Friday, October 30, 2015

Review: Torn by K.A. Robinson

Title: Torn
Author: K.A. Robinson
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Atria
Publish Date: May 7, 2013
Source: Owned

What's the Story?:

From "Chloe hasn't had the best life. With a mother who is gone more often than not, she has had to raise herself. After graduating high school, she leaves to start a new life away at West Virginia University with her best friends Amber and Logan, determined to leave her demons in the past.

On her first day, she meets a stranger who takes her breath away at first sight. Until she met Drake, no one had ever sparked her interest. Now this tattooed and pierced bad boy is all she can think about, no matter how hard she fights it.

Falling for Drake was never part of her plans, but when it happens, things seem to do anything but fall into place.

Dealing with a tragic past, Drake has never cared about anyone else but himself and his band. But when Chloe takes the empty seat next to him in class, things start to change. Instantly drawn to her, he begins to wonder if one girl can take a cold hearted womanizer and change every part of him?

Long hidden feelings are revealed and friendships tested to the brink."

My Two Cents:

"Torn" is a new adult fiction about Chloe, who hasn't always had the easiest life. Her mother has been in and out of her life and always seems to come back just to stir up trouble. She finds herself at WVU with her two best friends including Logan, who she has feelings for her but has never acted on in order to not ruin their friendship. Chloe then meets Drake, the cool lead singer of a band, and falls for him quickly. This forces Logan to announce his feelings and Chloe will find herself torn between the dangerous choice, Drake, and the safe choice, Logan.

There aren't really any surprises in this book. Sometimes you don't need surprises in order for a book to still be enjoyable. The new adult genre is still new to me but I have a lot of fun reading books from it. Because I could see exactly where the book was going and there were no surprises, this book felt a little less exciting for me but it was still entertaining. I really liked how the author was able to create to such different choices for Chloe. Both are incredibly sexy in their own way but completely different from each other. It's easy to see why she was so torn between them. Add to the story the droma with Chloe's mom and I ate this book up. This book is one of those books that would be perfect for the last dredges of summer or whenever you find yourself on vacation.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Review: Ideal Girl by Jenny O'Brien

Title: Ideal Girl
Author: Jenny O'Brien
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Smashwords
Publish Date: August 31, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the author.

What's the Story?:

From "Ideal girl is the first in a series of romantic novels, which find old fashioned girls thrown into modern day settings.

All set in the fictitious Dublin hospital of St Justin's staff not only have to cope with their stressful jobs, they also have to cope with the mire that is 'pre- relationship hell!'"

My Two Cents:

"Ideal Girl" is the first book in the Irish Hospital Romance series by Jenny O'Brien. The title of the book is taken from the idea that the ideal girlfriend is an Irish nurse. In this book, we meet Liddy, a student nurse, who doesn't really think she has time for romance. This book is a good example of how sometimes life has other plans for us.

This is a sweet romance that had me aww-ing throughout the book. Liddy doesn't think much of herself. She is just trying to keep her head above water with this new job. Enter Mitch, a handsome doctor, that has designs on making something with Liddy even if she seems somewhat oblivious. This is a fun, light, and frothy novel that was perfect for whiling away an afternoon.

The characters were good. I really liked Liddy. I felt bad for her in the beginning because she had to deal with a character named Donal, who also is at the hospital. He is like the cartoon skunk, Pepe LePew, on steroids. Some of the stuff that he does is really over the top and almost criminal. I liked the way that the author developed the romance between Liddy and Mitch.

The writing was pretty good. I thought there were a couple places that could have been slimmed down a little for flow but on the whole, this was a good romance! I enjoyed it!


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Author Interview: Martina Boone, Author of The Heirs of Watson Island Trilogy

I am very excited to welcome Martina Boone, author of The Heirs of Watson Island Trilogy here to A Bookish Affair today!

Thanks so much for having here on the blog today, and for asking such great questions!

What inspired you to write "The Heirs of Watson Island" trilogy?

There were basically four things that came together to make it work.

