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Friday, February 28, 2020

Review: White Elephant by V.E. Ulett

Title: White Elephant
Author: V.E. Ulett
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Self-published
Publish Date: November 30, 2019
Source: Author



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "To keep her place aboard the airship Nonesuch, Miriam must complete another mission for Lord Q — persuade the first white rajah of Sarawak back to loyalty to the British Crown. When Nonesuch crash lands on the coast of Borneo, the mission changes to one of survival. In order to rescue her beloved Captain Maximus Thorpe and the crew of Nonesuch, Miriam must trek through the jungle guided by a team of traveling elephants to the would-be empire-builder's capital. But the jungle has its own laws, wisdom, and lessons, and Miriam may not emerge with her mission and loyalties unchanged."

My Two Cents:

"White Elephant" is the second book in V.E. Ulett's Code Black series. This book picks back up the story of fearless adventuress Miriam and the crew of the airship Nonesuch. They are on another adventure, this time to the jungles of Borneo. Lord Q has issued a new mission and the stakes are even higher as Miriam and the rag tag crew face new challenges and new dangers. February is the time when I begin to yearn for warmer days and far off adventures and since my feet have to stay where I'm at, living vicariously through Miriam was a great substitute!

As I mentioned, this book is the second book in the Code Black series. I suggest going back and reading the first book: "Golden Dragon." "White Elephant" starts with a bang and gets right into the action so reading "Golden Dragon" will give you a little more insight into the characters and a bit more of their origin story. Besides, it's an enjoyable read so go enjoy that adventure and then come right back to this one!

As with the first book, the descriptions and world-building are great. I loved being able to feel the hot, sticky air of the jungle in Borneo and to hear the waves crashing on the beaches. I loved getting more insight into how the crew of the Nonesuch keep getting themselves tied up in so many difficult situations and I loved all of the detail of the characters, both old and new!

The tagline for this book is "romance, intrigue, and elephants" and you definitely get all of that in this book! I particularly loved the elephants in this book. The descriptions of them were super vivid and you could almost feel them pushing through the dense forests. No wonder I as a reader was as taken with them as Miriam was in the book!

Steampunk isn't my usual genre but I loved this book and it provided just the very escape I was looking for!  



Thursday, February 27, 2020

Review: The Girl in White Gloves by Kerri Maher

Title: The Girl in White Gloves
Author: Kerri Maher 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: February 25, 2020
Source: Publisher



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "A life in snapshots…

Grace knows what people see. She’s the Cinderella story. An icon of glamor and elegance frozen in dazzling Technicolor. The picture of perfection. The girl in white gloves.

A woman in living color…

But behind the lens, beyond the panoramic views of glistening Mediterranean azure, she knows the truth. The sacrifices it takes for an unappreciated girl from Philadelphia to defy her family and become the reigning queen of the screen. The heartbreaking reasons she trades Hollywood for a crown. The loneliness of being a princess in a fairy tale kingdom that is all too real.
Hardest of all for her adoring fans and loyal subjects to comprehend, is the harsh reality that to be the most envied woman in the world does not mean she is the happiest. Starved for affection and purpose, facing a labyrinth of romantic and social expectations with more twists and turns than Monaco’s infamous winding roads, Grace must find her own way to fulfillment. But what she risks--her art, her family, her marriage—she may never get back."


My Two Cents: 

"The Girl in the White Gloves" is a historical fiction look at Grace Kelly's life. Girl from Philadelphia, golden goddess of the silver screen, and princess - she was all three of these things and so much more. The epitome of charm and grace (could she have been named any more perfectly???), she turned heads no matter where she went. This book goes behind the taglines to show us a woman trying to figure out who she wants to be. This book shows that even fairy tales can have some very dark corners and even things that seem perfect, often are not.

Grace Kelly has always been fascinating to me. I LOVE "Rear Window" and that was really my first introduction to her! I'm also super fascinated by any and all royalty. Between these two things, Grace really drew me in. I loved how this book gave another side to Grace's story and allowed me as a reader to step into her shoes and see what she might have been going through behind the scenes. Maher creates such a realistic picture of a well-known figure. We see Grace's rise to stardom and grappling with what it would mean to give acting up forever for love. We see how even a princess's life is not always without its thorns. I feel like I really got to know Grace through this book.

