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Monday, August 31, 2015

#Dryland1992: Mixed-Tape Memories

As I mentioned last week, I'm going to be participating in a bunch of activities to celebrate the pub week for Dryland by Sara Jaffe.

Here's the lineup for pub-week:
  • Monday, 8/31: Mixed-Tape Memories: Post a picture of a favorite cassette tape, mention a favorite memory or artist/album/playlist
  • Tuesday, 9/1: Then and Now Around Town: How as your city changed since '92?
    Wednesday, 9/2: On Wednesdays We Wear Plaid: Post a picture of yourself wearing plaid with the book!
  • Thursday, 9/3: Not-So Current Events: Reminiscence on events in your life and in the news in '92
  • Friday, 9/4: Favorite Picture Friday: Dare to share a picture of yourself rocking overalls, crimped hair, choker necklaces...we will, too!

On to today's topic: Mixed-Tape Memories!

So in 1992, I would have been 7 years old. I was being raised on a healthy diet of pop and rock. I was also listening to country music as I was doing country line dancing - seriously! I have always loved music and I loved making mixed tapes even back then. I would beg my parents to get me blank cassettes so I could record my favorite songs off of the radio. There was a fine art to pushing the record button at just the right moment as if not to record the deejay's voice! I am also a little bit of a perfectionist and I spent a lot of time re-recording my tapes to get them just right!

Some of the artists that I would have been recording included: Madonna, Billy Ray Cyrus, Michael Jackson, Celine Dion, Boys II Men, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. It was an eclectic mix and I've kept my love for eclectic music as an adult!

Who were you listening to in 1992?

Review: Dryland by Sara Jaffe

Title: Dryland
Author: Sara Jaffe
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Tin House Books
Publish Date: September 1, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, that did not affect my review.






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "It’s 1992, and the world is caught up in the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the Balkan Wars, but for fifteen-year-old Julie Winter, the news is noise. In Portland, Oregon, Julie moves through her days in a series of negatives: the skaters she doesn’t think are cute, the trinkets she doesn’t buy at the craft fair, the umbrella she refuses to carry despite the incessant rain. Her family life is routine and restrained, and no one talks about Julie’s older brother, a one-time Olympic-hopeful swimmer who now lives in self-imposed exile in Berlin. Julie has never considered swimming herself, until Alexis, the girls’ swim team captain, tries to recruit her. It’s a dare, and a flirtation—and a chance for Julie to find her brother, or to finally let him go. Anything could happen when her body hits water."

My Two Cents:

From Goodreads.com: "In "Dryland," Julie is a teenage girl who decides to take up swimming. It's something that she has never really shown an interest in before even though her brother was an absolutely amazing swimmer and in a way she uses swimming to try to get closer to her brothers memory. Her brother has disappeared and Julie can't really put together what happened to him. Within this book, she'll figure out not only what happened to him but how it affects the way that she thinks about her family and about her own life. This is a powerful book with a unique voice.

This book is set in 1992 in Portland, Oregon. The time of the book is very important to keep in mind as you're reading as the way that people thought about AIDS at the time was vastly different than how they think about it now. I lived through the 90s but I was a young kid at the time and didn't always understand everything that was going on so it was interesting to see the time period in a book.

Julie is a very interesting character. Not only is she dealing with the disappearance of her brother and trying to take on swimming; she is also dealing with her first real crush on Alexis, one of the girls who gets her to join swimming in the first place. Julie doesn't really know how to deal with her feelings because she is unsure what it'll mean if she admits that she has feelings for another girl. I thought the author did a really good job of capturing what it would be like to go through a crush like that where the object of Julie's affection is in many ways messing with Julie's mind. It was hard to read but it was very realistic. This is truly a coming of age story where the character evolves from where she was at the beginning.

I also must mention that I really liked that the book included swimming. I swam in high school and some of my fondest memories from high school involve swim team. It's where I made some really good friends and had some really fun memories. My specialty event was even the 500m like Julie does in the book (luckily, I am a better swimmer than Julie was!!!).

