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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Review: The Venetian Bargain by Marina Fiorato

Title: The Venetian Bargain
Author: Marina Fiorato
Format: ARC
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publish Date: April 8, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You're a historical fiction fan.
  • You love intrigue.
  • You're an armchair traveler.
 What's the Story?:

From "Venice, 1576. Five years after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Lepanto, a ship steals unnoticed into Venice bearing a deadly cargo. A man, more dead than alive, disembarks and staggers into Piazza San Marco. He brings a gift to Venice from Constantinople. Within days the city is infected with bubonic plague—and the Turkish Sultan has his revenge.

But the ship also holds a secret stowaway—Feyra, a young and beautiful harem doctor fleeing a future as the Sultan’s concubine. Only her wits and medical knowledge keep her alive as the plague ravages Venice.

In despair, the Doge commissions the architect Andrea Palladio to build the greatest church of his career—an offering to God so magnificent that Venice will be saved. But Palladio’s life is in danger too, and it will require all the skills of Annibale Cason, the city’s finest plague doctor, to keep him alive. What Annibale had not counted on was meeting Feyra, who is now under Palladio’s protection—an impossible woman whose medical skills and determination are matched only by his own."

My Two Cents:

"The Venetian Bargain" is a fascinating story of Constantinople and Venice. Feyra is a doctor who comes to Venice from her home in the Ottoman Empire to discover the answer to a mystery that she was told right before a loved one passed away. Feyra doesn't know what awaits her in Venice and she goes to the brand new city with a lot of trepidation. This book has a little bit of something for everyone.

I love visiting some place new through my reading and this book gave me an opportunity to visit the gorgeous city of Venice. Unfortunately, the city is dealing with the Bubonic Plague but that only makes for a more fascinating story. You really get a good sense of the city through Feyra's eyes as she unravels the mystery that was given to her. We get to see her dealings with some of the highest houses in the city. She was such a fantastic character.

One of the details that I absolutely loved was the medical aspect of the book. Feyra is well practiced in the way of medicine and she meets another doctor, Annibale Cason, who is working hard to treat those with Bubonic Plague. I think medicine is really interesting to read about in general but I especially like reading about how people used to be treated prior to the advent modern medicine. It is just so interesting to me! Fiorato loads this book with a lot of really great detail but the detail surrounding Feyra and Annibale's practice was really fantastic to me!

I know that this book is definitely going to be a future re-read for me!


Monday, April 14, 2014

Giveaway: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Prize Pack

So last week I told you all about my experience watching "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" via Google Play and loving it. This week, I'm very excited to be able to give you a chance to win a prize pack with the Blu Ray, a book of James Thurber's short stories, and a Walter Mitty tumbler.

Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below if you want to win (U.S. Only)!

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Review: Her Last Assassin by Victoria Lamb

Title: Her Last Assassin
Author: Victoria Lamb
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Bantam
Publish Date: February 27, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the PR; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "Lady-in-waiting Lucy Morgan is once again torn between her dangerous attraction to William Shakespeare and her loyalty to Queen Elizabeth I.

England is facing its gravest threat yet. The Spanish have declared war, and Elizabeth finds herself attacked by sea - and by Catholic conspiracy from within her own court. Master Goodluck goes undercover, tasked with discovering the identity of this secret assassin, leaving his ward Lucy not knowing if the spy is alive or dead.

Meanwhile Queen Elizabeth is growing old in a court of troublesome young noblemen, while Lucy is struggling to love a man whose duties lie elsewhere.

When the final challenge comes, these two women must be ready to face it. But there is one last surprise in store for both of them."

My Two Cents:

"Her Last Assassin" is a historical fiction novel that takes place during the time of Queen Elizabeth and William Shakespeare. It is the third book in the Lucy Morgan series but this book can most definitely be read on its own as a standalone novel. I thought that Lamb did a really good job of giving those that are new to the series a little bit of detail so that we could gain some insight into where the characters have been and who they are.

In this book, Lucy Morgan walks many lines. She is a lady-in-waiting to the very powerful Queen Elizabeth. She is also in love with the famous playwright, William Shakespeare but his heart may belong to another (or two). Lucy has to make a lot of decisions in this book in order to "stay afloat" in the world that she is living in. I really enjoyed reading about her and liked how the author was able to weave non-fiction and fiction together. I did want to understand a little bit more about what she does in this book.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. There were a couple lulls in the book but overall, it had pretty good pacing. I would definitely like to read the first two books in this series!


