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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Review: Wherever You Are: A Memoir of Love, Marriage, and Brain Injury by Cynthia Lim

Title: Wherever You Are: A Memoir of Love, Marriage, and Brain Injury
Author: Cynthia Lim
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Camel Press
Publish Date: September 1, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Cynthia Lim thought she had the perfect life: a husband who was a successful attorney, a fulfilling career in education, two teenage sons in private school, and a home in Los Angeles rich in books, music, and art. Then in 2003, her husband Perry suffers a cardiac arrest and brain injury, lingering in a coma for ten days before slowly awakening. A different person emerges, one who has lost his short-term memory and is fully dependent on others. Married for twenty years, she doesn't know how much of his former self will return as she fights for the treatment and care he needs.

She struggles with caregiving and working full-time while finding connection with the man she once knew and loved, whose brain will never again function as it did before. While wrestling with the urge to leave him in an institution and walk away, she discovers the strength and resolve that will allow her to build a new life. Wherever You Are is the story of a marriage after a spouse is forever changed by a catastrophic event. It is a story of redefining life with disability and discovering the real truth of love and marriage."

My Two Cents:

In "Wherever You Are," Cynthia Lim and her husband seem to lead a pretty good life. When a sudden health situation leaves her husband with a brain injury where one of the major symptoms severe short term memory loss, Lim discovers her own resilience and strength to come to terms with her and her husband's "new normal." This is a powerful memoir!

This memoir goes through everything that Cynthia and Perry, her husband, go through. Everything is covered from what happened to Perry to Cynthia having to navigate a new life and figure out how best she can care for her beloved husband. Caretaking is a very difficult job under any circumstances but Lim captures how difficult it is to be a caretaker for someone who once was self-sufficient. Lim also has to learn to be a partner to someone with whom she once had a very equal partnership with but that is no longer possible.

The writing is good. This is a hard subject and I did find myself wanting more detail on thoughts and feelings happening throughout the events in the book rather than just what was happening. This is a heart-wrenching story and I think it will be helpful to so many to have such a great example of strength!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

HFVBT Interview: Carrie Callaghan, Author of "A Light of Her Own"

I am thrilled to welcome Carrie Callaghan, author of "A Light of Her Own" here to A Bookish Affair!

What inspired you to write "A Light of Her Own?"

Judith’s self-portrait. My writing is just an excuse for me to research the heck out of something, and when I first saw her paintings in 2009, on the occasion of her 400th birthday, I was smitten. I needed to learn about this woman who painted with such passion, and how she succeeded at a time I thought of as being hostile to women. I learned, in the course of my research, that gender roles were a lot more complicated than I had assumed.

What was your favorite scene in the book to write?

I love the moment when Judith applies for membership in the Guild. Crowd scenes are a major challenge – figuring out how to help the reader keep track of a bunch of new faces is hard. But I also love the swirl of political ambition, hostility, and support that surrounds Judith as she’s putting herself out there for this most terrifying moment. And of course, I love the painting that she selects as her application piece. (When I wrote that scene, I had to guess which painting she used. Later, I spoke to a leading scholar who told me that recent scholarship indicated that she had indeed used the painting I had guessed!)

Who is your favorite character in this book and why?

I love Judith for her dedication and her spirit, but I am probably most like Maria, with her deep emotions and propensity toward self-doubt. I’m going to cheat a little here and say my favorite character is their friendship – the complicated love, anger, and support that arise between them.

What was the strangest/ most interesting thing you found in your research?

The small details of daily life four hundred years before our times are, of course, drastically different from our own electrified, internet-bound, modern lives. Even though I knew that their lives would have a different rhythm than ours, I was still surprised by some of the small things I learned in my research. How going out after dark was virtually impossible, and anyone out after a certain time was required to have a lantern. And that lantern didn’t have glass panes, like we might imagine, but tin walls with punctures to let the light shine through. Or how door decorations advertised both new births and stillbirths.

If you could bring three people, fictional or non-fictional, with you to a deserted island, who would you bring and why?

