Friday, April 29, 2016

Review: The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth

Title: The Things We Keep
Author: Sally Hepworth
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publish Date: January 19, 2016
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Anna Forster, in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease at only thirty-eight years old, knows that her family is doing what they believe to be best when they take her to Rosalind House, an assisted living facility. She also knows there's just one other resident her age, Luke. What she does not expect is the love that blossoms between her and Luke even as she resists her new life at Rosalind House. As her disease steals more and more of her memory, Anna fights to hold on to what she knows, including her relationship with Luke.

When Eve Bennett is suddenly thrust into the role of single mother she finds herself putting her culinary training to use at Rosalind house. When she meets Anna and Luke she is moved by the bond the pair has forged. But when a tragic incident leads Anna's and Luke's families to separate them, Eve finds herself questioning what she is willing to risk to help them."

My Two Cents:

In "The Things We Keep," Anna is losing her mind to early onset Alzheimer's and Luke is losing his ability to speak and form words. Both of them are in their thirties and suddenly find themselves living with the octogenarians and nonagenarians in a nursing home. They are frustrated with what is happening to them. They are frustrated with having to be in a facility geared for much older people. They fall for each other but the rules of the facility are meant to keep them away.

The characters in this book are wonderful. The book is told from the perspectives of Anna and Eve, a woman who is trying to fix her own life and the life of her young daughter after Eve's husband kills himself after being caught in a Ponzi scheme. Both of the characters are fantastic. The author does a really good job of showing the progression of Anna's illness and how it changes her and how she is able to communicate. Eve's story is sad as well but in a very different. I thought it was so interesting how she let Anna and Luke be together as if to bring happiness to others when she was having such a difficult time bringing happiness to herself.

This was a really powerful book that made me think a lot. What would I do if I were in Anna's place? How would I feel? The feelings of helplessness were so clearly drawn in the book that it gripped me viscerally. This is definitely a book that will stick with me long after I read the last page.


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Review: The Art of Asking; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer

Title: The Art of Asking; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help
Author: Amanda Palmer
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publish Date: November 11, 2014
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Rock star, crowdfunding pioneer, and TED speaker Amanda Palmer knows all about asking. Performing as a living statue in a wedding dress, she wordlessly asked thousands of passersby for their dollars. When she became a singer, songwriter, and musician, she was not afraid to ask her audience to support her as she surfed the crowd (and slept on their couches while touring). And when she left her record label to strike out on her own, she asked her fans to support her in making an album, leading to the world's most successful music Kickstarter.

Even while Amanda is both celebrated and attacked for her fearlessness in asking for help, she finds that there are important things she cannot ask for-as a musician, as a friend, and as a wife. She learns that she isn't alone in this, that so many people are afraid to ask for help, and it paralyzes their lives and relationships. In this groundbreaking book, she explores these barriers in her own life and in the lives of those around her, and discovers the emotional, philosophical, and practical aspects of THE ART OF ASKING.

Part manifesto, part revelation, this is the story of an artist struggling with the new rules of exchange in the twenty-first century, both on and off the Internet. THE ART OF ASKING will inspire readers to rethink their own ideas about asking, giving, art, and love."

My Two Cents:

"The Art of Asking" is a book by Amanda Palmer, artist, singer of the Dresden Dolls, and wife of Neil Gaiman. I was only vaguely familiar with her through her singing career but I am so glad that I picked up this book. This book is part memoir, part self-help book of sorts. Palmer talks about her career and how even those that seem really successful may need help sometimes and how that help shouldn't be seen as shameful.

This was a cathartic read for me. I know that no one is expected to do everything on their own but there is something about me that makes it really hard to ask for help even when I know that I need that. I don't think that I'm alone at all in that. Almost all of us don't want to feel vulnerable. We don't want to feel like we can't make it on our own. We feel like we want to be free and independent and we feel that the only way to do that is to simply do everything on our own, even when things seem impossible, even when it would make more sense for someone else to step in. Palmer talks about all of those things in such a real, raw way. She also shows how important it is to say when you need help, to show that vulnerable-ness. It really resonated with me!

I really liked Palmer's style in this book. You feel like she's talking to you as a friend. She's allowing herself to show her true colors. It's this candor that pulled me in and didn't let go until the last page. This would be a great pick for those that are struggling with the same sorts of things.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Blog Tour Giveaway: The Ones Who Matter Most

Want to win a copy of The Ones Who Matter Most? Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below (U.S. only, please).

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Blog Tour Post: The Ones Who Matter Most by Rachael Herron

Title: The Ones Who Matter Most
Author: Rachael Herron
Format: Ebook
Publisher: NAL
Publish Date: April 5, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "After her husband dies unexpectedly, Abby Roberts comes across something startling: wedding photographs of him with another woman, along with pictures of a baby boy. Shocked, Abby does something utterly impulsive: She embarks on a journey to discover the family her husband apparently left behind.

