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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Novel Expressions Spotlight: THE SECRET LIFE OF MRS. LONDON by Rebecca Rosenberg

Rebecca Rosenberg, author of the new historical novel, The Secret Life of Mrs. London, revealing the love triangle between Houdini, Charmian and Jack London.
Only One Woman Could Beguile Two Legends!
Join Rebecca in a visual romp back to San Francisco, 1915, when famed author Jack London and his wife, Charmian London, attend the Great Houdini’s Chinese Water Torture Escape in San Francisco. What happened next was almost lost to history!

San Francisco, 1915. As America teeters on the brink of world war, Charmian and her husband, famed novelist Jack London, wrestle with genius and desire, politics and marital competitiveness. Charmian longs to be viewed as an equal partner who put her own career on hold to support her husband, but Jack doesn’t see it that way…until Charmian is pulled from the audience during a magic show by escape artist Harry Houdini, a man enmeshed in his own complicated marriage. Suddenly, charmed by the attention Houdini pays her and entranced by his sexual magnetism, Charmian’s eyes open to a world of possibilities that could be her escape.
As Charmian grapples with her urge to explore the forbidden, Jack’s increasingly reckless behavior threatens her dedication. Now torn between two of history’s most mysterious and charismatic figures, she must find the courage to forge her own path, even as she fears the loss of everything she holds dear.
About the Author:

California native Rebecca Rosenberg lives on a lavender farm with her family in Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon, where she and her husband founded the largest lavender product company in America, Sonoma Lavender. A long-time student of Jack London’s work and an avid fan of his daring wife, Charmian, Rosenberg is a graduate of the Stanford Writing Certificate Program. THE SECRET LIFE OF MRS. LONDON is her first novel, following her non-fiction, LAVENDER FIELDS OF AMERICA.
Rebecca Rosenberg’s next historical novel is GOLD DIGGER the story of BABY DOE TABOR.
Buy the Book:
Blog Tour Schedule:
July 9th- Book Review - Kate Braithwaite
July 10th – Book Excerpt – Just One More Chapter
July 11th -Book Spotlight and Highlighted Reviews – before the second sleep
July 12th- Book Review -Book Babble
July 13th – Book Review - Strange & Random Happenstance
July 14th – Book Spotlight – Fictionophile
July 15th - Book Spotlight- Layered Pages
July 16th – Book Spotlight & Book Review – Svetabooks
July 17th- Book Spotlight – A Bookish Affair
July 18th – Guest Post – A Bookaholic Swede

Monday, July 16, 2018

Review: The Summer Sail by Wendy Francis

Title: The Summer Sail 
Author: Wendy Francis
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Touchstone
Publish Date: May 1, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "A trio of college friends who reunite aboard a cruise ship experience an unforgettable vacation in this compelling novel from the author of The Summer of Good Intentions, which was hailed as “everything a summer read should be” by Elin Hilderbrand.

Three college roommates are celebrating a twentieth wedding anniversary by taking a cruise to Bermuda. As the ship pulls away from the pier, everyone is looking forward to lounging by the pool, sipping sunset cocktails, and reminiscing. Abby, the mother hen of the group, will be celebrating her wedding anniversary in style, even as she and her husband keep a secret from the group. Ambitious career woman Caroline happily anticipates several stress-free days away from her magazine job with her boyfriend, Javier, who may or may not be finally inspired to propose. And single mom Lee (annoyingly gorgeous and irresistibly popular in college) hopes she’ll win back the affections of her formerly sweet daughter Lacey, who after her first year in college, has inexplicably become a little bit of a monster.

As the balmy pink shores of Bermuda come into view, tensions simmer, and old jealousies flare, sending the temperature from soothing to scorching in this engrossing tale of three best friends on a vacation they won’t soon forget—but not for the reasons they expect."

My Two Cents:

In "The Summer Sail," Abby has the idea to bring her two best friends from college, Lee and Caroline. on the cruise. Lee wants to bring her college age daughter, Lacey, to get closer to her and repair their frayed relationship but Lacey may be hiding a secret of her own. Caroline is bringing her long term boyfriend and hoping for an engagement or at least some sign that he wants to be with her for the long haul. Abby is hiding her own secret and reason for bringing everyone together.

I really liked this story. It's a good story of friendship and why it's so important to surround yourself with really good people. Although Abby is definitely hiding the biggest secret (no spoilers), everyone else is hiding their own hopes and fears throughout the book. Part of the fun of this book is seeing how the characters initially hide things from each other only to realize how important it is to let your friends in to help you when you need it!

The pacing and the writing of this book was great. I really liked how the author captured the warmth of the relationship between Abby, Lee, and Caroline! The author does a really good job of giving the reader just enough of a hint of where the story was going to keep you reading. I read this book super quickly because of that. This was a great summer read about friendship!


