Monday, August 31, 2020

TLC Book Tours Review: The Nature of Nature: Why We Need the Wild by Enric Sala

 Title: The Nature of Nature: Why We Need the Wild 

Author: Enric Sala

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: National Geographic

Publish Date: August 25, 2020

Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "Enric Sala wants to change the world--and in this compelling book, he shows us how. Once we appreciate how nature works, he asserts, we will understand why conservation is economically wise and essential to our survival. 

Here Sala, director of National Geographic's Pristine Seas project (which has succeeded in protecting more than 5 million sq km of ocean), tells the story of his scientific awakening and his transition from academia to activism--as he puts it, he was tired of writing the obituary of the ocean. His revelations are surprising, sometimes counterintuitive: More sharks signal a healthier ocean; crop diversity, not intensive monoculture farming, is the key to feeding the planet.

Using fascinating examples from his expeditions and those of other scientists, Sala shows the economic wisdom of making room for nature, even as the population becomes more urbanized. In a sober epilogue, he shows how saving nature can save us all, by reversing conditions that led to the coronavirus pandemic and preventing other global catastrophes. With a foreword from Prince Charles and an introduction from E. O. Wilson, this powerful book will change the way you think about our world--and our future."

My Two Cents:

An alternate title for Enric Sala's "The Nature of Nature" is "Everything is Connected." As he states in his book, it is so very important to look at the world as one ecosystem full of obvious connections and much less obvious connections. The ecosystem is deserving of protection. It is also so very important to continue to value science and push science forward for better understanding of our environment and the effects of how we live our lives has on the world.

This book is filled with fascinating stories from Sala's own work experience as well as accounts of experiments that show just how interrelated everything is. Written in a way that excited my interest enough to read further about some of the things he talks about in this book, this book has the power to ignite curiosity and determination in protecting our world.

Shortly before this book was printed, COVID-19 started making its way around the globe. Recognizing that this zoonotic disease represented a great example of why it is so important to take care of our world and ensure resilience, he and the publisher pulled the book back to write one more chapter on COVID-19 and everything we know so far. It was fascinating (and a bit jarring) to read about this thing that we are very much still facing and some of the lessons that I have already come from it in a very short amount of time!

This was a fascinating read that left me ruminating how much work has been done as well as how much work there is still to do! 


Thursday, August 27, 2020

Cover Reveal: The Social Graces by Renee Rosen

 I am so excited to show you the gorgeous new cover for "The Social Graces" by Renee Rosen! I have loved her other books and am so excited for this one!

Book details:  

THE SOCIAL GRACES by Renee Rosen (Berkley trade paperback; on-sale April 20, 2021)

Pre-order link: 

What's the Story?:

Renee Rosen, bestselling author of Park Avenue Summer, delivers readers a peek behind the curtain at one of the most remarkable feuds in history: Mrs. Vanderbilt and Mrs. Astor's notorious battle for control of New York society during the Gilded Age.

In the glittering world of Manhattan's upper crust, where wives turn a blind eye to husbands' infidelities, and women have few rights and even less independence, society is everything. The more celebrated the hostess, the more powerful the woman. And none is more powerful than Caroline Astor--the Mrs. Astor.

But times are changing.

Alva Vanderbilt has recently married into one of America's richest families. But what good is money when society refuses to acknowledge you? When it carries on just as it has done for generations? Alva, who knows what it is to have nothing, will do whatever it takes to have everything.

Sweeping three decades and based on true events, this gripping novel follows these two women as they try to outdo and outsmart each other at every turn. As Caroline comes closer to defeat and Alva closer to victory, both will make surprising discoveries about themselves and what's truly at stake.

 Q&A with Renee Rosen:

What inspired you to write THE SOCIAL GRACES?

THE SOCIAL GRACES is the story of Alva Vanderbilt and Caroline Astor vying for control of New York society during the Gilded Age.  That’s my elevator pitch, but it’s also the story of mothers and daughters, of sisters, of husbands and wives, of class and examining one’s shifting values. 

In terms of inspiration, it was more of a “who” rather than a “what”. I was brainstorming on new book concepts and my agent mentioned Consuelo Vanderbilt. Right after that, my editor suggested doing something in the Gilded Age. So really it was the two of them who inspired me, and after some preliminary research on New York in that time period, it was obvious that the rivalry between Mrs. Astor and Alva Vanderbilt had the makings of a really interesting novel.

Tell us about what it was like to write the feuding Mrs. Astor and Mrs. Vanderbilt, two of America’s wealthiest and most powerful women. Did you relate more to Mrs. Astor, or Mrs. Vanderbilt?