Overall, I really enjoyed this book is they gave me a glimpse back to a time that I don't often read much about. The writing is incredibly vivid and allowed me to see what Julie was going through end to see her true feelings. I would recommend this book to someone who is looking for a YA book that is a little bit off the beaten path."


 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Review: The Gates of Rutherford by Elizabeth Cooke

Title: The Gates of Rutherford
Author: Elizabeth Cooke
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: September 1, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Charlotte Cavendish has been dreaming of her old home at Rutherford Park. It is April 1917; she is nineteen years old. And everywhere there is change. The war still rages on the Continent, where her brother fights for the Royal Flying Corps. Her parents’ marriage is in jeopardy, with her mother falling for a charming American in London.

But not all is grim. Charlotte is marrying Preston, the blinded soldier whom she nursed back to health. Her parents couldn’t be happier about this. The young man hails from a well-established and wealthy family in Kent, and he’s solid and respectable. They hope he’s the one to tame their notoriously headstrong daughter.

But as time passes, Charlotte slowly comes to the realization that she is not truly happy. And for a reason she is only just beginning to understand. A reason she dare not reveal to the family—or the world…"


My Two Cents:

"The Gates of Rutherford" is a historical fiction look at life during World War I. It is a companion book to "Rutherford Hall." This book reminds me a lot of shows like "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey." In "The Gates of Rutherford" there is still a huge cast and much of it centers on a new marriage where the couple wasn't really sure what they want out of it. World War I is raging in the lives of the people in the book are caught up in it.

Ensemble casts work well for television and movies. They don't always work so well for books. While I enjoyed the setting of this book and the time period, I found it very hard to follow along with the stories in the book. There are a lot of characters and I felt like I never could get very close to them.

There are some but some stories that I was very into such as the one about the German prisoner but there were other stories where I felt like I didn't we get to know the characters very well and therefore wasn't as interested. This book is not all that long either so there isn't really a lot of detail about each of the characters in many ways, this book feels like a slice of life about people who are dealing with World War I in Europe. You get a taste of the characters but I found myself wanting more. That being said there storylines are still very interesting and kept me reading. Overall, this book was a mixed bag for me.


 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Announcing: #Dryland1992

Next week is the release for "Dryland" by Sara Jaffe. I'll be celebrating the book all week on a Bookish Affair. The book takes place in 1992 so I'll be getting nostalgic all week long next week!


Here's a description of each day:

•   Monday, 8/31: Mixed-Tape Memories
Post a picture of a favorite cassette tape, mention a favorite memory or artist/album/playlist
   Tuesday, 9/1: Then and Now Around Town
How as your city changed since '92?
•   Wednesday, 9/2: On Wednesdays We Wear Plaid
Post a picture of yourself wearing plaid with the book!
•   Thursday, 9/3: Not-So Current Events
Reminiscence on events in your life and in the news in '92
•   Friday, 9/4: Favorite Picture Friday
Dare to share a picture of yourself rocking overalls, crimped hair, choker necklaces...we will, too!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Review: Enchantress of Paris by Marci Jefferson

Title: Enchantress of Paris
Author: Marci Jefferson
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publish Date: August 4, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "The alignment of the stars at Marie Mancini's birth warned that although she would be gifted at divination, she was destined to disgrace her family. Ignoring the dark warnings of his sister and astrologers, Cardinal Mazarin brings his niece to the French court, where the forbidden occult arts thrive in secret. In France, Marie learns her uncle has become the power behind the throne by using her sister Olympia to hold the Sun King, Louis XIV, in thrall.

Desperate to avoid her mother's dying wish that she spend her life in a convent, Marie burns her grimoire, trading Italian superstitions for polite sophistication. But as her star rises, King Louis becomes enchanted by Marie's charm. Sensing a chance to grasp even greater glory, Cardinal Mazarin pits the sisters against each other, showering Marie with diamonds and silks in exchange for bending King Louis to his will.

