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Monday, October 20, 2014

BookSparks Fall Reading Challenge Review: Rock Angel by Jeanne Bogino

Title: Rock Angel
Author: Jeanne Bogino
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Prashanti Press LLC.
Publish Date: September 16, 2014
Source: BookSparks Fall Reading Challenge

What's the Story?:

From "Shan is young, beautiful, talented, and addicted to heroin in Rock Angel, a novel that follows her meteoric rise to guitar goddess stardom in the 90’s. She is discovered in New York by a handsome, arrogant musical genius named Quinn, and sparks fly between them when he hires her as lead guitarist of his band. Although Quinn is accustomed to bedding a different groupie every night, he can’t ignore his deepening feelings for his new band mate. From gritty Greenwich Village clubs to L.A.’s Troubadour; gigging and touring the country to the cover of Rolling Stone, Rock Angel is infused with the passionate music and intense sexual chemistry of Shan and Quinn. Shan must work out her personal demons and learn to trust Quinn enough to love him, but still remain true to the music that has always been her salvation."

My Two Cents:

In "Rock Angel," Shan is a teenager who is running away from her difficult family life and goes to New York where she's discovered by Quinn, a full-fledged rockstar. At first Shan and Quinn don't exactly get along. She thinks that Quinn is a control freak and Quinn thinks that Shan is much too young to know what's good for her. All of this is complicated by Shan's addiction to heroin. This is a story of music, passion, and love set during their rollicking 90s.

In a lot of ways, this book feels very realistic. I really liked how the author was able to create characters who seemed like they could've been real. Shan is definitely a broken character. She, as I mentioned before, is ready to get away from a horrible family life and getting herself into a lot of trouble along the way. Quinn is the quintessential brooding musician who is just a little stuck on himself and stuck on his music. These two very different people come together to form a very interesting relationship, that I loved watching grow. The book covers a few years so we really get to see a lot of changes firsthand.

Being someone who will not musically talented myself but enjoys music all the same, I really enjoyed the musical aspect of this book. The author did a really good job of capturing the changing landscape of rock music during the 1990s. I loved reading about how the band in the book gets ready to tour and all of the places they play in as well as the general atmosphere that they make their music in.

The writing of the book was pretty good. There were a couple parts that were a bit stiff but overall, I thought this was a good read on a volatile relationship between two very talented musicians.


Friday, October 17, 2014

HF Virtual Book Tours Interview and Giveaway: Deanna Raybourn, Author of Night of a Thousand Stars

Today, I am really excited to welcome Deanna Raybourn to A Bookish Affair!

  1. How did you come up with the idea for "Night of a Thousand Stars?" 
    The book is loosely connected to my previous novel, CITY OF JASMINE. I set up a story arc in that book that left a few threads untied, so this was my opportunity to weave them in. Characters that had only been alluded do in the first book took center stage in this one, and there is even a cameo by one of JASMINE’s main characters to link them more tightly together. 

  2. What was your research process like for this book? What is the most interesting or strange thing you found out during your research? 

    The research was pretty straightforward since I had just set a book in Damascus. I had read mountains of information about the area during and after WWI, Lawrence of Arabia, Lady Hester Stanhope, Gertrude Bell, Jane Digby, etc. so I was able to use all of that in this book as well—always a luxury! I plowed through my notes again to refresh my memory and did some more intense digging about the Syrian countryside to get the details right. The most fun was probably the time I spent immersed in Circassian native dress. If I could, I’d wear it every day—it’s unspeakably gorgeous. I particularly loved the passage I found describing how a Circassian bridegroom uses the tip of his knife to cut his bride free from her corset on their wedding night!

  3. Who is your favorite character in this book and why? 

    I love Sebastian unreservedly, and writing Poppy was just complete joy. She’s bright and intrepid, two of my favorite qualities in a character, and I think that’s apparent from the very first page when she literally runs away from her chance at a brilliant society match. But my favorite character in this book is probably Masterman. I love her hidden depths! She was great fun to write, and I left a lot of her secrets unrevealed, keeping her a little mysterious. She’s brilliant and acerbic and unexpected. 

  4. You've written many books now. Have you found your process has changed at all? Has writing gotten easier or harder? 

    My process has essentially turned on its head. I used to write very long first drafts that included every detail and then whittle them down. I’ve since learned to write a much shorter first draft and embellish it as I revise. It saves an almost incalculable amount of time to insert brackets with a note about what I want to include and keep forging ahead. Then I know exactly which bits of information to go in search of, where I need to expand a conversation, or do a better job of setting a scene. 