  1. I had written an adult short story with a plantation and two twins—one of whom ran away when she was young. The story and the characters, including the plantation, stayed with me. I combined that with inspiration from Edisto Island in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, and the Boone Hall Plantation, along with Magnolia and Drayton Hall, and a number of other plantations in the deep South, because the combination of magic, history, and folklore of the Lowcountry area created this incredibly rich nexus of Native American, African, and European history, belief systems, and magic—a lot of which has been forgotten or deliberately buried.
  2. A historical figure I came across in my research was Eliza Lucas Pinckney, who at the age of 17 in the early 18th century ran three plantations for her father, the governor of Antigua. Working with seeds her father sent her from the West Indies and an overseer from Montserrat, Eliza also developed a viable way to grow indigo (the dye used to create blue clothing) that worked in the Carolinas. As a result of her work, indigo became the third biggest export in the Colonies up until the Revolutionary War. If I’d learned this kind of history in school, I would have been more interested! But as with all wealthy individuals at the time, Eliza didn’t accomplish any of this on her own. Her family used slave labor, and I was both fascinated and appalled by the fact that the letterbook she left behind showed such a moral and apparently kind and thoughtful person while at the same time she could ignore what she and her family somehow reconciled slavery with her morality. It got me thinking about how people justify all sorts of impossible things to themselves. The worst of it is that there are thirty million people enslaved in the world right now. Most of them are women and children—as has too often been the case. Eliza’s story inspired me to explore some of the issues and paradoxes around women’s rights through American history. Despite all her accomplishments, Eliza didn’t own the slaves she supervised. Even her own clothing belonged to her father and husband. While she had the appearance of freedom and power, women within the Cherokee nation had more rights than European women had, and yet the Cherokee were painted as savages, despite being called one of the five “civilized” tribes. There are so many contradictions and infuriating wrongs in all of this that I wanted to consider. The threads of all of this run through the trilogy, but you won’t see them clearly until Illusion.
  3. I had the characters, the setting, and some of the background history, but it wasn’t until I had a dream about a ball of fire drifting through the woods at night and setting the river around the island on fire that I had the visual anchor and the missing piece. Researching the mythology of the Cherokee, and their history, gave me the answer to this mystery, which contains some mind-blowing twists based on physics and real historical events. The mystery of the Fire Carrier is the core of the trilogy, and I wanted to use that specifically to raise awareness of the hidden and forgotten history of what happened to the Cherokee and other Native nations, and what continues to happen to women and children all around the world. Who the Fire Carrier is remains the central question that won’t get answered until the end of Illusion. Persuasion gives you a lot of clues on this though. : )
  4. The factors that make the relationship between Eight and Barrie so hard came out of exploring the psychology of the magic that the three families of Watson Island received as a result of the Fire Carrier being on the Island. This let me really dig in to heighten the way that real relationships between young adults are already complicated. As teens in high school relationships head for college and their future careers, they have to weigh their own future plans against those of whoever they are dating or in love with and decide whether the relationship is real and worth risking their own dreams and aspirations. The magic on the island amplifies all of these questions and pushes Barrie and Eight to the limit.

Your second book, "Persuasion" just came out. Can you tell us a little bit about the book?

Persuasion is a little darker, a bit faster paced, and a lot more magical than Compulsion. There are a number of new characters I love, more of Cassie, more of Eight and Barrie together, growth for Aunt Pru, and lots more about the gifts and the curse as Barrie investigates what the that means to her and the other founding families and as she starts to really explore who the Fire Carrier is, what hes doing on the island, and what he wants from her.

Was your writing process for "Persuasion" any different than for Compulsion?"

Persuasion was a much slower write for me than Compulsion. It required a lot more careful historical and records research, but it also required talking to a lot of experts on a wide variety of subjects and working more closely with the archeologist/anthropologist who helped me on the series as the dig at Colesworth Place began.

Who is your favorite character in the series?

I still love Barrieand I love Barrie and Eight together. Theyre truly spectacular and great for each other when they arent fighting the magic that keeps tearing them apart. Honestly, I love Aunt Pru and all the characters. Two new characters I adore are Obadiah and Berg. With Obadiah, I didnt know if he was a hero or a villain until I finished writing the final bookand I want to give Berg a whole book of his own. Such a hottie! : )

In addition to writing books, you recently became a member of the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia board. Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming fundraiser?

I became involved in the Literacy Council when they invited me to give the Keynote address at their annual recognition dinner. It was the night after the Charleston shooting, and it felt so strange to give a speech about hope and opportunity when my heart was so broken and so heavy. But listening to the stories of the people who the Council was helping filled me up with hope and optimism again. The stories of what the learners had gone throughwere going throughand their resilience, determination, and sheer hard work were truly inspiring. The generous hearts of the volunteers involved in the Councils work were also apparent and inspiring. When they asked me to join the board, I jumped at the chance to be involved.

The fundraiser is my small way of giving back. Were going to host a book fair as part of the Persuasion launch at the Barnes and Noble in Tysons Corner. Ill be at the store for four hours from 5pm to 9pm, building stories on the fly with readers and aspiring writers, judging Halloween costumes for kids 10 and under and 11 and over, answering Q&As on writing, my books, publishing, and virtually anything else. Ill also be signing Compulsion and Persuasion. There will be cupcake decorating, crafts, and a lot of activities for children, teens, and adults. And ALL purchases of anythingany book, or product (except gift cards) in the store the entire daywill contribute a portion of the sale directly to the Literacy Council. Purchases for several days online will also add additional revenue to the LCNV. All anyone has to do is provide the event code, which is: 11709870.

