Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Giveaway: The Jungle Book

Hello! Today, I am very excited to be able to give away a copy of The Jungle Book Blu-Ray/ DVD. I have been dying to see this. It looks so good!

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Review: Saving Abby by Steena Holmes

Title: Saving Abby
Author: Steena Holmes
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publish Date: May 31, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "All children’s book illustrator Claire Turner ever wanted was to be a mother. After six years of trying to conceive, she and her husband, Josh, have finally accepted that she will never be pregnant with a child of their own.

Yet once they give up hope, the couple gets the miracle they’ve been waiting for. For the first few months of her pregnancy, Claire and Josh are living on cloud nine. But when she begins to experience debilitating headaches, blurred vision, and even fainting spells, the soon-to-be mother goes to the doctor and receives a terrifying diagnosis. Since any treatment could put their unborn baby’s life at risk, the Turners must carefully weigh their limited options. And as her symptoms worsen, Claire will have to make an impossible decision: Save her own life, or save her child’s?"

My Two Cents:

"Saving Abby" is a tearjerker of a book. After a long time of struggling with infertility, Claire and Josh finally are able to get pregnant. They are incredibly excited as their entire life shifts. Furthermore, they will do anything to ensure that the baby is born healthy so when Claire is diagnosed with a very aggressive form of brain cancer, they know they have to act quickly in order to save the baby but they may not be able to save Claire in the process.

Like I said this book is definitely a tearjerker and as a mother it definitely brought tears to my eyes. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to struggle with something like this when you're trying to have a child. All in all, I really liked the book. I really appreciated that the way that the author was able to elicit my emotions throughout the book. This book definitely pulled on my heartstrings.

I liked the characters but both of the main characters Josh and Claire seemed a little flat to me. I would like to get to know both of the characters a little bit better in order to understand them better and perhaps even feel for them a bit more. Rheir situation is so heartbreaking that you are still pulled into the story. Overall, I thought this was a good book especially if you're looking for a good cry.


Monday, August 29, 2016

Review: Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear

Title: Birds of a Feather
Author: Jacqueline Winspear 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Penguin
Publish Date: 2005
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "It is the spring of 1930, and Maisie has been hired to find a runaway heiress. When three of the heiress's old friends are found dead, Maisie must race to find out who would want to kill these seemingly respectable young women before it's too late. As Maisie investigates, she discovers that the answers lie in the unforgettable agony of the Great War."

My Two Cents:

"Birds of a Feather" is the second book in the Maisie Dobbs series. These books can be read out of order. The mysteries at the center of the book are very much standalone but the personal story of Maisie works best as you read in order. In this book, Maisie takes on the mystery of an heiress that has disappeared. What she will find out as she tries to solve the mystery is that looks can be deceiving and the mystery is much deeper and perhaps darker than she thought in the beginning.

In this book, you get a little more of a sense of Maisie and how she uses her intuition to solve crimes. This is ladled on a little heavy-handedly in this particular book, which lends the book a sense of mysticism that I did not totally buy.

While this mystery was not my favorite, I did like getting to know the characters better. Maisie is such an interesting character. We know a little bit more about her background now and I loved seeing what made her tick. The mystery at the center of the book makes Maisie recall her time as a nurse during WWI where she faced a lot of hardship and heartbreak with everything that she faced. I liked delving into that a little bit more. I'm looking forward to the next installation of this series!


Friday, August 26, 2016

HF Virtual Book Tours Review: Madame Presidentess by Nicole Evelina

Title: Madame Presidentess
Author: Nicole Evelina
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Lawson Gartner Publishing
Publish Date: July 25, 2016
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "Rising from the shame of an abusive childhood, Victoria Woodhull, the daughter of a con-man and a religious zealot, vows to follow her destiny, one the spirits say will lead her out of poverty to “become ruler of her people.”

But the road to glory is far from easy. A nightmarish marriage teaches Victoria that women are stronger and deserve far more credit than society gives. Eschewing the conventions of her day, she strikes out on her own to improve herself and the lot of American women.

Over the next several years, she sets into motion plans that shatter the old boys club of Wall Street and defile even the sanctity of the halls of Congress. But it’s not just her ambition that threatens men of wealth and privilege; when she announces her candidacy for President in the 1872 election, they realize she may well usurp the power they’ve so long fought to protect.

Those who support her laud “Notorious Victoria” as a gifted spiritualist medium and healer, a talented financial mind, a fresh voice in the suffrage movement, and the radical idealist needed to move the nation forward. But those who dislike her see a dangerous force who is too willing to speak out when women are expected to be quiet. Ultimately, “Mrs. Satan’s” radical views on women’s rights, equality of the sexes, free love and the role of politics in private affairs collide with her tumultuous personal life to endanger all she has built and change how she is viewed by future generations.

