Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

So yesterday was my last review for 2015! I'm taking the rest of the year off from blogging and real work to spend time with my husband and these two little ones (who actually liked Santa this year).

This has been such an amazing year and it has gone by so quickly. My girls are already 8 months old and it seems like every day they are doing something new. My mom said something that really hit me a couple weeks ago. She was pondering out loud about what it would be like if each of us learned as much as a child does in their first year of life. We'd all be geniuses! It is so fun watching them change and grow.

I've also been thinking a lot about what next year is going to bring! I'm not sure but at least for this little corner of the interwebz, it'll bring more book blogging. I have grand plans to work on getting through the stacks (yes, stacks!) of books that I have yet to read. I'm debating on whether or not to show you all pictures... I probably should... it may keep me more honest about my grave addiction! Look for that post in the new year!

May your holidays be filled with warmth, love, family, friends, and, of course, a stack of good books! See you in 2016!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Review: The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy

Title: The Mapmaker's Children
Author: Sarah McCoy
Format: ARC
Publisher: Crown
Publish Date: May 5, 2015
Source: Borrowed

What's the Story?:

From "When Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, realizes that her artistic talents may be able to help save the lives of slaves fleeing north, she becomes one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers, taking her cues from the slave code quilts and hiding her maps within her paintings. She boldly embraces this calling after being told the shocking news that she can’t bear children, but as the country steers toward bloody civil war, Sarah faces difficult sacrifices that could put all she loves in peril.

   Eden, a modern woman desperate to conceive a child with her husband, moves to an old house in the suburbs and discovers a porcelain head hidden in the root cellar—the remains of an Underground Railroad doll with an extraordinary past of secret messages, danger and deliverance. 
   Ingeniously plotted to a riveting end, Sarah and Eden’s woven lives connect the past to the present, forcing each of them to define courage, family, love, and legacy in a new way."

My Two Cents:

"The Mapmaker's Children" is a historical fiction tale focuses on two women, one in the past and one in the present. These women are connected by secrets hidden in an old house in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. Sarah Brown, daughter of the famous abolitionist John Brown, is a woman before her time. She is brave and courageous. She gets involved with the Underground Railroad even though it could mean that her life is in danger. Eden and her husband are looking for a fresh start and buy an old house to fix up. She will find a hidden past that will take her on a great journey.

Historical fiction set in the past and the present is starting to grow on me because of books like this. Usually I like the parts of the books that are set in the past better than the parts set in the present. In the case of this book, I liked the part set in the present. I felt like I had something in common with Eden. I live in a really old house as well (not nearly as old as the one Eden has - mine was probably built in the 1890s). I liked the descriptions of her discoveries in her house because I always wished that I could find some connection to the past in my own house. I also liked getting to "meet" Sarah Brown through this book. I only really knew something about her father because of his rebellion but it was so interesting to see what she was up to and how she was making a difference on her own.

This is Sarah McCoy's third book. One thing that I have liked about this book as well as her previous books is how intimately you feel like you get to know her characters. Her books are always cozy because the characters begin to feel more like friends than mere characters. She also loads her stories with interesting secondary characters that hold pieces of the story in a way that demands a reader's attention. Her distinctive writing style is also present in this book!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Review: The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick

Title: The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet
Authors: Bernie Su and Kate Rorick
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Touchstone
Publish Date: June 24, 2015
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "There is a great deal that goes into making a video blog. Lizzie Bennet should know, having become a YouTube sensation over the course of her year-long video diary project. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries chronicled Lizzie’s life as a 24-year-old grad student, struggling under a mountain of student loans and living at home with her two sisters - beautiful Jane and reckless Lydia. What may have started as her grad student thesis grew into so much more, as the videos came to inform and reflect her life and that of her sisters. When rich, handsome Bing Lee comes to town, along with his stuck-up friend William Darcy, things really start to get interesting for the Bennets - and for Lizzie’s viewers. Suddenly Lizzie - who always considered herself a fairly normal young woman - was a public figure. But not everything happened on-screen. Luckily for us, Lizzie kept a secret diary."

My Two Cents:

"The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet" is a companion book to the popular YouTube series based on Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" - a personal fave of mine. I still haven't watched the whole YouTube series and I definitely want to go back and do that at some point because it's very fun! This book is a lot of fun too. Before you read this book, you may want to at least see a couple of the videos so that you're familiar with the characters and their personalities and the basic storyline. This definitely helped me and my enjoyment of the book!

If you haven't seen the videos, the videos are a modern day video diary of what's going on in Lizzie Bennet's life. As you may have guessed, Lizzie is the Elizabeth Bennet of "Pride and Prejudice." All of the beloved characters are there for the most part. What I like about the YouTube series and this book is that it has the potential to introduce a whole new generation of people to the utterly romantic "Pride and Prejudice", which is one of my favorite classics. Retellings are a tricky business but this one definitely keeps with the spirit of the original and breathes new life into it.