Money has always been tight for single mom Fern Reyes, and never tighter than now. But this month, in place of a child-support check, her ex's pretty, privileged wife appears on her doorstep with far too many questions. Unfortunately, her young son is so taken with Abby that Fern doesn’t have the heart to send her away.

What begins as one woman’s search for truth becomes a deep bond forged between the unlikeliest of people, and the discovery that there are many ways to make a family—as long as you take care..."

My Two Cents:

"The Ones Who Matter Most" is the story of Abby who wants freedom from her husband. When he dies suddenly, Abby realizes how much she didn't know about him and how much he had hidden. He had an entire family that Abby knew nothing about. Fern and Matias were abandoned and have always been jealous of the other woman: Abby. When Abby forcible inserts herself into their lives, they are shaken. This is a story of family and secrets. Sometimes family is not the ones we are born with but the ones we make.

Those in this book are put into some unthinkable circumstances. I loved both of the women main characters in this book: Abby and Fern. They are both very different. Abby is sort of a shrinking violet who doesn't have a lot of confidence. Fern is incredibly strong. These women will create a lot of friction between them. I loved how we see them change throughout the book. It was so interesting to see them go from butting heads to finding peace.

I was so intrigued by the story of these two families. The author does a really good job of giving us a lot of good detail about the characters without an information dump. I loved getting to know these characters. They will definitely stick with me for a really long time! I got so sucked into their story and could not wait to see how it all ended!


Friday, April 22, 2016

TLC Book Tours: The Rivals of Versailles by Sally Christie

Title: The Rivals of Versailles
Author: Sally Christie
Format: ARC
Publisher: Atria Books
Publish Date: April 5, 2016

What's the Story?:

From "The year is 1745. Marie-Anne, the youngest of the infamous Nesle sisters and King Louis XV's most beloved mistress, is gone, making room for the next Royal Favorite.

Enter Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, a stunningly beautiful girl from the middle classes. Fifteen years prior, a fortune teller had mapped out young Jeanne's destiny: she would become the lover of a king and the most powerful woman in the land. Eventually connections, luck, and a little scheming pave her way to Versailles and into the King's arms.

All too soon, conniving politicians and hopeful beauties seek to replace the bourgeois interloper with a more suitable mistress. As Jeanne, now the Marquise de Pompadour, takes on her many rivals - including a lustful lady-in-waiting; a precocious fourteen-year-old prostitute, and even a cousin of the notorious Nesle sisters - she helps the king give himself over to a life of luxury and depravity. Around them, war rages, discontent grows, and France inches ever closer to the Revolution.

Enigmatic beauty, social climber, actress, trendsetter, patron of the arts, spendthrift, whoremonger, friend, lover, foe. History books may say many things about the famous Marquise de Pompadour, but one thing is clear: for almost twenty years, she ruled France and the King's heart."

My Two Cents:

"The Rivals of Versailles" is the second book in Sally Christie's The Mistress of Versailles series. In this book, we meet Jeanne Poisson who will become yet another mistress for France's King Louis XV. Stunningly beautiful, Jeanne, called Reinette, throughout the book is told from a young age that she will become the King's mistress. Rising to fame as the Marquise de Pompadour, Jeanne is a force to be reckoned with. Others we are introduced to throughout the book will try to unseat her but there's a good reason she is still so well-remembered throughout history.

This book works nicely as a standalone as the book really focuses on a new set of characters. There is Reinette as well as Rosalie de Romanet-Choiseul, Morphise, and Marie-Anne de Mailly de Coislin. Most of the narrative belongs to Reinette but we do get a chance to hear from each of these other women in the latter half of the book. They definitely have much smaller sections so we don't get to know them quite as well as we get to know Reinette, which was just fine with me - she is fascinating! I really liked how the author chose to divide up the narratives - it was almost as if she was leading the reader to pay the most attention to Reinette while relegating the other women to mere dalliances for the King. 

I liked this book much better than the first book. Reinette is such a great character. The author makes her feel very accessible. It was so interesting to see how she is able to captivate the King and keep his attention for so long. Her narrative is from her point of view, which made me feel even closer to her! 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

HFVBT Author Guest Post: Mary Sharratt

I am so pleased to have Mary Sharratt here to A Bookish Affair today!

Adventures in Historical Crossdressing

When I go on book tour, I don period costume to get into the spirit of my historical heroines.