Thursday, July 12, 2018

HFVBT Review: The Romanov Empress: A Novel of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna by C.W. Gortner

Title: The Romanov Empress: A Novel of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna
Author: C.W. Gortner 
Format: ARC
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publish Date: July 10, 2018
Source: HFVBT

What's the Story?:

From "Narrated by the mother of Russia's last tsar, this vivid, historically authentic novel brings to life the courageous story of Maria Feodorovna, one of Imperial Russia's most compelling women who witnessed the splendor and tragic downfall of the Romanovs as she fought to save her dynasty in the final years of its long reign.

Barely nineteen, Minnie knows that her station in life as a Danish princess is to leave her family and enter into a royal marriage--as her older sister Alix has done, moving to England to wed Queen Victoria's eldest son. The winds of fortune bring Minnie to Russia, where she marries the Romanov heir and becomes empress once he ascends the throne. When resistance to his reign strikes at the heart of her family and the tsar sets out to crush all who oppose him, Minnie--now called Maria--must tread a perilous path of compromise in a country she has come to love.

Her husband's death leaves their son Nicholas as the inexperienced ruler of a deeply divided and crumbling empire. Determined to guide him to reforms that will bring Russia into the modern age, Maria faces implacable opposition from Nicholas's strong-willed wife, Alexandra, whose fervor has lead her into a disturbing relationship with a mystic named Rasputin. As the unstoppable wave of revolution rises anew to engulf Russia, Maria will face her most dangerous challenge and her greatest heartache.

From the opulent palaces of St. Petersburg and the intrigue-laced salons of the aristocracy to the World War I battlefields and the bloodied countryside occupied by the Bolsheviks, C. W. Gortner sweeps us into the anarchic fall of an empire and the complex, bold heart of the woman who tried to save it."

My Two Cents:

I love historical fiction but I always wonder about why there are certain areas of the world and time periods that never seem to get the HistFic treatment. Imperial Russia is one of those. I have been absolutely craving more historical fiction set in Russia and after reading "The Romanov Empress," I only want more! Isn't that always the problem with really good books?

In this book, we meet Minnie, a royal in her own right who is betrothed to the heir to the Russian throne. Several twists of fate have Minnie's life looking much different than she ever expected. Through it all, she maintains a keen sense of just how to use her power. I love stories about strong women and Minnie certainly is super strong. Although women at the time did not have much power, she learns quickly how to wield what she does have in order to shape her own life and the lives of those around her.

Russian history is fascinating to me. It was especially fascinating to see it through Minnie's eyes as she had a front row seat to so many seismic changes in that country. Gortner adds a lot of really great detail that brings Minnie's travels and Russia itself to life. Gortner does an amazing job of world building in this book and weaving in the detail for a fully immersive experience.

This book also had a feature that I have liked in so many other Gortner books. He has a great ear (err... hand) for writing really great dialogue. You can actually hear (err.. read) the characters speaking and their tones!

It has been really hard for me to focus on reading since the Great Tree Debacle of 2018 and this is really the first book since then that I have been able to just get lost in and that's a beautiful thing!


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

CATASTROPHE!!! (Or why I'm not answering your emails)

Well, it's safe to say that A Bookish Affair will be on hiatus for a little bit. We had a tree come down on our house. We were not home at the time and we were able to get our cats out so all the living things are just fine. The house is pretty damaged but the house is just a thing. We feel very lucky!

Image may contain: sky, tree, plant and outdoor

Review: The Mermaid by Christina Henry

Title: The Mermaid
Author: Christina Henry
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: June 19, 2018 (Today!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Once there was a mermaid who longed to know of more than her ocean home and her people. One day a fisherman trapped her in his net but couldn't bear to keep her. But his eyes were lonely and caught her more surely than the net, and so she evoked a magic that allowed her to walk upon the shore. The mermaid, Amelia, became his wife, and they lived on a cliff above the ocean for ever so many years, until one day the fisherman rowed out to sea and did not return.

P. T. Barnum was looking for marvelous attractions for his American Museum, and he'd heard a rumor of a mermaid who lived on a cliff by the sea. He wanted to make his fortune, and an attraction like Amelia was just the ticket.

Amelia agreed to play the mermaid for Barnum, and she believes she can leave any time she likes. But Barnum has never given up a money-making scheme in his life, and he's determined to hold on to his mermaid."

My Two Cents:

Once upon a time, a mermaid left the sea behind to become a woman. She fell in love with a human and as he grew older, she stayed forever the same age. Eventually he passed away and Amelia the mermaid had to find a new life. Enter P.T. Barnum, circus master and master manipulator, who promises Amelia a living in exchange for dignity. Will Amelia ever be able to get back to making it on her own?

What initially drew me to this book was P.T. Barnum. He's the kind of guy that you love to hate. Exploitative, conniving, lying - there isn't much to recommend him! This book definitely shows that. He's pretty terrible to Amelia but I loved how Amelia is able to give it right back to him, often times without even saying a word. We get an inside perspective of how driven-at-any-cost P.T. Barnum is and while he isn't a great person, he's a fascinating one to read about.

And then the mermaids! We are obsessed with mermaids in my house and even as an adult, I still love the idea of mermaids. I loved how Amelia wasn't portrayed as simply a half woman, half fish but something more fantastical. I loved how the author put a lot of the legends of mermaids into this book. This is a great book for those that love some fantasy with their historical fiction!

