Tuesday, April 30, 2013

HF Virtual Book Tours Review and Giveaway: Roses Have Thorns by Sandra Byrd

Title: Roses Have Thorns
Author: Sandra Byrd
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Howard Books
Publish Date: April 9, 2013
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours

Why You're Reading This Book:

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

From Goodreads.com: "In 1565, seventeen-year-old Elin von Snakenborg leaves Sweden on a treacherous journey to England. Her fiance has fallen in love with her sister and her dowry money has been gambled away, but ahead of her lies an adventure that will take her to the dizzying heights of Tudor power. Transformed through marriage into Helena, the Marchioness of Northampton, she becomes the highest-ranking woman in Elizabeth’s circle. But in a court that is surrounded by Catholic enemies who plot the queen’s downfall, Helena is forced to choose between an unyielding monarch and the husband she’s not sure she can trust—a choice that will provoke catastrophic consequences."

My Two Cents:

"Roses Have Thorns" is another great historical fiction pick from Sandra Byrd. It's told from the perspective of Elin, who comes from Sweden as part of a royal delegation and is left behind. She works her way through the court of Queen Elizabeth I to become one of Elizabeth's most treasured ladies-in-waiting. This isn't my first Byrd book and I continued to like the way that she tells a story. She really knows how to keep you engaged. The historical

I absolutely love reading about the court of Elizabeth. She is one of my very favorite historical figures to read about. She seems to have sort of a different favor in every book that I read about her and I love seeing all of the different facets.

Because Elin becomes such a close confidant to Elizabeth, we get a really good picture of who Elizabeth was as a person and as a friend. Elin is a great narrator and I thought that it was really cool that Byrd based it off of a real woman as she states in her author's note at the end of the book. As Byrd points out, there are a lot of people that think that Elizabeth wasn't good friends with any woman so Byrd was intrigued by this Elin who not only was one of the ladies-in-waiting but a close friend I don't mind made-up characters but I think it's always interesting to hear stories about real people. I really enjoyed seeing things from Elin's perspective.

Elin herself is a really interesting character. She is smart and savvy. She also has a way with herbs that I really enjoyed reading about her skills as it is something that I'm interested in.

Bottom line: This book is definitely another good historical fiction book!


I'm excited to be able to give away a copy of this book as well as an awesome Elizabeth I necklace (US only).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Tuesday, April 9
Review & Giveaway at Bippity Boppity Book
Wednesday, April 10
Review at Layered Pages
Review & Giveaway at My Reading Room
Thursday, April 11
Review & Giveaway at CelticLady’s Reviews
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Friday, April 12
Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Monday, April 15
Review at Unabridged Chick
Tuesday, April 16
Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, April 17
Review & Giveaway at One Book at a Time
Thursday, April 18
Review & Guest Post at A Bookish Libraria
Friday, April 19
Review & Giveaway at Bloggin’ ’bout Books
Monday, April 22
Review at Peppermint, Ph.D.
Tuesday, April 23
Review & Giveaway at Julz Reads
Thursday, April 25
Review at Book Drunkard
Guest Post & Giveaway at Tanzanite’s Castle Full of Books
Friday, April 26
Review & Giveaway at The Musings of a Book Junkie
Monday, April 29
Review at The Broke and the Bookish
Tuesday, April 30
Review & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, May 1
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, May 2
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading
Interview at A Chick Who Reads
Friday, May 3
Review at Book Dilettante
Monday, May 6
Review & Giveaway at Ageless Pages Reviews
Interview at Reading the Past
Tuesday, May 7
Review & Giveaway at The Eclectic Reader
Wednesday, May 8
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Thursday, May 9
Guest Post & Giveaway at Tina’s Book Reviews
Friday, May 10
Review at The Bookworm
Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Monday, May 13
Interview & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Tuesday, May 14
Review & Giveaway at Always with a Book
Wednesday, May 15
Review & Giveaway at Legacy of a Writer
Thursday, May 16
Review at Bitches with Books
Friday, May 17
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict
RosesHaveThornsTourBannerFINAL1 photo RosesHaveThornsTourBannerFINAL1_zpsc99b86ae.jpg

Monday, April 29, 2013

Review: Sleeping in Eden by Nicole Baart

Title: Sleeping in Eden
Author: Nicole Baart
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Howard Books
Publish Date: May 21, 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 fiction fan.
  • You like a little mystery.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "She knew what he wrote . . . One little word that made her feel both cheated and beloved.

One word that changed everything.


On a chilly morning in the Northwest Iowa town of Blackhawk, Dr. Lucas Hudson is filling in for the vacationing coroner on a seemingly open-and-shut suicide case. His own life is crumbling around him, but when he unearths the body of a woman buried in the barn floor beneath the hanging corpse, he realizes this terrible discovery could change everything. . . .

Years before Lucas ever set foot in Blackhawk, Meg Painter met Dylan Reid. It was the summer before high school and the two quickly became inseparable. Although Meg’s older neighbor, Jess, was the safe choice, she couldn’t let go of Dylan no matter how hard she tried.

Caught in a web of jealousy and deceit that spiraled out of control, Meg’s choices in the past ultimately collide with Lucas’s discovery in the present, weaving together a taut story of unspoken secrets and the raw, complex passions of innocence lost."

My Two Cents:

"Sleeping in Eden" is mystery told from the point of view of Lucas who is a doctor as well as someone whose life as he knows it is totally falling apart and it doesn't seem like he has any control over putting it back together. The other part of the story is told from the point of view of Meg is in the throws of first love with the person that she never expected to fall in love with.

