Saturday, August 31, 2013

Review: Three Things You Need to Know About Rockets by Jessica A. Fox

Title: Three Things You Need to Know About Rockets: A Real-Life Scottish Fairy Tale
Author: Jessica A. Fox
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Atria
Publish Date: August 27, 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 romantic.
  • You're an armchair traveler.
  • You like memoirs.
What's the Story?:

From "Jessica Fox was living in Hollywood, an ambitious 26-year-old film-maker with a high-stress job at NASA. Working late one night, craving another life, she was seized by a moment of inspiration and tapped “second hand bookshop Scotland” into Google. She clicked the first link she saw.

A month later, she arrived 2,000 miles across the Atlantic in Wigtown, on the west coast of Scotland, and knocked on the door of the bookshop she would be living in for the next month . . .

The rollercoaster journey that ensued—taking in Scottish Hanukkah, yoga on Galloway’s west coast, and a waxing that she will never forget—would both break and mend her heart. It would also teach her that sometimes we must have the courage to travel the path less taken. Only then can we truly become the writers of our own stories."

My Two Cents:

Dropping everything you know, moving across the ocean, and going to work in a bookstore in the wilds of Scotland sounds like a fantastic adventure to me. While I would never have the courage to actually do something like that, I loved living vicariously through Ms. Fox's journey in "Three Things You Need to Know about Rockets."

This memoir gave me the warm and fuzzies. Jessica falls hard for the owner of the bookstore and upends her life in the United States to be with him. It's truly romantic. I really liked to see how their relationship unfolded in the book. They fall pretty quickly for each other.

The book talks a lot about cultural differences between Jessica and her beau, which I thought was interesting. There are some very funny moments in the book (I don't want to give away anything but the part having to do with wax had me giggling out loud on the Metro, a mark of something truly funny). There's even a little bit of magical realism thrown in the mix (Jessica has a penchant for having heart-to-hearts with Mr. Herman Melville).

I was a little disappointed with the ending. I wanted something a little more conclusive because I was so invested in the story. Nonetheless, this book is great for when you're looking for something to make you say awww.


Friday, August 30, 2013

Review: The Marriage Merger by Jennifer Probst

Title: The Marriage Merger
Author: Jennifer Probst
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Gallery
Publish Date: July 30, 2013
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading:

  • You're a romance fan.
  • You're looking for erotica.
What's the Story?:

From "Her sisters have found wedded bliss with their wealthy, wonderful dream men, but not Julietta Conte. She’s stayed on terra firma as top executive of the family’s corporation, La Dolce Famiglia bakery. Work is her passion, and her trendy Milan apartment her sanctuary . . . until Sawyer Wells, a masculine masterpiece in a suit, lures her out of hiding with an irresistible offer: an exclusive partnership with his international chain of boutique hotels.

Julietta’s been burned before—and trusting her brother-in-law’s friend, whose powerful gaze alone has her rethinking the best use of a conference room, is the riskiest proposition. But with a once-in-a- career chance to take the bakery global, will she mix stone-cold business with red-hot seduction?"

My Two Cents:

"The Marriage Merger" is the fourth book in Ms. Probst's Marriage to a Billionaire series. I haven't read the rest of the series and you definitely don't need to in order to understand this book. That being said, I enjoyed this book so I might go back and read the other books!

Julietta has a good head on her shoulders. Very business minded, she is too busy trying to run her family's bakery to be bothered with finding love. Very quickly, she falls for Sawyer, a man with a past, who she is intrigued by and taken with him. Yes, this story sounds familiar but Probst breathes new life into it and makes it nice and steamy. This book was definitely not a bad way to while away a sticky hot afternoon.

Erotic romances are not my usual fare but I was intrigued by this book taking place in Italy. You don't really get a great sense of Italy in the book but that really didn't take away any of the action.

I did really like the steaminess of the book and I liked the ending. I would have liked a little more characterization but if you just want action, this book is for you!


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Review: The Sleeping Dictionary by Sujata Massey

Title: The Sleeping Dictionary
Author: Sujata Massey
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Gallery
Publish Date: August 20, 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 love armchair traveling.
What's the Story?:

From "In 1930, a great ocean wave blots out a Bengali village, leaving only one survivor, a young girl. As a maidservant in a British boarding school, Pom is renamed Sarah and discovers her gift for languages. Her private dreams almost die when she arrives in Kharagpur and is recruited into a secretive, decadent world. Eventually, she lands in Calcutta, renames herself Kamala, and creates a new life rich in books and friends. But although success and even love seem within reach, she remains trapped by what she is . . . and is not. As India struggles to throw off imperial rule, Kamala uses her hard-won skills—for secrecy, languages, and reading the unspoken gestures of those around her—to fight for her country’s freedom and her own happiness."

My Two Cents:

"The Sleeping Dictionary" is a sweeping historical-fiction tale about a young woman trying to find her way in India during a time of great change in that particular country. Kamala (called by many other names in the book) knows that she truly has the odds stacked against her at so many stages in her life. This book is her story and it is truly a treat.

Standing at almost 500 pages, this book about one person's life could have gone awry by simply becoming overwhelming and perhaps too drawn out. I can honestly say that this book was gripping throughout. I really, really liked Kamala. Even though she was born to a lowly caste and had her entire family swept away from her, she succeeds because she is so resourceful and so smart. She knows exactly what decisions are going to get her further. Oh and I don't know about you but I really like when people in books are bookish and Kamala is! She teaches herself to read and from that point on, she reads voraciously. There is so much to like about her and I love that the book was told from her point of view. It really allows the reader to get fully entrenched into the story.

