Tuesday, June 19, 2018

CATASTROPHE!!! (Or why I'm not answering your emails)

Well, it's safe to say that A Bookish Affair will be on hiatus for a little bit. We had a tree come down on our house. We were not home at the time and we were able to get our cats out so all the living things are just fine. The house is pretty damaged but the house is just a thing. We feel very lucky!

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Review: The Mermaid by Christina Henry

Title: The Mermaid
Author: Christina Henry
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: June 19, 2018 (Today!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Once there was a mermaid who longed to know of more than her ocean home and her people. One day a fisherman trapped her in his net but couldn't bear to keep her. But his eyes were lonely and caught her more surely than the net, and so she evoked a magic that allowed her to walk upon the shore. The mermaid, Amelia, became his wife, and they lived on a cliff above the ocean for ever so many years, until one day the fisherman rowed out to sea and did not return.

P. T. Barnum was looking for marvelous attractions for his American Museum, and he'd heard a rumor of a mermaid who lived on a cliff by the sea. He wanted to make his fortune, and an attraction like Amelia was just the ticket.

Amelia agreed to play the mermaid for Barnum, and she believes she can leave any time she likes. But Barnum has never given up a money-making scheme in his life, and he's determined to hold on to his mermaid."

My Two Cents:

Once upon a time, a mermaid left the sea behind to become a woman. She fell in love with a human and as he grew older, she stayed forever the same age. Eventually he passed away and Amelia the mermaid had to find a new life. Enter P.T. Barnum, circus master and master manipulator, who promises Amelia a living in exchange for dignity. Will Amelia ever be able to get back to making it on her own?

What initially drew me to this book was P.T. Barnum. He's the kind of guy that you love to hate. Exploitative, conniving, lying - there isn't much to recommend him! This book definitely shows that. He's pretty terrible to Amelia but I loved how Amelia is able to give it right back to him, often times without even saying a word. We get an inside perspective of how driven-at-any-cost P.T. Barnum is and while he isn't a great person, he's a fascinating one to read about.

And then the mermaids! We are obsessed with mermaids in my house and even as an adult, I still love the idea of mermaids. I loved how Amelia wasn't portrayed as simply a half woman, half fish but something more fantastical. I loved how the author put a lot of the legends of mermaids into this book. This is a great book for those that love some fantasy with their historical fiction!

Oh, and I have to mention the love story between Amelia and Levi, P.T. Barnum's (much nicer, much kinder) right hand man. At first, it seems like perhaps Amelia is drawn to Levi because he can protect her from P.T. Barnum's worse ideas but it becomes clear that they really love each other. This eventually results in one of the happiest endings that I have read in a long time!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Review: Pax by Sara Pennypacker

Title: Pax
Author: Sara Pennypacker
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Publish Date: February 2, 2016
Source: Borrowed

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Pax was only a kit when his family was killed, and “his boy” Peter rescued him from abandonment and certain death. Now the war front approaches, and when Peter’s father enlists, Peter has to move in with his grandpa. Far worse than being forced to leave home is the fact that Pax can’t go. Peter listens to his stern father—as he usually does—and throws Pax’s favorite toy soldier into the woods. When the fox runs to retrieve it, Peter and his dad get back in the car and leave him there—alone. But before Peter makes it through even one night under his grandfather’s roof, regret and duty spur him to action; he packs for a trek to get his best friend back and sneaks into the night. This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their independent struggles to return to one another against all odds."

My Two Cents:

"Pax" is the story of a young boy, Peter, and his pet fox, Pax. They live in a world at war and Peter's father is caught up in the middle of it. He tells Peter that he needs to release the fox before he goes to war. Peter does so very grudgingly but quickly realizes that he doesn't think he can live without Pax so he goes on a journey that will force him to grow and change his perspective.

This is a bildungsroman in every sense of the word. Peter has a very different understanding of the world when the book first opens. He is aware of the love he feels for Pax. Pax is aware of the love that Peter feels for him and is confused about why he is put out into the world. Peter's sadness is mostly focused on himself but as he goes through the book, he realizes that there are many things outside of his control that are much bigger than himself.

This book is filled with a lot of messages and I like that the author never seems to talk down to her readers - this is especially important in books geared for middle grade readers. There are the messages about how terrible war is and how devastating it can be. I did find myself wanting to know more about what the war was over but perhaps that was author's message: no matter what the war is about, it is still devastating. And then there is the message about letting something go and if it comes back to you, it's yours. If it doesn't, it was never yours in the first place.

