Monday, February 29, 2016

Author Interview: Suzanne Redfearn

I am excited to welcome Suzanne Redfearn here to A Bookish Affair today. She is the author of "No Ordinary Life," which I reviewed here a few days ago!

1. What inspired you to write this book?

I knew my editor wanted me to write another story about a mother protecting her children, and I was in line at the grocery store and saw a tabloid with the headline, “Zac Efron Enters Rehab Again.” My daughter was a High School Musical fan when she was little, so I felt like I had watched Zac Efron grow up, and to know he was suffering and that his suffering was being made public made me feel horrible for him and his parents. The idea Child Star popped in my head. At that point I wasn’t certain what the story was going to be, but I liked the idea of exploring what goes on behind the glitz and glamour that causes so many young actors to suffer such tragic setbacks and downfalls. 

2. This is your second novel. Was your writing process for "No Ordinary Life" any different from "Hush Little Baby?"

Every story has its own journey. While I knew the topic of the novel, it took some time for me to discover the story I wanted to tell. HUSH LITTLE BABY was very linear, a cat chases mouse story, while NO ORDINARY LIFE didn’t have as direct a path. The antagonist was not as defined nor was the outcome. I didn’t write the story chronologically, an idea would strike and I would write about it, then I would have another idea and write about that. It was complicated and often confounding. I think I wrote 800 pages to get 400 because it was so unclear where the story wanted to go. 

3. Who is your favorite character in "No Ordinary Life?"

I love Griff because he is so good and heroic, but my favorite characters are Helen and Bo. They are quirky and cool and were incredibly fun to write. 

4. Can you tell us about your favorite scene in the book?

I love the airport scene. As a mom, it was the scene that affected me the most. I was once in a Bed, Bath, and Beyond when my daughter had a meltdown because I wouldn’t buy her a toy she desperately wanted. For twenty minutes I stood there while she screamed and had a tantrum while people walked by with either sympathetic expressions or judgmental frowns. It was the worst feeling and, to imagine something like that happening while dozens of photographers documented it, knowing it was going to be plastered in every tabloid and shown on every celebrity gossip show in the world, made my heart split in two with sympathy for Faye. It was the pinnacle moment in the story that illustrated how out of control Faye’s life had become. 

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

Ironman. He’s smart, resourceful, and funny. And who wouldn’t want Robert Downey Jr. on an island?
Captain Jack Sparrow because that would just be a whole lot of fun.
Hermione because she could keep the other two in line and she’s a wizard, and how cool is that?

Thank you for the great Q&A, Meg. This was fun.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Review: No Ordinary Life by Suzanne Redfearn

Title: No Ordinary Life
Author: Suzanne Redfearn 
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publish Date: February 2, 2016
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "Faye Martin never expected her husband to abandon her and her three children . . . or that she'd have to struggle every day to make ends meet. So when her four-year-old daughter is discovered through a YouTube video and offered a starring role on a television series, it seems like her prayers have been answered. But when the reality of their new life settles in, Faye realizes that fame and fortune don't come without a price. And in a world where everyone is an actor and every move is scrutinized by millions, it's impossible to know who to trust, and Faye finds herself utterly alone in her struggle to save her family."

My Two Cents:

"No Ordinary Life" is the story of Faye Martin and her children. When her youngest, Molly, is discovered one day right after they move to Los Angeles, the whole family's world is turned upside down. At first, Faye can't believe her fortune but she is faced with a slew of new problems that she could once only imagine. This is the story of one woman trying to hold her family together when their world is turned upside down. Hollywood glamour isn't always glamorous!

The Hollywood life is definitely not for me but that did not prevent me from enjoying living vicariously through Faye and her family in this book. The book is told from Faye's perspective, which really pulled me into the story. I really enjoyed seeing the events of the book through her eyes. This book definitely shows the unglamorous side of Hollywood. At first, Faye thinks that being in Hollywood is going to solve all of her family's problems but she finds that the problems just change (and arguably get worse) as her family gets more entrenched in the business. This book made me really anxious for the family throughout the book and I love when a book can elicit such a strong response in me!

The writing of the book is good. I thought that the author did a good job of showing the characters' growth (especially Faye's) throughout the book. The flow works well and kept me involved with the book. Overall, this was a good read that gave a lot of insight into a world I'm not familiar with!


Friday, February 26, 2016

HFVBT Interview: C.W. Gortner, Author of "The Vatican Princess"

I am very excited to have C.W. Gortner, author of the fantastic "The Vatican Princess," on A Bookish Affair today!

