Friday, January 29, 2016

Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Title: The Paris Wife
Author: Paula McLain
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publish Date: February 27, 2011

What's the Story?:

From "Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and her life changes forever. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill-prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises. Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold on to her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for."

My Two Cents:

"The Paris Wife" is one of those books that I can't believe it took me as long as it did to get around to reading it. After reading Ernest Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast" a couple years ago, I fell in love with Hemingway's Paris and by extension Hemingway's Hadley. Sidebar: I fell in love with the name Hadley so much so that one of my daughters is named Hadley. I wanted to read "The Paris Wife" right after I read "A Moveable Feast," however, I never got around to it until now. I can see why so many people enjoyed this book!

Now, I feel like I might be the only historical fiction lover left that hadn't read this book. This book did enormously well a couple years ago and is still very popular to discuss. McLain pulls us in to Hadley Richardson's life and makes her feel like an intimate friend. She is utterly engaging and interesting. Hadley Richardson was Ernest Hemingway's first wife and we can see how hopeful their relationship is in the beginning. Hadley was by Hemingway's side as he is a struggling writer trying to get published. At first, their marriage seems very happy and very much them-against-the-world and I loved reading about their relationship. Through Hadley's eyes, we see the marriage begin to dissolve. The story covers their courtship and marriage and their subsequent separation. I really wish that would have covered more as Hadley has a very authentic and interesting voice in this book. We only get a glimpse of her later years.

I really like that the book is told from the perspective of Hadley herself. I thought that the first person point of view really added a lot to the story arc as it allowed me to put myself in her shoes and see the things that she was seeing. I really enjoyed this book!


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Review: Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot by Masha Gessen

Title: Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot
Author: Masha Gessen
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publish Date: January 8, 2014
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "On February 21, 2012, five young women entered the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. In neon-colored dresses, tights, and balaclavas, they performed a “punk prayer” beseeching the “Mother of God” to “get rid of Putin.” They were quickly shut down by security, and in the weeks and months that followed, three of the women were arrested and tried, and two were sentenced to a remote prison colony. But the incident captured international headlines, and footage of it went viral. People across the globe recognized not only a fierce act of political confrontation but also an inspired work of art that, in a time and place saturated with lies, found a new way to speak the truth.

Masha Gessen’s riveting account tells how such a phenomenon came about. Drawing on her exclusive, extensive access to the members of Pussy Riot and their families and associates, she reconstructs the fascinating personal journeys that transformed a group of young women into artists with a shared vision, gave them the courage and imagination to express it unforgettably, and endowed them with the strength to endure the devastating loneliness and isolation that have been the price of their triumph."

My Two Cents:

"Words Will Break Cement" is the story of Pussy Riot, a all-female punk band in Russia who dares to protest against Vladmir Putin, the Russian establishment, and the Russian government in a church. This gets some of the members sent to work camps and ignites passion for freedom of speech around the world. This book is by Masha Gessen, an author who whose previous work centers mostly on Russia. I have really enjoyed some of her previous work and was excited to see how she took on the subject of Pussy Riot.. For many of us, it's hard to imagine getting punished for protesting. It happens but it seems to be much less severe thann it is in places like Russia. Gessen covers the events leading up to the protest and the women behind the protest.

This book is utterly fascinating from the perspective that it's really interesting to see women protesting in Russia. The episode with Pussy Riot opened up Russia to a lot of criticism both at home and abroad. While this marks the first time that Pussy Riot had ever sparked international headlines, the group and its members had been shaking things up for a long time in Russia through their music and their art. It was interesting to hear the history behind each of the women that were involved in the protest and their reasons for protesting even if it meant being punished to the point where they wouldn't be able to see their friends or family for long periods of time.

This book feels very much like long form journalism, which I love. It will be interesting to others who are interested in freedom of speech and international events!


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Review: The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

Title: The Boston Girl
Author: Anita Diamant
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Scribner
Publish Date: December 9, 2014
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Eighty-five-year-old Addie tells the story of her life to her twenty-two-year-old granddaughter, who has asked her "How did you get to be the woman you are today?" She begins in 1915, the year she found her voice and made friends who would help shape the course of her life. From the one-room tenement apartment she shared with her parents and two sisters, to the library group for girls she joins at a neighborhood settlement house, to her first, disastrous love affair, Addie recalls her adventures with compassion for the naïve girl she was and a wicked sense of humor."

My Two Cents:

In "The Boston Girl," at the ripe old age of 85, Addie tells her life story to her 20 something-year-old granddaughter. Her story is one of trying to become a modern, all-American girl in a family of immigrants who are tied to their old country ways. Addie is respectful but has a major difference in opinion as to what a woman's role should be in this brave new world. The book covers a long time period as Addie goes from an adolescent to an adult.

