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Monday, November 30, 2015

Review: A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton

Title: A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding
Author: Jackie Copleton
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publish Date: December 1, 2015 (Tomorrow!)
Source: Publisher






What's the Story?: 

From Goodreads.com: "When Amaterasu Takahashi opens the door of her Philadelphia home to a badly scarred man claiming to be her grandson, she doesn’t believe him. Her grandson and her daughter, Yuko, perished nearly forty years ago during the bombing of Nagasaki. But the man carries with him a collection of sealed private letters that open a Pandora’s Box of family secrets Ama had sworn to leave behind when she fled Japan. She is forced to confront her memories of the years before the war: of the daughter she tried too hard to protect and the love affair that would drive them apart, and even further back, to the long, sake-pouring nights at a hostess bar where Ama first learned that a soft heart was a dangerous thing. Will Ama allow herself to believe in a miracle?"

My Two Cents:

"The Dictionary of Mutual Understanding" is a historical fiction book that has parts set both during the bombing of Nagasaki during World War II and about 40 years later. It's a debut novel that really packs a punch! The author takes on one of the most horrifying events in human history, the bombing of Nagasaki and turns it into a story of family and family secrets while still retaining the shock and outrage of the original event.

Because of the subject matter, the story is often difficult to read. This is a relatively short book but I had to keep taking breaks because the characters memories of the bombing made me want to take pause. I really like that the author was able to create realistic characters that made the entire story feel very real indeed to me. Our main character is now an older woman who is trying to still forget her past life in Japan during World War II. Her pain is still palpable and she has a hard time believing the man that shows up on her doorstep claiming to be her grandson.

The book is pretty well written. There are a couple places where I wish that we had a little more detail in order to really understand the feelings of the characters. At times, I felt like I was being held at a distance from the characters. Overall, this is a very powerful book that puts a human spin on what it actually felt like to have lived through the bombings and what it did to so many families. This book is a good pick for all of my fellow historical fiction fans.


 

Friday, November 27, 2015

#GivingTuesday with Grammarly!

It's no secret that I love to read (this is indeed a book blog)! I cannot imagine not being able to read! In this day and age, it is hard to imagine that illiteracy is still a problem in the world but it is! There are still so many people who cannot read or write simple sentences. Imagine not being able to read street signs or follow simple directions on a form! Grammarly is working to stamp out illiteracy on #GivingTuesday! See below for more information on just how pervasive illiteracy is as well as how you can get involved in the fight to read!


Global Literacy Infographic
Infographic from Grammarly


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hello to my American readers! Happy Thanksgiving! May your holiday be filled with comfort, family, friends, and many good books!




Wednesday, November 25, 2015

HFVBT Review: The Conqueror's Wife: A Novel of Alexander the Great by Stephanie Thornton

Title: The Conqueror's Wife: A Novel of Alexander the Great
Author: Stephanie Thornton
Format: Paperback
Publisher: NAL
Publish Date: December 1, 2015
Source: HFVBT



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "330s, B.C.E., Greece: Alexander, a handsome young warrior of Macedon, begins his quest to conquer the ancient world. But he cannot ascend to power, and keep it, without the women who help to shape his destiny.

His spirited younger half-sister, Thessalonike, yearns to join her brother and see the world. Instead, it is Alexander's boyhood companion who rides with him into war while Thessalonike remains behind. Far away, crafty princess Drypetis will not stand idly by as Alexander topples her father from Persia's throne. And after Alexander conquers her tiny kingdom, Roxana, the beautiful and cunning daughter of a minor noble, wins Alexander’s heart…and will commit any crime to secure her place at his side.

Within a few short years, Alexander controls an empire more vast than the civilized world has ever known. But his victories are tarnished by losses on the battlefield and treachery among his inner circle. And long after Alexander is gone, the women who are his champions, wives, and enemies will fight to claim his legacy…"

My Two Cents:

"The Conqueror's Wife" is the latest offering from Stephanie Thornton. I have loved her other books so I knew that I had to read this one. In this book, she takes on the people that surrounded Alexander the Great. We meet his family, friends, and lovers. He is definitely larger than life but seeing him through the eyes of those closest to him truly gave me a new perspective on his life and legacy. Filled with vivid characters and lush description, this book is a true treat for historical fiction lovers.

Stephanie Thornton is firmly on my must-buy list by now. I love her books. She focuses on ancient history and has a great way of breathing life into historical figures that makes them feel like people that you could really know in real life. I loved that Thornton chose to tell Alexander's story through those closest to him. No one would have probably known him better than those people. Thornton creates an authentic feeling and original voice for each character.