India is an absolutely fascinating place to me. I love reading about the country but I have read very little historical fiction about the country and even less about the independence movement. I loved this book for the armchair traveling aspect of this book and all of the historical detail was really wonderful.

Now according to Goodreads, this book is only the first book in a planned series, which was wonderfully exciting news to me. I would love to see what happens to Kamala and her family in the future!


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Review: The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin

Title: The Lotus Palace
Author: Jeannie Lin
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Harlequin
Publish Date: August 27, 2013
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You're a historical romance fan.
  • You like armchair traveling.
What's the Story?:

From "It is a time of celebration in the Pingkang Li, where imperial scholars and bureaucrats mingle with beautiful courtesans. At the center is the Lotus Palace, home of the most exquisite courtesans in China...

Maidservant Yue-ying is not one of those beauties. Street-smart and practical, she's content to live in the shadow of her infamous mistress—until she meets the aristocratic playboy Bai Huang.

Bai Huang lives in a privileged world Yue-ying can barely imagine, yet alone share, but as they are thrown together in an attempt to solve a deadly mystery, they both start to dream of a different life. Yet Bai Huang's position means that all she could ever be to him is his concubine—will she sacrifice her pride to follow her heart?"

My Two Cents:

"The Lotus Palace" is the beginning of a new series by Jeannie Lin. This historical romance takes us to Pingkang Li and into the mysterious world of the courtesans. I loved this historical romance for it's great love story and the good historical detail.

By this time I've realized that if I pick up a Jeannie Lin book, there are a couple things that I can count on. One is a swoon-worthy love story. Two is a great setting that leaves a lot of room for some quality armchair traveling. Lucky for me, both of these elements were also present in this book.

Okay, so the romance in this book was really good. I loved the story between Yue-Ying and Lord Bai. This is a classic story of two lovers who come from completely different worlds but find love together. Lin gives a fresh take on this story by creating characters that you really want to be together. I don't want to give too much away about Yue-Ying's background as it's part of the story but I was really pulling for her throughout the entire book!

I loved the setting of the book too. I don't get to read about Asia nearly enough. Ancient China is so fascinating to me. Even though this is a romance, there is a ton of good historical detail. The Lotus Palace truly comes to life!

Now according to Goodreads, the next book isn't coming out until 2014. Count on me waiting with bated breath!


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Review: The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan

Title: The Panopticon
Author: Jenni Fagan
Format: ARC
Publisher: Hogarth
Publish Date: July 23, 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 don't mind tough subjects.
  • You like great writing!
What's the Story?:

From "Anais Hendricks, fifteen, is in the back of a police car. She is headed for the Panopticon, a home for chronic young offenders. She can't remember what’s happened, but across town a policewoman lies in a coma and Anais’s school uniform is covered in blood.

Raised in foster care from birth and moved through twenty-three placements before she even turned seven, Anais has been let down by just about every adult she has ever met. Now a counter-culture outlaw, she knows that she can only rely on herself. And yet despite the parade of horrors visited upon her early life, she greets the world with the witty, fierce insight of a survivor.

Anais finds a sense of belonging among the residents of the Panopticon – they form intense bonds, and she soon becomes part of an ad hoc family. Together, they struggle against the adults that keep them confined. When she looks up at the watchtower that looms over the residents though, Anais knows her fate: she is an anonymous part of an experiment, and she always was. Now it seems that the experiment is closing in."

My Two Cents:

"The Panopticon" is the story of Scottish teenager, Anais, who ends up in the Panopticon after being bounced around from foster home to foster home and potentially committing a crime that she doesn't remember committing. Told from Anais's point of view in explosive detail, this book is a really good debut from Jenni Fagan.

This is book deals with a lot of tough topics. Anais doesn't have a very good background. Passed all over creation, she doesn't feel like she belongs anywhere or that she can do anything about her situation. She wants to get out of the system but she feels like she's being held back. You're pulling for her throughout the entire book. You want things to get better! Fagan writes Anais in such a way that even though she makes bad decisions, you still feel for her. She is truly an unforgettable character.

The writing of this book was especially gripping. As I mentioned, the book is told from Anais's point of view, which truly pulls the reader into the story. You see what Anais is doing and why she's doing it and what she's thinking while she's doing it. We get to meet all of the other teens that are in the Panopticon and get a close look at Anais's relations with them and how they continue to shape her.

The book started out very fast paced and over all, this story is very good but it lost a little bit of steam towards the end. The ending of the book is great though. Although this book deals with tough subjects, it's a great story! I am looking forward to Fagan's future releases!


Monday, August 26, 2013

Giveaway Winners!

I have two giveaway winners to announce today!

Age of Desire:
Elizabeth H.

Heart of the Country:

Guest Post: Abria Mattina, Author of Love Among Pigeons

Today I'm excited to welcome Abria Mattina here to A Bookish Affair as part of the Love Among Pigeons to talk about one of her favorite snacks to eat while reading (let me just say, we think on the same wavelength). Don't forget to enter the giveaways to celebrate the release of Love Among Pigeons.

Romantic Reads Snack

Some books, like incredibly stinky cheese, are simply meant to be paired with wine. Others are meant to be paired with chocolate, or with the taste of summer barbecue, or perhaps with a warm mug of herbal tea.

I write books that make people hungry, and those books also happen to be heart-squeezy romances that should really come standard with a dose of chocolate. I’d like to share one of my favourite romantic reads snacks: a single-portion recipe of eggless cookie dough, safe to eat raw.

I first stumbled upon this recipe on Pinterest, where I get most of my holiday cooking ideas these days. I like to soften the chocolate chips a bit first, so they’re all gooey.