This book has a lot of mystery, which I really enjoyed. I love books with twists and turns. I thought that some of the twists didn't have as much oomph as the story kind of unwinds from two ends, Lucas' and Meg's. This is more a quiet mystery with a lot of layers and a lot of character development.

Speaking of which, I really liked the characters in the book. Lucas is put in a weird position when it falls to him to investigate how Jim, the father of a girl that Lucas and his soon to be ex took care of and that his soon to be ex loved as a daughter. The point of this book is really that things are often much more different than they seem.

Bottom line: This would be a great pick for anyone who likes really good character development.

Review: Children of the Underground by Trevor Shane

Title: Children of the Underground
Author: Trevor Shane
Format: Paperback
Publisher: NAL Trade
Publish Date: April 2, 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 fiction fan.
  • You're a dystopian fan.
  • You like action.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "The war had been raging for as long as anyone could remember. The secret, endless war between two opposing sides—one good, one evil. Neither side knows which is which; it is kill or be killed in an invisible conflict where assassination is the weapon of choice.

When she was just seventeen, Maria was pulled into this secret war and they killed her lover and stole her child. Now they are telling her to go home. To ignore what she knows is going on in the shadows all around her. They told Maria to forget all she’d lost. The trouble is, some things simply can’t be forgotten.

Now, with a loose-cannon killer at her side, Maria is going to do whatever it takes to get back what belongs to her. And that means starting a war of her own…"

My Two Cents:

 "Children of the Underground" is the second book in the Children of Paranoia series by Trevor Shane. The Children of Paranoia series is an action packed, dystopian series that's geared for adults. I really enjoyed the first book in the series and have been eagerly anticipating this latest book. Needless to say, I was not disappointed and now I'm awaiting the next book in the series. Before delving into "Children of the Underground," you should read "Children of Paranoia" in order to fully grasp the world of the books. It has been almost two years since I read "Children of Paranoia" and even I was sort of wishing that I had re-read it before digging into "Children of the Underground."

Most of the story is told from the point of view of Maria. I loved, loved, loved her as the narrator. I really, really liked her character. She is pretty young but she is so strong and so brave. You really have to admire her. She has a lot of chances to run away from the war that she really has no dog in but she is willing to put herself in danger fighting for what she believes in. It's definitely a difficult road to go. In this book, she is mainly trying to find her son, Christopher, who was taken from her as a baby after her husband, Joseph is killed.

I liked this book a little bit better than "Children of Paranoia." While the first book was very solid, I thought that you got a much better sense of the characters like Maria and Michael. There is not as much world building, which I missed but again, if you've read the first book, you know what the world looks like. And I must mention that I did like that some parts of the book took place in D.C. (although Crystal City is not within walking distance of Georgetown unless you really want a long walk). Meridian Hill park, which is also mentioned, is one of my very favorite places in D.C. and after reading this book, I am not sure I'm going to be able to see it the same way after reading this book!

Overall: This is a great pick for when you want your dystopian with a whole lot of action!


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Dewey's Read-a-thon Updates

Hour 24 Update - End of Event Meme:

Which hour was most daunting for you?

The last hour before I went to sleep was incredibly hard. During the week, I'm usually in bed fairly early. I think I made it to almost 2 am before I called it quits. My eyes kept shutting!

Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

For me, I learned that I really need to read fun books when I do something like this. Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill was perfect for this.

Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

I don't think so. This was my very first time participating and I really enjoyed it. Nothing needing changes really stands out to me.

What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

I really enjoyed doing the challenges. I definitely didn't participate in all of them but the ones that I did were a lot of fun and made for a great break.

How many books did you read?

I totally finished 3 books. I'm in the middle of another one. I also finished 1 audiobook and started another.

What were the names of the books you read?

I finished Roses Have Thorns by Sandra Byrd, Maya's Notebook by Isabel Allende, and Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill. I'm in the middle of Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray. I finished listening to The Scorch Trials by James Dashner. I started listening to The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.

Which book did you enjoy most?

I liked them all. As I mentioned before, Meant to Be was an especially good pick for a read-a-thon. It's a fairly short but fun read.

Which did you enjoy least?

I don't think any of them were bad books or even bad picks for the read-a-thon. It's just that Meant to Be was really engaging to me.

How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

I had a blast and I would definitely like to participate again in the future!

Hour 23 Update:

Oh man, I did have to sleep a little bit last night. Guys, I just really do not function well without sleep. For the safety of myself and those around me, I had to do it even if it affected how much I was able to read. I'm now back for the last little bit of the read-a-thon. I'm back for the last hour! Woot! Let's go!

Hour 15 Challenge:

The Hour 15 challenge is to cast actors/actresses into the book that we're currently reading (another really fun challenge).

I'm still reading Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill and loving it!

My pick for the role of Julia Lichtenstein (a shy, bookish swimmer) would be: 

Emma Roberts!
I think she'd be a great pick for Julia. She's a great actress and I think that she could play the transition that Julia goes through in the book well!

Hour 12 Update: Mid-Event Survey:

1) How are you doing? Sleepy? Are your eyes tired?

I'm doing pretty good. I did have to shut my eyes a little bit just because this is definitely a lot of reading. All in all, I'm still having a blast!

2) What have you finished reading?

I've finished Roses Have Thorns by Sandra Byrd, Maya's Notebook by Isabel Allende, and I finished listening to The Scorch Trials by James Dashner. I've surprised myself with how much I'm listening to audiobooks. I listened a lot while doing some gardening today. It was too beautiful to be inside reading all day!

3) What is your favorite read so far?