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

Macgyver, because hed get me off the island. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, because shed kick the a$$ of anything that needed a$$ kicking, plus shed be totally fun. The third is a toss up. I cant decide between Hermione Granger and someone totally hot like Lord Henry Wotton or Mr. Darcy. Because, you know, eye candy and conversation. : )

Book Launch!!!:

Happen to be in the DMV area and want to go to the book launch for Persuasion?

When: Oct. 30 
What: Persuasion book launch party and fundraiser for the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia
Where: Barnes and Noble
Tysons Corner Center
7851 L. Tysons Corner Center
McLean, VA 22102
Details: Author Q&A, costume contests, crafts, book signings and more!


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

TLC Book Tours: After Alice by Gregory Maguire

Title: After Alice
Author: Gregory Maguire
Format: ARC
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: October 27, 2015 (Today!)
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "When Alice toppled down the rabbit-hole 150 years ago, she found a Wonderland as rife with inconsistent rules and abrasive egos as the world she left behind. But what of that world? How did 1860s Oxford react to Alice's disappearance?

In this brilliant new work of fiction, Gregory Maguire turns his dazzling imagination to the question of underworlds, undergrounds, underpinnings — and understandings old and new, offering an inventive spin on Carroll's enduring tale. Ada, a friend of Alice's mentioned briefly in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, is off to visit her friend, but arrives a moment too late — and tumbles down the rabbit hole herself. 

Ada brings to Wonderland her own imperfect apprehension of cause and effect as she embarks on an odyssey to find Alice and see her safely home from this surreal world below the world. If Euridyce can ever be returned to the arms of Orpheus, or Lazarus can be raised from the tomb, perhaps Alice can be returned to life. Either way, everything that happens next isAfter Alice."

My Two Cents:

In "After Alice," Gregory Maguire, author of books such as "Wicked," turns his attention to one of my very favorite stories, "Alice in Wonderland." In that book, Alice disappears into Wonderland and has a wonderful adventure but did you ever wonder about the people that she left behind in Oxford? Maguire explores what her family and what her friend, Ada, might have thought about Alice's disappearance. Ada is so distraught that she follows Alice to Wonderland and meets many of the old familiar (and strange) faces of the characters that Alice meets in the original.

The story is split between Ada's adventures in Wonderland and Alice and Ada's family worrying about each of them. We get to know a little bit more about Alice's sister, Lydia, and how she is only a few years older but much beyond Alice's hijinks. I love anything "Alice in Wonderland" but this book fell a little short for me. I liked visiting Wonderland with Ada but we've seen so many of these characters before doing the same things and saying similar things that there was not much to ignite me.

The writing is pretty good! Maguire has a way with words and the gift for making the unlikely seem likely. The writing kept me going! There were several places in the book that had me laughing out loud and I love when a book can make me do that! Overall, this book was enjoyable but we've been to these places before! 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Review: The Courtesan by Alexandra Curry

Title: The Courtesan
Author: Alexandra Curry
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Dutton
Publish Date: September 8, 2015
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "The year is 1881. Seven-year-old Jinhua is left an orphan, alone and unprotected after her mandarin father’s summary execution for the crime of speaking the truth. For seven silver coins, she is sold to a brothel-keeper and subjected to the worst of human nature. Will the private ritual that is her father’s legacy and the wise friendship of the crippled brothel maid be enough to sustain her? 

When an elegant but troubled scholar takes Jinhua as his concubine, she enters the close world of his jealous first wife. Yet it is Jinhua who accompanies him--as Emissary to the foreign devil nations of Prussia, Austro-Hungary, and Russia--on an exotic journey to Vienna. As he struggles to play his part in China's early, blundering diplomatic engagement with the western world, Jinhua’s eyes and heart are opened to the irresistible possibilities of a place that is mesmerizing and strange, where she will struggle against the constraints of tradition and her husband’s authority and seek to find “Great Love.”

Sai Jinhua is an altered woman when she returns to a changed and changing China, where a dangerous clash of cultures pits East against West. The moment arrives when Jinhua’s western sympathies will threaten not only her own survival, but the survival of those who are most dear to her. "

My Two Cents:

"The Courtesan" is a historical fiction about Sai Jinhua, a famous courtesan that lived during the Qing dynasty (late 1800s). Before reading this book, I was not familiar at all with her so I loved learning about a new-to-me historical figure. She has become a legend in China and it is easy to see why. From humble beginnings, she becomes a concubine to a diplomat who travels to Europe. This book covers China's difficult diplomacy with the Western World as well as how China was changing rapidly in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

This book covers a wide swath of time and I was torn between enjoying everything that the book covers and wishing that the story focused a little bit more on certain historical elements or certain parts of Jinhua's life. I did get a little lost because there are several sections in the book where the chapters skip a couple years and I found myself wondering about what was going on then. It left me feeling a bit disjointed.