Bringing Caroline Astor and Alva Vanderbilt to life on the page was far more challenging than I had anticipated.  When I first started working on the novel, I looked at my cast of characters and realized I had a group of rather unlikable people. On the surface, they came across as spoiled, entitled, greedy and superficial. I knew that if I wanted to engage the reader, I was going to have to really drill down to find the humanity in these people and find a reason for us to root for them. Once I started to see Alva and Caroline as wives, mothers and daughters themselves, they started to come alive for me. I found myself able to relate to both of them in different ways and for different reasons. I related to Caroline reaching the prime of her life and worried that her youth and significance were slipping away. With Alva I related to her passion, her drive, her unconventional spirit.  In the end, I’m happy to say that I found them both women to be fascinating and bewildering characters to work with.

Did you discover anything in your research that surprised you?

I was really surprised by how understated the knickerbockers (the old money) were early on, before the nouveau riche began exerting their influence. For example, Caroline Astor and other society matrons of her ilk found those wonderful Worth gowns to be very gauche and pretentious. They never wore them and instead favored more plain gowns. The knickerbockers lived in very refined, nearly identical townhouses. It wasn’t until Alva Vanderbilt embarked on her architectural masterpieces (such as Petit Chateau and Marble House) that the rest of society began trying to out-build one another with their palatial mansions. The same goes for their extravagant entertaining. It wasn’t until the new money began throwing such elaborate and outlandish balls that the knickerbockers felt they needed to compete and became a matter of keeping up with the Joneses.

If THE SOCIAL GRACES was made into a movie, who would you choose to cast as your two leading ladies?

Such a fun question! I think Kathy Bates would be a fabulous Mrs. Astor and I could see Julia Garner bringing Alva to life. After seeing her portrayal of Ruth Langmore in Ozark as well as a few other performances, I’m convinced she’d be brilliant in any part she plays.

 Want to win your own copy of "The Social Graces?" Enter here!

Hello, New Adventure!

 As all good bookish stories start, this one started with the promise of discounted books. By now, most of you know that I have two five year girls who keep me FOREVER on my toes. And since I love books, I really want them to love books too and fortunately my plan seems to be working. Our house is now not only filled with my books but with the girls' books as well! One of my favorite book publishers for littles are Usborne Books. They're super durable and cover tons of topics! I love them!

Enter A Little Bookish Affair, which will be my corner of the interwebz for these books geared for kiddos! I've started a Facebook group where I'm sharing some of these books if you're interested!

If you could make your kids read a book on any subject, what would it be and why? (Mine would be a book about picking up after themselves :) )

Monday, August 24, 2020

Review: The Giant: A Novel of Michelangelo's David by Laura Morelli

 Title: The Giant: A Novel of Michelangelo's David

Author: Laura Morelli

Format: Paperback

Publisher: The Scriptorium

Publish Date: May 31, 2020

Source: Author

What's the Story?:

From "As a colossal statue takes shape in Renaissance Florence, the lives of a master sculptor and a struggling painter become stunningly intertwined.

Florence, 1500. Fresco painter Jacopo Torni longs to make his mark in the world. But while his peers enjoy prestigious commissions, his meager painting jobs are all earmarked to pay down gambling debts.

When Jacopo hears of a competition to create Florence's greatest sculpture, he pins all his hopes on a collaboration with his boyhood companion, Michelangelo Buonarroti. But will the frustrated artist ever emerge from the shadow of his singularly gifted friend?"

My Two Cents:

"The Giant" is the story of painter Jacopo Torni, who dreams of making a lasting mark on the art world with his painting. Instead, he is forced to take any job he can as long as it pays so he can pay down some longstanding debts. The jobs are not noteworthy and he finds himself jealous of the notoriety that so many of his fellow artists seem to be finding with ease. Suddenly he has the opportunity to hitch his star to his friend Michaelangelo, already famous in his own right, and Jacopo is ready to take a leap of faith!

This is a well-researched and fascinating story! I always have a soft spot for down on their luck characters and when the story opens, Jacopo just can't seem to make his way towards everything he is dreaming of. Obstacle after obstacle comes his way and while some of them are just bad luck, some of the difficult situations are of his own making. When the story opens, he seems to be aimless and lacking drive. Eventually that shifts as he begins to see a way forward, even if it means playing second fiddle instead of being the star. I loved seeing how he changed throughout the book!