This is the story of one woman who was ahead of her time – a woman who would make waves even in the 21st century – but who dared to speak out and challenge the conventions of post-Civil War America, setting a precedent that is still followed by female politicians today."

My Two Cents:

"Madame Presidentess" is a historical fiction book about Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for the American presidency. This is one of a group of books about Victoria that come out recently. My suspicion is that as we have one of the first women in a while running as viable presidential candidate that people are beginning to discover Woodhull again. Also, her life is incredibly fascinating! You have the makings for a good historical fiction book. It's no wonder that she is become such a popular topic for historical fiction.

Victoria's life doesn't start out great. She is born into a very poor family where her father seems to focus only on the next get rich scheme and her mother is addled by religious visions. It falls to Victoria in a lot of ways to take care of her siblings and keep the family going, which is hard for anyone. When she has the opportunity to get married at a very young age she does as it means more freedom for her. This book covers from her childhood to her adult years so you get to know her very well. Again it's no wonder that she's such a popular topic for historical fiction. She is an incredibly strong person who defines the word perseverance. I really enjoyed getting to know her a little bit better through this book.

The writing of the book is pretty good. Evelina gives a fresh take on Woodhull's life. But of the things that I really liked about the book, I especially was drawn to the first-person perspective which really pulls you into Victoria's life and makes her feel like a real person. It feels like a lot of people are just discovering this person. Before I read the last historical fiction book about Woodhull, I didn't know much about her at all. She's one of those people that in a lot of ways has largely been lost to history.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Review: I Will Send Rain by Rae Meadows

Title: I Will Send Rain
Author: Rae Meadows 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Publish Date: August 9, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Annie Bell can't escape the dust. It's in her hair, covering the windowsills, coating the animals in the barn, in the corners of her children's dry, cracked lips. It's 1934 and the Bell farm in Mulehead, Oklahoma is struggling as the earliest storms of The Dust Bowl descend. All around them the wheat harvests are drying out and people are packing up their belongings as storms lay waste to the Great Plains. As the Bells wait for the rains to come, Annie and each member of her family are pulled in different directions. Annie's fragile young son, Fred, suffers from dust pneumonia; her headstrong daughter, Birdie, flush with first love, is choosing a dangerous path out of Mulehead; and Samuel, her husband, is plagued by disturbing dreams of rain.

As Annie, desperate for an escape of her own, flirts with the affections of an unlikely admirer, she must choose who she is going to become. With her warm storytelling and beautiful prose, Rae Meadows brings to life an unforgettable family that faces hardship with rare grit and determination. Rich in detail and epic in scope, I Will Send Rain is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, filled with hope, morality, and love."

My Two Cents:

"I Will Send Rain" is the story of the Bell family set against the beginning of the Dust Bowl years. Annie is bored with her marriage and wants more out of life. After a surprise flirtation with the mayor, she finds herself in a situation that she never could have expected. Birdie, Annie's daughter, has fallen head over heels with Cy, a farmer's son. She believes it to be true love and won't listen to her parents' reasoning but she gets into her own situation that will change her life as well as the lives of her family. Filled with great historical detail and bold characters, this is a read that I will be thinking about long after I read the last few words.

I haven't read a lot of historical fiction set during the 1930s, especially during the Dust Bowl years. It makes for a great setting. There is so much drama caused by the dust that consumed everything around it that automatically makes for an interesting read. I loved how the author was able to weave in the historical events of the time into the drama in the story. It is so hard for to imagine just how difficult these years were for so many in the center of the United States. People's lives and livelihoods were crushed. The juxtaposition between the chaos caused by the dust and the chaos caused by the decisions that the characters make in the book.

The characters are great! Annie is a strong woman but she wants to be loved and to feel the spark that she once had with her husband. I loved getting to know her through this book. I loved the juxtaposition between her and Birdie. Annie is a full-fledged adult and knows exactly what she is doing when she gets involved with the mayor. Birdie is blinded by first love and doesn't stop to think of the consequences. Even in the end, she seems to pull her "youthful ignorance" card and isn't willing to step up to the proverbial plate to take responsibility for her actions.

Overall, this is a great book! The writing is good and had a nice flow. The ending seemed a little abrupt but in a way where there did not really seem to be room for a sequel, which is unfortunate. I would have liked more closure but that took very little away from my enjoyment of the book. I really enjoyed the family secrets at the center of the book!


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Review: Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way through Great Books by Cara Nicoletti

Title: Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way through Great Books
Author: Cara Nicoletti
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Little, Brown, and Co.
Publish Date: August 18, 2015
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "As a young bookworm reading in her grandfather's butcher shop, Cara Nicoletti saw how books and food bring people to life. Now a butcher, cook, and talented writer, she serves up stories and recipes inspired by beloved books and the food that gives their characters depth and personality.

From the breakfast sausage in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods to chocolate cupcakes with peppermint buttercream from Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, these books and the tasty treats in them put her on the road to happiness."

