Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Catching Up With Winners!

Subtitle: Or how sometimes I'm not great at staying organized *sad trombone noise*.

I have several giveaway winners to announce including one I should have announced quite awhile ago!!!

Winner of Road From The West (my profuse apologies for announcing this so late):

Winner of Her Sister's Shadow:

Winner of People Tell Me Things:

Congrats to all of the winners!

Review: Lost in Time by Melissa de la Cruz

Title: Lost in Time
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Publisher: Hyperion
Publish Date: September 27, 2011
Source: Received a copy from the PR firm. This did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a series fanatic.
  • You like a little paranormal.
  • You're an armchair traveler.
What's the Story?:

From "After their beautiful yet brief bonding ceremony in Italy, Schuyler Van Alen and Jack Force are forced to separate. To fulfill the Van Alen Legacy, Schuyler travels to Alexandria to search for Catherine of Siena and the Gate of Promise. But Schuyler quickly discovers that everything she believed about the Gate to be wrong. Meanwhile, Jack makes the difficult decision to return to New York to face his twin and former bondmate, Mimi. But instead of a bitter reunion, he is faced with a choice for which there is no good option.

Mimi, with a most unexpected travel companion in Oliver Hazard-Perry, jets off to Egypt, too, to search for Kingsley Martin, her long lost love. With all roads leading to Hell, Mimi learns that not all love stories have happy endings. But she'll have to put her own feelings aside if she's going to save her crumbling Coven.

Packed with heartache, twists, and vampiric folklore, Lost in Time is sure to satisfy hungry fans' cravings for more Blue Bloods adventure."

My Two Cents:

I was excited to get to read this book. This is the second to last book in the Blue Bloods series. Unlike the other books, this book focuses on both Schuyler and her mother, Allegra. You get to find out about the bonding between Jack and Sky (still not a big fan of that romance). More interestingly, you get to find out a little bit more about Allegra falling in love with someone other than Charles Force, the vampire that she was supposed to be bonded too, which was very interesting. Interesting sidenote: Another one of the Beauchamp women (main characters in De La Cruz's new series) makes a brief appearance.

This book takes place mostly between New York City and Cairo, Egypt (Alexandria, Egypt and Florence, Italy also make an appearance). One thing that I really like about this book is that it takes place between so many different cities. Cairo is makes for an especially interesting backdrop to this book. I can't wait to see where the last book takes place!

This book is not really a standalone book. You should definitely read all of the books in the series in order to get the most of this book. There are a lot of things covered in the previous books that you may not understand without reading some of the first books in the series.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What Did You Do on Small Business Saturday?

As some of you might be aware, this past Saturday was deemed Small Business Saturday. Even the President got into it! Even better, he visited one of my very favorite Indie bookstores here in DC, Kramerbooks!

AP picture from the event. I smile every time I go into Kramerbooks.

What better way to participate in Small Business Saturday than going to an Indie bookstore? Twitter rumor has it that one of the books that the Obamas bought was The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. Good pick, good pick!

Did you participate in Small Business Saturday?

Review: New Crossroads by Suhail Ali

Title: New Crossroads
Author: Suhail Ali
Publisher: iUniverse
Publish Date: October 2010
Source: Received a copy from the author. This didn't affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a short story lover.
  • You're an armchair traveler.
What's the Story?:

From "Julie is the prettiest nurse at a research hospital in New Delhi, but she desperately wants to lose weight. When she learns that patient Babu Ram lost twenty pounds in ninety days, she begins an inquiry that leads her to discover the shocking secret that instigated Babu's journey to a special diet. Mohan Rao is a retired professor of history at a leading university in Hyderabad. When his son refuses to honor his wishes, Mohan must face the reality of his own past. Bhakteshwar Prabhu is a hostel warden and an important man to everyone associated with New Engineering College. Now, he must interview his successor - and finds a surprising candidate in the process.

The short tales in New Crossroads capture the mood of a society in transition and reflect on an emerging consciousness shaped by rapid and fascinating social changes."

My Two Cents:

First, I know that you aren't supposed to judge a book by its cover but how gorgeous is this cover? The bright colors and the cool traditional Indian picture definitely got me a little excited to read this book. India is definitely on my travel Bucket List so I get excited whenever I can find a book to take me there. This book definitely fit the bill.

This is a very short book but it packs a punch. I'm usually not a fan of short stories but this collection is really good. You're introduced to some interesting characters in a really interesting setting. You get a taste for some of things going on in India and how rapidly things are changing, which is really cool.

