Friday, April 28, 2017

Book Lovers and Lovers (that also like books)

In addition to being a book lover, I love data. This has a bit more to do with my day job than my side passion here on A Bookish Affair. It sounds a bit strange to say that  I love data and I love all of the things that a well collected and displayed set of data can tell us.

EHarmony has an interesting infographic on book lovers and lovers that like books.  Check it out!

I thought the linkages between certain books and the amount of communication people received was especially interesting!

Is there anything that surprises you about this infographic?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Author Guest Post: Alyssa Palombo

I am very excited to welcome Alyssa Palombo, author of "The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence" here to A Bookish Affair today!

    When I first set out to write the book that would become The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence, I was in a good position, research wise, as I already knew quite a lot about Renaissance Italy. It is a subject/time period I had read about often over the years, just for my own personal knowledge, because I found it so fascinating. It’s a period of history that is rife with violence and political strife just as much as it is with art and innovation. As well, some of history’s most intriguing figures peopled the era: the Borgia family; women of power like Caterina Sforza and Isabella d’Este; the great masters like Botticelli, Michelangelo, and da Vinci; and ruthless politicians like Niccolo Machiavelli and Lorenzo de’ Medici. Figures such as these, and the events that shaped them and were shaped by them, were already well known to me when I started writing my novel.
    As helpful as this background was, though, I still had a lot of work to do. Unlike in The Violinist of Venice, my first novel, this time my heroine, Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci, was a real-life woman. So, of course, when it came to research I started with her.
    Researching Simonetta proved to be a bit of a frustrating process. Very little is known about her; even her exact year of birth is unknown (in the year in which The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence begins she would have been either fifteen or sixteen; I made her sixteen). We know she married Marco Vespucci (a cousin of Amerigo Vespucci, the explorer who gave his name to the New World) sometime in 1469 (which is where my novel begins), but I could not confirm 100% the location of her wedding. Some sources claimed he married her in Genoa, where she was from, and then brought her to Florence; others claimed that she came to Florence and married him there. It was frustrating to not be able to know such a simple fact for certain, so in the end I just chose the scenario that I liked best and that best fit the story: that she had come to Florence and married him, and that the Medici family hosted their wedding. This may or may not have been what really happened.
    The rest of Simonetta’s life is similarly sketchy. I took the other few facts of her life that I could find – the fact that she and Marco never had children; a joust at which Giuliano de’ Medici, brother of Lorenzo, carried a banner with an image of her that had been painted by Sandro Botticelli; the fact that she was, indeed, hailed as the most beautiful woman in Florence during her lifetime; and the date and manner of her death – and built my story on that framework, along with a few other details, rumors, and anecdotes about her that I found. As I went on with the writing process what I found, though, as that having just these few facts and details could be as freeing as it was frustrating. Since so much was unknown, I could shape her life as I wanted and as best suited the heroine I believed her to be.
    And what’s the best way to find information on obscure historical women? Research the famous men around them, of course. As a result I read a lot about Lorenzo de’ Medici – who is also a character in the novel – and most of the information I did find about Simonetta was in books about Lorenzo or the Medici family in general.
    And, of course, I looked at artwork. Botticelli’s paintings – specifically The Birth of Venus, which depicts Simonetta as Venus – are at the center of this novel, and so I read about the man himself and also spent a lot of time pouring over his gorgeous paintings. In addition to becoming very familiar with the paintings I was writing about, of course, looking at paintings from the period generally was helpful in seeing what clothing and hairstyles people then wore, what buildings and interiors looked like, etc.
    I was fortunate enough to see all of the artwork described in this novel – and some of its settings, like the Medici palace – in person when I went to Florence to do further research. Seeing this artwork and these locations was, of course, invaluable and helped me bring the story to life in a way that just reading about something, I feel, never can. Just as Venice and Vivaldi’s music became characters of their own in The Violinist of Venice, I wanted the same to be true of Florence and Botticelli’s paintings in The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence – and I hope I succeeded!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Review: The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence: A Story of Botticelli by Alyssa Palombo

Title: The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence: A Story of Botticelli
Author: Alyssa Palombo
Format: Paperback
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publish Date: April 25, 2017
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "A girl as beautiful as Simonetta Cattaneo never wants for marriage proposals in 15th Century Italy, but she jumps at the chance to marry Marco Vespucci. Marco is young, handsome and well-educated. Not to mention he is one of the powerful Medici family’s favored circle.