My Two Cents:

Is there anything that goes better together than good books and delicious food? In this book, the author explores some of the dishes from her favorite books and provides recipes for readers to try on their own. The book covers many different genres from children's lit to some of the classics. The author gives the meaning for her behind some of the books. Some of the books have universal appeal but there are others which may not appeal to as many people.

The design of the book is gorgeous and really drew me in. I love a good, stylish cookbook and that is definitely what you get with this book. This is definitely a book for book lovers. It inspired me to look back at some of my favorite books to see whether or not I could create any recipes from them!


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Review: The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat by Vali Nasr

Title: The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat
Author: Vali Nasr
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Doubleday
Publish Date: April 16, 2013
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Vali Nasr, author of the groundbreaking The Shia Revival, worked closely with Hillary Clinton at the State Department on Afghan and Pakistani affairs. In The Dispensable Nation, he takes us behind the scenes to show how Secretary Clinton and her ally, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, were thwarted in their efforts to guide an ambitious policy in South Asia and the Middle East. Instead, four years of presidential leadership and billions of dollars of U.S. spending failed to advance democracy and development, producing mainly rage at the United States for its perceived indifference to the fate of the region.

After taking office in 2009, the Obama administration had an opportunity to fundamentally reshape American foreign policy, Nasr argues, but its fear of political backlash and the specter of terrorism drove it to pursue the same questionable strategies as its predecessor. Meanwhile, the true economic threats to U.S. power, China and Russia, were quietly expanding their influence in places where America has long held sway.  "

My Two Cents:

"The Dispensable Nation" is a grim look at American foreign policy and where the author thinks that it is going . Nasr worked in the White House with Hillary Clinton as the Secretary of State and Richard Holbrooke, a much renowned foreign policy mind also in the State Department. Nasr has an axe to grind of sorts with Obama's foreign policy and for the most part, he makes a very good case throughout the book.

It was a fascinating read. It is easy to criticize things like foreign policy, which has so many moving parts and things that must be considered, from the outside. I am always more fascinated by those that have been on the front lines of making big decisions to see how they felt about the decisions that were made.

The book is broken down into different topical sections. I thought this worked really well for the subject matter in order not to overwhelm the reader. Although this book is filled with a lot of criticism for what the author sees as failings, I liked that the author also included other ways forward that should be considered by those that make and carry out foreign policy. I like books that stick with me long after the last page. This book gave me a lot to think about. It's a great read for those that have a keen interest in the difficult things that foreign policy makers face every day!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Review: The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson

Title: The Star Side of Bird Hill 
Author: Naomi Jackson 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Penguin
Publish Date: June 30, 2015 
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "After their mother can no longer care for them, young Phaedra and her older sister, Dionne, are exiled from Brooklyn to Bird Hill in Barbados to live with their grandmother Hyacinth, a midwife and practitioner of the local spiritual practice of obeah.

Dionne spends the summer in search of love, testing her grandmother's limits, and wanting to go home. Phaedra explores Bird Hill, where her family has lived for generations, accompanies her grandmother in her role as a midwife, and investigates their mother's mysterious life.

When the father they barely know comes to Bird Hill to reclaim his daughters, and both Phaedra and Dionne must choose between the Brooklyn they once knew and loved or the Barbados of their family."

My Two Cents:

"The Star Side of Bird Hill" is a coming of age story of two sisters who go to stay with their grandmother in Barbados after their mother, who is fighting demons of her own, can't take care of them. The sisters will deal with their new home in very different ways and the book really explores their feelings. This is a story about family and sisters and what it takes to overcome the most difficult circumstances.

The sisters deal with feeling abandoned in different ways with vastly different outcomes. Dionne is angry and acts out at every turn. At first, I wasn't sure what was driving Dionne's hot anger. It is just so intense. Eventually we find out that she is using her anger and acting out to hide her deep pain and fear. Phaedra acts completely different. She throws herself into learning what her grandmother will teach her about midwifery. It was so interested to see the juxtaposition.

The book takes a little while to take off but as we learn more about Phaedra and Dionne and what makes them tick, the book really hits a great stride. I enjoyed getting to know the characters through this book. This is Jackson's debut novel and this book made me excited to see what the future holds for her!


Friday, August 19, 2016

Review: Shopaholic to the Rescue by Sophie Kinsella

Title: Shopaholic to the Rescue
Author: Sophie Kinsella
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: The Dial Press
Publish Date: October 27, 2015
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Becky’s father Graham and her best friend’s husband, Tarquin, have disappeared from Los Angeles saying simply they have “something to take care of.”

But Tarquin’s wife Suze who is Becky’s best friend, and Becky’s mother Jane, are convinced the two men are hiding something and are in danger—their imaginations run wild. They must track them down!