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

          I would choose doomed queens—Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, and Marie Antoinette.  They didn’t have a chance to live out their lives, so they probably deserve a little fun. 


You have a chance to win an ebook copy of "Night of a Thousand Stars" (open internationally).

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

HF Virtual Book Tours: Night of a Thousand Stars by Deanna Raybourn

Title: Night of a Thousand Stars
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Publish Date: September 30, 2014,
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "On the verge of a stilted life as an aristocrat's wife, Poppy Hammond does the only sensible thing—she flees the chapel in her wedding gown. Assisted by the handsome curate who calls himself Sebastian Cantrip, she spirits away to her estranged father's quiet country village, pursued by the family she left in uproar. But when the dust of her broken engagement settles and Sebastian disappears under mysterious circumstances, Poppy discovers there is more to her hero than it seems. 

With only her feisty lady's maid for company, Poppy secures employment and travels incognita—east across the seas, chasing a hunch and the whisper of clues. Danger abounds beneath the canopies of the silken city, and Poppy finds herself in the perilous sights of those who will stop at nothing to recover a fabled ancient treasure. Torn between allegiance to her kindly employer and a dashing, shadowy figure, Poppy will risk it all as she attempts to unravel a much larger plan—one that stretches to the very heart of the British government, and one that could endanger everything, and everyone, that she holds dear. "

My Two Cents:

In "Night of a Thousand Stars," our main character, Poppy, doesn't know what she wants. She wants to be married until it comes to the actual marrying part, which is when she decides to run away from her marriage (by crawling out a church window, of course!) and off on a big adventure where hopefully she will be able to figure out what it is that she really wants out of life. Taking place in the Roaring 1920s (one of my very eras to read about), this book had me hooked from the beginning with a spunky main character and sizzling dialogue.

This is the first book that I have read by Deanna Raybourn and after reading this book, I know that I should really read more by her as I thoroughly enjoyed this book! The way that she created the dialogue between the various characters was awesome. It was very realistic and I could definitely picture all of the characters in my head (always a bonus when reading a book).

I also really liked the characters in the book. Poppy was so much fun. As she's planning her grand escape, she happens to meet the debonair Sebastian, who was definitely a swoon-worthy love interest. I loved reading about Poppy and Sebastian's relationship as it changed and grew throughout the book. They definitely challenged each other, which I really liked. 

And of course, I have to mention the setting. This book finds our characters mainly in Damascus, which I am not sure I've ever read a fictional book about, so this exotic location was a treat! I love armchair traveling!

Overall, this was a great historical pick that I definitely enjoyed!

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, September 29
Review & Giveaway at Bookish
Tuesday, September 30
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Wednesday, October 1
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Spotlight at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Thursday, October 2
Review at Ramblings From This Chick
Friday, October 3
Review at Book Babe
Monday, October 6
Review at Unabridged Chick
Spotlight & Giveaway at Reading Lark
Tuesday, October 7
Review at Candace’s Book Blog
Wednesday, October 8
Review at Good Books and Good Wine
Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick
Thursday, October 9
Excerpt at A Book Geek
Guest Post & Giveaway at Good Books and Good Wine
Monday, October 13
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Tuesday, October 14
Review at Reading the Past
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Wednesday, October 15
Review at The Lit Bitch
Review at WTF Are You Reading?
Thursday, October 16
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Friday, October 17
Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Monday, October 20
Review at The Life & Times of a Book Addict
Excerpt at Historical Fiction Connection
Tuesday, October 21
Review & Giveaway at Bookshelf Fantasies
Spotlight & Giveaway at Susan Heim on Writing
Wednesday, October 22
Review, Excerpt & Giveaway at Just One More Chapter
Thursday, October 23
Review at Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Friday, October 24
Review at Curling Up By the Fire
Monday, October 27
Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Tuesday, October 28
Review at To Read or Not to Read
Wednesday, October 29
Review & Giveaway at Bibliophilia, Please
Thursday, October 30
Review & Giveaway at Historical Tapestry
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Review: Missed Connections: Love, Lost & Found by Sophie Blackall

Title: Missed Connections: Love, Lost & Found
Author: Sophie Blackall
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Workman Publishing
Publish Date: September 2011
Source: Owned

What's the Story?:

From "In her first book for adults, the artist Sophie Blackall creates a deeply felt, poignant book about love—a book that captures the mystery, the yearning, at times the cosmic humor behind the “what if?” of a missed connection.

