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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Guest Post: Lucinda Riley

Today, I am very excited to have Lucinda Riley, author of "The Girl on the Cliff" here on A Bookish Affair. She is talking about the inspiration for her new release.






It’s always a location, or a house and the atmosphere surrounding it, that inspires inside me those first seeds which eventually germinate into a book. This was very much the case with ‘The Girl on the Cliff’. I was born and lived in Ireland on the West Cork coast and I loved its wildness and isolation. ‘Extreme’ locations are always exciting to me because they are dramatic and of course, romantic. The thought of a vulnerable child, barefoot and alone during the Atlantic storms that used to break with such fury when I lived there with my own small children, gave me the character of ‘Aurora’, the narrator of the book. I wanted to make her ‘other-wordly’ and ephemeral, almost part of the intense, dramatic scenery which surrounded her when she was born.

I will confess that Aurora is the first character I’ve ever written who is basically ‘me’. I poured my soul into her – something I’ve never done before in one of my books. All my beliefs, hopes and fears; a lot of my life - I’m an ex-ballerina who got so sick I was bedridden and had to ‘use my mind, not my body, to express myself’ – is in there . Yes, like her, I’ve seen ghosts and angels and believe in the ‘afterlife’. I’ve suffered terrible loss , as most of us have at some point in our lives, but still believe, as Aurora says, that ‘love and faith and goodness and hope’ will win the day. And that human nature, for the most part, is intrinsically ‘good’. Otherwise, we wouldn’t still be here on the planet – we’d all have murdered each other thousands of years ago! This book is so personal, it’s painful. Basically, if readers reject Aurora, they are rejecting me!

Some readers may find Aurora’s spiritualism and endless positivity in the face of adversity irritating.
But, the US dollar bill itself has ‘In God We Trust’ written on it … yet, to my knowledge, no-one has ever managed to take a photograph or interview him! As Aurora says, ‘just remember, there’s no proof either way. So I choose to believe. It’s much the best option.’

I’m not into any particular organised religion, by the way, I just believe in a power higher than us humans, and am humble enough to realise there is so much we can never understand. Who/what energy created the Big Bang in the first place …? No-one knows. So, it’s pretty obvious this book is not for ‘cynics’ who don’t believe in a ‘higher level’, or that the world is fundamentally a bad place.
Redemption and some level of forgiveness is always a possibility, if not an actuality in some cases. And that is the rock-bed from which all my stories and characters come.

And besides Aurora, there is a huge, inticate family story, spanning over 100 years. There are characters, good and bad, that pepper the plot. Also, in ‘The Girl on the Cliff’, I’ve explored the fact that, as one grows older, the seesaw of pain and joy of the human condition become more stark. During the writing of the novel, I became fascinated by ‘the fairytale’, which all modern romantic
novels are a derivative of. In particular, the ‘happy ending’, which every fairytale contains and is in
fact, an integral part of their beauty.

Yet, what happens after the ‘Happy Ever After’? And how to write an ending, given the depth of the
characters involved in ‘The Girl on the Cliff’, in which the conclusion is both satisfying and moving? In conclusion, ‘The Girl on the Cliff’ has all the ingredients of ‘The Orchid House’: the ‘big story’, a dual narrative and locations which fire my imagination, yet I hope I have added a new dimension, a depth and realism in the storyline which isn’t trite or contrived. In this book, more than any other story I’ve written, the characters demanded to be heard and I gave them their voice.


Review: Redemption on the River by Loren DeShon

Title: Redemption on the River
Author: Loren DeShon
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Self-published
Publish Date: July 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 Historical Fiction fan.
  • You like well written characters.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Silas Jacobson pulled a trigger, killed his father, and ended up months later face down in Memphis mud, trying to forget the girl who betrayed him.

Silas buries his father on the farm, his guilt in himself and leaves home seeking to forget past mistakes. He travels on Mississippi steamboats and meets his best friend in a brawl, his worst enemy in a cathouse, and a mentor and lover at a New Orleans faro table. Fighting, fornicating, and cheating at cards are a grand time, but there's another woman, a girl on a mission of her own, who saves his life and offers the opportunity to redeem himself.

Silas staggers out of the mud to go to her, but he finds that she's deceived him from the start. He'll risk his neck for her—he owes her that much—but love is no longer possible. His shot at redemption comes down to his conscience, the two women, a poker game, and the turn of a card.

Redemption on the River is historical fiction set along the Mississippi River in 1848."


My Two Cents:

This book takes us on the mighty Mississippi River during the mid-1800s (specifically the 1840s), from St. Joseph to St. Louis, all the way down to New Orleans. This is not a time period that I am very familiar with. The area is still struggling with a lot of issues, including abolition. The air is politically charged. I actually did not realize that efforts to abolish slavery had started so early. I love Historical Fiction that can open my eyes to new time periods and this one did just that for me!!!

I really liked the characters in the book a lot. Okay, I didn't like Silas, the main character, in some parts of the book. Let me explain. Silas, I think, is a good person in the book at his core but in some cases, he makes some really bad choices. Choices that made me thrust my fist in the air and cry "Nooooooo" at certain points (note: my cats and husband looked at me like I was nuts for audibly yelling at a book). This being said, all of these character flaws really made me like Silas better. I think each one of us at some point or another has done something that we later look back on as being sort of a low point for us. We are all flawed in some form or another. Silas is flawed and definitely has those low points. I think it takes a very skilled writer to be able to make a character feel so real and multi-faceted.