Oh, and I have to mention the love story between Amelia and Levi, P.T. Barnum's (much nicer, much kinder) right hand man. At first, it seems like perhaps Amelia is drawn to Levi because he can protect her from P.T. Barnum's worse ideas but it becomes clear that they really love each other. This eventually results in one of the happiest endings that I have read in a long time!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Review: Pax by Sara Pennypacker

Title: Pax
Author: Sara Pennypacker
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Publish Date: February 2, 2016
Source: Borrowed

What's the Story?:

From "Pax was only a kit when his family was killed, and “his boy” Peter rescued him from abandonment and certain death. Now the war front approaches, and when Peter’s father enlists, Peter has to move in with his grandpa. Far worse than being forced to leave home is the fact that Pax can’t go. Peter listens to his stern father—as he usually does—and throws Pax’s favorite toy soldier into the woods. When the fox runs to retrieve it, Peter and his dad get back in the car and leave him there—alone. But before Peter makes it through even one night under his grandfather’s roof, regret and duty spur him to action; he packs for a trek to get his best friend back and sneaks into the night. This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their independent struggles to return to one another against all odds."

My Two Cents:

"Pax" is the story of a young boy, Peter, and his pet fox, Pax. They live in a world at war and Peter's father is caught up in the middle of it. He tells Peter that he needs to release the fox before he goes to war. Peter does so very grudgingly but quickly realizes that he doesn't think he can live without Pax so he goes on a journey that will force him to grow and change his perspective.

This is a bildungsroman in every sense of the word. Peter has a very different understanding of the world when the book first opens. He is aware of the love he feels for Pax. Pax is aware of the love that Peter feels for him and is confused about why he is put out into the world. Peter's sadness is mostly focused on himself but as he goes through the book, he realizes that there are many things outside of his control that are much bigger than himself.

This book is filled with a lot of messages and I like that the author never seems to talk down to her readers - this is especially important in books geared for middle grade readers. There are the messages about how terrible war is and how devastating it can be. I did find myself wanting to know more about what the war was over but perhaps that was author's message: no matter what the war is about, it is still devastating. And then there is the message about letting something go and if it comes back to you, it's yours. If it doesn't, it was never yours in the first place.

Overall, I enjoyed this book even if the ending was not what I wanted it to be. Things are not always the way we want them to be.


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Review: Little Big Love by Katy Regan

Title: Little Big Love
Author: Katy Regan
Format: ARC
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: June 5, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "About a Boy meets Parenthood in this smart, big-hearted love story about a family for whom everything changed one night, a decade ago, and the young boy who unites them all.

Told through the eyes of Zac, Juliet, and grandfather Mick, Little Big Love is a layered, heartfelt, utterly satisfying story about family, love, and the secrets that can define who we are."

My Two Cents:

"Little Big Love" is a story about Zac, an overweight boy who dreams of having a father; Juliet, Zac's mother who goes from one disastrous relationship to another; and Mick, Juliet's father and Zac's grandfather who is hiding secrets of his own that affect both Juliet and Zac. Families can be full of love or they can be messy or they can be both. This family has both love and messiness in spades. This is a heartwarming book!

This book started a little slowly for me but I am glad I stuck with it because when it hits its stride, it really hits it stride and becomes a lovely rumination on how the secrets we think it's safer to keep really should be out in the open.

Zac was definitely my favorite character in this book. He is terribly precocious and all he wants is to know who his dad is, a secret that his mother has refused to tell him. So he decides to find out on his own with the help of his best friend Teagan. Meanwhile, he is being teased and bullied mercilessly by other kids at school. Will he fold or remain resilient? I loved watching him throughout this book on his journey. The tale of his father takes a lot of twists and turns that I didn't see coming, which kept the book moving well.

Overall, this was a great story!


Monday, June 11, 2018

TLC Book Tours Review: Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson

Title: Matchmaking for Beginners
Author: Maddie Dawson 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publish Date: June 1, 2018
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

Marnie MacGraw wants an ordinary life—a husband, kids, and a minivan in the suburbs. Now that she’s marrying the man of her dreams, she’s sure this is the life she’ll get. Then Marnie meets Blix Holliday, her fiancé’s irascible matchmaking great-aunt who’s dying, and everything changes—just as Blix told her it would.

When her marriage ends after two miserable weeks, Marnie is understandably shocked. She’s even more astonished to find that she’s inherited Blix’s Brooklyn brownstone along with all of Blix’s unfinished “projects”: the heartbroken, oddball friends and neighbors running from happiness. Marnie doesn’t believe she’s anything special, but Blix somehow knew she was the perfect person to follow in her matchmaker footsteps.

And Blix was also right about some things Marnie must learn the hard way: love is hard to recognize, and the ones who push love away often are the ones who need it most.

