Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Review: Pilgrimage by Lucy K. Pick

Title: Pilgrimage
Author: Lucy K. Pick
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Cuidono Press
Publish Date: July 7, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the author.






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "The last thing Gebirga of Flanders remembers seeing is the argument between her parents that ended in her mother’s death. In the years since, she has learned to negotiate her family’s castle of Gistel as a blind woman but everyone assumes that one day her home will be the convent founded in her mother’s honor. An accidental encounter offers another path, and Gebirga flees her callous family with a pack of pilgrims that includes a count’s daughter bound for marriage, two clerics writing a guidebook, and a mysterious messenger with an unknown agenda, all headed along the pilgrimage road to Compostela. The journey takes Gebirga from her home on the edge of the North Sea across the kingdoms of France and into the Iberian Peninsula, where her mission to escort a young noblewoman becomes a dangerous adventure involving power-hungry kings and queens and even the Roman Pope. But can a blind woman navigate the shoals of international politics? To find a place where she can belong, Gebirga must learn there are other ways of seeing the truth than with her eyes.

To most of twelfth-century Europe, Spain was a far-off and exotic place, home to the holy site of Compostela, shrine of Saint James. The saint’s tomb drew a perpetual wave of pilgrims, coming for adventure, or seeking a miracle from the saint. Pilgrimage is the story of one of those pilgrims."


My Two Cents:

"Pilgrimage" is the story of Gebirga of Flanders who has lost both of her parents. She feels a little bit adrift and isn't really sure what her life holds for her. The time is 12th century and therefore there not very many options open for women. She ends up joining a flighty young woman on a pilgrimage to Spain to follow the Way of St. James. This is a fascinating historical fiction that took me to a time and a place that I have seldom visited in my reading.

Characters are so important to me in my books! This book has a great main character! Not only is Gebirga a woman in a man's world, she is also blind which makes her life incredibly difficult during that time period. Her opportunities are even more limited because of what she cannot see. I loved this character. She is absolutely fascinating. The way that the author let us readers into her innermost thoughts really sold me on her. She's definitely a character that you're cheering for and hoping that everything will turn out well for throughout the book.

The writing of this book was good. Again, like I said before, I haven't read a whole lot of historical fiction set in the 12th-century and I really enjoyed getting to see the era through this book. The author includes a lot of historical detail that brought to life the pilgrimage that so many people took to travel to Spain, following the way of St. James. The idea of a pilgrimage is sort of foreign to me. I've read a little bit about them but I thought that the way that this book describes a pilgrimage with such detail really made me understand why people would be driven to go on a pilgrimage. The author makes Gerbirga's life come to life. This book is a treat for historical fiction fans! I am excited to see other books that the author comes out with in the future!


 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Review: Tales of Byzantium by Eileen Stephenson

Title: Tales of Byzantium
Author: Eileen Stephenson
Format: Fiction
Publisher: Self published
Publish Date: May 2, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the author.






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Three stories of love, war, and destiny in medieval Byzantium.

A young empress defies her powerful father for love and her rightful place on the throne.

A charismatic commander takes the gamble of a lifetime to save the lives of thousands of innocents.

An exiled princess finds a new sense of purpose and creates a legacy that will stand through the ages.

These stories provide a glimpse of the dynamic and proud Byzantines who lived during the height of the empire's splendor."


My Two Cents:

"Tales of Byzantium: A Selection of Short Stories" is a collection of three historical fiction stories set in and around some of the figures of Byzantium. Each of these stories are different and they cover some of the rulers as well as others who left their fingerprints on the era. The author uses a lot of great historical detail in order to bring each of the characters at the center of each of these three stories to life.

My favorite story was probably the last one, which covers Anna Comenena, a woman who is being punished for seeking to overtake her brother's throne, which she feels is rightfully hers. I did not know much about Anna Comenena or the other characters in these stories and this book really whet my appetite to read more about the Byzantines! I love when one book can lead you to wanting to read more on the subject!

The writing of the book was very good. I think one issue with short stories is that there can be the temptation to dump information in order to bring the reader up to speed. There was a little bit of that done here and it bogged down the narrative a little bit. That being said, the historical detail that was included is great and interesting. I just wish that the stories have been a little bit longer to spread all of the information out so it didn't feel like information was simply being dumped on the reader. It's clear that the author did a lot of thorough research into her subject.

Although the stories were great, I especially enjoyed the author's notes that are found at the end of each story. The author gives a little bit of context as to who the historical figures that she was talking about  are and what happened to them. It gave me a greater appreciation for the characters that she chose to write about. I would love to see what this author does in the future, perhaps in a longer form novel!


 

Friday, September 25, 2015

HFVBT Guest Post: Jeanne Mackin, Author of "The Beautiful American"

I am excited to welcome Jeanne Mackin, author of "The Beautiful American" to A Bookish Affair today!


Why perfume?