All of them have been really good. Roses Have Thorns' narrator was really interesting (she's a lady-in-waiting for Queen Elizabeth I). Isabel Allende is a perennial favorite (I actually get to see her speak this coming week)! I'm loving the Maze Runner series.

4) What about your favorite snacks?

I made these amazing cookies only using almond meal, pecans, maple syrup, and sea salt. It's a riff on this recipe here. I'm trying really hard to not eat as many processed foods so this fit the bill!

5) Have you found any new blogs through the readathon? If so, give them some love!

I have been so bad about visiting others but I've been pretty active on Twitter today!

Hour 9 Update:

Okay, I think I've learned my first lesson of my first read-a-thon. For the rest of the day, I will put up all of my updates in this post. I don't want to annoy people!!!

I did the Hour 9 challenge, which was to go through some various yoga poses. Oh boy, I have never done yoga before but it felt so good to stretch!

I have now finished Roses Have Thorns and Maya's Notebook. I also finished listening to The Scorch Trials. I started listening to Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief. I've been doing yard work and things around the house while listening to the audiobooks. I've started reading Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill.

Hour 6 Update:

I'm having so much fun with the read-a-thon so far. I've finished one book (Roses Have Thorns by Sandra Byrd) and am in the middle of Maya's Notebook by the glorious Isabel Allende. I've also been listening to The Scorch Trials by James Dashner, which I was in the middle of this morning. I have about an hour more to go in the audiobook.

I just had a fantastic salad from Trader Joe's (arugula, goat cheese, dried cranberries, quinoa, sweet potato, and wheatberry). It was a delicious and filling lunch and I need that protein to keep me reading.

For hour 6, One Librarian's Book Reviews is asking us to put together a book puzzle. I have an easy one and a hard one.

First, the easy one:

And now the harder one:

minus Little Liars

Both books rank among my most favorite books.

What's your guess?

Dewey's Read-a-thon: Hour 1 – Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!!!!

So this is happening today:

I've got my coffee. I have a comfy place to read. I have snacks. I think I'm ready to go! And most importantly, I have a bunch of books. I'm not picking what books specifically I'm going to try to get to as I don't want to tie myself down. We'll just see wherever it is that my reading id wants to go!

Please excuse all of my updates!

Here's my introductory questionnaire:

What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

I'm reading from the super sunny D.C./ MD/ VA area (lovingly known as the DMV). I have a feeling that a lot of my reading is going to get done outside today. It is beautiful out!

Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

I purposely did not make a stack of books as I'm planning to read wherever my whims take me today. I feel that I am usually always reading from a list so I wanted to give myself a little more freedom.

Which snack are you most looking forward to?

I went to Trader Joe's and stocked up on a lot of yummy things. I think I'm most excited for chips and guac. For dinner, I'm going to be trying a new brussel sprout recipe, which I'm excited about (yes, I'm kind of a weirdo).

Tell us a little something about yourself!

I'm a book obsessed 20-something year old who lives with my husband and two kitties. When I'm not reading, I spend a lot of time fixing up my 100+ year old house and I have very recently gotten into gardening.

If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

This is my first rodeo so I'm just looking forward to plowing through books!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Review: Be Fruitful by Victoria Maizes, M.D.

Title: Be Fruitful: The Essential Guide to Maximizing Fertility and Giving Birth to a Healthy Child
Author: Victoria Maizes, M.D.
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Scribner
Publish Date: February 5, 2013
Source: I received a copy from the PR; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

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

Synopsis: "Be Fruitful takes an integrative medicine approach to maximizing health and increasing fertility.  Foreword is written by leading integrative medicine practitioner Andrew Weil, M.D.  Be Fruitful combines conventional medical and scientific knowledge with the benefits of alternative approaches. This is a must read guide for anyone looking to start a family, now or years down the road, that outlines how the foods we eat, the toxins we ingest, and the overall lifestyle we lead has an effect on fertility and the health of our unborn children."

My Two Cents:

If you know me at all, you know that I'm a planner. And while sometimes this is too my detriment (there is such thing as over-planning, y'all), I figure when it comes to matters of health, planning is definitely a good thing. I think in long term most of the time so while I'm not necessarily ready to have a child in the near future, I figure it's never too early to start thinking about things. I appreciated that this book spoke about both traditional medical approaches as well as more natural approaches. This definitely appealed to me.

The book was easy to follow along and was fairly well organized. I was especially interested in some of the natural medicine sections as these are much less familiar to me. This book definitely broadened my perspective a little bit.

Maizes gives a lot of different examples of various women and their course of treatment in order for them to conceive and have a healthy pregnancy. For women who are actively trying to conceive, this book would be a good pick. There are a lot of different options and ideas that an individual can pursue that are discussed in this book

On the other hand, medical advice really should be geared to an individual person. Just because something happened to work for you, it doesn't mean that it is going to automatically work for someone else. I think that it would have been good for Maizes to discuss this a little bit more in this book.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Giveaway Winners!

I'm excited to announce a few giveaway winners today!

Through a Dusty Window:

City of Lights:

Mermaid of Brooklyn:

Review: Allergies, Away! by Frances Park and Ginger Park

Title: Allergies, Away!: Creative Eats and Mouthwatering Treats for Kids Allergic to Nuts, Dairy, and Eggs
Authors: Frances Park and Ginger Park
Format: ARC
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publish Date: May 7, 2013
Source: I received a copy from the authors; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You are a foodie!
  • You may have or know someone who has food allergies.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "When sisters Ginger and Frances Park opened up a chocolate shop in Washington, D.C., they couldn't wait to share their gourmet sweets with their friends and family. Unfortunately, Ginger's son, Justin, was born with severe food allergies, and even visiting the shop made Justin sick. Far from discouraged, Ginger and Frances vowed they would find alternatives for Justin that tasted better than the real thing. Inspired by their mission, Frances and Ginger wrote Allergies, Away!, a fun and healthy cookbook chock full of recipes for the millions of parents whose children have food allergies. This book features more than seventy recipes for kid-friendly foods like Seoulful Half-Moon Dumplings, Rock Star Onion Rings, and Orange Chocolate Muffins, and every recipe is free of dairy, nuts, and eggs. The recipes are easy enough to make with children, and Frances and Ginger include helpful tips for maximum fun in the kitchen. Perfect for parents who are sick of making bland and boring food for their allergic kids, Allergies, Away! is the ultimate guide to tasty, homemade food that is also allergen-free."

