Friday, March 30, 2012

TGIF at GReads (1): Book Blogger Getaway

This will be my first time participating in TGIF but I could not pass up this question! This week's question is:

Book Blogger Retreat: If you could gather up a handful of book blogger friends to spend a weekend away talking books, where would you go? Tell us about it.

Well, if you insist. I will be going away this weekend but to visit family, which is always fun but it means that I won't be doing a lot of reading. Virtual reading vacay it is then!!!!

So where would I go? If we can only go for a weekend, it would have to be somewhere driveable. Luckily the DC area is equally close to the beach and mountains. It's not quite beach weather so let's go to the Shenandoah mountains.

Ah, that's a nice lake. We'll start a campfire as soon as we get there and set up comfy chairs around so we can get to reading.

We all might need a little break from reading so lets discuss everything books while we take a nice, little hike through the mountains.

We'll pack a picnic and our books so we can sit by the waterfall and read and munch.

Who's with me? Where would you go for a bookish weekend away?

Don't forget all the great giveaways I have going on right now. Today's the last day for The Descendants giveaway:

Book to Movie: We Bought a Zoo! (With Give@way)

On April 3, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment will release We Bought a Zoo to Blu-ray and DVD. We Bought a Zoo stars Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson and is based on the true story and novel by Ben Mee, real-life zoo owner in England - he resides in the English countryside with family as he takes care of the Dartmoor Zoo -

I think that seeing the differences between original books and the movies that are based off of the books is absolutely fascinating. In some cases, the movie stays very close to the book and in other cases,  the movie is quite different from the book. In the case of We Bought a Zoo, the case is really the latter. I had a chance this past weekend to watch the movie and read the book. While the movie changes many of the details of the book, the spirit of both the book and the movie are very much the same: family is important and can help you get through anything!

I thought it was really fantastic how the story changed between the book and the movie yet the spirit stayed the same. I loved both the book and the movie!

Some of the basic differences that I noticed:
  • Book: Benjamin Mee is English.
  • Movie: Benjamin Mee is American.
  • Book: Benjamin Mee buys the zoo with a lot of different family members.
  • Movie: Benjamin Mee buys the zoo with just his two children in tow.
These are pretty basic differences and yet, as I said before, the spirit of the book is still there! There are still great characters. There are still awesome animals with awesome stories. It remains a warm story about family and creatures.  I wonder what (if any) input Benjamin Mee had with the movie and if he was surprised by any of the changes.

My Questions for You:
  1. Have you seen the movie or read the book? What do you think?
  2. Were you happy with the changes that were made between the two? 

Thanks to Think Jam, I am able to give away a We Bought a Zoo prize pack which includes a dvd and a book.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Review: Capturing the Silken Thief by Jeannie Lin

Title: Capturing the Silken Thief
Author: Jeannie Lin
Publisher: Harlequin
Publish Date: March 1, 2012
Source: I own this one.

Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You like historical romances.
  • You like exotic locales.
  • You like short stories and novellas.
What's the Story?:

From "Musician Jia needs a valuable book of poems by a famous courtesan to buy her freedom...and she believes Luo Cheng has taken it. Her attempt to steal the book from him fails, but the tall and powerful scholar unexpectedly offers to help her quest! But when they finally find the book—and the arousing poems and artwork inside—Jia's longing for freedom is replaced with a new kind of desire for Cheng."

My Two Cents:

Capturing the Silken Thief is a historical romance novella that takes place in 823 A.D. during the Tang Dynasty in China. I wasn't sure how I would like the novella format. I like historical romance but I was sort of unsure whether or not you could tell a good story, let alone a good romance (love takes time usually!), in such a short amount of space. But I really like Jeannie Lin's writing and thoroughly enjoyed The Dragon and The Pearl so I tried to have faith. And you know what, it all turned out just fine!

I really enjoyed this book. It's a quick read with it being a novella and all. I was impressed with how much detail Lin was able to get in with so little space to work with. Jia is a great character. She's trying to buy her freedom, which was a great cost for a woman at that time. She's brave and cunning. She goes to steal a book of poems of an infamous courtesan from Luo Cheng, a gentleman studying to take a test to become a government official (a process that I found sort of fascinating). Things don't turn out the way Jia plans and she and Luo Cheng end up falling for each other hard and quickly. Hotness and passion ensues!