1. What inspired you to write about Lucrezia Borgia?
Growing up in southern Spain, I was always fascinated by history. The Borgias were of Spanish descent yet ruled over Rome, and so I read about them. I was particularly intrigued by Lucrezia, who’s been so maligned in history. I remember the very first historical novel I read about her. It was titled “The Loves of Lucrezia Borgia”—a very lurid account of her dastardly seductions and poisonings. I don’t recall who the author was, it was a paperback original with a 1970s illustration on the cover, a woman draped in veils and reclining on a bed with a goblet, as a man in an unlaced doublet groveled at her feet. Clearly, it must have impressed me. I was a boy and I devoured lurid historical novels. Years later, after I got published, I realized that Lucrezia fit into my repertoire of bad girls in history, who are often not quite so bad after all. She fit into other subjects I’d already written about and there were coincidences, such as the fact that her father Rodrigo Borgia became pope in 1492, the year Isabella of Castile, the subject of my novel “The Queen’s Vow”, conquered Granada. Lucrezia seemed a perfect subject for me, as I knew by then she wasn’t like she’s been portrayed, no matter how exciting poisonous seductions might be. Her youth was spent embroiled in a ruthless game of family ambition, and she bore the brunt of the calumny for it.
2. Why do you think that people are still so interested in the Borgia family?
In great part, I think it’s because of their reputation. They are the quintessential Mafia family – which is interesting, as they weren’t Italian by descent— and their brief but tumultuous reign was one of upheaval and scandal. The rumors of murders, both actual and those attributed to them, as well as their intimacy, fueled endless speculation. They were the Kardashians of the late 15th century without the vapidity or reality show; mix in the papacy and a generous hint of incest, and you’ve got a potent brew. I don’t think most people know much about them in reality, but just say their name and it evokes fascination. While researching and writing “The Vatican Princess,” I came to realize that in some measure, they deserve their reputation. You didn’t want to make an enemy of these people. But they didn’t behave any worse than most dynasties in Italy at that time. The Renaissance was an avaricious, dangerous era, and the Borgias knew how to play the game. Ironically, for all their unity as a family, which epitomizes la cosa nostra, they were undone from within. They became their own worst enemies.
3. Who is your favorite character in "The Vatican Princess?"
Oh, that’s a tough one. I liked them all – to write about, not necessarily have dinner with. After Lucrezia, of course, I think Cesare most captures my imagination. He was enigmatic, almost feral, and brilliant. He conceived of uniting Italy under the Borgia banner but had to deal with an ineffective and envious older brother, the pope’s favorite; and the expectation that he’d follow in their father’s footsteps and build his career in the Church. Cesare defied the odds by becoming someone unexpected and he paid a heavy price for it. But he undoubtedly loved his sister, as much as he could love anyone, and his relationship with Lucrezia drives my novel to some extent. After him, I like their mother, Vanozza. Again, not necessarily a nice person, but a survivor in a time when women like her had few options. She took no prisoners.
4. You've written many books now. Has your writing process changed at all?
I’m much better at it, I hope? The process itself is more streamlined. Before, I’d plunge into mountains of research and everything I learned ended up in the manuscript until, of course, during revisions, I had to cut and all that painstaking research about how to ride sidesaddle on a Renaissance horse ended up on the editing room floor. I still do tons of research, because it’s my job, but I’ve become more precise; I figure out what I must know to start writing and proceed. When I hit a block, I pause and research to continue. It’s easier for me as a writer to flesh out my characters and develop the arc of my story, then fill in historical details. I get less confused about what happened to whom and when. I do write chronologically; in other words, from beginning to end. I’m not good at jumping here and there, as I get lost in a parking lot. And writing chronologically helps me maintain the pacing. Most importantly to me, I don’t want my historical novels to be mired in “Look how much I know!” I want to entertain my readers by immersing them in the character’s mind and emotions; I want them to see her world through her eyes. That’s crucial to me as a novelist. In the final say, I’m not imparting a history lesson. I’m writing fictional interpretations of historical figures.
5. If you could bring three fictional characters or historical figures with you to a deserted island, who would you bring and why?
Coco Chanel, because she has fabulous wit, so we’d never be bored. Brendan Prescott, from my Tudor spymaster series, because he knows how to survive perilous situations. And Ferdinand Magellan, because he’s an expert navigator, and who wants to be stuck on a deserted island?

Thank you so much for hosting me on my blog tour. To learn more about me and my work, please visit me at:

Thursday, February 25, 2016

HFVBT Review: The Vatican Princess by C.W. Gortner

Title: The Vatican Princess
Author: C.W. Gortner
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publish Date: February 9, 2016
Source: HFVBT

What's the Story?:

From "Glamorous and predatory, the Borgias became Italy’s most ruthless and powerful family, electrifying and terrorizing their 15th-century Renaissance world.

To this day, Lucrezia Borgia is known as one of history’s most notorious villainesses, accused of incest and luring men to doom with her arsenal of poison.

International bestselling author C.W. Gortner’s new novel delves beyond the myth to depict Lucrezia in her own voice, from her pampered childhood in the palaces of Rome to her ill-fated, scandalous arranged marriages and complex relationship with her adored father and her rival brothers—brutal Juan and enigmatic Cesare."

My Two Cents:

"The Vatican Princess" is the story of Lucrezia Borgia, a member of one of the most infamous families in history. The book captures the politics and salaciousness of the rule of the Borgias with great detail that pulled me in quickly. While this book covers a lot of the things that many history lovers know or have heard about the Borgias, Gortner breathes life into the story telling it from Lucrezia's perspective. She is quite young when the book opens so we get to see a lot of her life throughout the book. Gortner makes it easy to see why so many of us (myself included) can't get enough of the Borgias.