If I were a braver person than I am, I’d swipe three modern-day villains away from their current
misdeeds and drop them onto my island, where their evil could be constrained. But more likely, in
the selfish hopes of some good conversation and an eventual rescue, I’d bring the poet Sappho
(assuming I can understand her ancient Greek) to tell me what life was life two thousand years ago,
Langston Hughes to compare poetry with Sappho, and Falkor (the dragon from The Neverending
Story) to fly us away. What do you mean Falkor’s not a person? Oh, fine. Svanhild from Linnea
Hartsuyker’s The Sea Queen, to help us build a ship, sail away, and fight any pirates who get in our

(Note from Meg: Falkor TOTALLY counts!!!)

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

HFVBT Review: A Light of Her Own by Carrie Callaghan

Title: A Light of Her Own
Author: Carrie Callaghan 
Format: ARC
Publisher: Amberjack Publishing
Publish Date: November 13, 2018
Source: HFVBT

What's the Story?:

From "In Holland 1633, a woman’s ambition has no place.

Judith is a painter, dodging the law and whispers of murder to become the first woman admitted to the prestigious Haarlem artist’s guild. Maria is a Catholic in a country where the faith is banned, hoping to absolve her sins by recovering a lost saint’s relic.

Both women’s destinies will be shaped by their ambitions, running counter to the city’s most powerful men, whose own plans spell disaster. A vivid portrait of a remarkable artist, A Light of Her Own is a richly-woven story of grit against the backdrop of Rembrandts and repressive religious rule."

My Two Cents:

In "A Light of Her Own," it's 1633 and Judith Leyster dreams of being admitted to the Haarlem artist's guild. Although this would be quite a feat for a woman, Judith isn't fazed. She is secure enough in her skill that she believes she is worthy of such an honor and will do what she must to realize this dream. Being able to get into the guild would have been an incredible boon for any artist, let alone a woman artist. I loved getting to know Judith on her journey through this book!

I have always liked Judith Leyster's self portrait, which hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Admittedly, the Dutch masters are not my favorite (I may struck with lightning with that disclosure, no?). So many of the portraits while realistic seem sort of dark and perhaps a bit drab to me. Leyster's self-portrait has a spark that makes the painting of her painting really interesting to me. She has a gleam in her eye and I thought that the author did a good job of capturing that light and that drive that shines through Leyster's paintings, particularly her self-portrait.

This book has so much going for it. You all know that I love historical fiction but I particularly love historical fiction when it includes art. I love the stories behind all of the paintings we know and love. I loved seeing Judith's story. She has to be very strategic throughout the book in order to follow her dreams in a time where women were supposed to be in the home. There is a great feminist theme present here, which is very much down my alley. I loved following her journey!

Another thing that I really liked in this book was the friendship between Judith and Maria. Both women are struggling with different problems but they are able to come together and support each other. This book had a very nice rumination on the importance of friendship. I thought the author did a good job of capturing the thoughts and feelings of both women.

Overall, this was a good book and a great debut! It will be such a treat for my fellow historical fiction lovers.


Monday, November 12, 2018

Spotlight and a #Deal: Literary Book Gifts

Everyone! As soon as Halloween hit, it struck me that the holiday season will soon be upon us. Add to that the fact that I have more travel coming up before Christmas gets here and I am very ready to dive into my shopping. Now I have to imagine if you are here visiting my blog, maybe you like books? Maybe you think books are the best kind of gifts? Maybe you think that book related gifts run a close second?

If so, enter Literary Book Gifts. The lovely proprietor has some gorgeous designs for shirts and tote bags.

Like look at this one. This one is a design built around one of Emily Dickinson's most famous poems:

What about this one? An homage to my beloved Jane Austen - oh, I love it!:

How about this homage to Ulysses?:

There are so many more designs and you can check them out here! Maybe you can find something for your favorite book blogger???

Also, I have a promo code for you all for the site. It's good for 20% off and it never expires:


Enjoy and let me know what you pick!

Friday, November 9, 2018

Review: The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

Title: The Travelling Cat Chronicles
Author: Hiro Arikawa
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Viking
Publish Date: October 23, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Nana the cat is on a road trip. He is not sure where he's going or why, but it means that he gets to sit in the front seat of a silver van with his beloved owner, Satoru. Side by side, they cruise around Japan through the changing seasons, visiting Satoru's old friends. He meets Yoshimine, the brusque and unsentimental farmer for whom cats are just ratters; Sugi and Chikako, the warm-hearted couple who run a pet-friendly B&B; and Kosuke, the mournful husband whose cat-loving wife has just left him. There's even a very special dog who forces Nana to reassess his disdain for the canine species. 