Okay, and I definitely loved the love story in the book. I don't want to get too much into it because there are a lot of twists and turns that I read with mouth agape. The love story between Silas and Hannah is oh so good.

I think there were parts of the book that could have stood to be slimmed down a bit as they got away from the main "meat" of the story. But overall, I really enjoyed the story. This is a great book for Historical Fiction lovers. It has a great sense of place and great characters!

Bottom line: Great, character driven Historical fiction.


 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Review: The Girl On The Cliff by Lucinda Riley

Title: The Girl On The Cliff
Author: Lucinda Riley
Format: ARC
Publisher: Atria
Publish Date: October 30, 2012 (Today!)
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.






Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a Historical Fiction fan.
  • You like gothic novels.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Could a secret from 1914 end a century of heartache?

A tiny figure stands at the cliff edge - hair flying in the breeze. Grania Ryan is hypnotised by the enchanting vision, unaware this young girl, Aurora Lisle, will change her life in countless ways. For Grania is suffering and has returned to Ireland and the arms of her loving family, in the hope her wounds might heal.

As their paths begin to entwine, Grania's mother becomes deeply troubled … because almost a century of entanglement has brought nothing but terrible tragedy to their two families.

The past is set to repeat its sorrows. A suitcase hidden in the attic of a magnificent house in London during the First World War is where it all began, but could it now hold the key to ending the heartbreak that has beset the Lisles and the Ryans for so long?"


My Two Cents:

"The Girl on the Cliff" is a book filled with a multi-generational story filled with interwoven characters and family secrets, and even ghosts! When sculptor, Grania, escapes back to her family home in present day Ireland after suffering a miscarriage, she is unaware of the connections between her family and the mysterious Lisle's that her mother seems to harbor a secret hate for. The historical story takes place during World War I and II in Ireland and England.

This is the second book that I have read by Lucinda Riley. I definitely liked this book a little bit better than "The Orchid House." I thought both the historical story and the present day story were a little more well connected to each other. I really like both stories equally. I did like that we found more of the connections between the two families in the present day story. It kind of made things a little bit more of a surprise.

I really enjoyed this story. There is a hint of magical realism to it, which is one of my favorite literary devices. The plot was definitely stand out for me. I love stories that take place in two different times. I think that they can be very difficult stories to pull off. But when they're pulled off, they're great. They are some of my favorite kinds of historical fiction. In the case of "The Girl on the Cliff," it was done really, really well.

At times, this book definitely had sort of a gothic novel type feel, which I loved. It's definitely a great book for a rainy day!

Bottom line: Good historical fiction!


 

Review: The Fishers of Paradise by Rachael Preston

Title: The Fishers of Paradise
Author: Rachael Preston
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Self-published
Publish Date: August 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 stories about dysfunctional families.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "There’s a power to be mined in keeping secrets.
1930. The boathouse community of Cootes Paradise is under siege. The squatters’ colony of shacks that lines the shores of Dundas Marsh stands in the way of a Hamilton politician’s City Beautiful plans. When a handsome drifter settles there, Egypt Fisher and her mother both fall under his spell. No one expects Egypt’s gambling con-man father to return after a six-year absence, not even the local mafia. But he does and he’s furious."


My Two Cents:

By now, you guys probably know that I like dysfunctional family stories. "The Fishers of Paradise" definitely falls firmly in the dysfunctional family camp. The Fishers are a mess. Laura, the mother, is just trying to scrape by. Her husband, Ray, is totally an absentee father. He's also very mean and controlling. Egypt, the daughter, is almost grown and is only beginning to realize the secrets that her family has hidden from her. Aiden is much younger and isn't ready to make sense of everything everyone in his family is or is not doing.

The family lives in a small Canadian town in the 1930s where everyone is sort of struggling in their own ways. Everyone in their town lives in houseboats, which I thought was really cool. I had never heard of Cootes Paradise before I read this book but it seems like a really interesting place. I always enjoy armchair traveling.

There wasn't really any one character that I liked in the book, except for maybe Aiden. Laura has made some really bad choices in her life and doesn't seem to learn that it's not too late for her to do things differently to better support her children. I found myself getting very frustrated at her. I really wanted her to change and start making some more mature decisions instead of running away. Ray just did not do anything for me. Again, he never really wised up and matured. Egypt seemed a lot younger than she was supposed to be in the book. I really wish that we could have seen her acting a little more like the almost adult she is supposed to be! I think that I would have liked her character a little bit better then!

This book was written in the third person, present tense point of view, which made for a very interesting reading experience for me. I think this can be a really hard point of view to write in. It took me awhile to get used to it; at first, it felt very clunky. There were a couple occasions where the point of view changed, which kind of took me out of the book.

The writing itself is good. Even though I did not care for many of the characters, Preston had a great way of making you feel for these characters who were in really tough situations. I definitely appreciated that.


 

Monday, October 29, 2012

G!ve@away W!nners!

Today, I'm happy to announce the winners of the To Kill a Mockingbird and The Athena Effect giveaways.



The winner of the To Kill a Mockingbird giveaway is:

JoJo the Modern Bunny

The winner of The Athena Giveaway is:

Kimbacaffeinated

The winners have been contacted!