This book is by Anita Diamant. She also wrote "The Red Tent," which I absolutely love. This book is completely different from that book but a lot of the storytelling elements that I loved in that book are present in this one. Diamant has a great eye for detail and adding enough detail to make characters jump off the page.

Addie is a fascinating character because she is living during a very quickly changing time in the world. Her life will be unlike any other life in her family and it is up to her to forge her own path. She told her story with no bars hold and although the audience is supposed to be her granddaughter, we the readers get a front row seat to what her life was like. This writing style was utterly engrossing and pulled me in from the first page.

Overall, this is a good book about family and making a life for oneself.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Giveaway Winner!

I have a giveaway winner to announce!

The View From Prince Street:
Nadine S.

Review: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Title: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
Author: Haruki Murakami
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Knopf
Publish Date: August 12, 2014
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Here [Haruki Murakami] gives us the remarkable story of Tsukuru Tazaki, a young man haunted by a great loss; of dreams and nightmares that have unintended consequences for the world around us; and of a journey into the past that is necessary to mend the present. It is a story of love, friendship, and heartbreak for the ages."

My Two Cents:

Let me caveat this review by saying I am a huge Murakami fan. I love reading his books and always enjoyed them for the most part. That being said he's definitely not for everyone. His stories are wholly original and most of them feel like dreams this book is no different. In this book, we meet a young man who once had four very close friends, each with different colors in their names. He doesn't have a color in his name and so he becomes Colorless Tsukuru. Mysteriously, they leave him behind without an explanation. He wonders about this and it haunts him.

This story definitely feels very dreamlike to me and may not be everyone's cup of tea. For the Murakami fans, this is definitely an enjoyable book. Tsukuru is such an interesting character. He is an adult now and is continuing to wonder about his friends. We get to follow him on a journey filled with surprises and twists!

This book is a translation and a pretty good one at that. There's a couple places in the book where is the translation gets a little garbled and makes the story a bit confusing but overall I thought that it was translated wonderfully. Again M Murakami has a very unique writing style that is definitely present in this book. I can't wait to see what he comes out with next.


Monday, January 25, 2016

Review: Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer

Title: Five Days Left 
Author: Julie Lawson Timmer 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publish Date: September 9, 2014
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Mara Nichols, a successful lawyer, and devoted wife and adoptive mother, has recently been diagnosed with a terminal disease. Scott Coffman, a middle school teacher, has been fostering an eight-year-old boy while the boy’s mother serves a jail sentence. Scott and Mara both have five days left until they must say good-bye to the ones they love the most. Through their stories, Julie Lawson Timmer explores the individual limits of human endurance, the power of relationships, and that sometimes loving someone means holding on, and sometimes it means letting go."

My Two Cents:

In the incredibly powerful and heart wrenching "Five Days Left," we meet Mara and Scott. Mara is a successful woman who is facing the thought of what will happen to her as she deals with a devastating degenerative disease. Scott, on the other hand, is dealing with having to return the boy that he is been fostering and loves back to his mother who is in jail. Both situations are incredibly difficult. They're both situations that I hope that I never find myself in. The author takes an unflinching look at the decisions that both of the characters make in the last five days that they have left.

The key to why I enjoyed this book so much is that the other had a really good way of bringing the characters to life and giving me some insight into what they were thinking and what they were going through. This book will stick with me for a long time and these characters will be stuck in my head. Both characters have to make decisions, which allows the readers to see their innermost thoughts and what really makes them tick.

It takes a lot for a book to make me cry. Books can make me sad but only the most powerful books can make me actually shed tears. This book definitely made me cry and feel all sorts of emotions. I love books that make you think long after you close the book. The author had a great way of making me, as a reader, really feel for both of these characters and put myself in their shoes. You keep hoping that everything is going to be for it okay for these characters because you get to know them so well but you know that even books don't always have happy endings. The writing of the book kept me guessing and kept me hoping until the very end. This is definitely a good read!


Friday, January 22, 2016

Review: The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory

Title: The Taming of the Queen
Author: Philippa Gregory 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Touchstone
Publish Date: August 25, 2015
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Why would a woman marry a serial killer?

Because she cannot refuse...

Kateryn Parr, a thirty-year-old widow in a secret affair with a new lover, has no choice when a man old enough to be her father who has buried four wives – King Henry VIII – commands her to marry him.

Kateryn has no doubt about the danger she faces: the previous queen lasted sixteen months, the one before barely half a year. But Henry adores his new bride and Kateryn's trust in him grows as she unites the royal family, creates a radical study circle at the heart of the court, and rules the kingdom as regent.

But is this enough to keep her safe? A leader of religious reform and a published author, Kateryn stands out as an independent woman with a mind of her own. But she cannot save the Protestants, under threat for their faith, and Henry's dangerous gaze turns on her.The traditional churchmen and rivals for power accuse her of heresy - the punishment is death by fire and the king's name is on the warrant..."

