Monday, April 30, 2012

HF Virtual Tour: Author Interview with Rachael Pruitt

Today I'm excited to have Rachael Pruitt, author of The Dragon's Harp, here at A Bookish Affair for an interview.

Thank you very much for inviting me to your wonderful blog, Meg, and for your fantastic review of
DRAGON’S HARP! It’s a pleasure to be here.

1.The Dragon's Harp is the first book in a five book series. Can you tell anything about what to expect about the future books?

“ERA OF DRAGONS” second book, THE DRAGON’S BREATH, will continue Gwen’s coming of age and the final “face-off” with Ula & Eithnie. The relationship between Gwen & Lleu will deepen —but he is promised elsewhere & there is great danger for them both. Merlin also plays a big role in BREATH. And we do meet Arthur, but in a very unusual way. The following three novels will follow Gwen’s life as a young Queen and as a Priestess & develop her relationship with magic & the kingdom of the Faery. Her romance with Lleu & her later relationships with Arthur & Medrault will all be important—but not “all there is” to her character. And don’t worry, readers, Merlin will be by Gwen’s side throughout the series—and have several romances & tragedies all his own!

2. Why do you think Arthurian legend is still so appealing to readers today?

That’s a great question, Meg, & I’m sure there are as many answers to it as there are Arthurian fans
My own “take” is that the Arthurian legend is a magnet for everything we humans love in a great
story: believable & charismatic characters, epic heart-stopping romance, plenty of action, betrayal, and courage. At the same time, Arthurian characters reflect the type of tragedy we too often see in “real life”, in which fine good people experience great loss. Thus, Arthur’s legacy offers us catharsis as well— mixed with Merlin & Morgana’s magic. I’m sure this potent & unique recipe will continue to enchant new generations a thousand years from now!

3. The Arthurian legend has been tackled by many different authors in many different ways. How did you breathe new life into The Dragon's Harp?

I believe the Arthurian legend is very much like a big “sandbox” to which hundreds of writers bring their creative “toys”--and everyone contributes something new to the whole. This began, no doubt, with the original unnamed British bard who first told the story of a great war-leader who saved his people from conquest. The story has grown & enthralled readers & listeners ever since!

I’ve read many, many versions of the Arthurian legend—and am always on the look-out for fresh
interpretations. Yet, I had never heard or read of any author taking quite my “slant” to the well-known
characters of Gwenhwyfar (Welsh spelling of Guinevere), Merlin, & Vortigern. I promise to continue this fresh interpretation in future volumes in the series. When we advertise my “Era Of Dragons” series as “Arthurian Historical Fantasy for the 21st Century”, we are suggesting that my blend of historical & mythic research and my commitment to creating characters that resonate with readers today is fresh and believable—yet filled with Celtic fantasy as well. When I started to write DRAGON’S HARP, my goal was to offer readers a unique Arthurian series-- books that I, an avid fan of the genre, would like to read! I am thrilled to see readers responding so enthusiastically!

4. What was your research process like for this book?

Fortunately, I am an ancient history & folklore buff to begin with, because, even with that “leg-up” on the process, the research for “HARP” took me several years! Even though I knew I would be introducing fantasy elements to my story, Meg, I wanted to make sure that I was as historically accurate as possible—so researching was a fascinating challenge.

Very little is documented about the early Dark (or Middle) Ages in northern Wales, so, in addition to
books such as Wendy Davies’ excellent, WALES IN THE EARLY MIDDLE AGES, I consulted archeological records, and books about the ancient Celts & Romans, as well as sources about Celtic mythology, religion (including early Celtic Christianity), & the fascinating Druids. I also considered information about the mythology & “life-ways” of other indigenous cultures to be somewhat relevant as I “built” Gwen’s world. Bottom line: I used all these elements to create as accurate a mythic & cultural setting as possible for Gwen, Merlin, & their family. If I have one qualifier it would be that, my world-building tends to favor the more ancient, more mythic Celtic realm & is not as reflective of the emerging Medieval culture Arthurian authors often use.

I’d be happy to share my “Author Notes” (which appear at the end of DRAGON’S HARP) if any readers are interested in more specific info about my research process & some interesting tidbits I unearthed

5. What 3 fictional/historical characters would you want with you on the deserted island?

I have to chuckle: I would love to visit with my own Merlin, Gwen, & either Gwen’s Grandmother,
Rhiannon or Gwen’s first love, Lleu

Beyond my own novel, I would enjoy spending “deserted island time” with:

1) Eleanor of Aquitaine (to me, Eleanor is one of the most fascinating women of all time—I’d love to get some pointers!)

2) Sir Walter Raleigh (although Raleigh had his “dark side”, especially in regards to his treatment of the Irish, he remains one of the most fascinating historical men I know of—the embodiment of chutzpah. Plus, with his ingenuity, I’m sure we’d get off the island in no time!)

