Friday, October 31, 2014

Scary Stories: A Guest Post by Elizabeth Eckhart

Halloween is approaching, and with it comes mountains of candy and evenings filled with costumes and horror films. For diligent readers though, there is another option besides black and white films and haunted houses to celebrate the annual day of horror in the form of scary novels. Supernatural books may be fun, and vampires and witches appropriately terrifying, but the real thrill lies in stories that have a sense of reality behind them. These are the novels that leave you double and triple checking your doors are locked, the nightlight is on, and your teddy bear is snuggled in next to you each night. Because who knows, it could happen to you...

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

The Exorcist is perhaps better known as a film, but the original story is even more terrifying in its novel form. Based on a true story, or at least what a collection of priests demm to be true, the tale follows the journey of an innocent young girl possessed by demons. Whether you believe in demons or not, The Exorcist will still stand to horrify, since its truly unsettling qualities are that its characters are entirely undeserving of the events that occur. The novel leaves readers ever aware that evil doesn’t only exist to punish the wicked, it can find anyone, anywhere. The book will leave you begging for relief of the story’s victims - as to whether or not they truly find peace, you’ll have to read to find out.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House follows four people who decide to spend a summer in a home that is rumored to be haunted. The novel is so successful at creating tension that the author, Shirley Jackson, had an award named after her, which recognizes current novels which aim to equal her skill in psychological suspense. The tale is narrated by Eleanor, a young woman staying in the house with Dr. Montague (who desperately wants proof ghosts exist) his assistant, Theodora, his assistant, and the heir to the house, Luke. Reality and hallucination, as well as the living and the dead, become incomprehensibly blurry as the novel goes on. The film version is not nearly as terrifying, but is available on demand through DirecTV, or through Amazon, for those looking to cap off the novel with a visual addition.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell

If you were a child anytime in the 80s or 90s, chances are that you’ve seen at least one of three collections of folklore and urban legends the make up the complete Scary Stories. The short stories often jump between ghost stories and more unique folk tales, like The Big Toe, which follows a young boy and mother who find and eat a toe (who that toe belongs to, of course, becomes a pressing issue). The simplicity of the tales, complemented by their equally eerie illustrations, will still leave you shivering at night, thinking about headless women and diseased, mutated humans. There were rumors of a film version, but as of yet, no release date has been announced.

The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

This tale is based loosely on the true tale of Indiana victim Sylvia Likens, who was brutally tortured and murdered by her temporary caregiver and the guardian’s gang of children.  Ketchum’s novel is far more disturbing and closer to reality than the later film version, and examines the gruesome details of the abuse the young girl withstood before finally passing away. Ketchum was liberal with the actual plot, changing the girl’s name to Meg and adding a narrator who was in love with the girl. Perhaps the most disturbing fact regarding the novel, however, is that it still does not come close to the actual abuse endured by Sylvia. Ketchum found that many of the atrocities were too great even for his already monstrous tale.

The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson

In 1975, the Lutz family moves into a new home, priced well due to the recent murders that had occurred in the home. Months earlier, 23 year old Ronnie DeFeo was convicted of shooting his parents, brothers and sisters, leaving the home completely unoccupied. Then, a mere 28 days after moving in, the Lutz family flees the house in terror, leaving everything behind besides their own persons. The novel is based on the actual memoirs of the Lutz family, who insist that their experiences in the house are factual. From their daughter’s eerie imaginary friend “Jodie” to failed blessings attempted by priests, this book will have you questioning the history of your own home.

No matter what you choose to read, you can count on wanting to leave the lights on this Halloween! What terrifying books would you add to this list?


 About the Author:

Elizabeth Eckhart is an entertainment and film blogger for Directstartv.com, who finds nothing more compelling than a good story, no matter its medium.

Review: This Old World by Steve Wiegenstein

Title: This Old World
Author: Steve Wiegenstein
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Blank Slate Press
Publish Date: September 1, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.






What's the Story:

From Goodreads.com: "The community of Daybreak survived the war. Can it survive the peace? After the war, James Turner and the other men of Daybreak return home to find that war has changed their Utopian community forever. Charlotte Turner, Marie Mercadier and the other women they left behind survived raiders and bushwackers, raised up children, and survived on little more than dogged determination. Now that the men are back-those who fought for the North and those who fought for the South-the community must somehow put the past behind them. But some carry scars too deep to heal, and others carry hate they have no intention of letting go."