One reason that I love historical fiction of all stripes is that the books have the ability to take you to someplace that you've never been before. Lin gives the reader a great sense of what life was like during the Tang Dynasty. You can definitely imagine that you're there.

Bottom line: this is a perfect book for those wanting to break their fear of novellas. Great stories really can be told in fewer words.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Literary Locale: Michaelangelo's Italy

It's been a little bit since I've done Literary Locale. Yesterday I reviewed The King's Agent, which mostly takes place in Italy. One thing you should know about me is that I will not pass up a chance to talk about Italy. Back in 2010, I traveled to a couple places in Italy and to London with my husband for our honeymoon. So every place that we visited is very near and dear to my heart.

Michaelangelo is famous both for his paintings and his sculpture. He was definitely a renaissance man!

Here's a self portrait of Michaelangelo

One of the most impressive displays of his art is the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican complex in Rome. Although the chapel itself is pretty small in size (it was shocking to see it in person; I had it in my mind that it was a lot bigger), almost every inch of it is covered in paintings.

This room packs a punch! (link)

Here's the ceiling and yes, he painted this while lying on his back (link)

One thing I can say is that Michaelangelo has way more patience than I do!

Where are you reading this week?

Historical Fiction Virtual Tour: The King's Agent by Donna Russo Morin

Title: The King's Agent
Author: Donna Russo Morin
Publisher: Kensington
Publish Date: March 1, 2012
Source: HF Virtual Tours

Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You're a historical fiction fan.
  • You enjoy a little mystery.
  • You enjoy a little romance.
What's the Story?:

From "The King’s Agent is based loosely on the life of Battista della Palla-a patriotic plunderer, a religious rogue-of the 16th century, a lifelong friend to the great Michelangelo.

As the cloistered ward of the Marquess of Mantua, Lady Aurelia is a woman with a profound duty, and a longing for adventure. In search of a relic intended for the King of France, Battista and Aurelia cross the breathtaking landscape of Renaissance Italy. Clues hide in great works of art, political forces collide, secret societies and enemies abound, and danger lurks in every challenge, those that mirror the passages of Dante's Divine Comedy. It is an adventurous quest with undercurrents of the supernatural, powers that could change the balance of supremacy throughout Europe."

My Two Cents: 

This book has a great mix of history, mystery, and romance. It's told from the point of view of Battista, who is sent to Italy to look for a mysterious relic by the King of France. I feel like I don't read too many historical fiction books from the gentlemen's point of view (I wonder why that is?) so this book was a nice change of pace from that perspective.

Lady Aurelia is a cool character for a book about this time period. Even though she's a woman, she's independent and she's smart. She doesn't seem like she'd tolerate being pushed around. I know that women back in this time really didn't always have a lot of choices in their life but Lady Aurelia seems to defy convention in that way. I love it!

I loved, loved, loved that the artist Michaelangelo has a starring role in this book. I'm a huge fan of his work and this book is particularly timely with the news story going around that art historians may have found one of Michaelangelo's paintings behind another painting (How cool is that). I didn't know much about Michaelangelo's private life and we the readers kind of get to see some of that from Battista since he's a lifelong friend of Michaelangelo's.

I also love how in order to solve the book's grand mystery, Battista and Lady Aurelia follow clues from Dante's Divine Comedy. I thought it was a really cool touch. Even if you have not read the Divine Comedy, you will have no trouble following along with the mystery. It's been a long time since I've read the Divine Comedy (I think since high school) but the story is familiar to us through cultural references that it works really well. Morin does a good job of weaving the story together.

Bottom line: This book has a little of something for historical fiction lovers of all stripes.