My Two Cents:

Philippa Gregory is one of the first authors that really turned me on to historical fiction as an adult. Her books are always a lot of fun to read and she is pretty much on my must read list. There is some criticism as to how realistic her storylines are but they definitely are entertaining and perfect for when I am looking for a story to just get sucked into.

In "The Taming of the Queen," the popular historical fiction writer Philippa Gregory takes on Kateryn Parr, the wife who will outlast Henry VIII. I like Gregory's books because they're kind of like candy. Gregory weaves a story about Kateryn, who is an expert at appearing to stay in line while going her own way in the background. There are a lot of elements of romance in this historical fiction.

I have read a couple other books about Kateryn Parr and what's so interesting to me is that by the time she marries Henry VIII, she knows that her life may be an danger if she displeases him. I really like the way that Gregory was able to show how she tried to do everything in her power in order to keep her relationship with Henry VIII on the up and up. I flew through this book very quickly because I got so into Kateryn's character. She is smart and was one of the first women to be published under her own name which is pretty impressive. This story doesn't go as far as I would have liked. I was ready to hear more about Parr after Henry VIII but that was not covered so the book seems to suddenly stop

This is a good pick for anyone who's looking for a fun and frothy read on the end of Henry VIII's reign.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Review: The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig

Title: The Forgotten Room
Author: Karen White, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig
Format: ARC
Publisher: NAL
Publish Date: January 19, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "1945: When the critically wounded Captain Cooper Ravenal is brought to a private hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, young Dr. Kate Schuyler is drawn into a complex mystery that connects three generations of women in her family to a single extraordinary room in a Gilded Age mansion.

Who is the woman in Captain Ravenel's portrait miniature who looks so much like Kate?  And why is she wearing the ruby pendant handed down to Kate by her mother?  In their pursuit of answers, they find themselves drawn into the turbulent stories of Gilded Age Olive Van Alen, driven from riches to rags, who hired out as a servant in the very house her father designed, and Jazz Age Lucy Young, who came from Brooklyn to Manhattan in pursuit of the father she had never known.  But are Kate and Cooper ready for the secrets that will be revealed in the Forgotten Room? "

My Two Cents:

"The Forgotten Room" is a historical fiction book by three powerhouse authors and I was so excited to read it based on the authors alone. What I found in the book was a fantastic story line set in three different time periods that all center on an interwoven family and a building that has seen many lives.

In this book, we meet Olive, whose story takes place during the 1890s, Lucy, whose story takes place during the 1920s, and Kate, whose story takes place during the 1940s. Each of these women is connected in a surprising way. The authors do a great job of dropping little hints throughout the book to start making the connections between the main characters. It was enough to keep me reading to see what I would find out next. Each of the stories is a love story of sorts, which I loved.

The characters in this book are great. I especially loved Kate. Kate is a woman before her time. She becomes a doctor when it was not common for a woman to become a doctor. She always feels like she has to prove herself and prove herself she does. Although Kate was my favorite, the other main characters and the secondary characters were well drawn and interesting.

Overall, this is a great pick for historical fiction fans and fans of these fab authors!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Review: Novel Interiors: Living in Enchanted Rooms Inspired by Literature by Lisa Borgnes Giramonti

Title: Novel Interiors: Living in Enchanted Rooms Inspired by Literature 
Author: Lisa Borgnes Giramonti
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Potter Style
Publish Date: December 2, 2014
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "For those who have ever lost themselves in the stylish worlds of novels like Sense and Sensibility, The Age of Innocence, Wuthering Heights, The Picture of Dorian Gray and countless others, this design book embraces the fantasy of time and place, showing you how to bring some of those elements into your own home.

Lisa Giramonti inspires a new approach to decorating: by teaching us through the lens of worlds we may already know and love. With gorgeous photographs by World of Interiors photographer Ivan Terestchenko, aspirational quotes, and tailored reading lists, Novel Interiors reveals the essence and details of interiors mentioned in great literary works. This is a stunning, photo-driven book that shares enchanting and timeless ways to live more elegantly."

My Two Cents:

"Novel Interiors" is a coffee table- type book with beautiful pictures of rooms inspired by famous literature. Now, I love coffee table books. My husband always teases me about liking them a little bit too much.  I absolutely adore them and  I have tons of them, so many that they most definitely would not fit actually on my coffee table. This book was a great addition to my collection. I loved the pictures and the stories behind the pictures. I know that my fellow literature lovers are going to enjoy this book as well!

I really loved this book and it's one that I know I will continue to look at a lot. I think I may have even gotten some good ideas for my own home where the books are plentiful and the need to be surrounded by all things literary are great!

This book may not be for everyone. This book is best for those looking for more cozy spaces rather than wide open, clean line type spaces. The style is perfect for my very old Victorian house! As I find myself among those that seek coziness, I really enjoyed this book.  