Even before her marriage with Marco is set, Simonetta is swept up into Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici’s glittering circle of politicians, poets, artists, and philosophers. The men of Florence―most notably the rakish Giuliano de’ Medici―become enthralled with her beauty. That she is educated and an ardent reader of poetry makes her more desirable and fashionable still. But it is her acquaintance with a young painter, Sandro Botticelli, which strikes her heart most. Botticelli immediately invites Simonetta, newly proclaimed the most beautiful woman in Florence, to pose for him. As Simonetta learns to navigate her marriage, her place in Florentine society, and the politics of beauty and desire, she and Botticelli develop a passionate intimacy, one that leads to her immortalization in his masterpiece, The Birth of Venus."

My Two Cents:

"The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence" is the story of Simonetta, a woman who men fawn after whenever she walks by. At first she believes she is living a charmed life with a husband who actually adores and loves her and artists like Sandro Botticelli who want to paint her likeness. Looks can be deceiving though as we see in this latest historical fiction offering from Alyssa Palombo. 

You've probably seen pictures of Simonetta. She is the muse for some of Botticelli's most famous paintings. I know I had seen her before but her story as a muse is largely glossed over by Botticelli's talent and renown. I loved how the author was able to take the story of a women who many have seen but few know details about and create a story to introduce us to the person behind the painting. The story does really focus on Simonetta (it is told from her perspective) and not Botticelli. This is one of the great things about historical fiction to me is that it can introduce you to those "behind the scenes."

The writing of the book was good! I loved Palombo's previous book about the famous composer Vivaldi. I didn't like this book quite as much but it is still a very good read. Simonetta has a very real feeling voice and I thought that getting to see the events of the book directly through her eyes was a very effective tool in getting me engaged with the book from the very beginning. This reader can't wait to see what Palombo does next!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Review: Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Title: Slightly South of Simple
Author: Kristy Woodson Harvey
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Gallery
Publish Date: April 25, 2017 (Today!)
Source: Author

What's the Story?:

From "Caroline Murphy swore she’d never set foot back in the small Southern town of Peachtree Bluff; she was a New York girl born and bred and the worst day of her life was when, in the wake of her father’s death, her mother selfishly forced her to move—during her senior year of high school, no less—back to that hick-infested rat trap where she'd spent her childhood summers. But now that her marriage to a New York high society heir has fallen apart in a very public, very embarrassing fashion, a pregnant Caroline decides to escape the gossipmongers with her nine-year-old daughter and head home to her mother, Ansley.

Ansley has always put her three daughters first, especially when she found out that her late husband, despite what he had always promised, left her with next to nothing. Now the proud owner of a charming waterfront design business and finally standing on her own two feet, Ansley welcomes Caroline and her brood back with open arms. But when her second daughter Sloane, whose military husband is overseas, and youngest daughter and successful actress Emerson join the fray, Ansley begins to feel like the piece of herself she had finally found might be slipping from her grasp. Even more discomfiting, when someone from her past reappears in Ansley's life, the secret she’s harbored from her daughters their entire lives might finally be forced into the open."

My Two Cents:

"Slightly South of Simple" is the story of Ansley and her three daughters. During 9/11, Ansley lost her beloved husband and fled to her grandmother's house in Georgia that she inherited with her three daughters. It was a big change from New York City but the solace she found saved her. Her daughters are now grown with families and lives of their own. They are all fleeing back to Georgia after facing crises of their own. Will they be able to find the same solace?

This is the first book in a planned series. The story mainly focuses on Ansley, the mother, and Caroline, the oldest daughter of the Murphy family. The chapters are split between them so we can see both sides and get to know both characters. I instantly warmed up to Ansley. She has seen a lot in her years and she is trying to use her experience to help her daughters whether they want to admit it or not. Ansley is hiding her own secrets that begin to be unraveled throughout the book and only serve to endear her more to the reader.

Caroline was a harder sell for me. She spends the first part of the book being miserable, spoiled, and selfish. Yes, she is going through a very public divorce. Yes, the divorce happened when she was pregnant but she seems to drag herself into being negative at every turn at first. She is obsessed with how she looks even while pregnant and taking care of another daughter (who she seems to want to pass her own sensitivities to at every turn). Eventually we get to see some growth and realization that there is more to life than what life looks like from the outside of everything but it is a hard wrought lesson.

