Friday, March 29, 2013

Review: Chasing Jupiter by Rachel Coker

Title: Chasing Jupiter
Author: Rachel Coker
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Zondervan
Publish Date: December 26, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the PR; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a historical fiction fan.
What's the Story?:

From "Scarlett Blaine's life in 1960s Georgia isn't always easy, especially given her parents' financial struggles and the fights surrounding her sister Juli's hippie lifestyle. Then there's her brother, Cliff. While Scarlett loves him more than anything, there's no denying his unique behavior leaves Cliff misunderstood and left out. So when he wishes for a rocket to Jupiter, Scarlett agrees to make it happen, no matter how crazy the idea might be. Raising the rocket money means baking pies, and the farmer's son, Frank, agrees to provide the peaches if Scarlett will help him talk to Juli. The problem is, Scarlett really enjoys her time with Frank, and finds herself wondering if, someday, they could be more than friends. Just as she thinks everything might be going her way, Cliff suffers an accident that not only affects the rocket plans, but shakes Scarlett's view of God. As the summer comes to an end, Scarlett must find a way to regain what she's lost, but also fulfill a promise to launch her brother's dream."

My Two Cents:

"Chasing Jupiter" is the story of Scarlett, who lives in 1960s Georgia. It is a coming of age story. She loves her little brother, Cliff, who is not fully understood in the world that he lives in (he is somewhere on the autism spectrum more than likely and no one really knows what's going on with him and therefore, he is not always treated well by others). You have to hand it to Scarlett; when Cliff decides that he wants a rocket, Scarlett believes that she can do something in order to make all of his dreams come true. Add to it that Scarlett's family seems to be falling apart at the seams due to Scarlett's older sister, Juli, being troubled and running away from home but the story really focuses more on the relationship between Cliff and Scarlett. I love stories about siblings and family relationships so from this aspect and I liked reading about the relationship between Scarlett and Cliff.

One very cool thing about this book is that the author is a high school student. Coker is a very promising writer. The writing is fairly strong although there were definitely some places where I wanted a little bit more detail in order to understand more about the motivation of various characters in the book. Some parts of the book could stand some editing.

This book is not billed as a Christian book but some of the characters, especially the preacher's young wife that Scarlett helps in the book get very preachy. I was not expecting this and the preachy-ness was just not really to my taste. Some of it really did not fit with the rest of the book and seemed a little bit outside the context of the rest of the book.


Literary Locale!

Literary Locale is a meme here at A Bookish Affair on Fridays where I talk about where I've been reading lately or any other bookish locations that I feel like talking about. Feel free to grab the logo and play along!

My fair city!
 If you know me at all, you probably know that I am very, very proud of being from the Washington, D.C. area. D.C. is such a cool city. If you visit the A Bookish Affair Facebook site, my cover picture is of my favorite D.C. park (Meridian Hill). I love wearing my D.C. Rollergirls t-shirt and I love just wandering around the city. There is so much more to this city than politics. The city has a really incredible history and I love reading about all aspects of this place!

So I was very, very excited to read this week about a new project called DC by the Book and its corresponding website. The idea of the project is to map all sorts of fiction books set in D.C. How cool is that? The website just opened this week so there isn't much on it yet but I have really high hopes for it. I'm thinking that I'm probably going be adding some more D.C. based books to my list and I cannot wait!

So, do you like reading about your city? Where are you reading this week?


Thursday, March 28, 2013

HF Virtual Book Tours Review and Giveaway: Flesh by Khanh Ha

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Title: Flesh
Author: Khanh Ha
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Black Heron
Publish Date: June 15, 2012
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours

Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You're a historical fiction fan.
  • You like really good writing.
  • You don't mind grit.
What's the Story?:

From "The setting is Tonkin (northern Vietnam) at the turn of the 20th century. A boy, Tai, witnesses the beheading of his father, a notorious bandit, and sets out to recover his head and then to find the man who betrayed his father to the authorities. On this quest, Tai’s entire world will shift. FLESH takes the reader into dark and delightful places in the human condition, places where allies are not always your friends, true love hurts, and your worst enemy may bring you the most comfort. In that emotionally harrowing world, Tai must learn to deal with new responsibilities in his life while at the same time acknowledging his bond, and his resemblance, to a man he barely knew--his father. Through this story of revenge is woven another story, one of love, but love purchased with the blood of murders Tai commits. A coming-of-age story, but also a love story, the sensuality of the author’s writing style belies the sometimes brutal world he depicts."

My Two Cents:

The topic of "Flesh" is a hard one to get through. Tai is young but he knows that needs to revenge his father's death even though he didn't ever really have a chance to get to know him well. This guy has more courage packed into one person. I know that if I had been in his position, I would not have been nearly that brave.