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

The end result is a ball of doughy goodness about the size of your palm. It’s a perfect single serving. So grab a romantic read like Wake or Love Among Pigeons,
a snuggly blanket, and some good old-fashioned cookie dough, and settle in for a night of reading.
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Review: For You, Madam Lenin by Kat Meads

Title: For You, Madam Lenin
Author: Kat Meads
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Livingston Press
Publish Date: October 10, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this didn't affect my review.

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

Synopsis: "When Vladimir Lenin married Nadezhda Krupskaya, he gained more than a comrade/wife. He gained a mother-in-law less than impressed with the “unemployed” revolutionary. In Siberian exile, in European exile, in Russia, this quarreling threesome shared close—sometimes too close—quarters.

For You, Madam incorporates humor (as well hardship). It conspires with the females (rather than the males). In this fiction, the Lenin-Trotsky-Stalin triumvirate doesn’t outshine Russia's long line of radical female luminaries, interrogated by History, a character."

My Two Cents:

"For You, Madam Lenin" is the story of the infamous Vladimir Lenin's wife, Nadya, told mostly from the perspective of Nadya's mother. Before this book, I knew very, very little of Lenin's wife so it was fascinating to me to get to learn a little bit more about her through this historical-fiction book.

The Russian Revolution is absolutely fascinating to me. It's such a watershed moment in history and it truly changed the course of history. This time period in history is filled with big personalities. I really like how this book brought some of those personalities to life. This book gives a good overview of some of the events surrounding the revolution. There are a lot of interesting people that make an appearance in this book such as Trotsky and Karl Marx's daughter.

The chapters are told from various points of view, not just Nadya's mother's point of view. Some of the chapters are very interesting such as the ones entitled "Interview with History," which features some of the historical figures in the book talking to an unknown entity. While it did take you out of the book a little bit, they were very interesting and added an almost dream-like feel to the book! I found myself wishing that there would have been a little bit more of a focus on the story itself.

Overall, this was an interesting story and whetted my appetite to learn more about so many different historical figures!


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Review: Vuto by A.J. Walkley

Title: Vuto
Author: A.J. Walkley
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Rocket Science Productions
Publish Date: July 22, 2013
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 love armchair traveling.
What's the Story?:

From "Vuto is only 17 when her third child dies, mere days after birth.

Malawian tradition prevents men from considering a child their own until it has survived for two weeks. Frustrated at not being able to speak to her husband, Solomon, about all three of the children she’s had to bury alone, Vuto forces him to acknowledge the dead baby. Her rejection of tradition causes Solomon and the village elders to banish Vuto from the only home she’s ever known. She seeks refuge in the hut of U.S. Peace Corps volunteer Samantha Brennan, where Solomon discovers his wife has not left as she was told.

When Solomon arrives in the night to attack Vuto, Samantha disregards her oath to remain uninvolved in village politics and interjects herself into the center of the conflict, defending Vuto and killing Solomon in the process.

The women go on the run from Vuto’s village and the Peace Corps, encountering physical, ethical and cultural struggles along the way."

My Two Cents:

"Vuto" is a story about mostly focused on a Peace Corps Volunteer, Samantha, and a Malawi native, Vuto, who get in way over their heads when a crime is committed in the name of self-defense. Told from four points of views (Samantha's, Vuto's, Samantha's boyfriend, and another PCV), this book explores another culture and differences between different cultures.

There were a couple places where the book fell flat for me. First off, the narration. I think that having the narration come from various people can be risky. You really have to make sure that each voice was unique and different. I really had a hard time with the narration and had to keep flipping back and forth to figure out who was talking. Vuto's point of view was a little more different than the other three but Samantha's, Hunter's, and Ali's "voices" seemed very much the same.

Also, I really had a hard time understanding why Samantha made the decisions that she makes in the book after the crime takes place. She could have saved herself so much heartache if she would have just stopped and thought. I wanted to understand the motivation behind why she did what she did.

I was interested in this story because I have a deep interest in international affairs and news. I also love armchair traveling and I don't believe I've ever read a book about Malawi. I loved the descriptions of the country of Malawi. You can really see what the country looks like and what Vuto's village looks like. The book shines in the armchair traveling aspect!

Overall, Walkley is a promising author and I am excited for what the future brings!


Friday, August 23, 2013

Exciting News!!!

If you follow me on Facebook, you probably already know this news but last night, I received an absolutely glorious email from Google saying that they were disabling access to the ENTIRE blog that had been plagiarizing A Bookish Affair. Yes, it did take awhile but this is a way better outcome than I could have ever hoped for!

This was an amazing conclusion and a fantastic way to kick off a three day weekend. I really hope that I never have to go through this again! Plagiarism sucks, guys!

In other news, I do have a bookish event coming up for this weekend. The lovely Kate Quinn has a new historical fiction release called The Serpent and the Pearl. I'm not sure I've heard a single bad thing about this book, guys. It sounds wonderful and I can't wait to get my hands on it! She's doing a talk at The Ivy Bookshop up in Baltimore. I will most definitely report back!

What are you doing this weekend? And perhaps more importantly, what are you reading?

Review: Heirs & Spares by J.L. Spohr

Title: Heirs & Spares
Author: J.L. Spohr
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Plum Street Press
Publish Date: June 4, 2013
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

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

From "It's 1569. Elizabeth I sits on the English throne, the Reformation inflames the Continent, and whispers of war abound. But in Troixden, just north of France, the Lady Annelore isn't interested in politics. Times are hard, taxes are high, and the people in her duchy need her help just to survive. Her widowed father is a good man easily distracted by horses, and her newly knighted childhood friend...well, he has plans of his own. Then Annelore receives a call she can't ignore. When Troixden's sadistic king died childless, his younger brother William returns from exile to find his beloved country on the brink of civil war. He's in desperate need of the stability that comes with a bride and heirs. But Annelore, his chosen queen, won't come quietly. Now the future of Troixden lies in the hands of two people who never wanted the power they've received and never dreamed that from duty and honor they might find love and a path to peace. Heirs & Spares is one part history, two parts palace plotting, and a whole lot of juicy romantic intrigue. Break out the spiced wine and sink in to this rousing read."