But this time around, when I take my new book, The Dark Lady’s Mask, on the road, I’m ditching the corset and skirts for breeches and a doublet. Like Shakespeare’s heroine Rosalind in As You Like It, I, too, have discovered the joys of Elizabethan crossdressing.  

Women in breeches are a hallmark of Shakespeare’s comedies. Viola in Twelfth Night gets herself in a conundrum of sexual confusion when she masquerades as a man. She’s secretly smitten with Orsino, who sends her to court his beloved Olivia for him. But Olivia becomes hopelessly infatuated with Viola. Meanwhile in The Merchant of Venice, clever Portia impersonates a male lawyer and so saves Antonio’s life. But no other character in any of Shakespeare’s plays has as much fun as Rosalind as she romps through the Forest of Arden in male guise, helpfully instructing her beloved Orlando on how he should best woo the fair Rosalind.

Shakespeare’s first cross-dressing heroine was Julia in Two Gentlemen of Verona. Desperate to follow her lover Proteus to Milan, Julia elects to go after him, but dressed as a page boy to prevent any “loose encounters with lascivious men.” In conversation with her maid, Lucetta, Julia confesses that she feels somewhat squeamish about wearing a codpiece, that most essential masculine fashion accessory.    

LUCETTA: What fashion, madam shall I make your breeches?

JULIA: That fits as well as 'Tell me, good my lord,
What compass will you wear your farthingale?'
Why even what fashion thou best likest, Lucetta.

LUCETTA: You must needs have them with a codpiece, madam.

JULIA: Out, out, Lucetta! that would be ill-favour'd.

But given the choice between wearing the codpiece or staying home, Julia embraces her male disguise.

Shakespeare’s crossdressing heroines can feel so refreshingly modern to us today, so spirited and free in their quest for independence and true love rather than social convention and arranged marriage. Never mind that the plays inevitably end with these young women returning to their sanctioned feminine roles.

In Early Modern Europe, with its rigidly delineated gendered spheres, female crossdressing opened the door to all manner of comic and dramatic possibility, such as Rosalind’s merry lampooning of stereotypical feminine and masculine mannerisms. As Rosalind struggles to mask her own love for Orlando while fighting off the advances of an amorous shepherdess, we are plunged into a comedy of errors that blurs and subverts the notion of gender itself, even as it entertains us. Warm, witty, wise, and yet vulnerable, Rosalind is the perfect rom com heroine.

Crossdressing women were a comedy staple across Europe. In his 1615 comedy Don Gil of the Green Breeches, Spanish playwright Tirso de Molina takes his crossdressing heroine, Donna Juana, even further than Shakespeare did with RosalindDonna Juana constantly switches gender identities while chasing her absconding lover across Spain. Ole!

In Spain and Italy, women would have played the part of Donna Juana on stage. But in England, by rule of law, all female roles were performed by men and boys. Male actors impersonating women impersonating men took this crossdressing role reversal to a whole new level. The theater itself was a magical place of suspended reality where all social codes could be rewritten—at least for the duration of the play.

Offstage crossdressing was a serious crime. Any real life women emulating Rosalind or Viola faced draconian punishments. In 1575 the London Aldermen’s Court found one Dorothy Clayton, spinster, guilty of going about the city “apparelled in man’s attire” and sentenced her to stand two hours at the pillory in her men’s clothing before locking her up in Bridewell Prison until further order. In 1569 Johanna Goodman was whipped and imprisoned for the crime of disguising herself as a man in order to accompany her soldier-husband to war.   

Perhaps the most extraordinary of all the crossdressing heroines in Early Modern English drama was Moll Cutpurse in Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker’s comedy, The Roaring Girl. This play is so remarkable because it’s based on the life of a real woman, Mary Frith, who merrily crossdressed her entire life, no matter how many times she was whipped and locked up for it.  

A shoemaker’s daughter born in 1584, Moll bobbed her hair, sported baggy trousers and a doublet, and smoked tobacco in a long clay pipe. She swore whenever she felt like it. When her paternal uncle, a minister, attempted to reform her by packing her off to New England, our incorrigible hoyden jumped ship and swam to shore. She got by on thieving—hence her “Cutpurse” moniker—earning enough to keep three maidservants, as well as parrots and mastiffs. She hung mirrors in every room of her home to admire herself in her masculine finery. Once, to win a £20 bet, she galloped on horseback all the way from Charing Cross to Shoreditch while flying a banner and blowing a trumpet. She even appeared on stage at the Fortune Theater in 1611, in complete defiance to the law. Moll was the ultimate transgressive woman of her age and a fixture in the criminal underworld.