The writing was pretty good. The book is written in third person present tense, which always takes me a little while to get used to. The beginning of the book covers Jinhua's childhood. It left me wondering when we were going to get more to the meat of the story as the opening was a little slow for me. The story picks up once Jinhua finally becomes a courtesan to the scholar. Overall, this was a fine introduction to a fascinating historical figure!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Review: Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

Title: Zeitoun
Author: Dave Eggers
Format: Paperback
Publisher: McSweeney's
Publish Date: July 15, 2009
Source: Borrowed

What's the Story?:

From "When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a prosperous Syrian-American and father of four, chose to stay through the storm to protect his house and contracting business. In the days after the storm, he traveled the flooded streets in a secondhand canoe, passing on supplies and helping those he could. A week later, on September 6, 2005, Zeitoun abruptly disappeared. Eggers’s riveting nonfiction book, three years in the making, explores Zeitoun’s roots in Syria, his marriage to Kathy — an American who converted to Islam — and their children, and the surreal atmosphere (in New Orleans and the United States generally) in which what happened to Abdulrahman Zeitoun was possible"

My Two Cents:

"Zeitoun" is the story of a man who survives Hurricane Katrina. This book is by David Eggers and it feels like longform journalism, which I love. Eggers draws on a lot of sources in order to make readers feel what it would've been like to not only be an outsider as Zeitoun is a immigrant. Hurricane Katrina was very devastating to the entire city of New Orleans and even 10 years later, it continues to shadow parts of the city.

This is an incredibly moving book. Zeitoun not only lives through such a catastrophic event. He not only loses his home but he faces racism as he is trying to recreate his life during a very scary time. This book made me think a lot. It's definitely a book where you end up putting yourself in the people's shoes in the book.

This book is one that will stick with you for a very long time. I think Americans especially forget a lot from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The authors seeks to simply show what Zeitoun's life was like. He doesn't really offer any of his own commentary, which works very well. Zeitoun's plight is offered without comment. This book is incredibly compelling and will be enjoyed by a variety of readers.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Review: Walt Whitman in Washington, D.C. by Garrett Peck

Title: Walt Whitman in Washington, D.C.
Author: Garrett Peck
Format: Paperback
Publisher: History Press
Publish Date: March 23, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the publisher.

What's the Story?:

From "Walt Whitman was already famous for Leaves of Grass when he journeyed to the nation's capital at the height of the Civil War to find his brother George, a Union officer wounded at the Battle of Fredericksburg. Whitman eventually served as a volunteer "hospital missionary," making more than six hundred hospital visits and serving over eighty thousand sick and wounded soldiers in the next three years. With the 1865 publication of Drum-Taps, Whitman became poet laureate of the Civil War, aligning his legacy with that of Abraham Lincoln. He remained in Washington until 1873 as a federal clerk, engaging in a dazzling literary circle and fostering his longest romantic relationship, with Peter Doyle. Author Garrett Peck details the definitive account of Walt Whitman's decade in the nation's capital."

My Two Cents:

"Walt Whitman in Washington, D.C." is a nonfiction history of all of the time that the poet Walt Whitman spent in Washington, D.C. I was interested in reading this book because of the larger-than-life personality of Whitman and also the local connection. Living in this area, I love reading some of the lesser known stories of things that have happened in this area. This is a well put together history that will be enjoyed by my fellow history lovers.

I didn't realize how much time Walt Whitman had spent in the city. Many of his years spent here were spent caring for soldiers during the Civil War. He was truly passionate about the need to take care of soldiers as they were fighting the war. The Civil War greatly affected Washington, D.C. as it was the site for field hospitals and many activities to cater to soldiers. I really thought the author did a good job of adding a lot of historical detail in order to pull readers in.

Not much has been written about Whitman and Washington, D.C. so this book was very eye-opening to me. It's obvious how much research the author must've done in order to write this book. I would really like to read more by this author in the future! Overall, this was a great look at a sliver of history.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Review: Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Title: Luckiest Girl Alive
Author: Jessica Knoll
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publish Date: May 12, 2015
Source: Owned

What's the Story?:

From "As a teenager at the prestigious Bradley School, Ani FaNelli endured a shocking, public humiliation that left her desperate to reinvent herself. Now, with a glamorous job, expensive wardrobe, and handsome blue blood fiancé, she’s this close to living the perfect life she’s worked so hard to achieve.