Disgusted by Mazarin's ruthlessness, Marie rebels. She sacrifices everything, but exposing Mazarin's deepest secret threatens to tear France apart. When even King Louis's love fails to protect Marie, she must summon her forbidden powers of divination to shield her family, protect France, and help the Sun King fulfill his destiny."


My Two Cents:

"Enchantress of Paris" is the latest historical fiction offering from Marci Jefferson. I really enjoyed her last book, "Girl on the Golden Coin," so I was excited to read this book. In this book, we see the court of King Louis XIV of France, also known as the Sun King, through the eyes of one of his most beloved mistresses, Marie Mancini. Louis and Marie truly loved each other but it was a forbidden love with the King's mother and Marie's uncle trying to keep the lovers apart because of their own wants and more importantly, their own secrets!

This story is told from the perspective of Marie in first-person point of view. I really loved this because it allowed me to have a front seat to what it must've been like to be in France at the time. Marie and Louis fall hard for each other and it is a true love. Marie really doesn't seem to care that Louis is the king and Louis is ready to give up the throne for her if it means that they can be together. I had never really known much about Marie Mancini so I liked getting to know her through this book.

As the title suggests, there is an element of magic added to this book that I also really enjoyed. The author is able to weave in some magical realism details that really made this book sparkle for me. Marie comes from a line of family members who have been able to weave some enchantment through their lives and Marie also has that power. The element is subtle but really works for this book!

I also have to mention how much I enjoyed this setting. I've read a lot of historical fiction set in France but I haven't read too too much about the Sun Kings Court. It was such an interesting time and Francis history and I really enjoyed getting to know it a little bit better through this book. Overall, the authors writing and the characters that she includes make this book a great pick for historical fiction lovers.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Review: The Year My Mother Came Back by Alice Eve Cohen

Title: The Year My Mother Came Back
Author: Alice Eve Cohen
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publish Date: March 31, 2015
Source: Owned



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Thirty years after her death, Alice Eve Cohen’s mother appears to her, seemingly in the flesh, and continues to do so during the hardest year Alice has had to face: the year her youngest daughter needs a harrowing surgery, her eldest daughter decides to reunite with her birth mother, and Alice herself receives a daunting diagnosis. As it turns out, it’s entirely possible for the people we’ve lost to come back to us when we need them the most.

Although letting her mother back into her life is not an easy thing, Alice approaches it with humor, intelligence, and honesty. What she learns is that she must revisit her childhood and allow herself to be a daughter once more in order to take care of her own girls. Understanding and forgiving her mother’s parenting transgressions leads her to accept her own and to realize that she doesn’t have to be perfect to be a good mother."

My Two Cents:

"The Year My Mother Came Back" is a memoir in which we get a glimpse of the trials and tribulations of mother/ daughter relationships, that most special and intricate bond. The author has lost her mother but as she is going through a difficult time with both of her own daughters as well as trying to fight cancer, her mother appears to her. The author reminisces on her relationship with her mother and her relationship with her children as their mother. Filled with gorgeous prose, this book is a fast read with a lot of weight in meaning.

Memoirs can be difficult. You have to have a compelling story and a compelling way to tell it. In this case, the author has both. The book flashes back between the past and the present (which sometimes got difficult but if you stick with it, the payoff is worth it). The author sees her mother in the present and it sends her reeling into her memories, that were not always that great. 

I liked the way that the author was able to draw comparisons between her role as a daughter and her role as a mother. That role, as I am finding out as a new mother, changes so much. You go from being taken care of to being the caretaker. It is a weird jump. In the book, Cohen is taking care of her almost college age adopted daughter who discovers her biological family and her younger daughter who is going through some incredibly difficult medical issues. This is an unflinching look at the different forms that mother/ daughter relationships take. I suggest this book to those that enjoy memoirs and are fascinated by the intricacies of mother/ daughter relationships.



Thursday, August 20, 2015

HFVBT Guest Post: Eliza Redgold, Author of Naked

The Painted Lady: Images of Godiva

This blog post comes to us from Eliza Redgold, author, academic and unashamed romantic. Her new novel Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva was released by St Martin’s Press on July 14 2015.