The historical detail in this book is so good. Thornton is great at world building and does a great job of showing readers what Alexander's world would have been like. It was so vivid to me! I also really liked all of the small little details that Thornton included to even further create Alexander's world. They are subtle but really add a lot to the story. This book was fantastic and I am already eagerly awaiting the next book!



Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, November 23
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, November 24
Review at Layered Pages
Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Spotlight & Excerpt at What Is That Book About

Wednesday, November 25
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Thursday, November 26
Review at Historical Readings & Reviews

Friday, November 27
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Monday, November 30
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Review & Giveaway at 100 Pages a Day

Tuesday, December 1
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Guest Post at Book Lovers Paradise

Wednesday, December 2
Review at leeanna.me
Review & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, December 3
Review, Excerpt, & Giveaway at Just One More Chapter
Review, Excerpt, & Giveaway at Unshelfish
Excerpt at A Literary Vacation
Spotlight at The Reading Queen

Friday, December 4
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict

Monday, December 7
Review at The Maiden's Court

Tuesday, December 8
Review at Reading the Past
Review at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, December 9
Review at CelticLady's Reviews

Thursday, December 10
Review at The Lit Bitch
Interview & Giveaway at Reading Lark
Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection

Friday, December 11
Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views

Saturday, December 12
Review & Giveaway at Genre Queen

Monday, December 14
Review at Book Babe
Reivew, Excerpt, & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick

Tuesday, December 15
Review at Bookramblings

Wednesday, December 16
Review at Book Nerd

Thursday, December 17
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Friday, December 18
Review at History From a Woman's Perspective
Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

HFVBT Author Interview and Giveaway: Stephanie Thornton, Author of The Conqueror's Wife

Today, I am excited to welcome Stephanie Thornton, author of "The Conqueror's Wife," here to A Bookish Affair.



1. You've written several books now. How was writing this one different?
This was the most well-behaved of my four novels to write. Maybe it was just because I was fresh from the red-headed stepchild that was The Tiger Queens, (which made me want to check myself into a rubber room several times), but the research and the characters for The Conqueror's Wife just seemed to flow.

2. What inspired you to write about Alexander the Great?
I had a conversation with my editor while writing about Genghis Khan's girls and she suggested that I write about an ancient Persian woman for Book #4. I stumbled upon Roxana while I was researching, discovered that Alexander the Great had a whole slew of powerful women behind him, and the idea was born!

3. What was your research process like for this book?
I started with Robin Lane Fox's biography on Alexander, followed by Plutarch's history, and then a book on ancient Macedonian women that featured Alexander's wives and cunning mother, Olympias. Fox's biography became a road map for major plot events and then I researched more on the characters as I went. Of course, my favorite part was filling in all the little details, like the fact that fetal lambskins were prized trade items in ancient Persia. (Further proof that I'm an unrepentant history nerd!)

4. Who is your favorite character in this book and why?
Hephaestion! Gods, but I love, love, love Hephaestion. He's snarky and hunky and loves poetry and has a mouth that just won't stop. He's definitely my favorite character ever (much to the chagrin of Antonina from The Secret History, who is not amused at being displaced), and he made me both laugh and cry all the way from the first draft to the final revision.

5. If you could bring three fictional characters or historical figures with you to a deserted island, who would you bring and why?
I've never had to bring just fictional characters to a desert island so I'm going to stick with them this time around. (For what it’s worth, my historical pics are Hatshepsut, Hephaestion, and Theodora.) I’m on an astronomy kick and devoured The Martian so I’m going to say Mark Watney because he’s hilarious and could also probably figure out how to grow potatoes on our deserted island. Also, Jamie Fraser from Outlander. (For obvious reasons.) And just because I’ve always loved her, Scarlett O’Hara. An astronaut, a Scot, and a southern belle should make for lively conversation!