My Two Cents:

"Heirs and Spares" is a historical romance book with a lot of good historical detail. Annelore always thought she'd marry her childhood sweetheart, Bryan. When King William comes a-callin', her plans might have to change whether she wants it or not. Looking for love? Palace intrigue? This book might fit the bill for you.

I really enjoyed the romance between King William and Annelore. Although Annelore doesn't seem wholly convinced in the beginning that marrying William is going to be the best thing for her. It's definitely not what she had planned. Spohr very clearly shows how they fall together and I loved reading about their burgeoning romance. It's very sweet!

Although the characters in this book are totally fictional, this book has a lot of historical elements that historical fiction purists will love. It must be mentioned that the setting is fictional as well. I really liked Spohr's look at what 16th century European life was like. I really liked reading all of the descriptions of what court life was like.

The writing in this book was definitely engaging. It's a fairly short book and a quick read. The story would be a great way to while away these last few days of summer.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

TLC Book Tours: Very Recent History by Choire Sicha

Title: Very Recent History: An Entirely Factual Account of a Year (c. AD 2009) in a Large City
Author: Choire Sicha
Format: ARC
Publisher: Harper
Publish Date: August 6, 2013
Source: TLC Book Tours

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You like really creative writing.
  • You're a non-fiction fan.
What's the Story?:

From "In one of the greatest cities in the world, the richest man in town is the Mayor. Billionaires shed apartments like last season's fashion trends, even as the country's economy turns inside out and workers are expelled from the City's glass towers. The young and careless go on as they always have, getting laid and getting laid off, falling in and falling out of love, and trying to navigate the strange world they traffic in: the Internet, complex financial markets, credit cards, pop stars, microplane cheese graters, and sex apps.

A true-life fable of money, sex, and politics, Very Recent History follows a man named John and his circle of friends, lovers, and enemies. It is a book that pieces together our every day, as if it were already forgotten."

My Two Cents:

"Very Recent History" is an interesting take on events that didn't happen all that long ago. Drawing on a lot of interviews, author Choire Sicha creates a non-fiction story that feels like a fictional story. This book definitely felt surreal to me in a lot of ways. It focuses on several gay men and their living in NYC as well as their relationships and it also focuses on what life was like not so long ago (as Sicha points out, a lot of things have changed in that relatively short time).

It's a surreal portrait of New York City during the 2009-? financial crisis. I vividly remember 2009 and it was surreal to read about it as if it were historical fiction. Sicha makes this book feel like almost an anthropological journey. Even though most of us know what 2009 was like, Sicha turns it on its head and we are almost on the outside looking in. It was a really interesting. It almost throws you a little off kilter.

This book was definitely interesting book. At certain points, the writing is really beautiful. Sicha said a couple things in the book that really made me think. There were other parts that sort of were slow and made me lose focus. Unfortunately, this is where the book fell flat for me. 


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Review: You Lucky Dog! by Kate Kelly

Title: You Lucky Dog!
Author: Kate Kelly
Format: Paperback
Publisher: America Comes Alive Publishing
Publish Date: April 25, 2013
Source: I received a copy from the PR; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're an animal lover.
What's the Story?:

From "You Lucky Dog! by Kate Kelly is an uplifting compilation of true stories about homeless dogs that survived and thrived against the odds to become celebrities. Kate skillfully warms hearts with stories about Toto from The Wizard of Oz, Rin Tin Tin, Benji, America's first dogs, and more. You Lucky Dog! beautifully recounts the adversity each of these amazing creatures faced en route to a grand destiny.

Kate captures their very souls in moving descriptions of the devotion, loyalty and trust that changed both the fortune of these very special dogs and the lives of their human caregivers. Filled with historical facts and endearing tales of endurance and character these bite-sized stories make ideal reading for any dog lover."

My Two Cents:

As an animal lover, I absolutely love reading about animals, which is why I was drawn to "You Lucky Dog," which is a collection of stories about dogs (perhaps unsurprisingly). The book is broken up into two sections. The first section is mostly about Hollywood dogs with a couple of other dogs thrown in (did you know that San Diego had a famous dog named Bum who roamed the town freely and now has a statue honoring him?). The second part is about dogs that lived in the White House.

Overall, I thought this book was interesting and I think that my fellow animal lovers will enjoy it. The stories are very short, some are much shorter than others. Thus, you really only get a small taste of who these dogs were. This would be a good collection for an animal lover who just wants some short stories about some really cool dogs.

There were a few small issues with the book. There were several formatting errors in the book, which were a little distracting. Also, the author adding in a lot about what she found out during her research process, which was a little distracting as well.

Overall, I enjoyed this book.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review: The Dream You Make by Christine Nolfi

Title: The Dream You Make
Author: Christine Nolfi
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Self-published
Publish Date: June 13, 2013
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

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

From "Each day Annie McDaniel’s dream of a brighter future slips further away.

After her nephew’s world is destroyed in a burst of gunfire, Annie receives temporary custody of five-year-old Dillon. Now the greenhouse she managed with her late father isn’t bringing in enough money. If she doesn’t get her financial house in order, a judge will allow a couple in Baltimore to adopt Dillon—and remove him from her life forever.