When I began creating the character of Nora Tours, the narrator of The Beautiful American, it soon occurred to me that I wanted her to become a ‘nose,’ one of those people in the perfume industry whose sense of smell is so acute they can create those wonderful bottles of sensual pleasure, the Chanel No.5’s and Joy, and L’Air du Temps we love.
I wanted Nora to experience life as a series of fragrances, some pleasant, some not, because it seemed a very likely metaphor for Paris between the wars.  Think of childhood, and we often remember the smells of childhood: cinnamon and pine wreaths and muddy fields.  Think of first love and we might remember the smell of a corsage or a bouquet of roses or the herbs of a garden in the moonlight.  Think of Paris, and I think of the scent of yeasty bread, car fumes, the perfume the women wear, the smell of garlic in a bistro and the bouquet of a good wine.  Paris has changed a lot since the 1930’s, but those things stay constant.  Nora would have known those odors, might have thought of the Café Dome every time someone lit up a cigarette, or of Grasse in southern France, when she smelled lavender.
The truth is, we experience life as much with scents as we do with colors and sounds. And since Nora is in contrast to the other woman of the novel, the model-turned photographer Lee Miller, I wanted her dominant sense to contrast with Lee’s, who was very visual.  Their difficult friendship becomes a kind of imagined perfume, with top notes of laughter and the pleasures of being young and free, the middle notes of shared experiences that unite them in sorrow and a little bitterness, and the bottom notes of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Some readers have said they would never forgive Lee for what she did.  Nora does.  Life, like perfume, is a complex and sometimes messy business.  But if you try, usually you can still find the wonderful scent of flowers and spices somewhere in that complicated odor of experience.

Follow the Rest of the Blog Tour:

Monday, September 21
Spotlight at Let Them Read Books
Tuesday, September 22
Interview at Please Pass the Books
Wednesday, Spetember 23
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Spotlight at What Is That Book About
Thursday, September 24
Review at History Undressed
Review & Interview at Jorie Loves a Story
Friday, September 25
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair
Interview at History Undressed
Spotlight at Book Nerd
Sunday, September 27
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Monday, September 28
Review at I’m Shelf-ish
Guest Post at To Read, or Not to Read
Tuesday, September 29
Review at Build a Bookshelf
Spotlight at Caroline Wilson Writes
Wednesday, September 30
Review at Queen of All She Reads
Spotlight at View From the Birdhouse
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Thursday, October 1
Review at Dive Under the Cover
Interview at The Old Shelter
Guest Post at Books and Benches
Spotlight at The Lit Bitch
Friday, October 2
Review at A Fold in the Spine
Review & Interview at Singing Librarian Books
Spotlight & Excerpt at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, September 24, 2015

HFVBT Review: Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart

Title: Girl Waits with Gun
Author: Amy Stewart
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publish Date: September 1, 2015
Source: HFVBT






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Constance Kopp doesn’t quite fit the mold. She towers over most men, has no interest in marriage or domestic affairs, and has been isolated from the world since a family secret sent her and her sisters into hiding fifteen years ago. One day a belligerent and powerful silk factory owner runs down their buggy, and a dispute over damages turns into a war of bricks, bullets, and threats as he unleashes his gang on their family farm. When the sheriff enlists her help in convicting the men, Constance is forced to confront her past and defend her family — and she does it in a way that few women of 1914 would have dared.  "

My Two Cents:

"Girl Waits with Gun" is the story of Constance Kopp, one of the country's first female deputy sheriffs. The book mostly takes place in the early 1900s with a couple flashbacks to the late 1800s. The book centers on Constance and her sisters mostly. The book starts with a bang as the sisters' buggy is hit by a really mean, slimy factory owner who doesn't want to pay for the damages. His unwillingness to pay sets off a chain of events that move this funny and witty historical fiction forward.

Constance is a fantastic character! I loved reading about her and I loved how the author brought her to life. Before reading this book, I was not familiar with Constance at all but I like the way that she was portrayed in this book and would love to read more about the real-life person. Constance definitely wants to be the master of her own destiny in a time when so many women really did not have that ability because of social norms. Constance seems to constantly be testing the boundaries and protecting her sisters. She is definitely a heroine that you can cheer for!

The writing of this book was really good. The author takes a true story that I don't think too many people know about and brings it to life. Constance is definitely an unsung hero of her time. This book only covers up to when she becomes a deputy sheriff (does that mean that there could maybe, possibly be a sequel???). The author obviously did a lot of research in order to not only make the readers see what Constance's world was like but also to bring the characters to life. The book is told from the perspective of Constance, which really brought me into the book. It's no wonder that this book is getting as much buzz as it has been getting!



Wednesday, September 23, 2015

HFVBT Review: The Beautiful American by Jeanne Mackin

Title: The Beautiful American
Author: Jeanne Mackin
Format: Paperback
Publisher: NAL
Publish Date: June 3, 2014
Source: HFVBT






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "As recovery from World War II begins, expat American Nora Tours travels from her home in southern France to London in search of her missing sixteen-year-old daughter. There, she unexpectedly meets up with an old acquaintance, famous model-turned-photographer Lee Miller. Neither has emerged from the war unscathed. Nora is racked with the fear that her efforts to survive under the Vichy regime may have cost her daughter’s life. Lee suffers from what she witnessed as a war correspondent photographing the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps.