Although I loved the historical setting of the book (more on that later), I was really gripped by Ha's writing in this book. Tai's story certainly has a lot of gravitas on it's own but Ha's writing makes the story really come to life. There are those books out there where after reading the first couple pages, you know you are going to fall very hard for the style of the writing. "Flesh" was very much that way for me. In a lot of places, the writing is beautiful and almost poetic! The subject matter may not sit well with everyone (some parts of the book are quite brutal and raw) but the writing turns this book into something really special.

Set in the late 1800s in Tonkin (which is now Vietnam), the setting and time period of this book will definitely appeal to historical fiction readers that prefer their book settings a little more off of the beaten path. We get to see what Tai's village is like as well as what some of the other villages are like. Ha's descriptions in the book are really great.

Bottom line: This is a great historical fiction with difficult subject matter but it's one that those who want good detail and good writing will enjoy!

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, March 25
Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, March 26
Review at Raging Blbliomania
Wednesday, March 27
Interview at Tribute Books
Thursday, March 28
Review & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Friday, March 29
Review at The Musings of a Book Junkie
Monday, April 1
Giveaway at A Writer’s Life: Working with the Muse
Tuesday, April 2
Review & Giveaway at Cheryl’s Book Nook
Wednesday, April 3
Review & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary
Thursday, April 4
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Friday, April 5
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict
Monday, April 8
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Tuesday, April 9
Interview at Bibliophilic Book Blog
Wednesday, April 10
Review at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Review & Giveaway at A Bookish Libraria
Thursday, April 11
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Friday, April 12
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Monday, April 15
Review at bookramblings
Tuesday, April 16
Review & Giveaway at The Eclectic Reader
Wednesday, April 17
Review at I Read a Book Once
Thursday, April 18
Review at Book Nerds Club


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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

TLC Books Review and Giveaway: The Paradise Guest House by Ellen Sussman

Title: The Paradise Guest House
Author: Ellen Sussman
Format: ARC
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publish Date: March 26, 2013
Source: TLC Book Tours

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

From "It starts as a trip to paradise. Sent on assignment to Bali, Jamie, an American adventure guide, imagines spending weeks exploring the island’s lush jungles and pristine white sand beaches. Yet three days after her arrival, she is caught in Bali’s infamous nightclub bombings, which irreparably change her life and leave her with many unanswered questions.

One year later, haunted by memories, Jamie returns to Bali seeking a sense of closure. Most of all, she hopes to find Gabe, the man who saved her from the attacks. She hasn’t been able to forget his kindness—or the spark between them as he helped her heal. Checking into a cozy guest house for her stay, Jamie meets the kindly owner, who is coping with a painful past of his own, and a young boy who improbably becomes crucial to her search. Jamie has never shied away from a challenge, but a second chance with Gabe presents her with the biggest dilemma of all: whether she’s ready to open her heart."

My Two Cents:

"The Paradise Guest House" takes place in the fairly recent past in 2002 and 2003 in Bali, Indonesia. The story follows Jamie, a once carefree woman who makes a living as a adventure guide writer, who had the misfortune of being in the nightclub bombing that happened in Bali in 2002. She's still trying to keep that carefree and adventurous spirit but it's so difficult for her in the aftermath of the bombing. She is still deeply haunted by all of the terrible things that she witnessed that night (and understandably so). All she wants to do is to be able to put together the pieces of what happened that terrible night, why she acted the way that she did, and why things happened that she happened. She's looking for comfort and closure from the bombing but also from Gabe, the American ex-pat who saved her life on that night.

The book started a little slowly for me. It takes a little while for us to figure out why Jamie is going back to Bali when such a terrible thing happened not all that long ago (the story opens in 2003, a mere year after the bombings took place). It took me a little while to get into the book also because it is written in the third person present, which is always a little jarring. I wasn't a fan of this. However, the book really picked up for me as we begin getting more information about Jamie and why she has returned and what the night of the bombing was like for her and Gabe. We get to see how they met. I wish we had gotten some more detail on how/ why they were attracted to each other and what happened between them.

The setting was really enjoyable for me to read about. I really love books that are set in exotic locations. Bali is most definitely exotic to me. Sussman makes you see what Bali is like and what the guest house and its inhabitants are like. You see the streets and markets alongside Jamie, which is very cool and definitely added a lot to the book for me.

Overall, this is a very touching story of trying to find closure even if it means confronting the scene of where something really horrible happened.