My Two Cents:

In "Matchmaking for Beginners," Marnie thinks she finally has her life figured out after a traumatic heartbreak, which includes getting divorced very shortly after marriage. Now she's back in her hometown and back in what she thinks is love with her childhood sweetheart. After her ex's great aunt Blix dies, Marnie's life is thrown into upheaval again. Blix leaves Marnie her brownstone in Brooklyn, New York. Will Marnie leave her old life behind for the promise of the unexpected?

Are you looking for a book that feels like a warm hug from a friend? This is the book for you. I loved this one. I always wonder about what it might be like if my life hadn't taken the path that it has taken. What if I made a different decision at some point that changed everything? Marnie tussles with this idea through this book. Blix's will throws everything Marnie thinks she wants into question. She realizes that she's just settling for the idea of suburban life rather than going after what she really wants but it takes Blix shaking her up in order to realize that.

The characters are what really sold me on this book. I loved Marnie. She's a mess and kind of fumbles through a lot of her life while trying to move forward. Blix is such a great character. She is self-assured and isn't afraid to do what makes her happy. She tries to sell that idea to everyone she meets. Then all of the secondary characters are great. Blix's brownstone comes with a cast of characters that will all make their imprint on Marnie. And I have to mention Patrick, oh, Patrick. He's wonderful and fits Marnie like a glove.

The other element of this book that I loved is the magical realism piece. Blix is a matchmaker who can just "see" who is meant to be together. Marnie shares this gift. I loved how this was woven throughout the book. It was perfect!

TLC Book Tours: All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother by Danielle Teller

Title: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother
Author: Danielle Teller 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: May 22, 2018
Source: TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins

What's the Story?:

From "We all know the story of Cinderella. Or do we?

As rumors about the cruel upbringing of beautiful newlywed Princess Cinderella roil the kingdom, her stepmother, Agnes, who knows all too well about hardship, privately records the true story. . . .

A peasant born into serfdom, Agnes is separated from her family and forced into servitude as a laundress’s apprentice when she is only ten years old. Using her wits and ingenuity, she escapes her tyrannical matron and makes her way toward a hopeful future. When teenaged Agnes is seduced by an older man and becomes pregnant, she is transformed by love for her child. Once again left penniless, Agnes has no choice but to return to servitude at the manor she thought she had left behind. Her new position is nursemaid to Ella, an otherworldly infant. She struggles to love the child who in time becomes her stepdaughter and, eventually, the celebrated princess who embodies everyone’s unattainable fantasies. The story of their relationship reveals that nothing is what it seems, that beauty is not always desirable, and that love can take on many guises."

My Two Cents:

"All the Ever Afters" turns the story of Cinderella's evil stepmother on its head. What if she, Agnes, wasn't really evil? What if she was just the victim of being misunderstood and over taken by rumors that got more than a little out of control? Reading like historical fiction more than fantasy or any other genre, this book gives us more insight into a beloved fairy tale.

This story doesn't just focus on Agnes' interactions with Ella but it gives the story of the beginning of her life and her rise from a servant girl to catching the eye of a wealthy man who will change her life. In its own way, Agnes' story feels like a fairy tale. We see how the events of her early life shape who she is later on.

I really liked that the author chose to give a historical fiction feel to the book. Not only is HistFic my favorite genre but I liked that the author chose to give it a little more realistic point of view than your typical fairy tale. I thought that this also lent to the idea that Agnes' reputation was caused by a bunch of rumors and misunderstandings. In this book, Princess Ella has a sort of magical quality about her but Agnes' retelling seeks to show that even the most beautiful things can be skewed by misunderstandings.

The narrative does get a little bogged down in explaining in some parts but overall, this was a great take on a beloved, well-known story!


Thursday, June 7, 2018

Review: On to Angola: Race to Freedom by Sharman Burson Ramsey

Title: On to Angola: Race to Freedom 
Author: Sharman Burson Ramsey
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Create Space
Publish Date: February 4, 2018
Source: Author

What's the Story?:

From ""Towards the end of the month of April last, some men of influence and fortune, residing somewhere in the western country, thought of making a speculation in order to obtain Slaves for a trifle. They hired Charles Miller, William Weatherford [and others], and under these chiefs, were engaged about two hundred Cowetas Indians. They were ordered to proceed along the western coast of East Florida, southerly, and there take, in the name of the United States, and make prisoners of all the men of colour, including women and children, they would be able to find, and bring them all, well secured, to a certain place, which has been kept a secret." "Advice to Southern Planters" in Charleston City Gazette. This novel, historical fiction, reunites twins Cato and Andro, ripped apart at birth, one raised as a slave, the other as the adopted son of a Duke. Their quest to find their mother leads to a race against the Coweta raiders. They deal with slavers, unscrupulous English men, pirates, and the untamed frontier. In this adventure they join Red Stick survivors of the Creek and First Seminole War in a joint race for survival."

My Two Cents:

"On to Angola" is an exciting tale of twins Andro and Cato as they try to find their family without getting separated once again. This is the third book in Ramsey's Creek Indian Family Saga but this book very much works as a standalone book and so you can dive right in to Ramsey's world of Native Americans, slaves, chases, and raids.