My Two Cents:

Even if you don't have food allergies (which I do not - thank goodness), trying to dissect all of the terms on a nutrition label so you can figure out what the heck is in your food is a heavy task. However, if I misread a label and still eat the item, I'm more than likely not going to have an issue. If you had a food allergy to something like nuts, dairy, or eggs and ate something that you shouldn't have on accident, it could be uncomfortable or potentially be life threatening! I would think that sometimes it would be safer to cook your own food instead of trying to sort out a nutrition label.

Not too long after Ginger Park's son, Justin, was born she and her sister, Frances, realized that Justin had incredibly horrible allergies to all nuts, dairy, and eggs. Even a trace of any of these items could make him very sick. To make things harder, Ginger and Frances own a wonderful chocolate shop called Chocolate Chocolate in downtown Washington, D.C. Imagine being a little kid whose mom and aunt own a chocolate store but not being able to go because it could make you sick! Talk about hard knocks! Luckily Justin was blessed with an ingenious mom and aunt who made it their goal to come up with all sorts of awesome recipes that Justin could have (and yes, there's chocolate in this book still - yummy!). This book is filled with those recipes as well as Justin's journey with all of his allergies.

This recipe book is geared for people with children. The book even encourages getting your kiddos involved in the cooking (definitely a fun project). The hands on cooking could be especially good for kids with food allergies as it may help give them a little perspective on how even if you have food allergies, you can still eat really awesome food and not feel like you are missing out. The recipes are delicious enough that all members of a family would really enjoy them though. In order to thoroughly test out the book, I took a couple of the recipes on a test drive just to see how they were. Needless to say, I was pretty impressed. All of the recipes that we tried have the approval of both myself (a not picky eater) and my husband (a pickier eater).

Here's what we tried and how they turned out:

- Squash and Scallion pancakes: Delicious! These are really simple to make. I made them with the delicious dipping sauce as well! You could serve them as an appetizer. We had ours along side the bulgogi. They would also make a good stand alone dish when you want something quick, easy and delicious for dinner!

- Bulgogi: It's hard to think about this Korean beef without the yummy taste of sesame but with this recipe, you will never miss the sesame oil. My husband went wild over this dish. He could not stop talking about how much he loved it! I loved it too.

- Brown Bag Brownies: Oh, these were awesome and oh so decadent! They were a little crumbly but if you don't mind making a mess (and when it comes to chocolate goodies, I personally never mind making a mess), these are fantastic.

My mouth is watering now...

I know that I will definitely be making more from this cookbook in the future. The recipes are all very easy to follow and so many of them seem like they would be delicious (okay, really just about every recipe in the book). I do wish there had been pictures of what some of the dishes looked like. I like having a visual guide as to what dishes are supposed to look like!

Overall, I think this is a great cookbook for just about anyone even if you don't have food allergies!


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Odds and Ends: To Style or Not to Style?

When it comes to most things in life, I am very much a function over form type of girl. If I buy something, I like it to be something that I will actually use. But when I can find that sweet spot where form meets function, it's really magical!

I organized my books by color. This is where form meets function for me. I'm a visual person so the colors really help me find the books I'm looking for quicker.

Gilt.com has a really drool worthy sale going on today called "Style a Bookcase." While I'm sort of in love with so many things in the sale, I don't have extra room on my bookcases to display pretty things like:

From Gilt.com

Sadly, my bookshelves are too full for me to be able to justify buying pretty bookends. Books on full shelves stand up on their own, ya'll (unfortunately)!

To top it all off, Gilt is also are having a sale on the whole collection of Penguin Clothbound books (a collection that I just started at Christmas). 

Gilt.com. Want.

I want it all, guys!

What say you? Form? Function? Both?

*All the thoughts above are my own and I am not being compensated by Gilt. This sale is just cool, guys!

Review: No Turning Back by Lidia Falcon, Jessica Knauss (Translator)

Title: No Turning Back
Authors: Lidia Falcon, Jessica Knauss (Translator)
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Loose Leaves Publishing
Publish Date: January 15, 2013
Source: I received a copy from the translator; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a historical fiction fan.
  • You don't mind gritty stories.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Barcelona, 1986: The dictatorship is over and life is free and easy. But what if you can't forget the seventies? Elisa's troubled past comes back to her in the form of her ex-husband, Arnau, who needs her help to exonerate a former comrade. Elisa relives her Catholic childhood, her marriage to Arnau, her blind loyalty to the communist cause, her experiments in feminism, and her prison time to create a twentieth-century emotional history of the political Left in Spain. The women who faced so much adversity with Elisa weave their own perspectives and testimonies into hers, making this more than a novel: it's an important contribution to history that gives a voice to the silenced. Can Elisa ever leave the path history has carved out for her? Or is there no turning back?"