Bottom line: If you're looking for a way to travel without leaving your couch, this book is a great start.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: No Shoes, No Shirt, No Spells by Rose Pressey

Title: No Shoes, No Shirt, No Spells
Author: Rose Pressey
Publisher: Magical Press
Publish Date: June 1, 2011
Source: Received a copy from the author. This did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You like a fun story.
  • You want a little cuteness in your life.
What's the Story?:

From "Elly Blair welcomes the chance to escape her ex-fiance and job from hell when Grandma Imelda, ready to retire to sunny Florida, calls for her to take over her little southern cafe.

Elly has no idea her grandmother has baked up magic for the unsuspecting townsfolk for thirty years-and now Grandma Imelda insists that Elly use her own hitherto unsuspected magical powers to carry on the family tradition.

But Elly's new at this stuff. Her dishes don't turn out as full of smidgens of enchantment and dashes of wishes come true as she'd hoped. When handsome customer Rory Covington takes a bite of the wrong burger, he ends up capturing the attention of every woman in town. Elly doesn't know if her feelings for Rory are true or based on her magic gone awry.

Tom Owenton is an investigator the National Organization for Magic sent to look into the magical mishap. Unless Elly can reverse the spell, the cafe will be closed permanently. Tom is more than willing to help Elly out of this magical pickle, but she's not sure she should accept his offer.

Elly only has forty-eight hours to find a way to reverse the spell, or she'll lose the cafe and never discover if her feelings for Rory are real."

My Two Cents:

Such a fun story! I ate this one right up. Elly is surprised when she learns that she has magical powers and is thrown off guard when her beloved grandmother leaves her the Mystic Cafe and tells her how to use her magic powers to help the regular customers. 

Elly is a great character. She's young and wants to make sure she does the right thing. She's heartbroken when she returns to her small hometown but she's ready to take on running the Mystic Cafe. We get to see her grow a little bit. This is the first book in the Mystic Cafe series so I'm sure she'll continue to grow in the following books. This book really sets the scene for the series but unlike many other series, you feel really satisfied at the end of the book. The book would even be a great standalone book but I know that I definitely would love to read more about these characters in future books.

Bottom line: Fun read!

Review: Brightwing by Sullivan Lee

Title: Brightwing
Author: Sullivan Lee
Publisher: Self-published
Publish Date: July 6, 2011
Source: Received a copy from the author. This did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You like a little adventure.
  • You like some thrill.
  • You want a good sense of place.
What's the Story?:

From "Edgar and Mallory Battle are on the run after a spectacularly violent escape. Now, with a trail of bodies behind them, they need a hostage against the inevitable standoff with the police. Their first doesn't last long, thanks to sociopathic Mallory. Edgar has been hiding his brother's crimes since they were kids. Now he's torn between family loyalty and self-preservation.

They carjack Lucy Brightwing, a criminal fresh from her own heist, with a fortune of uncut gems hidden in her vehicle. She could escape - but she won't abandon her millions. She could kill the Battle brothers, but she has to be careful. For one thing, if the law investigates, they'll find her ill-gotten loot. For another, her own life is sacred. She's the last member of a Florida paleoindian tribe thought to be extinct - the Tequesta. With her share of the money she plans to buy, bribe and blackmail her way into her own ancestral tribal lands in the heart of the Everglades: a Tequesta nation.

Lucy leads the brothers into her beloved swamp, determined to kill them. But when she falls for Edgar she must decide whether to risk her heritage and the future of her tribe to save the doomed brothers."

My Two Cents:

Lucy is a really awesome character. She's rough and tumble. She's also not perfect, which I sort of like. It's always interesting to read about flawed characters, especially when they're still likable. Lucy knows what she wants out of life and she's willing to do things that aren't exactly what you would call "coloring inside the lines" to get what she wants. When she falls in with Edgar and Mallory, she realizes very early on that things could go bad quickly. She's resourceful and smart; definitely a character that I liked a lot.

The other thing that I really liked about the book is the setting. I've only been to Florida a handful of times and never to some of the more naturally gorgeous places that are described in Brightwing. Lee does a really wonderful job of making you feel that you're on the run through the Everglades with Lucy, Edgar, and Mallory. It's the perfect setting for Lucy's struggle to establish her tribe.

Which brings me to another thought: Lucy is the last living member of the Tequesta tribe and she wants to establish a reservation. I don't know much about the rules about doing such but I had questions as why it was up to Lucy and no one in her family did so before. I had a lot of questions about that.

Bottom line: Good characters, good scenery.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Title: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Author: Rebecca Skloot
Publisher: Crown
Publish Date: February 2, 2010
Source: Own

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're looking for a non-fiction that reads like fiction.
  • You want to learn a little something.
What's the Story?:

From "Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.

Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia—a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo—to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells.

Henrietta’s family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family—past and present—is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.