Yet amazingly, The Roaring Girl portrays her in a very positive light as a sort of female Robin Hood who steals to redress social injustice. Unlike Shakespeare’s heroines, she isn’t married off in the end either. When asked when she will marry, Moll replies:

. . . I’ll tell you when i’faith:
When you shall hear
Gallants void from sergeants’ fear,
Honesty and truth unslandered,
Woman manned but never pandered,
Cheators booted but not coached,
Vessels older ere they’re broached.
If my mind be then not varied,
Next day following I’ll be married.

Moll is saying that she will only marry in a future utopia where all social wrongs have been righted and where women have achieved true equality with men. As Jean E. Howard writes in “Crossdressing, The Theatre, and Gender Struggle in Early Modern England,” The Roaring Girl uses the figure of Moll “to defy expectations about women’s nature and to protest the injustice caused by the sex-gender system.”

Moll Cutpurse, in other words, is the mother of all Riot Grrrls.

Although the historical Moll Frith, as opposed to the character in the play, did eventually marry, it seemed to have been an arrangement of convenience and didn’t cramp her ebullient lifestyle in the least. Her entire life she insisted on proudly calling herself a spinster.

Desdemona, move over. Moll Cutpurse is swaggering center stage.

Mary Sharratt’s new novel, The Dark Lady’s Mask: A Novel of Shakespeare’s Muse, will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on April 19. Visit her blog:

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Review: The Dark Lady's Mask by Mary Sharratt

Title: The Dark Lady's Mask
Author: Mary Sharratt
Format: ARC
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publish Date: April 19, 2016 (Yesterday!)
Source: HFVBT

What's the Story?:

From "London, 1593. Aemilia Bassano Lanier is beautiful and accomplished, but her societal conformity ends there. She frequently cross-dresses to escape her loveless marriage and to gain freedoms only men enjoy, but a chance encounter with a ragged, little-known poet named Shakespeare changes everything.

Aemilia grabs at the chance to pursue her long-held dream of writing and the two outsiders strike up a literary bargain. They leave plague-ridden London for Italy, where they begin secretly writing comedies together and where Will falls in love with the beautiful country — and with Aemilia, his Dark Lady. Their Italian idyll, though, cannot last and their collaborative affair comes to a devastating end. Will gains fame and fortune for their plays back in London and years later publishes the sonnets mocking his former muse. Not one to stand by in humiliation, Aemilia takes up her own pen in her defense and in defense of all women."

My Two Cents:

"The Dark Lady's Mask" is the story of Aemilia who is mostly known to history as William Shakespeare's mistress. This has been oft questioned and disputed but this books drives forward under the premise that she was his mistress. This book breathes life into a woman's story who has mostly been lost to history.

I loved the character of Aemilia and I loved that Sharatt lets her truly stand on her own and out of Mr. Shakespeare's shadow. So much of the detail of her life seems to be lost to history and she is only remembered often for her dealings with Will. Aemilia is a fascinating person in her own right. She was incredibly educated, which was so unusual for women of her time. The story goes through a good chunk of her life so we the readers really get to know her well. I loved following her life.

The writing of the book was good! There is so much detail that the characters really come to life! The author did a great job of evoking the time period. I loved imagining all of the places that Aemilia goes throughout the book. One of the fantastic things about historical fiction is that it can help tell the story of people forgotten to history. The details of Aemilia's life are too often forgotten. Overall, this is a great pick about a fascinating woman!


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Review: Emotional Rescue by Dzogchen Ponlop

Title: Emotional Rescue
Author: Dzogchen Ponlop
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Tarcher Perigree
Publish Date: April 19, 2016 (Today!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Emotions bring color and meaning to our lives, but they can also put us on an exhausting rollercoaster ride that takes us to blissful peak states, the depths of delusion and despair, and everything in between. It is only by learning to relate to our emotions skillfully that we benefit from their richness and glean wisdom, rather than letting them control us. Emotions get their power from a simple but deep-seated source: our lack of self-knowledge. When we bring awareness to our experience of emotions, something truly amazing happens—they lose their power to make us miserable.

     In this book, Rinpoche leads us through the three steps of his Emotional Rescue Plan. Mindful Gap is the practice of creating a safe distance between you and your emotions, which gives you the psychological space to work with their energy. Clear Seeing involves recognizing the bigger picture. Last, Letting Go is the practice of releasing stressful physical and emotional energy through exercise, relaxation, and awareness. With each step, we become increasingly familiar with the inner workings of our emotions, seeing straight to the heart of anger, fear, passion, jealousy, and pride. With time and practice, instead of leading us astray, our emotions become our guide towards living a more compassionate, creative, and fulfilling life."

My Two Cents:

"Emotional Rescue" is a self-help book that shows how to take negative energy and turn it into something positive. I was intrigued by this book because one of my resolutions for 2016 was to meditate on a more regular basis. I have been doing pretty well but thought this book may help me out a little bit and it definitely did!