Hijinks ensue as husband Luke drives Becky, daughter Minnie, Jane, Suze and other favorite Kinsella characters across country from LA to Las Vegas in search of the missing men.

Becky feels deeply guilty about ignoring her father while he was in LA, in addition Becky feels her enemy Alicia is threatening her friendship with Suze."

My Two Cents:

"Shopaholic to the Rescue" is book number eight in Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series. These books are so much fun. I've read every single one and they are like candy for the brain. In this book, Becky is trying to find her dad and her best friend's husband. Her best friend is mad at her and Becky can't quite figure out what's going on with her husband.

The book is fast paced and feels frazzled, which is extremely fitting for the book. There's a road trip and a crazy chase from place to place in the Western U.S. that holds down all of the things happening between the various characters. And if you know Becky, by now you know that frazzled is just a part of the territory. Which brings up a good point, this book is best for those that have read all or at least most of the prior Shopaholic books. If you haven't read them, you are going to be confused about the characters and all of the various relationships between all of the characters.

This is definitely a comfort read. I love that the characters feel so familiar to me now! Overall, this is a good pick for anyone looking for a funny book that has fallen in love with Becky the Shopaholic before!


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Author Guest Post: M.K. Tod

I am very excited to welcome M.K. Tod, author of "Time and Regret" here to A Bookish Affair today!

Essentials of a good mystery

My latest novel, Time and Regret, is a mystery, a very different genre from the historical fiction of my first two novels. And it’s written in two time periods – early 1990s and World War One – just to provide an added challenge. I stumbled on the story while sharing dinner and a bottle of wine with my husband at a quaint restaurant in northern France.

Once the decision was made to write it, I settled into the task of constructing a mystery. “Can’t be too difficult,” I kept muttering to myself. Well, actually, it can and here’s what I discovered.

Plot is everything. You have to have a great story; one that engages readers from the outset offering twists and turns and unexpected developments. For example, a character your readers expect to be the culprit dies before the novel ends. Or perhaps your heroine loses the very clue that promised to solve the mystery or her lover is revealed to be working against her.

Pacing must be high. Mystery lovers expect the story to build momentum and then for the action – those twists and turns – to remain in high gear. And there must be action! Too much interior musing will slow the story down. The hero has to be on the move with some sort of adventure happening while the mystery unfolds.

Tension has to build and build. Your heroine must experience danger and challenge. Conflicts and dead ends must occur. A clue or two – ones that readers think are meaningful – should turn out to be insignificant.

Characters can’t be boring. They need angst in their lives, personal dilemmas and demons and, like characters in any good novel, they need to change during the story. Their motivation for taking on the mystery must be clear.

The crime or triggering event has to occur early in the story. The sleuth and culprit also need to be introduced early and the crime has to be believable. No slow build up while readers get to know your characters. No extensive scene setting or backstory either.

The mystery must challenge most readers. Your story will fall flat if it’s too easy to figure out. Readers should wonder who did it for a long time. Readers should suspect someone only to find that person had nothing to do with the crime. And yet, the ultimate explanation for why the culprit has done the crime has to be simple.

Wait as long as possible before revealing the culprit. The reveal is your readers’ ultimate satisfaction. They don’t want a lot of story resolution after that occurs.

The culprit needs to be punished. Your readers expect justice and will be disappointed if that doesn’t occur.
Not surprisingly, I reconstructed the plot many times and wrote many drafts before being satisfied that Time and Regret hung together as a mystery. You’ll have to be the judge as to how well is satisfies these criteria.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Review: Time and Regret by M.K. Tod

Title: Time and Regret
Author: M.K. Tod 
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Lake Union
Publish Date: August 16, 2016
Source: Author

What's the Story?:

From "When Grace Hansen finds a box belonging to her beloved grandfather, she has no idea it holds the key to his past—and to long-buried family secrets. In the box are his World War I diaries and a cryptic note addressed to her. Determined to solve her grandfather’s puzzle, Grace follows his diary entries across towns and battle sites in northern France, where she becomes increasingly drawn to a charming French man—and suddenly aware that someone is following her…

Through her grandfather’s vivid writing and Grace’s own travels, a picture emerges of a man very unlike the one who raised her: one who watched countless friends and loved ones die horrifically in battle; one who lived a life of regret. But her grandfather wasn’t the only one harboring secrets, and the more Grace learns about her family, the less she thinks she can trust them."

My Two Cents:

"Time and Regret" is a story told in two different times. In the early 1990s, Grace is going through a messy divorce and is trying to put her life back together. She discovers diaries and a mysterious package left in her attic by her beloved grandfather. During World War I, Grace's grandfather, Martin, is fighting on the fields of France. What he experiences will change him forever. He keeps a detailed diary about all that he experiences including some secrets that he will keep for the rest of his life. Filled with many secrets, this book kept me on my toes.

