Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Author Interview: Tiffany McDaniel

I am so very thrilled to welcome Tiffany McDaniel, author of "The Summer that Melted Everything," here to A Bookish Affair today!

Tell us a little bit about "The Summer That Melted Everything."
The Summer that Melted Everything is about an eighty-four-year-old man named Fielding Bliss, who is looking back on his life during one summer in 1984 when he was thirteen-years-old and his father, Autopsy Bliss, invited the devil to their small town called as Breathed, Ohio.  Who answers the invitation ends up being a thirteen-year-old boy in overalls and bruises.  This boy calls himself Sal, a combination of Satan and Lucifer.  Sal’s arrival comes the first day of a hell-hot heat-wave that carries through the entire course of the summer.  This is not just a story about the heat, but a story of everything that melted in that heat.  Family, friendship, innocence, and even lives.  Puddles of all of these things melted down.  That is what this story is.  A man trying to survive ferrying these puddles, which to him have become oceans he must cross to once again find the bliss of his name.   
What drew you to writing this story?
This novel started out as a title.  It’s origin being one hot summer day in Ohio, where I felt like I was melting into a puddle of myself.  I always began a new story with the title and the first line and from there everything falls into place.  The characters become who they are meant to be.  The story carries through to its natural end.  I’m always drawn to the story itself.  Like a moth to the flame that is my laptop, waiting to type, type, until I have done right by these characters and their story, which really is their own.  
Who is your favorite character in this book and why?  
I always hesitate to say my favorite character.  But I will say one of my favorite characters to write was Grand.  He is Fielding’s older brother and really Grand is the older brother we all want.  The one who protects us and guides us through the fog of our own lives.  Seen through Fielding’s eyes, Grand is purposely pristine.  And yet his struggles are universal to us all.  Grand was a character I thought about longer than the others.  He journeys through the story almost like a ribbon flying in the wind.  And one day he gets caught in the branches of the highest tree where we can’t reach him.  Sometimes he felt like that to me.  Unreachable.  And in the end, he proved that way to Fielding as well.  
Can you tell us about your favorite scene in the book?
I have several favorite scenes.  One of my favorites is when Fielding and Sal meet for the first-time.  Sal is introducing himself as the devil, but their meeting really comes down to two boys meeting for the first-time in the summer-time and there’s an immense sweetness to their coming together.  Even though it’s the beginning of a lot of terrible things to come their way, it is also the beginning of their friendship and very much so, the beginning of them being brothers.
If you could bring three people (dead, alive, or fictional) with you to a deserted island, who would you bring and why?  

There are so many people I could bring.  I think my answer will probably change every time I answer this.  But answering now, I’d say I’d bring along Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice.  That character has stuck with me ever since I saw the movie as a kid and I haven’t stopped wanting to hang out with Beetlejuice and eat Zagnut bars with him.  Ever since that movie I’ve also always wanted my very own copy of Handbook for the Recently Deceased, and maybe Beetlejuice will bring a copy along to the desert island with him.   My second person would be Ray Bradbury so he can tell me about Martians and Dandelion Wine and the way paper burns at 451 degrees Fahrenheit.  Perhaps the two of us would go around and carve stories in the trunks of all the palm trees like I imagine writers on a desert island would do.  And lastly, I’d bring with me Sal from The Summer that Melted Everything.  So he can tell me again what it’s like to be fallen here from the sky, like the prince he is.    

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Giveaway Announcement!: Summer of History Giveaway

Hello! I wanted to highlight a great giveaway that some of my very favorite historical fiction writers are holding. You can win books and even a $100 gift certificate (to buy more books with of course). The list is really fantastic and features a lot of books that I've read. The giveaway ends August 1st so don't delay getting your entry in!

Still on the fence about whether or not you want these books? Check out my reviews of some of them:
 Ready to sign up? Check out the giveaway here!

Review: The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel

Title: The Summer That Melted Everything
Author: Tiffany McDaniel
Format: Ebook
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publish Date: July 26, 2016 (Today!)
Source: Author

What's the Story?:

Fielding Bliss has never forgotten the summer of 1984: the year a heat wave scorched Breathed, Ohio. The year he became friends with the devil.

Sal seems to appear out of nowhere - a bruised and tattered thirteen-year-old boy claiming to be the devil himself answering an invitation. Fielding Bliss, the son of a local prosecutor, brings him home where he's welcomed into the Bliss family, assuming he's a runaway from a nearby farm town.

When word spreads that the devil has come to Breathed, not everyone is happy to welcome this self-proclaimed fallen angel. Murmurs follow him and tensions rise, along with the temperatures as an unbearable heat wave rolls into town right along with him. As strange accidents start to occur, riled by the feverish heat, some in the town start to believe that Sal is exactly who he claims to be. While the Bliss family wrestles with their own personal demons, a fanatic drives the town to the brink of a catastrophe that will change this sleepy Ohio backwater forever.