Over the decade it took to uncover this story, Rebecca became enmeshed in the lives of the Lacks family—especially Henrietta’s daughter Deborah, who was devastated to learn about her mother’s cells. She was consumed with questions: Had scientists cloned her mother? Did it hurt her when researchers infected her cells with viruses and shot them into space? What happened to her sister, Elsie, who died in a mental institution at the age of fifteen? And if her mother was so important to medicine, why couldn’t her children afford health insurance? "

My Two Cents:

I had heard a ton of really good things about this book but just hadn't gotten around to reading it yet so I was very excited when my book club picked to read the book. I ended up having to buy a copy (my book club is usually pretty good about picking books that are already at the library to lessen the burden on us) because there was still a crazy long wait list at the library and the book is already almost two years old! I always get excited about books that have been out for awhile but still have a long wait to read. 

I was entranced with this book. A decade in the making, Skloot explores the legacy of Henrietta Lacks, a little known woman, whose cells have helped scientists do really amazing things. Her cells have been launched into space. They've helped to make vaccines. They've been tested on by many different people and until this book, many people didn't really even know the name of the woman that the cells came from. All this from someone's cells being taken without her knowing. Although the idea of having one's cells taken without their knowledge does bring up sort of a ethical dilemma, that is not really the crux of the book. Skloot does present the dilemma but this is really more of a human story. It would have been nice to get a little more information on the dilemma though.

Admittedly, I'm not a science person. I'm fascinated by science but I'll put it this way, I hated sitting in my high school and college science classes. Obviously the subject matter of the book is science-y but Skloot does a great job of making the science-y parts of the book accessible to all. The real story at the heart of this book is the story of Lacks' family finding out all of the things that Henrietta's cells have done. Really amazing!

Bottom line: I know some of you are afraid of non-fiction books but this one is really wonderful and I hope that you will give it a try!

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Iron Knight Scavenger Hunt! (Plus a Q&A with Julie Kagawa)

 Scavenger Hunt:

Interested in knowing more about Julie Kagawa's new book? Follow the BookTrib scavenger hunt where you can read excerpts from the book. See here for more information!

Here is today's excerpt (and don't forget to visit Anna's Book Blog tomorrow for another excerpt!):

The cait sith yawned, curling a pink tongue over sharp white teeth. “I have grown rather bored of court politics,” he continued, blinking gold eyes. “Nothing ever changes between Summer and Winter, and I did not want to become embroiled in the endless bickering of the courts. Or the games of certain Dark Muses.” 

Puck winced. “You heard about that, huh? Word travels fast.” He shook his head at me and grinned. “I wonder if Titania has calmed down yet, after that trick we played in the Summer Court.” Grimalkin ignored him. “I wanted to know why you were looking for me, to see if I wished to make myself known. Or not.” He sniffed, cocking his head at me. “But this request was definitely not what I was expecting of you, prince. How very…interesting.”

Q&A with Julie Kagawa:
1. What is your favorite part of being an author?

I don’t know if I have a favorite part; I just love it all so much.  This was what I always wanted to do, and now that I’m here, it’s a dream come true for me.  =)

2. If you could pick one of the characters from The Iron Fey series to have dinner with, who would it be and why?

I’m going to have to go with Ash, because I know he’d at least be polite.  Unlike a certain faery prankster, who might put something in my food or turn the waiter into a hedgehog.  Meghan would also be a good choice, we could catch a movie afterwards.  Grim…not so much; he’d order the most expensive thing on the menu and then turn up his nose at it.  

3. When you first started this series, with The Iron King, did you know then that there would be multiple books? And did you know you’d want to write them with a changing point of view?

When I first began The Iron King, I knew I wanted to write at least a trilogy, but I left an open ending on the first book in case the publisher didn’t want to buy the whole series.  Fortunately, they did, though I did intend the series just to be a trilogy.  I didn’t think I would write a fourth book from Ash’s POV, but it made the most sense to continue the series with him.

4. Did you always know you’d be writing a spin off series and can we expect to hear more of Meghan, Ash and Puck’s story in the future?

Actually, I was approached by my publisher when The Iron Fey series was wrapping up and asked if I had any more Iron Fey stories floating around my head.  Which got me thinking of Ethan, Meghan’s little brother.  He was the one who started the whole adventure, in a way.  What would it be like growing up, able to see the fey?  And the more I thought about it, the more I realized Ethan had a story to tell, too.  As for Ash, Meghan, and Puck, I’m sure there will be a few cameos in the new series. ;-)

Review: The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa

Title: The Iron Knight
Author: Julie Kagawa
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publish Date: October 25, 2011
Source: Received as part of The Iron Knight event through Book Trib

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You like a little magic.
  • You enjoy good world building.
What's the Story?:

From "Ash, former prince of the Winter Court, gave up everything. His title, his home, even his vow of loyalty. All for a girl… and all for nothing.

Unless he can earn a soul.