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Tuesday, March 26th:  Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, March 27th:  A Bookish Affair
Thursday, March 28th:  BookNAround
Monday, April 1st:  A Chick Who Reads
Tuesday, April 2nd:  Books in the City
Thursday, April 4th:  Linus’s Blanket
Monday, April 8th:  Suko’s Notebook
Wednesday, April 10th:  Mrs. Q Book Addict
Friday, April 12th:  A Novel Review
Monday, April 15th:  Amused by Books
Tuesday, April 16th:  Caribousmom


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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

HF Virtual Book Tours: Rocamora by Donald Michael Platt

Title: Rocamora
Author: Donald Michael Platt
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Raven's Wing Books
Publish Date: September 26, 2011
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a historical fiction fan.
  • You like interesting characters.
  • You don't mind gritty topics.
What's the Story?:

Synopsis: "Rocamora, a novel of 17th century Spain, is based on the life of Vicente de Rocamora, who struggles to make his place in a Spain obsessed with limpieza de sangre, purity of blood untainted by Jew, Moor, or recent convert.

Poet, swordsman, and master of disguise, at the insistence of his family, Vicente enters the Dominican Order and is soon thrust into the scheming political and clerical hierarchies that at Court.

Vicente becomes Confessor and Spiritual Director for King Philip IV’s teenage sister, the beautiful Infanta Doña María, five years younger than he, protégé and possible successor of Inquisitor General Sotomayor, and an invaluable assistant to the King’s chief minister, the Count-Duke de Olivares.

Vicente needs all his skills and cunning to survive assassination by a growing list of ruthless foes in both Church and Court, solve a centuries-old riddle to quell rumors of his own impurity of blood, and above all suppress his love for the seemingly unattainable María."

My Two Cents:

"Rocamora" is the story of Vicente de Rocamora whose early life was not all that great. The story takes place in 1600s Spain where the "limpieza de sangre" is the ultimate measure of a man and Inquisition is the order of the day. While I haven't read a whole lot that takes place during this time period in Spain, the subject is absolutely fascinating to me even though it was quite a brutal time.

I really enjoyed reading about Vicente. He's pretty much left to fend for himself and takes it upon himself to try to get his own brand of revenge for his family. By age 20, he's slowly working himself in the royal court of Spain by becoming a confessor to some of the lesser members of court. One thing that you can most definitely say about Vicente is that the guy certainly has a lot of gumption. I really enjoyed reading how he was able to elevate himself to a position of prestige. I wanted to know and understand a little bit more about his motivations as he is such a complicated character.

Just a word of warning, there are several parts of the book that get pretty gritty (some of the descriptions of what the Illuminati do especially). Some readers may not like this too much.

Platt's attention to detail makes this book a treat for the historical fiction reader who doesn't mind getting a little grubby (1600s Spain does not seem like it would be a particular fun plan to be). Platt does a great job of weaving good history with a compelling story! I will be reviewing the sequel of this book next week and am most definitely looking forward to sharing my thoughts on that book as well.

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, March 25
Review at A Book Geek (Rocamora)
Tuesday, March 26
Review at A Bookish Affair (Rocamora)
Review at Man of a Book (Rocamora)
Wednesday, March 27
Review at Flashlight Commentary (Rocamora)
Thursday, March 28
Review at Book Addict Katie (Rocamora)
Review at Words and Peace (House of Rocamora)
Friday, March 29
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews (Rocamora)
Monday, April 1
Review at Unabridged Chick (Rocamora)
Tuesday, April 2
Review at Rebel PuritAn (Rocamora)
Wednesday, April 3
Review at Book Dilettante (Rocamora)
Thursday, April 4
Review at A Bookish Affair (House of Rocamora)
Review at Flashlight Commentary (House of Rocamora)
Friday, April 5
Review at Book Dilettante (House of Rocamora)
Monday, April 8
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews (House of Rocamora)
Tuesday, April 9
Review at The Musings of a Book Junkie (Rocamora)
Wednesday, April 10
Review at Man of la Book (House of Rocamora)
Review at Unabridged Chick (House of Rocamora)
Thursday, April 11
Review at Turning the Pages (Rocamora)
Friday, April 12
Review at Broken Teepee (Rocamora)
Monday, April 15
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book! (Rocamora)
Tuesday, April 16
Review at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time (Rocamora)
Wednesday, April 17
Review at Layered Pages (Rocamora)
Thursday, April 18
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book! (House of Rocamora)
Friday, April 19
Review at Broken Teepee (House of Rocamora)
Review at Confessions of an Avid Reader (Rocamora)

Monday, March 25, 2013

HF Virtual Tours: The Bruges Tapestry by P. A. Staes

Title: The Bruges Tapestry
Author: P. A. Staes
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Self-published
Publish Date: August 29, 2012
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a historical fiction fan.
What's the Story?:

From "Following a 500-year-old mystery concerning a Flemish tapestry is routine work for Detective Claire DeMaere, since she's employed by the Newport Beach Art Theft Detail. But, unlike past cases, this one involves arresting Paolo Campezzi, lover to her best friend Nora. Mr. Campezzi is a distant descendant of a Florentine Duke, who commissioned the tapestry in 1520 in Bruges, Belgium. Claire finds that she must explore the true provenance of the tapestry, free Mr. Campezzi in order to re-establish her friendship with Nora and depend on the expertise of a textile expert she doesn't know. All this must occur in 72 hours, before the Vatican takes the tapestry back. But Claire isn't the only one with the Vatican looking over her shoulder. Claire's story intertwines with a 1520 diary by Beatrice van Hecke, the tapestry-weaver's daughter. Only Claire can discover the secret that is woven in time."