My Two Cents:

"This Old World" is the follow-up to Wiegenstein's earlier book, "Slant of Light." In this book, the Civil War has ended and the men are returning home to Daybreak, the utopian community at the center of "Slant of Light." What they will find there is not what they left. The world is a different place now and the community has changed as well. The changes are at the center of this story.

"This Old World" is not really a standalone story. The main action in the book is standalone but because this second book is mostly action, you may need a reminder of who all of the major players in the book were. You get much more of an introduction to the characters in the first book and I had to go back to remind myself of the characters as I had read "Slant of Light" so long ago. That being said, go back and read "Slant of Light" and then read "This Old World. Both are great historical fiction books!

The things that I liked in "Slant of Light" continued to be what I liked in "This Old World." The author uses a lot of great detail to really pull the readers into the story. I was especially pulled in by the plight of the men who returned to Daybreak. Not only has their community changed but they have changed as well and after seeing so many of the unspeakable things they witnessed during the war. I really liked how the author showed how the men coped (well or not so well) with being back home as it really rang true to me. Overall, I really enjoyed the continuing saga of the people of Daybreak.


 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Review: India Unplugged by Aurelia Zoss

Title: India Unplugged
Author: Aurelia Zoss
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Self-published
Publish Date: May 29, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.


What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "If you want to complement your India travel guide with a fun book to read, India unplugged is for you!

Part travelogue, part memoir, and part advice for India travelers, this book is a delightful account of a twenty-something expat working and living in Bangalore.

This is not another India travel guide about which forms to fill out, but rather a fun and refreshing collection of short stories packed with witty observations, quirky one-liners and hilarious cultural misunderstandings.


Instead of going to expat parties, this young woman has mingled with the locals and thrown herself into the Indian life. She made Indian friends and worked with Indian colleagues and bosses. Her immersion into the Indian culture and her unique encounters make for unusual stories told in a funny yet personal way. We are taken along as she goes about her daily life and her travels.
Unlike in most other expat books, Aurelia gives us a generous peak into her daily life in the Indian office and shares entertaining and sometimes embarrassing tales about her own cultural blunders.
Expats will relate to many of her experiences and will find delight in Aurelia’s down-to-earth and humorous way of describing her life in India." 


My Two Cents:

Have you ever dreamed of going to India? Are you not able to hop a plane right now? Want to still go explore this lovely and fascinating place? In "India Unplugged," you get a chance to explore India through the eyes of the author who has spent ample time in many different places throughout the country. India is someplace that I have always wanted to visit and so I was looking forward to diving into this book. When you don't have a chance to travel, there is nothing like being able to at least armchair travel through a book!

This book is made up of different vignettes covering different aspects of Zoss' travels through many different parts of India. The vignettes are not necessarily in any sort of order so you would be able to skip around in the book if you would like. My favorite story was about Zoss and a friend traveling by train (I love, love, love train travel) and being totally confused about how the train system works. A very kind family takes them under their wings and shares a lot with them on the train to make them more comfortable. The author does a really good job of describing all of the various people that she meets along the way!

Overall, I thought the writing in the book was good but there were a couple spots that needed some tightening up. Some of the vignettes are a little all over the place with a lot of asides that take away from the main point of the stories. There were also a couple grammar errors here and there that took me out of the story. The descriptions in the book really shine though and this book will be a treat for my fellow armchair travel lovers!


 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

HF Virtual Book Tours Review and Giveaway: Highland Hunger by Eliza Knight

Title: Highland Hunger
Author: Eliza Knight
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Knight Media LLC
Publish Date: August 8, 2014
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "An unclaimed land in the Scottish isles is ruled by the male and female victors in a series of war games every five years. Named Chief and Lady of the land, they rule the vast holding, and protect the people by divine right, until the next game begins.

After her brother’s death Ceana is named laird. The only way for her clan to survive the ravages of the Highlands is to join in the war games. Bastard son of a powerful earl, Macrath is placed in the games by his vengeful stepmother. He must survive for the ultimate retribution.

Ceana can’t stand the arrogant Highlander who seems to be following her, and yet she can’t seem to walk away. Macrath wants nothing more than to be rid of the troublesome need to protect the warrior lass. What starts out as a race to survive turns into passion to endure together.