We all know the legend of Lady Godiva, who famously rode naked through the streets of Coventry, covered only by her long, flowing hair, or have seen her picture, even if only adorning a box of Belgian chocolates. There are many more images of Godiva. She has captured the imagination of artists for centuries. She has been a muse of painters from Landseer to Dali. These are just some a few of portraits in the last five hundred years. Long may she continue to inspire.














Follow Eliza Redgold  on
Twitter: @ElizaRedgold
or subscribe to her newsletter at www.elizaredgold.com

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Review: Confucius Says by Veronica Li

Title: Confucius Says
Author: Veronica Li
Format: Ebook\
Publisher: Homa and Sekey Books
Publish Date: April 24, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Cary, a middle-aged Chinese American, was brought up to believe that children should shed blood for their parents. Confucius says so: filial piety is a sacred duty that requires extreme sacrifice on the part of the young. Thus when Cary’s parents become too old and feeble to live on their own, she doesn’t hesitate to take them in. With the blessing of her Caucasian husband, Steve, she dives into caregiving with enthusiasm. 

But the more Cary tries to please her parents, the crabbier they become. Baba fights with Mami, and Cary with both; sibling rivalry fuels the fire, and Steve is fed up. A string of crises forces Cary to confront the source of her troubles: Confucius. She reads the Book on Filial Piety to see what exactly Confucius says about the subject. To her surprise, she finds his sayings are quite the opposite of what she’s been taught to believe. Liberated from her misconceptions, Cary rediscovers filial piety as a universal formula for a functional and loving modern American family. "

My Two Cents:

In "Confucius Says," Cary and her husband, Steve, are confronted with having to move her aging parents into her house. Cary is very used to living on her own terms and her parents upend all of her carefully laid out plans and schedules. She quickly becomes frustrated when her parents don't seem to appreciate what she is doing for them. She will eventually learn that it isn't enough to simply offer a place to stay and that she will have to commit to doing more.

This is an issue that confronts so many people. Eventually parents get old and it often falls to the children to step in and take care of them. I'm currently watching this happen with my parents and my grandmother and it is incredibly difficult. The author did a good job of illustrating the strange sorting out of a new balance of power that a parent - child relationship has to go through in order to find a relationship that works for everyone. I really liked how realistic the author made this relationship change feel!

The book is told from multiple points of view, which did get a little confusing. Some parts were told from Cary's first person point of view, which I enjoyed the most because it allowed me to get close to the characters. Other parts are told from the third person point of view, either looking at Cary's parents' relationship with each other or Cary and Steve's relationship. It was a little difficult to have the point of view switch as it took me out of the story a little bit. 

Overall, I liked this story. It's a realistic and heartfelt look at how families change as the years go on.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

HFVBT Book Blast: Enchantress of Paris by Marci Jefferson

02_Enchantress of ParisEnchantress of Paris: A Novel of the Sun King's Court by Marci Jefferson

Publication Date: August 4, 2015 Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press Hardcover & eBook; 336 Pages Genre: Historical Fiction READ AN EXCERPT. Add to GR Button     Fraught with conspiracy and passion, the Sun King's opulent court is brought to vivid life in this captivating tale about a woman whose love was more powerful than magic. The alignment of the stars at Marie Mancini's birth warned that although she would be gifted at divination, she was destined to disgrace her family. Ignoring the dark warnings of his sister and astrologers, Cardinal Mazarin brings his niece to the French court, where the forbidden occult arts thrive in secret. In France, Marie learns her uncle has become the power behind the throne by using her sister Olympia to hold the Sun King, Louis XIV, in thrall. Desperate to avoid her mother's dying wish that she spend her life in a convent, Marie burns her grimoire, trading Italian superstitions for polite sophistication. But as her star rises, King Louis becomes enchanted by Marie's charm. Sensing a chance to grasp even greater glory, Cardinal Mazarin pits the sisters against each other, showering Marie with diamonds and silks in exchange for bending King Louis to his will. Disgusted by Mazarin's ruthlessness, Marie rebels. She sacrifices everything, but exposing Mazarin's deepest secret threatens to tear France apart. When even King Louis's love fails to protect Marie, she must summon her forbidden powers of divination to shield her family, protect France, and help the Sun King fulfill his destiny.