3) Black Elk of the Sioux Nation (one of the most inspirational wisdom-keepers I have ever read)

Thank you again, Meg, for a wonderful experience visiting your blog! I wish you every enchantment.

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

Wednesday, March 7th
Author Guest Post at The Owl Bookmark Blog

Monday, March 12th
Review at The Book Garden
Wednesday, March 14th
Author Guest Post at The Musings of a Book Junkie
Friday, March 16th
Review at Booksessed
Tuesday, March 20th
Wednesday, March 21st
Author Interview at Booksessed

Thursday, March 22nd
Review at The Musings of a Book Junkie
Friday, March 23rd
Monday, March 26th
Thursday, March 29th
Author Guest Post & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Monday, April 2nd
Review at To Read or Not to Read

Tuesday, April 3rd
Author Interview at The Bookworm
Wednesday, April 4th
Review at vvb32 Reads

Friday, April 6th
Author Guest Post at To Read or Not to Read

Wednesday, April 11th
Review at Unabridged Chick
Review at Book Girl of Mur-Y-Castell

Thursday, April 12th

Friday, April 13th
Author Interview at The True Book Addict

Monday, April 16th

Wednesday, April 18th
Review at A Novel Affair
Author Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick

Monday, April 23rd
Review at Always a Booklover

Wednesday, April 25th
Review & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Friday, April 27th
Author Interview at Always a Booklover

Monday, April 30th
Author Interview at A Bookish Affair

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday Post and Mailbox Monday: The Spoiled Edition

Sunday Post is a new meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Mailbox Monday is a gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week and explore great book blogs. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.  It's being hosted by Cindy's Love of Books this month.

Okay, guys, I'm trying out two new memes to show you what I got in my mailbox this week. I don't know where I'll eventually land so bear with me! This week was a very, very good week for me!

This one was signed!

This one was signed. Woot!

Thank you to all of the authors, publishers, publicists and book tours!!!

And also, I won one book this week from the lovely Lucy of Enchanted by Josephine (signed and everything):

So yes, a huge week for me. What did you get in your mailbox?

Review: Barefoot Girls by Tara McTiernan

Title: Barefoot Girls
Author: Tara McTiernan
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Bramblevine Press
Publish Date: February 11, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the author. This did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You're a fiction fan.
  • You like stories about friendship.
  • You like stories about mother- daughter relationships.
What's the Story?:

From "When her hometown newspaper reviews Hannah O’Brien’s newly released novel, the nature of her book is called into question when the reviewer suggests it is a memoir depicting her neglectful alcoholic mother – Keeley O’Brien Cohen, the most beloved of the Barefoot Girls - a little too accurately for fiction, citing rumors rather than sources.

Deeply hurt and betrayed, Keeley cuts Hannah out of her life. Desperate, Hannah does everything she can to apologize and explain, but her pleas fall on deaf ears. Meanwhile, the rest of Hannah’s life starts to unravel, pushing her to risk her engagement to Daniel, the one man who had been able to scale the high walls around her heart. At the eleventh hour, the Barefoot Girls are able to convince Keeley to send Hannah the keys to the Barefooter house, the home and heart of their friendship. Barred from their clubhouse since she was twelve, Hannah grabs the chance to visit the little shack filled with memories and perched at the tip of Captain’s Island in the Great South Bay on Long Island, New York.

As Hannah battles to come to terms with her equally blessed and troubled childhood and understand her mother and her sister-close friends, she’s confronted with the power of forgiveness and the dangers of holding on to the past."

My Two Cents:

There are several story lines in this story but the one at the focus of the book is the relationship between Hannah and her mother, Keeley. Hannah writes a story that becomes a minor bestseller and Keeley is devastated because she is upset for Hannah either using or being inspired by (something that is never totally clear throughout the book) the story of her childhood.  I can understand why Keeley would be upset. As I said, the inspiration or using of the story is never totally clear. We only see one specific instance of Keeley leaving a young Hannah all by herself to go off to see her parents. Everything else we know about Hannah and Keeley's relationship is hearsay throughout the book. 

The writing is what kept me going through the book. McTiernan makes you really care about the characters even when they seem to be making your own trouble for yourself, which Hannah does a lot throughout the book (clue: don't use thinly veiled family secrets in your book when said family is still alive, don't dig your hole deeper by asking if your next book can be about the family member that you offended's intimate friendships, and don't push your wonderful fiance away when you really need someone in your corner). Anyhow, you can see that I didn't care for a lot of the life choices that Hannah makes. In a lot of ways, she's sort of immature, which could account for the choices that she makes. 

I felt like the book could have focused a little bit more about the matter referred to in the synopsis. Some of the other story lines such as the part about Keeley in her new life as a pseudo-socialite in NYC. I wasn't sure how this really added to the story. I would have liked more focus on building the story of what happened between Hannah and her mother. I would have also liked to know more about what became of Hannah's next book. 