The relationship between mothers and daughters is an amazing relationship but it can be incredibly difficult as we see in this book. I love reading about these relationships and I love that we get to see the action in the story from both mother and daughter.

This is a light read and is perfect for when you're looking for a book with a lot of heart and a great small town setting!


Monday, April 24, 2017

Review: The Horse Dancer by Jojo Moyes

Title: The Horse Dancer 
Author: Jojo Moyes 
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publish Date: April 11, 2017
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "When Sarah's grandfather gives her a beautiful horse named Boo--hoping that one day she'll follow in his footsteps to join an elite French riding school, away from their gritty London neighborhood--she quietly trains in city's parks and alleys. But then her grandfather falls ill, and Sarah must juggle horsemanship with school and hospital visits.
Natasha, a young lawyer, is reeling after her failed marriage: her professional judgment is being questioned, her new boyfriend is a let-down, and she's forced to share her house with her charismatic ex-husband. Yet when the willful fourteen-year-old Sarah lands in her path, Natasha decides to take the girl under her wing. 

But Sarah is keeping a secret--a secret that will change the lives of everyone involved forever."

My Two Cents: 

"The Horse Dancer" is the story of Tash and Mac and their marriage that is falling apart. It's the story of Sarah, a young teenager, whose grandfather gets sick and threatens to rip apart the only thing that has given her life stability: her love of horseback writing. Told with Moyes' signature heart and memorable characters, this book will drag your heart through the mud and leave you with hope and happiness.

I'm not a horse fan but I am an animal lover. I loved the bond that Sarah had with her horse, Boo. Sarah's grandfather has been a masterful rider in his own day and he passed his love of horses on to Sarah. I really liked how committed Sarah was to Boo and everything that she went through in order to continue practice horseback riding and then on top of it, how much she goes through in order to fix things for Boo.

Moyes is a master at taking the difficult and turning into a really heartwarming story. I love how she is able to turn this on its head - this always make for a super satisfying read! There are a few continuity issues throughout the book and it gets a bit predictable towards the end but because of the ending, it is still satisfying.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Historical Novel Society Conference 2017

If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you know that I love historical fiction. I love being a member of the Historical Novel Society, in fact, I've been named Queen of my local chapter, the Chesapeake Bay Chapter

HNS has a conference every year. One year, it's in the United States and the next, it's across the pond in England. Unfortunately England is too far away to travel right now with little kids but I have been to the past two HNS conferences in Denver, CO in 2015 and St. Petersburg, FL in 2013. This year, the conference will be in Portland, OR and I'm going again!

I've never been to Portland before and I am so excited to go! Aside from the conference, I am looking forward to visiting Powell's Books and Voodoo Doughnuts

The conference should be amazing! I will be on a panel with Jenny of Historical Editorial and Let Them Read Books and Sarah of Reading the Past talking about book reviews!

One of the events that I am looking most forward to is Hooch through History: from Mead to Martinis. "Take a look at this description: Hooch through History: from Mead to Martinis will offer a tasting flight across the centuries, from the Middle Ages to the Mad Men era of the Swinging Sixties. On Friday from 5:00-6:30, our spirit-ual guide, food and beverage historian Isobel Carr, will lead us through the whats, whys, and wheres of six different period-accurate beverages. Never tasted absinthe before? Don’t know how it’s prepared? Wonder why it was banned and whether it really is an aphrodisiac? You won’t want to miss this! Participants receive a souvenir absinthe spoon as well" Sounds fun, no?

Who else is going to HNS? What else should I do while I am there?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Review: Schadenfreude, A Love Story by Rebecca Schuman

Title: Schadenfreude, A Love Story
Author: Rebecca Schuman 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publish Date: February 7, 2017
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "You know that feeling you get watching a pompous jerk whine into his cell as he’s booted out of a restaurant? When the elevator doors slide shut just before your sadistic boss can step in beside you? There’s a word for this mix of malice and joy, and the Germans (of course) invented it. It’s Schadenfreude, deriving pleasure from others’ misfortune, and with Slate columnist Rebecca Schuman, the Teutons have a stern, self-satisfied blast at her expense.

