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Friday, August 29, 2014

Review: What's Left Behind by Lorrie Thomson

Title: What's Left Behind
Author: Lorrie Thomson
Format: ARC
Publisher: Kensington
Publish Date: August 26, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "When the person you’ve built your whole life around is gone, what do you do? It’s not the first time Abby Stone has faced the question. At eighteen, she envisioned a future with her childhood sweetheart, Charlie, only to have him go off to school and leave a pregnant Abby behind. But that pales beside a second loss, when her eighteen-year-old son, Luke, falls to his death from his third-floor dorm.

Abby throws herself into running her thriving B&B on the coast of Maine. With the help of Rob, a local landscape architect, she plans a backyard labyrinth as a memorial to Luke—a place to find peace and solace. Even as Charlie begins hanging around again, looking for a chance to do right by her, Abby resolves to look forward, not back. And then Luke’s girlfriend arrives on Abby’s doorstep—pregnant, as alone as Abby once was—bringing with her the unexpected gift of a new beginning, one that celebrates the past."

My Two Cents:

After Abby loses her son, Luke, in "What's Left Behind," she is unsure how she can go on. She throws herself into her work at a bed-and-breakfast in Maine but she knows that her life will never be the same. When Luke's girlfriend, Tessa, shows up pregnant with bloops child Abby can't help but to feel that this is a sign from Luke. This book definitely tugged on my heartstrings. I was thoroughly engaged by the story and the characters.

I'm not a parent but I can only imagine how hard it must be to lose a child. It's so hard to lose somebody very close to you. I really liked how the author was able to capture the raw feelings of Abby and the feelings of Tessa. Most of the book focuses on how Abby deals with her son's death and the reemergence of his college sweetheart. She is definitely one tough lady but even she is going through something absolutely devastating. I really enjoyed reading about her because she was such a strong character! I felt that the author did a good job of making her seemed really real.

I really like the writing of this book I thought that the author was able to create dialogue and situations that felt very realistic. I love when a book can really move you and this book definitely moved me. I know that in the future I'm going to be on the lookout for more by this author. This would be a great book for her when you're looking for a book that I takes you through all different emotions but leaves you with a happy ending!


Thursday, August 28, 2014

HF Virtual Book Tours Review and Giveaway: The Duel for Consuelo by Claudia H. Long

Title: The Duel for Consuelo
Author: Claudia H. Long
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Booktrope
Publish Date: June 2, 2014
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours

What's the Story?:

History, love, and faith combine in a gripping novel set in early 1700’s Mexico. In this second passionate and thrilling story of the Castillo family, the daughter of a secret Jew is caught between love and the burdens of a despised and threatened religion. The Enlightenment is making slow in-roads, but Consuelo’s world is still under the dark cloud of the Inquisition. Forced to choose between protecting her ailing mother and the love of dashing Juan Carlos Castillo, Consuelo’s personal dilemma reflects the conflicts of history as they unfold in 1711 Mexico. A rich, romantic story illuminating the timeless complexities of family, faith, and love.

My Two Cents:

"The Duel for Consuelo" is a historical fiction novel set in 1700s New Spain, now more commonly known as Mexico. I really love reading historical fiction set in Latin America and I don't find enough of it! The book is set in a time and a place I haven't read very much about. I love when historical fiction can teach you something new! Consuelo's lives with her family in New Spain. This book is both a love story and a story of family. There is also a heavy religious influence in this book since they acquisition is also taking place in new Spain. This is a fascinating book with very memorable characters.

I have read a lot of historical fiction set during the Inquisition; however, most of day historical fiction has been set in Spain. I really liked that this book looked at New Spain. It was interesting to see how the Inquisition affected those people of New Spain both similarly and differently than those people of Spain. Consuelo's family is hiding a major secret. Although the Inquisition seeks to punish those that are practicing Judaism, Consuelo's mother still practices in secret. Consuelo knows that her mother practices and is forced to keep her secret even though it means that she could possibly get in trouble by her self. I really liked the family aspect of this book and loved the relationship between Consuelo and her mother, Leila.