Overall, I enjoyed this book even if the ending was not what I wanted it to be. Things are not always the way we want them to be.


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Review: Little Big Love by Katy Regan

Title: Little Big Love
Author: Katy Regan
Format: ARC
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: June 5, 2018
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "About a Boy meets Parenthood in this smart, big-hearted love story about a family for whom everything changed one night, a decade ago, and the young boy who unites them all.

Told through the eyes of Zac, Juliet, and grandfather Mick, Little Big Love is a layered, heartfelt, utterly satisfying story about family, love, and the secrets that can define who we are."

My Two Cents:

"Little Big Love" is a story about Zac, an overweight boy who dreams of having a father; Juliet, Zac's mother who goes from one disastrous relationship to another; and Mick, Juliet's father and Zac's grandfather who is hiding secrets of his own that affect both Juliet and Zac. Families can be full of love or they can be messy or they can be both. This family has both love and messiness in spades. This is a heartwarming book!

This book started a little slowly for me but I am glad I stuck with it because when it hits its stride, it really hits it stride and becomes a lovely rumination on how the secrets we think it's safer to keep really should be out in the open.

Zac was definitely my favorite character in this book. He is terribly precocious and all he wants is to know who his dad is, a secret that his mother has refused to tell him. So he decides to find out on his own with the help of his best friend Teagan. Meanwhile, he is being teased and bullied mercilessly by other kids at school. Will he fold or remain resilient? I loved watching him throughout this book on his journey. The tale of his father takes a lot of twists and turns that I didn't see coming, which kept the book moving well.

Overall, this was a great story!


Monday, June 11, 2018

TLC Book Tours Review: Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson

Title: Matchmaking for Beginners
Author: Maddie Dawson 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publish Date: June 1, 2018
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

Marnie MacGraw wants an ordinary life—a husband, kids, and a minivan in the suburbs. Now that she’s marrying the man of her dreams, she’s sure this is the life she’ll get. Then Marnie meets Blix Holliday, her fiancé’s irascible matchmaking great-aunt who’s dying, and everything changes—just as Blix told her it would.

When her marriage ends after two miserable weeks, Marnie is understandably shocked. She’s even more astonished to find that she’s inherited Blix’s Brooklyn brownstone along with all of Blix’s unfinished “projects”: the heartbroken, oddball friends and neighbors running from happiness. Marnie doesn’t believe she’s anything special, but Blix somehow knew she was the perfect person to follow in her matchmaker footsteps.

And Blix was also right about some things Marnie must learn the hard way: love is hard to recognize, and the ones who push love away often are the ones who need it most.

My Two Cents:

In "Matchmaking for Beginners," Marnie thinks she finally has her life figured out after a traumatic heartbreak, which includes getting divorced very shortly after marriage. Now she's back in her hometown and back in what she thinks is love with her childhood sweetheart. After her ex's great aunt Blix dies, Marnie's life is thrown into upheaval again. Blix leaves Marnie her brownstone in Brooklyn, New York. Will Marnie leave her old life behind for the promise of the unexpected?

Are you looking for a book that feels like a warm hug from a friend? This is the book for you. I loved this one. I always wonder about what it might be like if my life hadn't taken the path that it has taken. What if I made a different decision at some point that changed everything? Marnie tussles with this idea through this book. Blix's will throws everything Marnie thinks she wants into question. She realizes that she's just settling for the idea of suburban life rather than going after what she really wants but it takes Blix shaking her up in order to realize that.

The characters are what really sold me on this book. I loved Marnie. She's a mess and kind of fumbles through a lot of her life while trying to move forward. Blix is such a great character. She is self-assured and isn't afraid to do what makes her happy. She tries to sell that idea to everyone she meets. Then all of the secondary characters are great. Blix's brownstone comes with a cast of characters that will all make their imprint on Marnie. And I have to mention Patrick, oh, Patrick. He's wonderful and fits Marnie like a glove.

The other element of this book that I loved is the magical realism piece. Blix is a matchmaker who can just "see" who is meant to be together. Marnie shares this gift. I loved how this was woven throughout the book. It was perfect!

TLC Book Tours: All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother by Danielle Teller

Title: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother
Author: Danielle Teller 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: May 22, 2018
Source: TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "We all know the story of Cinderella. Or do we?

As rumors about the cruel upbringing of beautiful newlywed Princess Cinderella roil the kingdom, her stepmother, Agnes, who knows all too well about hardship, privately records the true story. . . .