But what is the purpose of this road trip? And why is everyone so interested in Nana? Nana does not know and Satoru won't say. But when Nana finally works it out, his small heart will break..."

My Two Cents:

In "The Travelling Cat Chronicles," Nana was a stray cat once but now he is a beloved pet. He is traveling with his owner and Nana is enjoying the ride but he is confused as to where he is going. He doesn't understand why he and his owner are visiting so many of the owner's friends. The truth will break Nana's heart. This book made me cry (a tall order for any book) and is a great story that will appeal to my fellow animal lovers!

Told from the perspective of Nana himself, this book is for every person that realizes the power of the special relationship between pets and their owners. I loved seeing things through Nana's eyes. He is a very easy character to want to follow and very easy to love. I thought the author did a good job of writing about the things that Nana would and would not notice. 

This book broke my heart in the very best way. I am an animal lover! I have always had pets and think that they make my life so much better. They definitely become a part of the family. You feel for Satoru's plight (I really, really don't want to give anything away) when it comes to Nana. Satoru wants to do everything to make sure that Nana has what he needs. This story felt really close to home for me because of this. I would do anything for my animals! This was a great story!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Review: The Highlander Who Protected Me by Vanessa Kelly

Title: The Highlander Who Protected Me
Author: Vanessa Kelly 
Format: ARC
Publisher: Zebra
Publish Date: October 30, 2018
Source: HFVBT

What's the Story?:

From "Lady Ainsley Matthews, heiress and darling of the ton, was expected to make a magnificent match. Instead she’s hiding on a remote Scottish estate, terrified that her vicious former fiancé will use her pregnancy to force her into marriage. One man can help her—Royal Kendrick, son of a distinguished Highland clan. Though a mistake drove them apart long ago, Royal is the only person Ainsley trusts to protect her baby—even if that means agreeing to never see either of them again . . .
Scarred in body and soul by war, Royal suddenly has a purpose—caring for an innocent babe and thereby helping the woman he can’t stop loving. But when Ainsley ultimately returns to Scotland, determined to be a real mother to her child in spite of the risk, there’s only one solution: marriage. And only one likely outcome: surrendering to the desire that’s simmered between them for so long, no matter how dangerous it may be . . ."

My Two Cents:

In "The Highlander Who Protected Me," Ainsley realizes that she needs to revisit her painful past in order to save her future. Ainsley and Royal have always had an interesting relationship but when Ainsley ends up pregnant, she quickly realizes that she needs to put the past behind her in order to save her baby.

This book is part of a new series by Vanessa Kelly and was a spinoff of "The Highlander's Princess Bride," which I have not read yet. I am wondering if I would have gotten into this book quicker if I had read the previous series. The chemistry between Ainsley and Royal starts quickly with no build up. We know that they have met in the past but I didn't feel like I got a clear picture of how much that meeting meant or what it was like or how it would affect the characters.

That being said, I did like the chemistry between Ainsley and Royal. It definitely kept me wanting to read more. Royal is such a good character. He's strong, sensitive, and a great romantic lead. Ainsley is sassy and although she doesn't have much power as a woman, she uses everything she has in order to do what she needs to do in order to protect her daughter and find true love. I loved how Ainsley really shapes the relationship between Royal and herself. 

Overall, this book started slow to me but became exciting as secrets were revealed and our main characters began to understand their past a little more.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Review: The Splendor Before the Dark by Margaret George

Title: The Splendor Before the Dark
Author: Margaret George
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: November 6, 2018 (Today!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "With the beautiful and cunning Poppaea at his side, Nero Augustus commands the Roman empire, ushering in an unprecedented era of artistic and cultural splendor. Although he has yet to produce an heir, his power is unquestioned.

But in the tenth year of his reign, a terrifying prophecy comes to pass and a fire engulfs Rome, reducing entire swaths of the city to rubble. Rumors of Nero's complicity in the blaze start to sow unrest among the populace--and the politicians... 

For better or worse, Nero knows that his fate is now tied to Rome's--and he vows to rebuild it as a city that will stun the world. But there are those who find his rampant quest for glory dangerous. Throughout the empire, false friends and spies conspire against him, not understanding what drives him to undertake the impossible. 

