bippity Boppity Book
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Wednesday, June 20th
Review at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, June 21st
Review & Giveaway at Royal Reviews

Friday, June 22nd
Review at A Novel Affair
Review at Broken Teepee 
Author Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Monday, June 25th
Review at My Reading Room
Review at A Girl's Legacy
Review & Giveaway at The Bookworm 
Review, Author Guest Post & Giveaway at Drey's Library
Tuesday, June 26th
Wednesday, June 27th
Thursday, June 28th
Author Interview & Giveaway at My Reading Room
Friday, June 29th
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at The Eclectic Reader
Monday, July 2nd
Review & Giveaway at Bloggin' 'Bout Books

Wednesday, July 4th
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading
Thursday, July 5th
Friday, July 6th
Author Interview & Giveaway at Tanzanite's Castle Full of Books 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Review: Finding Sarah by Sarah Ferguson

Title: Finding Sarah
Author:  Sarah Ferguson
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Atria
Publish Date: June 2011
Source: Library


Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You're a royal watcher.
  • You like self-help books.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Finding Sarah is an extraordinarily personal memoir by Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York. As she spends time with Dr. Phil McGraw, she gains a new understanding of her relationship with herself and with others. Suze Orman helps Sarah unravel the poisonous money issues she suffers from. Martha Beck teaches her how let go of her negative self-image. Many other friends and experts populate these pages and you will meet them all. Sarah's journey, in so many ways, is everyone's journey and as she shares her story with us she also shares the advice and wisdom she benefited from along the way. Her struggles with adversity have taught her that life's lows can become a source of strength and courage. She knows, first hand, what it means to feel lost and she also knows that it is never too late to find your way back, to attain your goal, to take back control of your life and to make a special dream come true. 

Through intimate diary excerpts and personal emails from friends and family, Sarah opens herself unsparingly. On every page of this book you will hear from Sarah's friends and guides, her "real-life angels," as they help her get to the root of her problems—from comfort eating to self-loathing, from reckless over-spending to notorious mishaps. You will learn from them, as she did. In this way, Sarah hopes not only to talk to you as a friend but to inspire you, through her own experiences, to look closely at your own life and where you wish to improve it, then to encourage you to follow your instincts and find your true path. Sarah Ferguson did, and so can you."

My Two Cents:

I eat up just about any book about the British Royals. Even though Sarah Ferguson is technically no longer royalty, she's always sort of been a fascinating person to me. She seems to have really bad luck when it comes to getting into bad or embarrassing situations. This latest book comes after the fall out surrounding her allegedly (she denies this throughout the book) taking a bribe to give someone access to her former husband, Prince Andrew.

This book is also sort of a self-help book, a genre that I'm not usually a fan of. Of course after the fall out from the bribe issue, Oprah stepped in and gave Sarah access to all of her "gurus," Dr. Phil and Suze Orman, etc. The book covers a lot of what she discovered with these people. I'm not a huge fan of any of them. Add that to the fact that I'm not a self-help fan and this book was just really not for me.

I was hoping to hear more about Sarah's life. You do get a glimpse of that but not much of one. This book was just okay for me.


 

 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

HF Virtual Book Tour: The Secret Keeper by Sandra Byrd

Title: The Secret Keeper
Author: Sandra Byrd
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Howard Books
Publish Date: June 5, 2012
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours






Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a historical fiction fan.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Juliana St. John is the daughter of a prosperous knight in Marlborough. Though her family wants her to marry the son of her father’s business partner, circumstances set her on a course toward the court of Henry VIII and his last wife, Kateryn Parr.

Sir Thomas Seymour, uncle of the current heir, Prince Edward, returns to Wiltshire to tie up his business with Juliana’s father’s estate and sees instantly that she would fit into the household of the woman he loves, Kateryn Parr. Her mother agrees to have her placed in the Parr household for “finishing” and Juliana goes, though perhaps reluctantly. For she knows a secret. She has been given the gift of prophecy, and in one of her visions she has seen Sir Thomas shredding the dress of the king’s daughter, the lady Elizabeth, to perilous consequence.

As Juliana learns the secrets of King Henry VIII’s court, she faces threats and opposition, learning truths about her own life that will upset everything she thought she once held dear."


My Two Cents:

Kateryn Parr is one of Henry VIII's queens that I don't know that much about. I've read a little bit about her and what stood out for me most before I read this book is that she was the one that survived Henry VIII. This book definitely shed a little more light on her life for me. She definitely was a fascinating person. I didn't realize that she had been married before she married Henry VIII. This was really interesting since there seemed to be such a large focus on virginity in royal circles.

The story is told from the point of view of Juliana, one of Kateryn Parr's ladies-in-waiting. She is charged with keeping a lot of the inner workings of Kateryn's household and ultimately the King's household to herself. And there is a lot of secret keeping to be had. Discretion is important when you're dealing with Henry VIII. Since Kateryn is the last wife, she knows that she can't step a toe out of line when it comes to the King or the risk of death will be quite high. When Henry VIII dies, Kateryn remarries Thomas Seymour (who seems like he will do just about anything to gain more power). Thomas Seymour has wandering eyes and Elizabeth, King Henry's daughter is living in the Seymour household so of course, Seymour starts messing around with Elizabeth without trying to hide it at all. Then there is the issue of Mary, Thomas and Kateryn's daughter. She is sort a mysterious figure. No one knows for sure what happened to hear or even whether or not she lived through her childhood. A little mystery is always a good thing. There is tons and tons of intrigue and turns in this book. You want to keep reading just to see what happens next.

I loved this book but I felt like it moved a little bit too fast in some parts (it's possible, especially with really good books, you guys). For instance, I would have wanted to hear a little bit more about Henry VIII's courtship of Kateryn Parr. Kateryn Parr seemed like she had a good head on her shoulders. She seemed like a nice person. She was independently wealthy from her husband. I kind of wondered what drew her to Henry VIII. He didn't have a great reputation with the wife beheading and what not.

Byrd does a great job of pulling you in to the realm of the Tudor throne with all of its intricacies and delicacies. This is the kind of book that you read in one sitting.






Don't Forget to Follow the Rest of the Tour (come back to ABA on Thursday for an interview and giveaway):


Monday, June 4th
Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, June 5th

Wednesday, June 6th

Thursday, June 7th
Review & Giveaway at The Calico Critic
Review at Always with a Book

Friday, June 8th
Author Interview & Giveaway at The Owl Bookmark Blog

Monday, June 11th
Author Guest Post at A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, June 12th
Author Interview & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Thursday, June 14th
Review at Reviews by Molly

Monday, June 18th

Tuesday, June 19th
Review & Giveaway at Bippity Boppity Book
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Wednesday, June 20th
Review at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, June 21st
Review & Giveaway at Royal Reviews

Friday, June 22nd
Review at A Novel Affair
Review at Broken Teepee 
Author Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Monday, June 25th
Review at My Reading Room
Review at A Girl's Legacy
Review & Giveaway at The Bookworm 
Review, Author Guest Post & Giveaway at Drey's Library
Tuesday, June 26th
Wednesday, June 27th
Thursday, June 28th
Author Interview & Giveaway at My Reading Room
Friday, June 29th
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at The Eclectic Reader
Monday, July 2nd
Review & Giveaway at Bloggin' 'Bout Books

Wednesday, July 4th
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading
Thursday, July 5th
Friday, July 6th
Author Interview & Giveaway at Tanzanite's Castle Full of Books
  
 
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