To cold, emotionless faery prince Ash, love was a weakness for mortals and fools. His own love had died a horrible death, killing any gentler feelings the Winter prince might have had. Or so he thought.

Then Meghan Chase—a half human, half fey slip of a girl— smashed through his barricades, binding him to her irrevocably with his oath to be her knight. And when all of Faery nearly fell to the Iron fey, she severed their bond to save his life. Meghan is now the Iron Queen, ruler of a realm where no Winter or Summer fey can survive.

With the (unwelcome) company of his archrival, Summer Court prankster Puck, and the infuriating cait sith Grimalkin, Ash begins a journey he is bound to see through to its end— a quest to find a way to honor his solemn vow to stand by Meghan’s side.

To survive in the Iron realm, Ash must have a soul and a mortal body. But the tests he must face to earn these things are impossible. At least, no one has ever passed to tell the tale.

And then Ash learns something that changes everything. A truth that turns reality upside down, challenges his darkest beliefs and shows him that, sometimes, it takes more than courage to make the ultimate sacrifice."

My Two Cents:

*Happy Sigh* Oh, it all starts with a girl doesn't it? In the first three books of the Iron Fey series (The Iron King, The Iron Daughter, and The Iron Queen), we get to see Meghan Chase and Ash, the prince of the Winter Court fall in love. In The Iron Knight, we get to see where that love will take Ash. He'll have to change his life and everything he knows. The book is from Ash's point of view instead of Meghan's, which was cool as the other books are from the point of view of Meghan.

This book is definitely for series lovers. If you haven't read the first three books in the series, you are more than likely going to be really lost. But seriously, if you are looking for a quick and easy, fun read, it doesn't get much better than this set of books. They definitely will capture you right away. I was so happy that I owned the books so I could get to them all pretty much back to back. I hate taking forced breaks between reading a really good series!

Overall, a fantastic series!


Historical Fiction Virtual Tour Interview and Giveaway: M.J. Rose

Today I'm excited to welcome M.J. Rose, author of The Hypnotist to A Bookish Affair!

M.J. Rose

1. You've written tons of books; which book or series is your favorite? Why?

Like a mother – I can’t choose between all my children. My favorite is always the one I am in the midst of writing.
2. How did you come up with the idea for The Hypnotist?

I was in the Metropolitan Musuem of Art – and saw a little girl – who was about 7 or 8 - studying Egpytian artifacts very intently. She seemed like such an old soul. The kernal of the book came out of that encounter.

3. What's your favorite thing about being an author?

Getting to do read as much as I can without feeling like I should be working – because authors should read as much as they write if they want to get better.

4. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

The asnwer to #3 and only write because you love it – it's too hard a business otherwise. Only a very small percentage of writers can make a living off it – and that’s not just now  - it's been true always. Also please don’t believe there is any easy road – not to writing a good book – not to selling a lot of copies. There’s no magic bullet no matter what any other writer says.

5. What three books would you bring with you to a deserted island?

Three very long books I haven’t read yet. 


Thanks to HF Virtual Tours and the author, I have a copy of The Hypnotist to giveaway!

- You must be 13 and over
-  Open to US/CA residents only
- You must be a follower of A Bookish Affair
- Giveaway ends December 2!
Trying something different this time! Leave a comment with a way to contact you. If you follow A Bookish Affair on Twitter or Facebook, you can get an extra entry. If you follow on both, you get an extra entry for both. Make sure to leave each extra entry in a new comment! Good luck!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Review: The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa

Title: The Iron Queen
Author: Julie Kagawa
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publish Date: January 25, 2011
Source: Own

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You like a little magic.
  • You enjoy good world building.
What's the Story?:

From "My name is Meghan Chase.
I thought it was over. That my time with the fey, the impossible choices I had to make, the sacrifices of those I loved, was behind me. But a storm is approaching, an army of Iron fey that will drag me back, kicking and screaming. Drag me away from the banished prince who's sworn to stand by my side. Drag me into the core of conflict so powerful, I'm not sure anyone can survive it.

This time, there will be no turning back."

My Two Cents:

Meghan Chase has been exiled from both the Unseelie and the Seelie Courts. She isn't sure where to go. She's called back to Faery as she may be the only one that can save the faery world from the Iron fey who are bent on destroying everything in the faery world. Because Meghan has both the summer and iron magic, she may be the only one who can stop the Iron fey and the False King leading the charge.

This was a great episode of this series. It had a lot more action than the previous two books. There was more adventures and more battles. Meghan really comes into her own when she realizes how much power she has.

If you  haven't read the previous books in the series (The Iron King and The Iron Daughter), you may want to go back and read those books or you may be really lost!

Another good read!