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Review: The Edge of Nowhere by C.H. Armstrong

Title: The Edge of Nowhere
Author: C.H. Armstrong 
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Penner Publishing
Publish Date: January 19, 2016 (Today!)
Source: Author

What's the Story?:

From "The year is 1992 and Victoria Hastings Harrison Greene—reviled matriarch of a sprawling family—is dying.

After surviving the Oklahoma Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, Victoria refuses to leave this earth before revealing the secrets she’s carried for decades.

Once the child of a loving family during peaceful times, a shocking death shattered her life. Victoria came face to face with the harshness of the world. As the warm days of childhood receded to distant memory, Victoria learns to survive.

No matter what it takes.

To keep her family alive in an Oklahoma blighted by dust storms and poverty, Victoria makes choices—harsh ones, desperate ones. Ones that eventually made her into the woman her grandchildren fear and whisper about. Ones that kept them all alive. Hers is a tale of tragedy, love, murder, and above all, the conviction to never stop fighting."

My Two Cents:

"The Edge of Nowhere" is the story of Victoria, a woman who faced a lot of tragedy in her life, which has shaped her horrid personality that we see when we first meet her in this book. This is a look at her life in Oklahoma just before, during, and after the years of the Dust Bowl. This is a time period that I have not visited much in fiction, which initially drew me to reading this book. I was pulled in by the strong story and Victoria is just a fascinating character.

Tragedy and resilience are the themes of this book. Victoria is a fascinating character because at first she is incredibly resilient but life begins to wear on her. I liked how the author was able to show this progression. It's not pretty but it gives such good insight into who Victoria is and how she is equipped to deal with such things. We see how Victoria goes from suffering the tragic loss of both of her parents to getting married to a farmer, who she is convinced that she won't fall in love with but she does and she builds a life together with him with the children he had from his previous marriage and the children that they have together. Their life together is hard but good as they face the fall out of the Dust Bowl. Then tragedy strikes over and over again and Victoria must make many different decisions to try to keep her family's lives intact as much as she can.

The writing of the book is pretty good. There were a few issues with how the book begins and ends. The premise is that Victoria is looking back at her life and her family hates her. She's mean and she's trying to give her family insight into her life through telling these stories. We see how Victoria becomes less positive about her life throughout the book but I felt like we still saw a spark. By the time she is writing the letter, the spark is out but we don't see what finally put it out. The ending was also sort of abrupt and left me wanting a little more closure. That being said, the meat of the book was great and intense and kept me wanting to read!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Review: Conversion by Katherine Howe

Title: Conversion
Author: Katherine Howe
Format: Paperback
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publish Date: July 1, 2014
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "It’s senior year at St. Joan’s Academy, and school is a pressure cooker. College applications, the battle for valedictorian, deciphering boys’ texts: Through it all, Colleen Rowley and her friends are expected to keep it together. Until they can’t.

First it’s the school’s queen bee, Clara Rutherford, who suddenly falls into uncontrollable tics in the middle of class. Her mystery illness quickly spreads to her closest clique of friends, then more students and symptoms follow: seizures, hair loss, violent coughing fits. St. Joan’s buzzes with rumor; rumor blossoms into full-blown panic.

Soon the media descends on Danvers, Massachusetts, as everyone scrambles to find something, or someone, to blame. Pollution? Stress? Or are the girls faking? Only Colleen—who’s been reading The Crucible for extra credit—comes to realize what nobody else has: Danvers was once Salem Village, where another group of girls suffered from a similarly bizarre epidemic three centuries ago . . ."

My Two Cents:

"Conversion" is the story of several teenage girls at St. Joan's Academy, a small private school in Danvers, Massachusetts. The book follows several of these girls as they fall ill with tics and other symptoms that seem to be totally unexplained. The town becomes an immediate media circus as many people try to figure out what is happening to these girls and why they are falling ill. Is there a connection to what happened in Salem Village back in the 1700s?

I was drawn to this book because it seemed interesting to me to tie the present back to something that happened to the same place three centuries prior. The Salem witch trials are still endlessly fascinating to so many people, myself included. I think many people are so interesting because it seems like something that couldn't happen today. This book shows that sometimes hysteria can occur no matter what time period you're talking about.

The premise of the book was interesting but the story was a little slow in some spots. Some of this story got bogged down in telling the stories of so many different people. I found it a little bit hard to keep track of who we were talking about. I had to keep going back in the story to figure it all out. It feels like it took a really long time to get to the overall conflict of the story. The storyline is intriguing but I wanted to be pulled into the mystery little bit more and that did not really happen with this book. Overall, the story has an interesting premise but moved a bit slowly for my liking.