Nora and Lee knew each other in the heady days of late 1920s Paris, when Nora was giddy with love for her childhood sweetheart, Lee became the celebrated mistress of the artist Man Ray, and Lee’s magnetic beauty drew them all into the glamorous lives of famous artists and their wealthy patrons. But Lee fails to realize that her friendship with Nora is even older, that it goes back to their days as children in Poughkeepsie, New York, when a devastating trauma marked Lee forever. Will Nora’s reunion with Lee give them a chance to forgive past betrayals…and break years of silence to forge a meaningful connection as women who have shared the best and the worst that life can offer?"


My Two Cents:

 "The Beautiful American" is the story of Nora, an American girl that follows her sweetheart overseas to Paris during the Roaring 20s. It's there that she meets up with her childhood friend, Lee Miller. Before reading this book I had heard of Lee Miller but I didn't really know too much about her. Lee Miller is a female photographer and model who worked with the likes of Man Ray and Pablo Picasso. She did a lot of surrealist photography and was a larger-than-life character. She is a secondary character is this book.

What's interesting about this book is that Nora, the main character, is a fictional character but she interacts with many different real-life historical figures. Nora becomes a vehicle to tell the stories of Weymiller and some of man Ray and Pablo Picasso. Nora is an interesting character but the artists are more interesting. I kept finding myself wanting to get back to Lee, who is such a huge figure in this book. She is definitely an interesting second character character and I found my self drawn more to her than to Nora.

The pacing of this book threw me off a little. I know that the author can't include every single detail but the timeline in this book felt a little disjointed. The author starts out with our characters in 1920s Paris, which was a haven for artist and other creative types at the time. I loved reading about the city at this time; it seems very interesting to me. The other big chunk of the book covers after World War II. The author made the decision not to cover very much at all as to what happens to the characters during World War II. The characters are mainly in Paris and other areas around France so conceivably the war would've affected them. However, we never really see what happens to them. It made me feel like I was missing a big chunk of understanding the characters a little bit more as they went through such a big event like World War II. That definitely took me out of the book a little bit.

Overall, the writing of the book kept me entertained and I really did love learning more about Lee Miller. I did wish that the narrative was a little bit more evenly spread between the big events of the book. I look forward to reading more by this author in the future!






Follow the Rest of the Tour:


Monday, September 21
Spotlight at Let Them Read Books
Tuesday, September 22
Interview at Please Pass the Books
Wednesday, Spetember 23
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Spotlight at What Is That Book About
Thursday, September 24
Review at History Undressed
Review & Interview at Jorie Loves a Story
Friday, September 25
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair
Interview at History Undressed
Spotlight at Book Nerd
Sunday, September 27
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Monday, September 28
Review at I’m Shelf-ish
Guest Post at To Read, or Not to Read
Tuesday, September 29
Review at Build a Bookshelf
Spotlight at Caroline Wilson Writes
Wednesday, September 30
Review at Queen of All She Reads
Spotlight at View From the Birdhouse
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Thursday, October 1
Review at Dive Under the Cover
Interview at The Old Shelter
Guest Post at Books and Benches
Spotlight at The Lit Bitch
Friday, October 2
Review at A Fold in the Spine
Review & Interview at Singing Librarian Books
Spotlight & Excerpt at A Literary Vacation

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Review: Trumbo by Bruce Cook

Title: Trumbo
Author: Bruce Cook
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publish Date: September 8, 2015
Source: Publisher



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Dalton Trumbo was the central figure in the "Hollywood Ten," the blacklisted and jailed screenwriters. One of several hundred writers, directors, producers, and actors who were deprived of the opportunity to work in the motion picture industry from 1947 to 1960, he was the first to see his name on the screen again. When that happened, it was Exodus, one of the year's biggest movies.This intriguing biography shows that all his life Trumbo was a radical of the homegrown, independent variety. From his early days in Colorado, where his grandfather was a county sheriff, to Los Angeles, where he organized a bakery strike, to bootlegging, to Hollywood, where he was the highest-paid screenwriter when he was blacklisted (and a man with constant money problems), his life rivaled anything he had written. His credits include Kitty FoyleThe Brave OneThirty Seconds Over TokyoSpartacusLonely are the Brave, and Papillon, and he is the author of a power pacifist novel, Johnny Got His Gun."

My Two Cents:

"Trumbo" is the story of Dalton Trumbo, one of the Hollywood screenwriters targeted by the House Committee on Un-American Activities, headed by Joseph McCarthy. The 1950s were a very tenuous time politically for the United States of America. The country was still reeling from everything that happened during World War II and the Red Scare was making waves around the world. An overzealous Congress attacked many innocent people in the name of trying to figure out who the communists were in Hollywood. Trumbo was one of the screenwriters that was caught up in all this and was originally blacklisted. This is his story.

This book is being re-released as there is a movie soon to come out about Trumbo that stars Bryan Cranston, star of "Breaking Bad." It's no wonder that this book is being made into movie because it really is both an interesting and important story to tell. To me, so many of the things that happened during the 1950s and the Red Scare are a really scary part of American history. This country was founded on the principles of freedom and independence and some of the ways that Congress tried to silence anyone who had a different opinion than themselves was incredibly scary. Trumbo was a very outspoken guy who wrote stories and pamphlets and wasn't afraid to speak out about his beliefs. Unfortunately this got him swept up in McCarthy's witchhunt.