My Two Cents:

Not only is the title "The Summer That Melted Everything" the perfect title for this week if you're sitting under the heat dome as I am but it is a great story! Fielding Bliss is young in the summer of 1984. An oppressive heat has settled over his mid-western town and his father has invited the devil to him. The devil comes in the form of Sal, a 13 year old boy who will change everything. And that is only one story line in this intricate and engaging debut novel (super impressive for a debut novel)! This book is literary fiction with a touch of magical realism and some horror elements thrown in for good measure and it is like nothing I have read before! 

There is a lot going on in this book. You have Sal the Devil. You have Fielding facing events that will lead to his downfall decades later as an adult. The heat itself plays a huge role in the book and then there is the story line of Fielding's older brother, Grand, who is trying to figure out his own life in the face of discovering who he is. There is more having to do with Fielding and Grand's father who feels major regret over a case that he once pursued where he ended up being dead wrong and is now fixated on his guilt over the situation. I only go into what these story lines are so that you can see how varied they are and so you can understand my amazement at how deftly McDaniel is able to put these story lines together and keep them flowing. Each story line is robust enough to stand on its own but tied together, it becomes something really special! In less talented hands, this could have just been a mess of too much going on but the way that McDaniel weaves everything together creates a story that is truly unique and so powerful.

Not only is the storytelling good, the writing is good as well! The book is told from the perspective of Fielding through different ages and periods in his life. I liked how the author showed the progression of Fielding from a very typically hopeful child to a broken grown man. Some of the turns of phrase used in the book were both thought provoking and beautiful. 

This book definitely has me anxious for what the future holds for Tiffany McDaniel! She is definitely already on my "to watch" list!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Review: Don't Tell Me You're Afraid by Giuseppe Catozzella

Title: Don't Tell Me You're Afraid 
Author: Giuseppe Catozzella
Format: ARC
Publisher: Penguin Press
Publish Date: August 2, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "At eight years of age, Samia lives to run. She shares her dream with her best friend and neighbor, Ali, who appoints himself her "professional coach." Eight-year-old Ali trains her, times her, and pushes her to achieve her goals. For both children, Samia's running is the bright spot in their tumultuous life in Somalia. She is talented, brave, and determined to represent her country in the Olympic Games, just like her hero, the great Somali runner Mo Farah.

For the next several years, Samia and Ali train at night in a deserted stadium as war rages and political tensions continue to escalate. Despite the lack of resources, despite the war, and despite all of the restrictions imposed on Somali women, Samia becomes a world-class runner. As a teenager, she is selected to represent her country at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She finishes last in her heat at the Games, but the sight of the small, skinny woman in modest clothes running in the dust of athletes like Veronica Campbell-Brown brings the Olympic stadium to its feet.

Samia sets her sights on the 2012 Games in London. Conditions in Somalia have worsened, and she must make the arduous migrant journey across Africa and the Mediterranean alone. Just like millions of refugees, Samia risks her life for the hope of a better future."

My Two Cents:

"Don't Tell Me You're Afraid" is the novelization of the life of Samia Yusuf Omar, a Somali runner who competed in the 2008 Olympics and had her eyes set on attending the 2012 Olympics as a better, more competitive runner. Unfortunately, the story takes a turn for the worst when Samia is trying to escape her war-torn country as a refugee. This is an incredibly powerful book that had me cheering and crying! A perfect pick for the lead up to this year's Olympics, this book sheds light on the strength of the human spirit as well as the horrible humanitarian situation in Somalia.

Before reading this book, I had never heard of Samia before but after reading the book, I had a very difficult time seeing how her plight is not more well known. The book covers from her very young life as a girl training to run with her childhood best friend by her side in a place that is constantly under attack. I loved the way that the author wrote the book from Samia's point of view, which really allowed me to get into the story.

As a keen follower of world events, I thought that I had a pretty good grasp on what was happening in Somalia but this book shed a lot of light for me. It showed me just how wide spread and invasive the violence and terror of Al Shabaab was and still is in Somalia. It was very difficult to read these parts of the book!

This book was a difficult read due to the subject matter. The author uses Samia as a vehicle to give a human face to the plight faced by so many in Somalia. This was such a good story that ran me through so many different emotions. I know this is one that I will be recommending a lot!  