The writing of the book was good. The narrative is told from several different perspectives including that of Consuelo and Leila. I really liked having the different narratives in the book because it allows you to see how various members of society felt about what was going on with regard to the Inquisition. Each character truly had their own voice! Overall, I thought this was a very interesting historical fiction look at an event that changed the course of history.


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Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, August 25
Review at Book Drunkard
Interview at What Is That Book About
Tuesday, August 26
Spotlight at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, August 27
Review at Library Educated
Thursday, August 28
Review & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Friday, August 29
Interview & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Monday, September 1
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Tuesday, September 2
Review & Giveaway at Beth’s Book Blog
Wednesday, September 3
Spotlight & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection
Thursday, September 4
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Friday, September 5
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

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Review: I Work at a Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories from the Stacks by Gina Sheridan

Title: I Work at a Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories from the Stacks
Author: Gina Sheridan
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Adams Media
Publish Date: July 31, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the PR; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "Straight from the library--the strange and bizarre, ready to be checked out!

From a patron's missing wetsuit to the scent of crab cakes wafting through the stacks, I Work at a Public Library showcases the oddities that have come across Gina Sheridan's circulation desk. Throughout these pages, she catalogs her encounters with local eccentrics as well as the questions that plague her, such as, "What is the standard length of eyebrow hairs?" Whether she's helping someone scan his face onto an online dating site or explaining why the library doesn't have any dragon autobiographies, Sheridan's bizarre tales prove that she's truly seen it all.

Stacked high with hundreds of strange-but-true stories, I Work at a Public Library celebrates librarians and the unforgettable patrons that roam the stacks every day."

My Two Cents:

"I Work at a Public Library" is a collection of anecdotes from the Tumblr page of the same name. I wasn't familiar with this site were before reading this book; however, after reading this book, I know that I need to look at it. These stories are so funny! This book recounts some of the funny experiences that librarians working in public libraries have had to deal with. The Tumblr page of the very same name has become a haven for librarians wanting to talk about some of the crazy and ridiculous things that have happened in their life.

Even if you are not a librarian I think that you will fall in love with this very funny book. It's one of those books where you either need to be not embarrassed to get caught laughing in a public place or you just need to read it in the comfort of your own home so that nobody can hear you laughing! Luckily, I read it at home and was able to laugh as much as I wanted to! Some of the anecdotes definitely had me laughing out loud.

I know that this is a book that I'm going to want to read it over and over again just because it was so funny. I think that this book would make a great gift for either the librarian or the book lover in your life who wants a good laugh and doesn't take things too seriously. After reading this book I really wish that there was a sequel!


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Review: Encircle Africa: Around Africa by Public Transport by Ian M. Packham

Title: Encircle Africa: Around Africa by Public Transport
Author: Ian M. Packham
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Bawdy Zebra
Publish Date: November 14, 2013
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this didn't affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "Encircle Africa: Around Africa by Public Transport is the account of Ian’s attempt to complete the first solo and unassisted circumnavigation of Africa using public transport. The decision to travel using transport only available to local populations ensured immersion with populations across the continent. It led Ian to cross Africa riding in battered minibuses and bush taxis, on the backs of flatbed trucks, over rivers in dugout canoes, and along the coast of South Africa in a van delivering freshly-made meat pies.

Travelling 25,000 miles (40,000 km) – equivalent to circumnavigating the Earth at the equator – with no communications but an old mobile phone, and all his kit for more than a year of travel hauled onto his back, Ian was as reliant on some of the one billion people that call Africa home as he was on his own wits.

Lasting more than 13 months his journey took Ian along the coast of 31 countries, where he discovered for himself the daily struggle of living in and travelling through Africa. Starting his journey in Gibraltar before crossing to Tangier in Morocco, he travelled westward, experiencing Africa at its most raw and real.

