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Friday, February 5, 2016

Interview and Giveaway: Michelle Gable, Author of "I'll See You in Paris"

I am very excited to welcome Michelle Gable, author of the fab "I'll See You in Paris" here to A Bookish Affair.

What inspired you to write "I'll See You in Paris?"

In researching my first book A Paris Apartment, I studied every luminary Giovanni Boldini rendered. When I dug up Gladys Deacon, I knew she’d get top billing in a future novel. She’s too delicious to leave to history!

I used many of the Duchess’s expressions, mannerisms, and real-life stories throughout the novel. Yes, she disappeared from her palace. Yes, she turned up in a dilapidated Grey Gardens-style manse forty years later. Yes, she chased people with guns. This is a small sampling of the bedlam the Dazzling Miss Deacon wrought.

I wanted to incorporate a more modern-day storyline too but couldn’t use the 2010s as the timing didn’t mesh with the historical aspects of the novel. The post-9/11 angle struck me as ideal as much of the storyline takes places in the final years of the Vietnam War. Two wars: one very much supported (at least at first) and one vastly out of favor. The juxtaposition of the two intrigued me.

The Duchess of Marlborough appears in this book. What was the most interesting/ strange thing that you learned about her in your research?

There are too many options! I can’t pick one “most interesting” thing but her hatred for Winston Churchill amused and even shocked me. Gladys complimented Hitler just to get under Churchill’s skin!

Nearly everything she said about him in I’ll See You in Paris is a direct quote. Here are a few:

“When you think how hard it is to create a rising in a small village, well, [Hitler] had the whole world up in arms. He was larger than Churchill. Churchill couldn’t have done that!”

“[Winston] was not a great man. Of course he wasn’t. The English just like to create heroes and worship them.”

“[Winston] used to come to that place where we were…He liked to lay down the law! No compassion. The man was incapable of love. He was in love with his own image - his reflection in the mirror.”

Who is your favorite character in this book and why?

The Duchess is my favorite because it was such fun uncovering her real life shenanigans. Aside from her, I adored (and had a small crush on!) writer Win Seton. He’s rakish and self-deprecating and sly, but self-aware. He makes mistakes but I’m able to forgive him. That’s not always the case with my characters!

Why do you think people are so drawn to Paris both in real life and through books?

The city itself is magically beautiful and has “raised” so many writers and artists. There’s this rich history, yet we think of Paris as being forward-thinking. Paris’s lore is filled with grittiness, glitz, fame, and infamy. And, whether it’s your first time or your twelfth, there’s always something new to discover.

If you could bring three fictional characters or historical figures with you to a deserted island, who would you bring and why?

I would bring Gladys Deacon for her humor, intentional and otherwise. I’d never get bored with her nearby. I’d also have to bring a writer—perhaps John Irving—to write new books for me to read. And the titular Ove from a recent favorite book A Man Called Ove would also make great company. Like Gladys, he’s funny, but, despite outward appearances, he’s a good person and friend. I’m quite partial to curmudgeons. 


I'm pleased to be able to give away a copy of "I'll See You in Paris" thanks to the publisher. Want to win your own copy of  "I'll See You in Paris?" Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below.

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Review: I'll See You in Paris by Michelle Gable

Title: I'll See You in Paris
Author: Michelle Gable
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publish Date: February 9, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "After losing her fiancé in the Vietnam War, nineteen-year-old Laurel Haley takes a job in England, hoping the distance will mend her shattered heart. Laurel expects the pain might lessen but does not foresee the beguiling man she meets or that they’ll go to Paris, where the city’s magic will take over and alter everything Laurel believes about love.

Thirty years later, Laurel’s daughter Annie is newly engaged and an old question resurfaces: who is Annie’s father and what happened to him? Laurel has always been vague about the details and Annie’s told herself it doesn’t matter. But with her impending marriage, Annie has to know everything. Why won’t Laurel tell her the truth?

The key to unlocking Laurel’s secrets starts with a mysterious book about an infamous woman known as the Duchess of Marlborough. Annie’s quest to understand the Duchess, and therefore her own history, takes her from a charming hamlet in the English countryside, to a decaying estate kept behind barbed wire, and ultimately to Paris where answers will be found at last."

My Two Cents:

In "I'll See You in Paris," recent college grad Annie and her mother, Laurel, travel to a small town in England to take care of what Laurel says is just business. Annie does a little investigating and finds out that there is much more to the story including a run down old house and the mysterious disappearance of the Duchess of Marlborough. This book is the story of secrets that never stay buried and of hiding one's true self. I ate it up but this is one of those books that I also did not want to end.