My Two Cents:

"The Bruges Tapestry" is a historical fiction story about a Flemish tapestry and its moves through history. The story is told from two points of view. Claire, who is a the Newport Beach art detective, is trying to put together the pieces of a mysterious tapestry that may have been stolen in the present day. Beatrice is a young teenager who is trying to defend her sister's honor and legacy while working in her father's tapestry workshop in the early 1500s.

I really liked that the story was told from the point of view of both Claire and Beatrice. You get to see both sides of the story. I really liked Beatrice because she seems quite courageous in the face of a situation that could very much get her into trouble. Claire's story was interesting as well but as with many books that have dueling stories in the past and the present, I really preferred the story that took place in the past.

I really did like this story but there were some places where I wish that there had been more detail, which would have given more weight to the story. We don't really get to find out much about Claire and Beatrice except what is immediately important to the action within the story. A lot of what we find out about Claire is tied to her best friend, Nora, who plays a key role in the mystery of the tapestry. I wanted to know who Claire was herself and you don't really get that. They are both really interesting characters. Staes makes you care about them even with the little bit of detail that we are given. The end of the book also came a little bit too quickly and I really wanted to know more about the way that the book ended.

Overall, I enjoyed this story. It's a fast paced book about an interesting historical mystery. I look forward to seeing what Staes comes up with in the future.

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, March 18
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, March 19
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Review & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, March 20
Review at Turning the Pages
Guest Post at Book Lovers Paradise
Thursday, March 21
Review & Giveaway at Kinx’s Book Nook
Friday, March 22
Review at A Book Geek
Monday, March 25
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, March 26
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Wednesday, March 27
Review at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Thursday, March 28
Review at The Book Garden
Interview at The Maiden’s Court
Friday, March 29
Guest Post & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Tuesday, April 2
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, April 3
Guest Post at A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, April 4
Review at Book of Secrets
Review & Giveaway at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Friday, April 5
Review at Broken Teepee

Review: Morrigan by Laura DeLuca

Title: Morrigan
Author: Laura DeLuca
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Pagan Writers Press
Publish Date: November 8, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book

  • You're a YA fiction fan.
  • You're a paranormal fiction fan.
  • You like character driven story.
What's the Story?:

From "Shuffled from place to place in the foster system, Morrigan doesn't know the meaning of home. Plus, she is different. She has power over fire, the ability to move objects with her mind, and glimpse into the future. Just when she believes her life can’t get any stranger, she discovers her true identity.

Filtiarn, a knight with a dark past and a surprising secret, has been tasked with guiding the heir of Tír na NÓg through countless perils to be returned to her family. Once Morrigan has been reunited with her mother and grandmother, their triad can save the forgotten land of magic from being devoured by an ancient evil."

My Two Cents:

"Morrigan" is a paranormal story about Morrigan, a girl that has some secret powers. Because she has been in the foster care system for so long and doesn't know her parents, she has absolutely no idea where the powers come from and what it means that she has these powers. The book begins after she realizes that she has these powers and follows her journey into another world to figure out who she is. There is so much in her life that is more than meets the eye.

I really enjoy following Morrigan's journey. She's a great character. You start out feeling pretty bad for her because her life has just been kind of terrible. Being bounced around to all sorts of foster homes does anything but provide a stable foundation. DeLuca does a really good job of creating Morrigan's world so that you actually feel what she's going through and see what she's seeing. Although this story is more character driven than anything else, I really appreciated the detail of the magical world of Tir Na Nog. One of the details that I really liked was Morrigan's cats really being guardians and protecting Morrigan both in the real world and in Tir Na Nog.

I really liked the story about Morrigan finding her family (I don't want to give too much away about that as its the main story arc in the book). I did want to know more about Morrigan's mother and grandmother.  I wanted to know more about their backgrounds and how they got to be the way that they were.

I really wish that there had been more detail about the building of the relationship between Morrigan and Filtiarn. They fall for each other very quickly and I wanted to understand more about the motive behind why they fell for each other.

Overall, this is a good story for those who want a little bit of an escape.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Giveaway Winners!

I have a couple giveaway winners to announce today!

Equal to the Sun:
Linda B.
Carrie D.

Maureen C.

Life of Pi Blu-Ray:
Stephen N.

Capital of the World:
Marjorie R.