C.W. Gortner is one of my favorite authors and I will read anything he puts out. I was interested to see his take on the Borgias. As I mentioned before, he covers a lot of the truths and rumors that history lovers may already be familiar with. For instance, the rumored incest between Lucrezia and her brothers is present. The description is sometimes brutal but not overly so for the story that Gortner is trying to tell. The panache of his delivery is what makes this book special. By having Lucrezia as our narrator, we are pulled right into the thick of the saga of the Borgias. We see her go from a young, naive girl to someone who learns how to play the game. I loved following her in this book.

I think the author does a great job of capturing the politics that drove the Borgias. This is a power hungry family and each member of the family becomes quite adept at getting what they want in many different ways. Gortner does a great job of showing all of the in's and out's and alliances that drive each character. I loved all of the detail. Gortner's book will transport you back to a time where power was everything and you either lead, followed, or stepped aside.  

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Review: Holding out for a Hero by Victoria Van Tiem

Title: Holding out for a Hero
Author: Victoria Van Tiem
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Macmillan
Publish Date: January 14, 2016
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "Their love survived the 80s. She wished she hadn't.
A funny, bitter-sweet romantic dramedy set to an 80's soundtrack, proving first love never truly dies...

Libby London fell in love in with the 80s, came of age in the 90s, and now, in the 21st Century, she's completely falling apart... Her New York City fashion sensibility is more 'vintage tragedy' than 'retro babe' and might just be what's holding her back in all matters of life and love...

At least that's what her well-meaning friends think. They've staged a #80sIntervention in an effort to bring Libby bang up-to-date. But how do you move forward when the one you love holds you in the past? Between her dreaded birthday party, friend's madcap ambush, and being forced to relocate her Pretty In Pink thrift shop, Libby's nearing the end of the rope... If her therapist isn't quick, it could be a literal one."

My Two Cents:

Libby London is a vintage clothes store owner who is happy living life stuck in the eighties. She has the clothes and gigantic hair to show it! After her latest relationship fails and her store is in danger of being no more, her friends decide that Libby can't hide in the past any longer and they stage an intervention, which involves changing everything from clothes to Libby's general life outlook. It's a heavy task but someone has to do it!

I had really enjoyed Van Tiem's previous release, "Love Like the Movies" and so I was looking forward to reading this book. It took me a little while to warm up to Libby at first as I couldn't understand her motivation for wanting to stay stuck when she had the power to change things for herself and things just weren't working out for her. Eventually as Libby's story unfolds and we learn about all of the things that she has had to deal with, I warmed up to her and the story flowed a bit better for me. It just takes a bit to get there!

The writing was good. I really liked how each chapter of the book was named after a 80s song or movie, which gave a flavor to the chapter. Although I was born in the 80s (1985!), I don't really remember the 80s but I love the music and movies that came out then (Hello, Brat Pack!) so I found the title as well as the other 80s details that the author included to be a lot of fun.

Overall, this was a good romance with a lot of fun details!


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Review: When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins

Title: When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present
Author: Gail Collins
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publish Date: October 14, 2009
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "When Everything Changed begins in 1960, when most American women had to get their husbands' permission to apply for a credit card. It ends in 2008 with Hillary Clinton's historic presidential campaign. This was a time of cataclysmic change, when, after four hundred years, expectations about the lives of American women were smashed in just a generation."

My Two Cents:

"When Everything Changed" is a history of American women from 1960 the present and everything that they had to go through in order to get where we are today. It was a time of rapid change. You had women entering the workforce in higher levels than ever before. Their roles and the way that they saw themselves, and the ways that they wanted others to see them were changing as well. When you look at history, there is so much change that occurred for women in the 1960s. The 1960s were really the beginning of the feminist movement as women were moving out of their traditional roles and into more different roles then they'd ever had before. The following decades meant even more changes for women. As a woman who lives today, I'm definitely appreciative of those who came before me and paved the way for me to do what I want to do.

This book gave me an even greater appreciation for those that came before me. Gail Collins has written a lot about women and women's issues so she is definitely well versed in the subject, which shines through in her narrative. She pulls together so many poignant points of view in this book. She covers not only who made changes but what kind of changes were occurring in areas such as fashion and the workforce. This was a great read that not only showed me how far we've come by and many ways how far we still have to go in order to make things the best that they can be for women. I suggest this book to anyone who is looking for an engaging account of the many great strides that so many women have made over the past five decades or so.


Monday, February 22, 2016

Review: Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams by Charles King

Title: Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams
Author: Charles King 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: W.W. Norton
Publish Date: February 28, 2011
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Italian merchants, Greek freedom fighters, and Turkish seamen; a Russian empress and her favorite soldier-bureaucrats; Jewish tavern keepers, traders, and journalists—these and many others seeking fortune and adventure rubbed shoulders in Odessa, the greatest port on the Black Sea.