Like a message in a bottle, a “missed connection" classified (usually posted on a website) is an attempt however far-fetched, by one stranger to reach another on the strength of a remembered glance, smile, or blue hat. The anonymous messages are hopeful and hopeless, funny and sad. Ms. Blackall, award-winning illustrator of Ruby’s Wish and Big Red Lollipop, has turned some of the most evocative (or hilarious) of them into exquisite paintings.

Missed Connections is a collection of illustrated love stories. There’s “We Shared a Bear Suit.” “If Not for Your Noisy Tambourine.” “Hairy Bearded Swimmer.” Each is told in the shorthand of a “missed connection,” and then illustrated in Chinese ink and watercolor. The paintings are extraordinary: delicate yet full of feeling, each springing from one little detail of the post into a fully imagined world. Each brings the voyeuristic pleasure of watching love at first sight, and the pleasure of watching an artist discover a fresh new way to tell a story. And not all the connections are missed. Hidden in the book are three pieces that conjure up the magic of love found."

My Two Cents:

I am a romantic at heart and admittedly I love reading Craigslist's Missed Connections. It is so strange and so beautiful to me to think that one passing glance could move some to post something about exchanging smiles on the street or on the Metro. It's even more beautiful to me when someone posts a Missed Connection about someone that they knew a long time ago and now with this digital age that we live in, not giving up hope that someday they might be able to reunite with someone that they loved and/or cared about. Human connection in all of its many forms is truly a beautiful thing.

This book explores that human connection through words and charming, sometimes whimsical drawings. I really loved it. Some of the Missed Connections are funny, some make you wonder about the people that wrote them, some make you wonder about the people they were written about, and some (and these are the ones that get me) are absolutely heartwrenching! This is one of those books that will make you feel all sorts of different feelings - it is definitely a rollercoaster ride!

If you like Missed Connections or even if you are just interested in reading about the human condition and the human heart, this book would be a great pick. I know that this is definitely going to be a book that I go back to over and over again!


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Review: Here and Again by Nicole R. Dickson

Title: Here and Again
Author: Nicole R. Dickson
Format: Paperback
Publisher: NAL Trade
Publish Date: June 3, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the PR; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "For nurse Ginger Martin, her late husband’s farm is both a treasured legacy and the harbinger of an uncertain future. Since he was recently killed in Iraq, every day is fraught with grief that won’t abate. Keeping the farm going and nourishing her children’s hopes without him seems as impossible as having dreams for the future—or going back into the past....

By a curious coincidence, a stranger appears in Ginger’s life, always showing up to help in unexpected and much-needed ways. He says he’s a soldier, lost and trying to make his way home, but Ginger understands that Samuel is a kindred spirit, longing to repair a life interrupted. The challenges of their hopes and longings will test who they really are in the most heartbreaking of ways. And only by coming to terms with their losses and the necessity of change will Ginger and Samuel be able to each make a future of their own—and discover at last where their true home lies...."

My Two Cents:

In "Here and Again," Ginger really wants to keep her husband's family farm in the Virginia countryside after he is killed in action in Iraq. She wants her three children to be able to grow up on the farm as was her husband's dream. The reality is that Ginger doesn't have enough money to keep the farm afloat nor does she know how to effectively run a farm. She's losing hope of being able to keep the farm when a ghost (of all things) appears to her. Samuel is a ghost from the Civil War (although he prefers she would call him a spirit instead of a ghost). He says that he will be able to help Ginger and her children run the farm. Ginger is pretty sure she's seeing things by as she has no other choice she decides to go along with the plan. This is a great story about family with the paranormal twist.

I really enjoyed this engaging story. It is definitely a different kind of story and I love reading something new and different. The part about Samuel being from the past was not expected at all from reading the synopsis of the book but it was a nice surprise for me. In a lot of ways, this book reminded me of Audrey Niffenegger's "The Time Traveler's Wife," which is one of my favorite stories.

The story is definitely a unique way and if you're looking for something off the beaten path, this might be a great pic for you. I really enjoyed the way that the author was able to make the spirit in the story feel authentic. I like that the author chose to include letters from Samuel to his lover during Civil War times. It allows you to get a little bit of a taste of of the time that Samuel actually lived in.I also liked how Ginger and the children dealt with the appearance of the Spirit. I thought that the author definitely did a good job of making everything feel very real, which is important to me in a book like this. Overall, I really enjoyed this story!