The author of this book drew on many first-hand accounts from Trumbo and those that knew him well. We definitely get a great sense of the man. Before reading this book, I really didn't know much about him. I knew that the Red Scare and the likes of Joseph McCarthy ended up ruining the lives of those that were named and those that "named names" during crazy congressional hearings. Trumbo is one of the screenwriters that was black listed and he had to physically remove himself from the country so that he and his family would be safe. Even with the political climate today, I'd like to think that something like House Committee on Un-American Activities isn't something that could possibly exist. As with any history, I think it's important to be aware of it so that we can never repeat it. The author did a great job of bringing Trumbo to life and I'm definitely glad that I read this before seeing the movie!


Monday, September 21, 2015

TLC Book Tour: Girl in the Woods: A Memoir by Aspen Matis

Title: Girl in the Woods: A Memoir
Author: Aspen Matis
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: September 8, 2015
Source: TLC Book Tours



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Girl in the Woods is Aspen Matis's exhilarating true-life adventure of hiking from Mexico to Canada—a coming of age story, a survival story, and a triumphant story of overcoming emotional devastation. On her second night of college, Aspen was raped by a fellow student. Overprotected by her parents who discouraged her from telling of the attack, Aspen was confused and ashamed. Dealing with a problem that has sadly become all too common on college campuses around the country, she stumbled through her first semester—a challenging time made even harder by the coldness of her college's "conflict mediation" process. Her desperation growing, she made a bold decision: She would seek healing in the freedom of the wild, on the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail leading from Mexico to Canada.

In this inspiring memoir, Aspen chronicles her journey, a five-month trek that was ambitious, dangerous, and transformative. A nineteen-year-old girl alone and lost, she conquered desolate mountain passes and met rattlesnakes, bears, and fellow desert pilgrims. Exhausted after each thirty-mile day, at times on the verge of starvation, Aspen was forced to confront her numbness, coming to terms with the sexual assault and her parents' disappointing reaction. On the trail and on her own, she found that survival is predicated on persistent self-reliance. She found her strength. After a thousand miles of solitude, she found a man who helped her learn to love and trust again—and heal.

Told with elegance and suspense, Girl in the Woods is a beautifully rendered story of eroding emotional and physical boundaries to reveal the truths that lie beyond the edges of the map."

My Two Cents:

"Girl in the Woods" is a memoir by Aspen Mattis, a girl who decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail by herself after she is raped on the second day at college. Her rape sends her into a tailspin, which is easily understandable. She feels like there has to be something that she can do it in order to feel like herself and feel safe again. She decides that a trip on the PCT it is the best way to do that. I love hiking but the thought of hiking that much is incredibly daunting to me. Aspen goes into a lot of detail about the reasons that she decided that it was best for her to step away from college and try to hike from Mexico all the way up to Canada. This is a story about picking up the pieces and finding yourself.

I love memoirs especially when they are written by people who do things that I could never never fathom doing in my own life. I love to live vicariously through those authors. This is definitely one of those books where you do live vicariously through the author because they give so much detail about everything that they have to face on this journey. This book in a lot of ways reminded me of "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed, another one of my favorite books. Aspen is definitely running from a lot of different things when she takes on her hike but the hike helps her come to terms with some of the more difficult things she had to face in her short time at college. I liked how honest she was with the reader. You feel as if you are reading somebody that you know's innermost thoughts and they are holding nothing back.

This is definitely an extreme version of someone trying to find themselves and I don't think that the way that Aspen does it is necessarily going to be for everyone but this is such an important book for anyone who has gone through something where they think that they're never going to recover. I read it very quickly because I could not tear myself away from the pages. This was a great memoir and I definitely recommend it to readers looking for a good adventure story and a story of redemption!


Friday, September 18, 2015

Giveaway: The Debt of Tamar by Nicole Dweck

Are you all ready for the weekend? I know I am. This weekend I am celebrating my five year wedding anniversary with the best guy I know. We'll be leaving the girls with my parents and getting away for the weekend!

I am also excited to be able to give away two copies of The Debt of Tamar by Nicole Dweck. This book was originally indie published and is now being released by Thomas Dunne!


Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below (U.S. only!)


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Review and Giveaway: Cold Feet by Amy FitzHenry

Title: Cold Feet
Author: FitzHenry
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: "Emma Moon's mother thinks it's acceptable to miss her only daughter's wedding rehearsal dinner for a work obligation. Her father left when she was six months old. Emma hasn't exactly been raised to be a happily-ever-after kind of girl.

So when her anxieties get out of hand, Emma and her best friend, Liv, decide to take a road trip to San Francisco, find her long-lost father, and put her family issues to rest.

But her quest for the truth stirs up events and emotions she didn’t expect. The urge to run away may just be a part of Emma’s genetic makeup, because she’s growing more and more tempted to do just that…"


My Two Cents:

In "Cold Feet," our protagonist, Emma, is the result of a not very good relationship. Her mother is a super career woman and an absent mother. Her father has never been a part of her life. Emma loves her fiance but her chaotic family life makes her wonder if marriage is everything that she thinks it is. With her best friend, she'll embark on a journey to explore love and family.