The characters were fascinating. Grace becomes a vehicle for shedding light on all that Martin went through during the Great War but the author also infuses her with a lot of personality on her own, which I really enjoyed. Her personality and drive really come into their own as she realizes that there is someone just as driven as her trying to get to her grandfather's secret first. The action in the book really picks up as it goes along. I was incredibly drawn to Martin as I got to know him throughout the book. He is such an interesting character with a lot below the surface.

I loved the unraveling of the mystery in this book. It really kept me engaged and I loved seeing the trip that the author took us on. While I enjoyed the mystery, I enjoyed reading Martin's journal entries even more. The author packs a ton of historical detail in so you can feel all of the things that Martin is experiencing throughout the book. I love reading about WWI and you definitely get a good sense of just how much soldiers were expected to deal with during that time period. This is a satisfying book about family secrets that will be a treat for my fellow histfic lovers!


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

TLC Book Tours: Secrets of Nanreath Hall by Alix Rickloff

Title: Secrets of Nanreath Hall
Author: Alix Rickloff
Format: Paperback
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: August 2, 2016
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "Cornwall, 1940. Back in England after the harrowing evacuation at Dunkirk, WWII Red Cross nurse Anna Trenowyth is shocked to learn her adoptive parents Graham and Prue Handley have been killed in an air raid. She desperately needs their advice as she’s been assigned to the military hospital that has set up camp inside her biological mother’s childhood home—Nanreath Hall. Anna was just six years old when her mother, Lady Katherine Trenowyth, died. All she has left are vague memories that tease her with clues she can’t unravel. Anna’s assignment to Nanreath Hall could be the chance for her to finally become acquainted with the family she’s never known—and to unbury the truth and secrets surrounding her past.

Cornwall, 1913. In the luxury of pre-WWI England, Lady Katherine Trenowyth is expected to do nothing more than make a smart marriage and have a respectable life. When Simon Halliday, a bohemian painter, enters her world, Katherine begins to question the future that was so carefully laid out for her. Her choices begin to lead her away from the stability of her home and family toward a wild existence of life, art, and love. But as everything begins to fall apart, Katherine finds herself destitute and alone.

As Anna is drawn into her newfound family’s lives and their tangled loyalties, she discovers herself at the center of old heartbreaks and unbearable tragedies, leaving her to decide if the secrets of the past are too dangerous to unearth…and if the family she’s discovered is one she can keep."

My Two Cents:

"Secrets of Nanreath Hall" is a historical fiction tale told in two times. The first time is WWI where Kitty is the spoiled daughter of a titled family who falls in love with the proverbial "guy from the wrong side of the tracks." Her life is upended when she gets pregnant and is practically disowned from her family. The second time is WWII takes up Anna, Kitty's daughter, story. Anna's mother died when she was very young and she was left with a lot of questions. When chance sends her to her mother's family home to work as a nurse, Anna is hopeful that she will begin to unravel the mystery of her family and her origins. I love a good story about family secrets and this book definitely fits the bill.

I loved both Kitty and Anna. Their plights are very different. Although they are mother and daughter, their upbringings were very different. Kitty grew up extremely comfortable and Anna's life was much different. The contrast was really fantastic. Even though they grew up in such different environments, they still have the same ambitious, independent spirit. In books that take place in more than one time, I usually have a favorite. Because these characters are so strong, I enjoyed both parts of the book equally. I especially liked seeing how the author joined these characters together throughout the book.

WWI and WWII are two of my very favorite times to visit through books. I really liked that this book took place in both time periods. It was so interesting to see how Nanreath Hall changes throughout the book. During Kitty's time, it is a glorious house filled with riches that many can only dream of. During Anna's time, it has been turned into a hospital and has lost some of its luster during the war. I thought the author did a great job of showing the differences. 

Overall, this book had some good twists and turns that kept me guessing. According to Goodreads, this looks to be Rickloff's first plain ol' historical fiction and I will be on the look out for more. This book will appeal to those who like family secrets and vivid characters.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Review: Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Title: Fates and Furies
Author: Lauren Groff 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publish Date: September 15, 2015
Source: Owned

What's the Story?:

From "Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years.

At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love, and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but with an electric thrill we understand that things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed."

My Two Cents:

"Fates and Furies" is the portrait of the marriage between Lotto and Mathilde. They meet as college students and are married within two weeks. For awhile, it is their love story that is the envy of all of their friends. They seem ideally matched for each other. Lotto is a struggling and then not struggling playwright and Mathilde is the ever supportive wife. The first part of the story focuses on Lotto and then everything is turned on its head when the focus shifts to Mathilde. If you can get into this book, you'll be treated to a very crafty story where nothing is as it seems on its face.

This book got a ton of buzz last year and when I first started reading it, I couldn't figure out what the buzz was all about. The story is incredibly dense and you have to pay attention to the little details. I actually went back and dug up some reviews of the book that came out when it was released and there I found a hint: the book is in the style of a Greek play with a chorus present and all. Once I read that, I was set.