This book is going to make a great tool for me and I know I will go back to it again and again. What I like about this book is that it has a lot of lessons but it also has some exercises in order to reinforce the lessons. I like the way the author has the book laid out - lessons are simple and meaningful. While I read this book as a whole, I could see this book working really well reading a chapter at a time. This isn't a book that you need to (or will want to) go through quickly!

Mindfulness is powerful! If you have ever thought about trying to be more mindful or meditation, this book has a nice introduction!


Monday, April 18, 2016

Review: The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem by Sarit Yishai-Levi

Title: The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem
Author: Sarit Yishai-Levi
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Thomas Dunne
Publish Date: April 5, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Gabriela's mother Luna is the most beautiful woman in all of Jerusalem, though her famed beauty and charm seem to be reserved for everyone but her daughter. Ever since Gabriela can remember, she and Luna have struggled to connect. But when tragedy strikes, Gabriela senses there's more to her mother than painted nails and lips.

Desperate to understand their relationship, Gabriela pieces together the stories of her family's previous generations—from Great-Grandmother Mercada the renowned healer, to Grandma Rosa who cleaned houses for the English, to Luna who had the nicest legs in Jerusalem. But as she uncovers shocking secrets, forbidden romances, and the family curse that links the women together, Gabriela must face a past and present far more complex than she ever imagined."

My Two Cents:

"The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem" takes on the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters. It explores the relationship between a great grandmother, grandmother, mother, and daughter. Each of these women are very different from each other and very different in the way that they interact with the world. All of these relationships are set against a rapidly changing Israel. For those that want to get deep into family relationships and how those relationships can build us, break us, and change us! I was drawn tot the book by the relationships and they are so interesting and kept me turning the pages.

I loved the setting of the book. This book is very much character driven but Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and how they affect the women in the book almost become other characters! The detail of these places that the author includes really shows us who these women are and how they see themselves. I love visiting places in books that I haven't been to much before, Israel is definitely one of those places. The author did a great job of evoking place throughout the book.

I felt closest to Gabriela in the book. Much of the book is about her trying to deal with her making sense of her relationship with her mother. It's tumultuous and not always pretty. The narrative was a little difficult at times to follow due to the point of view changing. I had to keep turning back to figure out where we were, which took away a bit from the book. Even with all this, the story kept me engaged!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Reflections on One Year of Parenthood

My girls are one year old today.  K and H have changed so much in the past year and it has been absolutely amazing watching them turn from tiny, tiny babies under five pounds each to vivacious one year olds who seem to be all over the place doing all sorts of new things. Things have changed so quickly. This past year has been filled with hope, happiness, love, and if I am being completely honest... fear. I've learned so much in the past year and I am continuing to learn all the time.

  1. You can't plan for what will go wrong, you can't plan for what will go right: Twin pregnancy, especially identical twin pregnancy, is fraught with potential complications. I already knew my girls would be born early but when I went into a labor a week before I planned for them to be born, I absolutely freaked out. I was worried about how much help they would need and how much time we'd have to spend in the NICU but these girls came out doing amazingly. Neither one needed any NICU time.
  1. Give yourself grace: Here's the truth: there's no one way to raise a kid (as much as I would have loved an owner's manual for K and H). You go with your gut and leave the noise behind. Everyone is going to have opinions. People thought we were crazy for having a fairly strict schedule from day one but particularly with twins, you have to or you will go crazy. Not everything you do will work at all. Not everything you do will work every single time. You will know your kids the best and you have to be confident in that. When things don't work, give yourself grace and try again. 
  1. You don't know everything and that's okay: This is a follow on to the lesson above. I'm the kind of person that follows directions to a T. I'm rigid and I tread carefully if I am not sure what I'm doing. In parenthood, you have to make decisions quickly. There's not time to read a million books (Boo!) or Google everything (and actually Google will probably mostly just scare you so leave it alone - step away from the keyboard)! There were so many moments over the past year where I had a WTF moment where I wasn't sure what I should do. It is okay to ask for help! It took me a long time to get to that point where I'd ask for help and sometimes I still have difficulty doing that but I'm working on it. It's healthier that way!
  1. Build a Network: I have always been fortunate to be surrounded by amazing people but being a parent has brought so many more fabulous people into my life in addition to giving me a new appreciation for the relationships that I already had. I've met people by sitting on my front porch with the girls - one of them has a daughter who is three and has become one of my go-to people when it comes to what I should be expecting my girls to do next. The girls have a whole cadre of amazing teachers at daycare that have showed me just how much you can do to start raising even the smallest minds and bodies to great heights. Being a parent of multiples almost automatically enters you into a world of support. I have met so many people through my Parents of Multiples group who are so supportive and so helpful when it comes to asking advice and they are a whole lot of fun to hang around with.
It's also given me a great appreciation for so many of the relationships that I already had. There are few things that have brought me as much joy as seeing my husband, my partner, the man that I fell in love with be a parent to my girls. It melts my heart to see him hold and interact with our daughters. Our relationship has so many new dimensions now. I've always been close to my parents but I've felt that's been raised to a whole 'nother level in the past year. Becoming a parent myself gives me such a greater appreciation for my childhood and how my parents raised me. I’ve also always been close to my sisters but they have been my saviors so much through the past year. They’re always on hand to help and to love my girls. I also so appreciate all of the relationships that I have with my friends, regardless of if they have children or not. Not everything has to be bottles and diapers. It’s good to have that reminder when you’re in the trenches!
  1. You're stronger than you know: I was daunted by the prospect of having twins. The pregnancy was rough but I go through it. The sleepless nights were rough but you get through it. I wondered how I was going to do everything that you do with a baby (a lot by itself) with two babies but you figure it out. In a world where I can be quite hard on myself, I’ve been able to do all of these things that I never could have thought that I would be able to do. It’s given me a new appreciation and new confidence that I never had before and I will be forever grateful for that.

