Friday, September 30, 2016

Review: The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller

Title: The City Baker's Guide to Country Living
Author: Louise Miller
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Publish Date: August 9, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "When Olivia Rawlings—pastry chef extraordinaire for an exclusive Boston dinner club—sets not just her flambéed dessert but the entire building alight, she escapes to the most comforting place she can think of—the idyllic town of Guthrie, Vermont, home of Bag Balm, the country’s longest-running contra dance, and her best friend Hannah. But the getaway turns into something more lasting when Margaret Hurley, the cantankerous, sweater-set-wearing owner of the Sugar Maple Inn, offers Livvy a job. Broke and knowing that her days at the club are numbered, Livvy accepts.

Livvy moves with her larger-than-life, uberenthusiastic dog, Salty, into a sugarhouse on the inn’s property and begins creating her mouthwatering desserts for the residents of Guthrie. She soon uncovers the real reason she has been hired—to help Margaret reclaim the inn’s blue ribbon status at the annual county fair apple pie contest.
With the joys of a fragrant kitchen, the sound of banjos and fiddles being tuned in a barn, and the crisp scent of the orchard just outside the front door, Livvy soon finds herself immersed in small town life. And when she meets Martin McCracken, the Guthrie native who has returned from Seattle to tend his ailing father, Livvy  comes to understand that she may not be as alone in this world as she once thought.
But then another new arrival takes the community by surprise, and Livvy must decide whether to do what she does best and flee—or stay and finally discover what it means to belong. Olivia Rawlings may finally find out that the life you want may not be the one you expected—it could be even better."

My Two Cents:

In "The City Baker's Guide to Country Living," pastry chef Livvy sets her career on fire... literally. After she is distracted by a love affair that goes awry, she causes a fire in the Boston restaurant and is terribly embarrassed she retreats to Vermont to find herself again. She gets a job at a small inn and plans to stick to herself, keep her head down, and try to put the pieces of her life back together. Life has a different plan and she is pulled into a tight knit community filled with secrets. 

This book is about so much more than just Livvy putting her life back together. It's about keeping secrets that will break you down and change you. It's about love and loss. Filled with a great cast of characters that kept me reading, this is a good book to just get lost in. At first, I was expecting a sort of comfort read with a familiar story: person ruins everything, person runs off, person finds themself again. It's a formula that works and is definitely present in this book but there is so much more there.

This book will definitely appeal to my fellow foodies. There is so much delicious food in this book and many of the best scenes take place while Livvy is cooking or while the characters are in the kitchen. The food was a treat in this book. Mixed in with the emotions of the book and good characters, this book is definitely a good selection for a comfort read to give you warm and fuzzies.

The writing of the book is good. The author did a great job of creating different voices for all of the characters, which helped me to really be pulled in the book. This was a good book!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Review: Letters from Paris by Juliet Blackwell

Title: Letters from Paris
Author: Juliet Blackwell
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: September 6, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "After surviving the accident that took her mother’s life, Claire Broussard worked hard to escape her small Louisiana hometown. But these days she feels something lacking. Abruptly leaving her lucrative job in Chicago, Claire returns home to care for her ailing grandmother. There, she unearths a beautiful sculpture that her great-grandfather sent home from Paris after World War II.

At her grandmother’s urging, Claire travels to Paris to track down the centuries old mask-making atelier where the sculpture, known only as “L’inconnue”—or the Unknown Woman—was created. With the help of a passionate sculptor, Claire discovers a cache of letters that offer insight into the life of the Belle Epoque woman immortalized in the work of art.

As Claire uncovers the unknown woman’s tragic fate, she begins to discover secrets—and a new love—of her own."

My Two Cents:

In "Letters for Paris," Claire's dying grandmother sends her on a wild goose chase while on her death bed. Claire's grandmother says that she should go to Paris to try to figure out the mystery of a mask that had been in their family for years. What Claire doesn't know is that there may be a greater reason that Mawmaw wants Claire to go to Paris, one that will help Claire come to terms with her own past.

I love a story with a family secret. This book is full of them. You have the secret of the mask. While the book is mostly focused on Claire, you get a glimpse of the Belle Epoque as well as World War II in the book, which I thought was great. I liked the historical detail in both sets. Mask making and sculpture is so fascinating and I liked the insight that the author provided. Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin both appear in the book. Both of them are so fascinating to me!

You also have the secrets of Claire's background to contend with in the book. The unraveling of this secret makes for a great ending. It has a little bit of a loose end but was still pretty satisfying. The author does a good job of giving readers a little bit to go on at a time.