May the gods be forever in their favor…"


My Two Cents:

"Highland Hunger" kicks off a brand new series from author Eliza Knight. In this book (which takes place in lovely Scotland - yay!), Ceana's world has been turned upside down. She is now fighting for her title as "Laird" after her brother dies and it is up to her to enter the war games to defend her clan (a tall order for a woman in this world). Of course, there is a romance to be had between Ceana and Macrath, a highlander who is also in the war games. If you've read any of Knight's books before, you know that it is the area of romance where she really shines!

Ceana and Macrath are an awesome couple. You have Ceana, who is a very no-nonsense women bound by duty to her clan. She knows what she has to do and is not afraid to jump in with both feet in order to get it done even though the stakes are high. And Macrath (oh, Macrath, who I have a little bit of a literary crush on) is a wonderful counterpart to Ceana. He is strong and brave and I can see exactly why Ceana finds him so absolutely irresistible! Their chemistry definitely jumped off the page for me and I loved reading about how their relationship changed throughout the book! I can't wait to see what is in store for them in the coming books!

I have been very excited for this series to come out and I was most definitely not disappointed. This is an exciting new series that will be a treat for those who love highlanders like I do! This book was definitely a promising start!  




Giveaway:

Want to win a paperback or ebook copy of Highland Hunger (open internationally)? Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, October 20
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, October 21
Spotlight at Just One More Chapter
Wednesday, October 22
Interview at Romance Book Junkies
Thursday, October 23
Guest Post at Back Porchervations
Monday, October 27
Interview at Room with Books
Tuesday, October 28
Spotlight at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Wednesday, October 29
Review & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Friday, October 31
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Saturday, November 1
Review at Book Nerd
Monday, November 3
Review at Historical Romance Lover
Tuesday, November 4
Review at Book Marks the Spot
Wednesday, November 5
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book!
Guest Post at Boom Baby Reviews
Thursday, November 6
Guest Post at SOS Aloha
Friday, November 7
Review at Journey with Books
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
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HF Virtual Book Tours Review: Enchantress by Maggie Anton

Title: Enchantress
Author: Maggie Anton
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Plume
Publish Date: September 2, 2014
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "One of the most powerful practitioners of these mysterious arts is Rav Hisda’s daughter, whose innate awareness allows her to possess the skills men lack. With her husband, Rava--whose arcane knowledge of the secret Torah enables him to create a "man” out of earth and to resurrect another rabbi from death--the two brave an evil sorceress, Ashmedai the Demon King, and even the Angel of Death in their quest to safeguard their people, even while putting their romance at risk. "

My Two Cents:

"Enchantress" is the story of Hisdadukh, a young woman with powers that verge on the magical. It is the 4th century and Hisdadukh's world is filled with magic and mystery. This is the second book in the Rav Hisda's Daughter series but is very much a standalone book (I actually have not had a chance to read the first book in the series myself). Once this book hits its stride, it is a fascinating look at Jewish and Talmudic lore with memorable characters and a greatly detailed setting.

I did end up enjoying this story but it did take me a little while to get there. Admittedly I am not well-versed in Jewish mysticism at all so I found myself looking up a lot of the things that the characters discuss in the book. While I learned a lot, it did take me out of the story a lot. I understand that the line between showing and telling can be quite difficult. However, you can definitely tell just how much time and effort the author put into her research, which historical fiction lovers will definitely appreciate.

As the story went on and I got a little more up to speed on things, I was totally engaged in the love story between Hisdadukh and Rava. Their story together is incredibly interesting and kept me reading. Rava is also a practitioner of mysticism and it was really interesting to see how this magic brings our main characters together.

If you have read my blog at all, you all probably know that I love armchair traveling through books. If I can't actually hop a flight and go somewhere, I love reading books that take place in faraway lands. The world building in this book was good. Again, the research that the author did shines through in showing us what is was like to live in 4th century Babylonia. I definitely enjoyed this aspect!






Follow the Rest of the Tour:


Monday, October 6
Review at Unshelfish
Review at Book Drunkard
Tuesday, October 7
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Wednesday, October 8
Review at A Dream Within a Dream
Thursday, October 8
Guest Post at Bookish
Friday, October 9
Guest Post & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Monday, October 13
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Tuesday, October 14
Spotlight at leeanna.me
Spotlight & Giveaway at Words and Peace
Wednesday, October 15
Review at Based on a True Story
Thursday, October 16
Review at Mari Reads
Tuesday, October 21
Review at History From A Woman’s Perspective
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Wednesday, October 22
Guest Post at History From A Woman’s Perspective
Thursday, October 23
Spotlight at A Book Geek
Friday, October 24
Review at Beth’s Book Reviews
Interview at Mina’s Bookshelf
Saturday, October 25
Review & Interview at A Cup of Tea & A Big Book
Monday, October 27
Review at TeacherWriter
Tuesday, October 28
Review at My Book Addiction and More
Spotlight at Historical Tapestry
Wednesday, October 29
Review at A Bookish Affair
Thursday, October 30
Review at Book Nerd
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TLC Book Tours Review: The Lost Tribe of Coney Island by Claire Prentice