This book is a wholly original and is definitely interesting take on the classic story. It's told through various means of digital communication and social media. Purists are probably not going to like this one but those that appreciate the spirit of the story will definitely enjoy this take. Overall, this is definitely a fun book for when you're looking for a light read.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Review: My True Love Gave to Me by Stephanie Perkins, Holly Black, Ally Carter, Matt de la Pena, Gayle Forman, Jenny Han, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Myra McEntire, Rainbow Rowell, Laini Taylor, and Kiersten White

Title: My True Love Gave to Me
Authors: Stephanie Perkins, Holly Black, Ally Carter, Matt de la Pena, Gayle Forman, Jenny Han, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Myra McEntire, Rainbow Rowell, Laini Taylor, and Kiersten White
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publish Date: October 14, 2014
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins. Whether you enjoy celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or New Year's there's something here for everyone. So curl up by the fireplace and get cozy. You have twelve reasons this season to stay indoors and fall in love."

My Two Cents:

"My True Love Gave to Me" is a collection of swoonworthy stories from some huge name YA authors. Each story centers on the winter holidays, a time of year when so many people are ready to cuddle up with their true love or at least stories of true love. This book covers so many kinds of love and it was the perfect read for me this time of year. 

Some of my favorite authors are featured in this book, which I loved. I also loved how different all of the authors are from each other. Each story feels very different, which definitely added to my interest and enjoyment of this book. There is something here for everyone that enjoys a good YA love story! This book definitely fits into the category of "cozy reads," which I love to read this time of year!

My favorite story in the book was actually the first one, "Midnights" by Rainbow Rowell. I am a huge fan of Rowell's other books and was thrilled to see her appear in this book. Rowell manages to capture all of those amazing things about being a teenager on New Years in the throes of first love. The story felt really realistic and even though it was a short story, she does a great job of making the reader feel like they really know the character! There are a lot of other good stories in this book but this one was definitely my favorite!

Overall, this is a great pick for anyone looking for a great read that will have you feeling the love!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

HFVBT Author Guest Post: Eileen Stephenson, author of Tales of Byzantium

 I am very happy to welcome Eileen Stephenson, author of Tales of Byzantium, here to A Bookish Affair!

History and historical fiction have always been my favorite genres, but if I had to choose one over the other, it would be good historical fiction – stories that show the pulsing blood of real historical characters and the turning points in history they brought about. Often, after I have read a historical novel, I find actual histories to tell “the rest of the story.” Only once, I think, did I start with the history and then look for novels.

Wandering through my local public library one Saturday ten or twelve years ago, I happened upon John Julius Norwich’s “A Short History of Byzantium”. Finding nothing else of interest, I borrowed it. Norwich’s introduction to the book included the comment that while there are many things you can say about the Byzantines, boring is not one of them. I rolled my eyes cynically at that extravagant statement, but continued reading.

How many ways can I say Norwich was right and I was wrong? His book blew me away with the fascinating stories of the men and women of this too often forgotten civilization. Their drama, struggles, wealth, and power make the Tudors and Romans look like pale imitations. By the end of the book I was hooked and started looking for anything I could find about the Byzantines.

Fortunately, there is a small industry of Byzantine scholars now translating many of the books and manuscripts written by the highly literate medieval Byzantines, as well as researching aspects of this long-lived civilization. I’ve collected many books on diverse Byzantine topics - coins, lives of children, women, food, buildings and even Byzantine paper dolls - to learn more about them. I also looked for novels, but found few. There are several novels about the 6th century emperor Justinian and his wife, Theodora, by Stephanie Thornton and Stella Duffy most recently. Cecilia Holland wrote a couple of novels taking place there; Anne Perry wrote a fine novel of the 13th century; and Gordon Doherty has written a solid series of soldier stories taking place in the middle Byzantine period. Most other novels including the Byzantines involved the Crusades. The Crusaders, who must have appeared to be coarse country bumpkins to the Byzantines, were suspicious of this sophisticated and wealthy empire, and invariably treated the Byzantines as sneaky and untrustworthy.

I should mention that I always had the idea in my head that I would like to be a writer and, of course, it would have to be of historical fiction. But the history that I was most familiar with – English and ancient Roman – seemed well covered by writers better than I could ever imagine being. Then, the more I read about the Byzantines the more aware I became that these were the people I was meant to write about – it was like a light going on that showed me the path to follow.

“Tales of Byzantium” includes three short stories taking place in the middle Byzantine period – one of an emperor whose writings are our best look back to the mid-10th century; the other two involve members of the Comnene dynasty that brought the empire back from the brink of catastrophe – a truly inspiring period.

The photos I am including are ones I took in Italy last year. The horses are the ones that stood atop the carceres, or starting gate, of the Hippodrome in Byzantium for close to a millennium before the Fourth Crusade took them to Venice where they have graced St. Mark’s since the 13th century (with a brief period in Paris, courtesy of Napoleon). The mosaic is in Ravenna and depicts the great 6th century emperor, Justinian I. At that time Ravenna was the Italian capital of Byzantium’s holdings there. 

I would be interested to learn what impression or ideas any of your readers might have about the Byzantines. It is about time to clear the air and learn the real story of Byzantium after centuries of misleading stories and rumors!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Review: The Violinist of Venice: A Story of Vivaldi by Alyssa Palombo

Title: The Violinist of Venice: A Story of Vivaldi
Author: Alyssa Palombo
Format: ARC
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publish Date: December 15, 2015
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "A sweeping historical novel of composer and priest Antonio Vivaldi, a secret wealthy mistress, and their passion for music and each other

Like most 18th century Venetians, Adriana d'Amato adores music-except her strict merchant father has forbidden her to cultivate her gift for the violin. But she refuses to let that stop her from living her dreams and begins sneaking out of her family's palazzo under the cover of night to take violin lessons from virtuoso violinist and composer Antonio Vivaldi. However, what begins as secret lessons swiftly evolves into a passionate, consuming love affair.