Desperate, she takes on a second job at Rowe Marketing. The instant attraction she shares with Michael Rowe is a circumstance Annie can’t risk. But should she walk away from a love sure to last a lifetime?

Fresh, heartwarming and inspiring, The Dream You Make reveals that hope always carries the promise of new beginnings."

My Two Cents:

"The Dream You Make" is yet another book by Christine Nolfi. I've read a couple of her other books but let me tell you right off the bat, this book is my favorite book. It's a heartwarming romance with a great back story that makes the story feel really full.

This book has a lot of the elements that I've really enjoyed in Nolfi's other books. This book like the other ones was just a really warm story. This is exactly the kind of book that you read when you want the warm fuzzies. It's filled with characters that you want to know and that you will want to pull for throughout the book.

I loved the story of Annie trying to get custody of her late sister's little son, Dillon. I really felt for their situation. This is definitely one situation where you're pulling for the characters. You just want that poor little boy to have a really good place to call home.

This book is definitely also a romance. Some of Nolfi's other books definitely have romantic elements to them, which I really enjoyed. This one was no different.I really liked the romance in the story between Annie and Michael. I was also pulling for them throughout the entire book.

This book is great when you're looking for a heartwarming story to relax with!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Review: The Midwife's Revolt by Jodi Daynard

Title: The Midwife's Revolt
Author: Jodi Daynard
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Opossum Press
Publish Date: January 1, 2013
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

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

From "The Midwife’s Revolt takes the reader on a journey to the founding days of America. It follows one woman’s path, Lizzie Boylston, from her grieving days of widowhood after Bunker Hill, to her deepening friendship with Abigail Adams and midwifery, and finally to her dangerous work as a spy for the Cause. Much has been written about our founding men. But The Midwife’s Revolt is unique in that it opens a window onto the lives of our founding women as well."

My Two Cents:

"The Midwife's Revolt" is the story of Lizzie Boylston, a young woman living during the American Revolution. Ahead of her times in many ways, Lizzie is trying to make her way in Massachusetts after her husband dies. Luckily as we see in this book, Lizzie is incredibly brave and resourceful. This book is truly a treat for historical-fiction lovers. Filled with great detail and fantastic characters, this book is definitely a full body experience.

Okay, first off, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of historical-fiction set during Revolutionary times. I can't tell you why but I can tell you that it is most definitely a shame, especially after reading this book. The American Revolution is so fascinating to me! In this book, Lizzie is really good friends with Abigail Adams, an incredibly fascinating lady (if you've never read the letters between her and her husband, John Adams, you must read them!). I loved that the author was able to weave Abigail into this story!

Ah, and there was so much good historical detail in this book! You have the Revolutionary War information (it was fascinating to read about Lizzie's family who were Tories as well as the Tories that didn't return to England). Lizzie is also a midwife so there is a lot of good and extremely interesting detail about medical care during this time. It's always interesting to me to be able to read about technology during a certain time. It's mind-blowing how far we've come.

The book also has great characters. The book is told from the perspective of Lizzie, who is absolutely fascinating in her own right (even with being surrounded by the likes of John and Abigail Adams and other stars of the American Revolution).

Overall, this is definitely a treat!


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Review: The Last Tears of Scotland by Thomas E. Greenlaw

Title: The Last Tears of Scotland
Author: Thomas E. Greenlaw
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Self-published
Publish Date: January 3, 2013
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this didn't affect my review.

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

Synopsis: "With the Battle of Flodden in 1513, Scotland lost its King, James IV, and most of its ruling class, leading to a turmoil that lasted 90 years. Alexander (Alec) Hume, the Great Chamberlain, survived that battle. He had fallen in love with his father’s ward, Lady Katherine Nisbet (Katie), a relationship his father considered incestuous, but one that he was passionately determined to maintain. Though he once strayed into the arms of the King’s widow, Queen Margaret, sister of Henry VIII, he was largely motivated to bring stability to Scotland and the Borderland. Ultimately, he was forced to invite the French speaking John Stewart, Duke of Albany to become Regent. Unable to properly communicate, they soon fell out and Albany had him branded a rebel and deprived him of all his ancestral holdings, including Hume Castle, by an act of parliament. Though upsetting to his beloved Katie, the infuriated Alec created havoc all across the Borders to the point that Albany had to forgive him and restore his land and property. Later, invited to Edinburgh for an important meeting, Alec and his brother Willie were apprehended and thrown in prison.

But his struggled was taken up by his nephew, also called Alexander, who recaptured Hume Castle and successfully defended it against the Earl of Rutland, sent by Queen Elizabeth of England, angry that Alec provided shelter to her Catholic rebels. However, his weakness for women led to tumultuous relationships first, with a farm girl, Jennie Laidlaw, then Lady Margaret Ker, Mary Queen of Scots and finally Lady Agnes Grey who bore him a son destined to become the first Earl of Hume starting a dynasty extant to day. In addition to the chaos of government, this Alec had to contend with the Scottish Reformation, a turbulent time of intrigue, treachery and Machiavellian machinations, and a series of bloody murders, even witch burnings. While a staunch supporter of Mary Queen of Scots he was, in the end, obliged to fight against her, forcing her out of Scotland for all time."

My Two Cents: 

 "The Last Tears of Scotland" is an epic story of a very important time in Scotland's history. This is a part of history that I had really read very little about and I love diving into a new-to-me part of history. Standing at almost 500 pages, this book is a very detailed, very interesting book about a massive change in Scotland.

This book is actually the abridged version of Greenlaw's Lions of Scotland book. As an abridged version, this book works pretty well. There are a couple things that I feel were glossed over a bit but overall, I didn't feel like anything I was missing out on anything.