The thing that really stood out to me in this book is that Emma's voice feels so authentic to me. There were a lot of places where I felt like Emma was talking to me as a friend. The author really brought me into the story with Emma's voice. Using the first person point of view worked so well for this one since Emma's inner thoughts and insecurities are so important to what happens in the book.

This weekend is my 5 year anniversary with my husband and I really thought the author did a great job of capturing what it's like to have all of these very intense thoughts prior to getting married. Smart people don't jump into things without carefully considering what they are doing. We get to see Emma confront things that so many others confront in real life!

This is a really smart look at self-discovery and love. The writing is sparkling and definitely kept me entertained. I read this book very quickly and wanted more. I will be awaiting other things that come out from this author.





Giveaway:

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy to give away (U.S. only!). Want to win? Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Review, Guest Post, and Giveaway: Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt

Title: Dream Things True
Author: Marie Marquardt
Format: Ebook
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
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: "A modern-day Romeo and Juliet story in which a wealthy Southern boy falls in love with an undocumented Mexican girl and together they face perils in their hostile Georgia town.

Evan, a soccer star and the nephew of a conservative Southern Senator, has never wanted for much -- except a functional family. Alma has lived in Georgia since she was two-years-old, excels in school, and has a large, warm Mexican family. Never mind their differences, the two fall in love, and they fall hard. But when ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) begins raids on their town, Alma knows that she needs to tell Evan her secret. There's too much at stake. But how to tell her country-club boyfriend that she’s an undocumented immigrant? That her whole family and most of her friends live in the country without permission. What follows is a beautiful, nuanced, well-paced exploration of the complications of immigration, young love, defying one’s family, and facing a tangled bureaucracy that threatens to completely upend two young lives"

My Two Cents: 

"Dream Things True" is a Romeo and Juliet-esque story about two very different teenagers. Evan is the all-American boy. He has everything he has ever dreamed about. His family is also quite socially conservative. Alma is an undocumented girl from a Mexican family. They fall for each other very quickly but things are not easy for them. ICE raids their town and everything they know will change. This book is a ripped from the headlines young adult fiction!

The author uses the characters as the driver of a conversation about immigrant issues and how everything is not always as clear cut as some of our politicians would like us to think it is. This book provides a good start to learning about some of the issues that affect our country today.

I did like the main characters. I liked how the author was able make them feel real. The secondary characters are a real treat. I especially liked Alma's tight knit family. The author gives a lot of detail about them so that even the secondary characters stand out!

I love what this book was trying to do with bringing a timely social issue to the attention of young adults. This book is definitely informative but sometimes the narrative suffered a little because it seemed as if the author was trying to cram so much information into the book that the book got bogged down. There were definitely a few places in the book that felt like an information dump of sorts, which took me out of the story. This book is definitely a good example though of how even fiction can be educational (something that I have always known!!!). 





Guest Post:

I am thrilled to have Marie Marquardt here on A Bookish Affair today! She is talking about what inspired her to write the book with us!

I love a good love story. At its heart, Dream Things True is about two kids who fall in love in a world that wants to keep them apart. It just so happens that the forces keeping Alma and Evan apart in my story are ripped from the headlines.

We hear constantly about “the eleven million” –undocumented immigrants who currently live in the United States. People are asking what should be done about “them”. This is an important policy question, and one that I care about deeply.  I have worked  with undocumented immigrants for many years, and I know this: each of those eleven million immigrants has a story – they are mothers and fathers, daughters and sons. Some of them have extraordinary stories of love and sacrifice; some have mundane stories of living everyday life -- making lunches and making ends meet.

Each of those stories matters -- way more than a number. When we turn these real, complex, people into a number, we strip them of their humanity. I think this paves the way for terrible consequences, not only for undocumented immigrants, but for the neighborhoods, churches, schools, and communities where they live, work, and worship.

Because I’ve written non-fiction books about undocumented immigration, I often get asked to talk with groups of non-immigrants about these issues. I know a lot of facts and figures, and these help people think about immigration in new ways, but I find that what really matters is relationships – knowing and loving a person who faces these issues is what makes a person care.

I wrote Dream Things True because I wanted to give readers a chance to step into the stories of a few of those “eleven million”. It’s narrated in alternating points of view because I want for readers to imagine themselves into the experience of being an undocumented teenager, and I also want for them to imagine what it would be like to love an undocumented teenager, and to want the best for her.
When we see thorny issues through the eyes of love, it changes everything.  

Giveaway:

Want to read this book yourself? Thanks to the publisher, I am giving a way a copy to one of my readers (U.S. only, please). Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win!



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 14, 2015

Review: Little Woman in Blue by Jeannine Atkins

Title: Little Woman in Blue
Author: Jeannine Atkins
Format: Paperback
Publisher: She Writes Press
Publish Date: September 15, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.