The star of this book was really the world-building and the descriptions. The author takes us back to gorgeous Florence in the 1500s where everyone is racing to make the greatest art to change the art world and make their mark. It's an exciting place and with the detail that the author gives, it makes it easy to imagine that you are in the center of it all as the characters struggle against each other and with each other in order to push forward and achieve greatness.

This book was a perfect pick for when you are looking for an escape to a world filled with art and intrigue!



Monday, August 17, 2020

Review: Tales of Ming Courtesans by Alice Poon

 Title: Tales of Ming Courtesans

Author: Alice Poon

Format: eBook

Publisher: Earnshaw Books

Publish Date: June 1, 2020

Source: Author


What's the Story?:

From "Inspired by literary works and folklore, Tales of Ming Courtesans traces the destinies of the three girls from the seamy world of human trafficking and slavery to the cultured scene of the famously decadent pleasure district of the city of Nanjing, evoking episodes in Memoirs of a Geisha.

The girls all existed - Rushi was a famous poet, Yuanyuan became the concubine of a general who changed the course of Chinese history by supporting the Manchu invasion in 1644 and Xiangjun challenged the corruption of court officials to try to save her lover. Rushi's daughter, Jingjing, gradually pieces together the stories of the three from a memoir left to her by her mother.

Betrayal, tenacity and hope all come together in a novel that brings to life an important era in China's history, and particularly highlights the challenges faced by independent-minded women."

My Two Cents:

Now comes the time in the pandemic where I am just looking for an escape. I'm dreaming of books that thrust me into the center of a fascinating story with supreme world building and "Tales of Ming Courtesans" certainly fit the bill. This book tells the stories of Liu Rushi, Chen Yuanyuan, and Li Xiangjun, three famous courtesans in China during the Ming Dynasty. Their stories are fascinating and I loved following each one of them!

Liu Rushi, Chen Yuanyuan, and Li Xiangjun are all very different from each other, they just happen to have the same job. Court life is difficult for all of them to adjust to - there are so many rules to follow and so many social norms to tow the line on. There is also a lot to just get used to: everything must follow certain unspoken rules and seeing how each woman navigates this in their own way really made the story for me. I love that through these three characters, you get three very different viewpoints of what life would have been like for a courtesan within the palace walls!

The detail of the book was really good! I really liked how the author brought the Ming Dynasty to life. You can picture what life was like there: the glitz, the glamour, and the hardship when things didn't fall according to the rules.  You see the dazzling palaces and the grand events. While sometimes the descriptions do verge into telling rather than showing, the balance is generally pretty good. This isn't an era that I know a lot about and I loved seeing it through the eyes of these characters.

This book is perfect for those looking for tons of palace intrigue and strong female characters!


Friday, August 14, 2020

Review: Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali

Title: Love From A to Z
Author: S.K. Ali
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Salaam Reads
Publish Date: April 30, 2019
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.

An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.

But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.

When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.

Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.

Then her path crosses with Adam’s.

Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.

Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.

Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.

Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…

Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting."

My Two Cents:

"Love from A to Z" is a sweet romcom about Adam and Zayneb, two people who for different reasons both feel like fish out of water. Zayneb has been sent to Qatar to visit her aunt and to get away from the hurt and anger she felt attending a school where being a Muslim made her the target of hate from both students and teachers. Adam is hiding a secret about his health that he fears will further force his family to spiral out of control. When Zayneb and Adam meet, their worlds collide in such a way that they realize that their worlds will never be the same.

I really enjoyed this book! The story is very multi-faceted and I loved reading about how both Zayneb and Adam are able to deal with so many difficult things at a really young age. My heart ached for both of them. With both of their situations, she are trying to take on so much by themselves without breaking. Both of them long to be accepted for who they are even when that seems like such a heavy challenge with everything going on around them. They are both strong, vivid, and resilient characters so when they meet, you are really rooting for them as they meet and begin to fall for each other.

The romance at the center of the book was great. Adam and Zayneb meet by chance but as the story unfolds, it seems that perhaps fate had something to do with it. I loved seeing how they begin to open up to each other even when opening up means also opening old wounds and letting their guard down somewhat, incredibly difficult for strong people, of course. Their meeting definitely gave me butterflies.