Being a twin mama, I loved the story of Andro and Cato. The fact that these twins were separated really tugged on my heartstrings and made it sweeter to see them reunited and on a mission to find the rest of their family. One was a slave, the other led a fairly privileged life as the son of a Duke. You see markers of their very different lives throughout the book but they still have a lot of similarities and the same will to survive in what proves to be a very dangerous world.

This book is action packed and nicely paced. I loved following the twins' adventures as they try to survive and outrun everyone that seems to be after them. You are rooting for them the whole way and I loved the way that Ramsey was able to show just how high the stakes were so that you root for the twins even more.

Another part that I loved about this book is all of the historical detail that is not only included throughout the narrative itself but both in the foreword and afterword included in the book. It is clear how much research that Ramsey did. Because this book is so high action, the detail never seems to bog down the narrative. I loved getting a taste of Ramsey's research process and the story behind the story!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Review: Side by Side by Jenni L. Walsh

Title: Side by Side
Author: Jenni L. Walsh
Format: ARC
Publisher: Forge
Publish Date: June 5, 2018 (Today!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Texas: 1931. It’s the height of the Great Depression, and Bonnie is miles from Clyde. He’s locked up, and she’s left waiting, their dreams of a life together dwindling every day.

When Clyde returns from prison damaged and distant, unable to keep a job, and dogged by the cops, Bonnie knows the law will soon come for him. But there’s only one road forward for her.

If the world won't give them their American Dream, they'll just have to take it."

My Two Cents:

In "Side by Side," Jenni L. Walsh dives into the story that we are all probably more familiar with when it comes to "Bonnie and Clyde." Two young lovers who captivated the country with their crimes of robbing banks and shaking up towns all over the country. They kept law enforcement on their toes before dying in an ambush. As Walsh breathes life into the story, it gets a little more complex. This is a great historical fiction ride that will keep you on the edge of your seat, no matter if you know how it ends or not.

This is the second book in Walsh's duology and while you don't need to have read "Becoming Bonnie" in order to enjoy "Side by Side," it's so interesting to see how Bonnie got to where she is in "Side by Side" that I highly suggest reading the first book first. In this book, we see Bonnie as she is about to go down in infamy. She is still the same girl that dreams of a farm and a white picket fence and she sees the hijinks and crimes that she is involved in as a means to an end. She doesn't like what she and the Barrow Gang are doing but she loves Clyde and will follow him anywhere and do anything for him.

I loved the historical detail in the book. It is easy to see that while who Bonnie and Clyde were as people is largely lost to history, why there is still so much fascination about their crimes. The country was riveted as the crimes were happening and about the hide and seek game that followed. Even with so much else going on in the country at the time, Bonnie and Clyde made headlines over and over again.

The book is well-written. I especially liked how the dialogue was written. Walsh has a great hand for writing realistic sounding dialogue with so much of the fun slang from the era. It really helped bring me into the book. The book is nicely paced and very exciting as Bonnie and Clyde's cat and mouse game with the police transpires!


Monday, June 4, 2018

Review: Becoming Bonnie by Jenni L. Walsh

Title: Becoming Bonnie
Author: Jenni L. Walsh
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Forge Books
Publish Date: May 9, 2017
Source: Owned

What's the Story?:

From "The summer of 1927 might be the height of the Roaring Twenties, but Bonnelyn Parker is more likely to belt out a church hymn than sling drinks at an illicit juice joint. She’s a sharp girl with plans to overcome her family's poverty, provide for herself, and maybe someday marry her boyfriend, Roy Thornton. But when Roy springs a proposal on her and financial woes jeopardize her ambitions, Bonnelyn finds salvation in an unlikely place: Dallas's newest speakeasy, Doc’s.

Living the life of a moll at night, Bonnie remains a wholesome girl by day, engaged to Roy, attending school and working toward a steady future. When Roy discovers her secret life, and embraces it—perhaps too much, especially when it comes to booze and gambling—Bonnie tries to make the pieces fit. Maybe she can have it all: the American Dream, the husband, and the intoxicating allure of jazz music. What she doesn't know is that her life—like her country—is headed for a crash.

She’s about to meet Clyde Barrow."

My Two Cents:

"Becoming Bonnie" is the story of Bonnelyn Parker, who would become one half of the famous crime duo Bonnie and Clyde. This book explores how Bonnie went from a sweet, innocent, church going girl who married early and had dreams of being a teacher and having a white picket fence with her childhood love to becoming part the Barrow Gang. At first, I was surprised that the book focuses so much on Bonnie and we really don't get to meet Clyde until we're well into the book. But as it turns out, Bonnie is a pretty interesting character in her own right and well-deserving of the focus.

I really did not know much about Bonnie outside of the whole idea of Bonnie and Clyde. I liked getting to know her as an individual. We see how she just wants to be loved and how she puts the idea of loyalty above almost anything else even before she meets Clyde. I love how Walsh gives a chance to get to know Bonnie before Clyde. I am reading this book just before "Side by Side," which goes into the story that everyone is more familiar with: Bonnie and Clyde's crime spree.