What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "May Alcott spends her days sewing blue shirts for Union soldiers, but she dreams of painting a masterpiece—which many say is impossible for a woman—and of finding love, too. When she reads her sister’s wildly popular novel, Little Women, she is stung by Louisa’s portrayal of her as “Amy,” the youngest of four sisters who trades her desire to succeed as an artist for the joys of hearth and home. Determined to prove her talent, May makes plans to move far from Massachusetts and make a life for herself with room for both watercolors and a wedding dress. Can she succeed? And if she does, what price will she have to pay? Based May Alcott’s letters and diaries, as well as memoirs written by her neighbors, Little Woman in Blue puts May at the center of the story she might have told about sisterhood and rivalry in an extraordinary family."

My Two Cents:

"Little Woman in Blue" is the story of May Alcott, sister of Louisa, who is the author of "Little Women" (one of my very favorites). She became very famous for it and what I didn't realize is that a lot of the inspiration for the book came from Louisa's own life. The book leaves a sour taste in May's mouth as she doesn't like how here character, Amy, is portrayed. This is a look at the complex relationship of sisterhood with all of its love and rivalry. 

I was drawn to this book because I love "Little Women." I love how historical fiction can give you a great introduction to some really interesting lives. Also I'm fascinated by stories of sisters. I have two sisters who are the most incredible sisters and friends that I could ever ask for and I feel very lucky that I have them. May and Louisa don't have nearly as loving relationship. They care for each other but there is a lot of sibling rivalry between them. They both want very different things in life and to some degree they both seem to judge each other what they do and do not want out of life. The author gets us super close to their lives and the characters, especially May and Louisa begin to feel like friends.


I didn't know much about Louisa May Alcott's life or her family before reading this book. I definitely did not realize that May was an artist in her own right. I loved getting to know all of them through this book. The author's historical facts was really wonderful and kept me entertained and turning the pages. I will definitely be reading more by this author in the future!




Review: All the Difference by Leah Ferguson

Title: All the Difference
Author: Leah Ferguson
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: "All it takes is one word—yes or no—to decide Molly’s future. As the clock counts down to midnight and the ball slowly begins to drop, Molly’s picture-perfect boyfriend gets down on one knee and asks her to marry him. She knows she should say yes, especially considering the baby-sized surprise she just discovered she’s carrying. But something in her heart is telling her to say no…

Now, Molly’s future can follow two very different paths: one where she stays with her baby’s father, despite her misgivings and his family’s unreasonable expectations, and one where she ventures out on her own as a single mother, embracing all the hardships that come with it.

And by the time the next New Year is rung in, Molly will know which choice was right—following her head or listening to her heart…"

My Two Cents:

"All the Difference" follows two different storylines as Molly has a choice to either say yes when her boyfriend proposes on New Year's Eve. Alternating chapters of the book follow what happens when she says yes and what happens when she says no. This book is a lot like "Sliding Doors," a romantic comedy movie that I really like. That sort of dichotomy between different decisions makes for a great storyline in this book. Who doesn't wonder about how their life would end up differently if they made a different decision?

Molly is a great character. She is incredibly confident and thinks that she knows what she wants. Her relationship with her boyfriend Scott is sort of a dead-end relationship and she knows it but for some reason she keeps hanging on hoping something will change. When he finally proposes, Molly has just found out that she's pregnant and she has to make a decision that will affect her life and the life of her child. I really liked how the author was able to get into Molly's head even though this was told from the third person perspective. I still feel like I got to know the characters really well, which is always important to me!

The premise of the book is just so interesting. Yes, it's been done before in other stories and other movies but I think as humans, some of us wonder about what would happen if we said yes when we said no and vice versa. I know that I myself always wonder that. I think a lot of people will find common ground with the decisions that Molly has to make. Overall, this book was a good read and I really enjoyed the story! I know I'm going to be thinking about this one for a long time.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Review: A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

Title: A Curious Beginning
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: NAL/ Penguin
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: "London, 1887. As the city prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, Veronica Speedwell is marking a milestone of her own. After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth."


My Two Cents:

I've read a couple books by Deanna Raybourn before but none of her mysteries. "A Curious Beginning" was my first shot with one of her mysteries and it was a great success. This book is the story of Veronica Speedwell, a young woman who grew up with her aunts. Now that they are dead, she is on her own and isn't really sure of her true origins. When she is thrown with Stoker, they fall into a murder mystery that may actually hold the key to where Veronica came from. This book is exciting and fun and a great look at Victorian life!

Veronica Speedwell is definitely my kind a character. She is sharp and she is also very funny, much to the chagrin of Stoker. Some of the things she said had me laughing out loud and I loved following her through the story. The relationship between her and Stoker also kept me reading. They're great together although at first they really don't like each other. As the book goes on, I thought that the author did a really good job of showing the natural progression of their relationship.

This is one of those books where I was reading the ending very slowly because I wasn't quite ready for it to end. So far on Goodreads, there are two Veronica Speedwell mysteries listed after this one however but of them are untitled and neither one of them have a release date listed. Here's to hoping for myself and other readers who love a great character and a good story that the release dates are not too far away. Count me among those who will eagerly be awaiting the next edition of Veronica's mysteries.