Another story line in the book had to do with Rose, sort of the mean girl of the Barefoot Girls' childhood. I kind of wish we would have learned a little bit more about why she sort of went crazy because the vignettes from the Barefoot Girls' childhood doesn't really show anything alluding to her future craziness. It's really unfortunate that her husband never got her help before things ended the way that they did. 

Bottom line: This book has great writing that shines through.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Book Blogger Hop: BEA

The Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jen at Crazy for Books. I used to participate in it all the time so I'm glad it's been revived!

This week's question: Are you attending the Book Blogger Convention (aka Bea Bloggers) and/or Book Expo America in New York City in June? If not, will you participate in the online event called Armchair BEA?

I will not be attending BEA as I will be going away for a long, long weekend right during that time period with some good girlfriends (Girls' Weekend wins always). We've had the weekend planned for longer than I've known about the dates for BEA. I'm hoping that I will get to participate in Armchair BEA. Perhaps I'll participate in a volunteer!

Are you going to BEA or participating in Armchair BEA? Join in!

Giveaway Announcement:

Don't forget about the great giveaways going on here at ABA:

You could win a copy of Oxford Messed Up by Andrea Kayne Kaufmann! Giveaway ends 4/29!

You could win a copy of In Other Worlds by Margaret Atwood and Dead Asleep by Jennifer B. White! Giveaway ends 4/30!

You could win an ebook copy of The Dragon's Harp by Rachael Pruitt! Giveaway ends 5/14!

You could win an ebook copy of The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington! Giveaway ends 5/14!

Saturday Thoughts

Oh wow, I woke up this morning to a comment from Dana of Let's Book It that I had been featured on her blog as blog of the week! Guys, I'm blushing. This is so cool and I'm incredibly touched. Click to see what she had to say.

This is slightly related but different, I haven't said anything on the subject but if you've been paying attention to the book blogosphere earlier this week, you know that there's been a lot of drama (plagiarism is just bad; don't do it!). What should have been a discussion on how we as both readers and bloggers should really be aware about the issues at hand, devolved into an ugly cut down instead of being an important discourse on plagiarism and intellectual property. In light of that, I think it's so nice to still see people being kind to each other. We really are a community! We can have good, fruitful discussions with each other without turning into members of Congress (I live in DC, I know what that looks like and it ain't pretty)!

Photo Credit

Review: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

Title: Pandemonium
Author: Lauren Oliver
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publish Date: February 28, 2012
Source: Library

Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You're a series junkie (You really need to read Delirium first).
  • You're a young adult fiction fan.
  • You're a dystopian fan.
What's the Story?:

From "I'm pushing aside the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana and my old school,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame."

My Two Cents:

The first thing you should know going into this book is that you must read Delirium first and that it is much better to have recently read Delirium. This book is definitely for the series junkies. Pandemonium picks up where Delirium left off. It took me a little bit to get back into the swing of things and although I didn't feel too lost to finish the book and really enjoy it, I do wish that I had re-read Delirium recently. Oh well, now I know that I need to re-read both Delirium and Pandemonium before I tackle the third book whenever it comes out.

Anyhow, this book covers two times in Lena's life. One in the Wilds (which is the part that I liked more) and one when she is back in civilization. The two times are denoted as then and now. I wish that we would have had a little bit more insight into how far apart the two times were but there isn't a good indication until they converge. It was a little bit confusing.

I really liked the description of the Wilds and how the people there formed their own society. While I don't feel like we learn much about what makes Lena tick in this book, we are introduced to some cool characters. I especially liked Raven. She's tough and knows how to get everyone to do their assigned jobs, which is necessary to make sure that their society continues to run the way that it was supposed to run.

Fans of the first book in this trilogy, Delirium, will really like this book. I think that personally I liked Delirium a little bit better than Pandemonium. Pandemonium is good but it sort of feels like a bridge between Delirium and the last book in the trilogy. What I did like is that there is a good cliffhanger at the end and while usually I don't like cliffhangers, this was a really good one that ignited my excitement for the third book!  


Friday, April 27, 2012

Author Interview: Jennifer Handford, Author of Daughters for a Time

Today I'm very excited to welcome Jennifer Handford, author of Daughters for a Time to A Bookish Affair.

1. Congratulations on being one of the winners of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award! Could you tell us a little bit about the award? What's been the most exciting thing about winning?