Review: A Lion in America 1 by Robert Mwangi

Title: A Lion in America 1
Author: Robert Mwangi
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Self-published
Publish Date: April 17, 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.
What's the Story?:

Synopsis: "Deep in the African jungle where even the bravest are afraid to venture, lies a truth that will propel James through his improbable American journey, if he can come out alive. James a village boy in Africa receives a scholarship to go and study in America and he becomes the envy of the whole village. His girlfriend Janny is however skeptical of what a long distance relationship can do to love. But when Janny vanishes from the village, James and his dog Simba plunge into the belligerent forest at the risk of his life and his American dream. Love transcends all."

My Two Cents:

"A Lion America 1" is a fairly short novel about James, a young teen who lives in Kenya. After his brother and James' girlfriend disappear and James goes after them, he discovers a secret in the forest that he never expected. It calls into question some of James' thoughts on culture and what it means to be African and Kenyan as well as his dreams of going to America to play soccer.

I was intrigued by the premise of this book. Overall, the story was interesting and kept me interested. I liked learning about some of the African culture in the book as it was very new to me. This book jumped around a lot, which kind of took me out of the book a little bit. First, we are with James in his village. His brother disappears. James goes to Nairobi to play soccer and for a little while, the book seems like it's more about sports than anything else. James comes back to the village and discovers the mystery (a major pivotal point in the book so I will not give it away in this review).

I think that if the book had been more linear (perhaps either choosing to follow James' soccer dreams or the mystery in James' village instead of both story lines) that it would really speak more to the reader and allow the reader to get deeper into James' world. I also would have like a little more explanation about some of the traditions in the book that were unfamiliar to me. Some things I did not really understand because I am not familiar with the activities or traditions or why they are done.

There were also a lot of punctuation issues in this book, which took me out of the book a little bit. Also, I had to re-read a couple passages in order to figure out where the missing punctuation went in order to make sense of it all. That being said, I do a lot of proofreading in my daily life so I may be more prone to pick out those issues.

The writing itself is pretty good and Mwangi has a lot of promise.

Bottom line: Good writing, disjointed storyline.


 


Review: Jazz by Cristian Mihai

Title: Jazz
Author: Cristian Mihai
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Self-published
Publish Date: July 28, 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 hopeless romantic.
  • You're a fiction fan.
  • You like novellas.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "A heartbreaking portrayal of ambition, treachery, and deception, Jazz tells the story of Chris Sommers, an aspiring writer from New York, who travels to Paris in the hopes of meeting Amber, a mysterious and beautiful woman he has always been irresistibly drawn to.

Chris is soon thrust into a world where everyone seems to be playing a dangerous and corrupt game. Anything is permissible, and even secrets that have been locked away inside the most hidden drawers of the soul will resurface."


My Two Cents:

Jazz is a novella length book all about coming of age and unrequited love. Both growing up and unrequited love are definitely powerful topics. Chris is in love with Amber. To him, she's absolutely perfect. He is sure that they're meant for each other. Unfortunately, Amber is very much engaged to Chris' cousin. That doesn't seem to stop Chris though. He follows Amber to Paris, the city of romance, in order to try to get to know her and to forge some sort of friendship come romance. I think many of us will be able to find something of ourselves in Chris. So many of us have fallen for someone that seems completely unattainable. This is sort of a universal story in that way.

The story itself is good. I am most definitely a hopeless romantic so I love stories like this. I wish that there had been more of a description about why Chris falls for Amber. We see that he is stunned by her. We see that he thinks she's amazing. The "why" factor was missing for me. As you all may have figured out, I also like to know the motivations behind why the characters do what the characters do in different situations. I want to get into their heads. I could not really do that with neither Chris nor Amber, which took me out of the book a little bit.

The writing itself is pretty good. There are some really good turns of phrase in the book. In places, the language was a little stilted but not enough so to take away from the story too much. Mihai has a lot of promise.

Bottom line: A universal tale of unrequited love!


  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

It's a Frankenstorm!!!

Hi there! Here in the DC Metro area, we're preparing to be hit by the Frankenstorm (oh joy!). Here's the list that I will be following to prepare:


In all seriousness, if I'm a little silent over the next few days, blame Frankenstorm!

Friday, October 26, 2012

To Kill A Mockingbird Movie and Book G!ve@way!

You’ve read the book…now see it come to life on movie screens nationwide!

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For one day only on Thursday, November 15th, select movie theaters nationwide will show the award-winning film version of Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, in an event in honor of its 50th anniversary. In partnership with Fathom Events, Harper Perennial is offering YOU a chance to win 2 tickets for this event, plus a copy of the book!
PRIZE PACK: 2 tickets to the event at the movie theater nearest you and a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird
TO PARTICIPATE:
First: Click here for a list of participating theaters to confirm there is a screening of the event near you.
Second: Comment on this post and share it with your friends on your own blog/Facebook/Twitter! 
**A winner will be selected at random by end of day Sunday, October 28th.
**To participate, first CONFIRM there is a movie theater in your area.

HF Tours Guest Post and G!ve@way: Juliet Grey

Today I am very excited to welcome Juliet Grey, author of Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow to A Bookish Affair for what I think will be a super interesting guest post for my fellow Historical Fiction lovers. Welcome, Juliet!






MARIE ANTOINETTE AT LE LPETIT TRIANON

During the four years that Marie Antoinette spent at the Bourbon court as dauphine of France, she chafed at the restrictive etiquette established by Louis XIV to keep the nobility at his beck and call so they would not have time to foment rebellion against the crown. But the notion that it took a village to hand her a chemise or a hairbrush seemed ludicrous to Marie Antoinette who had been raised with far less pomp and circumstance at her mother the empress Maria Theresa’s Hapsburg court in Vienna and its environs.