Adriana's father is intent on seeing her married to a wealthy, prominent member of Venice's patrician class-and a handsome, charming suitor, whom she knows she could love, only complicates matters-but Vivaldi is a priest, making their relationship forbidden in the eyes of the Church and of society. They both know their affair will end upon Adriana's marriage, but she cannot anticipate the events that will force Vivaldi to choose between her and his music. The repercussions of his choice-and of Adriana's own choices-will haunt both of their lives in ways they never imagined.

Spanning more than 30 years of Adriana's life, Alyssa Palombo's The Violinist of Venice is a story of passion, music, ambition, and finding the strength to both fall in love and to carry on when it ends."

My Two Cents: 

"The Violinist of Venice" is the story of a fictional mistress of Antonio Vivaldi, the famous composer. Just because I love historical fiction and didn't really know much about Vivaldi himself I decided to read this book. This book was so much more and really blew me away with the detail and the wonderful love story at its core. The fact that it's set in Venice, a place that I'm fascinated with, doesn't hurt either. This book is a great treat for historical fiction readers!

In this book, we meet Adriana, a woman from a wealthy family who has been essentially sequestered in her home by her father. Adriana has a love and a talent for music so she meets Antonio Vivaldi and asks him to become her teacher covertly. He does so and as he teaches her they also fall in love. There's just one issue all a few issues the volley is a priest and Adriana is promised to another man who her father is keen on her marrying to to his family name and immense wealth. Come to find out, Adriana is a fictional character and I was very disappointed when I read that in the authors note at the end because the love story between her and Vivaldi  feels so real that I wanted it to be true.

Interestingly enough, the author was inspired to create Adriana because she wanted to explain the origins of the Vivaldi's protégé, Anna Maria.  She was thought to be Vivaldi's mistress but others had a theory that she was actually his daughter. I loved how that little seed of a theory informed such a great story.

The romance between Vivaldi and Adriana has so many twists and turns and you can see how much they want to be with each other that you really want things to work out for the both of them. This book gave me a lot of insight into who Vivaldi, maker of gorgeous music, was as a man. The detail in this book is really wonderful. The author does a great job of weaving a wholly believable story filled with historical facts and intrigue that really make the characters come to life. The details are gorgeous. I especially like all of the detail that the author added about Venice in the book. Overall, this was a fantastic book. I didn't want it to end and found myself reading  slower and slower as the number of pages wound down so that the book lasted longer for me. That is definitely the mark of a good book!


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Review: Fin & Lady by Cathleen Schine

Title: Fin & Lady
Author: Cathleen Schine
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books
Publish Date: July 9, 2013
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "It’s 1964. Eleven-year-old Fin and his glamorous, worldly, older half sister, Lady, have just been orphaned, and Lady, whom Fin hasn’t seen in six years, is now his legal guardian and his only hope. That means Fin is uprooted from a small dairy farm in rural Connecticut to Greenwich Village, smack in the middle of the swinging ’60s. He soon learns that Lady—giddy, careless, urgent, and obsessed with being free—is as much his responsibility as he is hers.

Fin and Lady lead their lives against the background of the ’60s, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam War—Lady pursued by ardent, dogged suitors, Fin determined to protect his impulsive sister from them and from herself."

My Two Cents:

"Fin & Lady: A Novel" is the story of Fin, a young boy who is orphaned suddenly, and has to move from the farm that he's always known to Greenwich Village in New York City with his wild half-sister, Lady. Lady is the consummate 1960s party girl who doesn't know the first thing about taking care of a child. She gives a half-hearted try but most of the responsibility falls to Fin. This book is a coming-of-age story for Fin and the focus is really on him.

Even though Fin is only 11 years old, he quickly realizes that Lady's life is too crazy for her to really raise him well and that it's really going to be up to him to take care of both of them. To some degree, Lady almost seems like Peter Pan and the way that she doesn't think about consequences and doesn't seem to want to grow up. While I really liked Fin and felt for his plight, I really had a hard time connecting with Lady. It just seems like she was sort of at a point in her life where she should've been a little bit more responsible and she just wasn't. I wanted to know more about her motivation and never felt like that was really laid out.

This book was a little bit of a mixed bag for me. I really enjoyed the settings, particularly the parts that were set in Greenwich Village, which seemed like an extremely exciting place to be during the 1960s. I did like reading about both Fin and Lady's views on the neighborhood and how they deal with the place in very different ways.

I really enjoyed the premise of the story but I wish that I felt a little bit more for the characters, especially :ady. I don't necessarily feel like I always have to like the characters I read about but I do like understanding their motivations and with Lady it I just couldn't.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

TLC Book Tours Review and Giveaway: Daughter of Sand and Stone by Libbie Hawker

Title: Daughter of Sand and Stone
Author: Libbie Hawker
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Lake Union
Publish Date: December 1, 2015
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "Zenobia, the proud daughter of a Syrian sheikh, refuses to marry against her will. She won’t submit to a lifetime of subservience. When her father dies, she sets out on her own, pursuing the power she believes to be her birthright, dreaming of the Roman Empire’s downfall and her ascendance to the throne.