Here a dream of cosmopolitan freedom inspired geniuses and innovators, from Alexander Pushkin and Isaac Babel to Zionist activist Vladimir Jabotinsky and immunologist Ilya Mechnikov. Yet here too was death on a staggering scale: not only the insidious plagues common to seaports but also the mass murder of Jews carried out by the Romanian occupation during World War II. Drawing on a wealth of original source material, Odessa is an elegy for the vibrant, multicultural tapestry of which a thriving Jewish population formed an essential part, as well as a celebration of the survival of Odessa's dream in a diaspora reaching all the way to Brighton Beach."

My Two Cents:

"Odessa" is a nonfiction book by Charles King, a professor and historian who focuses on eastern Europe. Odessa is a gorgeous city on the coast of Ukraine that has belonged to different countries at different times. Because of its location, it is an incredibly desirable place strategically! This book is the history of this wonderfully interesting city that will appeal to my fellow history lovers.

What initially drew me to this book is the fact that several years ago in 2011 I visited Ukraine and had a chance to go to Odessa. After being in cities like Kyiv, Odessa is incredibly different. It has a very interesting history. It was basically a planned city by Catherine the Great, one of my favorite historical figures to read about. The city was to act as a haven for Russian royalty. It sits on the Black Sea, which means that it was coveted by many other people throughout its history.

In this book King talks about many of the people who had a hand in making Odessa what it is today. It's a fascinating story even if you have never been to Odessa. I actually wish that I had read this book before I went to Odessa so I had a little bit more of a background as to what I would see. This book will appeal to history lovers and those who especially loved eastern European history.


Friday, February 19, 2016

Author Interview: Julie Christine Johnson, Author of "In Another Life"

I am very happy to welcome Julie Christine Johnson here to A Bookish Affair today! Julie is the author of "In Another Life," which I reviewed earlier in the week here.

1. What inspired you to write "In Another Life?"

I’ve lived in and traveled throughout France, so it seems natural that my first novel would come from this place that is my heart’s second home. In the spring of 2011, my husband and I spent a few weeks in Languedoc, and we fell under the spell of its haunting beauty and history. We passed our days clambering around medieval ruins and our evenings reading up on local history while sharing a bottle of gorgeous Languedoc wine. I had no idea at the time that I was researching a novel, but I left with a mental image I couldn’t shake: a woman standing on a cliff’s edge; below her stretches a valley laced with vineyards and studded with wind towers. Behind her, a man steps out from the ruins of a Cathar citadel. I was aching to find out who they were. Then I read about the Cathars’ belief in reincarnation and I knew I had my way in to the story. 

1. Who is your favorite character in the book?

It seems obvious to say Lia, the story’s protagonist, but I adore her. Yet I feel like I’m still getting to know Lia. By the novel’s end she’s just starting to come into her own, to realize her own emotional strength. I’m a few years older than Lia: 46 to her late 30s, but I see in her the same sense of purpose, a reinvigoration of character and self and determination that arrives with turning 40. You sort of look around and say, “Right. This is who I am at this moment. I am beautiful, strong, I have so much yet to give, to discover. Let’s do this. Let’s live.”  I’m not done with Lia, that’s for sure. 

2. I imagine you did a lot of research for this book. What is the most interesting or strangest thing you found during your research?

I mentioned above using the Cathars’ belief in reincarnation, which allowed me to move from historical fiction into fantasy. But what I loved playing with was an even deeper dive into the paranormal: the Cathars also believed in transmigration of human souls into non-human animals. The moment I read this, I imagined birds of prey soaring above the mountains and valleys of Languedoc, great raptors battling the good and evil within their own souls, souls that had at one time been human. And then I learned that the dove had become a symbol of the Cathar people, a tender and tragic reminder of all those souls lost to fire, torture, starvation and disease, eradicated by evil, yet rising above, pure and peaceful. Everything clicked into place: Paloma as the dove, Raoul as the eagle, Lucas at the falcon. In earlier drafts I emphasized the transmigration element to a much greater extent, but I gradually toned it down to make human-bird soul exchange more of a thread in the tapestry of the story, weaving in and out, catching the light or disappearing into the shadows. 

3. This is your first novel! Do you have any “lessons learned” for aspiring authors?

Mine is a bit of a faerie tale. But it’s proof that not every writer has a long and terrible road ahead. I began writing fiction in 2011, after taking a series of writing workshops in Seattle. Buoyed by early success in having short stories published, I went to a writers’ conference in June 2012 and it was there I realized I could, I must, try to write the story that was nattering around my brain. Two weeks later I wrote the first words of a novel that became In Another Life. 

After two years of writing and revising, I ended September 2014 with a draft of In Another Life that I felt was ready to query. I’d researched literary agents, compiled a query spreadsheet, and drafted and redrafted my query letter. Before I sent out any letters, however, I decided to give in-person pitching a go. I attended a writers’ conference in October and there I met the two women who would, a few weeks later, become my agent (Shannon Hassan of Marsal Lyon Literary, and the editor of In Another Life, (Anna Michels, Sourcebooks).