The way Groff crafts this book is brilliant. All these small things that seem meaningless at first are pulled back together into something meaningful as the book continues. I was really impressed with how things aligned in the story. This is one of those books where I feel like I need to reread it in order to better understand how things come together and to see if there are more clues that I missed in my first reading!

And wow, Mathilde is quite the character. In the first half of the book, she seems to be at arm's distance from us. She fades into the background mostly as Lotto's career takes off. When the second half of the book comes, prepare to be blown away (no spoilers)! This is a good book - just take the time to be very thorough in your reading in order to reap the benefits of Groff's storytelling.


Friday, August 12, 2016

Review: The Angels' Share by J.R. Ward

Title: The Angels' Share
Author: J.R. Ward 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: NAL
Publish Date: July 26, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "In Charlemont, Kentucky, the Bradford family is the crème de la crème of high society—just like their exclusive brand of bourbon. And their complicated lives and vast estate are run by a discrete staff who inevitably become embroiled in their affairs. This is especially true now, when the apparent suicide of the family patriarch is starting to look more and more like murder…

No one is above suspicion—especially the eldest Bradford son, Edward. The bad blood between him and his father is known far and wide, and he is aware that he could be named a suspect. As the investigation into the death intensifies, he keeps himself busy at the bottom of a bottle—as well as with his former horse trainer’s daughter. Meanwhile, the family’s financial future lies in the perfectly manicured hands of a business rival, a woman who wants Edward all to herself.

Everything has consequences; everybody has secrets. And few can be trusted. Then, at the very brink of the family’s demise, someone thought lost to them forever returns to the fold. Maxwell Bradford has come home. But is he a savior...or the worst of all the sinners?"

My Two Cents:

"The Angel's Share" is the second book in The Bourbon Kings series. This story continues the story of the Bradford family, storied manufacturers of bourbon in Kentucky. When the book opens, the family's patriarch is dead. What initially looks like a suicide could be hiding a plot more sinister. The family finances and the family itself is in shambles. It may fall on Lane, son of the empire, to pick up the pieces.

It is definitely helpful to read the first book in this series first to get background on the characters but this book was way more exciting for me. It's during the toughest times that you get to see people's, even fictional people's true colors. This book definitely shows that. The Bradford fairy tale is totally unraveled in this book and I really enjoyed getting to know the characters through the tough times. Lane especially began to seem more real to me as his mettle is tested in a bunch of different ways throughout the book.

There are a lot more twists and turns in this book than the first one. The first one seemed like a very standard family drama but this story had more originality, which I appreciated. I wish that somehow more of the action from this book had made it into the first book. This was a good follow-up!


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Review: Santorini Sunsets by Anita Hughes

Title: Santorini Sunsets
Author: Anita Hughes 
Format: Paperback
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publish Date: August 2, 2016 
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Brigit Palmer is thrilled to be on the Greek Island of Santorini. She's here for her wedding to Hollywood heart-throb Blake Crawford, one of America's most eligible bachelors. Brigit's parents have rented a villa, and soon guests will arrive from all over the world for the intimate ceremony.

Brigit is a New York socialite, and she's just given up her position at a Manhattan law firm to run her father's philanthropic foundation. Things are finally falling into place. Love, career, family. Everything is going so well...until she steps into the garden and sees her ex-husband Nathaniel hiding in the rose bushes.

Nathaniel, a failed novelist, announces that Blake sold the rights to the wedding to HELLO! Magazine for two million dollars (donated to charity), and he is the reporter assigned to write the story. Everyone expects Brigit to have her happily ever after, including her mother who taught her how to lead the perfect lifestyle, her younger sister Daisy who impatiently wishes for her own love story, and of course, her fiancé. Things are supposed to work out for them. But when Brigit discovers an unsettling secret about Blake, she questions everything she's ever believed about love, and wonders if she's better off alone."

My Two Cents:

"Santorini Sunsets" is the story of Brigit, a NYC society girl, who is about to marry Hollywood actor Blake. The setting is Santorini, Greece but even a gorgeous setting can't quell Brigit's mind about whether or not getting married again is the right thing to do. Things are even less sure after Brigit's ex-husband shows up hoping to get the scoop on Brigit's wedding for a tabloid. This book had an interesting premise but fell a little flat for me.

I was drawn in by the promise of an exotic setting. I have never been to Santorini but it is definitely on my bucket list. The author does a great job of capturing the allure of the city and its beauty. I liked living vicariously through the characters in that regard.