But Ani has a secret.

There’s something else buried in her past that still haunts her, something private and painful that threatens to bubble to the surface and destroy everything."

My Two Cents:

There was a ton of buzz about this book during the summer and I was anxious to read it. A lot of comparisons were made to "Gone Girl" and after having read "Gone Girl," I have continuously been on the lookout for a heroine or rather an antiheroine as it were that comes close to Amy in that book. Ani in this book is not necessarily cut from the same cloth but she still has an incredibly dark side. I really wish that I hadn't gone into this book with so many comparisons to "Gone Girl." It's sort of my own fault for focusing so heavily on that but so much was made of the connection. I think I would've gone into this book with a different mindset had I not been expecting something else. That being said, this book is a book about a woman who is so affected by some of the difficult things that she went through as a highschooler that she's built her entire life around making sure that she will never have to face that kind of humiliation again.

The story goes back-and-forth between the past and the present so we get a glimpse of what Ani's life was like as a highschooler as well as a 20 something-year-old. In a lot of ways, she has changed a lot. She doesn't like to let anyone in and is definitely wary of people. Everything is perfectly controlled and perfectly measured and she's obsessed with making sure she never sets of foot out of bounds. Ani is not the most reliable narrator, which I liked.

I think that the most fascinating thing about this book is how the story was told. The author gives you just enough to want to continue to read the story just to figure out what happened to Ani and why she is the way that she is. This is a good debut and I am looking forward to more by this author!


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Review: The Vacationers by Emma Straub

Title: The Vacationers
Author: Emma Straub
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publish Date: May 29, 2014
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "For the Posts, a two-week trip to the Balearic island of Mallorca with their extended family and friends is a celebration: Franny and Jim are observing their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, and their daughter, Sylvia, has graduated from high school. The sunlit island, its mountains and beaches, its tapas and tennis courts, also promise an escape from the tensions simmering at home in Manhattan. But all does not go according to plan: over the course of the vacation, secrets come to light, old and new humiliations are experienced, childhood rivalries resurface, and ancient wounds are exacerbated."

My Two Cents:

"The Vacationers" by Emma Straub is the story of the Post family. On the surface, the Post family at first glance looks like a normal family that gets along. Franny, the mother, it thinks that it would be a good idea for the family to take a vacation together. The vacation doesn't turn out the way that they wanted to and their true colors will show before long. This is a story of family dysfunction and how secrets and tensions can only stay under the surface for so long

This book was a mixed bag for me. I really like the setting of Mallorca. I love reading about different places and Mallorca seems like a gorgeous place to visit. This is in stark contrast to the dysfunction that the post family is facing. The setting almost becomes another character in the book, which I really liked.

On the other hand I had a really difficult time getting close to the characters. I felt that I was being held at arms distance as their actions of the story went on. There wasn't really any character that I felt super close to or found myself caring about what happened to them. The characters seem very tied up in themselves which leads to some of the conflict in the book. I don't believe you have to like characters in order to like a book. Sometimes the most horrible characters are the best to read about. I really wish that I would've gotten a better glimpse as to what the motivations were for each of the characters. I wanted more!


Monday, October 19, 2015

Review: Animals Make Us Human by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson

Title: Animals Make Us Human
Authors: Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publish Date: January 6, 2009
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "It’s usually easy to pinpoint the cause of physical pain in animals, but to know what is causing them emotional distress is much harder. rawing on the latest research and her own work,Grandin identifies the core emotional needs of animals. Then she explains how to fulfill them for dogs and cats, horses, farm animals, and zoo animals.Whether it’s how to make the healthiest environment for the dog you must leave alone most of the day, how to keep pigs from being bored, or how to know if the lion pacing in the zoo is miserable or just exercising, Grandin teaches us to challenge our assumptions about animal contentment and honor our bond with our fellow creatures."

My Two Cents:

"Animals Make Us Human" is a book by Temple Grandin. I've read a couple of Grandin's other books and really enjoy her writing. For those of you who are not familiar with this author, Grandin is a person with autism who has a lot of experiences with animals. She is a well known voice in the areas of animal behavior and psychology. She uses her own experiences with autism in order to understand animals. It's a very unique perspective and this book is a must for any animal lover.

This particular book is broken down by animal. In each section Grandin talks about how to best care for various kinds of animals. I only have cats but I was interested in each of the examples, which extend from farm animals to zoo animals as well as your normal domestic animals. As an animal lover, I always want to make sure that I'm providing the best life that I can for the animals that I care about. This book was a great source and an enjoyable read!