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Tuesday, February 28th

Wednesday, February 29th
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Thursday, March 1st

Friday, March 2nd
Author Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick

Monday, March 5th

Tuesday, March 6th

Thursday, March 8th
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at Reflections of a Bookaholic

Friday, March 9th
Review at Luxury Reading

Monday, March 12th
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at The Owl Bookmark Blog

Tuesday, March 13th

Thursday, March 15th
Review at Historical Fiction Review
Author Interview & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Friday, March 16th
Review at The Book Garden

Monday, March 19th

Tuesday, March 20th
Author Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, March 22nd
Review & Giveaway at The Bookworm

Friday, March 23rd
Author Guest Post at Jenny Loves to Read

Monday, March 26th

Tuesday, March 27th

Thursday, March 29th
Author Interview & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Friday, March 30th
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at To Read or Not to Read

Monday, April 2nd

Tuesday, April 3rd
Author Interview & Giveaway at Tanzanite's Castle Full of Books

Thursday, April 5th
Review & Giveaway at The Maiden's Court
Review at The Broke and the Bookish

Friday, April 6th

Monday, April 9th

Tuesday, April 10th

Thursday, April 12th
Author Interview at The Eclectic Reader

Friday, April 13th
Author Guest Post at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf

Monday, April 16th

Tuesday, April 17th

Thursday, April 19th

Friday, April 20th
Author Guest Post at Books, Belles & Beaux

Monday, April 23rd

Tuesday, April 24th

Thursday, April 26th
Author Interview at The True Book Addict

Friday, April 27th
Author Guest Post at CelticLady's Reviews

Monday, April 30th

Tuesday, May 1st
Author Guest Post at Historical Tapestry

Thursday, May 3rd

Friday, May 4th
Review at Just One More Paragraph

Review: The Replacement Wife by Eileen Goudge

Title: The Replacement Wife
Author: Eileen Goudge
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publish Date: March 27, 2012 (Today!)
Source: Netgalley

Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You're a fiction fan.
  • You like chick lit.
  • You really like reading about different characters.
What's the Story?:

From "Camille Hart, one of Manhattan’s most sought-after matchmakers, has survived more than her fair share of hardships. Her mother died when she was a young girl, leaving her and her sister with an absentee father. Now in her forties, she has already survived cancer once, though the battle revealed just how ill-equipped her husband Edward is to be a single parent. So when doctors tell Camille that her cancer is back—and this time it’s terminal—she decides to put her matchmaking expertise to the test for one final job. Seeking stability for her children and happiness for her husband, Camille sets out to find the perfect woman to replace her when she’s gone.

But what happens when a dying wish becomes a case of “be careful what you wish for”? For Edward and Camille, the stunning conclusion arrives with one last twist of fate that no one saw coming.

At once deeply felt and witty, The Replacement Wife is an unforgettable story of love and family, and a refreshing look at the unexpected paths that lead us to our own happy endings."

My Two Cents:

I was intrigued by the premise of the book.  As a married person, I could not imagine ever facing death and facing what will happen to my family if I passed away as Camille does in the book. I think its interesting (albeit very scary) to think about. Camille is a matchmaker so she knows what people want in a relationship. That being said while I understand that Camille wants to make sure that her children are taken care of, it almost seemed like she was meddling in her husband's future life and in the woman who she sets him up with. Was it really fair to either of them? I know that couples have to have that conversation of what happens after but is this the way to do it? It almost seemed really controlling on Camille's part.

While I had a hard time understanding the decisions that the characters made, this book really did make me think. And I love a book that makes me ponder things in my own life. I also really enjoyed the twists in the books. They definitely kept me on my toes.

I would be interested to read some of the other things that Eileen Goudge has written. The writing is great. I do wish that the number of extraneous minor characters had been cut down a little bit. It really confused me and I kept waiting to see how these minor characters were going to factor into the story and they never really did, which took away from the story of the main characters.

Bottom line: Overall, an interesting premise with questionable motives.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Title: Beauty Queens
Author: Libba Bray
Publisher: Scholastic
Publish Date: May 24, 2011
Source: Library

Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You're a young adult fiction fan.
  • You like comedy and satire.
  • You like story lines that are a little off kilter.
What's the Story?:

From "The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea, crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.

What's a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program - or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan - or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?

Welcome to the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Your tour guide? None other than Libba Bray, the hilarious, sensational, Printz Award-winning author of A Great and Terrible Beauty and Going Bovine. The result is a novel that will make you laugh, make you think, and make you never see beauty the same way again."

My Two Cents:

This is sort of a strange book. The premise is pretty out there. Teen beauty queens from the Teen Dream pageant are stranded on a tropical island after their plane crashes. Was it really just a plane crash or something more? Add a creepy corporation and a sinister Sarah Palin-like pageant owner and you have a whole bunch of craziness. I had a really hard time with my suspension of disbelief for this book; it was just that crazy.