What I learned along the way is that developing a writing practice, and for me that means writing every single day, was critical to my success—the success of completing a first draft. I had to plan for my writing time, schedule it, guard it jealously. A writer must write. A writer must read. And a writer must send her work into the world, hear “No” over and over again, pick herself up each time, rinse and repeat. Although my first novel was quickly signed and set on the road to publication, I have stacks of rejections for other work. Those Nos are badges of honor because each one represents belief in myself, and if feedback is offered, they are learning experiences that make me a better writer. 

Be prepared for rejection, but do not see it as failure. That agent, publisher, journal wasn’t a good fit for your work or your work isn’t quite ready. Revise if necessary and keep going.

It takes a village to publish a book. No matter which path to publishing you take, traditional or independent, you cannot do it alone. Find mentors—writers at different stages of their careers—and listen, watch, learn. Ask questions, be humble, and don’t wait—reach out now. Writers’ blogs, Facebook groups, Twitter chats are all great resources for connecting with writers and finding your tribe. Reach out in both directions—up and back. Always be willing to help someone right behind you. 

And always, always be working on your next story. Don’t sit hitting refresh on your e-mail when you begin sending out queries or your novel is on submission with editors. The process can take months, a couple of years, even. Always be writing the next book. The first thing my now-agent asked me after reading and expressing enthusiasm for In Another Life was, “What else do you have?” I sent her a draft of my second novel and I had an offer of representation by the end of the week.  

4. If you could choose any three historical figures, or fictional characters, to bring with you to a deserted island, who would you bring and why?

Eleanor of Aquitaine, who died in 1204, just four years before the start of In Another Life’s medieval story line. I would love to watch her, to pick her brain, to see how a strong, fierce woman conducted herself in that era. She lived long, loved hard, survived war, imprisonment, several husbands, and outlived nearly all of her children. What did she see when she looked in the mirror? 

Harriet Welsch, the heroine of Louise Fitzhugh’s 1964 novel Harriet the Spy. I read Harriet the Spy when I was six years old and decided then and there I would become a writer. It took me another thirty-five years to get started, but I made it! Harriet would be in her 60s now. Before we left for that deserted island, I’d have Harriet show me her New York. Then we’d head off to the island, where there would be an endless supply of tomato sandwiches and egg creams and Dostoevsky. 

Aragorn. Because, deserted island. And, Aragorn. A girl can dream!

Meg, thank you for hosting me on A Bookish Affair, and thanks to your readers for their wonderful support of all things literary. It’s been an honor and a joy to be here!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

Title: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
Author: Mindy Kaling
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Crown Archetype
Publish Date: November 1, 2011
Source: Owned

What's the Story?:

From "Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?”

Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!"

My Two Cents:

"Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?" is a sort of memoir/ humor book by the very talented and very funny Mindy Kaling. This book was written around the time that Kaling was on "The Office" so it came out a few years ago but the humor in the book still feels timely and is still very enjoyable. I love her on The Mindy Project and know that she does a lot of the writing for that show and I find it hilarious so I wanted to read this book for that very reason. If you liked books like Tina Fey's "Bossypants" and are looking to infuse your reading with some humor, Mindy Kaling is your girl.

I loved this book! It is the perfect book for when you are looking for a good laugh. Kaling tells some really funny stories about her childhood in an immigrant family. Everything is on the table, whether or not it is embarrassing. She tells great stories about her early career. Not all of the book is funny though; Kaling covers some more serious topics with a lot of thought and consideration. She is nothing if not versatile!

The writing in this book is sharp and witty. This is a pretty fast read, mostly due to Kaling's great writing. It is not a very long book and after I was finished, I definitely found myself wanting I didn't want to put the book down. I know that I will be on the lookout for anything else Kaling writes. Overall, this was a great light read!


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Review: In Another Life by Julie Christine Johnson

Title: In Another Life
Author: Julie Christine Johnson
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publish Date: February 2, 2016
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "Historian Lia Carrer has finally returned to southern France, determined to rebuild her life after the death of her husband. But instead of finding solace in the region's quiet hills and medieval ruins, she falls in love with Raoul, a man whose very existence challenges everything she knows about life--and about her husband's death. As Raoul reveals the story of his past to Lia, she becomes entangled in the echoes of an ancient murder, resulting in a haunting and suspenseful journey that reminds Lia that the dead may not be as far from us as we think. "

My Two Cents:

"In Another Life" is the story of Lia, a woman who goes to the south of France, Languedoc to be exact, to try to put her life back together again. She is researching the theological beliefs of the Cathars, something that I was not familiar with at all (I love when books can teach me something new). The Cathars believed in reincarnation and Lia is fascinated by it. Little does she know how personally the beliefs are going to play into her own life.

This book has elements of historical fiction with a lot of rich detail about who the Cathars were and what they believed in. There is also the element of time travel, which I thought was great and definitely kept me interested in the book. Knowing very little about the Cathars, I was especially interested in reading the parts of the book that took place in the 13th century. It's clear that the author did a lot of research to bring those parts to life.