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOKS-A-MILLION | INDIEBOUND | MACMILLAN

ADVANCE PRAISE

“Told with vivid historical detail and packed with court intrigue, this is sure to please fans of royal fiction.” — Library Journal

ABOUT THE AUTHOR03_Marci Jefferson

Years after graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University, immersing herself in a Quality Assurance nursing career, and then having children, Marci realized she’d neglected her passion for history and writing. She began traveling, writing along the way, delving into various bits of history that caught her fancy. The plot for GIRL ON THE GOLDEN COIN evolved slowly after a trip to London, where she first learned about the Stuart royals. Marci is a member of the Historical Novel Society. She resides in the Midwest with her husband, making hair-bows for their daughter, trying not to step on their son’s Legos, and teaching a tiny Pacific Parrotlet to talk. For more information visit Marci Jefferson’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

BOOK BLAST SCHEDULE

Tuesday, August 4 Unabridged Chick Wednesday, August 5 Unshelfish Beth's Book Nook Blog Curling up by the Fire Thursday, August 6 Book Lovers Paradise History From a Woman's Perspective Friday, August 7 100 Pages a Day Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Saturday, August 8 Historical Readings & Reviews Sunday, August 9 Book Nerd Monday, August 10 Genre Queen Tuesday, August 11 A Chick Who Reads To Read, Or Not to Read Wednesday, August 12 A Literary Vacation So Many Books, So Little Time Thursday, August 13 Broken Teepee CelticLady's Reviews Friday, August 14 A Book Geek The Lit Bitch Saturday, August 15 The Maiden's Court Sunday, August 16 Ageless Pages Reviews Monday, August 17 Luxury Reading Boom Baby Reviews Tuesday, August 18 A Bookish Affair

GIVEAWAY

To enter to win a signed copy of Enchantress of Paris: A Novel of the Sun King's Court, please enter via the GLEAM form below. Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on August 18th. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open internationally. – Only one entry per household. – All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion – Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen. Enchantress of Paris 04_Enchantress of Paris_Book Blast Banner_FINAL

Monday, August 17, 2015

HFVBT Review: Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva by Eliza Redgold

Title: Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva
Author: Eliza Redgold
Format: Paperback
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publish Date: July 14, 2015
Source: HFVBT Book Tours


What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "We all know the legend of Lady Godiva, who famously rode naked through the streets of Coventry, covered only by her long, flowing hair. So the story goes, she begged her husband Lord Leofric of Mercia to lift a high tax on her people, who would starve if forced to pay. Lord Leofric demanded a forfeit: that Godiva ride naked on horseback through the town. There are various endings to Godiva's ride, that all the people of Coventry closed their doors and refused to look upon their liege lady (except for 'peeping Tom') and that her husband, in remorse, lifted the tax. 
Naked is an original version of Godiva's tale with a twist that may be closer to the truth: by the end of his life Leofric had fallen deeply in love with Lady Godiva."

My Two Cents:

"Naked" is the story of Lady Godiva, who is most commonly known for riding through her small town of Coventry naked on a horse with only her hair to cover herself. This lady is truly a legend and one that has fascinated so many people, historical fiction and history lovers alike. I'm always fascinated by this story so I was really interested in the author's take on Lady Godiva. Not many facts are about her but the author is able to take what we know and expound on it and create a really rich and wonderfully detailed story.

When it comes to historical fiction, I think that it can be difficult for authors to have too many facts. I also think it can be difficult for authors to have too few details. In the case of Lady Godiva, a lot is unknown about her and the author was able to create a very realistic character and some memorable secondary characters. I really appreciated the way that the author was able to make the legend come to life. In the beginning of the book, the author includes a historical note which explains what is known and what is unknown about the legend of Lady Godiva. It really set the stage for me as a reader and I love to see the author's thought process about the story.