 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Author Interview: Sophie Perinot

I am thrilled to welcome Sophie Perinot, author of the upcoming "Medicis Daughter," to A Bookish Affair today. I cannot wait to read this book!

Author, Sophie Perinot (from Amazon.com)

What inspired you to write about Marguerite de Valois in "Médicis Daughter?"

I have a Valois obsession.  I’ve never understood why these French royals get so little attention (aka historical fiction and costume dramas) and the Tudors get so much.  What is up with that?  The Valois dynasty is full of fascinating characters, and its last years encompass the violent drama and partisanship of the French Wars of religion.  Quite frankly I find the Valois more intriguing and sexier than the Tudors.

As for Marguerite herself, I was drawn to the contrast between her life and that of Elizabeth I of England.  Both were the last royals of their line, yet only one got to be a sovereign Queen.  And that was simply a matter of bad luck—or rather the difference between French and English law—not because Marguerite lacked the abilities to rule.  She was highly intelligent and politically astute.  Arguably she was more similar to her strong-willed, politically expert mother, Catherine de Médicis than any of her three brothers who sat on the French throne.  Yet none of this is what we hear about Marguerite.  Oh no . . . instead we hear she was wanton and promiscuous.  Why is that?

Well, the last years of any ruling family are generally recounted by “what’s next”—that is by people who have something to gain from smearing their predecessors.  That was certainly true of the Valois.  And, owing to the contentious political and religious climate of the second half of the 16th century, even before they died out, the Valois were being attacked by enemies, rivals and anonymous political pamphleteers.  In the case of Margot her attackers—like those who later skewered Marie Antoinette—chose the easiest and most ancient path for destroying a woman: assertions of rabid sexual desire.  I decided to undercut the toxic myth that envelopes Marguerite de Valois by giving her a voice and showing her as a complex woman of contradictions and conscience.

Why do you think people are still so drawn to reading and learning about the Medicis?

Power.  The name Médici, or Médicis as the French spelled it, makes people think of power.  And as Henry Kissinger said, “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.”

Who is your favorite character in the book and why?

Of course I love Margot.  The book is written in first-person present-tense through her eyes so I know her in a special way.  Sometimes I feel as if I channel her.  But I also love her cousin, Henri de Bourbon, Prince (and then King) of Navarre.  He is such a fish-out-of-water at the Valois court: blunt, unfashionable, unconcerned with what other’s think of him.  He spends a good deal of his youth as a hostage of sorts among the Valois—who are his cousins—and I think that a lot of people underestimate him.  That is their mistake.  Margot certainly makes that error, but she is smart enough to eventually recognize and appreciate how much savvier Henri is than he seems.

What is the strangest/ most interesting detail you came across while researching “Médicis Daughter?

One of my very favorite historical oddities in “Médicis Daughter” is the Princesse de Porcien’s book of hours.  The Princesse had the habit of having former lovers portrayed in her devotional book crucified or otherwise in uncomfortable states.  I find that both daring and hysterical.  My critique partner got to that portion of the manuscript and wrote, “This has to be true because you COULD NOT make it up.”
Can you tell us about a favorite scene in the book?
One of my favorite scenes occurs on the day after the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre began when the Court rides out into the corpse strewn streets to go to the Cimetière des Innocents.  A Hawthorn bush has suddenly bloomed at the cemetery and this flowering is being seen and celebrated as a miracle by the Catholics—viewed as God’s approbation of their actions in slaughtering their Protestant brethren.  Margot makes the trip under duress, and I worked hard to capture both her disgust at some of the people she loves best and her pain—both spiritual and physical—in witnessing the carnage.  She becomes fixated on one particular pair of corpses in the Rue Saint Honore:
“A small child in his night shift lies at the side of the road just ahead.  His hand is within a hair’s breadth of a woman’s, doubtless his mother, who was equally unable to save him or to retain his hand in death.  I cannot take my eyes off those hands.  As we pass, my head turns over my shoulder to see the pair of them.  The effort of holding back my tears is physically painful.  My chest burns.  My stomach is hollow.  I glance at Henriette but she looks straight ahead.
What monsters we are.”
Was the writing process of this book any different for you than "The Sister Queens" or "A Day of Fire?"

Absolutely.  I am such a character-driven writer.  I am always waiting to hear the important voices in a given novel and since those voices are very distinct that can really alter things.  Some books present very linearly—that was true with “The Sister Queens.”  Some come in bits.  With the manuscript that I just turned over to my agent, the first thing my main character gave me was a verse of a song—lyrics he sings in the first chapter.  The second thing he showed me was how his story ended.  So I was writing the in-between.  “A Day of Fire” had a writing process shaped not only by my story’s two alternating points of view, but by the unique fact that six authors were composing a novel together.  So we wrote some scenes in real-time on google documents, with each of us speaking through and for our own characters.  “Médicis Daughter” is a coming of age story, so it tended to move forward organically as Marguerite matured before my eyes.

If you could bring three fictional characters or historical figures with you to a deserted island, who would you bring and why?