Giveaway:

Want to read "The Conqueror's Wife?" Just fill out the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win your own copy (U.S. only!)!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, November 23
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, November 24
Review at Layered Pages
Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Spotlight & Excerpt at What Is That Book About

Wednesday, November 25
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Thursday, November 26
Review at Historical Readings & Reviews

Friday, November 27
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Monday, November 30
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Review & Giveaway at 100 Pages a Day

Tuesday, December 1
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Guest Post at Book Lovers Paradise

Wednesday, December 2
Review at leeanna.me
Review & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, December 3
Review, Excerpt, & Giveaway at Just One More Chapter
Review, Excerpt, & Giveaway at Unshelfish
Excerpt at A Literary Vacation
Spotlight at The Reading Queen

Friday, December 4
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict

Monday, December 7
Review at The Maiden's Court

Tuesday, December 8
Review at Reading the Past
Review at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, December 9
Review at CelticLady's Reviews

Thursday, December 10
Review at The Lit Bitch
Interview & Giveaway at Reading Lark
Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection

Friday, December 11
Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views

Saturday, December 12
Review & Giveaway at Genre Queen

Monday, December 14
Review at Book Babe
Reivew, Excerpt, & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick

Tuesday, December 15
Review at Bookramblings

Wednesday, December 16
Review at Book Nerd

Thursday, December 17
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Friday, December 18
Review at History From a Woman's Perspective
Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Monday, November 23, 2015

Review: The Magician's Lie by Greer Macallister

Title: The Magician's Lie
Author: Greer Macallister
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publish Date: January 13, 2015
Source: Publisher






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Water for Elephants meets The Night Circus in The Magician’s Lie, a debut novel in which the country’s most notorious female illusionist stands accused of her husband's murder --and she has only one night to convince a small-town policeman of her innocence.

The Amazing Arden is the most famous female illusionist of her day, renowned for her notorious trick of sawing a man in half on stage. One night in Waterloo, Iowa, with young policeman Virgil Holt watching from the audience, she swaps her trademark saw for a fire ax. Is it a new version of the illusion, or an all-too-real murder? When Arden’s husband is found lifeless beneath the stage later that night, the answer seems clear.

But when Virgil happens upon the fleeing magician and takes her into custody, she has a very different story to tell. Even handcuffed and alone, Arden is far from powerless—and what she reveals is as unbelievable as it is spellbinding. Over the course of one eerie night, Virgil must decide whether to turn Arden in or set her free… and it will take all he has to see through the smoke and mirrors."


My Two Cents:

In "The Magician's Lies," Arden is a illusionist who is truly a woman in a man's world. This book takes place before there were many female entertainers so she draws an audience merely for being a woman. She becomes very famous because her tricks are good. One night it appears that she killed her husband on stage during one of her illusions, Arden becomes a wanted woman. It'll be up to one man to determine whether or not Arden really committed the murder or was it just another illusion. There seems to be a lot of historical fiction books that have come out recently that take place in a circus or show setting. I've eaten so many of these books up and I was very attracted by the setting of this book!

Even though it's the setting that initially attracted me, the real reason that I ended up enjoying this book is that the way that the book is told is utterly engaging. The book flashes back between Arden's past and her being questioned by Virgil after her husband's murder. We get to know Arden and what makes her tick and how things are not always the way that they seem. To some degree Arden is an unreliable narrator, which I really enjoyed. Because there are so many flashbacks back-and-forth between the past and the present, readers definitely have to pay attention and it can get a little bit confusing. However if you're willing to pay attention, the payoff is great.

Overall, I really enjoyed the story because of the characters but the way that the action of the story is laid out. It definitely kept me on my toes and I love that.


  

Friday, November 20, 2015

Review: Wounds of the Father: A True Story of Child Abuse, Betrayal, and Redemption by Elizabeth Garrison

Title: Wounds of the Father: A True Story of Child Abuse, Betrayal, and Redemption
Author: Elizabeth Garrison
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Blueprint Press
Publish Date: February 6, 2015
Source: Author



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "In the bestselling tradition of Smashed and Glass Castle, this raw, eye-opening memoir tells the powerful story of Elizabeth Garrison’s fractured childhood, descent into teenage drug addiction, and struggle to overcome nearly insurmountable odds. Elizabeth invites the reader behind the closed doors of a picture-perfect Christian family to reveal a dark, hidden world of child abuse, domestic violence, and chilling family secrets all performed in the name of God under the tyrannical rule of her father. Like countless teenage girls, Elizabeth turns to drugs and alcohol to escape. With smack-you-in-the-face honesty, Elizabeth chronicles the dark realities and real-life horrors of teenage drug abuse, living on the streets, foster homes, and treatment centers. She paints an unsparing portrait of scratching and clawing her way out of the grips of child abuse, addiction, and betrayal to find the strength within herself to save her own life. "

My Two Cents:

"Wounds of the Father" is a memoir about Elizabeth Garrison, a woman who first survived child abuse and then fell into drugs and alcohol. She gives an unflinching look at what she has been through and how she came out on the other side. I am always drawn to memoirs about people that I have gone through difficult things to see how they were able to cope with their situation and how they overcome it. 