The writing of the book was okay. The narrative often dives into telling too much rather than showing. The narrative definitely could have been streamlined a bit more, which would have helped with the flow in some places. The story was engaging enough to overcome some of the issues though!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Review: And West Is West by Ron Childress

Title: And West Is West
Author: Ron Childress
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publish Date: October 13, 2015
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "When Jessica, a young Air Force drone pilot in Nevada, is tasked with launching a missile against a suspected terrorist halfway across the world, she realizes that though women and children are in the crosshairs of her screen, she has no choice but to follow orders. Ethan, a young Wall Street quant, is involved in a more bloodless connection to war when he develops an algorithm that enables his company’s clients to profit by exploiting the international financial instability caused by exactly this kind of antiterrorist strike. These two are only minor players, but their actions have global implications that tear lives apart--including their own. When Jessica finds herself discharged from the service and Ethan makes an error that costs him his job, both find themselves adrift, cast out by a corrupt system and forced to take the blame for decisions they did not make."

My Two Cents:

"And West is West" is a thought-provoking debut novel by Ron Childress. In this day and age, wars are often fought from way off of the battlefield. Jessica is in the military and flies drones used on the battlefields of the Middle East from a safe stateside location. Ethan has found a way to harness political instability which in turn feeds into financial instability to make money hand over foot for his company. This novel explores ethics in the modern age where technology often blurs the lines.

This was such an interesting novel! The two main characters represent two powerful ideas in this modern world. Jessica is fighting a war from the other side of the world. She realizes that war waging in this way totally depersonalizes everything for her. She wonders if she is doing the right thing, especially because she's not on the ground. Much of her part of the book focuses on her struggle with what it means to be a world away from the chaos she is causing. Ethan likes making money but has his own struggle in the way that he's doing it. It was so interesting to see how the author showed changes in both characters throughout the book.

I really like when books leave you thinking long after you've closed the book. I especially like grappling with the idea of ethics, which this book definitely grapples with. The writing of the book is fairly even but could stand to be slimmed down in some parts of the story but overall it flows nicely.


Monday, September 26, 2016

Review: I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Title: I'll Give You the Sun
Author: Jandy Nelson 
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Dial Books
Publish Date: September 16, 2014
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world."

My Two Cents:

Before reading "I'll Give You the Sun," I had heard a lot about this book and the author Jandy Nelson. After hearing so much of the book I had high expectations for this book which were definitely met. What I can tell you is this is not the last time I will read anything by this author.

This book is about twins, Noah and Jude. Since having my own twins, I am absolutely fascinated by stories that include twins. Even at 16 months, I am already seeing such an amazing bond between my girls and that bond is present here between Noah and Jude. They used to be incredibly close but later on they fall apart after a series of missed connections and misunderstandings. This book explores what happened in the in between. I loved the way that the author was able to pull together both Jude and Noah's stories in really surprising ways!

Most of my love for this book comes from the way that the author is able to draw the characters so that you feel common ground with both of the main characters.I thought that the characters felt incredibly real and like people that you could know. This is a great read for when you're looking for something emotional and true!


Friday, September 23, 2016

Review: The Velvet Hours by Alyson Richman

Title: The Velvet Hours
Author: Alyson Richman
Format: ARC
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: September 6, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "As Paris teeters on the edge of the German occupation, a young French woman closes the door to her late grandmother’s treasure-filled apartment, unsure if she’ll ever return. 

An elusive courtesan, Marthe de Florian cultivated a life of art and beauty, casting out all recollections of her impoverished childhood in the dark alleys of Montmartre. With Europe on the brink of war, she shares her story with her granddaughter Solange Beaugiron, using her prized possessions to reveal her innermost secrets. Most striking of all are a beautiful string of pearls and a magnificent portrait of Marthe painted by the Italian artist Giovanni Boldini. As Marthe’s tale unfolds, like velvet itself, stitched with its own shadow and light, it helps to guide Solange on her own path."

My Two Cents:

"The Velvet Hours" is a book told in two time periods. It is told during the Belle Epoque in the late 1800s and during World War II in the 1940s. After enjoying a couple of Richman's other books, I knew that I wanted to read this book without really knowing what it was about. Luckily, once again, Richman has put together a great story about family secrets and how things are not always the way that they seem. 