Friday, July 22, 2016

Review: Paris Nights: My Year at the Moulin Rouge by Cliff Simon

Title: Paris Nights: My Year at the Moulin Rouge
Author: Cliff Simon
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Waldorf Publishing
Publish Date: July 15, 2016
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "Paris Nights: My Year at the Moulin Rouge opens with a bored twenty six year old Cliff Simon staring out at the ocean from his beachfront house, wishing he was somewhere else. Gavin Mills telephones him from Paris inviting him to join him at the iconic Moulin Rouge. Cliff sells everything he owns, leaving Johannesburg, South Africa for the City of Lights. He learns that his spot at the Moulin is not guaranteed, and is forced to audition. Making the grade, "he is put into can can" school before he is allowed into the company. His adrenaline is pumping from excitement and fear, both of which he has faced before. Taking a look back we see twelve year old Cliff helming a racing dinghy in the midst of a thunderstorm on the Vaal River. His father yells at him not to be a sissy, and he brings the boat back to shore alone. We then travel to London with his family escaping the tumult of Apartheid. He trains for the Olympics, but drops out, enrolling in the South African military where he subjected to harsh treatment and name calling - Fokken Jood. After a honorable discharge, he works in cabaret at seaside resorts, and is recruited as a gymnast in a cabaret, where he realizes that the stage is his destiny. The memoir fast forwards to Cliff's meteoric rise at the Moulin from swing dancer to principal in "Formidable." Off stage he gets into fights with street thugs, hangs out with diamond smugglers, and has his pick of gorgeous women. With a year at the Moulin to his credit, doors open for him internationally and back in South Africa. He earns a starring role in "Egoli: Place of Gold," and marries his long-time girlfriend, Colette. On their honeymoon to Paris, Cliff says, 'Merci Paris for the best year of my life.'"

My Two Cents:

In "Paris Nights," actor and dancer (who knew?) Cliff Simon recounts his year as a dancer at the famed Moulin Rouge in Paris. He also throws in some other stories from his life throughout the book so the book is not all about the Moulin Rouge but more of a memoir of some key events throughout Simon's life. This is  a quick read that will give readers a taste of what it is like to perform at the Moulin Rouge, a place which has captured the imagination of so many over the years!

I have never been to Paris but if and when I get a chance to go, I would love to go see the Moulin Rouge. It has such a rich and fascinating history. You get a bit of a taste of the shows that are put on there in this book, which I really liked. The book definitely whet my appetite even more for getting a chance to visit. The book is mostly focused on what it is like to put on a show rather than the history of the theater or anything like that. I loved the detail that the author included about the performances!

The writing of the book is good. The storytelling is a little choppy as the parts of Simon's life that he chooses to focus on don't seem to be in any order. First, he finds out that he has a chance to work at the Moulin Rouge and next, he's talking about his childhood in South Africa. Because the stories were interested, I still enjoyed the book but I don't think that I got as into it as I could have with all the jumping around as that was a little jarring. Overall, this was an interesting read that could have been served by a little more focus.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Review: Jonathan Unleashed by Meg Rosoff

Title: Jonathan Unleashed
Author: Meg Rosoff 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Viking
Publish Date: July 5, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Jonathan Trefoil’s boss is unhinged, his relationship baffling, and his apartment just the wrong side of legal. His girlfriend wants to marry someone just like him—only richer and with a different sense of humor. He doesn’t remember life being this confusing, back before everyone expected him to act like a grown-up.

When his brother asks him to look after his dogs, Jonathan's world view begins to shift. Could a border collie and a cocker spaniel hold the key to life, the universe, and everything? Their sly maneuvering on daily walks and visits to the alluring vet suggest that human emotional intelligence may not be top dog after all."

My Two Cents:

"Jonathan Unleashed" is a quirky romantic comedy about Jonathan whose life is shook up when his brother leaves his two dogs with him to take care of. Jonathan isn't really a dog person but he falls for the dogs and the dogs open his eyes to the life he is missing out and may even help to find him a new love as his current girlfriend is simply comfortable but doesn't give him any passion!

Jonathan himself is a very quirky character. Throughout the book, he can never seem to say what he means, which I found a little frustrating. Eventually the dogs give him a little more confidence to step out of his comfort zone and find what will really make him happy. The dogs were definitely one of my very favorite parts of the book. I think the book speaks to the changes that animals can make in our lives so I think my fellow animal lovers will enjoy this one.

The writing style of this book is very unique. The author has a fairly clipped style, which worked really well for Jonathan's character. This style also kept the book moving at a good pace. The style also made me interested in seeing what the author's other books are like. Overall, this was a fun read with a unique style.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Giveaway Winners!

I am pleased to announce a couple giveaway winners tonight!