Defying her family, Zenobia arranges her own marriage to the most influential man in the city of Palmyra. But their union is anything but peaceful—his other wife begrudges the marriage and the birth of Zenobia’s son, and Zenobia finds herself ever more drawn to her guardsman, Zabdas. As war breaks out, she’s faced with terrible choices.

From the decadent halls of Rome to the golden sands of Egypt, Zenobia fights for power, for love, and for her son. But will her hubris draw the wrath of the gods? Will she learn a “woman’s place,” or can she finally stake her claim as Empress of the East?"

My Two Cents:

"Daughter of Sand and Stone" by Libbie Hawker is the story of Zenobia, an ambitious royal woman who dreams of overthrowing the Roman regime that threatens her reign. I did not know much about Zenobia at all and I had been wanting to try Hawker's books for awhile so I was very eager to get my hands on this book. Zenobia is a fascinating character and I really enjoyed getting to know who she was and what made her tick through this book.

I have been loving reading more historical fiction set in ancient times recently. I don't often get a chance to read it and I love reading about times and people unfamiliar to me. Zenobia is a great character. This book covers a wide swath of her life in a relatively small space. There are some events that I wish the book had spent more time on as they felt rushed (such as her upbringing). Because the events are coming at you so rapid fire, it did make the book go quite fast. 

The writing of the book was okay. The book is written in third person present tense, which is a hard tense for me to get into. It made the narrative a little shaky for me as that tense often confuses me. Much of this was overcome by the great storyline though! Overall, I really enjoyed this book!


Want to win a copy of your own? Just fill out the Rafflecopter below (U.S./ CAN only please!)

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Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, November 30th: Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, December 1st: Bibliotica
Tuesday, December 1st: Life is Story
Wednesday, December 2nd: Reading Reality
Thursday, December 3rd: A Chick Who Reads
Monday, December 7th: Luxury Reading
Wednesday, December 9th: Book Dilettante
Thursday, December 10th: Mom’s Small Victories
Friday, December 11th: Book Nerd
Monday, December 14th: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Monday, December 14th: Book Babe
Tuesday, December 15th: A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, December 16th: The Reader’s Hollow
Thursday, December 17th: Books a la Mode – author guest post
Monday, December 21st: Raven Haired Girl
Tuesday, December 22nd: The Lit Bitch
Friday, December 25th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, December 29th: I’m Shelfish
Tuesday, December 29th: Time 2 Read
Wednesday, December 30th: Broken Teepee
TBD: Thoughts from an Evil Overlord
TBD: Spiced Latte Reads

Monday, December 14, 2015

Author Guest Post: Alyssa Palombo, Author of The Violinist of Venice

On Friday, December 18th, I will be reviewing "The Violinist of Venice." Today, the author, Alyssa Palombo is here with us on A Bookish Affair to give us a taste of the inspiration behind the book!

Inspiration for a novel comes from many places and many different aspects of life, or so I’ve found. And inspiration, to me, has two parts: there’s the initial spark of an idea that gets the novel started, that makes you sit down and write in the first place; and then there are all the new ideas and plans and sources of determination that keep you excited and keep you writing.

That first spark for The Violinist of Venice came from a dream that I had, oddly enough. The dream itself was the first chapter of the novel, where my heroine, Adriana, goes to Vivaldi’s house to ask him to give her violin lessons. I couldn’t figure out why I would have such a seemingly random dream, but when I woke up I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It was such a vivid and powerful dream that it wouldn’t leave me alone. That day I went to the school library (I was a sophomore at Canisius College at the time) and checked out a couple recordings of Vivaldi’s music as well as a book about him. By the end of that day I had the first chapter written and had a vague outline in my head of what the arc of the story might be (though of course that changed quite a bit as I went). From that one dream, that one scene, I began imagining what these characters’ lives were like and what might happen between them, and all the things that would occur as a result of their relationship. I couldn’t stop thinking about the story and all its possibilities, so I wrote more of it every chance that I got, even though I hardly knew anything about Vivaldi or Venice. In the end I did the research and reading that I needed as I went, because I just couldn’t tear myself away from the story.

Once I was off and running, I began to find inspiration in other places to keep me going. The research I did helped, for sure, and of course listening to Vivaldi’s music was a big part of that. Each piece of his music I describe in the novel is a real one, and one that I chose very carefully to fit the mood and tone and plot of a given scene. Being a passionate music lover as well as a musician myself, those scenes in which I had to find just the right words and phrases to describe the music are to this day some of my favorite sections of the novel. They took a lot of work and tinkering to get just right, but I love writing about music and felt up to the challenge. Vivaldi’s music continued to inspire me and get me through moments where writing the novel started to feel difficult and even futile; I always wanted to try to do justice to such beautiful music.