At first I really liked the story and then it got stranger and stranger, which is why I think I had so much trouble with the suspension of disbelief. First, just the girls (and some other creepy things are on the island). Then there's the crew of a pirate tv show on the island as well. For a little bit, it felt like things were just being added to be added without really adding value. I would have loved to see more of a focus on the girls and how the island is changing them, as this was one of my favorite parts of the book.

I did like seeing the transformation of (some of) the girls. Some definitely came into their own a little bit more than the others. At first, most of them are annoyingly into their beauty regiments and are still sizing each other up as competitors after the plane crash. They begin to get more into trying to actually survive on the island but some of them cling to their beauty queen past and can't seem to realize that they need to step it up a little bit.

Libba Bray is hilarious. There's all of these footnotes every so often that are just hilarious and some of them had me laughing out loud. Even though the premise of this book was not my favorite, I would definitely read more by Libba Bray because she has a fantastic sense of humor.

Bottom line: Funny writing, not so funny story line.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Review: The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson

Title: The Lantern
Author: Deborah Lawrenson
Publisher: Harper
Publish Date: August 9, 2011
Source: Library

Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You like gothic novels.
  • You like a little mystery with your fiction.
What's the Story?:

From "A modern gothic novel of love, secrets, and murder--set against the lush backdrop of Provence.
Meeting Dom was the most incredible thing that had ever happened to me. When Eve falls for the secretive, charming Dom in Switzerland, their whirlwind relationship leads them to Les GenEvriers, an abandoned house set among the fragrant lavender fields of the South of France. Each enchanting day delivers happy discoveries: hidden chambers, secret vaults, a beautiful wrought-iron lantern. Deeply in love and surrounded by music, books, and the heady summer scents of the French countryside, Eve has never felt more alive.

But with autumn's arrival the days begin to cool, and so, too, does Dom. Though Eve knows he bears the emotional scars of a failed marriage--one he refuses to talk about--his silence arouses suspicion and uncertainty. The more reticent Dom is to explain, the more Eve becomes obsessed with finding answers--and with unraveling the mystery of his absent, beautiful ex-wife, Rachel.

Like its owner, Les GenEvriers is also changing. Bright, warm rooms have turned cold and uninviting; shadows now fall unexpectedly; and Eve senses a presence moving through the garden. Is it a ghost from the past or a manifestation of her current troubles with Dom? Can she trust Dom, or could her life be in danger?

Eve does not know that Les GenEvriers has been haunted before. BEnEdicte Lincel, the house's former owner, thrived as a young girl within the rich elements of the landscape: the violets hidden in the woodland, the warm wind through the almond trees. She knew the bitter taste of heartbreak and tragedy--long-buried family secrets and evil deeds that, once unearthed, will hold shocking and unexpected consequences for Eve."

My Two Cents:

The Lantern is sort of a throwback to the old gothic novels. It's also a cautionary tale in not letting your imagination run away too much. Eve thinks that she has everything. She meets Dom in Switzerland and they move to a grand country house in gorgeous Provence. They have their music and Eve has her writing and her books. It sounds idyllic and wonderful but nothing is really as it seems. Dom seems to be hiding something and Eve will not (and seemingly cannot) rest until she figures out Dom's secret because otherwise he seems absolutely perfect.

Even though Eve does go a little bit off the deep end with trying to put together the mystery that's tugging on her. She's definitely an unreliable narrator but sometimes, those are the most interesting narrators. She puts all the clues together in a manner that could be totally plausible but then jumps to all sorts of conclusions that she treats as absolute truths. On the other hand, you can see that what Eve thinks is going on, is not really how things are. It's so interesting to see the juxtaposition between what Eve knows and what the reader can figure out by having two parts of the same story in full view.

The writing is a little stilted but works well for this sort of book.

I did have a little bit of a hard time getting into the book. The chapters are told from the alternating point of view of Eve, in the present day, and Benedicte, a French woman who was related to a famous perfumer. There is no notation at the beginning of each chapter of who is speaking in the chapter. Once you start reading the chapter, it was usually really apparent who was telling the story but there was a little initial confusion.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Title: The Scorpio Races
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic
Publish Date: October 18, 2011
Source: Library

Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You're a young adult fiction fan.
  • You like mythology.
What's the Story?:

From "It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen."