She was followed everywhere by a phalanx of guards whom her former tutor the abbé Vermond laughingly referred to as an “army.” Plus, an entourage of more than 30 attendants trailed behind her like richly feathered ducklings. Many of them had earned the honor of serving the dauphine, a perquisite handed down through generations of their aristocratic families.



It didn’t mean they liked their mistress, however. Marie Antoinette began her life in France as a giddy teenager, compelled to endure the same routines day in and day out, spending much of her time in the company of her husband’s trio of backbiting maiden aunts, all of whom were in their mid to late 30s (which seemed terribly old to her at the time!) With little to no outlet for her natural exuberance, she fell into the unfortunate tendency to mock what (and whom) she did not care for. This behavior did not go unnoticed and despite her exalted rank at court, made her several enemies, even among
her own entourage. Alas, with the naivete and heedlessness of adolescence, she behaved as though their opinions didn’t matter. One day, she would be queen, able to adjust the suffocating rules that bound her to them and vice versa. She would surround herself only with those few friends whom she could trust and rely upon, people who didn’t gossip about her or insult her behind her back, mocking her Austrian heritage, her freckles and her unfashionable strawberry-blond hair, or her unconsummated marriage to the stocky, nearsighted Louis.




In June of 1774, a few weeks after he ascended the throne, Louis gave le Petit Trianon to Marie Antoinette. The charming little villa situated about a mile from the palace of Versailles yet still within its precincts, had been completed during the reign of the previous king, Louis’s grandfather Louis XV, who had used it as a pleasure idyll with his last great mistress, Madame du Barry. Marie Antoinette was entranced by the gift. Here was a place she could call her own, where she could retreat from the hustle and bustle of court life and the scrutiny of the courtiers who detested her. She embarked on a plan to redecorate the rooms and to enlarge the grounds along the lines of rustic and
meandering English gardens which were all the rage. Inspired by the estate of the king’s  cousin, the Prince de Conde, she eventually hired the builder Richard Mique to construct a little farm village and dairy, a hamlet, or hameau, where she provided employment for a dozen indigent farmers and their families. The facades of the cottages and farm buildings of the hameau were distressed by scenic painters to make them appear convincingly old and slightly ramshackle. The intent was to recall the charming little villages Marie Antoinette remembered from her childhood in Austria—to recapture a time when her soul was untroubled and carefree. Given the fact that the hameau was not completed until the 1780s after the queen had endured more than seven years of celibacy before her marriage
was ultimately consummated, vicious rumors about her depraved libido, more than one miscarriage, and the devastating death of her mother, with whom she’d had a rather fraught relationship, although the two women adored each other, the plan to recreate an image from her blithe girlhood wasn’t such a bad goal.



But it was exclusive. As was all of le Petit Trianon. Before the property became Marie Antoinette’s the grounds had been open to the public. Now the gardens, her Temple of Love and the Belvedere, the exotic grottoes, and the hameau—as well as the little château, of course—were open by invitation only, at the queen’s discretion. Even the king required a personal invitation from his wife! Marie Antoinette’s aim was to keep her detractors at bay. Why should she entertain the courtiers who derided her? Why keep company with “toxic” people?



But Marie Antoinette’s endeavor to create a safe haven, to surround herself only with those few confidants who amused her, including Louis’s also-married youngest brother, the rakish comte d’Artois whose exuberant temperament, at least when they were in their teens and early 20s, was more similar than Louis’s was to the queen’s, raised eyebrows and engendered no end of malicious gossip. The ostracized courtiers exacted their revenge against Marie Antoinette by destroying her reputation. The slanders, and later the disgusting pamphlets known as libelles that depicted her as a debauched, insatiable wanton who had cuckolded the king by engaging in extramarital trysts with lovers of both genders, including Artois and her two best friends, the princesse de Lamballe and the
comtesse de Polignac, were disseminated first by members of the Bourbon court, some of whom had private printing presses in their apartments at Versailles. This vicious (and wholly fictional) characterization soon spread past the gilded gates of the palace, and the commoners, who didn’t know otherwise, were quick to believe whatever they read or heard, their opinions colored by their prejudices against Marie Antoinette simply for not being French. She was an outsider. The other. Her nickname “l’Autrichienne,” a pun on her nationality and the French word for a female dog, had secretly been coined by Louis’s aunt Adélaïde, the woman Marie Antoinette had naively believed to be her mentor at Versailles.



After Marie Antoinette became a mother, le Petit Trianon was her favorite place to relax and romp with her children. Yet the privacy she created there, not only by virtue of the villa’s exclusivity, but with her own set of rules whereby her guests often served themselves, obviating the need for a raft of attendants, and where mechanical mirrored window shades could be activated to prevent prying eyes from peering into the rooms, allowed people to believe the rumors of debauched behavior were possible, even true. And Marie Antoinette was known to have entertained her purported lover, the Swedish military attaché Count Axel von Fersen, at le Petit Trianon; perhaps at some point during the mid-1780s they may have availed themselves of the venue’s unprecedented privacy to consummate their passion. It was the one location where they would have had the opportunity to do so. When you see the single bed that the queen slept in there, you can’t help but wonder if Axel ever warmed it as well.




Ironically, for all the rumors of misconduct at le Petit Trianon, Marie Antoinette was never accused of sleeping with Count von Fersen. The vicious gossip that forever tarnished her reputation was entirely built upon falsehood, pure figments of their disgruntled authors’ imaginations. It’s just one of the tragedies of Marie Antoinette’s life that le Petit Trianon, which had been intended to be her place of greater safety, became her Waterloo instead.