Maher's writing is great here. Throughout the book, we see a lot of different kinds of yearning (oh, such a human emotion) from Grace. She wants to be famous. Then she wants love. Towards the end of the book, there is a really poignant scene where she is comforting a young Princess Diana (really one of my very favorites) while at the same time reflecting on her life and grappling with getting older. For those that already love Grace Kelly and those who haven't had the pleasure to know her, this book is a terrific pick!


 

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Giveaway: Fighting for Space

Check out my review for "Fighting for Space" here: http://abookishaffair.blogspot.com/2020/02/review-fighting-for-space-two-pilots.html . Now you have a chance to win the book (U.S. only, please). Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below!







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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Review: Fighting for Space: Two Pilots and Their Historic Battle for Female Spaceflight by Amy Shira Teitel

Title: Fighting for Space: Two Pilots and Their Historic Battle for Female Spaceflight 
Author: Amy Shira Teitel
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publish Date: February 18, 2020 (Today!)
Source: Publisher



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "When the space age dawned in the late 1950s, Jackie Cochran held more propeller and jet flying records than any pilot of the twentieth century-man or woman. She had led the Women's Auxiliary Service Pilots during the Second World War, was the first woman to break the sound barrier, ran her own luxury cosmetics company, and counted multiple presidents among her personal friends. She was more qualified than any woman in the world to make the leap from atmosphere to orbit. Yet it was Jerrie Cobb, twenty-five years Jackie's junior and a record-holding pilot in her own right, who finagled her way into taking the same medical tests as the Mercury astronauts. The prospect of flying in space quickly became her obsession.

While the American and international media spun the shocking story of a "woman astronaut" program, Jackie and Jerrie struggled to gain control of the narrative, each hoping to turn the rumored program into their own ideal reality-an issue that ultimately went all the way to Congress."


My Two Cents:

"Fighting for Space" is a fantastic non-fiction story about two intrepid female pilots in a race to become the first female astronaut. Jackie Cochran came from nothing and pushed herself to make a name as a pilot. She pushed to get female pilots to become part of the war effort during World War II. She wants to continue to push for what she wants even if the world is against her. Jerrie Cobb has been flying since she was a little girl. With a lot of support from her family, she feels like there's nothing she can't accomplish. She too wants to be an astronaut, no matter how it seems to anyone else. This is a story of perseverance and bravery. I loved it!

It's one thing to read a history book about things you already know about. It's another to read a book that covers the little known parts of history. This book made me wonder why I had never come across any books that cover Jackie Cochran or Jerrie Cobb before. Both women were truly phenomenal and so far ahead of their time. They made for really fantastic subjects of a biography like this one!

The author is a deft storyteller. I love how she's able to bring the story of Jackie and Jerrie to life! The historical detail is wonderful and we get a lot of insight into not only what makes both of these women tick but also what they are up against when it comes to trying to break into a world filled with men. The way that the story flows between the two women was really great. Both Jackie and Jerrie ran with some pretty phenomenal personalities that make an appearance in the book. Jackie was a close, personal friend of Amelia Earhart (one of my favorite people to read about). This was a great book and I really liked it! I would love to read more by this author!


 

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Review: A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

Title: A Long Petal of the Sea
Author: Isabel Allende
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publish Date: January 21, 2020
Source: Library



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "In the late 1930s, civil war gripped Spain. When General Franco and his Fascists succeed in overthrowing the government, hundreds of thousands are forced to flee in a treacherous journey over the mountains to the French border. Among them is Roser, a pregnant young widow, who finds her life irreversibly intertwined with that of Victor Dalmau, an army doctor and the brother of her deceased love. In order to survive, the two must unite in a marriage neither of them wants, and together are sponsored by poet Pablo Neruda to embark on the SS Winnipeg along with 2,200 other refugees in search of a new life. As unlikely partners, they embrace exile and emigrate to Chile as the rest of Europe erupts in World War.