I had been working on my novel for a few years when I stumbled upon the contest information. It
was September and the contest started the following January. It was the perfect incentive for me to
finish my manuscript. In January, I—along with 5000 other aspiring writers—submitted my work to
the contest. The next month I found out that I had made the cut down to 1000. From there, each month brought another list: 250, then 50. The following month I received a phone call from the VP of
Amazon, informing me that I had made the finals and that I and my two other finalists would be flown
out to Seattle for the weekend. It was an incredible experience to be honored in such a way. The best
part of the award has been the recognition that my work has merit. Writing is such a solitary business.
Years went by and I wondered whether it was any good. So to be recognized definitely boosted my

2. How did you get the idea for writing "Daughters for a Time?"

Originally I had the idea to write a novel about three sisters, in third person, alternating chapters. But
after drafting that version it became clear that my strongest sister was Helen and it was suggested to me that I should write the book in first person from Helen’s point of view. I did just that, and while I was at it, re-crafted the story around two sisters instead of three. In terms of plot, I started with what I knew: infertility and adoption. Having gone through each of those experiences it seemed natural for me to weave them into my plot line. As the story developed, I got to know Helen even better. At her core, she was a lonely girl. Her mother had died and her father had left and now she was trying to build a family of her own and at it she was failing. Her longing for the things she wanted but couldn’t have gave me the idea to introduce the Larry character, her father with whom she desperately wanted to reconcile.

3. What's the one book that you find yourself recommending to everyone?

My favorite authors are Ann Tyler, Sue Miller, and Wally Lamb. I re-read their work all of the time, so I wouldn’t hesitate recommending their brilliant books to anyone! The last three books on my Kindle were: East of Eden (Steinbeck), The Dovekeepers (Hoffman), and Faith (Haigh), so kind of a diverse list. Some books that always come to mind as good reads are The Weight of Silence, Water for Elephants, and The Art of Racing in the Rain. And of course, most recently I have enjoyed The Hunger Games.

4. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

I know that the best writers say that they approach writing like a job: they sit down at their computer
each day and work for X amount of hours. While I believe that that is an effective method, I also believe that most people aren’t able to carve out that time. Most people are busy raising children and going to work and tending to everyday life. Most of my writing is done in the midst of the everyday craziness: kids, work, and school. But I can honestly say that I have more ideas “come to me” while I’m washing dishes or monitoring homework or putting kids to bed, than I do in the solace of a quiet house. So I guess my advice is to “just do it,” whatever your circumstance may be.

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

When I brought up this question at the dinner table, my ten year old daughter—a voracious reader and member of her school’s book team—quickly responded: Molly from Peter and the Starcatchers because she knows how to communicate with porpoises, The Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz because he is smart and clever all along, and Percy Jackson because he’s a demigod and his father is Poseidon. Her rationale: interesting company AND they would be able to get you off the island. Try as I might, I don’t think I could come up with a better list!

Thanks, Jennifer! I'm a huge Wally Lamb fan too!

LR Blog Tour and Give@way: The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington

Title: The Magnificent Ambersons
Author: Booth Tarkington
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Legacy Romance
Publish Date: First published in 1918 (LR's version was published in 2012)
Source: Legacy Romance

Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You want to dip your toe into classics.
  • You love really, really horribly behaving characters.
What's the Story?:

Synopsis from LR: " 'At the age of nine, George Amberson Minafer, the Major's one grandchild, was a princely terror...'

Georgie Amberson Minafer, the spoiled only grandchild of a wealthy Midwest family, is alternately loathed and revered by nearly everyone in town. His beautiful face and privileged upbringing create an image that is difficult for people to resist, particularly people who are used to watching everything the Amberson family says and does. When Lucy Morgan arrives in town and enters the story, she too is captured by the magnificence of the Amberson family, and particularly by Georgie. But little do Georgie and Lucy know that their parents were also once in love.

Isabel Amberson, Georgie's mother, was the most sought-after girl in town. Eugene Morgan, Lucy's father, was the only young man who could capture Isabel's heart. Through a youthful misunderstanding the star-crossed lovers were parted, only to be reunited years later, now with children of their own. Will Eugene and Isabel be able to finish their love story with a happy ending? Or will Georgie, used to being worshipped by his mother, be unable to accept that his mother is a woman who may need some completion outside of serving her one and only adored son?"

My Two Cents:

Way back in 1918, this book won a Pulitzer prize. It's also very often placed on lists of classics to read. After reading this book, I can see why! The Magnificent Ambersons is one of those books that can definitely be enjoyed no matter when you're reading it. Although it's apparent that George's world is a lot different than our world today, there are several universal themes in the books that transfer through time rather well.

At some point in your life, you've probably come across someone like George Amberson Minafer. They are spoiled to the core. They get everything they want. Their family adores them and gives them all that they have even though their behavior is absolutely ridiculous. They take everything for granted. They just make you absolutely infuriated and have you wondering if there is any justice, any justice at all in the world. You wait in anticipation for the day when something happens to turn it all around. All you want to do is see them get what they deserve. Maybe you don't necessarily want them harmed but you want something to happen to get them to take it down a notch (or two or six). There are unfortunately people like that out in the world and so I think that we can identify with those feelings at some point in our lifetimes. I hated George throughout the entire book almost (and sometimes you just need a character to hate!).