Because of the nature of the events in this book, it is often hard to read but I appreciated how open Garrison was with her struggles.This book is extremely raw in some places and it made me really feel for the author. I think it can be difficult to read books like this but it's important to understand some of the struggles that other people have to go through. The title is somewhat of a misnomer; the story mostly focuses on the author's struggle with substance abuse rather than child abuse.

The writing of the book was good. I appreciated how up front the author was with her struggles. You feel like she is talking to you as a friend and that she isn't holding anything back. There were some mystifying grammatical errors that took me out of the book and made it difficult to jump back in. 


Thursday, November 19, 2015

HF Virtual Book Tour: A Year of Ravens: A Novel of Boudica by Ruth Downie, Stephanie Dray, E. Knight, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, S.J.A. Turney, and Russell Whitfield

Title: A Year of Ravens: A Novel of Boudica
Authors: Ruth Downie, Stephanie Dray, E. Knight, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, S.J.A. Turney, and Russell Whitfield
Publisher: Knight Media LLC
Publish Date: November 17, 2015
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Britannia: land of mist and magic clinging to the western edge of the Roman Empire. A red-haired queen named Boudica led her people in a desperate rebellion against the might of Rome, an epic struggle destined to consume heroes and cowards, young and old, Roman and Celt . . . and these are their stories.

A calculating queen sees the sparks of revolt in a king’s death.

A neglected slave girl seizes her own courage as Boudica calls for war.

An idealistic tribune finds manhood in a brutal baptism of blood and slaughter.

A conflicted warrior hovers between loyalty to tribe and loyalty to Rome.

A death-haunted Druid challenges the gods themselves to ensure victory for his people.

An old champion struggles for everlasting glory in the final battle against the legions.

A fiery princess fights to salvage the pieces of her mother’s dream as the ravens circle.


A novel in seven parts, overlapping stories of warriors and peacemakers, queens and slaves, Romans and Celts who cross paths during Boudica’s epic rebellion. But who will survive to see the dawn of a new Britannia, and who will fall to feed the ravens?"


My Two Cents:

"A Year of Ravens" is the story of Boudica, the warrior queen of Brittania who fought Rome. It's broken up into mini stories all surrounding Boudica's rebellion. Each story is written by a different author! This is the second historical fiction release by The H Team, a collection of some of my favorite HF writers. Their first book was "A Day of Fire." This time around, some of the previous writers are not there and have been replaced by other great HF writers.

A continuity is such a great way to tell the story of Boudica. By having linked stories, the authors were able to cover so many different aspects of all of the players in the rebellion. The book is also able to capture a wide swath of time from just prior to the rebellion until the aftermath. We meet other queens, Romans, and druids among others. We get a front row seat to Boudica and her family, including her two daughters. I have not read a lot about this era and I loved visiting it in fiction! The detail in each of the sections of the book is richly detailed and made for a fairly easy time picturing what was going on!

The writing of the book was good! By having so many different authors write the stories, each character felt so different. This rebellion had so many different sides and I loved reading so many different perspectives. The authors also did a good job of continuing the overall story from section to section (a huge task to be sure) so the book really flowed. Will there be more from the H Team? This reader certainly hopes so!


 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Review: Exodus by Deborah Feldman

Title: Exodus
Author: Deborah Feldman
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
Publish Date: March 25, 2015
Source: Library






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Deborah Feldman, author of the explosive New York Times– bestselling memoir Unorthodox, returns with an extraordinary follow-up that traces her new life as an independent young woman and single mother, and her search for an authentic and personal Jewish identity."

My Two Cents:

Exodus is the story of a young woman leaving her Orthodox Jewish life. The book takes place after her first memoir, Unorthodox, which I have not read. This book really made me want to go back and read that one. This book is basically a collection of different experiences that Deborah Feldman has one she escapes from her religion.

I kind of wish that there is been a little bit more of a central story because the way that the book was broken up was jarring and made it hard to get into the book. The book almost feels like a collection of disparate parts instead of a full story, which took me out of the story. This book is mostly about Deborah trying to make a new life outside of her religion and community that she is always known. She is getting used to many different things and having a lot of different experiences. She does many things to try and get her new life on track and they don't always work out. Again I think they disconnect between the various stories that she tells made only an okay experience for me.


 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

HFVBT Guest Post: Vicky Alvear Shecter, One of the Authors of A Year of Ravens

I am excited to welcome Vicky Alvear Shecter, who is one of the seven authors of the new historical fiction release, "A Year of Ravens."