Another source of inspiration for my writing – always, not just with this particular novel – is the contemporary music I listen to by my favorite bands and artists. Like a lot of authors, I make playlists for my works in progress, and I spend a lot of time trying to find just the right song that goes with/narrates each scene; furthermore, sometimes these songs can help me clarify a character’s feelings or motivations, or what is going on beneath the surface of a scene or incident or conversation. It brings additional emotion and perspective to the work for me. I’m always listening to music – and I have to have it playing while I’m writing – so it’s natural for music to be the well that I draw from often when it comes to inspiration. It’s my favorite thing in the world except for writing. And for The Violinist of Venice in particular, a novel that’s so much about the power of music and music’s effect on a life, it was fitting that many different kinds of music inspired me and worked its way into the novel.

My experiences as a performer influenced the novel, as well; I’m a classically trained mezzo-soprano, and I’ve actually performed two of the vocal pieces mentioned in the novel: the first movement of the Stabat Mater and the aria “Cosi potessi anch’io” from Vivaldi’s opera Orlando furioso. Though Adriana is, of course, a violinist and not a singer, the feeling of performing and of practicing/rehearsing, of exploring a piece of music from the inside out, of taking it apart and studying it and putting it back together and interpreting it in my own way, of being in a lesson where your teacher simply tells you “Do it again” – all of that is something that I know well, and it doesn’t necessarily need to vary based on the instrument one plays. My own personal relationship with music was something that very much fueled large parts of this novel, and was my one way into the story and the characters at the very beginning, before the research took me the rest of the way.

Writing and revising a publishable novel is a wonderful experience, but it can also be a long, arduous, and difficult process, and it takes inspiration in all its many forms to pull one through. I’ve always dreamed of publishing a novel, and I’m so happy that my debut is The Violinist of Venice, which means so much to me. But even before I thought about publishing it, before I thought that that might be possible, my love for the story and the characters and the music kept me going, and kept me from giving up. Inspiration can be a tricky and capricious thing to hold on to, but it’s worth the effort it takes to do so. It has been for me, and I think that The Violinist of Venice is a better book for all the variety of things that went into it. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Review: Dorothy Parker Drank Here by Ellen Meister

Title: Dorothy Parker Drank Here
Author: Ellen Meister
Format: Ebook
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publish Date: February 24, 2015
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Heavenly peace? No, thank you. Dorothy Parker would rather wander the famous halls of the Algonquin Hotel, drink in hand, searching for someone, anyone, who will keep her company on this side of eternity.

After forty years she thinks she’s found the perfect candidate in Ted Shriver, a brilliant literary voice of the 1970s, silenced early in a promising career by a devastating plagiarism scandal. Now a prickly recluse, he hides away in the old hotel slowly dying of cancer, which he refuses to treat. If she can just convince him to sign the infamous guestbook of Percy Coates, Dorothy Parker might be able to persuade the jaded writer to spurn the white light with her. Ted, however, might be the only person living or dead who’s more stubborn than Parker, and he rejects her proposal outright.

When a young, ambitious TV producer, Norah Wolfe, enters the hotel in search of Ted Shriver, Parker sees another opportunity to get what she wants. Instead, she and Norah manage to uncover such startling secrets about Ted’s past that the future changes for all of them."

My Two Cents:

In "Dorothy Parker Drank Here," famous writer and wit, Dorothy Parker is a ghost haunting the famous Algonquin Hotel. The Algonquin Hotel played host to so many writers in the early 20th century and Parker is not ready to leave. Add a old reporter with a secret and a young ingenue who wants to figure out what is going on and you have all the makings for an original story. This is a little bit of a strange premise and I wasn't sure about reading the book initially by I was interested in seeing how the author channeled Parker's infamous split. In this case, my curiosity was paid off!

I thought that the author did a great job of channeling Dorothy Parker but I found that the story line itself was a little bit predictable. There are some twists and turns in the book but many of them I saw coming from a mile away. It was definitely interesting to think of Parker as a ghost and I thought the author did a good job of capturing what she would be like as a ghost. This is actually the second book in the series. While the story was not always my cup of tea, I would like to go back and read the first book. If nothing else the book definitely has a good premise.

Overall, the writing of the book was interesting. Dorothy Parker is definitely the star of the show here, which suited me just fine!


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Review: Secrets of the Royal Wedding Chapel by Kathleen Irene Paterka

Title: Secrets of the Royal Wedding Chapel
Author: Kathleen Irene Paterka
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Booktrope
Publish Date: October 5, 2015
Source: Author

What's the Story?:

From "Immersed in the world of weddings and romance, Lily Lavender grew up believing in brides, grooms and happily-ever-afters. A direct descendant of the British royals, it seemed her destiny and royal birthright to someday assume a position as wedding coordinator in their family-owned wedding chapel business. But when her mother Mimi’s third marriage eventually fails, Lily’s dreams of her own happily-ever-after quickly fade. She’s no longer interested in a life of assisting brides walk down the aisle into a life of disillusionment and possible divorce. Lily turns her back on The Royal Wedding Chapel and leaves Las Vegas to fashion a life of her own.

Years later, Lily—now a single mom—discovers her teenage daughter has run off to Las Vegas, lured by Mimi to help run the chapel. Determined to save her daughter from the broken dreams of Sin City and the nonsensical world of which family fairy tales are made, Lily returns to Las Vegas. But nothing prepares Lily for the royal drama which awaits her… or the sins and secrets she stumbles across that threaten to close the chapel and ruin her family forever."