Giveaway:



a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

 Monday, October 1
Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, October 2
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Wednesday, October 3
Review at The Musings of a Book Junkie

Monday, October 8
Review at A Writer's Life: Working With the Muse
Review & Giveaway at Devourer of Books

Tuesday, October 9
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection

Wednesday, October 10
Review at The Broke and The Bookish

Thursday, October 11
Author Interview at A Writer's Life: Working With the Muse

Friday, October 12
Review at A Bookish Libraria

Monday, October 15
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Tuesday, October 16
Author Guest Post at The Musings of a Book Junkie

Wednesday, October 17
Author Interview & Giveaway at Ageless Pages Reviews

Thursday, October 18
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Friday, October 19
Review at Medieval Bookworm

Monday, October 22
Review at A Library of My Own

Tuesday, October 23
Review at A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, October 24
Review at Confessions of an Avid Reader

Friday, October 26 
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Monday, October 29
Review & Giveaway at The Maiden's Court

Tuesday, October 30
Author Guest Post at Historical Boys

Wednesday, October 31
Review at Tiny Library

Thursday, November 1
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict

Friday, November 2
Review at The Lady Gwyn's Kingdom


 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Review: The Many Lives of Lilith Lane by E.V. Anderson

Title: The Many Lives of Lilith Lane
Author: E.V. Anderson
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Amazon Children's Publishing/ Plympton
Publish Date: September 6, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.






Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You don't mind heavy topics.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Seventeen-year-old Lilith Lane has a hunk of a boyfriend, a wicked tongue, and a talent for solving the mysteries that pop up in her small home town of Mirabalis. But when her little sister goes missing in the middle of the night, both Lilith’s detective skills and her recall of sophomore year physics are put to the ultimate test.

To save her sister, Lilith must race against the clock with the help of Dr. Hammer, a mad scientist who pushes Lilith off the edge – literally – of his reality-bending skyscraper. Lilith’s world is turned upside down by her sister’s disappearance, and a skyscraper that is also a portal to a parallel universe suddenly doesn’t seem that surreal. With Dr. Hammer’s help, Lilith must put her girl detective skills to the test and try to save her sister.

A dashing snail expert, a scheming beauty queen, and the heir to a great advertising fortune are just a few of the unforgettable characters who round out the cast in this rollicking tale of love, loyalty, and multiple Earths."


My Two Cents:

The Many Lives of Lilith Lane is a set of serialized fiction that recently came out from Amazon and Plympton, billed as a literary studio for serial fiction. Serialized fiction is not a new idea. I believe that several of Charles Dickens' novels were serialized. That being said, serialized fiction is not a common idea for the present day. I love this idea. How cool would it be to get a piece of new fiction every week? I am anxious to see how this idea pans out.

I was intrigued by this book initially because of the premise. Mad doctors? Parallel universes? Lost sisters? Some sci-fi? Young Adult fiction? It all sounded really good to me.

Unfortunately this book fell flat for me. I had several issues with the book. First off, it was billed as Young Adult fiction and yes, the main character, Lilith Lane, is 17, which makes her a teen. This book is definitely a good example of why simply having a teen in a book does not a Young Adult fiction book make.

The subject matter in this book is way heavy and way too much to be called Young Adult fiction. There are a lot of very mature themes in this book. There are affairs, sex, sexual abuse, romantic relationships between teenagers and adults, some violence, etc. that are really way beyond what should be in Young Adult fiction. I don't disagree that Young Adult fiction can tackle really tough topics but it really depends on the treatment of the subject matter. In this book, the treatment sort of fell flat for making any of it a teachable moment or anything that really needed to be in a Young Adult fiction book. All that being said, I do not believe this book is for younger Young Adult fiction fans.

The writing was a mixed bag for me. The author definitely has a hand for writing intriguing conversations. They sound real and like actual conversations that one would have. This is what the second star is from. It made me willing to perhaps try other things that the author has written.

I didn't care for how the character of Lilith was written at all. She is supposed to be 17 but at times seems much younger (she has Harriet the Spy-like ambitions)and much more immature. I could not tell whether or not that was intentional. If it was intentional, I was not sure what the motivation behind that was. I would have liked to have seen a stronger main character.

Bottom line: Flat.


  

Review: The New Yorker Cartoon Collection by Robert Mankoff

Title: The New Yorker Cartoon Collection
Author: Robert Mankoff
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

Okay, this is going to be a different kind of review for me since The New Yorker Cartoon Collection is made up of different books.

 
I loved The New Yorker Book of Money Cartoons. They are very funny and very time appropriate with all of the craziness going on with the economy. I think a lot of people will find a cartoon to love in this book.





I did enjoy The New Yorker Book of Baseball Cartoons. They are very funny and would be great for anyone who enjoys baseball although this book would probably be best for Yankees fans and maybe Mets fans as many of the cartoons are tilted towards the New York baseball fans. I am not one of those (proud Red Sox and Nats fan here)! 




I am not a teacher but I have a lot of friends and a couple family members who were or are teachers (bless them! I so do not have the patience to be a teacher). However, as someone who went to school, I found a lot to love about these cartoons. They are witty, funny, and timely, just as you would expect the New Yorker to be.

All of these books would make really good gifts. Hey, we're almost at the end of October; it is not too early to start your holiday shopping! They'd be great coffee table books and great books to read when you need a chuckle.  