He is forced to fight off thieves in Senegal, is mistaken for an undercover UN official during Liberia’s presidential election, refused entry into the Democratic Republic of Congo, and while in Sudan becomes perhaps the only person teargassed trying to visit a museum. Travelling during an electrifying year for Africa, he is one of the first tourists to visit the Libyan capital after the revolution that wrenched Colonel Gaddafi from power."

My Two Cents:

"Encircle Africa" is a travel memoir of Ian Packham's travels through the continent of Africa. Packham decides to travel throughout Africa using only public transportation. He decides to stick to the shore of Africa and visit all of the countries around Africa's edges. If you are in armchair traveler like me, you will enjoy this book!

Each chapter of the book takes on a couple different countries throughout Africa. I really liked how Ian was able to give us a little bit of information about the feeling of each place along with some of the history of each area. There are many countries within Africa that I don't know much about so it was interesting to get a first-hand point of view of what those countries are like. I found myself wishing that some of the chapters were longer because each of the places seem so interesting. This book really only gives you a very brief taste of each place.

Overall, I found the writing of this book to be very good. The author definitely knows how to bring the people of all of the different countries in Africa he visits to life. There were a couple grammar and punctuation issues with this book; however, I chalk this up to this book being a debut book. With a little more fine-tuning, This author will make a very good travel author!


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Pulitzer Prize Winner Offers Free Insight Into Literature of American Slavery

Hi everyone! I just wanted to let you know about this great online course through MOOC on literature of American Slavery. This sounds super interesting! Now you may be asking yourself what a MOOC is, right? A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course. I've taken a couple through the likes of and they are a super fun way to learn something new!

Here is the press release:

"John Jay Online Brings History Alive: First-ever MOOC on the Literature & Law of American Slavery Opens for Registration
Pulitzer Prize-Winning Biographer John Matteson to Teach Free, Eight-week Online Course

NEW YORK CITY (August 12, 2014) – John Jay Online, the online education department of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, today opened registration for its first-ever MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on the Literature & Law of American Slavery. This unusual and in-depth look at one of the seminal periods of American history brings these two worlds together to paint a richly faceted picture of the era, examining how American life today is still haunted and shaped by slavery. The free, eight-week course will be taught by Pulitzer Prize-winning John Matteson, Distinguished Professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The course begins on Tuesday, September 30, 2014. Registration is now open at

Professor Matteson won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Biography for his book, Eden’s Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father. Professor Matteson has designed the MOOC as an immersive experience; students will discover what it was like to live in the troubled decades leading up to the Civil War from one of the foremost experts on that period.

“We are still processing the effects of the slaveholding era today,” said Professor Matteson. “While most of us acknowledge and understand our history, we don’t think about, or examine, how the debate over slavery changed American law and influenced literature. With this MOOC, we’re taking American slavery out of the typical textbook context to explore not just how the people who lived through it were impacted, but how it still impacts us today.”

The MOOC will address many atypical questions about American slavery, including:

  • What were the legal principles behind slavery, and what were the arguments both for and against its legality?
  • How did the leading American writers of the time respond to slavery, both in fiction and in nonfiction?
  • What was slavery like from the perspective of the slave, and how did African-American writers take up the war of words on the subject?
  • How did the Civil War inspire the authors who lived through it and saw it firsthand?
  • Why does the institution of slavery, which was abolished in the United States in the 1860s, still matter to us today?

Students can anticipate spending up to five hours per week in the eight-week course, which will include video lectures, readings and discussions. While of educational value to all those interested in the subject and era, the MOOC will be a particularly effective way for post-graduate candidates and those considering full-time enrollment as students to further invest in their education.

“We’re very proud to be able to offer the public a free course of this caliber,” said Dr. Feng Wang, director of John Jay Online. “Even a decade ago, this would not have been possible. Thanks to today’s technology, anyone with an Internet connection, no matter where they live, or what their educational level is, can participate in a rich academic experience with classmates from around the world, taught by one of the brightest thinkers of our time.”