My Two Cents:

"No Turning Back" takes place during a very volatile time in Spain's history after the fall of the Franco era in the mid-1980s. It was a very difficult time in the country's history and very difficult for so many different groups of people. This book follows Elisa, who is trying to find her footing in this new reality, while looking back at her past.

Before this book, I really didn't know much about the history of Spain during this era so it was really interesting to learn about it. It was even more interesting to learn about this time period through the eyes of someone like Elisa, a very political young woman, who has a very unique story and therefore a very unique perspective on her country's past, present, and future. This book has both political and feminist overtones so those that enjoy reading about those subjects will probably enjoy this historical fiction story. Elisa was absolutely fascinating and I was very much interested in her story. Elisa is a Communist and much of the book discusses her time in prison.

Lidia Falcon is a new to me author but has high acclaim in her home country. I really enjoyed this book and would love more from her. I know there are some out there who don't particularly enjoy translations of books. They find them too choppy or not close enough to the original text. This translation is very good and has a very natural flow that keeps the story engaging.

Overall, this is a very good story about fairly recent history! 


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My First Readathon!

No, little kitty, while Military Strategy is sort of interesting to me, I don't think I'll be reading it for the read-a-thon.
So this weekend, I will be participating in my first readathon and I am so excited. The husband will be away with his guys for the weekend and I don't have a lot on my plate so I'm actually able to participate in the read-a-thon this time around. Woot! I'm participating in the Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon. I've never done one before so I'm looking for any tips that you all could give me!

I'm going to try to read for the full 24 hours. I haven't made an official list of books that I'm going to try to get through because I wanted to leave myself open if a book I pick up isn't keeping my attention. I do have several books in mind that I definitely would like to get to (most of them are historical fiction and YA, which is perhaps unsurprising). If you've done one of these things before, do you usually make a list of books that you want to read or do you just grab something off of your shelves? How much planning do you do for a read-a-thon?

Is anyone else participating in the Dewey Read-a-thon? Do you have any other tips for me?

Review and Guest Post: The Edge of the Earth by Christina Schwarz

Title: The Edge of the Earth
Author: Christina Schwarz
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Atria
Publish Date: April 2, 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 like character driven stories
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Trudy is a polished, college-educated young woman from a respectable upper middle-class family, and it’s only a matter of time before she’ll marry Ernst, the son of her parents’ closest friends. All should be well in her world, and yet Trudy is restless and desperate for more stimulation than 1897 Milwaukee will allow. When she falls in love with enigmatic and ambitious Oskar, she believes she’s found her escape from the banality of her pre-ordained life. Alienated from Trudy’s family and friends, the couple moves across the country to take a job at a lighthouse in the eerily isolated Point Lucia, California. Upon arriving they meet the light station’s only inhabitants—the Crawleys, a family whose plain appearance is no indication of what lies below the surface. It isn’t long before Trudy begins to realize that there is more going on in this seemingly empty place than she could ever have imagined.

Gorgeously detailed, swiftly paced, and anchored in the lush geography of the remote and eternally mesmerizing Big Sur, The Edge of the Earth is a magical and moving story of secrets and self-transformation, ruses and rebirths, masterfully told by a celebrated and accomplished author."

My Two Cents:

In "The Edge of the Earth," Christina Schwarz weaves a story around a remote island off the west coast in the very late 1800s. The inhabitants of the island are few but they are all connected. Even though there are very few people on the island, there is still an unknown entity there. I really enjoyed this fantastic historical fiction story.

This book is very much a character driven story. I enjoyed reading about the characters even if I didn't like all of them. I really liked the main character, Trudy. Trudy isn't sure that she wants the life that her parents have pretty much planned out for her. She wants something different and something more exciting. She makes a rash decision to leave it all behind and marry Oskar, who seems amazingly intriguing and adventurous. Even though they don't know each other well, Trudy follows him across the country and she has no idea just what she is getting herself into. I think we've all at some point in our life at least wondered if we were being adventurous enough. On that, I found a lot of common ground with Trudy. She's a great character and I loved seeing everything unfold on the island through her eyes.

On the other hand, I hated Oskar more and more as the story progressed. He is so stubborn and pig-headed. He has no reverence for people that he doesn't understand, such as Helen, who is different from Trudy, Oskar, and the Crawley family. He's kind of terrible but I still enjoyed reading about him.

I also have to mention the setting of this book. Oskar and Trudy come to Point Lucia to run the lighthouse on the island and for Trudy to teach and mind the Crawley children. Schwarz gives a great description of the island and its beaches and caves. You really feel like you can see the island! It's remote and beautiful.

Overall, this would be a great pick for when you want your historical fiction with a side of fascinating characters and a great setting.

Guest Post:

Today I'm very glad to welcome Christina Schwarz here to A Bookish Affair.

The Edge of the Earth feels to me like a return to Drowning Ruth in that it’s set in the past and has a somewhat Gothic feel.  Immediately after Drowning Ruth, I felt I’d exhausted my store of words and my supply of the type of scenes that would convey that atmosphere of the past.  I had to write a comedy and then a contemporary relationship novel, in part simply to refresh myself.  But over those years, the well that contains my excitement in the past and my attraction to people who harbor dark secrets there refilled. 

When I’m in the process of choosing the subject for a novel, my first consideration is to find an idea that will sustain me for the two years or more that I know it’ll take me to write a book.  I have to feel that the dream I’m entering is so fascinating and full of surprising possibilities that I won’t get tired of thinking about it.  For me, the past easily provides that sort endless interest, because you can never know for sure what happened or why.  