We have two main characters here. There is Marthe, a woman who lives for beauty, who has a great love affair during the height of the Belle Epoque. Then there is Solange, a young woman who is just finding out her origins from her grandmother, Marthe. Solange is dealing with a different set of problems in trying to figure out whether it is better to wait out the war or to leave with her beau and his family where she knows she will be safer. The stories go back and forth between these two women and both of them are equally fascinating. I loved the juxtaposition of the two different time periods that the women were living and thriving in!

The writing in this book is indicative of why I keep coming back to Richman's books. She has a great way of weaving characters in with historical detail that feels like a treat for historical fiction lovers. This story was based on a true story about a real Solange who locked up her grandmother's apartment during the war, continued to pay for it while she was abroad, and the pristine apartment stuck in time was only found out in 2010 after Solange died and was no longer making payments on the house. It is a truly amazing story and I am so glad that Richman chose to capture it! 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Review: The Possibility of Somewhere by Julia Day

Title: The Possibility of Somewhere
Author: Julia Day 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publish Date: September 6, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Ash Gupta has a life full of possibility. His senior year is going exactly as he’s always wanted-- he's admired by his peers, enjoying his classes and getting the kind of grades that his wealthy, immigrant parents expect. There's only one obstacle in Ash's path: Eden Moore—the senior most likely to become class valedictorian. How could this unpopular, sharp-tongued girl from the wrong side of the tracks stand in his way?

All Eden's ever wanted was a way out. Her perfect GPA should be enough to guarantee her a free ride to college -- and an exit from her trailer-park existence for good. The last thing she needs is a bitter rivalry with Ash, who wants a prized scholarship for his own selfish reasons. Or so she thinks. . . When Eden ends up working with Ash on a class project, she discovers that the two have more in common than either of them could have imagined. They’re both in pursuit of a dream -- one that feels within reach thanks to their new connection. But what does the future hold for two passionate souls from totally different worlds?"

My Two Cents:

In "The Possibility of Somewhere," Eden wants to get out from her small town and out of the trailer park she lives in. She wants something different for her life. Ash, on the other hand, lives a very privileged life but still wants to get out of his small town. Being a part of a rich family, he can have his choice of where he goes to school. When Eden and Ash fall for each other, neither one is sure that romance won't get in the way of their dreams and ambition. To complicate matters, neither one of their families approve of the other. Eden is white. Ash is Indian.

The characters in this book are great. Yes, this is a love story but the author does a really good job of making the characters feel real and not just like vehicles for a love story. They are well-rounded. Eden and Ash both have different thoughts and dreams. They are both strong willed and want something different from what their lives are now. Furthermore, both are fighting the expectations of their parents. Eden's parents expect her to stay around and help them out with money. Ash's parents expect him to go to his mother's alma mater and to follow the career path that they have already set out for them. I really liked how the author explored these different problem sets with universal themes.

I think it is incredibly important for books to explore difficult issues. It is especially important for YA books to explore hard issues. Racism, both blatant and passive as found in this book, are a huge social issue facing our society. This is such an important issue and I was happy to see it explored in this book.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Review: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Title: A Gentleman in Moscow
Author: Amor Towles
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Viking
Publish Date: September 6, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery."

My Two Cents:

"A Gentleman in Moscow" covers several decades in the life of Count Alexander Rostov. When he refuses to renounce his aristocracy, he is told that if he ever leaves the grand Hotel Metropol in the center of Moscow, he will be arrested on sight. Rather than be arrested, he simply makes his home at the hotel. Little does he know how long he will be there or how much his life will change while he is basically on glorified house arrest.

Rostov is such a great character. Although the Soviets are changing the society of Russia dramatically, he does not really seem to be bothered by it at all. He is more than happy to make the best of things in a gorgeous location that is not left out of the changing society. Rostov plays witness to the entrenchment of the Soviets. Throughout it all, he seems to find good still and is willing to pass that on to the other characters that he comes in contact with in the book. I was not ready for this book to end and would love to see what happened to Rostov after the last page! Sequel, maybe?