A peasant born into serfdom, Agnes is separated from her family and forced into servitude as a laundress’s apprentice when she is only ten years old. Using her wits and ingenuity, she escapes her tyrannical matron and makes her way toward a hopeful future. When teenaged Agnes is seduced by an older man and becomes pregnant, she is transformed by love for her child. Once again left penniless, Agnes has no choice but to return to servitude at the manor she thought she had left behind. Her new position is nursemaid to Ella, an otherworldly infant. She struggles to love the child who in time becomes her stepdaughter and, eventually, the celebrated princess who embodies everyone’s unattainable fantasies. The story of their relationship reveals that nothing is what it seems, that beauty is not always desirable, and that love can take on many guises."

My Two Cents:

"All the Ever Afters" turns the story of Cinderella's evil stepmother on its head. What if she, Agnes, wasn't really evil? What if she was just the victim of being misunderstood and over taken by rumors that got more than a little out of control? Reading like historical fiction more than fantasy or any other genre, this book gives us more insight into a beloved fairy tale.

This story doesn't just focus on Agnes' interactions with Ella but it gives the story of the beginning of her life and her rise from a servant girl to catching the eye of a wealthy man who will change her life. In its own way, Agnes' story feels like a fairy tale. We see how the events of her early life shape who she is later on.

I really liked that the author chose to give a historical fiction feel to the book. Not only is HistFic my favorite genre but I liked that the author chose to give it a little more realistic point of view than your typical fairy tale. I thought that this also lent to the idea that Agnes' reputation was caused by a bunch of rumors and misunderstandings. In this book, Princess Ella has a sort of magical quality about her but Agnes' retelling seeks to show that even the most beautiful things can be skewed by misunderstandings.

The narrative does get a little bogged down in explaining in some parts but overall, this was a great take on a beloved, well-known story!


Thursday, June 7, 2018

Review: On to Angola: Race to Freedom by Sharman Burson Ramsey

Title: On to Angola: Race to Freedom 
Author: Sharman Burson Ramsey
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Create Space
Publish Date: February 4, 2018
Source: Author

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: ""Towards the end of the month of April last, some men of influence and fortune, residing somewhere in the western country, thought of making a speculation in order to obtain Slaves for a trifle. They hired Charles Miller, William Weatherford [and others], and under these chiefs, were engaged about two hundred Cowetas Indians. They were ordered to proceed along the western coast of East Florida, southerly, and there take, in the name of the United States, and make prisoners of all the men of colour, including women and children, they would be able to find, and bring them all, well secured, to a certain place, which has been kept a secret." "Advice to Southern Planters" in Charleston City Gazette. This novel, historical fiction, reunites twins Cato and Andro, ripped apart at birth, one raised as a slave, the other as the adopted son of a Duke. Their quest to find their mother leads to a race against the Coweta raiders. They deal with slavers, unscrupulous English men, pirates, and the untamed frontier. In this adventure they join Red Stick survivors of the Creek and First Seminole War in a joint race for survival."

My Two Cents:

"On to Angola" is an exciting tale of twins Andro and Cato as they try to find their family without getting separated once again. This is the third book in Ramsey's Creek Indian Family Saga but this book very much works as a standalone book and so you can dive right in to Ramsey's world of Native Americans, slaves, chases, and raids.

Being a twin mama, I loved the story of Andro and Cato. The fact that these twins were separated really tugged on my heartstrings and made it sweeter to see them reunited and on a mission to find the rest of their family. One was a slave, the other led a fairly privileged life as the son of a Duke. You see markers of their very different lives throughout the book but they still have a lot of similarities and the same will to survive in what proves to be a very dangerous world.

This book is action packed and nicely paced. I loved following the twins' adventures as they try to survive and outrun everyone that seems to be after them. You are rooting for them the whole way and I loved the way that Ramsey was able to show just how high the stakes were so that you root for the twins even more.

Another part that I loved about this book is all of the historical detail that is not only included throughout the narrative itself but both in the foreword and afterword included in the book. It is clear how much research that Ramsey did. Because this book is so high action, the detail never seems to bog down the narrative. I loved getting a taste of Ramsey's research process and the story behind the story!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Review: Side by Side by Jenni L. Walsh

Title: Side by Side
Author: Jenni L. Walsh
Format: ARC
Publisher: Forge
Publish Date: June 5, 2018 (Today!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Texas: 1931. It’s the height of the Great Depression, and Bonnie is miles from Clyde. He’s locked up, and she’s left waiting, their dreams of a life together dwindling every day.

When Clyde returns from prison damaged and distant, unable to keep a job, and dogged by the cops, Bonnie knows the law will soon come for him. But there’s only one road forward for her.