 


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Review: A Parachute in the Lime Tree by Annemarie Neary

Title: A Parachute in the Lime Tree
Author: Annemarie Neary
Format: Paperback
Publisher: The History Press Ireland
Publish Date: March 12, 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 historical fiction fan.
  • You love a good love story.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "April 1941, neutral Ireland. Kitty awakes in remote Dunkerin to find a German parachute caught in one of the trees in her garden. When she discovers Oskar, injured and foraging for food in her kitchen, he becomes a rare and exciting secret. But Ireland during the Emergency is an uneasy place, and news of the parachute soon spreads."

My Two Cents:

All of Europe is in an uproar during World War II. Neutral Ireland is stuck in the middle. Somewhere in Ireland, Kitty looks out her window to see a parachute stuck in a tree outside of her house. What follows will change the her life as well as the lives of everyone else involved.

This is a great story for anyone who likes their historical fiction with a side of romance and a bit of mystery. There is the unrequited love and fascination between Kitty and Oskar. There is the true love between Elsa and Oskar. Then there is the love between Charlie and Elsa. Love entanglements are always a favorite of mine. It was so interesting to see how everything panned out for each of the characters. The endings are not necessarily all happy but you do get to know what happens to the characters in the end and I really like closure. A lot of times you don't get that, which always leaves me wondering about what happened to the characters in the end.

The historical detail and setting of the novel are great. Before this book, I didn't really understand what Ireland's position was during World War II. This book definitely gave me a lot of insight into that. Readers will also get to learn a little bit about the Kindertransport, which I thought was super interesting. Elsa ends up in Ireland because of the Kindertransport. I guess whenever I had thought about Kindertransport, I thought it was mostly for younger children but Elsa is 17. It was really interesting that older teens were evacuated as well; I never knew about that.

I liked the writing in the book. I wish that there would have been a little more background information on the characters so that we could understand the various motivations a little more. Neary does description really well though, which definitely pulled me right into the middle of the story.

Bottom line: Good, character-driven Historical Fiction!


 

Review: The Dragondain by Richard Due

Title: The Dragondain
Author: Richard Due
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Gibbering Gnome
Publish Date: September 1, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.






Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You like fantasy.
  • You like great world-building.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "It's the middle of the night, you need to send your brother to the Moon Realm, and he won’t wake up. So you improvise. . . .

When a confused Jasper awakes, he's convinced he's dreaming. But by the time he meets Greydor, Jasper understands that this is no dream. In fact, persuading the King of the Rinn to work with the men of Dain to defeat their common enemy is a nightmare. Then there’s the other side of the coin: convincing Tavin and Dubb that saddling a Rinn isn’t certain death. (“It’ll be fun!”) And perhaps even a greater worry: can he make friends with Dubb’s daughter Darce before she punches his lights out?

Lily has problems, too. There’s a little mousie scratching in her closet. Or at least, it sounds like a little mousie. Oh, and her second confrontation with Curse, and trying to form her first peerin. (Don’t you have to be from Dain to do that?) And where’s Ebb?

Only one thing is certain. Now that Lily and Jasper have entered the Moon Realm, nothing can ever be the same again."


My Two Cents:

As the author mentions in his author blurb at the end of the book that he came up for the idea of The Moon Realm books when telling bedtime stories to his children. This is exactly the kind of story that you want as a bedtime story. This is a great book for both adults looking for a great story as well as little ones who need a great story before drifting off to sleep. There is definitely wide appeal here!

The book is incredibly imaginative and the story is rich with great detail, great world-building, and great characters. I really, really loved this latest adventure and I am anxious to go back to the Moon Realm in the next book. Those who loved books and movies like the Chronicles of Narnia and the Neverending Story (definitely some favorites from my own childhood) will definitely find something to love about this book.

This is the second book in the Moon Realm series and I would say that in order to understand this book, you should probably read the first book in the series, The Moon Coin, in order to understand everything that is going on in The Dragondain. In this book, the readers get to learn more about the Moon Realm and the battle that is being waged. Jasper and Lily are still trying to find out what happened to their beloved Uncle Ebb. There are some secrets uncovered in this book but there is so much left to know.

The Dragondain picks right up where The Moon Coin left off. Because it has been several months since I read The Moon Coin, I had forgotten some of what happened in the first book, which made some of the second book a little difficult to get through. Once I hit a stride, I really hit a stride. The writing is really, really good. There are so many creative and fantastic creatures in the book, which I really enjoyed. The world building is fantastic. The world building is probably still my favorite part of these books.

While I liked The Moon Coin a little bit better than this book (there is a lot more explanation in the first book), this is still most definitely a solid read!

Bottom line: A great fantasy with broad appeal!


 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

HF Virtual Tours: Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow by Juliet Grey

Title: Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow
Author: Juliet Grey
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Random House
Publish Date: May 15, 2012
Source: HF Virtual Tours






Why You're Reading This Book:

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

From Goodreads.com: "Paris, 1774. At the tender age of eighteen, Marie Antoinette ascends to the French throne alongside her husband, Louis XVI. But behind the extravagance of the young queen’s elaborate silk gowns and dizzyingly high coiffures, she harbors deeper fears for her future and that of the Bourbon dynasty.

From the early growing pains of marriage to the joy of conceiving a child, from her passion for Swedish military attaché Axel von Fersen to the devastating Affair of the Diamond Necklace, Marie Antoinette tries to rise above the gossip and rivalries that encircle her. But as revolution blossoms in America, a much larger threat looms beyond the gilded gates of Versailles—one that could sweep away the French monarchy forever."