In real life, not much is known about Bonnie before she met Clyde. Walsh brings to life this unknown world where Bonnie has a loving family that is going through a really difficult time. Bonnie wants to make things better for them in any way she can even if it means not following her own heart. I really enjoyed getting to know her and to see her when she first met Clyde. This was such a good introduction to someone who has had a lot of the details of her life lost to history!


Friday, June 1, 2018

2018 Reading Challenge May Progress

As a reminder, I'm doing two challenges this year: The PopSugar Ultimate Reading Challenge and My Friends' Favorite Books Challenge.

So I've fallen a little behind in my reading. I have been traveling a lot recently (two new countries in May: Ecuador and Haiti) and then I leave again for travel on Monday. I love traveling but I am looking forward to being on the ground for a little bit longer. As far as the challenges go, I'm still working towards my goal and it's looking good!

Interested in what I've read? Check out my tracker!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Spotlight: Feast of Sorrow: A Novel of Ancient Rome by Crystal King

Title: Feast of Sorrow: A Novel of Ancient Rome
Author: Crystal King 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Touchstone
Publish Date: April 25, 2017
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "On a blistering day in the twenty-sixth year of Augustus Caesar’s reign, a young chef, Thrasius, is acquired for the exorbitant price of twenty thousand denarii. His purchaser is the infamous gourmet Marcus Gavius Apicius, wealthy beyond measure, obsessed with a taste for fine meals from exotic places, and a singular ambition: to serve as culinary advisor to Caesar, an honor that will cement his legacy as Rome's leading epicure.

Apicius rightfully believes that Thrasius is the key to his culinary success, and with Thrasius’s help he soon becomes known for his lavish parties and fantastic meals. Thrasius finds a family in Apicius’s household, his daughter Apicata, his wife Aelia, and her handmaiden, Passia whom Thrasius quickly falls in love with. But as Apicius draws closer to his ultimate goal, his reckless disregard for any who might get in his way takes a dangerous turn that threatens his young family and places his entire household at the mercy of the most powerful forces in Rome."

My Two Cents:

 This book had everything: great detail, great food. and memorable characters!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

Title: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
Author: Mark Manson
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Harper
Publish Date: September 13, 2016
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "In this generation-defining self-help guide, a superstar blogger cuts through the crap to show us how to stop trying to be "positive" all the time so that we can truly become better, happier people.

For decades, we’ve been told that positive thinking is the key to a happy, rich life. "F**k positivity," Mark Manson says. "Let’s be honest, shit is f**ked and we have to live with it." In his wildly popular Internet blog, Manson doesn’t sugarcoat or equivocate. He tells it like it is—a dose of raw, refreshing, honest truth that is sorely lacking today. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is his antidote to the coddling, let’s-all-feel-good mindset that has infected modern society and spoiled a generation, rewarding them with gold medals just for showing up."

My Two Cents:

Oh, boy, is this title hard to not to notice?!? Don't let the title fool you; not only is this book funny but it has some pretty salient messages about how you need to live up to your own standards and do what's right for you. You get to choose what to care about but you don't need to worry about what others think. Logically we know this but it is always good to get a reminder and in this case, the reminder comes in a book that is entertaining while still being very informative.

I really liked that this book doesn't take itself too seriously and therefore doesn't feel as didactic as many self-help books can feel. I like the message of this book and the fact that Manson draws so much from his own experience, which really endeared him to me.

This book is perfect for anyone that needs a little boost!


Monday, May 21, 2018

Review: Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

Title: Catching Jordan
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publish Date: December 1, 2011
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "What girl doesn't want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn't just surrounded by hot guys, though-she leads them as the captain and quarterback of her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys and that's just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university.

But everything she's ever worked for is threatened when Ty Green moves to her school. Not only is he an amazing QB, but he's also amazingly hot. And for the first time, Jordan's feeling vulnerable. Can she keep her head in the game while her heart's on the line?"

My Two Cents:

"Catching Jordan" is the story of Jordan Woods, daughter of a famous football player who is making her own name as the quarterback of her high school football team. She wants to play football in college but doesn't seem to be getting a whole lot of support. Her favored college doesn't take her seriously and now it looks like she might be replaced as quarterback by new-to-town Ty. If that isn't complicated enough, she's torn between the new guy and her childhood best friend and another member on the team.

I love strong female characters and Jordan is definitely one even at her young age. She is constantly fighting criticism from every angle even when she is a really good football player. Even her own father doesn't seem fully supportive even though he is super supportive of her brother who plays college football. She faces criticism for not being girly enough or not thinking enough about her future plans and relying on football too much. Even though she goes through periods of insecurity, she still fights for what she believes in. You find yourself cheering for her along the way!

The love triangle between Jordan, Ty, and Sam worked even though I usually don't like love triangles (they can be so overdone). I really liked Sam and Jordan together. Their history was so cute and I loved how it informed their present. You're pulling for them to figure it out the whole time! I loved following the ups and downs throughout the book!


Saturday, May 12, 2018

Vacation This Week!