Title: Summer's Crossing

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Review: The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa

Title: The Iron Daughter
Author: Julie Kagawa
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publish Date: August 1, 2010
Source: Own

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You like a little magic.
  • You enjoy good world building.
What's the Story?:

From "Half Summer faery princess, half human, Meghan has never fit in anywhere. Deserted by the Winter prince she thought loved her, she is prisoner to the Winter faery queen. As war looms between Summer and Winter, Meghan knows that the real danger comes from the Iron fey—ironbound faeries that only she and her absent prince have seen. But no one believes her.Worse, Meghan's own fey powers have been cut off. She's stuck in Faery with only her wits for help.

Trusting anyone would be foolish. Trusting a seeming traitor could be deadly. But even as she grows a backbone of iron, Meghan can't help but hear the whispers of longing in her all-too-human heart."

My Two Cents:

Meghan Chase is back in the world of faeries and is reluctantly making good on her promise to return to the Unseelie court with Ash to face Queen Mab. Not even Meghan's father, King Oberon, can really help her now... Now there's a war between the Summer and the Winter Court and only Meghan may be able to show both sides that the Iron kingdom is to blame and not Summer or Winter.

This book continues where the first one left off. This book is really turning out to be a good adventure story. You get to find out a little bit more about Prince Ash and about why Meghan and Ash are willing to give up so much to be together. We also get to learn more about the Iron kingdom (this is one idea in the book that fascinates me: our human reliance on technology has created a brand new world that's trying to takeover the old worlds of our imagination - in another word, the faery world). There's a couple big twists in the book that I'm hoping get filled out a little more in the coming books.

One of the things that I love about these books is the world-building. It makes everything so real. I can easily imagine myself following along as Ash and Meghan try to make it from Faery back into the mortal realm through one of the many passage ways. I can see what the Winter and the Summer court look like. While the idea of faeries themselves are not all that realistic, the world building makes it seem like they could living among us.

I'm definitely excited to finish the series!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Historical Fiction Virtual Tour Stop: The Hypnotist by M.J. Rose

Title: The Hypnotist
Author: M.J. Rose
Publisher: Mira
Publish Date: May 1, 2010
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Tours

Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You like a good thriller.
  • You like a little mystery.
  • You're into the paranormal.
What's the Story?:

Synopsis: An FBI agent, tormented by a death he wasn't able to prevent, a crime he's never been able to solve and a love he's never forgotten, discovers that his true conflict resides not in his past, but in a…Past Life.

Haunted by a twenty-year old murder of a beautiful young painter, Lucian Glass keeps his demons at bay through his fascinating work as a Special Agent with the FBI's Art Crime Team. Currently investigating a crazed art collector who has begun destroying prized masterworks, Glass is thrust into a bizarre hostage negotiation that takes him undercover at the Phoenix Foundation—dedicated to the science of past life study—where, in order to maintain his cover, he agrees to submit to the treatment of a hypnotist.

Under hypnosis, Glass travels from ancient Greece to 19th century Persia, while the case takes him from New York to Paris and the movie capital of world. These journeys will change his very understanding of reality, lead him to question his own sanity and land him at the center of perhaps the most audacious art heist in history: the theft of a 1,500 year old sculpture from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

International bestselling author M. J. Rose's The Hynpotist is her most mesmerizing novel yet. An adventure, a love story, a clash of cultures, a spiritual quest, it is above all a thrilling capstone to her unique Reincarnation novels, The Reincarnationist and The Memorist. 
My Two Cents:
Lucian Glass, FBI agent, is haunted by a crime he couldn't prevent. He throws himself into a new case as a part of the FBI Art Crime Team that will take him beyond where he ever thought he'd be able to go. (Side note: Who knew that the FBI Art Crime Team existed? How awesome would it be to work on that team? Sign me up now, please!).

Reincarnation is a very interesting concept to me. It's not something that I have really given much thought to before. Rose does a really good job of making this phenomena seem realistic and possible. She definitely made me think a little bit. Rose's writing pulls you right into to this new world where reincarnation really is the order of the day. I'm not usually a thriller reader but this one definitely sucked me in.
The Hypnotist is the third in the Reincarnation trilogy. At first I was a little apprehensive to read this book because I thought I was going to be lost. I really thought that The Hypnotist worked well as a standalone book and while I didn't feel like I was missing anything, I would be interested to go back and read the first two books in the series just to make sure that I wasn't missing anything!
Don't forget to follow the rest of the tour:
Tuesday, November 8th   
Book Highlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, November 9th

Thursday, November 10th

Friday, November 11th
Author Guest Post at A Chick Who Reads

Monday, November 14th
Review at Book Den

Wednesday, November 16th
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at Books Devoured

Thursday,  November 17th
Author Guest Post at Book Den

Friday, November 18th

Tuesday, November 22nd
Review at A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, November 23rd
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at Confessions of an Avid Reader

Thursday, November 24th
Review at Books Devoured

Friday, November 25th
Author Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Monday, November 28th