The characters really fell flat for me. You don't really get a lot of information on the motivations between the various players. It seemed like such a stretch that Brigit's ex would sink as low as coming to the wedding to take pictures for a tabloid and also that Brigit's fiancé would think that it would be totally okay for that to happen without telling his wife. I was looking for more of an explanation to understand why the characters would go to such lengths but that never came even with the author delving into a lot of telling rather than showing. The setting was indeed exotic but the execution did not work out the best.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Review: Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams

Title: Along the Infinite Sea
Author: Beatriz Williams
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: November 3, 2015
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "In the autumn of 1966, Pepper Schuyler's problems are in a class of their own. To find a way to take care of herself and the baby she carries—the result of an affair with a married, legendary politician—she fixes up a beautiful and rare vintage Mercedes and sells it at auction. 

But the car's new owner, the glamorous Annabelle Dommerich, has her own secrets: a Nazi husband, a Jewish lover, a flight from Europe, and a love so profound it transcends decades. As the many threads of Annabelle's life before the Second World War stretch out to entangle Pepper in 1960s America, and the father of her unborn baby tracks her down to a remote town in coastal Georgia, the two women must come together to face down the shadows of their complicated pasts."

My Two Cents:

"Along the Infinite Sea" is a historical fiction that focuses on two women: one who is unmarried and pregnant in the 1960s and one who has an amazing past that consists of love, hard choices, and escaping from the Nazis in late-1930s Europe. This is the third book in the Schuyler Sisters series by Beatriz Williams but totally stands on its own. This book really did make me want to go back and read the other books in this series. This one is a great story with many twists and turns.

Pepper and Annabelle are both great characters. Pepper is happy to move to the beat of her own job. She is pregnant and unmarried but doesn't let it bother her even if it seems to bother so many around her. After she restores an old car with a storied past, she finds the original owner, Annabelle. Annabelle is a great character in her own right. She is a woman torn between love and safety and the stakes are very high in her world. Watching how both of these characters navigate their difficulties in this book was so fascinating!

The historical detail was good. While I enjoyed Pepper's story, there was really something special about Annabelle's story. It was so exciting and the detail really made her plight come to life for me. So much of the historical fiction that I have read seems to be set after 1940. I really liked getting the glimpse of the late 1930s as Europe really began to change.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Review: The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward

Title: The Bourbon Kings
Author: J.R. Ward
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Penguin
Publish Date: July 28, 2015
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "For generations, the Bradford family has worn the mantle of kings of the bourbon capital of the world. Their sustained wealth has afforded them prestige and privilege—as well as a hard-won division of class on their sprawling estate, Easterly. Upstairs, a dynasty that by all appearances plays by the rules of good fortune and good taste. Downstairs, the staff who work tirelessly to maintain the impeccable Bradford facade. And never the twain shall meet.

For Lizzie King, Easterly’s head gardener, crossing that divide nearly ruined her life. Falling in love with Tulane, the prodigal son of the bourbon dynasty, was nothing that she intended or wanted—and their bitter breakup only served to prove her instincts were right. Now, after two years of staying away, Tulane is finally coming home again, and he is bringing the past with him. No one will be left unmarked: not Tulane’s beautiful and ruthless wife; not his older brother, whose bitterness and bad blood know no bounds; and especially not the ironfisted Bradford patriarch, a man with few morals, fewer scruples, and many, many terrible secrets.

As family tensions—professional and intimately private—ignite, Easterly and all its inhabitants are thrown into the grips of an irrevocable transformation, and only the cunning will survive."

My Two Cents:

"The Bourbon Kings" is the first book in a new series about the Bradford family, a family that is both extremely rich and extremely dysfunctional. There are a lot of different plots in this book but the major two surround the family business and the illicit love affair of Bradford son, Lane, and head gardener, Lizzie. While the book kept me engaged, it is filled with a lot of typical tropes of rich, dysfunctional families that felt like a repeat of so many other things that already exist.

I don't need to like a character to get into a book. I really don't but I do need to be able to understand a character and I do need to be able to get their place in the book. I want them to be fully fleshed out and feel like a real person. There is only one character that really fit that bill for me in this book and that was Lizzie. She is interesting and engaging. I really enjoyed reading about all of the things that she is coping with throughout the book. Even Lane fell flat for me. He's brooding and acts much younger than he actually is. He seems unwilling to make the hard decisions that landed him and Lizzie apart. So many of the other characters seem like caricatures such as any of the other women in the book, to include Gin, a Bradford sister who also has a point of view in this book.

The writing of the book was mixed for me. Some parts of the writing were really good. I liked a lot of the descriptions of what life on the Bradford estate is like. The author sometimes tells too much instead of showing particularly when it comes to the characters speaking. I think the book could have been streamlined a little more. Overall, I think the book could have been cleaned up a bit but am hopeful for the next book in the series as it was a lot of fun to step foot into the glittering world of the Bradfords.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Giveaway: The French War Bride by Robin Wells

Today I am pleased to be able to give away a copy of "The French War Bride" by Robin Wells!