Thursday, October 15, 2015

TLC Book Tours: Tiger Heart by Katrell Christie and Shannon McCaffrey

Title: Tiger Heart: My Unexpected Adventures to Make a Difference in Darjeeling, and What I Learned about Fate, Fortitude, and Finding Family Half a World Away
Authors: Katrell Christie and Shannon McCaffrey
Format: Paperback
Publisher: HCI, inc.
Publish Date: October 6, 2015
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "Katrell Christie was a thirty-something artist turned roller-derby rebel who opened a tea shop in Atlanta. Barely two years later, her life would make a drastic change--and so would the lives of a group of girls half a world away.

Yet on a whim, Katrell did go. She witnessed the throngs at the Ganges River, toured the tea fields of Darjeeling, and helped string pearls in conservative Hyderabad. But it was in a crowded Buddhist orphanage where she crossed paths with some girls who would change the course of her life.

With her mind racing about their grim futures, Katrell reached the simple conclusion that she couldn't walk away. So instead she walked forward—on a mission to help them in any small way. Once back at her shop, an idea for The Learning Tea was born. By selling tea, cupcakes, scones, and other treats, Katrell raised enough funds to provide life necessities for the girls—safe housing, uniforms, medical care, tutoring, and ultimately, a college education for each of them. To date, The Learning Tea has helped eleven young girls who once faced the bleakest of futures."

My Two Cents:

"Tiger Heart" is the story of one woman who has a dream to help the women of India. She goes on a trip to India on a mere whim and discovers that there are a lot of women who need help. In many instances, India's women still are treated as lesser than men. They don't have many opportunities and Katrell is moved by their plight. This is the one story of a woman who just wants to help and ends up making a much greater mark on the world.

I am fascinated by India. I almost had a chance to visit last year but was about four months pregnant with my girls at the time and decided that then was not the time to visit. That being said, I eagerly visit India every chance that I get through my reading. The authors did a great job of bringing the country and all of its complexities to life for me. It was easy for me to feel what Katrell was going through and how difficult it was at first for her to figure out how to best help the women that so moved her.

I am also inspired by stories of ordinary people who do extraordinary things. Katrell's "Learning Tea" program is one of those extraordinary things. It was so great to see how she sets up the program and how it begins to help some women in the book. If you are looking for a story that will inspire you, this is a great choice! This memoir moved me and definitely made me hopeful!

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, September 28th: Bookchickdi
Wednesday, September 30th: Run Wright
Thursday, October 1st: Lit and Life
Monday, October 5th: Read. Write. Repeat.
Tuesday, October 6th: The Things We Read
Monday, October 12th: Dreaming Big Blog
Wednesday, October 14th: Raven Haired Girl
Thursday, October 15th: A Bookish Affair
Friday, October 16th: Broken Teepee
Monday, October 19th: A Book A Week
Tuesday, October 20th: The Reading Cove Book Club
Wednesday, October 21st:
Monday, October 26th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Friday, October 30th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Review: The Price of Blood by Patricia Bracewell

Title: The Price of Blood
Author: Patricia Bracewell
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Viking
Publish Date: February 5, 2015
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "In The Price of Blood, Bracewell returns to 1006 when a beleaguered Æthelred, still haunted by his brother’s ghost, governs with an iron fist and a royal policy that embraces murder.

As tensions escalate and enmities solidify, Emma forges alliances to protect her young son from ambitious men—even from the man she loves. In the north there is treachery brewing, and when Viking armies ravage England, loyalties are shattered and no one is safe from the sword.
Rich with intrigue, compelling personalities, and fascinating detail about a little-known period in history, The Price of Blood will captivate fans of both historical fiction and fantasy novels such as George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series."

My Two Cents:

"The Price of Blood" is the second book in Patricia Bracewell's Emma of Normandy trilogy. In this book, Emma has grown into her own a little bit more. She is still married to King Aethelred. Although, their marriage has really not gotten any better from the first book. She is also a mother and will do anything to make sure that her children are safe.

I continued to really like Emma in this book. Again she shows that even though she's a medieval woman and doesn't have all that much power, she is able to do what she can in order to try to protect her children. I always like a strong character and in this book, Emma is definitely strong. The stakes of this book are even higher than before. Her family finds themselves in the middle of a war that threatens their reign.

This book had me wanting more. According to Goodreads, there is no third book in the trilogy listed and therefore I'm not sure when the third book will be released. Unfortunately for me, that means I have a while until I get back to Emma end the other fantastic characters in this book. I really enjoyed the first book in the series but in many ways, that book felt like a introduction to the characters. There was a lot more action as things are changing for Emma and her family. This is definitely a book where you should read the first book first. This is great historical fiction so don't be disappointed if you get to the end of this book and like me are already awaiting the third book in the trilogy!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Catching Up and Giveaway Winners!