"The Last Tears of Scotland" can really be divided up into two sections. Alec Hume, the Great Chamberlain, has the first part. The second part belongs to his nephew, also called Alec (slightly confusing, no?). Both parts focus on their struggles and fights. The book also focuses on the love affairs of both men. I really enjoyed reading about the first Alec's relationship with Katie (aww, I really felt bad for her throughout the book).

The author did a good job with keeping this still relatively large book moving. This story was a good mix of historical detail and human story. It was interesting to see this time period from this perspective! Overall, this is a good story! 

Review: A House Near Luccoli by D.M. Denton

Title: A House Near Luccoli
Author: D.M. Denton
Format: Paperback
Publisher: All Things That Matter Press
Publish Date: August 27, 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 historical-fiction fan.
What's the Story?:

From "A House near Luccoli focuses on chance encounters, beautiful music and the paradox of genius through an imagined intimacy with one of the most legendary and undervalued figures of Italian Baroque music.

Over three years since the charismatic 17th century composer, violinist, and singer Alessandro Stradella sought refuge in the palaces and twisted alleys of Genoa, royally welcomed despite the alleged scandals and even crimes that forced him to flee from Rome, Venice, and Turin, his professional and personal life have begun to unravel again. He is offered, by the very man he is rumored to have wronged, a respectable if slightly shabby apartment and yet another chance to redeem his character and career. He moves in to the curiosity and consternation of his caretakers, also tenants, three women whose reputations are of concern only to themselves. Donatella, still unmarried in her mid-thirties, is plainly irrelevant. Yet, like the city she lives in, there are hidden longings in her, propriety the rule, not cure, for what ails her. She cares more for her bedridden grandmother and cats than overbearing aunt, keeping house and tending to a small terraced garden, painting flowers and waxing poetic in her journal. At first, she is in awe of and certain she will have little to do with Stradella. Slowly, his ego, playfulness, need of a copyist and camouflage involve her in an inspired and insidious world, exciting and heartbreaking as she is enlarged by his magnanimity and reduced by his missteps, forging a friendship that challenges how far she will go."

My Two Cents:

A House Near Luccoli" is a historical-fiction story of composer, Alessandro Stradella, living in 17th century Italy. While the story is told in third person, it centers on Donatella, a young woman who has been wronged many times in her life, who begins working for Stradella. Stradella is a little known figure of his time but he has a very interesting story, which makes it especially sad that so much of his life has been forgotten.

I was really fascinated by this story. One of my favorite subjects for historical-fiction books are those little known stories where I'm not really familiar with the subject matter. This book falls firmly in this category. It's always interesting to learn something new. The subject definitely kept my attention! Denton gives us a good taste of Stradella was and what his music and life was like. I definitely feel like I got a lot of insight into who he was.

This is a fairly short read. I did like the storytelling in the book for the most part. The story moved at a quick pace. The author mixes in some Italian words (the book takes place in Italy) in some of the speech. This can be a useful device to create a sense of place but in this case, it seemed to be used very randomly and became somewhat distracting at some points.

Overall, this is an interesting historical-fiction about a little known historical figure. "

Friday, August 16, 2013

Review: The Passion of the Purple Plumeria by Lauren Willig

Title: The Passion of the Purple Plumeria
Author: Lauren Willig
Format: Paperback
Publisher: NAL Trade
Publish Date: August 6, 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 a romance fan.
  • You like a little bit of mystery.
What's the Story?:

From "Colonel William Reid has returned home from India to retire near his children, who are safely stowed in an academy in Bath. Upon his return to the Isles, however, he finds that one of his daughters has vanished, along with one of her classmates.

Having served as second-in-command to the Pink Carnation, one of England’s most intrepid spies, it would be impossible for Gwendolyn Meadows to give up the intrigue of Paris for a quiet life in the English countryside—especially when she’s just overheard news of an alliance forming between Napoleon and an Ottoman Sultan. But, when the Pink Carnation’s little sister goes missing from her English boarding school, Gwen reluctantly returns home to investigate the girl’s disappearance.

Thrown together by circumstance, Gwen and William must cooperate to track down the young ladies before others with nefarious intent get their hands on them. But Gwen’s partnership with quick-tongued, roguish William may prove to be even more of an adventure for her than finding the lost girls…"

My Two Cents:

"The Passion of the Purple Plumeria" is the 10th book in Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series. While this is only the second book of the series that I have read, I am already very appreciative of how light and fun these books are. There's historical elements present. There's love! There's a little bit of mystery! I definitely want to read more of this series.

So do you need to read the other books in the series? No, not necessarily. You will definitely be able to pick up on as well as enjoy the story without having read any of the other books. That being said, this book may spoil some of the story lines of the other books for you.

This series is all about spies during Napoleonic times a la the Scarlet Pimpernel. The bits of history that we get on how and why the spying was conducted was fascinating. Even though all the main figures in the book are made up, historical fiction lovers will find a lot to love about these books; they are great stories about another time and place.

This book tells the story of Miss Gwen, who has appeared in other Pink Carnation books. As a right hand lady to the Pink Carnation, she knows the in's and out's of spying and saving the day but this book gives her a chance to shine!

Overall, this was a really fun book and like I said, it only made me want to go back and read more of this series! 

Author Interview:

1.     Do you listen to music when you write?  If so, could you create a “playlist” for the book?  What music did you listen to while writing?  Or what music does the book make you think of?