My Two Cents:

"Secrets of the Royal Wedding Chapel" is the story of Lily, who grew up watching her mom run the Royal Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. Lily is a real list and wanted nothing to do with the wedding chapel but gets pulled back into her moms dromo when her daughter decides that she does want a piece of the family business. Willie has to swallow her pride and bite her tongue when her own mother faces health issues. This is a story with engaging characters about family secrets.

I have read several books by the soccer and as with her previous books I really enjoyed the characters in this book. The author does a great job of creating realistic characters that you want to follow. I'm a fairly no-nonsense person so will we felt right in my alley she has a hidden softer side that we get to know throughout the book. I love her character and also some of the secondary characters in the book. Lilly's mother Mimi is such a great character to follow she sort of lives in a fantasy world and his created this façade of the mystique of the royal wedding chapel. I love seeing how everything unfolded around how she created a tall tale.

The writing of this book is great. I hadn't read a lot that was set in Las Vegas so I like getting to see that city through this book. I also like the way that the author moves the story along through the characters. The author does a good job of letting out a little detail about a time that it kept me reading and kept me wanting to put together the mystery of the royal wedding chapel. Overall, this was a great story. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Review: Paperweight by Meg Haston

Title: Paperweight
Author: Meg Haston
Format: ARC
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publish Date: July 7, 2015
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Seventeen-year-old Stevie is trapped. In her life. And now in an eating-disorder treatment center on the dusty outskirts of the New Mexico desert.

Life in the center is regimented and intrusive, a nightmare come true. Nurses and therapists watch Stevie at mealtime, accompany her to the bathroom, and challenge her to eat the foods she’s worked so hard to avoid.

Her dad has signed her up for sixty days of treatment. But what no one knows is that Stevie doesn't plan to stay that long. There are only twenty-seven days until the anniversary of her brother Josh’s death—the death she caused. And if Stevie gets her way, there are only twenty-seven days until she too will end her life."

My Two Cents:

"Paperweight" is the story of Stevie, a girl who is only going to rehab for her eating disorder in order to keep a promise to her brother who passed away. Stevie doesn't know how much longer she can hold on. Her brother is gone, her mother ran off to Paris, and her father seems to be totally absent. Stevie is beginning to wonder if it would be better for her to just end things. This book is a powerful reminder that even when things seem hopeless there is hope if you look hard enough.

This is a young adult book that tackles a huge and difficult subject. There are so many people who deal with eating disorders and depression and this book gives those issues a face with the characters in its pages. I really felt for Stevie; you can see how difficult she feels things are and how hopeless she thinks that her life is. She blames herself for her brothers death, which is a huge weight on her and doesn't feel like she can go on. I wanted to reach through the pages and give her a hug. I think the author does a good job of clearly showing how Stevie feels about her situation and why she's having such a tough time.

The subject matter in this book is definitely difficult but I think the author takes it on it in such a way that it makes the issues accessible and understandable too young adult readers. I think it's so important to have books like this what show readers that even though things aren't always easy, but it's possible to come through even the in the most difficult circumstances.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Review: This Star Won't Go Out by Esther Earl, Lori Earl, Wayne Earl

Title: This Star Won't Go Out
Author: Esther Earl, Lori Earl, Wayne Earl
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Dutton
Publish Date: January 28, 2014
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "A collection of the journals, fiction, letters, and sketches of the late Esther Grace Earl, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 16. Photographs and essays by family and friends will help to tell Esther’s story along with an introduction by award-winning author John Green who dedicated his #1 bestselling novel The Fault in Our Stars to her."

My Two Cents:

"This Star Won't Go Out" is a collection of journal entries, letters, and other things from Esther Grace Earl, who is probably most notably known as being the inspiration behind Hazel Grace, who appears in John Green's "The Fault in Our Stars." After reading this book, it is no wonder that Green was inspired enough to write a character based on Esther. Esther got very sick as a child and carried her illness and all of the trials and tribulations that brings through her teenage years. What should have been some of the most carefree years of her life were marred by illness yet she remained strong!

It's always difficult to see a young person dealing with such a grave illness but you can see how full of life Esther was and why she was such a big inspiration. She went through things that most adults would have trouble dealing with. It was so fascinating to me to read her innermost thoughts and all of the things that went through her head. This book is also quite sad to read because it doesn't have a happy ending. That being said there's a lot of inspiration to be found in this person's life that left the world too soon.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

TLC Book Tours: The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos

Title: The Precious One
Author: Marisa de los Santos
Format: Paperback
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: December 1, 2015
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "In all her life, Eustacia “Taisy” Cleary has given her heart to only three men: her first love, Ben Ransom; her twin brother, Marcus; and Wilson Cleary — professor, inventor, philanderer, self-made millionaire, brilliant man, breathtaking jerk: her father.

Seventeen years ago, Wilson ditched his first family for Caroline, a beautiful young sculptor. In all that time, Taisy’s family has seen Wilson, Caroline, and their daughter Willow only once. 

Why then, is Wilson calling Taisy now, inviting her for an extended visit, encouraging her to meet her pretty sister — a teenager who views her with jealousy, mistrust, and grudging admiration? Why, now, does Wilson want Taisy to help him write his memoir?"