The past couple weeks have been busy ones and I am so behind on choosing giveaway winners (more on that later). I have been staring down the barrel at being 30 years old (My birthday is on Thursday! Send books - hah!).

My birthday week was kicked off by my amazing family this past weekend. We went out of brunch at a place called The Mad Hatter, which is an Alice in Wonderland themed restaurant/ bar. We did a Harry Potter themed scavenger hunt at the National Gallery of Art. My sisters treated me to a blow out at Dry Bar (oh, when I win the lottery, I'm going there all the time!), then to dinner, then to a night out of dancing in D.C. I had a blast and it was the perfect way to start my birthday week! Next weekend means a surprise trip with my husband! I'm so excited. 

On top of all of that, my little ones will be 6 months old on Friday! I can't believe it. Their personalities are really starting to shine and they seem to get more fun and cuter every day!

I FINALLY have some giveaway winners to announce!

The Sisters of Versailles:
Kara S.

Dream Things True:

Cold Feet:

The Debt of Tamar: 
Jennifer C. 
Meredith M. 

Review: Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell

Title: Shadow on the Crown
Author: Patricia Bracewell
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Viking
Publish Date: February 1, 2013
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "A rich tale of power and forbidden love revolving around a young medieval queen In 1002, fifteen--year-old Emma of Normandy crosses the Narrow Sea to wed the much older King Athelred of England, whom she meets for the first time at the church door. Thrust into an unfamiliar and treacherous court, with a husband who mistrusts her, stepsons who resent her and a bewitching rival who covets her crown, Emma must defend herself against her enemies and secure her status as queen by bearing a son. 

Determined to outmaneuver her adversaries, Emma forges alliances with influential men at court and wins the affection of the English people. But her growing love for a man who is not her husband and the imminent threat of a Viking invasion jeopardize both her crown and her life. "

My Two Cents: 

"Shadow on the Crown" is the first book in the Emma of Normandy trilogy by Patricia Bracewell. Emma is a young woman who is forced to marry King Aethelred of England. She is married off to him as so many medieval women were married because her family wanted to form an alliance. The king isn't all too happy to being married to Emma and is very suspicious of her true motives. This book is a great opening to a trilogy about a woman that I knew little about before I opened this book!

This book is a great kick off to the trilogy! We are introduced to many different characters. Our main character, Emma, is a really interesting character because as a medieval woman she really doesn't have much control over her own destiny. However, that she is incredibly strong and incredibly good at doing well with what she has. I really like getting to know her as a character. We get to follow her as she is a new bride and as her relationship with the King begins to change. We get to see her secret love and are privy to some of the things that she keeps hidden from most others! The author writes her in such a vivid way!

One of the problems with trilogies is that at the end of this book I found myself wanting more. Luckily I waited enough time so I was able to read the second book, The Price of Blood, right after this first book. However, the last book in the trilogy is not out yet. This is great historical fiction because of the detail that the author uses in order to bring the character to life. I like how vivid she was able to make Emma's life at court to me.

Friday, October 9, 2015

TLC Book Tours: Mistress of the Court by Laura Purcell

Title: Mistress of the Court
Author: Laura Purcell
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Myrmidon
Publish Date: August 4, 2015
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "Orphaned and trapped in an abusive marriage, Henrietta Howard has little left to lose. She stakes everything on a new life in Hanover with its royal family, the heirs to the British throne. Henrietta’s beauty and intelligence soon win her the friendship of clever Princess Caroline and her mercurial husband, Prince George. But, as time passes, it becomes clear that friendship is the lastthing on the hot-blooded young prince’s mind. Dare Henrietta give into his advances and anger her violent husband? Dare she refuse?

Whatever George’s shortcomings, Princess Caroline is determined to make the family a success. Yet the feud between her husband and his obstinate father threatens all she has worked for. As England erupts in Jacobite riots, her family falls apart. She vows to save the country for her children to inherit – even if it costs her pride and her marriage. Set in the turbulent years of the Hanoverian accession, Mistress of the Court tells the story of two remarkable women at the centre of George II’s reign."

My Two Cents:

"Mistress of the Court" is the second book in Laura Purcell's Georgian Queens series. This book is a standalone but I do suggest that you go back and read the first books in the series "Queen of Bedlam," because it is good historical fiction. This second book in the series takes on Henrietta Howard, a woman who becomes the unwilling (at least at first!) mistress to King George II. She and King George's wife, Caroline, are at the center of this story. This story brought to life two woman at the center of a very volatile time in British history.