My Two Cents:

Stiefvater takes a myth of water horses who live in the ocean and like to dine on flesh. For someone like me who is afraid of horses, the thought of a creature like that is simply horrifying and the creatures are definitely scary in the book. The inhabitants of the island surrounded by the water horses participate in the Scorpio Races where the inhabitants try to ride the water horses as long as they can in a race.

Puck Connolly is the first girl to ride in the Scorpio Races. She's strong and seems to realize that rules are often made to be changed or even broken. She's really a fantastic character. She lives with her two brothers. Their father was killed by the water horses. Their mother moved away to the mainland so it's just the Connolly siblings by themselves trying to gain a foothold on the island. This makes Puck even more determined to break convention and race in the Scorpio Races, something that I really appreciated about her. I love a good strong character.

I had read Stiefvater's Shiver trilogy, which takes on the myth of the werewolves. While I liked this series okay, I really feel like The Scorpio Races was more of a break out for the author. The myth is new and fresh for a lot of people (I had never heard of water horses of Irish and Scottish myth before). The author does a really fantastic job of world building in the book. The idea of the water horses is so neatly wrapped in the day to day events of the people of the island that they seem really realistic. I love when an author is able to do that with a really fantastic element! The characters are really well rounded. There are also some really engaging racing scenes that are just fantastic. All these elements really pulled me into the story and gave me something to think about.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Virtual Author Book Tours: Interview and Give@way with R.L. Prendergast

Today, I'm excited to welcome R.L. Prendergast to A Bookish Affair!

How did you get the idea for Dinner with Lisa? What drew you to writing about the Depression?

Have you ever wished you’d written down the stories told to you by your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, great aunts and uncles? I know I have. For years I listened to my relatives recounting their childhoods, and talking of the unusual characters they’d known. People who did crazy things, and had nicknames like Hateful Dan, The Black Prince and Dumb Dora.

As a child, I enjoyed these anecdotes immensely, but didn’t think about them after they’d been told. However, as I got older, and the various relatives, including my grandparents, passed away, I wished someone had recorded their stories. Not long ago, I began asking my mother and father about some of the tales my grandparents used to tell. They remembered some details, but many of the stories had been forgotten – lost forever.

After completing my first novel, The Impact of a Single Event, which became a national bestseller, I began to write down the recollections of my parents and their older siblings, all now in their seventies and eighties. As the cache of tales grew – a great uncle’s experience in WW1, my mother’s memories of the neighborhood corner store, my father’s memories of life on a dairy farm – I saw a connecting thread. Before long, I was researching the time periods in which the stories took place – and was inspired to write Dinner with Lisa.

What was your research process for Dinner with Lisa?

Once I had the family stories in order I spent months pouring over old newspapers from the 1930’s in an effort to understand the time period I was writing about. I came across stories about children eating on alternate days so their siblings would have a chance to eat too or people deciding not to eat for weeks at a time so they could pay that month’s rent. I realize things like this are happening today in North America, however, during the Depression almost no one was spared these hardships and because of that there were also wonderful stories of communities coming together to help each other. My own grandmother spoke of homeless men coming to the door for a meal nearly every night. “We never turned them away, no matter how little we had ourselves,” she said. Above all, there was humor. A great aunt once told me there were two options. Laugh or cry. Those who chose laughter faired much better. I guess things haven’t changed all that much in that regard.

What was the most difficult part of writing this book? What was the most fulfilling?

The most difficult part of writing my novel was the fights I had almost every day at lunch. You see, four-inch tall aliens, with little tiny ray guns, invaded my home and took over control of my microwave oven. This is a problem, because I usually heat up leftovers for my lunch. It often took me an hour or more to fight the aliens off enough to reheat my food and escape back to my office!

Okay, so no aliens invaded the house. I only put that in because the process went very smoothly. I don’t recall any great problems. Perhaps I’ve just blocked out any unpleasantness now that the novel is on the bookshelves. As for the most fulfilling part, I think it was when my editor told me she was fascinated by my story. My editor is a woman who has written 34 of her own novels, probably sold over a million copies and has edited who knows how many more books, and she found my story fascinating! I was very happy that day.