I have a fascination with Russia and this book definitely fulfilled my want to read more historical fiction set there. This book covers a few decades and I loved seeing how the author captured the massive changes the country went through in the mid-twentieth century. The author includes a lot of historical tidbits in both the narrative as well as footnotes, which I loved. The author did a great job with making me picture Rostov's changing world. This was definitely a good historical fiction!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Review: Leaving Lucy Pear by Anna Solomon

Title: Leaving Lucy Pear
Author: Anna Solomon
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Viking
Publish Date: July 26, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "One night in 1917 Beatrice Haven sneaks out of her uncle's house on Cape Ann, Massachusetts, leaves her newborn baby at the foot of a pear tree, and watches as another woman claims the infant as her own. The unwed daughter of wealthy Jewish industrialists and a gifted pianist bound for Radcliffe, Bea plans to leave her shameful secret behind and make a fresh start. Ten years later, Prohibition is in full swing, post-WWI America is in the grips of rampant xenophobia, and Bea's hopes for her future remain unfulfilled. She returns to her uncle’s house, seeking a refuge from her unhappiness. But she discovers far more when the rum-running manager of the local quarry inadvertently reunites her with Emma Murphy, the headstrong Irish Catholic woman who has been raising Bea's abandoned child—now a bright, bold, cross-dressing girl named Lucy Pear, with secrets of her own."

My Two Cents:

In "Leaving Lucy Pear," Bea has a baby out of wedlock. Instead of being strapped with taking care of a child that she is ill-prepared to take care of, she places the baby under a pear tree on her family's property where she knows that the baby will be taken in by the large family that steals the pears from the tree.

This book started out fairly slowly for me. I thought there were some strands of other stories that could have been streamlined a little bit. Eventually I was pulled into the story by Bea meeting Lucy and Lucy struggling to figure out where she fit in with both her adoptive family as well as with the family that left her behind. Lucy was definitely the most intriguing character to me. Her adoptive family is a huge, poor Irish Catholic family where each child has to struggle to stand out and be noticed. I loved seeing how Lucy comes into her own through being forced to do this.

I enjoyed the historical detail in this book. The book takes place in the 1920s in New England where the world is very divided by the haves and the have nots. This book explores this a little bit, which I really liked. Overall, this book had a slow start but ended up being a good story about finding one's place in the world.


Friday, September 16, 2016

Review: The Boy Who Killed Grant Parker by Kat Spears

Title: The Boy Who Killed Grant Parker
Author: Kat Spears 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publish Date: September 13, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Luke Grayson's life might as well be over when he's forced to go live in rural Tennessee with his Baptist pastor father. His reputation as a troublemaker has followed him there, and as an outsider, Luke is automatically under suspicion by everyone from the principal at his new school to the local police chief. His social life is no better. The new kid in town is an easy target for Grant Parker, the local golden boy with a violent streak who has the entire community of Ashland under his thumb.

But things go topsy-turvy when a freak accident removes Grant from the top of the social pyramid, replacing him with Luke. This fish out of water has suddenly gone from social outcast to hero in a matter of twenty-four hours. For the students who have lived in fear of Grant all their lives, this is a welcome change. But Luke’s new found fame comes with a price. Nobody knows the truth about what really happened to Grant Parker except for Luke, and the longer he keeps living the lie, the more like Grant Parker he becomes."

My Two Cents:

"The Boy Who Killed Grant Parker" is the story of Luke, who is forced to move with his Dad to a small town after he gets into too much trouble in Washington, D.C. living with his mom. He has to go to a new school where he is no longer in the popular crowd. Grant Parker, the mayor's son, is and Luke gets a taste of not being popular any more. Grant begins to make Luke miserable and then fate turns.

High school is tough for Luke. I liked seeing his perspective throughout the book, mostly towards the beginning. Luke started out as a strong character to me. We learn a lot about him and what his life has been like in the past. As the book goes on, he seemed to become less of a strong character and seems to be happy to not take his destiny into his own hands. I did not really understand that. I wanted to know more about why he didn't seem like he wanted to set the record straight about what happened between him and Grant.

This book was okay. I like how the author created a cautionary tale about being careful what you wish for because you just might get it but it may not be as good as you think it will be. The beginning started out strong for me but the end felt a little rushed.  

Thursday, September 15, 2016

TLC Book Tours Review: Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

Title: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race
Author: Margot Lee Shetterly
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publish Date: January 1, 2016
Source: I received this book for review froHarperCollins and TLC Book Tours.

What's the Story?:

From "Before John Glenn orbited the Earth or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of professionals worked as “Human Computers,” calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American women. Segregated from their white counterparts by Jim Crow laws, these “colored computers,” as they were known, used slide rules, adding machines, and pencil and paper to support America’s fledgling aeronautics industry, and helped write the equations that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

Drawing on the oral histories of scores of these “computers,” personal recollections, interviews with NASA executives and engineers, archival documents, correspondence, and reporting from the era, Hidden Figures recalls America’s greatest adventure and NASA’s groundbreaking successes through the experiences of five spunky, courageous, intelligent, determined, and patriotic women: Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, Christine Darden, and Gloria Champine.