Jane Steele:

The Last Woman Standing:
Meredith M.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Review: A Front Page Affair by Radha Vatsal

Title: A Front Page Affair
Author: Radha Vatsal
Format: ARC
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publish Date: May 3, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "The Lusitania has just been sunk, and headlines about a shooting at J.P. Morgan's mansion and the Great War are splashed across the front page of every newspaper. Capability "Kitty" Weeks would love nothing more than to report on the news of the day, but she's stuck writing about fashion and society gossip over on the Ladies' Page―until a man is murdered at a high society picnic on her beat.

Determined to prove her worth as a journalist, Kitty finds herself plunged into the midst of a wartime conspiracy that threatens to derail the United States' attempt to remain neutral―and to disrupt the privileged life she has always known.

Radha Vatsal's A Front Page Affair is the first book in highly anticipated series featuring rising journalism star Kitty Weeks."

My Two Cents:

"A Front Page Affair" is the kickoff to a new mystery series set against the background of World War I. The world is changing and Kitty Weeks, our heroine, realizes that there is room for her to change as well. She wants to do more than her fluffy reporting job and when a man is murdered, she may get her chance. This is an exciting start to a new series that I will be watching.

I can't help to make references to the Maisie Dobbs books, which I love. Like in those books, we have a really great heroine that I loved getting to know through this book. Capability "Kitty" Weeks is a woman before her time. I loved seeing how she figured out the clues to solve the mystery at the center of the book. I really liked how sharp she was. I wanted to know a little bit more about her in the book but am hopeful that more light will be shed in future books in the series.

I am always a little apprehensive about reading mysteries because I don't like spoiling endings for myself by figuring things out before the protagonist does but this book had enough twists to keep me on my toes.

I really appreciated all of the historical detail that the author packed into the book. The author creates a really good sense of time that I thoroughly enjoyed! I will definitely be looking forward to the other books in this series!


Review: Falling by Jane Green

Title: Falling 
Author: Jane Green 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: July 19, 2016 (Today!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "When Emma Montague left the strict confines of upper-crust British life for New York, she felt sure it would make her happy. Away from her parents and expectations, she felt liberated, throwing herself into Manhattan life replete with a high-paying job, a gorgeous apartment, and a string of successful boyfriends. But the cutthroat world of finance and relentless pursuit of more began to take its toll. This wasn’t the life she wanted either.

On the move again, Emma settles in the picturesque waterfront town of Westport, Connecticut, a world apart from both England and Manhattan. It is here that she begins to confront what it is she really wants from her life. With no job, and knowing only one person in town, she channels her passion for creating beautiful spaces into remaking the dilapidated cottage she rents from Dominic, a local handyman who lives next door with his six-year-old son.

Unlike any man Emma has ever known, Dominic is confident, grounded, and committed to being present for his son whose mother fled shortly after he was born. They become friends, and slowly much more, as Emma finds herself feeling at home in a way she never has before.

But just as they start to imagine a life together as a family, fate intervenes in the most shocking of ways. For the first time, Emma has to stay and fight for what she loves, for the truth she has discovered about herself, or risk losing it all."

My Two Cents:

Jane Green is definitely one of my go-to authors when I am looking for a romantic book to get completely lost in. "Falling" was definitely a good pick in that regard. In this book, we meet Emma, a woman who is looking for a new start after a super difficult and chaotic job as a banker in NYC. She goes to Westport to find some calmness and to find a life that she is more suited for. She finds so much more in her next door neighbor and landlord, Dominic.

Filled with romance and twists and turns, this book pulled me in by the heart and didn't let go. I was totally engaged with the characters. One of the things that I like best about Jane Green's characters is how realistic they feel. You are pulling for Emma because she seems so nice and so deserving of having a good life. She steps right in to the role of trying to help Dominic with his son, Jesse. I loved Dominic as well. He seems to know exactly what he wants and is not afraid to go out and get it. He was such a great love interest in this book. This book is not just a straight romance; it has some really good turns that kept me on my toes throughout the book and I love a good surprise.

Another thing that I love about Green's books is how she is able to capture dialogue. This also really helps the characters feel like they could be someone that you know. I really liked the banter back and forth between Emma and Dominic. Overall, this book will be a good one for current Green fans but I think it will also win her more!


Monday, July 18, 2016

Review: The Real Peter Pan: The Tragic Life of Michael Llewelyn Davies by Piers Dudgeon

Title: The Real Peter Pan: The Tragic Life of Michael Llewelyn Davies
Author: Piers Dudgeon
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publish Date: July 12, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "The world has long been captivated by the story of Peter Pan and the countless movies, plays, musicals, and books that retell the story of Peter, Wendy, and the Lost Boys. Now, in this revealing behind-the-scenes book, author Piers Dudgeon examines the fascinating and complex relationships among Peter Pan's creator, J.M. Barrie, and the family of boys who inspired his work.