Friday, January 15, 2016

Review: The Lost and Found Life of Rosy Bennett by Jan Birley

Title: The Lost and Found Life of Rosy Bennett
Author: Jan Birley
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Acorn Independent Press
Publish Date: November 4, 2015
Source: Author

What's the Story?:

From "Rosy loved her London life – her job in a designer shop, her gorgeous West London family house and of course her gorgeous family (although young sons are enough to test anyone at times). All that disappears when, one unremarkable morning, after one unremarkable school run, her husband collapses on a crowded tube carriage and dies. 
As she struggles her way through the grief, she discovers her husband’s secret life: secrets accounts, secret deals that their solicitor knew nothing of, secret debts and what looks like a secret “very close friend” at least. 

Totally unprepared and suddenly in debt, Rosy is forced to leave London to start a new life with her incredibly reluctant boys in the countryside. Can angsty urban teenagers cope with farm life, let alone enjoy it? More to the point, can their mother? It’s certainly not going to be easy but when you are at rock bottom the only way is up."

My Two Cents:

"The Lost and Found Life of Rosy Bennett" is the story of Rosy, a wife and mother of two boys, who suddenly loses her husband. Her life is thrown into a tailspin when she finds out that her husband was not exactly truthful with her and spent most of the money buying a random alpaca farm in the middle of the countryside. This is only the first of many surprises that her husband left behind. Although she is shocked, she thinks that moving to the farm could be the fresh start she and her boys need. What follows is a good story with a lot of twists and turns that kept me flipping the pages!

This is partly a fish-out-of-water story as Rosy and her sons have to cope with moving from London to the countryside. Her son, James, has a lot of trouble with this. It was interesting to see how Rosy was almost tip-toeing around James, even when his behavior got ridiculous. I didn't quite understand the motivation behind her not dealing with him as his behavior begins to affect more and more of the other characters throughout the book but I think it illustrates just how helpless Rosy feels.  She doesn't know what to do when the hits keep coming. I thought the author did a good job of showing the sheer chaos that the main characters are going through.

As I mentioned, I liked a lot of the twists and turns in the book. Of course, because they are twists and turns, I really can't go into much detail about what happens. The author also did a pretty good job of pacing the twists and turns to keep the narrative fairly even flowing. 

I also have to mention that I loved that the book took place on an alpaca farm. One of my dreams would be to get to hang around alpacas all day. They are such cool creatures! When Rosy first finds out that she owns an alpaca farm, she barely even knows what an alpaca is! She finds out very quickly as to why they appeal to so many people!

Overall, this is a good story about starting over!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Review: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Title: Bad Feminist
Author: Roxane Gay
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Publish Date: August 5, 2014
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman of color while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years and commenting on the state of feminism today. The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture."

My Two Cents:

"Bad Feminist" is a collection of essays by Roxanne Gay. I had heard a ton about this book and even before I read it, I was following Gay on Twitter (which is a great idea). She always has the funniest, most insightful things to say about a broad variety of topics. I was excited to see how her wit and wisdom translated to some long form essays. The good news is that it translates really, really well. I really enjoyed this collection and definitely recommend it! 

This collection is filled with essays that made me laugh and make me think a lot about my place in the world is a woman. Gay is a fantastic writer who writes in such a way that her words really come to life! I love that her ideas are incredibly vivid. It's hard to single out a single essay that I liked best. I liked the funny essays that make me laugh out loud. I also liked the essays that were on more serious topics and those ones had a tendency to make me think a lot. There is a little something for everyone here.

This book will have me thinking for a long time and I am excited to read more by Gay in the future. This book is an incredibly important one for today's modern feminists and women would do well to read this book.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Review: Blood Rose Angel by Liza Perrat

Title: Blood Rose Angel
Author: Liza Perrat
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Perrat Publishing
Publish Date: November 4, 2015
Source: Author

What's the Story?:

From "Midwife Héloïse has always known that her bastard status threatens her standing in the French village of Lucie-sur-Vionne. Yet her midwifery and healing skills have gained the people’s respect, and she has won the heart of the handsome Raoul Stonemason. The future looks hopeful. Until the Black Death sweeps into France.

Fearful that Héloïse will bring the pestilence into their cottage, Raoul forbids her to treat its victims. Amidst the grief and hysteria, the villagers searching for a scapegoat, Héloïse must choose: preserve her marriage, or honour the oath she swore on her dead mother’s soul? And even as she places her faith in the protective powers of her angel talisman, she must prove she’s no Devil’s servant, her talisman no evil charm."

My Two Cents:

"Blood Rose Angel" is the third book in the series that includes "Spirit of Lost Angels" and "Wolfsangel" by Liza Perrat. Although this book is part of a series, you don't have to have read the other books as the thing that links the books is a talisman. I would suggest reading the other books though because they are true treats for historical fiction fans. In this book, we meet Heloise, a midwife, that lives during the time of the Black Death. 