To learn more and register for this free course, please visit"

Review: Flight of the Sparrow by Amy Belding Brown

Title: Flight of the Sparrow
Author: Amy Belding Brown
Format: Paperback
Publisher: NAL Trade
Publish Date: July 1, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1676. Even before Mary Rowlandson is captured by Indians on a winter day of violence and terror, she sometimes found herself in conflict with her rigid Puritan community. Now, her home destroyed, her children lost to her, she has been sold into the service of a powerful woman tribal leader, made a pawn in the on-going bloody struggle between English settlers and native people. Battling cold, hunger, and exhaustion, Mary witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness. To her confused surprise, she is drawn to her captors’ open and straightforward way of life, a feeling further complicated by her attraction to a generous, protective English-speaking native known as James Printer. All her life, Mary has been taught to fear God, submit to her husband, and abhor Indians. Now, having lived on the other side of the forest, she begins to question the edicts that have guided her, torn between the life she knew and the wisdom the natives have shown her.

Based on the compelling true narrative of Mary Rowlandson, Flight of the Sparrow is an evocative tale that transports the reader to a little-known time in early America and explores the real meaning of freedom, faith, and acceptance."

My Two Cents:

In Amy Belding Brown's "Flight of the Sparrow," Mary Rowlandson was captured by Indians. At first she is very afraid but eventually she learns a lot from her captors and is forced to walk the line between the white man and the Indians. What makes this book so amazing is that it is based on a true story. Brown draws heavily on a lot of historical fact in order to create a narrative for Mary.

One of the most interesting parts about this book is how Mary comes to terms with both understanding her life as a white woman in the Massachusetts Bay colony and the ways of the Indians. We see how Mary lives her life as a family woman and the colony. She enjoys her life and is very scared when she is captured by Indians. When she returns though, she finds that she never really understood the Indians in the first place and finds herself supporting some of their ideas and the ways that they live, which makes her an outsider within the colonist group. This is definitely a story about knowing oneself and knowing what is the most important things in one's life. She finds that she may not have been as free in the colony as she was during her time with the Indians.

I love historical fiction; however, I especially love when historical fiction is based on an actual historical figure. I think that it really helps you to understand some of the personalities of times past. You can tell that Brown put a lot of care into gathering details of Mary's life in order to put together the story. And some points you can see how Brown is almost stymied by some of the information that she gathers, which makes the narrative stiff in some parts. However, overall the book is very nicely written and really gives you insight into how people live during that time.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Stillhouse Press launches with new DC cultural series, "The Stillhouse Sessions"

Hi everyone! Happy Monday! I wanted to draw your attention to a great cultural series that has just been launched for D.C. area book lovers! The Stillhouse Sessions series is meant to bring together local book lovers from around the region who want to celebrate the independent spirit of the written word. From Stillhouse's website: "Stillhouse Press ( is dedicated to craft publishing, seeking out writers whose work affirms the enduring power of the written word to inform and delight. With the student-directed support of George Mason’s MFA program, Stillhouse Press was founded by Relegation Books Publisher Dallas Hudgens, as a way to give graduate students an opportunity to gain experience in small press publishing through hands-on application."

There are two upcoming events. Here are the descriptions:
  • The inaugural edition of the Stillhouse Sessions will be held Tuesday, Aug. 26 at 7:00pm at Politics & Prose Bookstore and will feature readings from D.C. native, Maxwell Neely-Cohen (Echo of the Boom) and Ronna Wineberg  (On Bittersweet Place, forthcoming from Northern Virginia-based Relegation Books this Sept.), with musical entertainment from Melodime and drinks courtesy of a local craft distillery.
  • The second edition of the Stillhouse Sessions, “The Salon,” will be held in conjunction with Northern Virginia’s Fall for the Book festival on Saturday, Sept. 13, at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts and will feature a donation-based reception with craft cocktails and light refreshments, followed by a conversation on craft publishing, moderated by independent publicist and Potomac native, Lauren Cerand, and featuring authors Roxane Gay (An Untamed State, Bad Feminist), Ronna Wineberg, and Mary Kay Zuravleff (reading from Wendi Kaufman’s Helen On 86th Street and Other Stories, for which she penned the introduction).
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