After meeting the Llewelyn Davies family in London's Kensington Garden, Barrie struck up an intense friendship with the children and their parents. The innocence of Michael, the fourth of five brothers, went on to influence the creation of Barrie's most famous character, Peter Pan. Barrie was so close to the Llewelyn Davies family that he became trustee and guardian to the boys following the deaths of their parents. Although the relationship between the boys and Barrie (and particularly between Barrie and Michael) was enduring, it was punctuated by the fiercest of tragedies. Throughout the heart-rending saga of Barrie's involvement with the Llewelyn Davies brothers, it is the figure of Michael, the most original and inspirational of their number, and yet also the one whose fate is most pitiable, that stands out."

My Two Cents:

Before reading "The Real Story of Peter Pan," I really did not know much at all about J.M. Barrie besides what I saw in the movie, "Finding Neverland." I was very interested to see what his inspiration was in this book. What I found was an eye-opening account of who Barrie was and what his often extremely close relationship was like with the family that influenced his fantastical stories.

I didn't realize how sad the origins of the Peter Pan stories were! The book shed light on how dark some of Barrie's inspirations were and how dark some of what he wanted the book to represent (death, etc.) was. I had basically taken the Peter Pan tales as a love letter to childlike innocence and make believe but in many cases, that is not what Barrie meant to do at all. It was fascinating to see my understanding turned on its head!

It is clear that the author did extensive research in order to put together this very detailed book but sometimes the research got in the way of putting the facts into an interesting story. Some parts of the story felt very much like a laundry list of facts and while they did shed light on Barrie and the family, they did not seem to be very interwoven with each other. The research is meticulous but sometimes does not flow. Overall, this book gave me a new view of J.M. Barrie through many details.  

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Review and Giveaway: At the Edge of Summer by Jessica Brockmole

Title: At the Edge of Summer 
Author: Jessica Brockmole
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publish Date: May 17, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Luc Crépet is accustomed to his mother’s bringing wounded creatures to their idyllic château in the French countryside, where healing comes naturally amid the lush wildflowers and crumbling stone walls. Yet his maman’s newest project is the most surprising: a fifteen-year-old Scottish girl grieving over her parents’ fate. A curious child with an artistic soul, Clare Ross finds solace in her connection to Luc, and she in turn inspires him in ways he never thought possible. Then, just as suddenly as Clare arrives, she is gone, whisked away by her grandfather to the farthest reaches of the globe. Devastated by her departure, Luc begins to write letters to Clare—and, even as she moves from Portugal to Africa and beyond, the memory of the summer they shared keeps her grounded.

Years later, in the wake of World War I, Clare, now an artist, returns to France to help create facial prostheses for wounded soldiers. One of the wary veterans who comes to the studio seems familiar, and as his mask takes shape beneath her fingers, she recognizes Luc. But is this soldier, made bitter by battle and betrayal, the same boy who once wrote her wistful letters from Paris? After war and so many years apart, can Clare and Luc recapture how they felt at the edge of that long-ago summer?"

My Two Cents:

Ah, summer! Sometimes you need the perfect book to come along and take you through the hottest months. "At the Edge of Summer" is a good book for that. Featuring a love story between Luc and Clare set against the devastation of WWI, this was a good book to while away an afternoon. Told partially through letters between the characters, this is a historical fiction love story that had me by the heart.

There is something about epistolary books that I absolutely love. For me, letters are one of the best ways to get your point across truthfully and with the most feeling possible. The letters really allow the readers to get a really good understanding of the characters and what made them tick. I loved the story between Luc and Clare. It's very romantic seeing how they break apart and then are put back together again. I thought the author did a great job of capturing how both of the main characters change and shift throughout the book!

Also, I loved the inclusion of the art of creating prostheses during WWI. I had never really given much thought to what a person suffering some sort of war related disfigurement would do at that time. We get to see the process of making masks to not only hide the disfigurement but to improve the morale of the soldiers. Clare is one of the artists who is able to create these masks. I love when I can learn something from the books that I am reading and this was certainly eye-opening for me!

This is a good read with great writing. I know Luc and Clare will be on my mind long after I finished the last page!   


Want to win your own copy of "At the Edge of Summer?" Just fill out the Rafflecopter below (U.S. only, please)!