Tuesday, November 29th
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at Alive on the Shelves

Wednesday, November 30th

Thursday, December 1st
Review at A Few More Pages

Friday, December 2nd
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at Bippity Boppity Book

Monday, December 5th
Author Guest Post at A Few More Pages

Tuesday, December 6th

Wednesday, December 7th
Author Interview and Giveaway at The Owl Bookmark Blog

Thursday, December 8th

Friday, December 9th
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at The True Book Addict

Monday, December 12th

Tuesday, December 13th
Review at Just One More Paragraph

*You can follow the tour on Twitter at #TheHypnotistVirtualTour.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Historical Fiction Virtual Tour: Interview with Author Douglas Skopp

Today I'm happy to welcome Douglas Skopp, author of Shadows Walking for an interview!

1. What sort of research did you do in order to write Shadows Walking? 

My undergraduate degree was in history, majoring in German.  My Master’s was in Medieval Studies and my Ph.D. in history, focusing on Germany since over the past two hundred years.  My doctoral dissertation explored the political values of elementary school teachers in several regions of nineteenth century Germany, before the national unification in 1871.  This began my research agenda focusing on the political values of educated elites in Germany.  I had dropped out of college after my sophomore year, in order to learn German.  This was in 1960 and the wounds of the war had barely scarred over; I knew first-hand through my family’s losses what the Holocaust had done.  How such a calamity could be caused by a nation whose educated men and women were so accomplished, whose science, music, and intellectual life set such a standard for the rest of the world?   I decided I would devote myself to learning and teaching others what had happened in Germany and why.  If it could happen in Germany, it can happen anywhere.

I taught history at the college level for nearly forty years, the last thirty-four until my retirement at the State University of New York in Plattsburgh.  In 1985-1986, I received a Fulbright Senior Scholar/Teacher Award to lecture and do research in Germany on medical ethics and practices there from 1880-1945; while I was a guest professor at the university in Hannover, I worked on documentary materials in twelve major German archives and at the major British library for the history of medicine. I interviewed health care professionals who were active during the Nazi era, victims of Nazi medical practices, and historians and archivists whose familiarity with the primary sources was invaluable in helping me learn more about the subject.  (I describe all this in greater detail in the “Afterword” of Shadows Walking.)  Before I returned to the United States in July 1986, I gave a lecture at Oxford about my preliminary research, and then a presented a more detailed one in October 1986 to the History of Science Association in Pittsburgh.  I took a three-year break from my focus on Nazi medical ethics and practices to work on a celebratory history of SUNY Plattsburgh, as we approached our centennial year in 1989. 

In 1990, I began writing a novel that centered on a how a typical Nazi physician might have decided to do what he did, and what he might have done once he perceived the consequence of his choices.  I worked on Shadows Walking (it had five earlier titles and thirteen earlier drafts) over the next twenty years: from 1990 until June 2006, mostly during summers and holidays, when I retired from teaching, and then more intensely, until it was published in December 2010.

2. What's the most difficult thing about writing Historical Fiction? What's the easiest thing? 

All my characters—especially Johann Brenner, who becomes a Nazi doctor—faced choices with dire consequences for others and for themselves.  In order to “write them,” that is, to render their thoughts and words as realistically and as authentically as possible, I had to become these characters.  That was painful.  It took me nine years before I could write the first sentence that describes the first time Brenner is willing to participate in a crime against humanity.  After I wrote it, I wept.  That sentence is still in the novel. 

Then came another problem.  I found myself becoming numb and indifferent to the violence, just as Brenner did, as his choices led to more and more victims.  To pull myself back from this, I returned constantly to my research notes and especially to the transcript of the Nazi Doctors’ Trial.  

There is another problem writing this kind of historical fiction.  I wanted it to be as accurate as possible.  I earned my living as a professor of history, after all, and could not bring myself to violate what I knew was a fact.  I am irritated when I read historical fiction that deliberately distorts the historical record; irritating, too, is historical fiction without any reference to the historians who have researched and validated what the novelist is describing.  Everything in Shadows Walking, to the best of my knowledge, either happened, or could have happened exactly as I describe it; my novel’s website, http://www.shadowswalking/, has links to seventy short essays about the actual persons, places, incidents and circumstances around which the novel is woven, with sources for this information, plus six selected thematic bibliographies for readers interested in learning more.  Immersing myself in this history as I did, I found myself re-living the horrible outcome of it all.  There’s a scene in the novel where Brenner is watching two locomotives collide and is powerless to do anything about it.  I felt the same way. 