Moving from World War II through NASA’s golden age, touching on the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the women’s rights movement, Hidden Figures interweaves a rich history of scientific achievement and technological innovation with the intimate stories of five women whose work forever changed the world—and whose lives show how out of one of America’s most painful histories came one of its proudest moments."

My Two Cents:

"Hidden Figures" is the story of four women of color, who along with many other women of color contributed to some of the greatest achievements of NASA at the heights of both the Space Race and the Civil Rights movement. As most history lovers know, not all those involved in historical events are always included in the history books. Too often women and people of color are lost to history. The author tells the story of just a few of these people in this book. Inspirational and important, this book was a great read!

I love reading history books that shed new light on the stories that you think that you only knew. I have been fascinated by space and NASA ever since I was a little kid. I had grand designs of being an astronaut someday (until I realized that you needed to have excellent math skills, which I did/ do not have unlike the women in this book). I know about those on the front lines of the Space Race, the big faces who made headlines but this book puts the spotlight on those in the background that helped those big names make history. So much went into the Space Race and this book made me realize how great the effort truly was at all levels.

I really liked the way that the author was able to show both the public and private lives of these women. Each is driven in her own way. Their goals are often stymied by a society that was still restrictive on women and particularly people of color. Some parts of the book were difficult to get through just because it is still so sad that people were treated so badly. The author includes a lot of historical detail to ensure that readers have a full understanding of what the world was like back then.

This is a hidden history that I am so glad to have light shone upon. I loved gaining greater insight into those on the ground in the Space Race. My fellow history lovers will eat this book up!


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Review and Author Interview: Triple Love Score by Brandi Megan Granett

Title: Triple Love Score
Author: Brandi Megan Granett 
Format: ARC
Publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing
Publish Date: September 1, 2016
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "A poetry professor stumbles into fame and fortune as an anonymous online Scrabble(r) poet. Miranda lives a quiet life among books and letters as a poetry professor in a small upstate town. When two snap decisions turn up the volume on her life, she must decide whether or not her best laid plans actually lead to where her heart wants to go."

My Two Cents:

"Triple Love Score" is a sweet romance about Miranda, who is a poetry professor by trade and a social media star in her personal life. Her brand of social media is right down my alley: Miranda starts creating poetry on her beloved Scrabble board, a game which played witness to Miranda's heartbreak. Six years ago, Scott disappeared from her life and Miranda was reeling. Now that Scott is back, Miranda has to decide whether or not she can deal with where Scott has been and put her heart on the line. A smart and cute romance, this book pulled me right out!

One of the things that I liked best about this book is that characters felt really real. I was pulling for Miranda throughout the book. She is a great heroine. While Scott was out of her life, she never really put herself back together and spent a lot of time dwelling on what could have been. Her Scrabble poems are her outlet and it isn't until Scott is back in her life that she starts trying to figure things out. She stumbles along the way and since she's endearing, you're happy to follow her through it all.

I liked the love story between Scott and Miranda. They are both great characters and I loved the way that the author showed that there was a lot more to Scott than met the eye. There are a lot of twists and turns, which I loved. Love isn't always nice and straight forward. You're pulling for them the whole way. This is a great story about holding on to see where life will take you even when things get difficult.

Author Interview:

What inspired you to write Triple Love Score?

Well, I fell in love with my best friend of 19 years. I found myself in the middle of a divorce with all the doors of my life back open. Like Miranda in Triple Love Score, I faced some decisions about where I wanted to go and whether I could trust love again. Falling in love also made it easier to write again; all of a sudden, everything seemed possible, so I thought, why not try my hand at creating another book!

Who is your favorite character in this book and why?

My favorite character is Lynn, Scott’s daughter. I loved seeing the world through her very enthusiastic eyes, the great lines she gets to deliver, and how she believed everything should be celebrated with pancakes.

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

My favorite scene in the book is when Miranda brings Ian back to her apartment. Rather than passively going with his lead, she finally stands up for herself. “Put out or get out,” she says to him out of both sexual tension in the moment, but also out of frustration for her life in general. I could personally relate to her decision to finally stand up for herself, and I loved turning the tables on a romantic convention by putting her in charge of the tryst!