Hello, everyone! A Bookish Affair will be on vacation this week but I will be returning next week with more great reviews just in time to start preparing for summer reading!

What are you reading now?

Friday, May 11, 2018


I am so excited to welcome Mary Sharratt here to A Bookish Affair today.

Women who stand out and dare to seize their power have been maligned throughout history. Even today many people are uncomfortable about the very idea of a powerful woman. Witness how Hillary Clinton was demonized in the 2016 presidential campaign. What other U.S. presidential candidate has been called “nasty” by their opponent or had their opponent literally looming over them during a live televised debate? Even women who would never dream of running for political office face every day misogyny and threats of violence for daring to speak out on the internet. It doesn’t matter what the woman has to say—the fact that she has spoken out at all has made her a target.  
I certainly encountered the “such a nasty woman” phenomenon while researching Alma Schindler Mahler, the protagonist of my new novel Ecstasy. Born in Vienna in 1879, Alma Maria Schindler was an accomplished pianist and aspiring composer who gave up her own music as a condition for her marriage to the great composer, Gustav Mahler. Later, after a marital crisis, she returned to composing and published three collections of her songs. She was married to—or had affairs with—some of the greatest creative geniuses of her time, including Gustav Klimt, Walter Gropius, Oskar Kokoschka, and Franz Werfel. She was also a pioneer in the field we now call artistic management and her networking skills benefitted the men she loved. But one would hardly know about her talents and gifts to read the biographies written about her.
Most of the Alma biographies are what Susanne Rode-Breymann, co-editor of the German edition of Alma’s diaries, has called “moralizing scandal biographies.” They focus almost exclusively on the sensationalistic aspects of Alma’s life—namely the fact that she dared to rewrite the feminine life script and claim her sexual freedom. Even the more “scholarly” of these tomes tend to read in places like trashy, voyeuristic novels. The biographers use Alma’s sexuality as a selling point for their books while standing in stern moral judgement of her and having nothing good to say about Alma as a human being, much less as a composer. This lurid focus on Alma’s sexuality, at the expense of all other areas of her life, demeans and degrades her. Alma is reduced to the men she was involved with and how she failed to be the ideal woman for them. Can you even imagine a biographer doing this to a “great man” like Picasso—ignoring his art to condemn him as a terrible husband and serial womanizer?
In my humble opinion, novelists have a much more difficult vocation than biographers. Unlike biographers, I must make Alma compelling and inspire the reader’s empathy. I must offer insight as to why Alma made the choices she did. I must show her in her full humanity.
At least I know Alma is in good company. Here is a short history of “nasty women” and some excellent books that portray them in all their nuanced, multi-faceted glory.    

  1. Mary Magdalene, 1st century CE
The most influential woman in early Christianity has been distorted beyond recognition as a weeping, humiliated ex-prostitute, despite there being no scriptural evidence to support this depiction. If that were not enough, we have the Da Vinci Code to thank for the most recent flood of new age conspiracy theories surrounding her. All of this obscures Mary’s key importance in the canonical Gospels. As one of Jesus’s closest disciples, she stood by him at the foot of the cross—after his male disciples fled. Present at his tomb, she was first witness to the resurrection. The risen Christ then bade Mary to tell the others the good news. And so she became Apostle to the Apostles. The noncanonical Gospel of Mary reveals her influence in early Christianity when her importance rivaled that of Peter’s. Whether or not she wrote the gospel attributed to her, this document certainly recognizes her authority. However in 590, Pope Gregory I decided to downgrade her by officially proclaiming her a whore. The Catholic Church didn’t recant this position until 1969.

Must read: Mary, Called Magdalene by Margaret George

  1. Empress Wu Zetian, 624 – 705 CE

The only female emperor in the history of China, Wu rose from humble beginnings as the fourteen-year-old concubine of Emperor Taizong, who was so captivated by her intelligence, he made her his secretary. After his death, Wu should have bowed to social expectation, shaved her head, and disappeared inside a Buddhist nunnery. Instead she married Taizong’s son Gaozong and ruled as empress consort, the true power behind her ineffectual husband’s throne. After Gaozong’s death, Wu ruled as empress dowager and placed first her eldest son and then her second-born son on the throne. When their leadership skills failed to impress her, she forced them to abdicate. From 690 to her death in 705 Wu ruled as emperor in her own name. She founded the Zhou Dynasty, introduced sweeping reforms to benefit her people, and declared herself an incarnation of the Maitreya Buddha. Ever uncomfortable with female leadership, her enemies spread many rumors about her, accusing her of all manner of treachery, including murdering her own baby daughter. After Wu’s death, they tried to erase her legacy, but all in vain. She is now remembered as one of the greatest leaders in Chinese history.