This time period in France is one that I loved. It was so interesting to see how Heloise and her fellow village dwellers deal with the Black Death. There is so much tension and suspicion that is created by the disease that everyone is seen as the potential source. Because of Heloise's position as midwife and healer, she is seen as a suspect for bringing the Black Death upon the village. Superstitions abound throughout this book, which was fascinating to me!

I loved Heloise's character. She is a strong woman and one that is sure of her powers of healing. She oozes confidence through most of the book. I also liked how the author included a lot on the methods that Heloise would have used as a midwife during the time period. I love reading about old timey medical treatments. It's so interesting to me what people used to do in order to try to heal others! The author's note at the back of the book on this subject is absolutely fascinating!

Overall, this book was a good read! The characters are going to stick with me for a long time!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Review: The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes

Title: The Ship of Brides
Author: Jojo Moyes
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publish Date: October 28, 2014
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "1946. World War II has ended and all over the world, young women are beginning to fulfill the promises made to the men they wed in wartime.

In Sydney, Australia, four women join 650 other war brides on an extraordinary voyage to England—aboard HMS Victoria, which still carries not just arms and aircraft but a thousand naval officers. Rules are strictly enforced, from the aircraft carrier’s captain down to the lowliest young deckhand. But the men and the brides will find their lives intertwined despite the Navy’s ironclad sanctions. And for Frances Mackenzie, the complicated young woman whose past comes back to haunt her far from home, the journey will change her life in ways she never could have predicted—forever."

My Two Cents:

In "The Ship of Brides," we follow several women who are are leaving the only home they've ever known in Australia to go to England after World War II to meet up with the British soldiers that they fell in love with during the war. One of the reasons that I most love reading historical fiction is because I often learn about things that I've never known before. This book definitely had that for me. I had never heard of these women who left their own countries to marry soldiers after the war. I also enjoy JoJo Moyes' books and although this is not my favorite book of hers that I have ever read, it is still a good read that will appeal to many of my fellow historical fiction lovers.

This book was a little bit hard for me to get into at first as I was getting to know the characters. Once the author begins to give us the motivations behind the reasons that these women got on the ships towards the unknown I got a little bit more into the story. This book is definitely one with characters where what you initially see is not always what you get. This story follows several several women each to have their own motivations in their own reasons for getting on the ship. Some of them fell in love. Some of them are looking for an alternative life. Some of them just want to run away.

Overall, this was a interesting story. As I mentioned, I love Moyes and up until this point, I had only read her books set in modern days. It was interesting to see how she took on historical fiction. I definitely enjoyed her take on this new-to-me historical event!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Review: Bohemian Gospel by Dana Chamblee Carpenter

Title: Bohemian Gospel
Author: Dana Chamblee Carpenter
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Pegasus
Publish Date: November 15, 2015
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Thirteenth-century Bohemia is a dangerous place for a girl, especially one as odd as Mouse, born with unnatural senses and an uncanny intellect. Some call her a witch. Others call her an angel. Even Mouse doesn’t know who—or what—she is. But she means to find out.

When young King Ottakar shows up at the Abbey wounded by a traitor's arrow, Mouse breaks church law to save him and then agrees to accompany him back to Prague as his personal healer. Caught in the undertow of court politics at the castle, Ottakar and Mouse find themselves drawn to each other as they work to uncover the threat against him and to unravel the mystery of her past. But when Mouse's unusual gifts give rise to a violence and strength that surprise everyone—especially herself—she is forced to ask herself: Will she be prepared for the future that awaits her?"

My Two Cents:

"Bohemian Gospel" is an original meshing of historical fiction and fantasy. Set in 13th century Bohemia, we meet Mouse, an unusual girl that has some supernatural powers. She grows up as an outcast, taken care of by the church, even though she is not allowed to get close to the religion itself. Then she saves a king and her life changes. This book has a lot of historical detail with a twist of the extraordinary.

At first, this book seems to be very much a straight historical fiction. There's great characters like Mouse, a young woman who really doesn't know her family or her origins, and King Ottakar, a young man who is fighting against his father's shadow. The author gives us a glimpse of what it would be like to live in Bohemia during this time through a lot of good historical detail, which I ate up. Historical fiction fans will eat up the way the author immerses the readers in such a richly detailed world.

And then the fantasy comes in. I didn't quite expect it but I ended up loving it! The author did a good job of making Mouse's powers feel real to me! I loved it. The story line about Mouse's origins was so fascinating to me. The author does a great job of just giving the reader enough to keep reading.

And then there's the ending. Oh man, there isn't a sequel listed that I can see on Goodreads but the ending is so abrupt and leaves a huge opening for a really awesome sequel. I usually don't like endings like that but I am so hopeful that there will be another book that I am willing to forgive it!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Another Reading Challenge!

So I came across another reading challenge that I really want to do (yes, this is in addition to my #ReadYourOwnDamn Books Challenge). I came across the following challenge on Facebook on this page: WeAreTeachers Reading!