My mom once told me over this year to imagine how amazing each of us would be if we learned and changed as much as a baby does in its first year of life. It would be so incredibly fantastic! This past year has been a whirlwind and will continue to be for a while yet, I imagine. I am so excited to see what the future brings for my girls! This is the best ride!

Oh What a Difference....

A Year Makes....


Friday, April 15, 2016

Review: The Girl From Home by Adam Mitzner

Title: The Girl From Home
Author: Adam Mitzner
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publish Date: April 5, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Jonathan Caine is a true master of the universe—a currency wizard with a trophy wife, a penthouse condo with a view of the Statue of Liberty, and the desire for more—when his world comes crashing down, spiraling him into a relentless fall from grace. Devastated, Jonathan returns to his hometown to care for his ailing father and attend his twenty-fifth high school reunion, where he becomes reacquainted with former prom queen Jacqueline Williams. Back in the day, Jackie didn’t even know Jonathan existed. Now she is intrigued by the man he has become. But their budding relationship has problems, not the least of which is Jackie’s jealous and abusive husband. Jonathan is determined to learn from his mistakes, but is he capable of complete transformation? Or will a shocking temptation test his desire for redemption beyond anything he could have imagined?"

My Two Cents:

"The Girl From Home" is the story of Jonathan, a man who always gets what he wants. He is incredibly driven and doesn't mind breaking the rules in order to get what he wants, which is at the center of this book. Back home, he connects with Jackie, the one-time high school prom queen who Jonathan is determined to have. Jonathan is married and Jackie is married to an abusive guy but that doesn't stand in Jonathan's way. Meanwhile, he is also under fire for some extremely questionable ways he handled money as a fund manager. This is a look at the lengths one man will go in order to demand what he believes to be his. 

While Jonathan is not exactly likeable (like at all), his motivation was very clear throughout the book. It was interesting to step into someone's shoes like that. I felt sympathetic for Jackie mostly. She is so driven by the dream of getting away from her abusive husband that she will do anything, even if it means that she could possibly get into trouble. Much of this book seemed to be about what happens when you don't think of the consequences of your actions.

Overall, the book was nicely paced except for a few places where the narrative got very bogged down with detail. This is billed as a thriller but I wasn't really surprised by any of the twists and turns here and there. The conversations in the book were one of the things that I liked best about this book. The author has a good ear for writing how people actually talk and using the way people talk to create very distinctive characters. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Author Interview: Jen Kirkman, Author of "I Know What I'm Doing and Other Lies I Tell Myself"

I'm very excited to welcome Jen Kirkman here to A Bookish Affair.

Jen Kirkman

She's also doing a show in D.C. on Saturday if you're in the area!

  • Performing at Sixth & I (600 I Street Northwest) on Saturday April 16 at 7PM.

  • Join Jen Kirkman for a special book release show.  Unlike a typical stand-up show, this is a night of funny, personal, and cringe-worthy stories told by Jen – aka “dispatches from a life under construction”.  Tales of an awkward kid, teen, and now the technically adult Jen. Stories that aren’t in the book. Then a reading from the book and a Q&A after!  Ask anything! Except don’t ask what the meaning of life is – Jen knows but she’s not gonna tell you.  You figure it out. Books will be for sale at the show and Jen will sign books after the show.