Title: The Lost Tribe of Coney Island
Author: Claire Prentice
Format: Paperback
Publisher: New Harvest
Publish Date: October 14, 2014
Source: TLC Book Tours






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "The Lost Tribe of Coney Island unearths the forgotten story of the Igorrotes, a group of “headhunting, dog-eating savages” from the Philippines, who were transported to New York in 1905 to appear as “human exhibits” alongside the freaks and curiosities at Coney Island’s Luna Park. Millions of fair-goers delighted in their tribal dances and rituals, near-nudity, tattoos, and stories of headhunting.

Journalist Claire Prentice, who has spent years researching the topic, brings the story to life with her fluid prose and vivid descriptions. The book boasts a colorful cast of characters, including the disgraced lieutenant turned huckster Truman K. Hunt; his Filipino interpreter, Julio Balinag; the theme park impresarios behind Luna Park, Fred Thompson and Elmer “Skip” Dundy; and Dogmena, a beautiful girl who became a favorite with New York’s social elite. The Lost Tribe of Coney Island  is a fascinating social history and a tale of adventure, culture-clash, and the American dream."


My Two Cents:

"The Lost Tribe of Coney Island" is a fascinating, non-fiction tale about Truman K. Hunt, a man who has designs on making a name for himself during the early 1900s. Hunt sees a great opportunity during his travels to the Philippines to bring back some of the natives and put them on display in an amusement park in Coney Island (seriously!). He promises these people a lot in order to get them to go with him. Once they get to the United States, all bets are off and Hunt realizes that he has a ton of power over them and exploits them. To modern day readers, the idea of a "human zoo" is grotesque but unfortunately during the time that this book takes place, the practice was all too prevalent in our country.

The author tracks the plight of these people with great detail, which made for a very engaging read. I found myself stunned by what the poor Filipinos had to go through. First, they get to Coney Island and are forced to build their own village display where they will live and essentially be trapped while they are there! The particular tribe that Hunt brought people from happened to have a couple habits that the amusement park tourists found fascinating such as head hunting and dog eating. Hunt made sure to cash in on these aspects even if it meant stretching the truth a little bit (not a nice guy at all).

The writing of the book was really good. It reminded me a lot of books such as Erik Larson's "Devil in the White City" and Charlene Mires' "Capital of the World," because like those two books, this book is thoroughly engaging non-fiction that often felt like fiction! I had to keep reading parts out loud to my husband just because some of the things that happen to the Filipinos were so unbelievable! Overall, I definitely enjoyed this book!


 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

HF Virtual Book Tours Interview and Giveaway: Brandy Purdy, Author of The Ripper's Wife

I am very excited to welcome Brandy Purdy here to A Bookish Affair today!


1. You've written several books at this point. Has your writing process changed at all? Has it gotten easier or harder?

Every book is different in minor ways, but the same in major ways; I hope that makes sense. I always do a lot of research and take notes and give a lot of thought to the characters and look for fresh or different ways to tell the story, but things always happen during the creative process to surprise me. My writing process is still the same, I write at night into the wee hours of the morning, and must have music or a familiar movie on in the background so my Tinnitus (ringing ears) doesn’t drive me insane. It’s outside influences that tend to change and make things difficult. I have always written late at night because there are just too many distractions and interruptions during the day. It never fails, every single time I try to write during the day something happens to remind me why this just doesn’t work for me. So anything that seriously disrupts my sleeping and working schedules has a huge impact. The only other major obstacle is my old nemesis Treatment Resistant Depression. I was very lucky while writing The Ripper’s Wife, even though it is a very dark book, I went through a long period of stability, I was doing and feeling better than I had in years, but…let’s just say the demon has reared it’s ugly head again, so there’s another battle to fight. But I keep on.