I think I can actually roll many of these into my other challenge. 

Can I interest anyone else in doing this challenge with me? What challenges are you doing this year?

Friday, January 8, 2016

Review: My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind by Scott Stossel

Title: My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind
Author: Scott Stossel
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Knopf
Publish Date: January 7, 2014
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "As recently as thirty-five years ago, anxiety did not exist as a diagnostic category. Today, it is the most common form of officially classified mental illness. Scott Stossel gracefully guides us across the terrain of an affliction that is pervasive yet too often misunderstood.

Drawing on his own long-standing battle with anxiety, Stossel presents an astonishing history, at once intimate and authoritative, of the efforts to understand the condition from medical, cultural, philosophical, and experiential perspectives. He ranges from the earliest medical reports of Galen and Hippocrates, through later observations by Robert Burton and Søren Kierkegaard, to the investigations by great nineteenth-century scientists, such as Charles Darwin, William James, and Sigmund Freud, as they began to explore its sources and causes, to the latest research by neuroscientists and geneticists. Stossel reports on famous individuals who struggled with anxiety, as well as on the afflicted generations of his own family. His portrait of anxiety reveals not only the emotion’s myriad manifestations and the anguish anxiety produces but also the countless psychotherapies, medications, and other (often outlandish) treatments that have been developed to counteract it. Stossel vividly depicts anxiety’s human toll—its crippling impact, its devastating power to paralyze—while at the same time exploring how those who suffer from it find ways to manage and control it."

My Two Cents:

"My Age of Anxiety" is part memoir, part exploration on what anxiety is and its history. Anxiety affects many people and is often hidden. I saw Scott Stossel speak at the 2014 Gaithersburg book Festival and he was speaking about his book my age of anxiety. His talk really hit home for me because I also deal with anxiety on a daily basis. It's not particularly fun but through this book it so that helped me understand what was going on a little bit more.

As I said, this book is part memoir and part history of anxiety disorders. Stossel is a great author for this book because he suffers from extreme anxiety to the point where he has to self medicate in order to be able to deal with things such as making speeches. He really puts himself out there so that readers can understand what it feels like to deal with anxiety and to try to treat it.

Stossel covers a lot of different angles of anxiety. He talks about how scientists have tried to figure out why it happens. He weighs all of his cards out on the table and I realize how difficult that must be for somebody who has major anxiety. This is an intimate look at what it means to suffer from this mental on this as well as take give some context around how scientists are beginning to look at this. Overall, this book would be a great pick for those that suffer from anxiety but also those that love someone who deals with anxiety!


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Giveaway: The View From Prince Street!

Hello! I am very excited to be able to giveaway a copy of "The View From Prince Street" to one lucky winner thanks to the publisher!

Want to win your own copy? Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below (U.S. only, please!)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Review: Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner

Title: Stars Over Sunset Boulevard
Author: Susan Meissner
Format: Ebook
Publisher: NAL
Publish Date: January 5, 2016 (Yesterday!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Los Angeles, Present Day. When an iconic hat worn by Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind  ends up in Christine McAllister’s vintage clothing boutique by mistake, her efforts to return it to its owner take her on a journey more enchanting than any classic movie…

Los Angeles, 1938.  Violet Mayfield sets out to reinvent herself in Hollywood after her  dream of becoming a wife and mother falls apart, and lands a job on the film-set of Gone With the Wind. There, she meets enigmatic Audrey Duvall, a once-rising film star who is now a fellow secretary. Audrey’s zest for life and their adventures together among Hollywood’s glitterati enthrall Violet…until each woman’s deepest desires collide.  What Audrey and Violet are willing to risk, for themselves and for each other, to ensure their own happy endings will shape their friendship, and their lives, far into the future. "

My Two Cents:

"Stars Over Sunset Boulevard" is a story that takes place in the heyday of old Hollywood, which is what initially drew me to this book. I think that old Hollywood seems so glamorous and so full of life that I love reading anything fictional or nonfictional about it. At the center of the story is the friendship between Audrey, a woman who dreams of being on the silver screen, and Violet, a woman from the south who dreams of just being in the background. Despite these women having very different motivations for being in Hollywood, their friendship and care for each other carries through this book. There's also a part of the book that is set in the present which surrounds some of the family members of these two main characters.

I loved both the characters of Audrey and Violet. They are both very different women and interact with the world very differently. It's these differences that makes the story so interesting. The author is able to create two very different characters that play off each other so nicely through the book. It was so interesting to see how the story of them flowed as their relationship changed. This book is the story of family secrets and keeping up appearances. Add to that the glamour of old Hollywood and you have a book that will definitely keep you entertained!