Being a creature of habit, I tend to listen and re-listen to the same things while I work, largely because I’m too lazy to queue up something new.  The more familiar the songs are the better, since that means they fade into the background as ambient noise. It all varies book to book: my second book, The Masque of the Black Tulip, was all about the Shrek II soundtrack (in my own defense, it was the summer of 2004, and “Accidentally in Love” was so Miles and Henrietta); my fourth book, The Seduction of the Crimson Rose, was composed almost entirely to Bach; and my stand alone novel, The Ashford Affair, involved a lot of Toad the Wet Sprocket.

For The Passion of the Purple Plumeria?  Miss Gwen’s book seemed to call for a certain amount of girl music: I listened to a lot of The Weepies and Vienna Tang—and whatever happened to be playing at my favorite Starbucks.

You can find detailed playlists for the first five Pink Carnation novels on my website:  One of these days, I’ll get around to adding the playlists for Books Six through Ten!

2.     Do you ever go back and read previous novels from the series before writing the next one?

Years ago, when my first book came out, I remember being shocked at a conversation with a seasoned author who informed me that she never re-read her own work.  How could she not?  At the time, I was flipping lovingly through The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, savoring every phrase.  I could practically recite chunks of it from memory.  After all, it was my book—and that was still an amazing and alien concept.

Now, I get what she meant.

When I’m working on a book, I’ll go back and spot check details in previous novels, flipping through to find specific incidents or phrases, but I find it very hard to read my own work.  There’s always something I would have changed or done differently now, some spot where the plot mechanism is creaky or the dialogue is forced, and nothing I can do to fix it.  So I tend to avoid re-reading my own work.

Not to mention that there are so many other books out there to read….

3.     Before you became a novelist you were a lawyer.  How did that experience influence your career as a novelist?

It was actually the other way around.  I’d begun playing around with the book that becameThe Secret History of the Pink Carnation way back in 2001, towards the end of my second year of grad school, because it was far more fun than working on my dissertation—and grading undergrad papers was making me cranky.  In 2003, around the same time I finished off the manuscript, I came to an important conclusion: I really, really didn’t want to spend the rest of my life grading undergrad papers.  At the same time, I knew my odds of making it as a fiction writer were slim to nonexistent—so I did what most disgruntled humanities majors do.  I lobbed in an application to law school. 

Naturally, as Murphy’s law would have it, this meant that I got my agent the month before I started at Harvard Law and signed my first book contract about a month into my 1L year.  I wound up writing three novels during law school. 
Hey, it was more interesting than Torts.

Being a glutton for punishment, I signed a contract for another two Pink Carnation books and toddled off to a large New York law firm as a litigation associate.  I found that it was relatively easy to keep dashing spies out of my memos and shareholder derivative suits outof my novels, but harder to find time to sleep.  After about a year and a half, with my veins running more coffee than blood, I decided that it was time to bite the bullet and left the law to write full time.

One thing I do owe to my year and a half as a practicing lawyer is a hearty respect for deadlines.  When a partner wants something, he doesn’t want it a week from now; he wants it five minutes ago.  Likewise, with my writing time limited to the odd weekend, there was no time to dawdle and dither and wait for the muse.  When you have a book deadline looming and only scraps of time to write in, you make those scraps count.

Most of my books have very little to do with my legal career, but I was finally able to make use of that experience with my first stand alone novel, The Ashford Affair, in which the modern heroine is an associate at a large New York law firm.  Not like I would know anyone like that….

4.     What authors have inspired your work?

The authors who had the greatest impact on the Pink Carnation series, with its swashbuckling spies and madcap humor, are, in no particular order:

n  the Baroness Orczy and Rafael Sabatini, for their tales of daring-do (or derring-do), in which able heroes wield razor sharp rapiers and even sharper wit, usually while jumping off tables or other bits of convenient scenery;
n  Georgette Heyer and Julia Quinn, for their witty, if very different, Regency romances;
n   and Elizabeth Peters, whose mystery novels taught me most of what I know about comic timing—and whose inimitable Amelia Peabody provided a model for Miss Gwendolyn Meadows, heroine of The Passion of the Purple Plumeria. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Review: Skin Deep by T.G. Ayer

Title: Skin Deep
Author: T.G. Ayer
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Self-published
Publish Date: April 30, 2013
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this didn't affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a paranormal fan.
  • You're a young adult/ new adult fiction fan.
What's the Story?:

From "Panther Shape-shifter Kailin Odel just wants to be normal. Leaving her clan, and her Alpha responsibilities, to live with her grandmother in Chicago had been the best thing for her. Only then did she discover her ability to track and kill the soul sucking undead creatures called Wraiths. Now she protected the humans, and had something to be proud of.

But, when she discovers the body of a murdered shape shifter, Kailin has to come to terms with the reality that her own kind are just as vulnerable as the humans. 

The closer Kailin gets to the killer the more she has to face the intricacies of her people. When the time comes can she accept who and what her real purpose is?"

My Two Cents:  

"Skin Deep" is the beginning of a new series from T.G. Ayer. This book is about Kailin, a shape-shifter, who moves in a world where danger could be right around the corner. She hunt wraiths, really scary creatures that pose imminent harm to anyone who happens to cross their paths.

I really liked Kailin's character. The idea of her being a shape-shifter were really interesting to me. She's incredibly brave and incredibly strong and it was so interesting to read about her life fighting the wraiths and trying to stay out of trouble but finding it all the same. You will definitely root for her throughout the book!

The storyline for this book was really interesting to me. It had been awhile since I had read any sort of paranormal books so this was an interesting and refreshing story. Kailin's world was really interesting to me and I wanted to know a little bit more about why her world was the way that it was. There isn't a lot of world building in the book. I'm hopeful that there will be more world building in the future books.