Review: The Hawley Book of the Dead by Chrysler Szarlan

Title: The Hawley Book of the Dead
Author: Chrysler Szarlan
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Ballantine
Publish Date: September 23, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "Revelation “Reve” Dyer grew up with her grandmother’s family stories, stretching back centuries to Reve’s ancestors, who founded the town of Hawley Five Corners, Massachusetts. Their history is steeped in secrets, for few outsiders know that an ancient magic runs in the Dyer women’s blood, and that Reve is a magician whose powers are all too real.

Reve and her husband are world-famous Las Vegas illusionists. They have three lovely young daughters, a beautiful home, and what seems like a charmed life. But Reve’s world is shattered when an intruder alters her trick pistol and she accidentally shoots and kills her beloved husband onstage.

Fearing for her daughters’ lives, Reve flees with them to the place she has always felt safest—an antiquated farmhouse in the forest of Hawley Five Corners, where the magic of her ancestors reigns, and her oldest friend—and first love—is the town’s chief of police. Here, in the forest, with its undeniable air of enchantment, Reve hopes she and her girls will be protected.

Delving into the past for answers, Reve is drawn deeper into her family’s legends. What she discovers is The Hawley Book of the Dead, an ancient leather-bound journal holding mysterious mythic power. As she pieces together the truth behind the book, Reve will have to shield herself and her daughters against an uncertain, increasingly dangerous fate. For soon it becomes clear that the stranger who upended Reve’s life in Las Vegas has followed her to Hawley—and that she has something he desperately wants."

My Two Cents:

"The Hawley Book of the Dead" is the story of Revelation, a Las Vegas magician, who has a magic act with her beloved husband. Her magic is real though and is no illusion. She also has a family made up of two twin daughters and a younger daughter. This is no ordinary family. After the tragedy strikes the family, Revelation is afraid that some of her old issues with magic has come to roost upon her and her family. This book is a great story with a healthy dose of magical realism, mystery, and suspense that will delight many readers.

I love my fiction with a little bit of magic! Magical realism is so much fun. This book definitely has it in spades. I loved the way that the author was able to incorporate Revelation's powers and those of her youngest daughter into something that felt very real throughout the book. This book has a healthy dose of mystery surrounding the magic which makes it all that much more interesting!

I really like that the book was told from the perspective of Revelation. That really allowed me to get into the story. I think it was also helpful to have the story be told from a first-hand point of view as it helped to keep the mystery that happens throughout the book and is solved at the end of the book a secret until the very end.

This is definitely one of those books that's great if you have a long, cold, wet afternoon where you can fully engage in a good story. This book is best ride it in large doses. I really enjoyed the story and know that I will be thinking about these characters for a long time to come.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Review: While the Gods Were Sleeping by Elizabeth Enslin

Title: While the Gods Were Sleeping
Author: Elizabeth Enslin
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Seal Press
Publish Date: September 23, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "Love and marriage brought American anthropologist Elizabeth Enslin to a world she never planned to make her own: a life among Brahman in-laws in a remote village in the plains of Nepal. As she faced the challenges of married life, birth, and childrearing in a foreign culture, she discovered as much about human resilience, and the capacity for courage, as she did about herself."

My Two Cents:

"While the Gods Were Sleeping" is the story of a young woman anthropologist who follows her love first to India and then to his home country of Nepal where she studies and learns to live amongst the people of his small town. Most of the book surrounds the way that she gives birth in this environment, which is quite different than what she's used to in the United States. There is a lot of rumination on the differences between life and Nepal in life in the United States. This book would be a great choice for anyone who is interested in the nitty-gritty of traveling off the beaten path.

I was hooked by the descriptions of the the exotic setting of Nepal. I never really knew much about that country prior to reading this book. I also really like the descriptions of the author's journeys through India as well. The other uses a lot of descriptions that really made me feel as if I were in both of those countries. I thought that the author did a really good job of giving a really realistic descriptions of both of these places: both the beautiful and the harsh.

I also really like the author's descriptions of all of the different people that she meets. At first, her soon-to-be husband's family is not quite sure of what to make of those white American who finds herself in their small village. How will she fit into their community? Will she really have a place there? Will she take their son away to America? However, they are incredibly gracious and make the author feel welcome. I really liked the author's description of how these people see the world.

Overall, if you're looking for a book where you can do a steady bunch of armchair traveling, this is definitely a book that you should pick up.

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