Must read: The Moon in the Palace by Weina Dai Randel

  1. Malinche 1501 - 1551

The most hated woman in Mexican history, Malinche was Hernandez Cortés’s indigenous lover and chief strategist during his annihilation of Muctezuma’s Aztec Empire. Caught between clashing worlds, Malinche was one of twenty women that Tabascan chieftan Potonchan offered Cortés. Regarded initially as nothing more than a sex slave, Malinche soon distinguished herself by her negotiating skills. Fluent in both the Nahuatal languages of the interior and the Mayan languages of the coast, Malinche quickly learned Spanish and became Cortés’s main translator and guide. A complex figure, she played a pivotal role in history, bearing Cortés’s son Martin, the first mestizo of note, and later marrying the Castillian nobleman, Don Juan Xamarmillo. Has Malinche been unfairly slated? Pre-colonial indigenous Mexicans were not one unified people, but a collection of distinct cultures. To many of these people, the Aztec Empire was the hated enemy because it demanded tribute in the form of human sacrifice from subjugated tribes. What if Malinche, a woman of non-Aztec origin, was not a traitor so much as a warrior within her own context?

Must read: Malinche by Laura Esquivel

  1. Mary I of England 1516 - 1558

The first woman to successfully claim the throne of England was the most reviled British monarch of all time. The fact that she burned 283 Protestants as heretics earned her the moniker “Bloody Mary” and history remembers her as the evil foil to her celebrated sister, “Good Queen Bess.” Yet Mary was no bloodier or more brutal than other rulers of her time. As the violence of the Reformation and Counter Reformation swept Europe, countless Catholics and Protestants on the “wrong” side of the sectarian divide were put to death—as were Jews and accused witches. On the plus side, Mary built up the British navy and reformed the militia, paving the way for Elizabeth I’s victory against the Spanish Armada. Used first by her father, Henry VIII, and later by her husband, Philip II of Spain, as a political pawn, Mary had no easy life and died in her forties. If anything, Elizabeth I was such an effective leader because she learned from her sister’s misfortune—Elizabeth made the radical choice to remain a “Virgin Queen” lest some man try to steal away her sovereignty.  

Must read: Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen by Anna Whitelock

  1. Catherine the Great 1729 - 1796

In the 34 years that she ruled the massive Russian Empire, Catherine the Great was the most powerful woman in the world. Born to a Prussian prince, she married into the Romanov family and became the unhappy wife of the unpopular Tsar Peter III. Catherine soon found herself involved in a coup to unseat her husband and install herself as empress. Eight days after abdicating, her husband was assassinated. Contrary to dark rumors, there’s no evidence Catherine was responsible. A highly educated polymath who corresponded with Voltaire and wrote an opera in her spare time, Catherine dragged a country still mired in a medieval mindset into the Enlightenment. Her lovers were many and she made one such paramour the King of Poland. A formidable military leader, she quelled more than a dozen uprisings. But most of her brave deeds have been forgotten—the average person on the street is more likely to know the urban myth that Catherine died having sex with a horse. She actually passed away after suffering a stroke.

Must read: The Winter Queen by Eva Stachniak

  1. Billie Holiday 1915 - 1959

Despite the fact that she never learned to read music and despite her struggles against racism, misogyny, and poverty, Billie Holiday triumphed to become one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time. Over fifty years after her death, her voice remains distinctive and unforgettable. Her 1939 song “Strange Fruit,” about the lynching of an African American man, was so controversial, it couldn’t be played on the radio. A powerful indictment of racism, “Strange Fruit” would become the first protest song of the 20th century. Yet for all her achievements, Holiday’s reputation remains steeped in sensationalism, especially regarding the heroin and alcohol abuse that eventually killed her at the age of 44. Why is she primarily remembered for her addiction and not her ground-breaking brilliance? “You don’t do the same thing when you talk about Sigmund Freud,” contemporary jazz musician Cassandra Wilson has pointed out. “Everyone knows he was a coke addict . . . but we don’t talk about that. We talk about him being the father of psychoanalysis.” (Link to Wilson quote: )

Must read: Lady Sings the Blues by Billie Holiday and William Dufty

  1. Ethel Rosenberg 1915 – 1953

In 1953 Ethel Rosenberg and her husband Julius were executed by electric chair for betraying U.S. nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. Both Rosenbergs protested their innocence up until their deaths. In the 1930s, Ethel had joined the Young Communist League, which did not help her case. While on trial for espionage in 1951, Ethel endured the heartbreak of having her own brother, himself an admitted spy, testify against her. Her refusal to burst into tears in court was interpreted to prove that she was an unwomanly monster who cared more about communism than her two young children. After the Rosenbergs’ execution, their sons, Michael and Robert, were adopted by Abel Meeropol, activist and writer of the song, “Strange Fruit.” Michael and Robert spent years trying to prove their parents’ innocence until they discovered declassified documents which indicated that their father was indeed involved in espionage. But Ethel’s role in any conspiracy seemed negligible. Her sons unsuccessfully petitioned President Obama to have their mother exonerated.

Must read: The Hours Count by Jillian Cantor

Bio: Mary Sharratt is on a mission to write women back into history in their full nasty glory. Her novel, Ecstasy, about celebrated bad girl Alma Mahler, was an Amazon Best Book of the Month for April, a Chicago Review of Books Book of the Month, and a New York Post Must Read Book. Visit her website:
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