Starting over on a new continent, their trials are just beginning. Over the course of their lives, they will face test after test. But they will also find joy as they wait patiently for a day when they are exiles no more, and will find friends in the most unlikely of places. Through it all, it is that hope of being reunited with their home that keeps them going. And in the end, they will find that home might have been closer than they thought all along.
"


My Two Cents:

"A Long Petal of the Sea" is the latest from prolific author, Isabel Allende. I will read anything by her and she's definitely at her best when she's in her historical fiction element. After the Spanish Civil War, wonderful Chilean poet Pablo Neruda came to Spain to personally select Spanish refugees to come live in Chile, which was going through its own social change at the time. Victor, a man who saw a lot during the war, and his sister-in-law Roser, a young woman who had a difficult childhood and is a talented pianist, maneuver their way on to the ship that will take them to their new home. This book covers a wide swath of history in Chile from the mid 20th century through almost the end of the century.

There are authors who I will read anything by, no matter what it is. Isabel Allende is one of those for me. And this is Allende at her best - she is so good at finding these little known stories of history and turning them into something full and wonderful. I had no idea about Pablo Neruda's involvement with getting Spanish refugees to Chile. What makes this story special is that the story is personal for Allende (you have to read the acknowledgements) and this makes the story feel even more enveloping.

Historical fiction can shed light on things that you have no idea about - it draws me to it every time because of that. I really love all of the detail that Allende packs in. We see the chaos in Spain as a new, harsher government takes over. We can feel what it must have been like to make such a long journey to the unknown by boat. We see how Victor and Roser make a new life under some interesting circumstances (I don't want to give anything away). I really liked reading about how Chile was changing at the time. Both Victor and Roser are somewhat involved in the government dealings in their new homeland as Chile finds its footing. It was great to get this front row seat to so many changes.

This was a really great story that kept me reading! These characters will stick with me for a long time.  



Tuesday, February 11, 2020

HFVBT Review: Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau

Title: Dreamland
Author: Nancy Bilyeau
Publisher: Endeavor Quill
Publish Date: January 16, 2020
Format: eBook
Source: HFVBT



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "The invitation to the luxurious Oriental Hotel a mile from Coney Island is unwelcome. Despite hailing from one of America’s richest families, Peggy would much rather spend the summer working at the Moonrise Bookstore than keeping up appearances with New York City socialites and her snobbish, controlling family.

But soon it transpires that the hedonism of nearby Coney Island affords Peggy the freedom she has been yearning for, and it’s not long before she finds herself in love with a troubled pier-side artist of humble means, whom the Batternberg patriarchs would surely disapprove of.

Disapprove they may, but hidden behind their pomposity lurks a web of deceit, betrayal and deadly secrets. And as bodies begin to mount up amidst the sweltering clamour of Coney Island, it seems the powerful Batternbergs can get away with anything…even murder."


My Two Cents:

In the early 1900s, Coney Island was the place to come to be entertained. Filled with rides and games, it should be an ideal place to spend the summer. For Peggy, a young heiress, called from New York City to leave her beloved bookstore job, the island feels more like a prison. She must make an appearance to support her family's endeavors to push forward their name and recover some of its glitz and glamour. When mysterious murders start happening with alarming frequency, Peggy realizes that she may be exactly where she needs to be in order to be able to put things right. This is a great historical mystery that gives you a front row seat to a long ago world.

The characters in this book were great. Peggy starts out as a character who bends (albeit grudgingly) to her family's will because she recognizes the power that a "good" name has over all of them. When we first meet her, we see how she is trying to get outside of the influence of her family with her amazing bookstore job that she certainly doesn't need for the money but wants it for the independence that it provides her. We see how she is able to deal with these family forces with more savvy throughout this book, which I loved.

The setting is just wonderful! Anywhere close to New York City is always a personal favorite and makes for such an interesting background to any book, but especially to any historical fiction story. The author captures the grandeur of Coney Island and places like the smart hotels that lined the beaches so well. The little details make it easy to picture Peggy's world - you feel the sea breeze, you can taste Stefan's hot dogs! I loved how she was able to capture the novelty of it all!

The story line itself moves at a good pace and I loved the mystery at the center of the book. It really kept me guessing as the story unfolded. I really enjoyed getting sucked into this book!


 

Monday, February 10, 2020

Reading Challenge Update


As a reminder, I am aiming to read a book from or set in each country the Department of State recognizes, which is 195 countries!
 
Oh, January was not a great month for me. I traveled a lot but didn't really make a dent in much of my TBR. I am hoping that February will be better!
 
I read books from this many countries in January:
3
You can check out my progress on my map or see a list of where and what I'm reading here.

I have read 137 books for this challenge so far.
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