Finally, there are many female characters in the novel.  The women, in fact, are the most insightful and heroic of all the characters, and are especially tragic because they were allowed so little influence over events at the time.  Writing with a woman’s voice was challenging for me.  Women who have read Shadows Walking tell me that this aspect of it is especially successful; I am grateful if that is so.  Frankly, there was nothing easy about writing this novel.  It took me twenty years.  It never really left my thoughts during all this time.  I finished it two years after I was diagnosed with kidney cancer; I wanted to see it in print and on the shelf before I was on one myself.  Now that it’s out, I am relieved, honored and humbled by the appreciation of those who choose to read it. 

3. We don't see that many historical fiction books set during WWII from the point of view from anyone involved with the Nazis. What made you want to try to write from that perspective?

Many fine historians have written about aspects of the Nazi era, including excellent studies of how the Nazis’ justified their medical experimentation and policies.  Fine as they are, these studies focus more on the highest ranking Nazis (e.g., Karl Brandt) or on the personalities and practices of the most monstrous Nazi doctors (e.g., Josef Mengele.)  Their works are usually read by other historians and specialists.  I wanted to write a novel in the hope that it would be more accessible to the general reading public.  My aim is a believable exploration of the thinking and the choices of an ordinary Nazi doctor, a well-intentioned, reasonable, intelligent physician who persuades himself to commit crimes against humanity.  Very few novelists have tried to enter the mind of a Nazi.  I think of Dalton Trumbo’s fine, but unfinished novel, Night of the Aurochs (1979), and the more recent, highly controversial novel by Jonathan Littell, The Kindly Ones, (2009).  Littell’s book, despite its merits, is very troubling because his protagonist, an SS officer, is such a bizarre, grotesquely violent, sordid human being.  Aside from the factual distortions of Littell’s work, I find it impossible, for me at least, to believe that his protagonist could have existed as described; he’s more like a Mengele than anyone else I have studied in the archival materials, and even surpasses Mengele’s brutality, if that can be imagined.  I didn’t want to write about the monstrous acts of a monstrous person.  I wanted to write about the monstrous acts of an ordinary person—how someone obviously and painfully like all of us, with hopes, dreams, doubts, and fears, could become a Nazi.  Exploring an ordinary man’s mind gives me insights into my own.  It has been humbling to try to do this, and even more humbling to know that there is something of Johann Brenner, at least in me…and, I strongly suspect, in all of us.

4. What is your favorite scene in the book?

As I say, I am glad I finished Shadows Walking.  Saying to myself, “It’s done, at last,” was the most enjoyable aspect of writing it. If I have a favorite scene, I suppose it is when Johann recalls his childhood in the little southern German town where he grew up, before World War I, a time when the world seemed good and beautiful.  There was an order and harmony, at least to the world he knew, in contrast to what came during that war and stretched on, into the turbulent 1920’s, the economic crisis of the early 1930’s, the Nazi era, and ended in the unimaginable catastrophe of the next war.  Johann’s mother and father loved him and reassured him with kindness; their authority seemed natural and good.  The scene I have in mind is where Johann’s father, a travelling salesman selling silver and gold parts and other precious components to small town watchmakers and jewelers, delights the boy by showing him the contents of his business suitcase:

The case’s dark blue-black interior brightened into a deep, shimmering, satiny Prussian blue with flashes of purple, especially as the reddening evening sky seeped inside. There were forty or more satin-lined little compartments. In one, nestling in the rich colors, were dozens of shiny, glowing little metal wheels, some notched with gears, some smooth-edged, some bigger, some smaller. In another, springs that seemed to be made of silvery-blue strands of hair, all coiled in their nests. Another contained silvery rods and pins, in which one could see elongated reflections of the light. A small compartment held tiny rubies, looking like little beads of blood or the salty fish eggs a neighbor brought to their house on New Year’s Eve. A larger one had blank, white faces that looked like bright moons. Another, golden arrows of different lengths that would become the watches’ hands. And, most fascinating of all, ten compartments in a row contained tiny golden numbers of different sizes, zeroes, ones, twos, threes…. Johann learned to count up to ten by looking at these numbers with his father, as they would count together in a whisper. Then his father told him how to make an ‘eleven’ and a ‘twelve’ and counted again with him as they looked at the larger numbers on the wall clock. But he always wanted to look some more at the wonders in the suitcase. No matter how often Johann was permitted this vision, it always thrilled him. And it thrilled his father to see his son’s delight.

On some days, the suitcase would stay in its place at home, next to his father’s desk in the den. He could recall the moment when one night in bed, after his father had told him he would be leaving early the next morning, he decided to see the suitcase by himself. The temptation overruled his fear of violating his father’s commandment. After breakfast, when his mother was busy in the kitchen, he went quietly back upstairs. She thought he had gone to his bedroom to get a toy or look at a picture book. But he went to his father’s study and hoisted the suitcase up onto the desk—the place Johann thought that it should be opened to reveal its magical contents—and put it on its side. But it was locked. Johann heard his mother coming upstairs and hastily swung the case down to its original place and put it back where he found it.