Rebecca is just your average chronically misunderstood 90’s teenager, with a passion for Pearl Jam and Ethan Hawke circa Reality Bites, until two men walk into her high school Civics class: Dylan Gellner, with deep brown eyes and an even deeper soul, and Franz Kafka, hitching a ride in Dylan’s backpack. These two men are the axe to the frozen sea that is Rebecca’s spirit, and what flows forth is a passion for all things German (even though, as everyone is quick to remind her, Kafka wasn’t German at all). Dreamy Dylan might leave the second he gets accepted to a better college than Rebecca does, but Kafka is forever, and in pursuit of this elusive love she will spend two decades stuttering and stumbling through broken German sentences, trying to win over a people who don’t want to be bothered."

My Two Cents:

In "Schadenfreude," Rebecca Schuman examines her time as a young person studying abroad in Germany. After being bitten by the language bug and fancying herself a linguistic expert, she goes to Germany where she realizes that she may not be the savant she fancied herself. What ensues is a story of one young woman trying to find her place in the world in a totally different place that she could ever imagine.

Oh, youth! How blind you make us! This book is about the author looking backwards to see how her experience of studying abroad in Germany and studying Germany affected her life and got her to where she is presently. She is initially pushed towards learning German because she falls for a guy in high school who pushes her to read more Kafka than just "The Metamorphosis" and then she decides that she is in love with Kafka (oh, who doesn't remember high school obsessions like that). She realizes how little she knows when she is reminded over and over again that Kafka was not German. 

She paints a picture of someone who doesn't realize that there is anything or anyone outside of herself in the beginning. Slowly her eyes begin to open. She's still naive throughout much of her travels but the past is oh-so-easily viewed in 20/20 vision. The book does get a little repetitive in some places but overall, this was a funny look at an outsider's view of Germany.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Review: Purple Hearts by Tess Wakefield

Title: Purple Hearts
Author: Tess Wakefield
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Atria
Publish Date: April 25, 2017
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Cassie Salazar and Luke Morrow couldn’t be more different. Sharp-witted Cassie works nights at a bar in Austin, Texas to make ends meet while pursuing her dream of becoming a singer/songwriter. Luke is an Army trainee, about to ship out for duty, who finds comfort in the unswerving discipline of service. But a chance encounter at Cassie’s bar changes the course of both their lives

Cassie is drowning in medical bills after being diagnosed with diabetes. When she runs into her old friend Frankie, now enlisted in the Army, she proposes a deal: she’ll marry him in exchange for better medical insurance and they can split the increased paycheck that comes with having a “family.” When Frankie declines, his attractive but frustratingly intense friend Luke volunteers to marry Cassie instead. What she doesn’t know is that he has desperate reasons of his own to get married. In this unforgettable love story, Cassie and Luke must set aside their differences to make it look like a real marriage...unless, somewhere along the way, it becomes one.."

My Two Cents:

In "Purple Hearts," Luke is trying to keep old demons at bay and wants to do something with his life. Cassie is reeling after getting a medical diagnosis that threatens to break her financially. On a whim, they join in an agreement where they'll get married so Cassie can use Luke's health benefits from the military. It's an agreement of convenience. Neither of them can imagine how much more than convenience this arrangement will become.

This book takes a very real situation and turns it into a story that explores the emotional implications of going off to war, coming back home again, and what it is like to be struck with something manageable that threatens your way of life nonetheless. I liked how real the author made this feel. In light of some of the questions in our political system recently, I thought it was interesting how the author gave a face to people who struggle with medical insurance coverage. It certainly made this book feel timely.

I really liked the realistic way that this book was written. The author has a knack for writing conversation. The book is narrated by both Cassie and Luke. I loved getting to see both sides of the story. You get a lot of insight into what makes the characters tick. I loved their relationship. Even though you see the ending coming from far away, because you get to know the characters so well, you are still cheering.

Overall, this is a good, romantic take on some very modern challenges!

Friday, April 14, 2017

TLC Book Tours: Miss You by Kate Eberlen

Title: Miss You
Author: Kate Eberlen
Format: ARC
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publish Date: April 4, 2017
Source: TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins

What's the Story?:

From "Tess and Gus are meant to be. They just haven't met properly yet. And perhaps they never will . . .

Today is the first day of the rest of your life is the motto on a plate in the kitchen at home, and Tess can't get it out of her head, even though she's in Florence for a final, idyllic holiday before university. Her life is about to change forever - but not in the way she expects.

Gus and his parents are also on holiday in Florence. Their lives have already changed suddenly and dramatically. Gus tries to be a dutiful son, but longs to escape and discover what sort of person he is going to be.