1.       What inspired you to write "I Know What I'm Doing?”

I get tripped up on the word “inspiration” because I feel like I’m saying I was sitting around one day and thought, “Eureka! I’ve got it!” and then invented electricity.  The basic boring fact is that I have already written one book and one thing I always knew is that I wanted to be an author - and I still do and would love to keep writing books every few years.  So book number two was something I was hoping for even while writing book number one.  And since I’m less inspired than say J.K. Rowling who creates entire fictional worlds - I’m a non-fiction personal story kind of author.  My inspiration will always be what’s going on in my life.  But I try to pick stories to tell that other people can relate to.  Maybe my reason is so that people feel less alone which in turn validates my experience? I think that while there are plenty of books that tackle divorce, I wanted to write my story about leaving a marriage and not trying to figure out why it ended (because we both knew) but why we even went as far as to get married - the answer is because you’re “supposed to” - and that’s sort of where the book goes from there.  What else are we “supposed to do” that we do without thinking and then realize later we made a mistake? 

2.      What's your favorite part of the book?

The travel chapters are my favorite part of the book. I used to suffer from panic disorder - and flying or even being in another country alone was something I never imagined that I would eventually do with ease.  And when I’m in other countries I’m a different person.  I’m more open.  I talk to strangers and sight-see and as a result, usually some bizarre or special experiences ensue. And I loved writing about insulting the entire city of Dublin, having a bonding moment and then a fight with a guy on a flight to Melbourne, spending my 40th birthday on a terrible blind date in Sweden and dozing off, and falling out of my seat into the aisle at a play in London. 

3.      This is your second book! What makes this one different than the first book?

Different stories? I mean that’s the obvious answer and I bet you already knew that! This book is different because unlike my first book which was really about one thing - the reactions I get from society about not having children - this book covers many decades of my life - and there’s something in it for everyone - whether someone wants to read about marriage, families, living alone, turning 40, going on a sting operation in NYC, dealing with a nosy orthodontist, going for my career dreams and how I got through disappointments. 

4.      You'll be appearing at Sixth and I in D.C. this Saturday, April 16th. What can people expect when they come to see your show?

This show is something I am really proud of. I just did a two week run of it in Melbourne Australia and people loved it! I am telling six short stories about times in my life when I really thought “I knew what I was doing,” but I was totally being an idiot. The stories are different from my stand-up, so it’s a different show than people who saw me at Sixth & I last year or saw my Netflix special.  This is definitely more of a “show” and it’s that kind of cringe-worthy humor that I love doing - cringe-ing because you’re thinking, “Ohhhh, ouch I’ve done that.” I talk about failing at a talent show as a kid, being in NYC on 9/11, but being more caught up in a love triangle that day, the time I thought I was just going to be James Dean for a while, and lots of other random ridiculous stories.  I’ll also read a small excerpt from a chapter of my book and I’ll do a short Q&A after the show. Then a local bookstore will be selling books at the venue and I’ll sign and take pictures after! It’s going to be a really great unique event.

5.      Why should people come see you?

I think people should come because if they are fans of mine - this is how I make my living.  If they just stay home and think about me - that doesn’t help. And this show is unlike anything I’ve ever traveled with before. It’s a different style of performing than people have seen me do and there will be a LOT of opportunity to interact from the live Q&A to the book signing after. 

6.      Have you ever been to D.C. before? What are your favorite things to do here?

Of course! You need to fire your research department! I have performed in D.C. countless times in my many many years as a touring comedian. It’s one of my favorite stops. I go every year. I was just at Sixth & I last year. When I’m on tour I save all of my energy for the show. It’s all about the work for me and if I sightsee, I’m really stretching myself too thin during the day. I have to give my all to the show and I would rather just rest and then have the first people I see all day be the audience - that way I’m SO excited to perform. You don’t want a comic who has been out all day sightseeing and living it up - they don’t have the same energy. That being said - about 8 years ago I came to D.C. as part of a festival and I only had five or ten minute comedy spots every night so I did sightsee and the comedians got a lot of special treatment. I got to stand on Nancy Pelosi’s balcony and look out. She wasn’t there and the tour guide probably shouldn’t have let me do that. 

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

This answer will probably be what I would say today, but I bet if you asked me this again next week it would change again. 

Okay. Why wouldn’t I bring Jesus? I would want to ask him - were you even real? And if so - what do you think about the people that are into you? And come on, you know there were female apostles, but they were written out of the Bible - tell me about them?

I would bring David Bowie because I’ve always had a crush on him and he could sing to me and wear fantastic outfits that he makes out of palm trees. 

And I would bring Oney Judge.  She’s someone I discussed in my very first Drunk History episode.  She was a slave of George Washington who escaped.  I would want to hear her stories of being kept by the president and she would be the savviest person with us - in case we needed to get off of that island. 