My Two Cents:

Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow is the second book in a planned trilogy about the infamous Marie Antoinette. In this book, Marie Antoinette is in her early to mid-twenties. When the book opens, her place in the French palace is perilous because she and Louis still have not produced an heir for the French throne, mostly due to Louis' most unfortunate medical situation.

You do not need to read "Becoming Marie Antoinette" in order to enjoy "Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow." You will definitely still be able to pick up the story. "Becoming Marie Antoinette" was a great story though so you should read it on that alone.

Okay, so in "Becoming Marie Antoinette," I really felt for Marie Antoinette. She was taken away from her home very early on and had to marry Louis and seemed nice enough. I had commented about how nice it was to see a different side of Toinette as she is called in the first book; however, I have to say that my sympathy for her slowly ran dry during this book. Now we are seeing the Toinette that we are more familiar with (the "let them eat cake" type). It's not a pretty picture.

France is suffering for all of the money that it lent to the United States for them to fight the American Revolution. The coffers are suffering and Toinette is still living large. She tries to explain away the excess by saying that she needs to basically be better dressed than anyone because as the dauphine and later the Queen of France, everyone looks up to her and would not if she were plain. Meanwhile, the French people are suffering and Toinette does not seem to understand why or why they are all so upset with the monarchy. Oh and then Louis is finally made able to produce an heir and Toinette picks up with the sexy Swede von Ferson not that long after. She seems to bounce from one amusement to another with no care for what she's doing.

Even with as much as I didn't care for Toinette's character in the book, I still really enjoyed this book. Toinette is just sort of fun to hate. She is really into herself and doesn't seem to care who she tramples on. She's able to explain away all of the less desirable parts of herself as things she must do. Grey does a really fantastic job walking the line between making Toinette act up while still having her remain someone that you want to read about. It takes a real talent to do that!

Bottom line: A great HF read!




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

Monday, October 1
Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, October 2
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Wednesday, October 3
Review at The Musings of a Book Junkie

Monday, October 8
Review at A Writer's Life: Working With the Muse
Review & Giveaway at Devourer of Books

Tuesday, October 9
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection

Wednesday, October 10
Review at The Broke and The Bookish

Thursday, October 11
Author Interview at A Writer's Life: Working With the Muse

Friday, October 12
Review at A Bookish Libraria

Monday, October 15
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Tuesday, October 16
Author Guest Post at The Musings of a Book Junkie

Wednesday, October 17
Author Interview & Giveaway at Ageless Pages Reviews

Thursday, October 18
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Friday, October 19
Review at Medieval Bookworm

Monday, October 22
Review & Giveaway at A Library of My Own

Tuesday, October 23
Review at A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, October 24
Review at Confessions of an Avid Reader

Friday, October 26
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Monday, October 29
Review & Giveaway at The Maiden's Court

Tuesday, October 30
Author Guest Post at Historical Boys

Wednesday, October 31
Review at Tiny Library

Thursday, November 1
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict

Friday, November 2
Review at The Lady Gwyn's Kingdom 

Review: Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey

Title: Becoming Marie Antoinette
Author: Juliet Grey
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Ballantine
Publish Date: August 9, 2011
Source: Owned






Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a Historical Fiction fan.
  • You love great detail.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Why must it be me? I wondered. When I am so clearly inadequate to my destiny?

Raised alongside her numerous brothers and sisters by the formidable empress of Austria, ten-year-old Maria Antonia knew that her idyllic existence would one day be sacrificed to her mother’s political ambitions. What she never anticipated was that the day in question would come so soon.

Before she can journey from sunlit picnics with her sisters in Vienna to the glitter, glamour, and gossip of Versailles, Antonia must change everything about herself in order to be accepted as dauphine of France and the wife of the awkward teenage boy who will one day be Louis XVI. Yet nothing can prepare her for the ingenuity and influence it will take to become queen.

Filled with smart history, treacherous rivalries, lavish clothes, and sparkling jewels, Becoming Marie Antoinette will utterly captivate fiction and history lovers alike."


My Two Cents:

This book is the first in a trilogy all about Marie Antoinette and the different periods in her life. Told in first person point of view from Marie Antoinette herself, "Becoming Marie Antoinette" tells the her story from the time when she was a young child in Austria to the time when she is the new wife of the heir to the French throne. I loved that the book was told from the perspective of Marie Antoinette herself. It really helped to pull me into the story. The tone is very conversational so you almost feel like Marie Antoinette is speaking to you as a friend.

Truth be told, I didn't know much about Marie Antoinette early life. Most of what I know about her are the events surrounding the French Revolution. Because of my limited knowledge about her early life, I really enjoyed reading about her childhood. In a way, I sort of felt bad for her. Growing up, her mother, the scheming, power-hungry Marie Therese, let's her know that Marie Antoinette is only a vehicle to expand the power of the Austro-empire. M.A. has to leave her home early on in order to go to France where she doesn't have a whole lot of support. I definitely felt for her.

Grey definitely makes M.A. a sympathetic character in this book, which I was not expecting. I really liked M.A. in this book. She's sort of mostly been seen as a villain historically. It was nice to see another side of her. It made her feel more real!

The historical detail was great in this book. You can definitely tell how much research went into the book. I like that the author included a bibliography at the end of the book so you could see the sources that she pulled from. I know that I'll be pulling from that list for some future reading.

Bottom line: A good book about Marie Antoinette in an unfamiliar light.