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Friday, July 15, 2016

Review: All the Time in the World by Caroline Angell

Title: All the Time in the World
Author: Caroline Angell 
Format: ARC
Publisher: Henry Holt
Publish Date: July 12, 2016 
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "Charlotte, a gifted and superbly-trained young musician, has been blindsided by a shocking betrayal in her promising career when she takes a babysitting job with the McLeans, a glamorous Upper East Side Manhattan family. At first, the nanny gig is just a way of tiding herself over until she has licked her wounds and figured out her next move as a composer in New York; she doesn't mean to stay with the family for long. But, as the reader quickly becomes aware, Charlotte is naturally gifted with children and as deeply fond of the two little boys as they are of her. When an unthinkable tragedy leaves the McLeans bereft, Charlotte is not the only one who realizes that she's the key to holding little George and Matty's world together. She finds herself facing an impossible choice between her lifelong dreams and a torn-apart family she's come to love as her own. By turns funny, sexy, and heartrending, Caroline Angell's generous and unforgettable debut is the story of a young woman's discovery of the things that matter most."

My Two Cents:

After facing a devastating setback as a composer, Charlotte takes a job as a nanny for two young children in a very warm family in New York City. This job is supposed to be a short-time pass-through kind of job for Charlotte to clear her head and plan her next move to achieve her career goals. Two years later, Charlotte is still a nanny but it has become because she loves it and feels so much for the family. Tragedy strikes the family and Charlotte will be thrown into a situation that she doesn't fully understand. "All the Time in the World" is a coming of age story set in the heart of New York City where anything can happen when you least expect it.

I fell hard for the characters in this book. Charlotte is incredibly charming as a main character. She is driven but also gives herself enough free-rein to follow wherever the wind may take her. You get to see her change a lot throughout the book and I loved how the author was able to capture how she grows and changes throughout the book. The secondary characters are great as well and felt really well rounded. The author did a great job of capturing really realistic dialogue, which made the characters feel even more real.

I also really liked the gamut of emotions that the author was able to evoke for me. There are some really sad moments and some very happy emotions. You are pulling for the characters through it all because the author makes you feel for them. I really enjoyed that aspect of the book! Overall, this was a great read!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Giveaway: A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

Hello! I am so excited to be able to giveaway a new paperback version of "A Curious Beginning" by Deanna Raybourn. I loved this book; check out my review here!

I love this cover! Want to win your own copy? Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below!

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Interview and Giveaway: Serena Burdick, Author of "Girl in the Afternoon"

Hello! Today, I am very glad to welcome Serena Burdick here to A Bookish Affair!

1. What was your inspiration behind writing this book?

Most historical novels about artists, that I’ve researched, are written from the perspective of either the muse or the model connected to a famous male artist. I wanted to write from the perspective of a female artist, a woman struggling to find a place in the art world next to her male counterparts. I’m always surprised how few people know who the female impressionists were; artists like Marie Bracquemond who produced prolific, masterful work alongside writing a stunning 1,000-page diary before dying at the age of twenty four.

Yes, there is an undeniable allure to the mysterious women posed in so many famous paintings. But even more intriguing to me were the women painters we hear so little about. I wanted to offer readers the voice of one such artist.

2. Why do you think people are still so interested in the Belle Epoque?

While writing this book, I had no idea people were so interested in the Belle Epoque. I was drawn to a time in history when the impressionists were young, struggling artists being ridiculed for their work, a time filled with courageous people making bold choices that changed the way we view art, literature, theater and music.

It was a cultural turning point and I think this, along with the affluence and beauty of the era, draws us all.

3. Who is your favorite character in this book?

Madame Savaray. She has a way of slipping into the background, and yet holding the whole book together.

4. You're a debut author! Congratulations! Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Don’t have a backup plan. Know exactly what you want and go for that. It’s a slow profession with a steep hill to climb, but if you don’t give the universe any other option you’re bound to get there.  

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

As a writer of historical fiction, with a desire to portray women in all their complexity and power, my first choice would be Mary Wollstonecraft who wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Women in 1792. I can’t imagine a better mind to spend time with.

Since being on a deserted island might be my only chance to learn to meditate for longer than 30 seconds, I would bring the ultimate teacher, Siddhartha Buddha.

Lastly, Galadriel, because who wouldn’t want to hangout with an Elf Queen given the chance?


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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Review: Girl in the Afternoon by Serena Burdick

Title: Girl in the Afternoon
Author: Serena Burdick 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publish Date: July 12, 2016 (Today!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Born into a wealthy Parisian family at the center of Belle Epoque society, 18-year-old Aimée Savaray dreams of becoming a respected painter in the male-dominated art world; and secretly, she also dreams of being loved by Henri, the boy her parents took in as a child and raised alongside her.

But when Henri inexplicably disappears, in the midst of the Franco-Prussian war, the Savarays’ privileged lives begin to unravel. Heartbroken, Aimée tries to find him, but Henri doesn’t want to be found—and only one member of the family knows why.