If the world won't give them their American Dream, they'll just have to take it."

My Two Cents:

In "Side by Side," Jenni L. Walsh dives into the story that we are all probably more familiar with when it comes to "Bonnie and Clyde." Two young lovers who captivated the country with their crimes of robbing banks and shaking up towns all over the country. They kept law enforcement on their toes before dying in an ambush. As Walsh breathes life into the story, it gets a little more complex. This is a great historical fiction ride that will keep you on the edge of your seat, no matter if you know how it ends or not.

This is the second book in Walsh's duology and while you don't need to have read "Becoming Bonnie" in order to enjoy "Side by Side," it's so interesting to see how Bonnie got to where she is in "Side by Side" that I highly suggest reading the first book first. In this book, we see Bonnie as she is about to go down in infamy. She is still the same girl that dreams of a farm and a white picket fence and she sees the hijinks and crimes that she is involved in as a means to an end. She doesn't like what she and the Barrow Gang are doing but she loves Clyde and will follow him anywhere and do anything for him.

I loved the historical detail in the book. It is easy to see that while who Bonnie and Clyde were as people is largely lost to history, why there is still so much fascination about their crimes. The country was riveted as the crimes were happening and about the hide and seek game that followed. Even with so much else going on in the country at the time, Bonnie and Clyde made headlines over and over again.

The book is well-written. I especially liked how the dialogue was written. Walsh has a great hand for writing realistic sounding dialogue with so much of the fun slang from the era. It really helped bring me into the book. The book is nicely paced and very exciting as Bonnie and Clyde's cat and mouse game with the police transpires!


Monday, June 4, 2018

Review: Becoming Bonnie by Jenni L. Walsh

Title: Becoming Bonnie
Author: Jenni L. Walsh
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Forge Books
Publish Date: May 9, 2017
Source: Owned

What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "The summer of 1927 might be the height of the Roaring Twenties, but Bonnelyn Parker is more likely to belt out a church hymn than sling drinks at an illicit juice joint. She’s a sharp girl with plans to overcome her family's poverty, provide for herself, and maybe someday marry her boyfriend, Roy Thornton. But when Roy springs a proposal on her and financial woes jeopardize her ambitions, Bonnelyn finds salvation in an unlikely place: Dallas's newest speakeasy, Doc’s.

Living the life of a moll at night, Bonnie remains a wholesome girl by day, engaged to Roy, attending school and working toward a steady future. When Roy discovers her secret life, and embraces it—perhaps too much, especially when it comes to booze and gambling—Bonnie tries to make the pieces fit. Maybe she can have it all: the American Dream, the husband, and the intoxicating allure of jazz music. What she doesn't know is that her life—like her country—is headed for a crash.

She’s about to meet Clyde Barrow."

My Two Cents:

"Becoming Bonnie" is the story of Bonnelyn Parker, who would become one half of the famous crime duo Bonnie and Clyde. This book explores how Bonnie went from a sweet, innocent, church going girl who married early and had dreams of being a teacher and having a white picket fence with her childhood love to becoming part the Barrow Gang. At first, I was surprised that the book focuses so much on Bonnie and we really don't get to meet Clyde until we're well into the book. But as it turns out, Bonnie is a pretty interesting character in her own right and well-deserving of the focus.

I really did not know much about Bonnie outside of the whole idea of Bonnie and Clyde. I liked getting to know her as an individual. We see how she just wants to be loved and how she puts the idea of loyalty above almost anything else even before she meets Clyde. I love how Walsh gives a chance to get to know Bonnie before Clyde. I am reading this book just before "Side by Side," which goes into the story that everyone is more familiar with: Bonnie and Clyde's crime spree.

In real life, not much is known about Bonnie before she met Clyde. Walsh brings to life this unknown world where Bonnie has a loving family that is going through a really difficult time. Bonnie wants to make things better for them in any way she can even if it means not following her own heart. I really enjoyed getting to know her and to see her when she first met Clyde. This was such a good introduction to someone who has had a lot of the details of her life lost to history!


Friday, June 1, 2018

2018 Reading Challenge May Progress

As a reminder, I'm doing two challenges this year: The PopSugar Ultimate Reading Challenge and My Friends' Favorite Books Challenge.

So I've fallen a little behind in my reading. I have been traveling a lot recently (two new countries in May: Ecuador and Haiti) and then I leave again for travel on Monday. I love traveling but I am looking forward to being on the ground for a little bit longer. As far as the challenges go, I'm still working towards my goal and it's looking good!

Interested in what I've read? Check out my tracker!
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