The book is full of great characters. Annie is sort of spinning through life when we meet her in this book. She is a recent college grad with few career options. She's lost and trying to navigate an at times tenuous relationship with her mom. Laurel has a lot to hide in this book at first until Annie starts unraveling why she is so secretive with so many things.  Then we have Mrs. Spencer, who may be the missing Duchess of Marlborough. She is an incredibly vivacious 90-something when we meet her in this book and she is absolutely wonderful. She's witty, bright, and fiery, which is fantastic. I loved reading about her! The characters truly made the book for me! I know I will be thinking about these main characters as well as some of the secondary characters for a very long time. 

The writing of the book is great. The story hinges on several mysteries and the way that the author slowly gives readers details is really fantastic. I loved the twists and turns. The way that the author brings the main characters together is great (I don't want to give too much away). This was a good read and I look forward to reading more by this author!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Giveaway: Casualties by Elizabeth Marro

Want to win a copy of Elizabeth Marro's "Casualties?" Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below (U.S. only, please!).

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

HFVBT Review and Giveaway: In the Land of Armadillos by Helen Maryles Shankman

Title: In the Land of Armadillos
Author: Helen Maryles Shankman
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Scribner
Publish Date: February 2, 2016 (Today!)
Source: HFVBT

What's the Story?:

From "1942. With the Nazi Party at the height of its power, the occupying army empties Poland’s towns and cities of their Jewish populations. As neighbor turns on neighbor and survival often demands unthinkable choices, Poland has become a moral quagmire—a place of shifting truths and blinding ambiguities.

Blending folklore and fact, Helen Maryles Shankman shows us the people of Wlodawa, a remote Polish town: we meet a cold-blooded SS officer dedicated to rescuing the creator of his son’s favorite picture book, even as he helps exterminate the artist’s friends and family; a Messiah who appears in a little boy’s bedroom to announce that he is quitting; a young Jewish girl who is hidden by the town’s most outspoken anti-Semite—and his talking dog. And walking among these tales are two unforgettable figures: the enigmatic and silver-tongued Willy Reinhart, Commandant of the forced labor camp who has grand schemes to protect “his” Jews, and Soroka, the Jewish saddlemaker and his family, struggling to survive."

My Two Cents:

"In the Land of Armadillos" is a collection of stories all centered on one small town in Poland in the middle of World War II. Short story collections are not always my favorite but this one blew me away. Each story centers on a different few characters although other characters from other stories appear in other stories. Using great characters and good world building, Shankman immerses readers in a world where the stakes are always high and nothing is as it seems. There's also a good dose of magical realism in this book, which is almost always a win for me!

So many of the characters in the stories are merely trying to survive. Survival is such a huge theme throughout the book. One reason that I love reading about World War II is how resilient and resourceful so many of the people had to be. So many of the stories in this book are filled with people like that. The author does a great job of letting the readers into exactly who the characters are and what makes them tick. The writing is really good!

It was hard for me to pick my favorite story in the book but my favorite was called "The Jew Hater." It's about a man who has actually pointed the Nazis towards people who were helping the Jews. He hates them. Suddenly the tables turn and he's suddenly charged with taking care of a young Jewish girl. The character development was oh so good in that story. So many of the other stories really touched me! I know this book will stick with me for a really long time!  


Want to win a copy of this wonderful book? Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below (U.S. only)!

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Blog Tour Review: Casualties by Elizabeth Marro

Title: Casualties
Author: Elizabeth Marro 
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: February 2, 2016 (Today!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Some come back whole. Some come back broken. Some just never come back...
As an executive for one of the most successful military defense contractors in the country, Ruth Nolan should have been thrilled when her troubled son, Robbie, chose to join the marines. But she wasn’t. She was terrified.

So, when he returns home to San Diego after his second tour in Iraq, apparently unscathed, it feels like a chance to start over and make things right—until a scandal at work tears her away from their reunion. By the next morning, Robbie is gone. A note arrives for Ruth in the mail a few days later saying, “I’m sorry for everything. It’s not your fault. I love you.”

Without a backward glance, Ruth packs up Robbie’s ashes and drives east, heading away from her guilt and regret. But the closer she gets to the coast she was born on, the more evident it becomes that she won’t outrun her demons—eventually, she’ll have to face them and confront the painful truth about her past, her choices, the war, and her son."

My Two Cents:

 Ruth is deeply affected by her son's death. He was a soldier who comes back home incredibly depressed and suffering deeply from PTSD. Ruth is trying to keep her business out of hot water (she happens to work for a company that sends contractors over to war zones (think a Blackwater type company). She isn't mentally present for her son when he comes home and he commits suicide. Ruth is thrown into a tailspin and goes on a road trip to both find her footing and come to terms with her son's death.