2. What inspired you to write about Jack the Ripper?

Reading the actual Ripper Diary, it was first published in 1993 in a book by Shirley Harrison and has been controversial ever since. The contents and physical components, like the paper and ink, have been endlessly debated since it came to light, and no one seems to be able to agree if it is authentic or a hoax. But regardless of all that, when I was reading it for the first time, I couldn’t help thinking “this would make a great novel, and I want to be the one to write it.” Besides that, I have been interested in Jack the Ripper most of my life. In 1988, the 100th anniversary of the murders, my mother gave me a paperback book, The Complete Jack the Ripper by Donald Rumbelow, and ever since I’ve been hooked.

3.There is still a lot of mystery that surrounds the case of Jack the Ripper. How did you make the decision of what information to use and what not to use in this novel?

I wanted to be true to the story told in the actual Ripper Diary and the known details of the Maybricks' lives. But the actual Ripper Diary is rather terse and fragmented at times, it’s very strong on rage but short on story, and there are a lot of attempts at rhymes and poetry, and trust me, you don’t want me to try my hand at poetry so be very glad I didn’t go there. The way the actual diary is written, without knowing more about the Maybricks and the Ripper murders it doesn’t always make sense to a casual reader, so I wanted to make it more readable, to try to let the reader walk alongside the Ripper and see how the wheels of his mind are turning, not just see the evidence of his rage, but why he’s feeling it. As for other details, I’ve read so many books on Jack the Ripper in my life, I don’t think I really ever stopped and debated what to put in and leave out, I just did it. But it was important to me to make the victims real, to give a glimpse of their personalities, and how they ended up walking the streets of Whitechapel. In the Jack the Ripper saga sometimes it feels like the killer’s identity matters more than the victims, so, even if it is in fiction, I wanted to honor them by showing them as real people.

4.Who was your favorite character in this book?

Now that’s a hard question. One early reviewer said that none of the main characters were particularly likeable, and a part of me has to agree. But these were real people, sometimes placed in difficult situations that people today might not find themselves in, or at least would have had more options to free themselves from if they did. Victorian England was a very different place. I will say writing the Ripper diary portions were the hardest part, his hatred and rage and violence are so far removed from me that I enjoyed the challenge, of pushing myself to do it, to get inside his head and make it real. I did enjoy writing Florie, she really allowed me to do what I intended, to show a marriage that begins as a fairytale turned into one of the worst nightmares you can imagine, I wanted to write a book that begins like a romance novel, so you wonder if you’ve picked up the wrong book because maybe it’s not what you’re expecting, and then turn it into a horror story, like Bluebeard’s wife opening his forbidden chamber and discovering all the evil inside. Florie begins as this beautiful, naïve teenager, people compare her to Henry James’s heroine Daisy Miller,  she’s so open and trusting, yet she’s doomed to blindness, and in denial for so much of the story, sometimes she just floats along like a flower thrown in a stream. Her eyes are open yet you keep waiting for her to wake up and take some action, to make things better for herself and her children, but she can’t even leave her husband or fire that awful nanny or order her husband’s ex-fiancée out of the house. She’s trapped by social conventions and herself. So I can fully understand why some modern readers may find her frustrating and want to slap or shake her.


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

Another hard one. You didn’t tell me how long we have to stay on the island. But ok, I’ll take silent film actor Bobby Harron, because I’m working on a biography of him, and since we have similar shy personalities I don’t think we’d get on each other’s nerves too much, and Mario Lanza, because he has the most beautiful voice I ever heard and I often listen to him while I’m working, and Thomas Andrews, the designer of the Titanic, I’ve always liked him, I think he’d be interesting to talk to, and if you’re stranded on a deserted island it seems sensible to have an experienced shipbuilder along just in case you need him. 

Giveaway:

Want to win a paperback of The Ripper's Wife? You can win a copy by filling out the Rafflecopter form below (U.S. only)! 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, October 27
Review at A Bookish Affair
Tuesday, October 28
Review & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Obsession
Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, October 29
Review at Kinx’s Book Nook
Review at The Maiden’s Court
Thursday, October 30
Review at Book of Secrets
Friday, October 31
Review at WTF Are You Reading?
Feature at Passages to the Past
Monday, November 3
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Interview & Giveaway at Mina’s Bookshelf
Tuesday, November 4
Review at 100 Pages a Day – Stephanie’s Book reviews
Interview at A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, November 5
Review at JulzReads
Thursday, November 6
Review at History & Women
Friday, November 7
Review at A Book Geek
Monday, November 10
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Tuesday, November 11
Review & Giveaway at Historical Tapestry
Wednesday, November 12
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Thursday, November 13
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Friday, November 14
Review at Girl Lost in a Book
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