Do you have any more projects in the works right now?

I’ve got a couple of projects I’m working on. One is a children’s story inspired by my son, who hasn’t slept through the night since we brought him home from the hospital. You can see his picture on the home page of my website ( The other project is a fictionalized account of one of the most famous people who ever lived. I’d like to tell you more, but I need potential readers to be intrigued enough to visit my website again. The job of a storyteller, after all, is to keep the reader interested!

If you could bring three fictional characters with you to a deserted island, who would you bring and why?

This is tough. I think the first fictional character I’d bring is Robinson Crusoe. This guy showed excellent (if unrealistic) skills for surviving on a desert island. From the simple tools and supplies he extricates from his ship he built himself a fenced-in habitation, learned to make pottery, grew rice and barley, and did a number of other amazing things with next to nothing. Robinson Crusoe would be a handy guy to have around.

I think the second person would be Ebenezer Scrooge (who would appear like Alastair Sim) after he’s been visited by the three ghosts of Christmas. At the end of A Christmas Carol Scrooge becomes a model of generosity and kindness. As the final narration states, "Many laughed to see this alteration in him, but he let them laugh and little heeded them, for he knew that no good thing in this world ever happened, at which some did not have their fill of laughter. His own heart laughed and that was quite enough for him. And it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well if any man alive possessed the knowledge." I like Ebenezer Scrooge’s his new attitude.

I think the third person would be Yoda. The guy (or whatever you want to call him) is
supposed to be 900 years old. I’m sure he’d have lots of good stories to tell.

Oh, Yoda is one of my favorites too. Thanks, R.L.!


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Historical Fiction Virtual Tours: Interview and Give@way with Donna Russo Morin

Today I'm very excited to have Donna Russo Morin, author of The King's Agent, to A Bookish Affair for an interview (look for my review of The King's Agent next week).

1. What was your research process like for The King's Agent?

This story is slightly unique in that I found the main character, a true historical character, while doing the research for my third book, To Serve a King. Battista della Palla, a Florentine, was in fact the art agent for the King of France, François I. Battista had spent some years at the French court as a young man during which time a deep friendship was made and a deal was struck…Battista would procure the Italian art that François craved so much and in return he offered Battista ‘his sword’…he would provide military support to Florence should they ever need it.

Having become enamored of Battista in that research, I knew I had to write him, so it is with him that my research began. Once he had become fully crystallized, as well as the period in which he lived, I moved on to the art of Florence, that which François craved so much. Here is where Michelangelo became involved and here is the portion of the story behind the story that truly came as a gift of the fates.

As mentioned, having the main character a true historical character who was involved in the art world, I set the main plot by setting him on a search for an ancient relic. In the very early stages of plot development, I happened to be watching the History Channel, I believe it was something on JFK, the very next show was one I had never heard of. Ancient Aliens is a series that has been on for a few years (unbeknownst to me) that highlighted evidence of alien existence all through history back to ancient times. And what episode should be coming on…evidence of alien existence in Renaissance Art. I was alone in the house, shivers running up the back of my neck, yelling to no one but myself, “Are you kidding me…oh my goodness, this is amazing!” I recorded the show, watched it over and over and over, read the books highlighted during the program, and what was revealed to me was astounding and became an intriguing facet of the book itself.

And into the mix a multi, cross-referenced dissection of Dante’s Divine Comedy and you have the main focus of my research…a bit of an information salad to be sure. But such is the story; it is a multi-layered plot, so much happening above and below the surface.

2. Who or what inspires you as a writer?

I suppose like most who follow an artistic path, I am inspired by many things. On the practical level, I’m a single parent with two sons still living at home…that kind of responsibility is a huge inspiration to keep one’s rump in the seat and churn out the words.

On a thematic basis, the tribulations of my life have provided a great deal of fodder for my stories… the frustrated feminist in me appeared in my first book, the indecisive woman torn between duty and personal happiness dominated the second. In the third, written while going through a nasty divorce, the assassin was born. And in The King’s Agent, the women that is, most times, overburdened by duty, tried to escape for a little fun. In my current work in progress, it is the bonds of women—of girlfriends—coupled with my growing obsession with Renaissance art, that is inspiring the trilogy, one about the birth of the female Renaissance artist.