Lady Godiva is such an interesting character to me. She lives in a world where women do not have much authority at all and she realizes that. However, in a lot of ways she doesn't let that fact constrained her. She feels duty-bound to take care of the people under her. Her husband is the one who dares to ride through the center of town naked in order to prove her mettle and conviction. I really liked how the author was able to make Godiva feel real. The book is told from the first person point of view which pulled me right into the story.

I really enjoyed this take on Lady Godiva. The author definitely had me interested in learning more about the legend. Historical fiction lovers will love this take on this familiar story. The other puts a brand-new spin on an old favorite!


Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, August 10
Review at Bibliophilia, Please
Tuesday, August 11
Spotlight at Passages to the Past
Wednesday, August 12
Guest Post at The Maiden’s Court
Spotlight at A Book Geek
Thursday, August 13
Spotlight at Just One More Chapter
Friday, August 14
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Saturday, August 15
Guest Post at Mina’s Bookshelf
Monday, August 17
Review at A Bookish Affair
Tuesday, August 18
Review at Book Nerd
Guest Post at A Literary Vacation
Wednesday, August 19
Review at Unshelfish
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Thursday, August 20
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair
Friday, August 21
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Review at Let Them Read Books
Monday, August 24
Review at I’m Shelf-ish
Review at Please Pass the Books
Guest Post at Bibliotica
Tuesday, August 25
Review at A Fold in the Spine
Review & Interview at History Undressed
Guest Post at Curling Up By the Fire
Wednesday, August 26
Review at Bookish
Spotlight at The True Book Addict
Thursday, August 27
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Review & Guest Post at Romantic Historical Reviews
Guest Post at The Lit Bitch
Friday, August 28
Review at A Book Drunkard
Review at Book Lovers Paradise



Friday, August 14, 2015

Book to Movie: Far From the Madding Crowd



"Far From the Madding Crowd" is a movie that is based on the book by the same title by Thomas Hardy. This book tells the story of Bathsheba, a Victorian woman who is able to rise out of the typical station of so many women of that age as she inherits a farm. I haven't read this book and although I typically like reading the book before I see a movie, in this case the movie made me want to go back and read the book next!

This is one of those movies where it seemed very easy to me and also to my sister, who was watching a movie with me, to guess what was happening and what would happen at the end. The question of this movie is not a question of what is going to happen but when it's going to happen. Ultimately, this movie is about a couple things. First off, it's the story of Bathsheba and her love-life. She is pursued by and pursues three men throughout the movie and must figure out what her romantic destiny is. It's also a story of a woman and her independence during a time when many women did not have that much independence. It is really interesting to see how Bathsheba is able to run a farm and make money and have wealth and be the master of her own destiny.

I must mention how beautiful this movie is. I love a good costume drama and I really thought that the filmmakers did a great job using costumes to evoke a sense of time. The cinematography in the setting of the movie is also gorgeous. This movie had me wanting to run out to the countryside to experience the great grassy hills and beautiful old country houses of the movie.

Overall, this movie is a good one if you like movies where there are many surprises and the drama is really in the known and the unknown.

Thanks to Think Jam for providing a review copy! The opinions are all my own! 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Giveaway Winners!

I have one winner to announce today!






Lizzie Pepper Prize Pack
Colleen

Congrats!!!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Review: The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster by Scott Wilbanks

Title: The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster
Author: Scott Wilbanks
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publish Date: August 4, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.