For one day, the paths of an eighteen-year-old girl and boy criss-cross before they each return to England.

Over the course of the next sixteen years, life and love will offer them very different challenges. Separated by distance and fate, there's no way the two of them are ever going to meet each other properly . . . or is there?"

My Two Cents:

In "Miss You," Kate Eberlen explores the idea of whether or not there is a person for everyone, a person that matches them so well that any other relationship will pale in comparison. Are our relationships fate or happenstance? We meet Gus and Tess in this book and the readers can see that they would be perfect for each other. They don't know each other and they will spend the entire book crossing paths but not knowing each other. Will true love be found?

I don't necessarily believe in fate when it comes to relationships. I believe that there can be a lot of different combinations in the world that work. Being very happily married to a guy where it feels like we are such a team and we are sooo on the same wavelength, I can easily see how one could believe in fate intervening and leading you to your perfect person. I loved exploring this in this book. I thought that it was really cool how the author shows us both Gus' and Tess' lives and how they keep crossing paths. At first they don't realize that this is happening. I loved that readers got to be in on this secret. It pulled me in a little more!

Throughout the book and Gus and Tess crossing paths over and over again, you find yourself wondering if this will be the time that Gus and Tess realize that they should be together. The author keeps you guessing. I like that love doesn't come easy in this book; it's worth the fight and the main characters realize this and they keep going.

This is the kind of book that you want to get lost in. This is a book for those that believe in the truth that love brings. I loved these characters and would love to see what else Eberlen comes up with!


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Review: A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression by Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe

Title: A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression
Authors: Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Harper
Publish Date: April 16, 2016
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "The decade-long Great Depression, a period of shifts in the country’s political and social landscape, forever changed the way America eats. Before 1929, America’s relationship with food was defined by abundance. But the collapse the economy, in both urban and rural America, left a quarter of all Americans out of work and undernourished—shattering long-held assumptions about the limitlessness of the national larder."

My Two Cents:

"A Square Meal" explores the food and the food culture during the Great Depression in the United States. The Great Depression fundamentally changed the way that Americans thought about and interacted with food. Food was, of course, rationed and individuals didn't have control over what kind of food they got many times. People were expected to do more with less and turn food that may not have been the best into meals for their family.

This book doesn't only explore what kind of food people made but the chain reaction set off by food scarcity. It was the Great Depression that first got the government involved in food relief for its own people. Prior to that, local communities were left to care for their own with what they had. The Great Depression was so wide ranging and hurt communities far and wide that first states started to step in and then the federal government. There were all sorts of logistics that various organizations and levels of government had to grapple with in order to make sure that people were able to get some sort of relief.

In times of food scarcity, you make do with what you get. The book explores a lot of what housewives did in order to stretch their rations. Let's just say that creativity was key! One of my favorite parts of the book was the recipes included and those talked about. There were tons of cookbooks created during this time period in order to cater to the home economist who was charged with feeding and nourishing their family.

In this day and age, I am lucky enough to be able to go to the grocery store, buy whatever I want, cook it, and feed my family. We have tons of choices. This book made me appreciate that so much more! This is a quirky look at an interesting history and it's definitely off the beaten path!


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Review: Beyond the Wild River by Sarah Maine

Title: Beyond the Wild River
Author: Sarah Maine
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Atria Books
Publish Date: April 18, 2017
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?: 

From "Nineteen-year-old Evelyn Ballantyre has rarely strayed from her family’s estate in the Scottish Borderlands, save for the occasional trip to Edinburgh, where her father, a respected magistrate, conducts his business—and affairs of another kind. Evelyn has always done her duty as a daughter, hiding her boredom and resentment behind good manners—so when an innocent friendship with a servant is misinterpreted by her father as an illicit union, Evelyn is appalled.

Yet the consequence is a welcome one: she is to accompany her father on a trip to North America, where they’ll visit New York City, the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, and conclude with a fishing expedition on the Nipigon River in Canada. Now is her chance to escape her cloistered life, see the world, and reconnect with her father.

Once they’re on the Nipigon, however, Evelyn is shocked to discover that their guide is James Douglas, the former stable hand and her one-time friend who disappeared from the estate after the shootings of a poacher and a gamekeeper. Many had assumed that James had been responsible, but Evelyn never could believe it. Now, in the wilds of a new world, far from the constraints of polite society, the truth about that day, James, and her father will be revealed…to stunning consequences."