Synopsis: "At her retirement home in Wedding Tree, Louisiana, ninety-one-year-old Amelie O’Connor is in the habit of leaving her door open for friends. One day she receives an unexpected visitor—Kat Morgan, the ex-fiancée of her late husband, Jack.

Kat and Jack were high school sweethearts who planned to marry when Jack returned from France after World War II. But in a cruel twist of fate, their plans were irrevocably derailed when a desperate French girl overheard an American GI’s confession in a Parisian church. . .

Now, Kat wants to know the truth behind a story that’s haunted her whole life. Finding out how Amelie stole Jack’s heart will—she thinks—finally bring her peace. As Amelie recalls the dark days of the Nazi occupation of Paris, The French War Bride reveals how history shapes the courses of our lives. . .for better or for worse."

Sound good? Win your own copy by filling out the Rafflecopter form below (U.S. only, please!):

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Giveaway Winners!

I have a few giveaway winners to announce today!

At the Edge of Summer:
Elizabeth R.

A Curious Beginning:
Laura B.

Girl in the Afternoon:
Danielle H.

Congrats to the winners!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Review: You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

Title: You Will Know Me
Author: Megan Abbott
Format: ARC
Publisher: Little Brown
Publish Date: July 26, 2016
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "Katie and Eric Knox have dedicated their lives to their fifteen-year-old daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful. But when a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community just weeks before an all-important competition, everything the Knoxes have worked so hard for feels suddenly at risk. As rumors swirl among the other parents, revealing hidden plots and allegiances, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself drawn, irresistibly, to the crime itself, and the dark corners it threatens to illuminate."

My Two Cents:

In "You Will Know Me," nothing is as it seems. Katie and Eric seem like uber supportive parents of blooming gymnastics star, Devon. Devon seems to have a one-track mind when it comes to gymnastics. She is aiming for success. At first, I thought that this book was simply going to be a peek into the super competitive world of gymnastics but something darker is at hand and you can feel it throughout the entire book! Packed with twists and turns, this book kept me on my toes and wondering what was going to happen next! 

Katie thinks that she and Eric are on the same page when it comes to Devon. They are both really involved with making sure that she is set up for success and that she has everything that she could ever want. What we find out is that one parent is willing to go even further, verging on covering up some of the more sinister things that happen in the book. I thought it was really great how the author was able to give the reader just enough detail to keep 'em guessing. It is hard to talk about this book without giving anything away but just know that Abbott packs a ton of surprises in this book and that you are in good hands if you're looking for an exciting story.

The writing of the book was good. Aside from making sure the twists and turns fall just the right way, Abbott has a good hand for writing really realistic dialogue. The way that her characters talk seemed really realistic and it made the twists in the books seem even crazier as her characters seemed so real. Overall, this is a good book that explores the lengths that some people will go for success!

Review: In Twenty Years by Allison Winn Scotch

Title: In Twenty Years
Author: Allison Winn Scotch
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publish Date: July 1, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Twenty years ago, six Penn students shared a house, naively certain that their friendships would endure—until the death of their ringleader and dear friend Bea splintered the group for good. Now, mostly estranged from one another, the remaining five reluctantly gather at that same house on the eve of what would have been Bea’s fortieth birthday.

But along with the return of the friends come old grudges, unrequited feelings, and buried secrets. Catherine, the CEO of a domestic empire, and Owen, a stay-at-home dad, were picture-perfect college sweethearts—but now teeter on the brink of disaster. Lindy, a well-known musician, is pushing middle age in an industry that’s all about youth and slowly self-destructing as she grapples with her own identity. Behind his smile, handsome plastic surgeon Colin harbors the heartbreaking truth about his own history with Bea. And Annie carefully curates her life on Instagram and Facebook, keeping up appearances so she doesn’t have to face the truth about her own empty reality."

My Two Cents:

"In Twenty Years" is about a group of college friend brought back together after their friend, Bea, who passed away tragically declares in her will that they must come back to the house that they shared in college for one weekend twenty years after graduating college. By this time, most of their friendships have fallen apart. They are no longer the inseparable group they once were. Will this one weekend change anything?

I really was looking forward to this book! The idea of meeting up with people from your past is so intriguing to me. Relationships change but you always have the memories of the good times with people you were close with at some point in your life. The group in the book is absolutely wracked with memories of each other. Some have become very successful since college. Some are struggling to keep up the image of a perfect life. All are suddenly haunted by Bea's memory, which casts a presence over the entire book. I loved how the author explored all of the different thoughts and feelings of the different characters in the book. Each of the characters feels well-rounded and real. 

This is the kind of book that makes you wonder "what if." It is easy enough to live in the past and to worry about things that happened oh-so long ago. These characters have both love and grudges in the forefront of their brains throughout the weekend. This is a great book with memorable characters and I enjoyed it! It would be a perfect read for those who like a little bit of drama with well-rounded characters!

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