What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Annabelle Aster doesn’t bow to convention—not even that of space and time—which makes the 1890s Kansas wheat field that has appeared in her modern-day San Francisco garden easy to accept. Even more peculiar is Elsbeth, the truculent schoolmarm who sends Annie letters through the mysterious brass mailbox perched on the picket fence that now divides their two worlds.
Annie and Elsbeth’s search for an explanation to the hiccup in the universe linking their homes leads to an unsettling discovery—and potential disaster for both of them. Together they must solve the mystery of what connects them before one of them is convicted of a murder that has yet to happen…and yet somehow already did."
My Two Cents:
There are a lot of readers out there who find a certain kind of story that they like and they want to stick to it. That's all fine and good but that has never been me. If I read something, I'm looking for a completely different story the next time. The more original a story is, the better. The synopsis of "The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster" sounded interesting to me and definitely off the beaten path, but when I opened this book, I was blown away by how unforgettable the storyline was. This book is perfect for those who are looking for a book that's fully engaging and will stick with you for very long time!
Reading a lot of historical fiction, I'm very used to the trope of letters connecting the present to the past. In the case of Annie, she finds that she can send letters back to a 1890s farmhouse in the middle of Kansas and that Elsbeth can send letters to her from 1890s Kansas to present-day San Francisco. This book uses many magical realism to make Annie and Elsbeth's worlds feel like something that could actually happen. Magical realism continues to be one of my favorite additions to any book and this book has it in spades!
Not only is the story wholly original but the characters are really interesting as well. Annie is incredibly quirky and incredibly smart. She has always felt like an outsider but feeling like an outsider has made her more open to the idea of things not always being the way that they seem originally. Some of the secondary characters also made this book memorable. The author does a great job of using detail in order to make the characters jump off of the page.
There's so many twists and turns in this book and it really kept me on my toes. Every page added a little bit something new to the mystery of what was going on with Annie and Elsbeth's mailboxes. Although that is the main arc, the author had a great way of adding other details and issues to make the characters feel like real people with real lives. This is an incredibly inventive story and I know that I will be thinking about the story for a long time. Although I won't be looking for another book just like this one as I don't like to read the same thing twice, but this book what gives me hope that there are other original stories out there just waiting to be found!


Friday, August 7, 2015

Review and Guest Post: Girl in Glass by Deanna Fei

Title: Girl in Glass: How My "Distressed Baby" Defied the Odds, Shamed a CEO, and Taught Me the Essence of Love, Heartbreak, and Miracles
Author: Deanna Fei
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: July 14, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the PR; however, this did not affect my review.






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Deanna Fei was just five-and-a-half months pregnant when she inexplicably went into labor. Minutes later, she met her tiny baby who clung to life support inside a glass box. Fei was forced to confront terrifying questions: How to be the mother of a child she could lose at any moment. Whether her daughter would survive another day--and whether she should. But as she watched her daughter fight for her life, Fei discovered the power of the mother-child bond at its most elemental.

A year after she brought her daughter home from the hospital, the CEO of AOL--her husband's employer--blamed the beautiful, miraculously healthy little girl for a cut in employee benefits and attached a price tag to her life, using a phrase, "distressed babies," that set off a national firestorm.

Girl in Glass is the riveting story of one child's harrowing journey and a powerful distillation of parenthood. With incandescent prose and an unflinching eye, Fei explores the value of a human life: from the spreadsheets wielded by cost-cutting executives to the insidious notions of risk surrounding modern pregnancy; from the wondrous history of medical innovation in the care of premature infants to contemporary analyses of what their lives are worth; and finally, to the depths of her own struggle to make sense of her daughter's arrival in the world. Above all, Girl in Glass is a luminous testament to how love takes hold when a birth defies our fundamental beliefs about how life is supposed to begin."


My Two Cents: 

"Girl in Glass" is the story of Deanna Fei and her family, who were thrust into the media spotlight a couple years ago when the CEO of her husband's company stated that her child was one of the reasons that he had to cut benefits for the company. In "Girl in Glass," we see how Fei deals with the super early birth of her daughter, the hurdles that brings, and the hurdles that are brought on by the CEO with no tact. This is an incredibly powerful book that drew me in.

This book really hit home for me. Frequent visitors to A Bookish Affair probably know that I had identical twin girls in April. I did not write much about my fear while I was pregnant but I was absolutely terrified while carrying my girls. I knew that my pregnancy was high risk off the bat because of carrying twin girls. I was always quite jealous of those lucky moms only carrying one baby who seemed to effortlessly be able to carry on with their lives while pregnant. This book shows that the grass is not always greener on the other side. There are people with "normal" pregnancies where the difficult can still occur.