This book has a strong romantic element to it. I don't want to get too far into it because it may give away some of the big twists in the book. When Lia meets Raoul, she falls for him but there is something strange about him that she can't figure out at first. The author does a good job of giving a little detail at a time to keep the reader going. There are a few slow parts in the book where detail bogs down the narrative but overall, this is an interesting story for historical fiction lovers who like a bit of the fantastic!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Review: The Widow by Fiona Barton

Title: The Widow
Author: Fiona Barton
Format: ARC
Publisher: NAL
Publish Date: February 16, 2016 (Today!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "When the police started asking questions, Jean Taylor turned into a different woman. One who enabled her and her husband to carry on, when more bad things began to happen...

But that woman’s husband died last week. And Jean doesn’t have to be her anymore.

There’s a lot Jean hasn’t said over the years about the crime her husband was suspected of committing. She was too busy being the perfect wife, standing by her man while living with the accusing glares and the anonymous harassment.

Now there’s no reason to stay quiet. There are people who want to hear her story. They want to know what it was like living with that man. She can tell them that there were secrets. There always are in a marriage.

The truth—that’s all anyone wants. But the one lesson Jean has learned in the last few years is that she can make people believe anything…"

My Two Cents:

"The Widow" is the story of a marriage between Glen and Jean. Glen is one of those people who seem to be above it all, which gets him into trouble. Jean is a quiet woman who wants to be a devoted wife. To some degree, Glen almost seems to be mentally abusing Jean. Every time she thinks about letting out one of his secrets or even leaving him, he reels her back in. Glen has all sorts of indiscretions outside of his marriage, including the main event driving the action of the story, the kidnapping and murder of a little girl.

Psychological thrillers are a fairly new genre for me. I really like the twists and turns! This book is a little quieter than some of the other thrillers that I have read. Much of the action takes place after Glen passes away. With Glen removed, it is now up to Jean to decide how much of the truth she sets free. Even though the story is a little quiet, it was interesting to see how the author pieced everything together to draw readers into the story.

Glen makes a great villain. He's very full of himself and with every indiscretion, he doesn't seem to care about anyone but himself. His hubris gets the best of him in the end, luckily. I felt bad for how much control he seemed to have over Jean, even after his death. I wanted to warm up to Jean a little more but I almost felt as if the readers were being held at arm's length. To some degree, that is simply Jean's character. She is a bit standoffish and going through all she has just been through means she doesn't really open up too easily.

Overall, this was a pretty good thriller. I really wanted a little more closure at the end of the book because it felt a little bit rushed. The characters are interesting and the book kept my attention. This quiet thriller was a great way to while away the afternoon!


Monday, February 15, 2016

Book Blast: The Vatican Princess by C.W. Gortner

After an eleven year-long career in fashion, during which he worked as a vintage retail buyer, freelance publicist, and fashion show coordinator, C.W. devoted the next twelve years to the public health sector. In 2012, he became a full-time writer following the international success of his novels. In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard at Hampton Court, learned about organic gardening at Chenoceaux, and spent a chilly night in a ruined Spanish castle. His books have garnered widespread acclaim and been translated into twenty-one languages to date, with over 400,000 copies sold. A sought-after public speaker. C.W. has given keynote addresses at writer conferences in the US and abroad. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights, in particular companion animal rescue to reduce shelter overcrowding. Half-Spanish by birth and raised in southern Spain, C.W. now lives in Northern California with his partner and two very spoiled rescue cats. For more information visit C.W. Gortner’s website and blog. You can also find him on Facebook, Twittter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and YouTube. Sign up for C.W. Gortner’s Newsletter for updates.

Book Blast Schedule

Tuesday, February 9 Unshelfish Drey's Library The Maiden's Court CelticLady's Reviews Wednesday, February 10 The Lit Bitch The Never-Ending Book A Dream within a Dream What Is That Book About Thursday, February 11 Laura's Interests The Reader's Hollow Flashlight Commentary Friday, February 12 Let Them Read Books To Read, Or Not to Read Saturday, February 13 So Many Books, So Little Time Eclectic Ramblings of Author Heather Osborne Sunday, February 14 100 Pages a Day With Her Nose Stuck In A Book Monday, February 15 A Book Geek A Bookish Affair Puddletown Reviews Tuesday, February 16 Just One More Chapter Historical Fiction Obsession Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More Wednesday, February 17 Impressions In Ink A Literary Vacation The Country Bookworm Thursday, February 18 The True Book Addict Ageless Pages Reviews Friday, February 19 Passages to the Past Kristin Un-Ravelle'd Book Lovers Paradise Saturday, February 20 Beth's Book Nook Blog One Book Shy of a Full Shelf Sunday, February 21 Carpe Librum (Seize The Book) Seize the Words: Books in Review Monday, February 22 Broken Teepee Book Drunkard The Reading Queen Tuesday, February 23 Teatime and Books View from the Birdhouse Historical Fiction Connection


To win a Borgia-Inspired Velvet Bag & Beaded Bracelet from C.W. Gortner please enter the giveaway via the GLEAM form below. Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on February 23rd. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open to US residents only. – Only one entry per household. – All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion – Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen. The Vatican Princess Book Blast
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Sunday, February 14, 2016

Spotlight: Hot Dudes Coloring Book

Happy Valentine's Day! I have gotten into the adult coloring book craze in a big way. It has become one of my go to ways to relax after a long day. I jumped at the chance to take a look at D.C. Taylor's Hot Dudes Coloring Book, thanks to the publisher.