All this being said, even though George is a completely terrible individual who lacks any inkling of manners, kindness, or niceness, Tarkington is able to turn it all around at the end (but you'll have to just read to see how he does it). Which brings us to another universal theme, we all are just humans. Nothing more, nothing less.

And then there's Lucy. Lucy is a really fantastic character. She is the total antithesis of horrible George. I loved having that comparison between the two characters. Even though Lucy is very nice and George is so horrible, Lucy can still be very nice to George.

For those of you who, like me, are looking to get more 'classics' in their literary diet, this is a great book to try. I think its always easier to read the classics when they have universal themes that aren't subject to change with time. We can always find a little bit of ourselves in these sorts of books, which makes the reading of them all the more pleasurable!

Bottom line: This is a great book of character study!



Thursday, April 26, 2012

Booking Through Thursday: Changes

Today, Booking Through Thursday asks two similar questions:

Has a book ever inspired you to change anything in your life, fiction or non-fiction alike?
Lindsay asks:
There have been books I loved, books that I fell in love with, and books that changed my life, and they’re not always the same nor mutually exclusive.

To the first question, I can't remember a book that changed me consciously but unconsciously, yes, books have the ability to change us. We are totally molded by what we read. I'm not sure that you can read a book that you really enjoy and not be touched in some way. The way that we are touched shapes our thoughts and feelings whether or not we really realize it.

To the second question, there are a lot of books out there that I really loved but weren't life changing. Those that changed my life, I did love though. One of the things that I love most about reading is that it opens you up to all sorts of new thoughts and ideas. You think about things that you've never thought of before. You consider things that would have never entered your mind otherwise. It's pretty awesome!

What say you? Don't forget to check out everyone else's answers here!

Review: Daughters for a Time by Jennifer Handford

Title: Daughters for a Time
Author: Jennifer Handford
Format: ARC
Publisher: Amazon Publishing
Publish Date: April 24, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the PR. This did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You're a fiction fan.
  • You don't mind reading about tough subjects.
What's the Story?:

From "Feelings of abandonment fill Helen Francis at a too-young age when her mother dies and her father walks out. Left in the care of her older sister, Claire, she moves on but never truly heals. Now thirty-five and married, Helen is desperate to start a family of her own. After four unsuccessful years of trying to become pregnant, Helen accepts the idea of adoption.

When her baby is finally in her arms, Helen experiences true exaltation. But she is quickly blindsided with the worst possible news: Claire has cancer. Helen's wounds are again torn open as she balances the bliss of a new daughter with the grief of a dying sister."

My Two Cents:

Daughters for a Time is a family story of how our families are not always blood related but they are our families all the same. It's a story about how not all families are alike but they can still come together when needed. Sometimes family is all you have to get through the really, really tough times and it can be difficult to figure that out.I was very interested in this book because it tackled the idea and the decision to adopt. I personally think that adoption is really cool. There are so many children out there in the world that really could use a loving home. This book sort of gives an inside picture about what it might be like to adopt a child. There's more story lines within the book but the main one does have to deal with adoption.

Helen and Tim try to get pregnant for several years before Helen eventually gives in to her husband's suggestion that they try to adopt a baby from China. I know that's a really difficult (and very personal) decision to make but Helen seems to drag her feet too much. I had a really hard time getting behind her feet dragging though. I wanted Helen to realize that it's about the love that you can give a child and not whether or not you actually carried the child in your womb. I had to keep reminding myself that there are people out there that do not agree with that sentiment and that it's okay that they don't see it the same way that I do. Helen eventually comes around to the idea and I ended up liking her character a lot by the end because she finally seemed to get that it is all about love and coming together to be a family.

This is a great book for people that don't mind a tough story and don't mind being a little sad through a book. I definitely don't mind this. In the case of Daughters for a Time, I felt that the sadness was definitely warranted, which is why I was totally okay with it. This story will definitely tug on your heartstrings a little bit.

Bottom line: Contemporary fiction readers who don't mind tough subjects will enjoy this book. 


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

HF Virtual Tour Stop and Give@way: The Dragon's Harp by Rachael Pruitt

Title: The Dragon's Harp
Author: Rachael Pruitt
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Dragon Harp Productions
Publish Date: February 8,  2012
Source: HF Virtual Tours

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You love historical fiction with a splash of fantasy.
  • You love a good legend.
What's the Story?:

From "Before Gwenhwyfar became Queen - before Arthur met Merlin - a tribal Welsh princess met a young Heatherlands Mage. Together, they will create a legend.

Inside a mist of beauty and brutality waits the Arthurian legend as you’ve never heard it before. Enter the world of THE DRAGON'S HARP, a realm of blood lust and vengeance, of spellbinding magic from the beginning of time. The realm of Princess Gwenhwyfar: a young girl torn between magic and desire, born with magical powers she can either wield to save her people from destruction - or deny to save her soul."