The book tackles a lot of really important, timely topics. PTSD is a huge issue with our veterans coming home. It's an issue that not only affects individuals but their families as well. The book sheds light on how difficult it can be to first, recognize PTSD and second, how difficult it can be for families to handle it. This book is incredibly emotional and made me think about what it would be like to be in Ruth's situation.

The book sometimes seemed a little unrealistic, especially when it comes to the road trip. Ruth meets Casey, a Desert Storm veteran who suffered the loss of his legs in war. They are each on their own journey: Ruth is mourning her son and Casey is trying to get back in touch with his teenage daughter. Their journey takes some wild turns that did not always seem to fit with the seriousness of the subject matter.

Overall,  this is a story of family and figuring out how to mourn and put the pieces back together. It would be a good pick for those that like their stories with a good deal of emotion.


Monday, February 1, 2016

Review: The Secrets of Lizzie Borden by Brandy Purdy

Title: The Secrets of Lizzie Borden
Author: Brandy Purdy
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Kensington
Publish Date: January 26, 2016
Source: HFVBT

What's the Story?:

From "In her enthralling, richly imagined new novel, Brandy Purdy, author of The Ripper’s Wife, creates a compelling portrait of the real, complex woman behind an unthinkable crime. Lizzie Borden should be one of the most fortunate young women in Fall River, Massachusetts. Her wealthy father could easily afford to provide his daughters with fashionable clothes, travel, and a rich, cultured life. Instead, haunted by the ghost of childhood poverty, he forces Lizzie and her sister, Emma, to live frugally, denying them the simplest modern conveniences. Suitors and socializing are discouraged, as her father views all gentleman callers as fortune hunters. Lonely and deeply unhappy, Lizzie stifles her frustration, dreaming of the freedom that will come with her eventual inheritance. But soon, even that chance of future independence seems about to be ripped away. And on a stifling August day in 1892, Lizzie’s long-simmering anger finally explodes… Vividly written and thought-provoking, The Secrets of Lizzie Borden explores the fascinating events behind a crime that continues to grip the public imagination—a story of how thwarted desires and desperate rage could turn a dutiful daughter into a notorious killer."

My Two Cents:

"The Secrets of Lizzie Borden" is a historical fiction book that takes on the infamous Lizzie Borden, a woman most well known for killing her father and stepmother. After watching the Lifetime drama starring Christina Ricci last year, I was anxious to read a historical fiction on Borden (the book is always better, you know). This book really gets in the head of Borden and is a book that I will be thinking about for a long time!

Told from the perspective of Lizzie herself, this book gives you a front row view to all of the things that Lizzie is struggling with. This character is struggling with some inner demons to say the very least. We see Lizzie struggling with wanting to so badly get out from under her father's thumb. We see her trying to figure out love and who she is attracted too, which is further complicated by her being attracted to people inappropriate to society's norms of the day. The author does a great job of building her character into one that is real and complicated. This is a dark and twisty book that gave great insight into a woman who was incredibly complicated.

The writing of the book is good. I've read several of Purdy's other books and really like how she uses her writing to really envelop the reader and have them experience the character's world. This would be a great pick for those who like their historical fiction on the darker side.

Follow the rest of the tour here!

Review: The Last Thousand: One School and the Future of Afghanistan by Jeffrey E. Stern

Title: The Last Thousand: One School and the Future of Afghanistan
Author: Jeffrey E. Stern
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: St. Martins
Publish Date: January 5, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "The Last Thousand unfolds during America's final year of military occupation in Afghanistan. The stakes of war are explored through the intertwining lives of six members of the Marefat School, an institution in the Western slums of Kabul built by one of the country's most vulnerable minority groups, the Hazara, as the school community prepares for the departure of foreign troops. Marefat's mission is to educate its community's youth- both boys and girls - and introduce them to a secular curriculum, civic participation, and the arts. The Marefat community has embraced the U.S. and flourished under its presence; they stand to lose the most when that protection disappears."

My Two Cents:

"The Last Thousand" is a look at one school in war torn Afghanistan. It's a place where kids can be kids and learn (and sometimes even adults whose own education was interrupted can go back to learn as well). Girls learn alongside boys in a country where women are often seen as lesser than men. It's a really amazing story told in an interesting way.

Stern tells the story through telling the stories of individuals and their interactions with the school. The Afghan people in this book are Hazaras, a group that has often been marginalized in their own country. Stern doesn't just focus on one group, he focuses on many different groups and people to tell the story of how the school came to be and how it has been able to stay so resilient with everything going on in that country. It's really fascinating!

The writing of the book is good although because Stern focuses on so many different sides, the story sometimes lost me. Although it was very interesting to see the school from so many different perspectives. The story is told mostly in third person present tense, which also lost me somewhat. However, the meat of the story really shines through and made for a powerful read!  

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