Hot Dudes Coloring Book by D. C. Taylor

It's hilarious and would make a great gift for a friend!

Has anyone else jumped on the coloring bandwagon?

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Review: How to Mend a Heart by Sara Gillingham

Title: How to Mend a Heart 
Author: Sara Gillingham
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: December 22, 2015
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "A charming arts-and-crafts approach to dealing with first moments of heartbreak. Be it caused by a lost pet, a friend’s moving away, or even simple childhood injustice, Sara Gillingham (How to Grow a Friend) understands the gentle touch needed to soothe a sore heart. Her fresh and whimsical design makes an enticing vehicle for her advice."

My Two Cents:

Since my girls were born, I've started to read way more children's literature. We have story time every single night and I read a lot to them when we are all together. "How to Mend a Heart" has so many of the factors that I look for in children's lit. The story is sweet and was a perfect pick for Valentine's Day. The pictures are fantastic (this is especially important for my almost ten month olds). They are bright, cheery, and cute. This is definitely a story full of aww's and one that I know we will be reading a lot! 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Review: Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh

Title: Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened
Author: Allie Brosh 
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Touchstone
Publish Date: October 29, 2013
Source: Owned

What's the Story?:

From "This is a book I wrote. Because I wrote it, I had to figure out what to put on the back cover to explain what it is. I tried to write a long, third-person summary that would imply how great the book is and also sound vaguely authoritative--like maybe someone who isn’t me wrote it--but I soon discovered that I’m not sneaky enough to pull it off convincingly. So I decided to just make a list of things that are in the book:

Stories about things that happened to me
Stories about things that happened to other people because of me
Eight billion dollars*
Stories about dogs
The secret to eternal happiness*

*These are lies. Perhaps I have underestimated my sneakiness!"

My Two Cents:

"Hyperbole and a Half" is a mostly hilarious collection of Allie Brosh's comics. I had seen a lot of the comics all over the Internet but never made the connection that they were all by the same person. She is incredibly talented and witty! I was very excited to find this book!

I love when a book can make me laugh out loud and this one definitely did that. It had me laughing all sorts of places where it was probably not socially appropriate to laugh such as public transportation but then again I think that's a mark of a truly funny book. Some of the comics brought me to tears from laughing so much (some of my favorites are anything having to do with Brosh's dogs).

That's not to say that the whole book is funny. Brosh also takes on some pretty difficult subjects using her drawings. The section on depression and anxiety is probably one of the best descriptions that I've ever come across of what it feels like to go through those things!

I would very much be in favor of a sequel to this book!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Author Interview: Anne Girard, Author of Platinum Doll

I am very pleased to welcome Anne Girard back to A Bookish Affair today! She has a new book out, "Platinum Doll," which I reviewed here earlier this week.

1. What inspired you to write about Jean Harlow?

I actually knew very little about her in the beginning other than the highly stylized photos with arched eyebrows and platinum hair that made her appear far older than her years. When I realized that, in the beginning of her fame, she was really just a pretty and idealistic teenager from the Midwest, with a young husband who adored her and an overbearing stage mother who resented him, I knew I had to delve a little more deeply into the details of how she made such a startling transition to the iconic beauty she became, and as I did, bam, I was hooked!

2. I didn't realize how young she was when she died (26!). Why did she have such a big impact?

Mainly I think because she was the first of her kind. Remember, Jean Harlow was famous long before Marilyn Monroe who, in fact, idolized Harlow—and intended to play Harlow in a film that didn’t pan out. A long line of platinum blondes came later but Harlow was the original.

3. So many people know about Jean Harlow. She's fascinating! Do you think it's harder or easier to write about a figure that readers already know rather than one that is brand new to them?

I find it much more difficult—and more daunting—writing about characters that readers already ‘think’ they know. Although I go to great pains and great lengths to do my research, it is far more likely with those books to have people tell me where they think I’ve gone wrong. But after 25 years, and 15 published novels, most of them about real characters from history (the others are under my real name, Diane Haeger) I take very seriously the task, and the privilege, of telling these wonderful stories. If I don’t have a sound basis for including a fact, detail or storyline, I don’t do it.

4. What was your favorite scene to write in the book?

Because I like a challenge, it was probably the scene that takes place between them in San Francisco where she and her husband are trying to keep their fragile marriage together. It was a little haunting for me, honestly, since it really happened, but I thought it was important to include it to show the complexity of their relationship.

5. I've interviewed you before for "Madame Picasso" so let me put a new spin on my usual fifth question: If you could bring three Hollywood stars (from any era) with you to a deserted island, who would you bring and why?