Fei went into labor at five and a half months pregnant and had a little girl. She takes us into the NICU, a place that is both amazing and heartbreaking, sometimes at the same time. I thought there was a good chance that my girls would end up in the NICU. Fei talks of her guilt and worry over having done something that made her daughter come so early. Having gone through that myself to some degree, she really captured that well. You really do feel helpless and like there had to have been something you could have done differently. It is hard to explain all of those feelings that you go through but Fei explains it perfectly.

This book pulled me in hard. You feel for the entire family. Without the CEO debacle, the whole situation still would have been so incredibly difficult. This book shed a light on how benefits may not be as beneficial as they could be for families in need. Those who care about families and worker's benefits will be drawn to this book. Those who are looking for a real and raw memoir will also be drawn to this one! What a read!





Guest Post:

I am thrilled to have the author here on A Bookish Affair today!

The Power of Telling Our Stories

 

After the birth of my second child—a birth so premature and inexplicable that the doctors called it “catastrophic”--I thought I might never write again. At the very least, I thought I could never write the story of her arrival in the world.

The circumstances of my daughter’s birth had upended everything I thought I knew about how life is supposed to begin: the long labor, the final push, the radiant perfection in the face of a new baby. That’s how my first child, my son, had been born—on his due date, no less. Everything that followed his birth had been a continuation of that story: a triumphant birth story. As I held him and nursed him and watched him flourish, I couldn’t help thinking that I must have done everything right to have a baby as healthy as this.

One year later, when my daughter arrived nearly four months premature, I struggled to even say the words, She was born. Her existence was suspended between birth and death, hope and fear, nature and science. And as I helplessly watched her cling to life support day after day, I couldn’t stop castigating myself for what I must have done wrong to cause her premature birth. Something I ate, something I touched, something I thought.

Even after she came home and seemed to thrive, the circumstances of her birth still haunted me like a terrible secret.  

Then, just as she took her first steps and I finally began to breathe a little easier, my husband’s CEO publicly blamed her medical needs for a cut in employee benefits, portraying us as outsized burdens on the corporate balance sheets. He used a dehumanizing term, “distressed babies,” that set off a national firestorm. It was only as I struggled to understand how my private trauma had become the subject of countless headlines that I began to question the blame I had heaped upon myself.

I finally broke through my shame and guilt to speak out to defend my daughter’s basic humanity. Then, as the story went viral, I received an outpouring of messages from strangers across the country who embraced my daughter’s story and entrusted me with their own. Stories of premature babies, sick newborns, children who needed intensive care for any reason. They showed me the perils of a culture that blames and shames women who suffer medical crises related to pregnancy and childbirth—and taught me to absolve myself.

They brought me back to the power of telling our stories—especially when that story is the most fundamental story we tell: the story of how our children arrived in the world. And they inspired me to write GIRL IN GLASS. It’s my hope that this book will help others feel less alone, just as the stories of others helped to save me.

About the Author:
Deanna Fei is the author of the new memoir GIRL IN GLASS, hailed as “extraordinarily beautiful” by NPR and “an impassioned, important book” by the Washington Post. GIRL IN GLASS was recently featured on Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC, PBS NewsHour, and NPR’s All Things Considered. Her debut novel, A THREAD OF SKY, was named a New York Times Editors’ Choice and a CALA Best Book. Fei was born in Flushing, New York and graduated from Amherst College and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She has received a Fulbright Grant and a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship. Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, Slate, TIME, and Fortune, among other publications. She has taught writing and counseled at-risk youth through the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, CASES, and New York City public schools. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.

Connect with Deanna online:

Buy the book:

GIRL IN GLASS has been featured on PBS NewsHour, Good Housekeeping, NPR’s All Things Considered, the Guardian, Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC, and more

“Extraordinarily beautiful.” —Arun Rath, NPR
“An impassioned, important book.” —Washington Post
“Mesmerizing.” —Yahoo! Parenting
“Everyone must read this book.” —Melissa Harris-Perry, MSNBC
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