As Aimée seeks refuge in the art world, mentored by the Impressionist Édouard Manet, she unwittingly finds her way back to Henri. With so many years gone by and secrets buried, their eventual reunion unmasks the lies that once held the family together, but now threaten to tear them apart."

My Two Cents:

"Girl in the Afternoon" is the story of Aimee and Henri, two artists who are interlinked by their families. Both of them dream of being artists in the Belle Epoque time period set in Paris. Their family secrets threaten to unravel their relationship and everything they think they know is turned on its head. Add an appearance by Edouard Manet as Aimee's tutor who has designs on her and you have a twisting historical fiction filled with romance and secrets.

I am such a sucker for any book that has both historic and artistic elements. I love reading about artists and the things that they create and how they are inspired. You get a strong dose of that is this book. Aimee and Henri are both artists. They are inspired in very different ways but their art seems to bring them closer together. I loved reading the rich detail that the author included on the art. I also really liked the addition of Edouard Manet. I love his paintings but did not know much about his life. This book really whet my appetite to find out more about him. His appearance in the book set off a lot of the twists in the book that kept me reading rapidly.

Between the time period and the setting, I was whisked away by this book. I love reading about Paris and the detail that the author added really made me feel the time and the place. It also made the characters stand out more for me as you could picture exactly what their lives were like back then. Overall, this is a good story that will hook my fellow histfic fans!


Monday, July 11, 2016

TLC Book Tours Review: The Memory Painter by Gwendolyn Womack

Title: The Memory Painter
Author: Gwendolyn Womack
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Picador
Publish Date: April 28, 2015
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "Bryan Pierce is an internationally famous artist whose paintings have dazzled the world. But there’s a secret to Bryan’s success: Every canvas is inspired by an unusually vivid dream. When Bryan awakes, he possesses extraordinary new skills . . . like the ability to speak obscure languages and an inexplicable genius for chess. All his life, he has wondered if his dreams are recollections—if he is re-experiencing other people’s lives.

Linz Jacobs is a brilliant neurogeneticist, absorbed in decoding genes that help the brain make memories—until she is confronted with an exact rendering of a recurring nightmare at one of Bryan’s shows. She tracks down the elusive artist, and their meeting triggers Bryan’s most powerful dream yet: visions of a team of scientists who, on the verge of discovering a cure for Alzheimer’s, died in a lab explosion decades ago.

As Bryan becomes obsessed with the mysterious circumstances surrounding the scientists’ deaths, his dreams begin to reveal what happened at the lab, as well as a deeper mystery that may lead all the way to ancient Egypt. Together, Bryan and Linz start to discern a pattern. But a deadly enemy watches their every move, and he will stop at nothing to ensure that the past stays buried."

My Two Cents:

"The Memory Painter" is the story of Bryan and Linz. Bryan is a famous painter who paints incredibly vivid scenes based on incredibly vivid dreams. Linz is a brilliant scientist. Together, their relationship is more than what it seems on its face. Filled with historical detail, reincarnation, and romance, Womack offers up a very unique story line that will appeal to many different kinds of readers. 

The story line of this book really stood out for me. I love historical fiction but don't often read books that have a paranormal bend to them alongside the historical story. Again, reincarnation plays a huge role in this book and I loved all of the historical detail that's given alongside the present day parts of the story where Bryan and Linz are trying to figure it all out. The inclusion of the idea of reincarnation was so interesting to me and really held my attention and made me think a lot!

I liked both of the main characters very much but wanted to know a little bit more about both of their backgrounds and what made them tick. I felt like I couldn't get very close to Bryan in particular and his memories drive so much of the story. I would have loved more detail on both of them. I wanted to understand so much more about them! This did limit my overall engagement with the book a little bit. Overall, this is a good story but I wanted to know the characters better in order to be more engaged.

Review: The Runaway Wife by Elizabeth Birkelund

Title: The Runaway Wife
Author: Elizabeth Birkelund 
Format: ARC
Publisher: Harper
Publish Date: July 12, 2016
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "Three beautiful French sisters entrust an American hiker with the mission of rescuing their mother high in the Alps. 

But what if she doesn’t want to be found? 

Recently fired from his high-power finance job and dumped by his fiancée, Jim Olsen has come to the Swiss Alps to clear his head. At the charming Cabane des Audannes, he meets Clio, Thalia and Helene Castellane, who are on a quest of their own: their mother, Calliope, has fled to these mountains to escape her philandering politician husband’s most recent scandal. As snow threatens to descend upon the Alps, the women have come to bring their mother home. 

But the sisters are at the point of surrender; it is time for them to return to Paris. Buoyed by wine and inspired by their beauty, Jim impetuously volunteers to assume their search, but soon realizes that he is in over his head. The Alps are filled with beauty and danger, not the least of which is Calliope’s desire to stay hidden. And all the while Jim finds himself haunted by the memory of her daughters and conflicted in his desire for them."