Beyond that it can be something as simple as a phrase in a song, a two-minute news story, a particular painting that takes my breath away or a place that I long to go.

3. You've written several books now. Do you have a favorite? Why or why not?

That’s a little like asking which of my children do I love the most; there is no real answer for I am proud and love them all equally, even if it may be for different reasons. Right now I am enormously proud of The King’s Agent. It was the first time I tried writing from the male perspective, and I believe I did a fairly good job of it. It is also the object of my highest favor right now because of how many elements I was able to successfully fuse into one story…in a cohesive, intriguing manner. The fact that this was my first book to receive a starred review in Publishers Weekly tips the scales in its direction as well.

4. What is the last great book that you read?

I’ve just finished 11/22/63 by Stephen King and I was mesmerized by it. His utter brilliance for storytelling—it seems so simply told yet the literary craftsmanship is so highly complex— was in full force. Like any story with paranormal, sci/fi elements, there are far more chances for missteps, to break the suspension of disbelief that must be demanded from the reader, especially in the ending, but again, he did not disappoint.

5. If you could choose any three fictional characters to bring with you to a deserted island, who
would you bring?

Well I could be practical with this question and give an answer like Robinson Crusoe who knows his way around a deserted island, but that just doesn’t seem amusing enough for me. So my first choice, without hesitation, would be Jack Sparrow. The man is extraordinarily easy on the eyes, and he always knows where the rum is hidden.

My second choice would be Aragon from Lord of the Rings. Again, many (many) hours could be whiled away staring at such beauty, but here we have the depth of soul as only J. R. R. Tolkien could have written, a passionate and compassionate man of great conviction, of true honor; traits that I have come to cherish beyond all others. I would feel safe with him by my side, taken care of and cared for.

And finally, I would graciously request the presence of The Right Honorable Violet Crawley, Countess of Grantham from Downton Abbey. That wit, that sharp tongue, the snarky sense of humor could fill hours, days, months, and years with laughter.

Thank you, Donna (and I'm so with you on Jack Sparrow)!!!


Virtual Author Book Tours: Dinner With Lisa by R.L. Prendergast

Title: Dinner With Lisa
Author: R.L. Prendergast
Publisher: Dekko Publishing
Publish Date: November 1, 2011
Source: Virtual Author Book Tours

Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You're a historical fiction fan.
  • You like family stories.
What's the Story?:

From "In the disastrous economic times of the 1930s, Joseph Gaston, a young widower with four children, arrives in the small town of Philibuster seeking security for his family. Instead, he faces barriers everywhere. He does his best despite great adversity, but the strain of feeding and protecting his family whittles away his strength. Finally, destitution forces him to consider giving up his children in order to save them. Enraged by his situation, he attempts one last desperate act—on the night he learns about the mysterious Lisa.

Heart wrenching, humorous and historically authentic, Dinner with Lisa incorporates the crucial issues of the depression: poverty, unemployment, drought and racism. In the midst of love and loyalty, trickery and despair, the ultimate message of the novel is one of hope and the courage to survive even the worst odds."

My Two Cents:

You all know that I love historical fiction. I haven't read very many fiction books about the Great Depression (in fact, the last one I can remember is Grapes of Wrath actually). With everything going on with the economy right now, I've definitely been interested in reading more about the Great Depression, which was really the last time that the economy had been in such a bad state. So Dinner With Lisa came at a good time for me. Sometimes books find you at just the right time, no?

This book isn't exactly happy but it's hopeful. Joseph is definitely a character that you will feel yourself pulling for throughout the book. After the death of his wife, he goes to live in a small Canadian town with his four young children. In those days, fathers were not seen as being able to take good care of children and a lot of people wonder why Joseph didn't let a female relative raise the kids. Joseph is determined to keep his family together. He finds jobs where he can and tries to make ends meet. You definitely have to admire that. He's a good guy and I really found myself feeling bad about his situation. You'll find yourself cheering for him all the way.

I also really liked the setting. Philibuster is an interesting little town. I really liked seeing how the Great Depression affected people in small towns and outside of the United States. Some coped better than others.