I have not read a lot about the Georgian period of British royalty, particularly not in fiction. After enjoying "Queen of Bedlam," I was anxious to read this book. What I found was some interesting characters and a great story line. Princess Caroline understands that there are many things that she can control secondarily if she cannot control them primarily.Henrietta becoming  her husband's mistress is one of those things. The way that the author writes about the dynamic between these two women is so interesting and makes for a really interesting power play that kept me entertained.

I really enjoyed visiting a new setting in this book. I love reading about British royalty and I liked the way that the author added detail to make the story really pop. I will be interested to see what the author comes out with next!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Review: House of Thieves by Charles Belfoure

Title: House of Thieves
Author: Charles Belfoure
Format: ARC
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publish Date: September 15, 2015
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "In 1886 New York, a respectable architect shouldn’t have any connection to the notorious gang of thieves and killers that rules the underbelly of the city. But when John Cross’s son racks up an unfathomable gambling debt to Kent’s Gents, Cross must pay it back himself. All he has to do is use his inside knowledge of high society mansions and museums to craft a robbery even the smartest detectives won’t solve. The take better include some cash too —the bigger the payout, the faster this will be over.

With a newfound talent for sniffing out vulnerable and lucrative targets, Cross becomes invaluable to the gang. But Cross’s entire life has become a balancing act, and it will only take one mistake for it all to come crashing down —and for his family to go down too."

My Two Cents:

"House of Thieves" is the story of the Cross family, a well to do family living in the late 1800s in the middle of New York City. On the surface, the family looks to be a upstanding family, however, they hide a lot of dark secrets. Each member of the family is involved with some of the crime facing the city at the time. They all hide this from each other and begins to affect off of their relationships.

This is the second book from Charles Belfoure. I loved his first book so I was definitely looking forward to reading this book. I think I may have like this one even more. It was so interesting to me to see how the family got twisted up in some of the sordid activity is happening throughout the city. This family goes through great lengths to keep up appearances but are not above committing crimes in order to get what they want. I liked following each of the members of the family and liked how well developed the characters were!

Like I said before, each member of the family is involved with crime. I think the most interesting character is John Cross, who is an architect to uses his clients houses and the plans that he developed for them in order to help one of the my bosses of the city proper houses. He is such a complex character because on one hand he doesn't want to commit these crimes but he definitely gets caught up in all of it. I loved reading about him!

The writing of this book was great. Belfoure has a fantastic way of taking historical detail and weaving it so well into the story that you hardly realize how much detail he's packing in. He is able to world build well so that the reader knows exactly what the Cross family's life is like and everything that they're experiencing. This book is a real treat for historical fiction fans!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Review: The Fragrant Concubine by Melissa Addey

Title: The Fragrant Concubine
Author: Melissa Addey
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Letterpress Publishing
Publish Date: August 10, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the author.

What's the Story?:

From "China, 1760. The Emperor conquers Altishahr, a Muslim country to the west of his empire and summons a local woman from his new dominion to come to the Forbidden City as his concubine.

Meanwhile in the market of Kashgar a girl named Hidligh is kidnapped by Iparhan, a woman scarred by the Emperor’s conquest of her homeland and bent on vengeance. Iparhan offers her a deal: Hidligh will become the Emperor’s concubine, living a life of luxury. In return she will act as Iparhan’s spy.

But when Hidligh arrives in the Forbidden City, she enters a frightening new world. Every word she utters may expose her as an imposter. Iparhan is watching from the shadows, waiting to exact her revenge on the Emperor. The Empress is jealous of her new rival. And when Hidligh finally meets the Emperor, she finds herself falling in love…"

My Two Cents:

"The Fragrant Concubine" is the story of Hidligh, a young woman who becomes mistress to China's emperor. The twist in the book comes when not everything is as it first seems with her. She is asked to be a spy at the Emperor's court by Iparhan, a woman bent on getting even with the Emperor. She wants to use Hidligh to get her vengeance. The author uses a combination of myth and historical fact to weave a story of the fragrant concubine.

I love books set in places that I am not familiar with and with characters that are unlike others that I have read before. The setting was especially captivating to me. This book takes place in the 1700s in China, which is a time and location that I have not read much about. The author takes us into the court of the Emperor, a place that is filled with social rules and obligations. At first, Hidligh is not familiar with any of the rules she will have to follow. One of my favorite parts in the book is when Iparhan and her servants are trying to teach Hidligh how to be a proper lady.

The writing of the book was pretty good. I found myself wanting a little more action in some parts. There were a couple places where the narrative got a little long winded but for the most part, the book flowed nicely. I appreciated all of the historical detail that the author added to the book; it really pulled me into the story. Overall, this was a good read!

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