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

My best advice for them is advice that is tough to swallow. Stop making writing precious. You don’t need a cup of Earl Grey tea and a Cake Batter scented candle in a Pinterest-inspired writing room at your magical writing hour. To be a writer, you must write. Full stop. Most successful authors would add to that everyday. I learned in pursuing competitive archery that the best on the field didn’t care about the weather or if it was Christmas or their birthday or if they had a long day at work; the best practiced every day. The surest way to make sure an idea for a book becomes a book is put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard every damn day.

If you could bring any three people (fictional or non-fictional) with you to a deserted island, who would you bring and why?

Well, you will think I am a sap for this, but I don’t like to go anywhere without my husband, Avram, and daughter, Meg. We have a saying in our family that we could even make going to a hardware store fun. And some of our best adventures happened in the most mundane of places! If I had to name a third person, I’d like to take liberties because I feel dogs are people too and request that our corgi, Red Sharkey, come along. We just returned from an archery trip, and Red is still at my mom’s, and I clearly see why a house just isn’t a home without a dog.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

TLC Book Tours: Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

Title: Be Frank With Me
Author: Julia Claiborne Johnson
Format: Paperback
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publish Date: September 6, 2016
Source: I received this book for review from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "Reclusive literary legend M. M. “Mimi” Banning has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years, but now she’s writing her first book in decades and to ensure timely completion her publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress.

When Alice Whitley arrives she’s put to work as a companion to Frank, the writer’s eccentric son, who has the wit of Noël Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth-graders. The longer she spends with the Bannings, the more Alice becomes obsessed with two questions: Who is Frank’s father? And will Mimi ever finish that book?"

My Two Cents:

"Be Frank with Me" is the endearing story of Alice, who goes to take care of Frank, the young and extremely eccentric son of Mimi, a reclusive writer. Alice hopes to get insight into Mimi, a woman who wrote extremely popular book and whose follow up seems to be elusive. What Alice doesn't realize is how in love she is going to fall with Frank, a strange little boy with a penchant for dressing impeccably. This book has hilarity and heartbreak, sometimes in equal doses and is definitely a good read.

I love a good quirky character! Our three main characters: Alice, Frank, and Mimi are quirky in very different ways. At first, Frank seemed a little over the top for me. He seemed quirky for the sake of being quirky. I was pleased to see that as the book unfolds, you can see why he is the way that he is. It is much more complicated than it seems at first. The relationship between him and his mother is so interesting to me. All Frank wants is to be loved but Mimi doesn't seem to have much love to give him in the traditional sense. So he tries to win her love by acting older and gleaning on to the things that he perceives that she likes. 

And is there anything more interesting than a reclusive writer? Mimi is both overly protective and incredibly distant from her son. She keeps everyone at arm's length and seems to want a different life that she can't have. It is no wonder that Alice jumps at the chance to figure her out a little more through caring for her son. 

This book explores so many different facets of relationships. Love is the undercurrent here, in all of its different forms. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Review: The Gatekeeper: Missy LeHand, FDR, and the Untold Story of the Partnership That Defined a Presidency by Kathryn Smith

Title: The Gatekeeper: Missy LeHand, FDR, and the Untold Story of the Partnership That Defined a Presidency
Author: Kathryn Smith 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Touchstone
Publish Date: September 6, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Widely considered the first female presidential chief of staff, Marguerite “Missy” LeHand was the right-hand woman to Franklin Delano Roosevelt—both personally and professionally—for more than twenty years. Although her official title as personal secretary was relatively humble, her power and influence were unparalleled. Everyone in the White House knew one truth: If you wanted access to Franklin, you had to get through Missy. She was one of his most trusted advisors, affording her a unique perspective on the president that no one else could claim, and she was deeply admired and respected by Eleanor and the Roosevelt children.

With unprecedented access to Missy’s family and original source materials, journalist Kathryn Smith tells the captivating and forgotten story of the intelligent, loyal, and clever woman who had a front-row seat to history in the making. The Gatekeeper is a thoughtful, revealing unsung-hero story about a woman ahead of her time, the true weight of her responsibility, and the tumultuous era in which she lived—and a long overdue tribute to one of the most important female figures in American history."

My Two Cents:

"The Gatekeeper" is the story of Marguerite "Missy" LeHand, who is probably best known for being FDR's secretary, right-handed woman, and rumored lover. This book seeks to shed light on Missy and the way that she affected the FDR presidency. I was drawn to this book by the promise of learning about a woman who history has seemed to forgotten in many ways.