Nero will either survive and be the first in his family to escape the web of betrayals that is the Roman court, or be ensnared and remembered as the last radiance of the greatest dynasty the world had ever known."

My Two Cents:

"The Splendor Before the Dark" is the second book in Margaret George's duology about Roman Emperor Nero. It also is one of my most eagerly anticipated releases for 2018. I loved the first book and couldn't wait to dive into this one. It was well worth the wait and as this book shows, there is a good reason that Nero's name is still so well known out of all of the other Roman emperors. 

Although this book can definitely work as a standalone, I suggest you go back and read "The Confessions of Young Nero." It is a great book and why would you deprive yourself of such a good read? It will allow you to greater appreciate the heights Nero reaches in "The Splendor Before the Dark."

This book covers the last four years in Nero's life. Although he has already been in power for awhile, this book provides a few opportunities for Nero to show his mettle to his people. One of those that I found most interesting is the Great Fire of Rome. Rome is basically destroyed and it is up to Nero to rebuild. He comes up with a bold plan to remake Rome to an even greater city than it was before. I really liked seeing his new plans and how he sells everyone around him on his huge plans, which make a mark for centuries to come.

Margaret George is on my must read list always. In her books, you always know that she is going to give you great characters and rich detail to lend to fantastic world building. This book is no different and makes for a satisfying conclusion for the duology. I can't wait to read what she comes up with next!

Monday, November 5, 2018

November is Family Literacy Month!

Zulily is doing it again! For every kids book you buy, they are donating one to those less fortunate through First Book!
  • When: Nov 1 - Dec 12, 2018
  • Where:, zulily app & zulily social channels
  • What:
    • Special sales events launched during the campaign will feature a curated selection of children’s books and each Penguin Random House book purchased labeled with the “BUY 1, GIVE 1” badge will trigger a new children’s book donation, up to 100,000 books, from Penguin Random House to First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides new books and other essentials to children in need nationwide.
    • Shoppers can visit zulily’s owned social channels to engage in a social call-to-action, through comments, likes or shares to also spark the “Give One” book donation from Penguin Random House to First Book.

Review: Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Title: Little White Lies
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Format: ARC
Publisher: Freeform
Publish Date: November 6, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Eighteen-year-old auto mechanic Sawyer Taft did not expect her estranged grandmother to show up at her apartment door and offer her a six-figure contract to participate in debutante season. And she definitely never imagined she would accept. But when she realizes that immersing herself in her grandmother's "society" might mean discovering the answer to the biggest mystery of her life-her father's identity-she signs on the dotted line and braces herself for a year of makeovers, big dresses, bigger egos, and a whole lot of bless your heart. The one thing she doesn't expect to find is friendship, but as she's drawn into a group of debutantes with scandalous, dangerous secrets of their own, Sawyer quickly discovers that her family isn't the only mainstay of high society with skeletons in their closet. There are people in her grandmother's glittering world who are not what they appear, and no one wants Sawyer poking her nose into the past. As she navigates the twisted relationships between her new friends and their powerful parents, Sawyer's search for the truth about her own origins is just the beginning."

My Two Cents:

Street-smart Sawyer is used to taking care of herself. Her mom is mostly absent and she doesn't think she has any family around. At least her mother won't tell her about any of her family. So when a chance meeting puts Sawyer back in touch with her mysterious grandmother, Sawyer is surprised. This chance meeting will open Sawyer's life to family secrets and a glittering world that she couldn't have dreamt up.

There's a reason that "fish out of water" books are so attractive. It's always interesting to see a character like Sawyer, who is very used to a gritty lifestyle, entering the world of debutantes. She doesn't get it at first but it was so much fun to see her be totally bewildered and then fall into place in this new world.

The other part that I really liked are all of the family secrets. Sawyer knows barely anything about her mother's family and absolutely nothing about her father's family and nothing about her father himself. I don't want to give anything away but this book definitely has some twists when it comes to these secrets that kept me wanting to read.

This book is definitely a slow burn and I thought it could be a little streamlined to focus on the action. I did like how the action flashed back and forth between the present and the past. I really liked how that shaped the story. This is only the first book in the series and I think it shows a lot of promise!

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