My Two Cents:

"Beyond the Wild River" is an atmospheric historical fiction tale set in Scotland and then in North America, both the United States and Canada. Our main character Evelyn sees the trip from Scotland to the U.S. and Canada as a way to both have an adventure and show her father that she is mature and can be trusted. This new world will hold secrets to the past that Evelyn could have never expected.

I was attracted to this book because of the mention of the World's Fair in Chicago. I am so intrigued by the World's Fair and was interested in how the author would portray it and whether or not it would echo anything else that I have read. The author certainly adds a lot of detail to this story. The detail sometimes took away from the story itself but most of the detail was quite interesting. I especially liked the rich description of the Canadian wilderness, a relatively new setting for me.

It took me a very long time to get into the story. Evelyn seems very young in the beginning of the book and naive to the point of feeling younger than her 19 years. I think this is one reason I had a hard time getting into the story. I thought that there were a handful of scenes in the beginning of the book that could have been streamlined in order to capture the reader's attention faster.

Overall, I liked the setting of the book but wished for more fast paced action.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Review: The Widow of Wall Street by Randy Susan Meyers

Title: The Widow of Wall Street
Author: Randy Susan Meyers 
Format: ARC
Publisher: Atria Books
Publish Date: April 11, 2017 (Today!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Phoebe sees the fire in Jake Pierce’s belly from the moment they meet as teenagers in Brooklyn. Eventually he creates a financial dynasty and she trusts him without hesitation—unaware his hunger for success hides a dark talent for deception.

When Phoebe learns—along with the rest of the world—that her husband’s triumphs are the result of an elaborate Ponzi scheme her world unravels. Lies underpin her life and marriage. As Jake’s crime is uncovered, the world obsesses about Phoebe. Did she know her life was fabricated by fraud? Did she partner with her husband in hustling billions from pensioners, charities, and CEOs? Was she his accomplice in stealing from their family and neighbors?

Debate rages as to whether love and loyalty blinded her to his crimes or if she chose to live in denial. While Jake is trapped in the web of his own deceit, Phoebe is faced with an unbearable choice. Her children refuse to see her if she remains at their father’s side, but abandoning Jake, a man she’s known since childhood, feels cruel and impossible."

My Two Cents:

"The Widow of Wall Street" is the story of Phoebe, a woman married to one of the major players on Wall Street. She and Jake grew up together and she knew him well before the trappings of wealth surrounded them. Now Jake is in jail for defrauding many of his and Phoebe's friends, family, and others that they do not know of their savings in a Ponzi scheme that will shake their whole world down. Their marriage starts with a lie but eventually they carve out a fairly happy existence, at least one that feels fairly happy to Phoebe. She never questions the wealth and reaps the benefits of it. This book explores if she was really complicit, ignorant, or truly unknowing.

In this ripped-from-the-headlines story, we really get to know Phoebe. She was such a well-written character. She is very three dimensional character. She definitely isn't perfect. Although she came from humble beginnings, she shows us how easy it is to get used to luxury and to think nothing of dropping a few grand on a pair of shoes. She doesn't even realize that she's doing it and while it rubbed me the wrong way, you can easily see how that could happen. 

Watching the news in the past couple years, I know that I have wondered a lot about the people who commit these grave financial crimes and their family. Specifically with regard to the family: could they really not see what their family member was doing. How did they feel about the crime? Would they stand by their family member? This book explores all of these topics and more. The author does a good job of making all of the complicated thoughts and feelings that someone in that situation would go through. This book really allows you to step into the shoes of someone whose life you could only ponder about. 

This is a good book and made me feel ways that I did not think this subject matter would make me feel. I love when authors are able to take things that you wonder about and turn in on its head. This book does that and it does it well!

Out of Print Celebrates National Library Week!

I know there are a lot of ways to get books but going to the library still happens to be my favorite way to get my hands on a good book. There is nothing like combing the shelves and finding something that has been on your endless TBR for oh-so-long!

Purveyor of bookish clothing, Out of Print, is celebrating National Library Week with a special collaboration!

Details: "When in Doubt Go To the Library" House Cup - our best-selling collaboration with the Harry Potter Alliance now available in 4 limited edition Hogwarts House colors. Preorders begin on April 11th and end on April 16th. 10% of sales of all "When in Doubt" products will be donated to Words Alive -

When In Doubt house colors t-shirt

Which one would you choose?