My Two Cents:

"The Runaway Wife" is the story of Jim, a man who is down on his luck. He travels to the Swiss Alps with his friend to simply relax and find some peace of mind. It's not to be when he gets roped in to finding the mother of three women that he meets. But maybe Calliope doesn't want to be found? This book is a good one for when you want to let go of reality for a little bit and get lost.

I don't need my fiction to be reality based but if you do, this book may not be for you. The premise is a little stretched but it works well for this one. The characters were so fascinating. I especially liked Calliope. Her life is relatively charmed in the manner in which she is able to live in but that is not enough when she feels so constrained by other parts of her life. The detail is often sparse in this book and I wish that I could have gotten to know a little bit more about what made the characters tick.

This book has a very light and airy feel, like the Swiss Alps that the book is set in. The setting was fantastic and my favorite part of the book. The author does a good job of moving her characters through this gorgeous setting while showing the readers around the place. There is also some nice bits of writing throughout the book that I really liked! Overall, I would have loved more detail but enjoyed the premise of the book!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Review: If You Left by Ashley Prentice Norton

Title: If You Left 
Author: Ashley Prentice Norton
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Mariner Books
Publish Date: June 14, 2016
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "For most of their marriage, Althea has fluctuated between extreme depressive and manic states — what she calls “the Tombs” and “the Visions” — and Oliver has been the steady hand that guided her to safety. This summer, Althea decides that she will be different from here on. She will be the loving, sexy wife Oliver wants, and the reliable, affectionate mother their nine year-old daughter Clem deserves. Her plan: to bring Clem to their Easthampton home once school is out — with no “summer girl” to care for her this time — and become “normal.”

But Oliver is distant and controlling, and his relationship with their interior decorator seems a bit too close; Clem has learned to be self-sufficient, and getting to know her now feels like very hard work for Althea. Into this scene enters the much younger, David Foster Wallace–reading house painter, who reaches something in Althea that has been long buried."

My Two Cents:

"If You Left" is the story of Althea, a woman who suffers from bipolar disorder. She is married to Oliver, a man who up until recently has seemed to tolerate Althea's illness well. Sure, he cheats on her constantly and approaches women in front of her but he seems to not be bothered by her illness and the way she acts. A lot of the book centers on Althea falling apart when she thinks her marriage may finally be over and she takes a lover of her own.

Althea is a fascinating character. I really liked how realistic the author made her diagnosis feel. The author uses a lot of detail about what happens to Althea when she is in her manic phase, what she calls "the Visions" and when she is in her depressed phase, which she calls "the Tombs." The author gives an unflinching look at what it is like for someone who has mental illness like Althea to navigate relationships like all of us must to keep our personal lives afloat.

The writing of the book is sometimes a bit difficult to get through. The book flashes back and forth between who holds the point of view. None of the dialogue is in quotations and either precedes or follows Althea's inner thoughts making for some confusing reading in many cases! Overall, the main character is fascinating but the writing holds this story back a bit.


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Review: You'll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein

Title: You'll Grow Out of It
Author: Jessi Klein
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publish Date: July 12, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "As both a tomboy and a late bloomer, comedian Jessi Klein grew up feeling more like an outsider than a participant in the rites of modern femininity. 

In YOU'LL GROW OUT OF IT, Klein offers-through an incisive collection of real-life stories-a relentlessly funny yet poignant take on a variety of topics she has experienced along her strange journey to womanhood and beyond. These include her "transformation from Pippi Longstocking-esque tomboy to are-you-a-lesbian-or-what tom man," attempting to find watchable porn, and identifying the difference between being called "ma'am" and "miss" ("Miss sounds like you weigh ninety-nine pounds")."

My Two Cents:

The best kinds of funny books are those that make you laugh out loud no matter where you are. There are books that are funny but don't necessarily make to laugh with abandon. There are other books, like "You'll Grow Out of It" that will make you make a scene in public. If you want to laugh, this book is for you.

The book almost feels like a collection of short stories with Klein musing about different periods of her life and making observations about life in general in a very entertaining way. One of the chapters that I loved the most was about woman as either being poodles or wolves (I'm so a wolf). She has an uncanny way of making you think about things from a different perspective while having a lot of laughs along the way!

This book is hilarious and I definitely found myself laughing out loud but I appreciated that Klein was also able to stretch herself into talking about difficult subjects as well. Her writing is incredibly versatile. She talks about relationships and infertility in serious ways that were really helpful for me and could definitely be helpful for others. Overall, this is a great book that will make you laugh and may even make you cry!

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