My Two Cents:

The Arthurian legend has gotten the literary treatment from a variety of authors throughout time. It's been told in many different ways and many different formats. King Arthur and his knights of the round table and even the stories of Guinivere (called Gwenhwyfar in Pruitt's treatment, a Welsh spelling), Arthur's great love, have been told in so many different ways and from so many different points of view that sometimes its hard to believe that the stories could be told in any different way. Even though this is so, The Dragon's Harp is a story that needed to be told and sheds new light on the Arthurian legend and is told from the point of view of Gwenhwyfar.

The Dragon's Harp is the first book in a planned 5 book series. The first book in this series covers Gwenhwyfar's young life from her childhood through her teen years. One thing that I really, really loved about this book is the magic factor. Gwen's world is not that glamorous and Pruitt stayed true to the sort of grittiness that medieval Wales held (there is one point that sort of creeped me out and turned my stomach). I liked the grittiness but I liked more that the magic sort of makes up for the grim lives that some are living during the time.

Gwen's world is full of real, tangible magic and dragons and all of these really fantastic things. I don't read a whole lot of fantasy but when I do, I love when an author is able to "normalize" the fantasy elements so they feel real to the world of the book. Pruitt passes that test with flying colors.

I also loved that this book was told from the point of view of Gwen herself. I think it made the story especially special. I loved hearing directly from the woman who has been the star of so many legends and tales throughout history. It's her voice that really makes me anxious to read the next books in this series.

Bottom line: A fabulous historical fantasy!


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

TLC Book Tours: The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani

Title: The Shoemaker's Wife
Author: Adriana Trigiani
Format: ARC
Publisher: Harper
Publish Date: April 3, 2012
Source: TLC Book Tours

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You are a historical fiction fan.
  • You love love stories.
  • You love immigrant stories.
What's the Story?:

From "The majestic and haunting beauty of the Italian Alps is the setting of the first meeting of Enza, a practical beauty, and Ciro, a strapping mountain boy, who meet as teenagers, despite growing up in villages just a few miles apart. At the turn of the last century, when Ciro catches the local priest in a scandal, he is banished from his village and sent to hide in America as an apprentice to a shoemaker in Little Italy. Without explanation, he leaves a bereft Enza behind. Soon, Enza's family faces disaster and she, too, is forced to go to America with her father to secure their future.

Unbeknownst to one another, they both build fledgling lives in America, Ciro masters shoemaking and Enza takes a factory job in Hoboken until fate intervenes and reunites them. But it is too late: Ciro has volunteered to serve in World War I and Enza, determined to forge a life without him, begins her impressive career as a seamstress at the Metropolitan Opera House that will sweep her into the glamorous salons of Manhattan and into the life of the international singing sensation, Enrico Caruso.

From the stately mansions of Carnegie Hill, to the cobblestone streets of Little Italy, over the perilous cliffs of northern Italy, to the white-capped lakes of northern Minnesota, these star-crossed lovers meet and separate, until, finally, the power of their love changes both of their lives forever."

My Two Cents:

First off, Adriana Trigiani is one of those authors that I have heard tons about. I've heard tons and tons of really good things about her but I haven't picked up any of her very successful books. After reading The Shoemaker's Wife, I don't know why I waited so long! What I do know is that I definitely want to read more by her in the future.

Ciro and Enza are the best kind of love story. There is, of course, true love. There is a time element. There is drama and there is a good ending to the whole thing. I spent a rainy afternoon with Ciro and Enza as I couldn't put down the book. You keep waiting for everything to fall together because you get the feeling that Ciro and Enza are absolutely meant to be together. The anticipation is absolutely palpable. I love when you get so into a love story within a book and you're pulling hard for the characters as if you actually knew them in real life. 

The story takes place in both Italy and England. Although my ancestry is not Italian, I had a couple ancestors come through Ellis Island during the same time that Ciro and Enza come to America. I've always been fascinated with immigrant stories, especially of the immigrants that came to the United States during the early 1900s. I loved seeing the things that both Ciro and Enza went through on their respective journeys to their new home. I also love that you get to see them both settling into their new lives.

I think its also worth pointing out how cool it is that the story of Ciro and Enza is a fictionalized tale of Trigiani's grandparents. I love that she was able to pull something so personal from her family stories and turn it into something really wonderful. 

Bottom line: This will not be the last time I read something by Adriana Trigiani. 