I did enjoy this book but there wasn't as much new information as I had hoped for. A lot of the beginning of the book felt like very much a standard biography of FDR with some about Missy thrown in. Eventually the author began to shed light on what Missy's relationship with FDR and how she became a irreplaceable companion for him for so many years. Missy lived during a time where women are not always given opportunities in the workplace so it was amazing for her to see to have a career like she does with the White House. I loved hearing about this!

There are a couple places it's for the author made some generalized suppositions. For instance, when it came to why FDR never seemed to visit Missy after she falls ill. The author is honest about things she wasn't able to find out though which I also appreciated. I did love the pictures and letters she chose to include in the book. There were so many of them that I had never seen before! Overall, some of this book will feel familiar to those who know a lot about FDR's life but there are some interesting tidbits throughout the book.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Review: Karolina's Twins by Ronald H. Balson

Title: Karolina's Twins
Author: Ronald H. Balson 
Format: ARC
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publish Date: September 6, 2016 
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Lena Woodward, an elderly woman, enlists the help of both lawyer Catherine Lockhart and private investigator Liam Taggart to appraise the story of her harrowing past in Nazi occupied Poland. At the same time, Lena’s son Arthur presents her with a hefty lawsuit under the pretense of garnering her estate—and independence—for his own purposes. Where these stories intersect is through Lena’s dubious account of her life in war-torn Poland, and her sisterhood with a childhood friend named Karolina. Lena and Karolina struggled to live through the atrocity of the Holocaust, and at the same time harbored a courageous, yet mysterious secret of maternity that has troubled Lena throughout her adult life. In telling her story to Catherine and Liam, Lena not only exposes the realities of overcoming the horrors of the Holocaust, she also comes to terms with her own connection to her dark past."

My Two Cents:

In "Karolina's Twins," Lena is an old woman seeking to absolve herself of guilt and to carry out her friend Karolina's twin girls that were lost during World War II. World War II Poland was a horrible place, which forced people to do unthinkable things in the name of their survival or their loved ones survival. Lena comes to Catherine and Liam hoping that they can help her put together the pieces of her past.

As a mother, I cannot imagine going through the things that Karolina and Lena go through in the book. All you want to do when you have children is love them and protect them in the best way that you can. When there are no good options, making a decision can seem impossible as it does to Karolina and Lena in this book. The story definitely pulled on my heartstrings and the plight of the characters really pulled me in. There are some really powerful things that happen throughout the book that I know will be on my mind for a very long time.

This is a compelling story line and will appeal to my fellow historical fiction lovers. The execution of the book is a little messy but the story makes up for it. Most of the book is told from the perspective of Lena telling Catherine and Liam what happened to her during the war. Because the narrative is from recollections, there is a lot of telling instead of showing which did not allow me to get in the book as deeply as I wanted to. The points of view get a little messy and hard to follow. They change throughout the chapter, which did not allow me to fully immerse in the story. Overall, the story itself is very good but the carry out of the writing left a bit to be desired.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

HF Virtual Tours Interview: Christy English, Author of "Aphrodite's Choice"

I am very excited to welcome Christy English here to A Bookish Affair today!

  1. What inspired you to write "Aphrodite's Choice?"

I had a dream that showed me the first fifty pages, and I was hooked. I knew that I had to find out more about the mysterious immortal woman living in modern Boston, with powerful ex-lovers and men hunting her down. I had to write the book to discover who Aphrodite was, and I think I just scratched the surface. That is what is amazing about the characters who come to us...they reveal what they want to reveal at their own pace and in their own time. Sometimes it takes and entire book to get to know them. I loved getting to know Addy, past and present.

     2. Who is your favorite character in this book and why?
 I love all the people in this book, but Addy is my favorite. She has managed to retain such a sweetness in spite of the difficulties of her work and the fact that she is cut off from the people she serves by who and what she is. She never stops caring about the mortals in her life, even though she knows that she will have to watch them die. She treasures each person she meets, and her ongoing vulnerability is an essential part of her strength.

      3.Why do you think people are still so interested in the gods of the ancient world?
I think the Greek gods in particular show us part of what it means to be human. In the old myths, they love and fight and struggle the same way we mortals do. In spite of their immorality and power, they long for connection the same way we do. I think the combination of immortal perspective and mortal emotion make for compelling storytelling.

      4. Can you give us a taste of what's to come in the rest of the series?
The next novel in the Goddess Diaries is about Inez, who once was known as Isis of Egyptian mythology. A woman who has essentially given up her power and her work, when a series of murders begin across the globe mimicking the death of her husband Osiris, she finds herself drawn into caring about the world again by her deep desire to stop the killer. We got to meet Inez in APHRODITE'S CHOICE and I can't wait to get to know her better in book 2, GODDESS DESCENDING.