In the evening, when his father came home, Johann begged him to open the suitcase.
“After dinner perhaps.”
“Please, Papa. I’ve been good all day.”

“After dinner” came, and his father agreed to Johann’s pleasure. When the two went up stairs to the study, there was the suitcase, just as Johann had left it. His father lifted it up to the desktop and slowly opened it a tiny crack. Johann pressed his face to the opening in order to not miss a single second of the vision. To his horror—he could recall the feeling even now, nearly twenty years later—all the tiny wheels and springs, the pins and little rubies began to rain out of their compartments and into the lid of the case. Where he had expected to see beautiful, enchanting order, there was chaos. In his enthusiasm to see it earlier in the day, he must have turned the suitcase upside-down. He could not remember how he was punished, only feeling all the more afraid because his father did not display the anger he knew he deserved.
         I want this scene to evoke Johann’s need for order and his nostalgia for a world that has been lost. He had a need for a strong authority, a need to have someone above him.  This need helped tip him in the direction of his support for Hitler and Nazism.  It wasn’t the only factor, of course, but I think it was a significant one.

5. What three books would you bring with you if you were on a deserted island?
            You mean I can’t have an e-Book, with thousands of titles?  Am I all by myself?  I’d at least want a device that would allow me to play audio-books, to remind me that books are creations of human beings, with voices that speak to me through them.  Just three?  Well, one would be the iconic book of photography compiled by Eduard Steichen, with text by Carl Sandburg, The Family of Man, published by the Museum of Modern Art in 1955.  It would remind me that human beings like me have been elsewhere on the planet, that I am not alone.  Another would be an anthology of the world’s great religious and philosophical writings, perhaps Karl Jaspers’ multivolume work, The Great Philosophers (1966)—although I would be cheating by taking along all six volumes.  I would want to ponder how prophets, sages and thinkers tried to find a meaning for our existence.  If allowed only one more title, it would be tough to choose among the great novelists, but I would settle for Albert Camus’ The Fall (1957); through the thoughts it evokes, I could try to think my way back to the themes raised by Austen, Swift, Dickens, Melville, Twain, Dostoyevsky, and other greats.  Reading these, and scrounging for something to eat would keep me busy; I am allergic to coconut, by the way.  But maybe the most practical book of all, given my isolation on a desert island, would be a big book of great jokes. 

Review: Hardball by V.K. Sykes

Title: Hardball
Author: V.K. Sykes
Publisher: Self-published
Publish Date: June 14, 2011
Source: Received from the authors (this did not effect my review)

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • Warning: Book may not be appropriate for readers under 18. 
  • You're in the mood for romance.
  • You're in the mood for a bit of hotness.
  • You like a real story with your romance.
What's the Story?:

From "After years of hard work and keeping her nose firmly to the grindstone, Dr. Holly Bell has finally achieved her dream: a position as a pediatric surgeon at a prestigious teaching hospital. Children’s lives rest in her skilled hands. That means total dedication to her work and her patients without letting anything or anyone get in the way. And a hot affair with a superstar athlete is most definitely getting in Holly’s way.

Nate Carter, star pitcher for the Philadelphia Patriots, has the world in the palm of his baseball glove. He’s at the height of his game, a west coast team is about to lure him with even greater riches, and the most gorgeous women in town are in full pursuit. Nate has everything he wants, or at least he thinks he does, until he meets the beautiful and brainy Dr. Holly Bell. He’s totally up for a hot affair, and Holly turns out to be the hottest.

But will Holly be willing to play his game? When the lovely doctor starts changing the rules, Nate realizes he just might be playing for keeps."

My Two Cents:

Ooo, this book is hot! Nate Carter starts out as seemingly sort of full of himself and that's exactly what Dr. Holly Bell thinks when she first meets him. Quickly she and we readers realize that's not the case. Holly and Nate quickly fall into a relationship even though they come from two very different worlds. This book sucked me right in!

The book is a romance and there is some hotness throughout the book but this book has great characters that really serve to carry the story along. Nate is a pro baseball player who is down to earth and very caring. Holly Bell is a pediatric doctor who is mired in a case where she thinks one of her young patients may be being abused. The patient's father is a pretty terrible guy. He's rough and has a pretty sordid past where he got away with some things that he should have never gotten away with. Holly is frightened for her patient, Tyler. Holly isn't sure that she's going to be able to take care of the situation with Tyler's father without making it worse. Luckily she's pretty resourceful! There's definitely more that meets the eye in this book.

I flew through it (most of it in one afternoon). It was the perfect book for curling up on the couch on a chilly afternoon with.

Bottom line: If you're looking for a romance with a good story line, this certainly fits the bill!

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