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

Monday, April 2nd: The Huffington Post
Tuesday, April 3rd: Book Journey
Wednesday, April 4th: Reading Lark
Thursday, April 5th: Life Is Short. Read Fast
Friday, April 6th: Amused By Books
Monday, April 9th: Literature and a Lens
Tuesday, April 10th: Book Dilettante
Wednesday, April 11th: Bibliosue
Thursday, April 12th: West Metro Mommy
Monday, April 16th: “That’s Swell!”
Tuesday, April 17th: Confessions of an Avid Reader
Wednesday, April 18th: Reviews by Lola
Monday, April 23rd: Peppermint PhD
Tuesday, April 24th: A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, April 25th: Knowing the Difference
Thursday, April 26th: Library of Clean Reads
Friday, April 27th: Books and Movies
Monday, April 30th: It’s a Crazy, Beautiful Life
Tuesday, May 1st: Walking With Nora
Wednesday, May 2nd: I’m Booking It
Thursday, May 3rd: The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader

Literary Locale: Turning the Page's Carpe Librum

I'm always on the look out for bookish events going on around the DC metro area so I was very excited when I happened upon Turning the Page's pop up book sale, which has been deemed Carpe Librum. Of course, the pop up book sale was going on in a spot in between the Metro and my gym. Every day for a week, I walked past Carpe Librum on the way to the gym. As much as I wanted to go in, I knew that I better get to the gym before the inspiration left. So I saved my trip until Friday and it was totally worth the wait.

Turning the Page's mission is "Turning the Page links D.C. public schools, families and our community so that, together, we can ensure D.C. students receive valuable educational resources and a high-quality public education." The Carpe Librum book sale goes to support this wonderful organization.

For you locals, the book sale is at 17th and L.

Mmm, books.

And here's what I got from the book sale. 

I really hope that any one that is planning to be in the DC area gets a chance to support Turning the Page. The book sale lasts until May 3!

Where is your Literary Locale this week?

Monday, April 23, 2012

HF Virtual Tours: The Sumerton Women by D.L. Bogden

Title: The Sumerton Women
Author: D.L. Bogden
Format: ARC
Publisher: Kensington
Publish Date: April 24, 2012
Source: HF Virtual Tours

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a historical fiction fan.
  • You like stories about complicated families.
What's the Story?:

From "Orphaned at age eight, Lady Cecily Burkhart becomes the ward of Harold Pierce, Earl of Sumerton. Lord Hal and his wife, Lady Grace, welcome sweet-natured Cecily as one of their own. With Brey, their young son, Cecily develops an easy friendship. But their daughter, Mirabella, is consumed by her religious vocation—and by her devotion to Father Alec Cahill, the family priest and tutor.

As Henry VIII’s obsession with Anne Boleyn leads to violent religious upheaval, Mirabella is robbed of her calling and the future Cecily dreamed of is ripped away in turn. Cecily struggles to hold together the fractured household while she and Father Alec grapple with a dangerous mutual attraction. Plagued with jealousy, Mirabella unleashes a tumultuous chain of events that threatens to destroy everyone around her, even as the kingdom is torn apart…"

My Two Cents:

At its core, this story is really about family. What makes a family and how we interact with those in our family. Cecily is lucky enough to be taken in as a ward of Lord Hal and Lady Grace. She is put in a very good position where she may not have been if she was still with her own family. The fate of Cecily becomes inextricably linked with Hal and Grace's family even though they are not her blood family. Even though the book is told from a third person point of view, I thought it was sort of interesting to see how wardship sort of worked. It seems so many times, there is such a big focus on blood and blood relations that it was interesting to see that things didn't always happen that way. This is the first book that talked about wardship that I can remember reading!

While this book takes place during the Tudor era, there isn't much of the Tudors in the book. Princess Mary appears in the book and the events surrounding Henry VIII are discussed but no one appears in the book besides Princess Mary. This isn't a criticism but for someone looking for another tale of the Tudor court,  you aren't going to find it here. All of the different changes that were occurring in society definitely are present in the book. Reformation plays a huge role in this book. 

The family story is really the star of this book. It's the alliances they make, the secrets they keep, and the decision they choose. I do wish that I knew more about Mirabella's decisions and why she decided to do things the way that she did. She doesn't seem to think anything through!!!

Bottom line: historical fiction lovers will love this new take on such an infamous era in English history. 

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

Monday, April 16th
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading

Tuesday, April 17th
Review at Always with a Book

Wednesday, April 18th
Author Interview & Giveaway at The Maiden's Court

Friday, April 20th
Review & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick

Monday, April 23rd
Review at A Bookish Affair

Tuesday, April 24th
Author Interview & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, April 25th

Thursday, April 26th
Author Interview & Giveaway at History Undressed

Monday, April 30th
Review & Giveaway at Bippity Boppity Book

Tuesday, May 1st
Review at A Novel Affair

Wednesday, May 2nd
Review & Giveaway at CelticLady's Reviews

Thursday, May 3rd
Review & Giveaway at The Muse in the Fog Book Reviews

Friday, May 4th
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Monday, May 7th
Author Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Friday, May 11th
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict

Sunday, April 22, 2012

We Bought a Zoo and Blogiversary Week #1 W!nners

The Winner of the We Bought a Zoo prize pack:

The Winner of 33 Days and The Hypnotist:

The winners have been notified by email. They have 72 hours to reply or I will have to choose new winners.