This book is definitely action driven for the most part. There were some parts that were extremely fast paced but other parts were a little more lower key. Overall, this was a good introduction to a new world!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Review and Author Interview: Rutherford Park by Elizabeth Cooke

Title: Rutherford Park
Author: Elizabeth Cooke
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Publish Date: July 2, 2013
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You love historical fiction.
  • You like a cast of many characters.
What's the Story?:

From "For the Cavendish family, Rutherford Park is much more than a place to call home. It is a way of life marked by rigid rules and lavish rewards, governed by unspoken desires…

Lady of the house Octavia Cavendish lives like a bird in a gilded cage. With her family’s fortune, her husband, William, has made significant additions to the estate, but he too feels bound—by the obligations of his title as well as his vows. Their son, Harry, is expected to follow in his footsteps, but the boy has dreams of his own, like pursuing the new adventure of aerial flight. Meanwhile, below stairs, a housemaid named Emily holds a secret that could undo the Cavendish name.

On Christmas Eve 1913, Octavia catches a glimpse of her husband in an intimate moment with his beautiful and scandalous distant cousin. She then spies the housemaid Emily out in the snow, walking toward the river, about to make her own secret known to the world. As the clouds of war gather on the horizon, an epic tale of longing and betrayal is about to unfold at Rutherford Park."

My Two Cents:

"Rutherford Park" reminded me very much of Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs. It follows the comings and goings of those that live and work in the grand estate house of Rutherford Park. It's an interesting slice of life kind of book that will appeal to historical fiction lovers who want a wide variety of characters to read about.

The list of characters was a little overwhelming to me. Almost every chapter focuses on a different character's interactions with the other characters in the book. I was a little overwhelmed with how many characters there were. I had to keep reminding myself of who was who. I kind of found myself wishing that the storyline focused a little bit more on just a few characters. One of the issues with big casts is that it is hard to get to know some of the characters.

I really enjoyed the time period of the book. The book takes place just prior to WWI, which is such a fascinating time period to me. You get a good sense of what it was like for a family of great means to transition to post-Victorian London.

Overall, this is an interesting tale of family secrets and the ties that bind families and those surrounding them together.

Author Interview:

1.     Where do you write?  How important is your writing space to the writing process?

I have an office in the centre of Dorchester, Dorset – just one room in a restored Victorian building, but very light and spacious and quiet. Dorchester is a market town about nine miles from the sea at Weymouth. I’m lucky to live in one ofEngland’s most beautiful counties, close to the World Heritage Jurassic Coast. I think of the office as my absolute sanctuary. I always used to work at home (for 20 years! – ‘The Ice Child’ was written in a cramped storeroom about 6 feet by 4, believe it or not – 135,000 words were hammered out in there in 20 weeks!).  Working from home can be very distracting – either there are household jobs staring at you, or the nicer temptations of the garden, or just lounging about when you should be working! I’m so glad that I’ve rented my office at last.

2.     Who are some of your favorite authors to read?

 Hilary Mantel is a great historical writer. I’m presently reading her ‘Bring Up the Bodies’. The latest books I’ve read are ‘Drawing Fire’ by Len Smith; ‘Moranthology’ by Caitlin Moran; and ‘Walking Home’ by Simon Armitage.  The last book I bought was ‘The Watch’ by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya. But I also really love detective fiction. I read Dorothy Sayer’s ‘Gaudy Night’ on holiday, and I have every Michael Connolly. The plots are perfect.

3.     What are three novels everyone should read and why?

 Well now, here I’m tempted to say ‘The Ice Child’, ‘A Road Through the Mountains’ and ‘Learning by Heart’. !!!!

But, other than the ones I’ve already mentioned I would choose:

‘The Little Prince’ by Antoine de Saint Exupery. I was given this as a children’s book, but of course it isn’t. It’s kind of Zen-like in its simplicity. I read recently that when he was a pilot, he would have a book open on his knees and circle the airfield until he’d finished it. What a man!

‘Atonement’ by Ian McEwan. This is the only book ever in my life that, reaching the end, I threw down and yelled, ‘No, no!’ because I was so caught up in the story and so shocked at the twist in the plot. As a writer I can see most structures within a book and second-guess what’s happening, but this took me completely by surprise and actually made me cry. That is very rare. Wonderful, wonderful book.

Any P.G.Wodehouse, for true British idiocy. Love them.

4.     What kind of research did you do for RUTHERFORD PARK?

 A HUGE amount. The first thing I did was buy a large portfolio and in it I pasted every picture I could find of country houses, Edwardian clothes, kitchens, furnishings, cars, estate farms, landscapes……

Then I started on my portraits of the main characters, trawling through Edwardian paintings for the faces/clothes/rooms.

I found coffee-table books bought from charity shops that show country houses. I have big bound volumes of Country Life that have pictures of estates in the 1930s/1920s and before. Then there were all the books on the early days of the Royal Flying Corps, researching the different kinds of airplanes and getting my head round how they were constructed and flown and who the main designers were.

I researched the fashions of the period – even finding films on You-Tube of hat designers, etc. I found out who all the Paris designers were and which designer was fashionable for which age group.

I come from Yorkshire myself, but there was plenty that I didn’t know about mills and how they were organized. I had to find out the legislation pertaining to them, what each machine did, and read some gruesome reports of mill accidents. I read about working conditions and housing conditions, and what diseases were common to the workers.

Lastly, and most time-consuming, was researching the political events leading up to the First World War and how this was dealt with in the British Parliament. What happened in France as war was declared was a revelation to me.

But I do love research. I pride myself on getting facts right.

5.     If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

A painter, and probably very, very poor!
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