My Two Cents:

"The Precious One" is the latest offering from Marisa de los Santos who writes books that really have stuck with me in the past. In this book, we meet Taisy, who is drawn to her mysterious father who abandoned her, her mom, and twin brother for a woman. His new family includes Caro, who is struggling with her own demons, and teenaged daughter Willow. Wilson invites Taisy back into his life when he has a health scare. The catch is that she must stay with him. This story centers on relationships. There is the relationship between father and daughters, friends, first loves,and sisters. Each relationship is fraught with intricacies that are explored throughout the book. I really enjoyed this one!

I love books that deeply explore relationships like this one. The relationship that I was most interested in was the one between Taisy and Willow. The book is told from the perspectives of both Taisy and Willow. They have very different voices and perspectives on both of their lives being upended. It was so interesting to see their relationship evolve throughout the book. They go from being jealous of each other and their place in their father's eyes to developing a real, loving relationship. I loved both of their characters but really, really loved Willow's character. I have a special place in my heart for precocious characters and she is certainly one! 

As with the previous books of the authors that I have read, this book had great characters! She has a great knack for writing characters that feel real and ones that you want to follow. These characters in this particular book will stick with me for a long time!

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Tuesday, December 1st: The Book Chick
Wednesday, December 2nd: A Bookish Affair
Thursday, December 3rd: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Friday, December 4th: Booksie’s Blog
Monday, December 7th: I’m Shelf-ish
Monday, December 7th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Tuesday, December 8th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Thursday, December 10th: From the TBR Pile
Monday, December 14th: BoundyWords
Tuesday, December 15th: Books and Bindings
Wednesday, December 16th: Novel Escapes
Thursday, December 17th: Imaginary Reads
Thursday, December 17th: Joyfully Retired

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Review: Médicis Daughter: A Novel of Marguerite de Valois by Sophie Perinot

Title: Médicis Daughter: A Novel of Marguerite de Valois
Author: Sophie Perinot 
Format: ARC
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publish Date: December 1, 2015 (Today!)
Source: Author

What's the Story?:

From "Winter, 1564. Beautiful young Princess Margot is summoned to the court of France, where nothing is what it seems and a wrong word can lead to ruin. Known across Europe as Madame la Serpente, Margot’s intimidating mother, Queen Catherine de Médicis, is a powerful force in a country devastated by religious war. Among the crafty nobility of the royal court, Margot learns the intriguing and unspoken rules she must live by to please her poisonous family.

Eager to be an obedient daughter, Margot accepts her role as a marriage pawn, even as she is charmed by the powerful, charismatic Duc de Guise. Though Margot's heart belongs to Guise, her hand will be offered to Henri of Navarre, a Huguenot leader and a notorious heretic looking to seal a tenuous truce. But the promised peace is a mirage: her mother's schemes are endless, and her brothers plot vengeance in the streets of Paris. When Margot's wedding devolves into the bloodshed of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, she will be forced to choose between her family and her soul."

My Two Cents:

"Medicis Daughter" is the story of Marguerite de Valois, the daughter of the infamous Catherine de Medici (oh, how I love reading about her!!!). I knew a lot about Marguerite's mother but I didn't know much about Margot, as she is called in this book, at all so I was very intrigued to read this book. I also really enjoyed this author's previous  solo release, "The Sister Queens," and was looking forward to reading more by her. The author was also a contributor to last year's "A Day of Fire," another great histfic release!

As with so many noblewomen during her time, Margot understands the importance of being married to another one of Europe's powerful men in order to advance her mother's desires. Obviously, Catherine de Medici was an incredibly powerful force. Not even her children knew how to overcome. Margot is torn between love and duty and she knows that if she follows her heart, she's going to displease her very scary mother. Margot is torn between her two brothers but promised to another that she does not think she can possibly find it in her heart to love. I love the way that the author brought Margot to life. She did a great job of making her feel real. I loved following her through the story and wanted more when it was all over! 

The writing of the book is great. The author uses a lot of historical detail in order to make me picture exactly what it would've been like to go through all of the things that Margot goes through in this book. This is one of those books where I wish I would've had more time to read the book in one setting. It was so hard to pull myself away. If you're fortunate enough to have time on your hands, this would be a fantastic book to while away an entire afternoon with. This is indulgent histfic!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Review: A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton

Title: A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding
Author: Jackie Copleton
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publish Date: December 1, 2015 (Tomorrow!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?: 

From "When Amaterasu Takahashi opens the door of her Philadelphia home to a badly scarred man claiming to be her grandson, she doesn’t believe him. Her grandson and her daughter, Yuko, perished nearly forty years ago during the bombing of Nagasaki. But the man carries with him a collection of sealed private letters that open a Pandora’s Box of family secrets Ama had sworn to leave behind when she fled Japan. She is forced to confront her memories of the years before the war: of the daughter she tried too hard to protect and the love affair that would drive them apart, and even further back, to the long, sake-pouring nights at a hostess bar where Ama first learned that a soft heart was a dangerous thing. Will Ama allow herself to believe in a miracle?"