Congratulations to everyone! All of the winners have been emailed.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Review: Viewer Discretion Advised by Cindy Roesel

Title: Viewer Discretion Advised
Author: Cindy Roesel
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Self-published
Publish Date: March 22, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a fiction fan.
  • You're a romance fan.
What's the Story?:

From "Viewer Discretion Advised features Charlene "Charley" Thomas - a smart, sassy, highly competitive thirtysomething television news executive producer. Charley's got maxed out credit cards and an office fridge stocked with vodka. Her boss, Jonathan Lefton, a.k.a "The Velvet Ax" is all about ratings, slash-and-burn newscasts - no matter who who gets hurt in the process. Charley is hell-bent on doing whatever it takes to impress Lefton. But will pleasing Lefton mean losing the man she loves? Filled with suspense, romance, and newsroom backbiting."

My Two Cents:

In "Viewer Discretion Advised," Charley moves to Miami to become the news director of a news station that she really wants to see succeed. This book has a lot going on for it. It's a fairly light read with some really interesting characters (I really liked the characters but I wish that we got to learn a little bit more about them but more about that later). There's a good bit of romance and even a little bit of a mystery. This book is great for when you want a light but interesting read.

I really liked Charley's character. She's smart and she is just trying to stay afloat in a new job where her best friend, who is also a news anchor for another station, has just gotten another DUI and is in danger of losing her job. Charley is trying to balance her love life and her work life, something that so many of us can probably identify with.

There are a lot of characters in the book where I wish we would have known more about the characters. Jimmy to me was an especially confusing character. I don't want to give too much away. He factors very heavily into one of the main arcs of the story and into the major conclusion but we don't know much about him except for what he supposedly did. Why is he interested in Charley? Why does he do what he did? Why does he think he can get away with it again with Lexi? How is he still on the police force? I think I would have cared a little bit more about what happened if I could have understood more about what he was about. I would have almost liked to see the Jimmy arc be more of the focus of the book so we could have learned more about him.

The writing in the book is pretty good. Roesel is quick-witted and sometimes funny in the book. For the most part, the writing moved the story along nicely but there were some parts where there was more telling than showing and other places where the writing could be a little slimmed down.

Overall, this was a fun book. I really liked the look at what it's like to work in a newsroom. I always thought that would be such a cool, high paced job! I could see this be a very good beach read come summer!

Literary Locale!

Literary Locale is a meme here at A Bookish Affair on Fridays where I talk about where I've been reading lately or any other bookish locations that I feel like talking about. Feel free to grab the logo and play along!

This week marks the second installment all about my trip to the Library Hotel.

This is the room that we stayed in at the hotel. We didn't pick it but it was very appropriate for us. My husband is an architect like the guys in the picture. The thing that I do in real life to support a voracious book habit has a lot to do with project management type things.

Every room has a book shelf filled with books pertaining to the room's theme. I wish I would have had more time to peruse the books!

While we didn't win the Look of Love contest, we got free prosecco just for entering the contest. Ooolala!

Here's the privacy hanger for the door. I seriously need to put on the door to my library!!!

And this is the pillow on the bed. I need this in my life!!!

The room was very comfortable. New York City hotel rooms are notoriously small and this one was no different. It did have really tall ceilings and big windows so the room felt much bigger. All of the little details were really fantastic! I am so ready to go back!!!

Where are you reading this week?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Review: Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

Title: Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
Author: Therese Anne Fowler
Format: ARC
Publisher: St. Martins
Publish Date: March 26, 2013
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a historical fiction fan.
  • You're interested in F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda.
  • You like memorable characters.
What's the Story?:

From "When beautiful, reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918, she is seventeen years old and he is a young army lieutenant stationed in Alabama. Before long, the “ungettable” Zelda has fallen for him despite his unsuitability: Scott isn’t wealthy or prominent or even a Southerner, and keeps insisting, absurdly, that his writing will bring him both fortune and fame. Her father is deeply unimpressed. But after Scott sells his first novel, This Side of Paradise, to Scribner’s, Zelda optimistically boards a train north, to marry him in the vestry of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and take the rest as it comes.

What comes, here at the dawn of the Jazz Age, is unimagined attention and success and celebrity that will make Scott and Zelda legends in their own time. Everyone wants to meet the dashing young author of the scandalous novel—and his witty, perhaps even more scandalous wife. Zelda bobs her hair, adopts daring new fashions, and revels in this wild new world. Each place they go becomes a playground: New York City, Long Island, Hollywood, Paris, and the French Riviera—where they join the endless party of the glamorous, sometimes doomed Lost Generation that includes Ernest Hemingway, Sara and Gerald Murphy, and Gertrude Stein.