 5. If you could bring three people, fictional or non-fictional, with you to a deserted island, who would you bring and why?
I think right now I would bring Inez and Addy, and Clive (addy's butler) to make the drinks. I would love to get Addy's and Inez's immortal perspective on the world and on life. And when we gt tired og our beach, they could call in some immortal favors and get us out of theire.

Thanks so much for hosting me, Meg. I am so glad that A Bookish Affair chose to be a part of this tour.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

HF Virtual Book Tours: Aphrodite's Choice by Christy English

Title: Aphrodite's Choice
Author: Christy English
Format: Ebook
Publisher: -
Publish Date: May 20, 2016
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, still walks the modern world. No longer thronged by worshipers, Aphrodite heals the bodies and souls of the men she touches, one man, one night, at a time. But not everyone thinks of her as a long-dead myth. Someone is stalking her. The men who have hunted her kind as witches for centuries have passed their hatred on to their sons. "

My Two Cents:

"Aphrodite's Choice" explores what would happen if gods and goddesses still walk the earth. It's the modern day in Boston and gorgeous Aphrodite, goddess of love, still lives and her powers of healing through love are still in tact. Unfortunately, she is not free to go wherever she wants as she is being chased by a group of men who want nothing more than for her to be dead. This book is a cat and mouse game thrown in with some romance that will make you swoon. I really enjoyed this romp and am so glad that this is only the beginning of a brand new series that had me asking "what's next?"

It's not hard to see why the gods and goddesses of the ancient world are still so interesting today to so many. Their legends live on and make for the perfect drama on which to build a fiction on. I really liked that we got to see Aphrodite throughout the ages and not just in ancient or modern times only. We can see how much her life has changed and how much everything in the world has changed around her. 

The characters in the book are great. Addy is such a great character. I loved the detail that the author wove in to bridge the gap between her being a goddess and making her feel like a real, tangible person. Ares, the god of war, who goes by Ari now also makes an appearance. The love between Ari and Addy is one for the ages and I loved reading about it!

The writing of the book is great! English has a knack for creating great dialogue and the love scenes are hot, hot, hot in this book. This is a wholly imaginative book and I am so anxious to see where the rest of the series goes. I wouldn't mind revisiting these same characters in the next books but it would be great to see what English does with a new set of god/ goddess characters as well! This was a fun read!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Review: Bedlam's Door: True Tales of Madness and Hope by Mark Rubinstein

Title: Bedlam's Door: True Tales of Madness and Hope
Author: Mark Rubinstein
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Thunder Lake Press
Publish Date: September 1, 2016 (Yesterday!)
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "Why would a man born in Hungary and living on Manhattan's Lower East Side run down Delancey Street ranting "I'm king of the Puerto Ricans"?

What would compel a physically healthy woman to persuade surgeons to operate on her more than a dozen times?

How was it possible for a man wearing a straitjacket to commit suicide within a locked psychiatric ward while in the company of a well-trained guard?

Though these and the other stories in this volume read like fiction, each is true.

Former practicing psychiatrist Mark Rubinstein opens the door and takes the reader deep into the world of mental illness. From the chaos of a psychiatric emergency room to the bowels of a maximum security prison, the stories range from bizarre to poignant and the people from noble to callously uncaring."

My Two Cents:

"Bedlam's Door" is a non-fiction book that focuses on stories from Mark Rubinstein's career as a psychiatrist. The brain is an amazing thing that does not always act like it should. Rubinstein explores some of the various mental illnesses he has treated through case studies. He has had a long career and the stories seem to span his entire career.

Mental illness is a serious issue that poses a threat to public health. Although the treatment of some mental illnesses have seemed to advance over the years, Rubinstein points out that there is still a long way to go in order to fully understand some mental illnesses and treat them effectively. The case studies in this book from people dealing with severe depression to schizophrenia. 

One of the case studies that pulled me in the most was about a woman who was convinced that there was something wrong with her and got doctors to conduct multiple surgeries on her when there really was not anything wrong. This woman had lost a twin when she was very young and that even had affected her in such a way that it channeled into her perceiving herself to be in massive pain all of the time. I can't imagine going through such a 

The writing of the book was enjoyable. There were some sections of the book that could have been scaled down more as they got very wordy and delved into the telling, rather than showing realm. I liked how the chapters were broken down by case study, which made it very easy to follow the book!

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