How deserted is this island?  Because if there are no minions and I bring a bunch of queens we all know who is going to get stuck as lady-in-waiting.  But assuming that royal guests bring with them the appropriate servants then, as I count down to the release of “Médicis Daughter,” I’d like to hang out with Marguerite de Valois to see if she is who she told me she was.  I wouldn’t mind sitting down with Catherine de Médicis too but NOT at the same time or even on the same island.
Marguerite and I would be joined by Elizabeth I of England, because when I was a little girl I believed I was her reincarnation.


Finally, though it is tempting to select a handsome gentleman to round out the group (especially if we are going to be trapped on this island for any length of time), I think I will keep things “16th-century-ladies-only” by inviting Henriette Duchesse de Nevers.  She is one of Marguerite’s closest friends in my novel, and I have a feeling that she’d liven things up.  Suddenly this is sounding like a party.  Oh and for the record, the French throw better parties than the English (don’t tell Queen Elizabeth I said that).




Medicis Daughter will be released December 1, 2015. 
Pre-order it at your favorite retailer:

Review: The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati

Title: The Gilded Hour
Author: Sara Donati
Format: ARC
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: "The year is 1883, and in New York City, it’s a time of dizzying splendor, crushing poverty, and tremendous change. With the gravity-defying Brooklyn Bridge nearly complete and New York in the grips of anti-vice crusader Anthony Comstock, Anna Savard and her cousin Sophie—both graduates of the Woman’s Medical School—treat the city’s most vulnerable, even if doing so may put everything they’ve strived for in jeopardy.

Anna's work has placed her in the path of four children who have lost everything, just as she herself once had. Faced with their helplessness, Anna must make an unexpected choice between holding on to the pain of her past and letting love into her life.

For Sophie, an obstetrician and the orphaned daughter of free people of color, helping a desperate young mother forces her to grapple with the oath she took as a doctor—and thrusts her and Anna into the orbit of Anthony Comstock, a dangerous man who considers himself the enemy of everything indecent and of anyone who dares to defy him."

My Two Cents:

"The Gilded Hour" is a new historical fiction offering from Sara Donati, author of the "Wilderness" series, which I would now really like to read. In this book, she takes us to 1880s New York and into the lives of Anna and Sophie Savard. Anna is a physician and so is Sophie, but she is also a "free woman of color," which adds another layer of complexity to her life. This book has a lot of intrigue and weaves an intimate picture of some fascinating characters. 

The story focuses on the women as they try to make a living in the rapidly changing New York City. Through their work, they put themselves in the sights of Anthony Comstock, author of the Comstock Act, which banned sending items such as erotica and contraceptives through the U.S. Postal Service. Because of some of the procedures that the women perform, they are targets. It was fascinating to me to see how far acts like the Comstock Act went in the name of legislating morality. I actually did not know much about the Comstock Act before this book. 

This book is not merely about the politics and morality at the time. There is a huge part of the story arc that has to do with one of the cousins' patients that was endlessly fascinating to me. The book also has a family aspect as well as a romantic aspect. There is something for everyone!

This book is quite long at over 700 pages. Some parts could definitely be slimmed down such as some of the parts where the author gave a little bit too much detail about what various characters were thinking. There were some cases of telling instead of showing here, which bogged down the story. Overall, though, the story was interesting and kept me entertained. I am looking forward to reading more by this author!


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

TLC Book Tours: Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott

Title: Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War
Author: Karen Abbott
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Publish Date: September 8, 2015 (Today!)
Source: TLC Book Tours






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Seventeen-year-old Belle Boyd, an avowed rebel with a dangerous temper, shot a Union soldier in her home, and became a courier and spy for the Confederate army, using her considerable charms to seduce men on both sides. Emma Edmonds disguised herself as a man to enlist as a Union private named Frank Thompson, witnessing the bloodiest battles of the war and infiltrating enemy lines. The beautiful widow Rose O'Neal Greenhow engaged in affairs with powerful Northern politicians and used her young daughter to send information to Southern generals. Elizabeth Van Lew, a wealthy Richmond abolitionist, hid behind her proper Southern manners as she orchestrated a far-reaching espionage ring—even placing a former slave inside the Confederate White House—right under the noses of increasingly suspicious rebel detectives."

My Two Cents:

 "Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy" is a fantastic nonfiction narrative about four women and their daring undercover actions during the Civil War. In my own head, I typically don't think about women having a role in fighting the Civil War. We don't typically hear about them out on the battle field unless they are in a nursing role. This book sheds light on some of the bravery that women showed during the Civil War.

The Civil War definitely isn't my favorite historical event to learn about but with books like this to make it a lot more exciting to me, it makes me think that maybe I need to give the Civil War more than a passing glance when it comes to my reading. I love nonfiction, especially narrative non-fiction. This book has something for everyone. There's great people and great story lines. There's intrigue and espionage. I found myself reading parts of it to my husband even though I'm totally making him read this book now that I've finished!!!

This book is anything but dry and feels very much like fiction. The way that the author weaves in so much detail about these four women and their lives really drew me into the book. Some of the women identify with the Union and some identify with the Confederacy but all four are committed to their various causes. It was so interesting to me to see how of these women were able to move about in a society that it wasn't necessarily very permissive for women at that time. I love that the way that the author told the story of all of these women. It was really well done and I would love to read more by this particular author!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...