Everything seems new and possible. Troubles, at first, seem to fade like morning mist. But not even Jay Gatsby’s parties go on forever. Who is Zelda, other than the wife of a famous—sometimes infamous—husband? How can she forge her own identity while fighting her demons and Scott’s, too? With brilliant insight and imagination, Therese Anne Fowler brings us Zelda’s irresistible story as she herself might have told it. "

My Two Cents:

I was so excited to get my hands on an ARC of this book. I screamed when I opened the envelope and succeeded in getting my husband to run into the room to see if I had been hurt. To say that this book was one of my most anticipated reads of 2013 would be an understatement. Let me just say that I was most definitely not disappointed. This is such a good book about someone that has often been maligned after her untimely death.

When I was in high school, I read a non-fiction book of love letters between Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Even though I don't recall the exact name of the book, I loved the book. I loved Scott and Zelda's love story. I even loved how absolutely complicated their love affair was. You could see that Scott and Zelda really loved each other but that their relationship was not really healthy for either of them. I think they were a fascinating couple so I was very excited to read this book. Told from Zelda's point of view, it quickly became clear how wild their relationship was. They were up and down and each seemed to feed on the others insecurities, fears, and emotions.

I loved that the book was told from the point of view of Zelda. It follows from Zelda and Scott first meeting in Zelda's hometown until the dismal end of their relationship. There is a lot of debate about whether Zelda made Scott's problems worse or if Scott made Zelda's issue worse. This book takes the stand that Scott essentially drove Zelda crazy. He had an incredible ego and seemed to get off on showing how much more successful he was than Zelda (fun fact: some of Zelda's stories were published under Scott's name and he had absolutely no problem taking credit). It's not hard to see why some of the issues she had (it's generally acknowledged that she had some sort of mental illness like bipolar disorder) were greatly magnified when Scott and Zelda were together. I loved Zelda's voice in this book. You really do feel bad for her. When the book opens, she seems like a really fun person; one that you would want to hang out with. You get to see all of Zelda's innermost thoughts and innermost dreams. Fowler truly brings her to life.

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald is an amazing portrait of an incredibly fascinating woman. Fowler really makes Zelda jump off of the pages! This book just about has it all. There's incredible detail and a really vivid picture of one of America's greatest literary couples and a great storyline behind it all.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Review: The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay

Title: The Map of Lost Memories
Author: Kim Fay
Format: Audiobook
Publisher: August 21, 2012
Publish Date: Ballantine
Source: Library

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

From "In 1925 the international treasure-hunting scene is a man’s world, and no one understands this better than Irene Blum, who is passed over for a coveted museum curatorship because she is a woman. Seeking to restore her reputation, she sets off from Seattle in search of a temple believed to house the lost history of Cambodia’s ancient Khmer civilization. But she soon discovers that her quest to make the greatest archaeological discovery of the century is also a quest for the secrets of her family's own past. And as she travels through Shanghai's lawless back streets and Saigon’s opium-filled lanes to reach the Cambodian jungle, she does not know who to trust. A drug-addled temple robber, Simone Merlin seems to take pleasure in complicating the expedition, while jaded nightclub owner Marc Rafferty reveals a troublesome childhood mysteriously entwined with Irene’s. Even her own mentor, a notorious collector of stolen art, becomes suspect when Irene uncovers his connection to her companions."

My Two Cents:

I listened to this audiobook and really enjoyed it. This book is a historical fiction that takes place in Southeast Asia in the 1920s. There is a little bit of mystery, a little bit of romance, and a really intriguing premise that kept me listening anxiously to see what happened next.

I love reading about the 1920s and I have not read many books about Southeast Asia during this time period so I found the book truly fascinating from that aspect. The way that Fay writes about Shanghai and Cambodia is truly magical. You really get to feel like what it must have been like to be in that part of the world during that time period; both glamorous and mysterious. Armchair travelers will really enjoy this book.

While I got annoyed with Irene in some parts (she really does start out kind of naive), she really grew on me. Throughout the book, she becomes a little bit more mature after acting very immaturely when she is passed over for taking over the Brooks Museum. I love when you get to see a character really change in a book as I think it can be really hard to show real growth but Fay definitely succeeds here. I wish some of that growth would have extended to some of the other characters in the book (especially ones like Simone; she is just sort of terrible throughout the entire book and never seems to learn her lesson). To that degree, I feel while you get a great sense of Irene, you don't really get a good sense of why the other characters are the way that they are. I wanted to know a little bit more about them.

Overall, I really liked listening to this book. I really liked the reader of the audiobook.

Bottom line: A good pick for historical fiction fans!