I loved how many subjects this book touched on and how diverse the representation was. The book really took me through a rollercoaster of emotions with how many different subjects it touched on, which I loved! This would be a great pick for someone looking for a YA that touches on both the serious and tender.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Review: Mop Rides the Waves of Life: A Story of Mindfulness and Surfing by Jaimal Yogis

Title: Mop Rides the Waves of Life: A Story of Mindfulness and Surfing
Author: Jaimal Yogis
Format: Hardcover

Publisher: Plum Blossom

Publish Date: June 30, 2020

Source: Author

What's the Story?:

From "Celebrated San Francisco surfer-journalist-dad Jaimal Yogis teaches 4-8 year olds timeless beach wisdom with the story of Mop, a sensitive and fun-loving kid who just wants to be in the ocean.

Going to school and navigating classmates can be hard--but all that goes away when little surfer Mop paddles out in the waves. With a few tips from his clever mom, Mop studies the wisdom of the water and learns to bring it into his life on land: taking deep breaths, letting the tough waves pass, and riding the good ones all the way. With newfound awareness and courage, Mop heads back to land--and school--to surf the waves of life."

 My Two Cents:

"Mop Rides the Waves of Life" is the story of a little boy named Mop, who feels totally at home surfing the waves and being in the ocean. He feels more "at sea" when he's on land trying to navigate school and bullies. When he has a terrible day, Mop learns that by not staying calm, everything will get a lot worse. His savvy mom shows him that by taking a step back and practicing mindfulness, Mop can begin to ride the waves of life, the good and the bad, just as well as he shreds the real waves in the ocean.

This book is a wonderful introduction to mindfulness, something that we can all use, especially these days. I love how the author is able to take an idea like mindfulness that can be a little bit complicated and breaks it down so it's easily understood by little ones. I know that I have invoked Mop's name a lot already with my little ones when they're having trouble making good decisions about what they should or should not act out about. Between the sweet lesson and the gorgeous illustrations, this book is one that gets a lot of mileage in my house with my five year old girls. This book would be a great pick for anyone with little ones looking for some gentle guidance. 



Friday, August 7, 2020

Reading Challenge Update!

So if you saw my post from Monday, you know that my reading hasn't been going great recently and so I am still not finished with my around the world reading challenge (it's getting a little silly at this point). I am really going to focus it in August so come back in early September to see how I've done. Part of the reason that I'm writing this particular post is that I want to hold myself accountable and perhaps you'll do me the favor of holding me accountable as well.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

#CoverReveal: The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

I am so excited to be a part of the cover reveal for The Rose Code by Kate Quinn! Check it out!

Synopsis: The New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Huntress and The Alice Network returns with another heart-stopping World War II story of three female code breakers at Bletchley Park and the spy they must root out after the war is over.

1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything—beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses—but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of east-end London poverty, works the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Both Osla and Mab are quick to see the potential in local village spinster Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles, and soon Beth spreads her wings as one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts. But war, loss, and the impossible pressure of secrecy will tear the three apart.

1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter--the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together. But each petal they remove from the rose code brings danger--and their true enemy--closer...

·         Book details: THE ROSE CODE by New York Times bestselling author Kate Quinn (Morrow; on-sale March 9, 2021)

·        Pre-order here:

·         Add to your Goodreads list à

·         Sign up for Kate’s newsletter à

Monday, August 3, 2020

Hello, it's me!

The pandemic has been weird, everyone! Some days I feel like everything is going okay and I'm hitting a groove and then I'll go through weeks and weeks where everything feels super terrible and I feel like I'm stuck in a rut. And the past several weeks have been just that: I've been putting a lot of hours in at the day job as we're in a busy period.  I've been trying to keep the kids entertained and because I'm feeling super guilty about having to work so much, I'm trying to throw myself into making this weird time that we're living in *MAGICAL* for the children. I'm trying to do all the things while not being able to focus or feel like I'm doing anything well. I also lost my sweet 18 year old kitty, Totoro. He was my buddy through so much all the way since college. And reading, which is my usual oasis, has been so hard to focus on. I find my mind wandering as soon as I sit down to start reading. I think the late June - July period is the longest that I've had this rut during the past few months and it has sucked.

Last week, I finally felt a bit of relief. I don't know where it came from, which is making it hard to know how to hang on to this feeling but I'm trying to be in the moment and ride the waves as they come at me. One, well two, small reasons could be our new additions. We adopted two kittens (I never wanted kittens and suddenly we have three kitties in our house). They are so sweet and so fun and they are keeping us all on our toes. We named them Amelia (calico) and Fred (orange) after Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. They're bringing a lot of joy to the whole family at this ridiculous time. I know there are probably going to be more trying days ahead but I'm trying to find happiness in the everyday. So I'm back here again!

What are you all doing to maintain your sanity during these trying times?

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