            I picked the end of the nineteenth century specifically, because I wanted a time when the lighthouse at which most of the book is set would be particularly isolated, when the only contact with the outside world would have to come from the sea, and when my characters would have to wait many months even for a letter.   I also wanted the freedom of a time when a person without an extremely specialized education could be convinced that he might make a great scientific discovery just by observing and thinking about the world around him.  I lucked out in that this also turned out to be a time in which women were beginning to think that perhaps they need not be entirely dependent on men.  In fact, that they might require something other than a husband and children to fulfill themselves.  This is the period in which Kate Chopin wrote The Awakening and Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote The Yellow Wallpaper, stories that, like mine, explore what happens when a woman feels powerfully that she can’t fit into the form society prescribed by society.  Certainly society’s bounds have changed since the end of the nineteenth century, but the notion of having to buck expectations to remain true to oneself is timeless.

Monday, April 22, 2013

TLC Book Tours: Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

Title: Reconstructing Amelia
Author: Kimberly McCreight
Format: ARC
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publish Date: April 2, 2013
Source: TLC Book Tours

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You like a good mystery.
  • You like family stories.
  • You have enough time to read this book in one sitting.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Litigation lawyer and harried single mother Kate Baron is stunned when her daughter's exclusive private school in Park Slope, Brooklyn, calls with disturbing news: her intelligent, high-achieving fifteen-year-old daughter, Amelia, has been caught cheating.

Kate can't believe that Amelia, an ambitious, levelheaded girl who's never been in trouble would do something like that. But by the time she arrives at Grace Hall, Kate's faced with far more devastating news. Amelia is dead.

Seemingly unable to cope with what she'd done, a despondent Amelia has jumped from the school's roof in an act of "spontaneous" suicide. At least that's the story Grace Hall and the police tell Kate. And overwhelmed as she is by her own guilt and shattered by grief, it is the story that Kate believes until she gets the anonymous text:

She didn't jump.

Sifting through Amelia's emails, text messages, social media postings, and cell phone logs, Kate is determined to learn the heartbreaking truth about why Amelia was on Grace Hall's roof that day-and why she died.

Told in alternating voices, Reconstructing Amelia is a story of secrets and lies, of love and betrayal, of trusted friends and vicious bullies. It's about how well a parent ever really knows a child and how far one mother will go to vindicate the memory of a daughter whose life she could not save."

My Two Cents:

"Reconstructing Amelia" is the kind of book that you cut out a wide swath of time for because you aren't going to be able to put it down. You want to put all of the pieces together along with Kate, the main character, about what happened to Amelia, her beloved daughter. As the synopsis says, Kate receives a text very soon after Amelia dies saying that Amelia didn't jump, which sets the whole story in motion. I was definitely happy that I had enough time to read this book almost in one setting.

Overall, I really liked this book. It's fast paced and I like that we get to see the story from prior to what happened to Amelia as well as after. I also liked that we get to see the story from both Amelia and Kate's perspective. We get to know what was going on with Amelia before her death and get clues as to what was going on.

The book started out very fast paced for me. I wanted to see what happened. There seemed to be a lot going on that wasn't related to Amelia's death (such as the mystery of who Amelia's father was) and I thought some of the other mysteries could have been scaled down so there was more of a focus on the mystery of Amelia's death. There were also a lot of loose ends at the end of the book that I wanted to know more about. I wanted to know more about a lot of the major players' motives (I don't want to give away anything so I won't get into the specifics). I think had there been more of a focus on the mystery of Amelia's death that there would have been a lot fewer loose ends.

This is Ms. McCreight's debut book and although I had some issues with the carrying out of the story, there is so much good about this story. If you are looking for a good book that will keep you entertained, this would be a great pick.

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Tuesday, April 2nd: Bookish Habits
Thursday, April 4th: Twisting the Lens
Monday, April 8th: Luxury Reading
Tuesday, April 9th: Book Hooked Blog
Wednesday, April 10th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Monday, April 15th: A Book Geek
Wednesday, April 17th: Peppermint Phd
Thursday, April 18th: nomadreader
Monday, April 22nd: A Bookish Affair
Tuesday, April 23rd: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, April 24th: Speaking of Books
Thursday, April 25th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Tuesday, April 30th: Kritters Ramblings
Wednesday, May 1st: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Thursday, May 2nd: Short and Sweet Reviews
TBD: In the Next Room


Friday, April 19, 2013

HF Virtual Book Tours Guest Post and Giveaway: Michelle Diener, Author of Daughter of the Sky

Today I am excited to welcome Michelle Diener to A Bookish Affair.


Many, many years ago, before I started writing seriously, I used to have a very long commute home, about an hour and a half each way, along a very straight, long road which ran beside the ocean and through a national park on the west coast of South Africa.

Quite often, as soon as I was outside the suburbs of Cape Town, I was the only person on the road.

To keep myself occupied and awake, I used to listen to the radio a lot. On Friday afternoons, I learned more than I ever wanted to know about the qualifying rounds of Formula One Grand Prix, and I also used to get to listen to wonderful discussions with a radio interviewer and the author she was interviewing that week.

One such author was Sarah Burton, who'd written a historical reference book entitled IMPOSTERS, a book researching a number of people who had pulled off amazing scams, stunts and deceptions, while pretending to be someone else. This book sounded so amazing, I went straight out and bought it when I was next in Cape Town (my little town up the coast didn't have a bookshop).

One thing the interviewer brought up was how many of the imposters Burton had researched were women passing themselves off as men. Burton's response was that she had been surprised when she started researching the book on what a common phenomenon it was for women to disguise themselves as men in order to better their lives or follow a career path that would otherwise have been denied them. And as women alone in the world, for most of them, passing themselves off successfully as men was the only way to avoid the poorhouse, the whorehouse or the asylum.