Review: Bending the Boyne by J.S. Dunn

Title: Bending the Boyne
Author: J.S. Dunn
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Seriously Good Books
Publish Date: March 17, 2011
Source: I received a copy from the publisher. This did not affect my review.

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

From "2200 BCE: Marauders invade ancient Eire seeking copper and gold. The astronomer Boann and the enigmatic Cian must use all their wits and courage to save their people, the peaceful starwatchers, from the invaders' long bronze knives and scavenging ways. Tensions between new and old cultures and between Boann, Elcmar, and her son Aengus, ultimately explode. What emerges from the rubble of battle is a fresh take on Ireland's oldest legends.

BENDING THE BOYNE draws on 21st century archaeology to show the lasting impact when early metal mining and trade take hold along north Atlantic coasts. Carved megaliths and stunning gold artifacts, from the Pyrenees up to the Boyne, come to life in this researched historical fiction."

My Two Cents:

I thoroughly enjoyed Bending the Boyne. It takes place in Ireland in 2200 BCE and follows the story of two "tribes." This is the first time that I've ever read anything about this time period in Ireland. I love when a book can take me someplace that I've never been before. I've been trying to read more about ancient history because I just don't feel like I read enough about times prior to about the 1300s or 1400s, which is pretty recent in the whole scheme of things.

I loved how much research the author must have done into this subject matter. In the book blurb, it states that the book covers a lot of things that were learned from the archaeology of where Boann, the main character, and the other members of the Starwatcher tribe once lived. Because there was such a focus on place and so much research on what life was like then, the writing is really realistic. You really feel like you are living through the things that both tribes are feeling and going through. I also really enjoyed reading the Author's Note. I'm always super interested in how authors, especially those that write historical fiction, make their stories genuine and realistic. Dunn does a really fabulous job of pulling the reader into a very interesting story about the people of Ancient Ireland.

Bottom line: Historical fiction lovers who love good detail will love this one.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Review: An Uncertain Age by Ulrica Hume

Title: An Uncertain Age
Author: Ulrica Hume
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Blue Circle Press
Publish Date: September 6, 2011
Source: I received a copy from the publisher. This did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You're a fiction fan.
  • You're a philosophy fan.
  • You know it's not the destination, it's the journey.
What's the Story?:

From "Where was my real soul mate, I wanted to know, and why were there no twitchy children on my lap, and how had I been so dumb to believe that beauty’s currency would never run out? So, Paris….

Justine’s life is uncertain when she meets Miles Peabody on the Eurostar. She has lost her job, her fiancĂ©, everything except her dream of becoming an artist.

Miles Peabody, a retired librarian and beekeeper, has always led a cautious, philosophical life. Now, faced with his mortality, he needs a miracle.

Drawn inexplicably to each other, their relationship is tested when Miles invites Justine to join him on a Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage. But before she can answer, Miles goes missing. Desperate to find him, and nudged by the French police, Justine slips into a dark night of the soul.

An Uncertain Age by Ulrica Hume is a quirky, interfaith novel about astonishing grace, and longing in all its forms."

My Two Cents:

It's almost as if the stars draw Justine, an American woman who is seeking to have a more settled life, and Miles, an English man who seems to be obsessed with some of life's mysteries. They meet on the Eurostar and both of their lives change. Justine takes up residence in Miles' house in England and Miles is now missing. 

Miles is obsessed with the story of Peter Abelard, someone that I was not familiar at all with. Abelard was a French scholar and philosopher that lived during medieval times (the 12 century specifically). Knowing what Abelard is about is key to understanding this book. Miles is especially focused on Abelard's relationship with Heloise, a young student who was known for her knowledge of languages. Heloise's uncle and caretaker eventually decided he had an issue with Heloise and Peter's relationship and castrated Peter and made Heloise go to the convent. 

Abelard had the idea of Limbo, which was accepted by the Pope. In a way, Miles and Justine are both sort of in limbo. Miles especially is in limbo when he's missing and is on his own sort of spiritual and religious journey much like Abelard. Overtones of Abelard and Heloise's relationship are also definitely present between Miles and Justine.

The writing in this book is great. It kept me reading even when I was getting a little frustrated with the sort of background that is definitely important to know when reading this book. I think that those that really, really like philosophy and the idea of spirituality and where we find it in our own lives will get into this book. Full disclosure, I'm not a huge fan of philosophy and I definitely had to do a little research into some of the ideas throughout the book. It wasn't a deal breaker but it definitely took me out of the book a little bit. The writing really did keep me going!

Bottom line: This book may require some extra knowledge building but the writing is worth it.

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