Oh, very nice question, I love it! Hmm… First would have to be Katharine Hepburn. She was such an amazing actress, with a vast and wonderful body of work. I loved her no-nonsense spirit and I so admired the independent life she led privately. How cool would it be to just pick her brain about a million different subjects from navigating the early film industry as a woman to loving a man she could never fully have? Second would be Elizabeth Taylor. With 8 husbands, a fabulously long career and all that drama, that girl could entertain us all on the island! Last would of course be Jean Harlow. She packed quite a lot of living into her very short years here: 3 husbands, an enduring career as the first real Platinum Blonde, and an epic last love. It would be fascinating, I think, to hear some of the stories that biographers don’t know about living life as a young actress in early Hollywood!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Review: The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking by Brendan I. Koerner

Title: The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking
Author: Brendan I. Koerner
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Crown
Publish Date: June 18, 2013
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "In an America torn apart by the Vietnam War and the demise of sixties idealism, airplane hijackings were astonishingly routine. Over a five-year period starting in 1968, the desperate and disillusioned seized commercial jets nearly once a week, using guns, bombs, and jars of acid. Some hijackers wished to escape to foreign lands, where they imagined being hailed as heroes; others aimed to swap hostages for sacks of cash. Their criminal exploits mesmerized the country, never more so than when the young lovers at the heart of Brendan I. Koerner's "The Skies Belong to Us" pulled off the longest-distance hijacking in American history."

My Two Cents:

"The Skies Belong to Us" is a stranger than fiction tale of one couple named Roger and Kathy who commandeered a airliner and sort of, kind of, maybe did it as a loose protest against the Vietnam War. These days, with all of their security at an airport, a plane hijacking would be huge news because it just never really happens anymore. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, however, plane hijacking was actually a relatively frequent thing, all things considered (scary!!!). Hijackings were done for different reasons and this book explores some of those reasons as well as the way the occurrence of these hijackings lead to both airline companies (although they went grudgingly) and passengers wanting more security.

I was in high school during 9/11 and now I don't blink an eye at all of the security at airports. Now it's hard for me to imagine not having to go through a metal detector or not having to take off my shoes and take every single thing electronic item out of my bag. There was a time during early commercial aviation when it was just becoming feasible for many people to travel via airlines where security was not really a concern. This book explores that time. It was so interesting for me to see how different things once were. So this story is about Cathy and Roger but it's also about the business of flying in general.

The story of Roger and Kathy is just absolutely crazy! Again as I mentioned before, this is definitely one of those stranger than fiction stories where you can hardly believe that these two people who really didn't seem to know what they were doing got away with something massive. The book follows them from their planning stage to when they actually hijacked a plane to what they did after. I was both entertained and educated by this book and I think it will really appeal to my fellow history lovers who like their history to little bit strange and a little bit off the beaten path.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Review: Platinum Doll by Anne Girard

Title: Platinum Doll
Author: Anne Girard 
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Mira
Publish Date: January 26, 2016
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "Set against the dazzling backdrop of Golden Age Hollywood, novelist Anne Girard tells the enchanting story of Jean Harlow, one of the most iconic stars in the history of film.

It's the Roaring Twenties and seventeen-year-old Harlean Carpenter McGrew has run off to Beverly Hills. She's chasing a dream;to escape her small, Midwestern life and see her name in lights.In California, Harlean has everything a girl could want;a rich husband, glamorous parties, socialite friends;except an outlet for her talent. But everything changes when a dare pushes her to embrace her true ambition :to be an actress on the silver screen. With her timeless beauty and striking shade of platinum-blond hair, Harlean becomes Jean Harlow. And as she's thrust into the limelight, Jean learns that this new world of opportunity comes with its own set of burdens. Torn between her family and her passion to perform, Jean is forced to confront the difficult truth;that fame comes at a price, if only she's willing to pay it. Amid a glittering cast of ingenues and Hollywood titans: Clara Bow, Clark Gable, Laurel and Hardy, Howard Hughes, Platinum Doll introduces us to the star who would shine brighter than them all."

My Two Cents:

"Platinum Doll" is the story of Jean Harlow, golden goddess of the silver screen. It's a historical fiction take on her life and her rise from a young girl to a full fledged Hollywood actress. Harlow went to Hollywood in her late teens and passed away by the time that she was 26 years old. This book focuses specifically on her time in Hollywood. Before reading this book, I really only knew Jean Harlow the actress and almost nothing about her background. I liked how this book shed some light on who she was off the screen.

The book focuses greatly on Jean's relationship with both her mother and her husband. Jean's mother had dreams of her own of Hollywood greatness but was never able to cut it. Once Jean becomes famous, her mother seems to be living vicariously through her and does everything in her power to push Jean's star higher, even if it is not what Jean wants. Their relationship was fascinating. Jean continues to call her mother, "Mommie" and her mother calls her "The Baby" even in Jean's adulthood. The relationship between Jean and her first husband, Chuck, was also very interesting to me. Chuck does not want Jean to go into films and wants her to stay home and be content being a housewife, which is exactly what Jean does not want. I thought that we really saw Jean grow in the book when she was dealing with Chuck. At first, she bends to his will. Then, she stretches further and before long, she realizes that someone who will keep her from her dreams is not the right match for her.

The writing of the book is good. The author uses a lot of good detail to really pull the reader into Harlow's Old Hollywood world. Lots of the Hollywood greats make an appearance in this book. I enjoyed Girard's previous release, "Madame Picasso" and with this book, Girard is rising quickly to my "must-read" list. 

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