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Review: Thomas Jefferson's Enlightenment: Paris 1785 by James C. Thompson

Title: Thomas Jefferson's Enlightenment: Paris 1785
Author: James C. Thompson
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Commonwealth Books
Publish Date: February 18, 2014
Source: I received a copy from PR; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "As portrayed in this colorful book, Thomas Jefferson is not quite the monument that readers learn about in school. In a new kind of nonfiction narrative, Jefferson's transformation from frontiersman and political loner into cosmopolitan political leader is taught by submerging the reader in the things that Jefferson did and saw on his travels to Paris in 1785. Featuring 168 museum-quality reproductions of period maps, Parisian scenes, and portraits of the lumieres who welcomed the untraveled American into the salons of prerevolutionary Paris, readers accompany Pierre Cabanis and his aspiring protégé to public gardens, the theatre, salons, the grain exchange, and along the bustling, stinking thoroughfares of the French capital. They accompany Jefferson as he settles into the most elegant and debauched society in the world. Because they are with Jefferson as Cabanis instructs him on the French concept of Progress, they understand how Jefferson became its agent and how his new vision of himself and his role in the world prepared the Father of the Enlightenment in America for the political contest he entered when he returned home."

My Two Cents:

According to my calendar, today just happens to be Thomas Jefferson's birthday so it's fortunate that I'm writing this review today. Thomas Jefferson is one of my favorite Presidents to read about. He had such an absolutely fascinating life and I really appreciated the ability to see a different side of him through this book. This particular book focuses on Jefferson's time in Paris, which is a time period that really influenced his way of thinking.

This book is full of great history and fascinating pictures. This book makes for really accessible history for both those that read a lot of history and those that do not. While this book will probably appeal most to history lovers but those that just want to casually learn a little bit about Jefferson will appreciate this book as well. 

I really like when you can learn something new about a favorite subject. This book definitely fill that bill for me! You get to see what Jefferson saw in the great city of Paris from his point of view. We get to learn about how the city and his experiences there affected his very philosophy. It was so interesting to see what a big difference this time period had in his life. There is so much information and different things in this book that it sometimes verges on information overload but overall, it is a very good history. Overall, I really enjoyed this book.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Review: The Red Lily Crown by Elizabeth Loupas

Title: The Red Lily Crown
Author: Elizabeth Loupas
Format: ARC
Publisher: NAL Trade
Publish Date: April 1, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "April, 1574, Florence, Italy. Grand Duke Cosimo de’ Medici lies dying. The city is paralyzed with dread, for the next man to wear the red lily crown will be Prince Francesco: despotic, dangerous, and obsessed with alchemy.

Chiara Nerini, the troubled daughter of an anti-Medici bookseller, sets out to save her starving family by selling her dead father’s rare alchemical equipment to the prince. Instead she is trapped in his household—imprisoned and forcibly initiated as a virgin acolyte in Francesco’s quest for power and immortality. Undaunted, she seizes her chance to pursue undreamed-of power of her own.

Witness to sensuous intrigues and brutal murder plots, Chiara seeks a safe path through the labyrinth of Medici tyranny and deception. Beside her walks the prince’s mysterious English alchemist Ruanno, her friend and teacher, driven by his own dark goals. Can Chiara trust him to keep her secrets… even to love her …or will he prove to be her most treacherous enemy of all?"

My Two Cents:

"The Red Lily Crown" is the latest release by Elizabeth Loupas, who is beginning to become one of my historical fiction must-read authors. I have enjoyed her other books and this one was no different. "The Red Lily Crown" is a story of an alchemist named Chiara and the infamous Medici family. It is a good blend of historical fiction and magical realism and I ate it up! If you're looking for a good book to get lost in, this is a great choice!

Chiara is a really amazing character. I loved reading about her in this book. I loved the aspect of her being an alchemist in this book. The Medici duke that Chiara works for (Francesco) is wild about alchemy and invites Chiara to practice in his household even when others frown upon putting so much faith into that practice. Loupas was really able to make the things that Chiara do feel really real. She is also just a really fantastic character. She's strong and as she doesn't have much family support, it is up to her to really make her own way and she does to the best of her ability.

And who doesn't like reading about the Medici's? I am utterly fascinated by them and the way that they ran things. Loupas uses a lot of good detail in order to bring the personalities and the reign of this family to life. I loved reading about all of their exploits!