This is the second book that I've read by this author. The first book was "Secrets of a Charmed Life," which is set during World War II. I liked this book better than I like the book that I previously read. I think that the author made the characters and the writing much stronger in "Stars Over Sunset Boulevard." I look forward to reading more by this author!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Review: The View from Prince Street by Mary Ellen Taylor

Title: The View from Prince Street
Author: Mary Ellen Taylor
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: January 5, 2016 (Today!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Rae McDonald was fifteen when a car accident took her sister’s life and threw her own into reckless turmoil. When she got pregnant a year later, she found a loving couple to adopt the child. Since then, she’s buried her grief and guilt under a heart of stone.

Lisa Smyth survived the fateful crash, but never told the truth about what happened. And when a family obligation draws her back to Alexandria, the weight of Lisa’s guilt grows heavier by the day.
As both women confront a past refusing to be forgotten, long-buried artifacts are discovered by the Shire Architectural Salvage Company that point to a shared history between families.  Now, Rae and Lisa must finally ask themselves if denying the past is worth sacrificing the future."

My Two Cents:

"The View from Prince Street" is the story of two women who are linked by a tragic event in their past that neither of them really wants to discuss. It happened when they were teenagers and now that they are adults neither of them feels like the still want to talk about what happened that fateful day. They eventually realize that in order to begin to move past that event they have to talk about it. This is the second book in the author's Alexandria series. This is very much a standalone book so you don't need to go back and read the first book if you don't want to. After reading this book, I do want to go back and read the first book in the series though!

I was drawn to this book by the local connection initially. Alexandria, Virginia sits just outside of Washington, D.C. and it's a place that I love to visit. Even though it's very close to the nation's capital, it still feels like a small town. The author includes a lot of local landmarks in and around the town of Alexandria that it really brought this book to life for me. The setting is great!

At first, I felt like the author was giving a little bit too much detail and telling instead of showing in the beginning of the book. Eventually the narrative really evens out and I got very into the book and the story of Rae and Lisa. Both women deal with their feelings in very different ways which makes for a very interesting juxtaposition. I really liked how the author was able to create two very different characters. I felt for them for different reasons. I was a little bit more drawn to Rae's story since she almost seems to be affected a little bit more by the past than Lisa does. Overall, this was a great story about family and how it is important to deal with those hard things that may be holding you back!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Review: Prince Harry: Brother, Soldier, Son by Penny Junor

Title: Prince Harry: Brother, Soldier, Son
Author: Penny Junor
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publish Date: September 9, 2014
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Prince Harry, one of the most popular members of the British royal family, has had a colorful life. After losing his mother at 12 years old, he spent his teenage years making questionable choices under intense international media scrutiny, becoming known for his mischevious grin, shock of red hair, and the occassional not-so-royal indiscretion. As he's grown, he has distinguished himself through military service, flying helicopters for the RAF. He served in Afghanistan and continues to devote himself to his military career. He also follows in his mother's footsteps with charity work--he is the founder of Sentebale, a charity to help orphans in Lesotho, and works with many other charitable organizations to help young people in society and to conserve natural resources. As he reaches his thirtieth birthday, Prince Harry is proving himself a prince of the people.

With unprecedented access to the most important figures in his life, Penny Junor is able get the truth about who this mercurial and fascinating royal son really is. A modern biography of a modern prince, this book offers an insider's look at the life of the man who is fourth in line to Britain's throne."

My Two Cents:

If you know me, I know that I love reading about royalty, particularly the British royalty. Any time that I see a biography of one of the members of the royal family I have to pick it up. This book was no different. These books always promise unfettered access to royalty, which is never really true. I always hope. Prince Harry is a fascinating guy and I wanted to get closer to him.

In a lot of ways for those who are already for familiar with the royal family. this book will probably fall a little flat. For those who are not familiar with the royal family as much, those readers may be more interested in the heavy dose of background that is given to us at the very beginning. The author goes into a lot of detail about Prince Charles and Princess Diana and doesn't really paint either in the most positive light. Nothing really new or different was offered here.

I definitely like the book a little bit more once I got to more of what Prince Harry is doing as an adult and how he has changed since his childhood. The later part of the book was definitely more interesting to me. Overall, this book fell a little flat for me because of the beginning.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Novel Books in Clarksburg, MD!

There's a little bookstore in a gorgeous yellow house on one of the backroads between my house and my parents' house. Every time I passed it, I would say to myself or out loud to my husband that I needed to visit. I finally had an opportunity to stop in last week. The book store is called Novel Books and it is adorable! It's located in Clarksburg, MD, super convenient to I-270.

How cute is this place?

The store offers both new and used books!
They have great play area! My girls will be all over that in not too much time!
I might need this Goodnight Moon bag. How cute!
In warmer weather, this porch is just calling for readers to hang out and read on it as the world goes back.
Here's what I got!
"Rules of Civility" was a used book. The other books were all ARCs that Novel Books gives away to those that want them. The store is incredibly cozy and I cannot wait for my next visit!
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