Everyone knows everyone in Philibuster. And everyone seems to not always be as they seem. I loved putting together the different pieces to figure out what was really going on with each character. The character that I liked figuring out best was Joseph's sister-in-law, Tilda. At first, she seemed really sweet. She opens her house to Joseph and his family. She takes care of the children lovingly. And then, on the other hand, she has designs on breaking up the family. The juxtaposition is fascinating.

Bottom line: This is a great historical fiction with a lot of warmth!

Don't Forget to Follow the Rest of the Tour:

So Many Precious Books Feb. 28 Giveaway
Mrs. Q Book Addict Mar. 1 Review
Darlene’s Book Nook  Mar. 2 Guest Post & Giveaway
Ink Spots and Roses Mar. 6 Interview & Giveaway
Ink Spots and Roses Mar. 7 Review
WV Stitcher  Mar. 8 Review
WV Stitcher
Mar. 9 Guest Post 
Lit and Life Mar. 9 Review
Moonlight Gleam’s Bookshelf Mar. 12 Review
Moonlight Gleam’s Bookshelf Mar. 13 Guest Post
Book Spark
Mar. 13 Review & Giveaway
A Casual Reader’s Blog  Mar. 14 Review
A Casual Reader’s Blog Mar. 15 Guest Post & Giveaway
My Devotional Thoughts Mar. 15  Review
So Many Precious Books Mar. 16   Review
Reflections of a Book Addict
Mar. 19
A Bookish Affair
Mar. 20 Review
A Bookish Affair
Mar. 21 Interview & Giveaway
All I Ever Read
Mar. 21 Review
This Miss Loves to Read
Mar. 22 Review
Peeking Between the Pages
Mar.23 Review & Giveaway
Let Them Read Books
Mar. 25 Review
The Wormhole
Mar. 26  Review & Giveaway
Library of Clean Reads
 Mar. 27  Review & Giveaway
Hardcover Feedback
Mar. 29 Review
Hardcover Feedback
Mar. 30 Interview & Giveaway
Col Reads
Mar. 30 Review

Monday, March 19, 2012

Review: Flidderbugs by Jonathan Gould

Title: Flidderbugs
Author: Jonathan Gould
Publisher: Self-published
Publish Date: August 30, 2011
Source: I received a copy from the author. This did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You like comedy.
  • You like political satire.
My Two Cents:

I really enjoyed this book. On the surface it's almost a children's story about warring bugs sharing one big tree and it certainly could be read like that. It's really a political satire and it's very reflective of what's currently going on in the political atmosphere right now. Disagreement, stagnation, and at times, chaos. This book was especially poignant considering the things going on in my country (the United States) like the party divide in Congress, which makes it impossible to get a lot done and the GOP primaries that are currently being carried out in a grueling manner all over the country.. I'm not sure if Gould based the story off of his own country's struggles but this book is broader than just one country.

There are two tribes of Flidderbugs who live in the same tree. Neither one can agree on basic things like how many points the leaves of their tree has (sounds a lot like Congress, no). Will the bugs ever figure out how silly their argument is.

I liked this story because in a fairly simplistic way, Gould is able to show us how crazy politics are and how much better things could be if we just try to get along and at least understand where each other are coming from.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

In My Mailbox (6): The NF Edition

 I got two books in the mail this week.

Don't forget to check out  the giveaways I have going on this week:

You could win a copy of The Descendants (book and movie!)! Giveaway ends March 30!

You could win a copy of Capturing the Silken Thief by Jeannie Lin! (A Part of Romance at Random's Luck O' the Irish Blog Hop. Also, you can win a gc from RaR). Giveaway ends March 31!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Luck O' The Irish Blog Hop

I'm very excited to participate in Romance at Random's Luck O' The Irish blog hop. Take a look at all the blogs listed on the blog hop home site here  to see the other sites participating.

What Romance at Random is giving away:

3 Random Winners will be chosen — to win a $20 Gift Card to shop Barnes & Noble!

Sign up to win with Rafflecopter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What I'm giving away:

One ebook copy of Capturing the Silken Thief (Look for my review this coming week).

The Fine Print:
- You must be 13 and over
- Open to anyone that can accept an ebook from
- You must be a follower of A Bookish Affair
- Giveaway ends March 31, 2012!!!  

Just fill out the form below. 

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