Overall, I know my fellow historical fiction fans are really going to enjoy this book!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Review: The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler

Title: The Imposter Bride
Author: Nancy Richler
Format: Paperback
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publish Date: January 29, 2013
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "In the wake of World War II, a young, enigmatic woman named Lily arrives in Montreal on her own, expecting to be married to a man she’s never met. But, upon seeing her at the train station, Sol Kramer turns her down. Out of pity, his brother Nathan decides to marry her instead, and pity turns into a deep—and doomed—love. It is immediately clear that Lily is not who she claims to be. Her attempt to live out her life as Lily Azerov shatters when she disappears, leaving a new husband and a baby daughter with only a diary, a large uncut diamond – and a need to find the truth Who is Lily and what happened to the young woman whose identity she stole? Why has she left and where did she go? It's up to the daughter Lily abandoned to find the answers to these questions, as she searches for the mother she may never find or truly know."

My Two Cents:

"The Imposter Bride" is the story of Ruth, who has grown up without her mother. Her mother, Lily, disappeared and left her behind. Ruth has always felt like she has been missing out by not having her mother around and not knowing why she disappeared. Ruth grows up in a tight knit family who doesn't seem to want to tell her the truth.

I love a story filled with family secrets and this definitely fit the bill for me. Lily was a really mysterious character and I really enjoyed reading about her and how she disappeared and why she did what she did throughout the book. I did wish that we got a little more closure because I still did not quite understand why she abandoned Ruth but went on to have a fairly normal life (I don't want to give anything away about what that normalcy looked like as that is part of the mystery of the book; you will just have to read for yourself).

The timeline in the book was a little bit confusing to me and I kept having to go back to she what happened when. There were several parts of the book that were flashbacks for various characters but it was not outwardly clear as to when these things were taking place in the book.

I did like seeing how Ruth deals with losing her mother. You really get to see her true colors because of it and it turns her into a very interesting character!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

HF Virtual Book Tours Interview and Giveaway: Anne Clinard Barnhill

I am very excited to welcome Anne Clinard Barnhill, author of "Queen Elizabeth's Daughter" here to A Bookish Affair today.

1. How did you come up with the idea of writing about Mary Shelton, a ward of Queen Elizabeth?

Years ago, my grandmother told me we were related to Queen Anne Boleyn and she gave me a book all about the Shelton family and showed me how we were connected to them.  I was fascinated.  I started gathering all the info I could about them and discovered that both Mary and Margaret Shelton (cousins, not sisters, though Margaret did have a sister named Mary) had little nuggets of stories in their histories.  I started imagining more and ended up writing two novels, one about Margaret, the other about Mary!

2. Why do you think we are still so fascinated by Queen Elizabeth I?

Elizabeth was a larger-than-life character—she was brilliant, politically savvy, kind yet she could be cruel—just a complex, compelling woman who gave England years of peace.  She made conditions right for the flowering of the English Renaissance. She had to do it in a man’s world—I think most women can relate to that, even today.

3. What was the most interesting/ strangest thing that you found in your research for this book?

I sometimes write first and then do the research to see how close I am to the facts.  I wrote Mary as an orphan because it suited my story.  Then, I discovered she was, indeed, an orphan.  This has happened to me a lot.  I don’t know what it means but somehow, I seem to know things that I really couldn’t know.  Hmmm, makes me less skeptical about reincarnation!

4. You've written a few books now. Has your writing process changed at all? Has it gotten easier or harder?

I don’t think writing every gets easier—I wish it did.  It’s like a verbal jigsaw puzzle—you have to figure out how the parts best fit together and then write it.  For me, it’s always a challenge, which is part of what I love about writing.

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

I’d bring Shakespeare so he could tell me stories and then act them out!  I’d bring Elizabeth for conversation and debate.  And I’d bring Errol Flynn for, well, just to look at!


 Want to win your own copy of Queen Elizabeth's Daughter? Fill out the Rafflecopter form below (U.S. only)!

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Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, March 10
Review at Words and Peace
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Wednesday, March 12
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Thursday, March 13
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Friday, March 14
Review at The Lit Bitch
Monday, March 17
Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, March 18
Spotlight & Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, March 19
Review at One Book at a Time
Thursday, March 20
Review at Book-alicious Mama
Friday, March 21
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Monday, March 24
Review at She is Too Fond of Books
Tuesday, March 25
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Wednesday, March 26
Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Thursday, March 27
Review at Book of Secrets
Friday, March 28
Review at Scandalous Women
Monday, March 31
Review at HF Book Muse – News
Review & Giveaway at WTF Are You Reading?
Tuesday, April 1
Interview at HF Book Muse – News
Thursday, April 3
Review at Books in the Burbs
Friday, April 4
Review at The True Book Addict
Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Monday, April 7
Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Tuesday, April 8
Review at A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, April 9
Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Thursday, April 10
Review at The Most Happy Reader
Friday, April 11
Review at Silver’s Reviews
Review at The Musings of ALMYBNENR
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