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Review: The Man Who Saved the Union by H.W. Brands

Title: The Man Who Saved the Union
Author: H.W. Brands
Format: Audiobook
Publisher: Doubleday
Publish Date: October 2, 2012
Source: Library

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a non-fiction fan.
  • You're a history fan.
What's the Story?:

From "Ulysses Grant rose from obscurity to discover he had a genius for battle, and he propelled the Union to victory in the Civil War. After Abraham Lincoln's assassination and the disastrous brief presidency of Andrew Johnson, America turned to Grant again to unite the country, this time as president. In Brands's sweeping, majestic full biography, Grant emerges as a heroic figure who was fearlessly on the side of right. He was a beloved commander in the field but willing to make the troop sacrifices necessary to win the war, even in the face of storms of criticism. He worked valiantly to protect the rights of freedmen in the South; Brands calls him the last presidential defender of black civil rights for nearly a century. He played it straight with the American Indians, allowing them to shape their own fate even as the realities of Manifest Destiny meant the end of their way of life.  He was an enormously popular president whose memoirs were a huge bestseller; yet within decades of his death his reputation was in tatters, the victim of Southerners who resented his policies on Reconstruction. In this page-turning biography, Brands now reconsiders Grant's legacy and provides a compelling and intimate portrait of a man who saved the Union on the battlefield and consolidated that victory as a resolute and principled political leader."

My Two Cents:

This is a great (albeit long) look at the life of Ulysses S. Grant. Before listening to this book (it was an audiobook), I didn't know very much about Grant other than some of the very great things he did during the Civil War and that he became President. I was very interested to see the other sides of this larger than life legend.

I learned a lot. The book goes into extensive detail about Grant's life from his childhood until his death with a heavy focus (unsurprisingly) on the Civil War and years in the White House. I liked learning about some of the lesser known parts of his life like the fact that he dragged his feet a lot when his father sent him to Westpoint or the fact that several times he tried to leave the military. I also liked hearing about his family life and his relationship with his wife, Julia, who he seemed to really love.

This was the first book that I have read by H.W. Brands. I've seen him speak on the History Channel several times and always found what he had to say to be interesting. I would be interested to read more of his books.

I think this book would be a good introduction to Grant if you don't know much about him. This book definitely whetted my appetite to read more about him in the future.

As far as listening to this book, first off, it was very long. Audiobooks take a lot longer to listen to than reading a book. There were some sections of the book that I thought could be scaled down a little bit but I am not sure if I would have felt differently if I had read the book.

Bottom line: A good read!


Tuesday Memes!

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish
This week's topic is Top Ten Books I HAD To Buy...But Are Still Sitting On My Shelf Unread (I am hopeful this book will shame me into reading more books that I own. I need more time, guys!!!)
(These are in no particular order. I am so ashamed!)
1. Scarlett by Marissa Meyer

2. The Lily of the Nile series by Stephanie Dray

 3. The Rome Series by Kate Quinn

3. Insurgent by Veronica Roth

 4. Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

5. All of Michelle Moran's backlist after I read Madame Tussaud.

6. The Paris Wife by Paula McClain

7.  Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

8. Capital Girls by Ella Monroe

9. Hemingway's Girl by Erica Robuck

10. The Shadow Queen by Rebecca Dean

First Chapter First Paragraph is hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea
"The snap of the first shot breaks open the afternoon. I squeeze my eyes shut and wait for the second one, ears strained against the silence. Seven rifles have come together as one, in salute of Finn. With the second crack, I open my eyes and focus on the youngest of the riflemen, who stands on the end. His gloved hands had trembled as he'd lifted his rifle, but now they are steady, firm. A third shot. Rifles are brought back to the shoulders of their bearers, and the general bends, fingers brushing the grass, and picks up three of the gleaming spent shells. I stand there, stiff as the troopers, while my aunt cries softly beside me"
Would you keep reading?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Giveaway: Equal to the Sun

In honor of the release of the paperback of Anita Amirrezvani's Equal of the Sun (you can take a look at my review here), I am pleased to be able to give away two copies of the book. Just fill out the Rafflecopter below (US only)!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Mailbox Monday!

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, a meme started by Marcia and hosted by Caitlin of Chaotic Compendiums this month. 
This is a catch-up from the past two weeks! I got a lot of great books!

Fools Rush In by Kristan Higgins

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick (I bought this from the Strand book kiosk at the entrance of Central Park in NYC)
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
Skinny by Donna Cooner

For Review:
The Wrong Dog Dream by Jane Vanderburgh
The Edge of the Earth by Christina Schwarz
The Last Telegram by Liz Trenow
The Honey Thief by Najaf Mazari and Robert Hillman
Second Suns by David Oliver Relin
To Sing Frogs by John M. Simmons
Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
Sleeping in Eden by Nicole Baart
Maya's Notebook by Isabel Allende
After Rome by Morgan Llwelyn

What did you get in your mailbox?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Author Interview: Hannah Fielding

Today I'm excited to welcome Hannah Fielding, author of Burning Embers to A Bookish Affair for an interview!