Monday, April 10, 2017

TLC Book Tours: Concepcion and the Baby Brokers by Deborah Clearman

Title: Concepcion and the Baby Brokers
Author: Deborah Clearman 
Publisher: Rain Mountain Press
Publish Date: March 30, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "In nine interconnected stories set largely in Guatemala, CONCEPCION AND THE BABY BROKERS brings to life characters struggling with familiar emotions and dilemmas in a place unfamiliar to most Americans. From the close-knit community of Todos Santos to the teeming dangerous capital city, to a meat-packing plant in Michigan and the gardens of Washington DC, Deborah Clearman shows us the human cost of international adoption, drug trafficking, and immigration. "A Cup of Tears," the opening novella, reveals a third-world baby farm, seen through the eyes of a desperate wet nurse, a baby broker, and an American adoptive mother. In "The Race" a young man returns to his native village to ride in a disastrous horse race. "English Lessons" tells of a Guatemalan immigrant in Washington DC who learns more than English from a public library volunteer. A teenage girl tries to trap her professor into marriage in "Saints and Sinners." "

My Two Cents:

"Concepcion and the Baby Brokers" is a collection of stories set in either Guatemala or in the United States surrounding immigrants from Guatemala. This book sheds light on some pretty big topics. I have always been interested in Central and South America. One of my minors was International Studies with a focus on Latin America. There are only certain topics from that region that seem to get a lot of focus in the United States. There are other topics that never seem to get any focus at all. I liked that this book focused on some of those topics.

About half of the book is devoted to the title story, which ended up being my favorite story. In this story, the author explores the issue of Guatemala adoptions. There are many children who are indeed looking for homes and need to be adopted. However, market forces can interfere and where there is a higher demand than supply, there are people who will do what ever it takes to get children. I had no idea about this practice before reading this book. I cannot imagine having my child stolen and whisked away to another country. I have to imagine that it is difficult to find a lost child in your own country but then to try to find them in a country other than you own brings a myriad of additional complications. 

I really liked how the author was able to show this plight from many different perspectives. We see it from Concepcion, a troubled, young woman who is charged with taking care of little twins but doesn't hold up her end of the bargain. We see the devastation of the parents who lost their child. We see the sneakiness of people who will do anything just to make a buck. We also get to see the potential adoptive parents.  It was fascinating to see the issue from all sides.

The other stories in the book were okay. The author focuses on different aspects of many different walks of life and I enjoyed the variety. In general, the writing was good but in some parts, a little stiff. Each story has a point and/ or lesson that often felt hammered home too much and took me out of the story. Overall, I appreciated the different perspectives that this book holds.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Cover Reveal: The Woman in the Shadows by Carol McGrath

I am so excited to be a part of "The Woman in the Shadows" cover reveal.

Gorgeous, no?

The powerful, evocative new novel by the critically acclaimed author of The Handfasted Wife, The Woman in the Shadows presents the rise of Thomas Cromwell, Tudor England's most powerful statesman, through the eyes of his wife Elizabeth.
When beautiful cloth merchant’s daughter Elizabeth Williams is widowed at the age of twenty-two, she is determined to make herself a success in the business she has learned from her father. But there are those who oppose a woman making her own way in the world, and soon Elizabeth realises she may have some powerful enemies – enemies who also know the truth about her late husband.
Security – and happiness – comes when Elizabeth is introduced to kindly, ambitious merchant turned lawyer, Thomas Cromwell. Their marriage is one based on mutual love and respect…but it isn’t always easy being the wife of an influential, headstrong man in Henry VIII’s London. The city is filled with ruthless people and strange delights – and Elizabeth realises she must adjust to the life she has chosen…or risk losing everything.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Excerpt and Giveaway: Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay

Title: Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay
Author: Jill Mansell
Pub Date: May 2, 2017

International bestseller Jill Mansell weaves a heartwarming tale of love, family and friendship in her latest novel

1. A brief encounter that could have become so much more…if only everything were different
2. Step-sisters, bitter rivals in every area except one—by unbreakable pact neither will ever steal a man from the other
3. A love triangle that starts out as a mess of secrets and mix-ups, and only gets worse from there

Friendship, family ties, crossed wires and self-discovery, second chances and first impressions

Welcome to Jill Mansell’s blustery seaside world. Once you step inside, you’ll never want to leave!