Thanks, Jen!!!

Review and Giveaway: Tides of Honour by Genevieve Graham

Title: Tides of Honour
Author: Genevieve Graham 
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
Publish Date: April 2015
Source: Author

What's the Story?:

For "A novel of love, loss, and honour amidst the horrors of war and its aftermath.

It’s 1916, and the last thing Nova Scotian soldier Danny Baker expects to find in war-torn France is the love of his life. Audrey Poulin is alone in the world, and struggling to survive the war in the French countryside. When Audrey and Danny meet and fall in love, it seems like the best version of fate.

But love is only the beginning, as Danny loses a leg in the Battle of the Somme, and returns home to Halifax with Audrey, only to discover that he’s unable to leave the war behind. Danny and Audrey struggle with their new life together, and must face not only their own internal demons, but a catastrophe that will soon rip apart everything they think they know about themselves and each other."

My Two Cents:

"Tides of Honour" is the story of Danny, a soldier from Canada, meets the love of his life in war torn France during WWI. He dreams of spending the rest of his life with Audrey, a beautiful Englishwoman. When he's sent home with injuries, he's hoping to bring Audrey home with him. Little do both of them know that their lives in Halifax will be chaotic and heartwrenching. With great historical detail and a lot of swoonworthy romance, Graham creates a memorable romance that I will be thinking about for a very, very long time!

The romance in the book is fantastic. The author creates two really realistic characters that I rooted for throughout the book. I loved all of the little details in the book. Neither Danny nor Audrey are perfect and it's their imperfections that really endeared me to them. Danny has a lot of trouble reintegrating himself back into society after he comes home. He's injured and all of the planning he did on what he would do when he came home has to change due to his injuries. I really thought the author did a great job of capturing all of Danny's internal turmoil. Audrey is an artist and begins to make a living painting for others. The push and pull between Danny and Audrey as Audrey begins to do more to to support the family was so interesting. You are still pulling for both of them in both cases!

I love historical fiction because it can teach me something new! This book introduced me to a new historical event - there was a huge explosion in Halifax due to two ships crashing into each other - one was loaded with explosives. It decimates much of the city and kills so many people. I had no idea that this had happen. The explosion almost becomes another character in the book with the way that it drives the action in the latter half of the book. This adds a very interesting and often heartwrenching element to the book that had me holding on to my seat.

Overall, this was a great pick. It had so many elements of what I like in a book: great characters, good pacing, romance, action, lots of historical detail.... the list goes on! 


Want to win your own copy of this wonderful book? Just fill out the form below (U.S. only, please!).

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

TLC Book Tours: Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear

Title: Journey to Munich
Author: Jacqueline Winspear 
Format: ARC
Publisher: Harper
Publish Date: March 1, 2016
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "It’s early 1938, and Maisie Dobbs is back in England. On a fine yet chilly morning, as she walks towards Fitzroy Square—a place of many memories—she is intercepted by Brian Huntley and Robert MacFarlane of the Secret Service. The German government has agreed to release a British subject from prison, but only if he is handed over to a family member. Because the man’s wife is bedridden and his daughter has been killed in an accident, the Secret Service wants Maisie—who bears a striking resemblance to the daughter—to retrieve the man from Dachau, on the outskirts of Munich.

The British government is not alone in its interest in Maisie’s travel plans. Her nemesis—the man she holds responsible for her husband’s death—has learned of her journey, and is also desperate for her help.

Traveling into the heart of Nazi Germany, Maisie encounters unexpected dangers—and finds herself questioning whether it’s time to return to the work she loved. But the Secret Service may have other ideas. . . .

My Two Cents:

"Journey to Munich" is the 12th book in the Maisie Dobbs series. The mysteries in each book in the series are very much standalone but in order to understand Maisie and what is going on in her personal life, it is best to read the other books in the series. This book takes Maisie to Munich in 1938 when Hitler is in the midst of solidifying and building his power higher and higher. The stakes are high is this book but Maisie is up for the job and is on the case.

This book delves much more into what is going on with Maisie. It's as if Ms. Winspear heard my cries of despair in the past few books over not really understanding what Maisie was doing and where she was going. We get a much better glimpse into her personal life and we get caught up a little on the emotional turmoil she is going through. I feel like I am beginning to understand her again after a few book lag.

I really liked the setting in this book. Munich is so foreign to Maisie and she can hardly believe the things that are going on in Germany at the time. I really liked all of the detail that the author included about how different and dangerous Germany was compared to what Maisie was used to. It was unbelievable how rapidly things were changing. The sense of danger really charged the book with a lot of energy! I'm looking forward to the next book in the series!

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