What inspired you to write Burning Embers? Have you been to Kenya before? Why did you decide to use it as your setting for this book?

Burning Embers began not as a story, but as a vivid landscape in my mind. The seed of the ideas was sown many nears ago when, as a schoolgirl, I studied the works of Leconte de Lisle, a French Romantic poet of the 19th century. His poems are wonderfully descriptive and vivid – about wild animals, magnificent dawns and sunsets, exotic settings and colourful vistas (see for translations). Then, later on, I went on holiday to Kenya with my parents and I met our family friend Mr Chiumbo Wangai, who often used to visit us. He was
a great raconteur and told me extensively about his beautiful country, its tribes, its traditions and its customs. I was enthralled. His ability to describe the many facets of his country and his people endeared Kenya to my heart long before I set foot in it.

Later, once I had visited the country myself, I put pen to paper and Burning Embers came to life. Burning Embers had to be written; there was too much about the place and its people that I felt passionate about.

Who is your favourite character in Burning Embers? Why?

It would be too easy for me to choose Rafe, my Alpha man hero, who in my eyes represents the perfect man par excellence. But I feel a strong pull to a secondary character, Morgana, the dusky Middle Eastern dancer and Rafe’s mistress. A beautiful and passionate woman, she guards her love for Rafe with the fire of a lioness defending her cubs. As long as she thinks that there is hope to keep her man she will fight for her love, all claws out. She is sensitive and proud, and as soon as she realises that Rafe’s happiness is with another woman, she discreetly relinquishes her place and melts away into the background. That’s what I call selfless love!

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

First and foremost, write from the heart. Be true to yourself and don’t compromise to please the market. Markets change, fads come and go; your work will remain.

Research your facts thoroughly. A writer today has no excuse for not getting his/ her facts right. Use all the tools available to you. Travel, internet, books, films, documentaries: they’re all there to enrich your experience and make your writing journey easier.

Plan your novel down to the smallest detail. This will make your writing so much easier and therefore so much more enjoyable. A plan is your map. Would you set out on a long journey by car without a map?

Read, reread and reread. Edit, edit, edit. Go through your manuscript again and again and edit it. I know that it will break your heart to delete a phrase or even one word you have spent time agonising on, but sometimes less is better than more. Not easy advice to follow, but in the long run it does work. If you can leave the manuscript alone for a few weeks and revisit it at a later date, reading it as if it were someone else’s, then that’s even better.

Do not get discouraged. Continue to write whether you think your work is good or bad. There is no bad writing. There are good days and bad days. The more you write, the better at it you get.

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

Rhett Butler, the dark, witty, passionate and virile hero of Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.

Edward Rochester, the hero of Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontё: enigmatic, impulsive and sensitive, with psychic powers and a way with words.

Fitzwilliam Darcy, the aloof, proud and arrogant romantic hero of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

These three totally different men would constitute my harem. I would be very interested to see how each one would court me and how they would react to each other.

I think this would make for an excellent subject for a novel. I will add this to my ‘to write’ list!

Hannah's Bio:

Hannah Fielding is a novelist, a dreamer, a traveller, a mother, a wife and an incurable romantic.
The seeds for her writing career were sown in early childhood, spent in Egypt, when she came to an
agreement with her governess Zula: for each fairy story Zula told, Hannah would invent and relate
one of her own. Years later – following a degree in French literature, several years of travelling
in Europe, falling in love with an Englishman, the arrival of two beautiful children and a career in
property development – Hannah decided after so many years of yearning to write that the time was
now. Today, she lives the dream: she writes full time, splitting her time between her homes in Kent,
England, and the South of France, where she dreams up romances overlooking breathtaking views of
the Mediterranean.


Goodreads: and (for Burning Embers)

Literary Locale!

Literary Locale is a meme here at A Bookish Affair on Fridays where I talk about where I've been reading lately or any other bookish locations that I feel like talking about. Feel free to grab the logo and play along!

 Sometimes there are places that you where as soon almost as you walk in the door, you know that you are going to be sad to eventually leave. This was very much my experience with the Library Hotel. Our room wasn't quite ready when we got to the hotel so we decided to wait in the Reading Room (um, every hotel should have a reading room, no?). Once we got to the Reading Room, I told my dear husband that I never wanted to leave!

All of these pictures tell you the themes of the different rooms that you can stay in. Each room is themed around a different number from the Dewey Decimal system.

Here's a close up of one of the pictures on the wall.

The Reading Room has tea, coffee, and snacks on hand whenever you want it! Amazing!

This is the view from the Reading Room. I love a cityscape!

And of course the Reading Room had lots of books!

Oh and the hotel is right on Library Way and just down the street from the New York Public Library, which was absolutely amazing.

Come back next week for the next installment of Literary Locale where I'll show you more of the Library Hotel!

Where are you reading this week?
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