Burton gives numerous examples of women who were only discovered to be women when they died, having led extremely high-profile lives. Among them Charlie Parkhurst, famous stage coach driver during the Californian gold rush and Billy Tipton, jazz pianoist and saxophonist. It makes one wonder how many other women, living much more mundane lives, were doing the same.

There were certainly a large number of women who passed themselves off as men in various military campaigns, and Burton gives a number of examples of how Napoleon, when these women were discovered, turned a blind eye and let them continue as they were, especially if they had earned their stripes and proven themselves on the battlefield. Therese Figueur, the de Fernig sisters and Catalina de Eranso are just a few of the women Sarah Burton includes who joined the army or the navy as men and had active military careers.

But for me, the best example of this was the Victorian army doctor, James Barry. He studied at Edinburgh University, joined the army as a doctor, and worked all over the Victorian Empire, in Gibraltar, South Africa, the Crimea and many other places. On his death, he was found to be a woman. Because Barry would have been a contemporary of my characters given the time my novel is set, I even managed to work in a very obscure reference to Barry in my latest release, Daughter of the Sky.

In Daughter of the Sky, my main character, Elizabeth, follows on in the footsteps of this tradition by passing herself off as a young teen-aged soldier in the British forces, marching to war on Zululand. It is the only way she can get into the column of men, as there are no female camp followers, as there sometimes were.

I thought of that journey home when I listened to Sarah Burton talking about her book all those years ago, and even dipped back into it a couple of times while writing Daughter of the Sky, just to remind myself how common an occurrence it was for women to enter the military pretending to be men, and to think how if you'd asked me that day, when I was driving home, if I ever thought I'd use what Burton was talking about in a book of my own, I'd have been sure to say no. :)

Thank you so much to Meg for having me to visit today!


Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, April 8
Review at Reflections of a Book Addict
Review at The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader
Tuesday, April 9
Review, Interview & Giveaway at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Thursday, April 11
Guest Post at The Reading Reviewer
Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Friday, April 12
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Guest Post at A Bookish Libraria
Monday, April 15
Review at Bitches with Books
Tuesday, April 16
Review at Turning the Pages
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Thursday, April 18
Review at A Bookish Affair
Friday, April 19
Review & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick
Guest Post & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair


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Thursday, April 18, 2013

HF Virtual Book Tours Review: Daughter of the Sky by Michelle Diener

Title: Daughter of the Sky
Author: Michelle Diener
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Self-published
Publish Date: March 1, 2013
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You like your historical fiction off the beaten path.
  • You like good characters.
What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "The Victorian Empire has declared war on the Zulus if they don't accede to their outrageous demands. The clock is ticking down to the appointed hour. With no idea why the British are marching three massive columns of men and guns towards them, one Zulu general is prepared to take an impossible risk. But the life he's gambling with isn't his own . . .

The sole survivor of a shipwreck off the Zululand coast, 15 year-old Elizabeth Jones is taken in by the Zulus, the people of the sky. Six years later, her white skin becomes useful to the Zulu army as they try to work out why the Victorian Empire has pointed their war-machine at the Zulu nation. Elizabeth is suddenly Zululand's most important spy.

While infiltrating the British camp, Elizabeth's disguise as a young soldier is uncovered almost immediately by Captain Jack Burdell. However, he believes the tale she spins of searching for a missing brother and shields her from discovery, allowing her to bunk in his tent and giving her a job as his batman. Burdell is war-weary and disillusioned - no longer willing to follow regulations at all costs.

But as Elizabeth and Jack explore their growing attraction to each other, the two armies move towards their inevitable clash. Elizabeth is torn between the guilt of betrayal and her fierce loyalty to her Zulu family, and when Zulu and British meet on the battlefield, both she and Jack find their hearts and their lives caught in the crossfire."

My Two Cents:

I absolutely love reading historical fiction about places and times that I'm not familiar with. Sure, it's nice to read about old favorites like Tudor England or WWII Europe but it's also nice to go off the beaten path and explore some place or some time new. "Daughter of the Sky" takes place during the height of Victorian England's conquering and collecting of lands in Africa. This was very much a new time and place for me.

Although this is a story about the war between the Zulus and the English, the story itself is much more character driven, which I appreciated. I really liked seeing the people and personalities behind all of the different battles and fights themselves. The battle does create a very interesting backdrop to the story overall. I love when you can learn a little something when you're reading. I also want to point out that this book is a shining example of good self-publishing. The characters are great and I thought the editing was pretty good.

This book is fairly fast paced and kept me reading until the very end. I wish that we would have gotten to know a little bit more about Elizabeth's life with the Zulus. What was it like? How did they accept her? Was it instantaneous or did it take longer for her to become a part of the group? I think having this background would have provided a little more insight into who she was as a person and her personality overall. I would also have liked to get a little insight into Elizabeth's interesting position. She is English and white but has been accepted and integrated into the Zulus. We don't get a lot of perspective on this. I did like the love story in the book though! I couldn't wait to see what happened to Elizabeth and Jack.

This story definitely pulled me in and I would recommend it to anyone who likes their historical fiction a little bit off the beaten path.

Come back here tomorrow for a guest post and giveaway!

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, April 8
Review at Reflections of a Book Addict
Review at The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader
Tuesday, April 9
Review, Interview & Giveaway at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Thursday, April 11
Guest Post at The Reading Reviewer
Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Friday, April 12
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Guest Post at A Bookish Libraria
Monday, April 15
Review at Bitches with Books
Tuesday, April 16
Review at Turning the Pages
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Thursday, April 18
Review at A Bookish Affair
Friday, April 19
Review & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick
Guest Post & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Review: The Mapmaker's War: A Legend by Ronlyn Domingue

Title: The Mapmaker's War: A Legend
Author: Ronlyn Domingue
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Atria
Publish Date: March 5, 2013
Source: I received a copy from the PR; however, this did not affect my review.

 Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a fantasy fan.
  • You like strong characters.

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "This will be the map of your heart, old woman. In an ancient time, in a faraway land, a young woman named Aoife is allowed a rare apprenticeship to become her kingdom’s mapmaker, tasked with charting the entire domain. Traveling beyond its borders, she finds a secretive people who live in peace, among great wealth. They claim to protect a mythic treasure, one connected to the creation of the world. When Aoife reports their existence to her kingdom, the community is targeted as a threat. Attempting to warn them of imminent danger, Aoife is exiled for treason and finds refuge among the very people who had been declared her enemy. With them, she begins a new life surrounded by kindness, equality, and cooperation. But within herself, Aoife has no peace. She cannot share the grief she feels for the home and children she left behind. She cannot bear the warrior scars of the man she comes to love. And when she gives birth to their gifted daughter, Aoife cannot avoid what the child forces her to confront about her past and its truth. On this most important of journeys, there is no map to guide her. In this tale—her autobiography— Aoife reveals her pain and joy, and ultimately her transformation. The Mapmaker’s War is a mesmerizing, utterly original adventure about love and loss and the redemptive power of the human spirit."

My Two Cents: 

"The Mapmaker's War" was a very interesting story to me. I liked the story itself. There is a little bit of fantasy and a little bit in this book that really drew me in and kept me reading until the last page. This story is definitely very inventive and will be perfect for readers who want their fantasy reading to be unique.

The main character, Aoife (which I strangely learned to pronounce by watching E!'s reality tv show, Chasing the Saturdays, about the British girl band - hah), is fascinating. She becomes a mapmaker's apprentice, which is pretty much unheard of for a woman in her kingdom. I love stories about people who overcome the odds and circumstances of their life to do something really awesome. This is most definitely what Aoife does in this book.

While I enjoyed the story, I was jarred by the entire book being written in second person point of view. I found it very distracting and very difficult to get used to. This book was a slow read for me because of the writing style. I think it takes away a lot from the book. I had to keep re-reading various sections to make sure that I was following what was going on. There are also no quotation marks used, which made it a little hard to follow who was speaking to whom and if there was any internal monologues involved. This aspect also slowed my reading a little bit.

Overall, I really liked the story but I am not sure that the writing was my cup of tea.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

TLC Book Tours Review and Giveaway: Margaret Fuller: A New American Life by Megan Marshall

Title: Margaret Fuller: A New American Life
Author:  Megan Marshall 
Format: ARC
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publish Date: March 12, 2013
Source: TLC Book Tours

Margaret Fuller: A New American Life

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

From Goodreads.com: "The award-winning author of The Peabody Sisters takes a fresh look at the trailblazing life of a great American heroine—Thoreau’s first editor, Emerson’s close friend, first female war correspondent, and passionate advocate of personal liberation and political freedom.

From an early age, Margaret Fuller provoked and dazzled New England’s intellectual elite. Her famous Conversations changed women’s sense of how they could think and live; her editorship of the Transcendentalist literary journal The Dial shaped American Romanticism. Now, Megan Marshall, whose acclaimed The Peabody Sisters “discovered” three fascinating women, has done it again: no biography of Fuller has made her ideas so alive or her life so moving.

Marshall tells the story of how Fuller, tired of Boston, accepted Horace Greeley’s offer to be the New York Tribune’s front-page columnist. The move unleashed a crusading concern for the urban poor and the plight of prostitutes, and a late-in-life hunger for passionate experience. In Italy as a foreign correspondent, Fuller took a secret lover, a young officer in the Roman Guard; she wrote dispatches on the brutal 1849 Siege of Rome; and she gave birth to a son.

Yet, when all three died in a shipwreck off Fire Island shortly after Fuller’s 40th birthday, the sense and passion of her life’s work were eclipsed by tragedy and scandal. Marshall’s inspired account brings an American heroine back to indelible life."

My Two Cents:

Before I read "Margaret Fuller: A New American," I didn't know much, if anything about her! I was drawn to this book because I really like stories about strong and interesting people. She fits very nicely into both of those categories. She also falls into the whole "person before her time" category, which is another thing I love reading about.This book covers from her very early childhood to her tragic ending being shipwrecked on Fire Island and dying with her family. 

Margaret Fuller is truly an interesting person to read about. I wish I had become familiar with her sooner! She wrote a lot of different books and essays about many different subjects with a heavy focus on women and their place in early to mid 1800s society, which was a time of great change for both the United States and its women. She ran with some of the elite thinkers of the time and was quite friendly with the likes of the famous poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson. She was also very respected as a writer by many even if she also had her share of critic. 

You can tell that Ms. Marshall did a lot of deep research on Fuller. Marshall draws extensively from Fuller's own writings and writings about her as well as letters from various people in her life. It gives a really good, well-rounded picture of who Ms. Fuller was and why she is still important today. There is one possible downside to dwelling so much on various writings though. There is a liberal use of quotation marks and it gets a little distracting, especially when there are only one to two words in the quotation and they don't seem to be particular remarkable or unique. I would rather have had Marshall use her own words for the one and two word quotations as these small quotations do not seem to lend themselves to the overall flavor and feeling of the book.

Overall, this book will appeal to non-fiction and biography lovers who want to read about a truly fascinating person!


Today I'm pleased to be able to give away a copy of this book to one lucky winner (US/CAN only)!

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