Madness and Magic: What Happens when
Seven Authors Tackle One Story

by Vicky Alvear Shecter

Collaborative novels are not new, but they can be difficult to execute. The challenge comes in making each author’s story compelling—with its own arc and resolution—while still moving the novel toward its own satisfying conclusion.

Seven authors took up that challenge with A Year of Ravens: A Novel of Boudica’s Rebellion. Boudica, the woman who took on Rome and nearly won, is one of the most compelling heroes of the ancient world. Four out of Raven’s seven authors—Stephanie Dray, Eliza Knight, Kate Quinn and me—worked on a previous historical fiction collaboration, A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii, released last year. Because of conflicting deadlines, authors Ben Kane and Sophie Perinot were not able to participate. Thankfully, British authors Ruth Downie, Russell Whitfield, and SJA Turney were happy to step in.

The big question, though, was whether this new team could make it work. According to one of the new team members, Russell Whitfield, it was a “nightmare.”

“The others were a bunch of divas and I’m surprised that anything got done with all the preening and posturing,” the author of the Gladiatrix series claims. “It was shocking! Knight refusing to move unless we sent her M&Ms with the red ones taken out… Downie and Turney shouting drunken abuse at each other on Skype… Dray and Shecter threatening me… And that Kate Quinn... Let me tell you… Don’t get on the wrong side of her, man. She’s essentially the Chuck Norris of Historical Fiction. She doesn’t edit. She waits...”

Whitfield, of course, was just kidding.

In actuality, “the collaborative process was a dream,” he points out. “There really are no juicy stories of tantrums and heel-digging or anything like that. The team was utterly professional - it was all about the work and delivering the best story for the reader - as it should be, of course.”

Kate (Chuck Norris) Quinn, author of The Empress of Rome series, concurs. “Working in a collaboration forces your imagination to stretch in new and astounding ways,” she says. “As historical authors, when we choose a piece of history to wrap a story around, we naturally gravitate toward the entire arc of the historical event. But with seven of us, we all had just a piece of the action, not the whole, and that's an entirely new ball-game."

Nothing about the story of Boudica’s rebellion is simple. It encompassed multiple Celtic tribes over multiple generations involving multiple shifting personal and political alliances. And then there was Rome with its coldly-efficient war machine and determination to replenish its wealth on the backs of conquered peoples.

The natural inclination would be to try to simplify the stories and turn them into tales of good versus evil.

But that, according to Stephanie Dray, author of the soon-to-be released America’s First Daughter, the story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Patsy, was exactly what we didn’t want to do.

“We knew we didn’t want to write a simplistic Roman Imperialists Go Home book, which is the obvious choice when tackling Boudica’s story,” she explains. And although the group didn’t discuss “overarching themes in the book” in the beginning, powerful themes developed organically during the process anyway.

“Without planning it, we collectively tackled the broader concept of honor and its impact, good and bad,” Dray says. “All of the stories started spinning around the same themes as if we’d planned them that way because we were feeding off each other’s ideas and thinking about how our own work might say something deeper!”

Often, what started as a simple tale grew complex as it interweaved with the other stories. “I had taken on one of the more straightforward parts of the rebellion to cover - the burning of London and St Albans - and it could have been remarkably easy to do,” says SJA Turney, author of the Marius’ Mules and Praetorian series. “I came up with a concept of a Romanized Briton who would be dashing in and out of the chaos on a personal mission to save someone that would allow a bit of character depth while showing in the background all the horror of the revolt.” But then other authors laid claim to use Turney's Briton in their stories and, as Turney concludes "He gained more depth and color from their influence. And so on . . ."

Ruth Downie, author of the Medicus series, notes that the magic really took off during group discussions. “What took me by surprise was the way the bare bones of Boudica’s story sprang to life when the rest of the H-Team pitched in with the viewpoints of their characters,” she points out. “The fictional people blended so seamlessly with the historical ones that when I visited the British Museum and stood in front of the real weapon that Kate had assigned to her leading man, I almost expected a plaque that said, DURO’S SWORD.”

A Year of Ravens is sometimes quite dark, but then, so was the history itself.  From slaves to queens, from warriors to Druids, everyone had a stake in the outcome of the rebellion. The stories in the novel, we hope, capture the heartaches, triumphs, hopes, and dreams of the people from the Land of the Mists and the people who conquered them.


Links:

A Year of Ravens:  






Vicky Alvear Shecter: www.vickyalvearshecter.com

Eliza Knight: http://www.elizaknight.com/
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