With over 10 million copies sold, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Mansell writes irresistible and funny, poignant and romantic tales for women in the tradition of Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella and Jojo Moyes. She lives with her partner and their children in Bristol, England.

Jill Mansell book bundle and a British summer tumbler 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

It had happened just before they’d turned eighteen. After almost two years of living together in the prickly way of two teenagers who would far rather not be under the same roof, Belle had acquired a private-school boyfriend called Giles, who’d come to spend a few days with them at Polrennick House the week before Christmas. Typically loud and confident, he’d made a joke one evening about being fought over by the two sisters. The next morning, Clemency had overheard him making a snide comment about her mum having won the lotto jackpot when she’d hooked up with Belle’s father. Later, when she confronted him about it while Belle was upstairs in the shower, Giles had smirked and suggested she was protesting too much. Then, on the last day of his stay, aware of her simmering dislike of him and purely for his own entertainment, he told Belle that her stepsister had made a pass at him.
Belle, believing Giles rather than Clemency, had hit the roof. Clemency, outraged at having been accused of something she hadn’t done, had been incandescent with fury, firstly at not being believed, and secondly because there was no way in the world she’d ever make a pass at the spiteful chinless rat-weasel that was Vile Giles.
Giles had left, but the insult hurling between the two volatile sisters had ricocheted on, and Clemency’s mum and Belle’s dad had been forced to intervene to prevent the upcoming Christmas celebrations being completely ruined. On the surface, at least, a precarious truce had been called.
Two months later, Clemency had begun seeing Pierre, a nineteen-year-old surf instructor who lived in Bude. Pierre was tall and rangy, with sea-green eyes and tangled blond hair. He was a beautiful specimen, confident and funny. A little bit wild, but charming too, he had won Clemency over completely. She’d been smitten, more so than ever before, and the thought of seeing him brightened each day.
Then, at Easter, she went up to Manchester for a week to stay with a friend who’d moved there from Cornwall the previous year. And when she returned, it wasn’t quite the happy homecoming she’d anticipated.
The absence of cars in the driveway had told her that Baz and her mum were both out. Hearing music coming from the first floor, Clemency had made her way up the staircase. When she knocked on Belle’s bedroom door, Belle opened it and said, “Oh, it’s you.” Then, with a little smirk, she allowed the door to swing wide open and added, “Oh dear.”
Except there was no Oh dear about it, because she’d known which train Clemency had been catching and exactly what time she’d be back.
In one way, you almost had to admire her exemplary planning skills, because ensuring that Clemency would be home to see Pierre asleep and sprawled across Belle’s king-size bed in just boxer shorts couldn’t have been easy.
“Why?” Clemency looked at Belle, who was fastening the belt of her green silk robe around her narrow waist. “Why would you do this?”
“Ooh, I don’t know. Maybe because I can?” With an air of triumph, Belle added, “And because it was so easy. And because now you know how it feels.”
Across the room, Pierre’s eyes snapped open and focused on the two sisters. “Oh shit.”
“Hi, honey.” Clemency addressed him with ice in her voice. “I’m home.”
On the outside she might appear cool, but inside her heart felt as though it was disintegrating like a cookie dropped in hot tea.
Pierre said, “Look, it was an accident…”
But Clemency was already shaking her head. “I think you’ll find it was deliberate.” She turned back to Belle. “Do you really like him?”
“He’s got a great body.” Belle shrugged. “We’ve had fun. But he’s not my type.”
“What?” Shocked, Pierre said, “Why not? What’s wrong with me?”
“Seriously?” Clemency counted the reasons on her fingers. “You didn’t have a private-school education, your parents aren’t super wealthy, you ride a moped…”
“So the last week hasn’t meant anything to you?” Pierre stared at Belle in disbelief.
“Well, it meant I got to teach my stepsister a lesson she won’t forget in a hurry. So I’d say that makes it worthwhile.” Belle turned to Clemency. “You can have him back now,” she said flippantly.
“You must be joking. I wouldn’t touch him with a bargepole. I never want to see him again.” By some miracle, Clemency managed to hold herself together, though her voice was perilously close to cracking with emotion. “I wish I never had to see either of you again. God, you deserve each other. The pair of you are just…repulsive.”
“Are we? Are we?” Belle’s eyes were glittering. “Serves you right for making a pass at Giles!” 
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