 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Review: Sixty Glorious Years by Victoria Murphy

Title: Sixty Glorious Years
Author: Victoria Murphy
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Haynes Publishing
Publish Date: May 15, 2012
Source: Library






Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a non-fiction fan.
  • You're a history buff.
  • You're a royalty fan.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Since Queen Elizabeth II succeeded to the throne sixty years ago Britain has seen huge social, political and economic change. As her people have celebrated the highs and mourned the lows, she has remained a constant and stable figure at the head of the world's most famous Royal Family. Through 12 Prime Ministers, four recessions, wars and a technological revolution, the Queen's determination to carry out her duties and to connect with the public has not faltered. Sixty Glorious Years celebrates her extraordinary ability to have secured a place in the hearts of generations of Britons. With rarely seen pictures, this book offers an unparalleled look at the life and work of the woman who looks set to become Britain's longest surviving sovereign."

My Two Cents:

This book is a collection of photographs from Queen Elizabeth II's life from the archives of the Daily Mail, the famous London newspaper. Queen Elizabeth was never supposed to be queen. When she was born, she was third in line to the throne and her uncle was to be king. Then he abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee. So Queen Elizabeth's father became king. When he died, Queen Elizabeth became well... Queen Elizabeth.

The Daily Mail obviously followed the Queen very closely. This book is filled with a ton of great pictures. Some of them that I've never seen before. Each chapter covers several years in the life of the Queen with a little blurb about what was going on during that time period. The blurbs are great for context.

This is a great photo collection to celebrate the Queen's 60 years of reign!

Bottom line: Royal watchers will love this book!


 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Review: The Turning Tides by Derrolyn Anderson

Title: The Turning Tides
Author: Derrolyn Anderson
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Self-published
Publish Date: March 11, 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 Young Adult fiction fan.
  • You like well-rounded characters.
  • You love mystical creatures.
 What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Marina has been through a lot in the past year; she knows what she wants, and she decides to take matters into her own hands to get it. When a twist of fate takes her away from Aptos, she returns to find that her whole world has changed once again. A fortune teller’s ominous prediction seems to be coming true, people around her aren’t who they appear to be, and to top it all off, she’s being followed again.

Marina and Ethan only want to be together, but find they are being torn apart by their very natures. Can they overcome a final obstacle to build the future they dream of?"


My Two Cents: 

Let me disclose something to you. I hate, hate, hate getting to the end of a really good series of books. It feels like I'm being forced to end a really, really good friendship. With a series like the Marina's Tale books, I was dreading getting to The Turning Tides because I knew it was the end of the road. I had lots of thoughts floating around in my head before I sat down to read this book. Was the book going to give me closure? Was I going to be sad when the book ended? Was I going to like the ending?

Luckily, in this case, the answer to the questions was yes to all of the above. Now, before you read this book, you really should read the other three books. The story in this last book definitely builds upon the stories in the other books and in order to get the full picture, you should read all of them in order.

Anyhow, this book continued to have everything that I've loved about this series of books. There's great characters. Good action! And a lovely pinch of romance! Here's another thing that I always worry about with regard to final books in series. Sometimes it feels like the author is just rushing to come to a complete conclusion in the book. Anderson does not do this at all. You get a good sense that there may be more for the characters in the book (I hope, I hope, I hope). This book was definitely a good ending to the story.

This book has a little bit of something for everyone. While the other books in the series are more purely YA, this book has some more mature themes and should be read with discretion.

Bottom line: A solid end to a great yarn!


  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Review: Fremont by Elizabeth Reeder

Title: Fremont
Author: Elizabeth Reeder
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Kohl Publishing
Publish Date: October 1, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.






Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a fiction fan.
  • You like good writing.
  • You like dysfunctional families.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "When Rachel Roanoke sees Hal Fremont across a diner counter, she claims him as her own. Their first date takes place in the registry office and then they set out for the small, suspicious town Hal calls home. There, in the crumbling hallway of that mock-antebellum house, Rachel and Hal consummate their marriage and start to build their rambunctious brood. Against their parents' ill-starred fairy tale romance, the Fremont children fight for their territory within the shifting, bitter bonds of family. In this tale of prejudice, identity and desire, Fremont becomes a map of survival. The brilliant second novel from Elizabeth Reeder, author of Ramshackle, shortlisted for the Anobii First Book Award."

My Two Cents:

Fremont is incredibly difficult to explain. It covers some heavy subject matter (family ties, prejudice, adultery, etc.) but it's written in a sort of dreamy way. There's also a hint of magical realism, which is always a hit with me (although, I sort of wish that there had been more). This was sort of a hard book to read at some point because you really want things to work out better for the family throughout the entire book.

I will be the first to admit that I really like stories about dysfunctional families. I can't quite put my finger on why I like them so much. The Fremonts are certainly dysfunctional. You have the absent father who can't even keep the names of his own kids straight. You have the mother who seems hell bent on having more kids even to the detriment of the family that already exists. The kids also are dealing with all of their own issues. This book explores how even the most dysfunctional family can still be a unit, for better or for worse.

The writing in this book is great. In fact, it's probably one of my very favorite things about this book. Even with the difficult subject matter, the book almost as a floating, dream-like sort of feel. It made it really interesting to read this book through the nebulous prose. The only issue with this sort of writing in this book is that I felt like I was missing out on some of the detail of the characters and their motivations. Why did Hal cheat all the time? Why did Rachel want so many children in the first place? Was it more than just the map?

Bottom line: A difficult family story with great writing.


 
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