My Two Cents:

"The Dictionary of Mutual Understanding" is a historical fiction book that has parts set both during the bombing of Nagasaki during World War II and about 40 years later. It's a debut novel that really packs a punch! The author takes on one of the most horrifying events in human history, the bombing of Nagasaki and turns it into a story of family and family secrets while still retaining the shock and outrage of the original event.

Because of the subject matter, the story is often difficult to read. This is a relatively short book but I had to keep taking breaks because the characters memories of the bombing made me want to take pause. I really like that the author was able to create realistic characters that made the entire story feel very real indeed to me. Our main character is now an older woman who is trying to still forget her past life in Japan during World War II. Her pain is still palpable and she has a hard time believing the man that shows up on her doorstep claiming to be her grandson.

The book is pretty well written. There are a couple places where I wish that we had a little more detail in order to really understand the feelings of the characters. At times, I felt like I was being held at a distance from the characters. Overall, this is a very powerful book that puts a human spin on what it actually felt like to have lived through the bombings and what it did to so many families. This book is a good pick for all of my fellow historical fiction fans.


Friday, November 27, 2015

#GivingTuesday with Grammarly!

It's no secret that I love to read (this is indeed a book blog)! I cannot imagine not being able to read! In this day and age, it is hard to imagine that illiteracy is still a problem in the world but it is! There are still so many people who cannot read or write simple sentences. Imagine not being able to read street signs or follow simple directions on a form! Grammarly is working to stamp out illiteracy on #GivingTuesday! See below for more information on just how pervasive illiteracy is as well as how you can get involved in the fight to read!

Global Literacy Infographic
Infographic from Grammarly

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hello to my American readers! Happy Thanksgiving! May your holiday be filled with comfort, family, friends, and many good books!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

HFVBT Review: The Conqueror's Wife: A Novel of Alexander the Great by Stephanie Thornton

Title: The Conqueror's Wife: A Novel of Alexander the Great
Author: Stephanie Thornton
Format: Paperback
Publisher: NAL
Publish Date: December 1, 2015
Source: HFVBT

What's the Story?:

From "330s, B.C.E., Greece: Alexander, a handsome young warrior of Macedon, begins his quest to conquer the ancient world. But he cannot ascend to power, and keep it, without the women who help to shape his destiny.

His spirited younger half-sister, Thessalonike, yearns to join her brother and see the world. Instead, it is Alexander's boyhood companion who rides with him into war while Thessalonike remains behind. Far away, crafty princess Drypetis will not stand idly by as Alexander topples her father from Persia's throne. And after Alexander conquers her tiny kingdom, Roxana, the beautiful and cunning daughter of a minor noble, wins Alexander’s heart…and will commit any crime to secure her place at his side.

Within a few short years, Alexander controls an empire more vast than the civilized world has ever known. But his victories are tarnished by losses on the battlefield and treachery among his inner circle. And long after Alexander is gone, the women who are his champions, wives, and enemies will fight to claim his legacy…"

My Two Cents:

"The Conqueror's Wife" is the latest offering from Stephanie Thornton. I have loved her other books so I knew that I had to read this one. In this book, she takes on the people that surrounded Alexander the Great. We meet his family, friends, and lovers. He is definitely larger than life but seeing him through the eyes of those closest to him truly gave me a new perspective on his life and legacy. Filled with vivid characters and lush description, this book is a true treat for historical fiction lovers.

Stephanie Thornton is firmly on my must-buy list by now. I love her books. She focuses on ancient history and has a great way of breathing life into historical figures that makes them feel like people that you could really know in real life. I loved that Thornton chose to tell Alexander's story through those closest to him. No one would have probably known him better than those people. Thornton creates an authentic feeling and original voice for each character.

The historical detail in this book is so good. Thornton is great at world building and does a great job of showing readers what Alexander's world would have been like. It was so vivid to me! I also really liked all of the small little details that Thornton included to even further create Alexander's world. They are subtle but really add a lot to the story. This book was fantastic and I am already eagerly awaiting the next book!

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, November 23
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, November 24
Review at Layered Pages
Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Spotlight & Excerpt at What Is That Book About

Wednesday, November 25
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Thursday, November 26
Review at Historical Readings & Reviews

Friday, November 27
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Monday, November 30
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Review & Giveaway at 100 Pages a Day

Tuesday, December 1
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Guest Post at Book Lovers Paradise

Wednesday, December 2
Review at
Review & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, December 3
Review, Excerpt, & Giveaway at Just One More Chapter
Review, Excerpt, & Giveaway at Unshelfish
Excerpt at A Literary Vacation
Spotlight at The Reading Queen

Friday, December 4
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict

Monday, December 7
Review at The Maiden's Court

Tuesday, December 8
Review at Reading the Past
Review at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, December 9
Review at CelticLady's Reviews

Thursday, December 10
Review at The Lit Bitch
Interview & Giveaway at Reading Lark
Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection

Friday, December 11
Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views

Saturday, December 12
Review & Giveaway at Genre Queen

Monday, December 14
Review at Book Babe
Reivew, Excerpt, & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick

Tuesday, December 15
Review at Bookramblings

Wednesday, December 16
Review at Book Nerd

Thursday, December 17
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Friday, December 18
Review at History From a Woman's Perspective
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
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