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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Book of the Month Club and a Review of Local Girls by Caroline Zancan

Title: Local Girls
Author: Caroline Zancan
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publish Date: June 30, 2015
Source: Book of the Month (check out my review of this service at the end of the book review)



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Maggie, Lindsey, and Nina have been friends for most of their lives. The girls grew up together in a dead-end Florida town on the outskirts of Orlando, and the love and loyalty they have for one another have been their only constants. Now nineteen and restless, the girls spend empty summer days bouncing between unfulfilling jobs, the beach, and their favorite local bar, The Shamrock. It’s there that a chance encounter with a movie star on the last night of his life changes everything.

Passing through Orlando, Sam Decker comes to The Shamrock seeking anonymity, but finds Maggie, Lindsey, and Nina instead. Obsessed with celebrity magazines that allow them a taste of the better lives they might have had, the girls revel in his company. But the appearance of Lila, the estranged former member of the girls’ group, turns the focus to their shared history, bringing all their old antagonisms to the surface—Lila’s defection to Orlando’s country club school when her father came into some money, and the strange, enchanting boy she brought into their circle, who fundamentally altered dynamics that had been in play for years. By the night’s end, the escalation of these long-buried issues forces them to see one another as the women they are now instead of the girls they used to be.

With an uncanny eye for the raw edges of what it means to be a girl and a heartfelt sense of the intensity of early friendship, Local Girls is a look at both the profound role celebrity plays in our culture, and how the people we know as girls end up changing the course of our lives."


My Two Cents:

"Local Girls" is the story of three very close friends who live in their small Florida town after graduating from high school. This is the town that they've grown up where they know everyone and that's not always a good thing. In a lot of ways these girls have not outgrown that sort of pettiness and cattiness that affect so many friendships from high school.

I never really had any friendships like this but I had a lot of friends who went through some of the same things these girls go through where there's a perceived issue and no one ever wants to talk about it. This is what happens to Maggie, Lindsey, and Nina and their once friend Lila. In one night these girls will finally confront what broke their friendship apart and realize that maybe they need to get out of their small town and experience something more. This was a book that I have gotten through the Book-of-the-Month club, which all talk about a little bit later in this post. This book has gotten a lot of buzz this summer so I was excited to read it

One night in their small local bar, the girls meet a celebrity, Sam. Sam is one of the hottest actors in Hollywood and the girls can't believe that they came he came to their small backwater town. This is also the same night where they figure out what went wrong with their friendship with Lila. The issue is really a misunderstanding overall and therefore the arc seemed a bit melodramatic to me. Maggie is telling this story as an adult, which means that some of the things that she talks about don't seem to ring true. It was hard to feel for these girls.

The book only barely covers one night and it's stuck in a place where you have to put yourself in the mindset of the characters as what they're dealing with seems so like not really a big deal in the scheme of things. Overall, I like the writing style of the book but struggled to understand fully where the characters were coming from.


  
Book of the Month:


Book of the Month is a new website that officially launches this month. This service puts book lovers in contact with great books hand-picked by fantastically bookish judges to include the likes of Liberty Hardy from Book Riot. For just $12.99 per month, you receive a new book and access to a discussion board. I was excited to receive a trial membership for three months to try out the service (this did not affect my review)!

The books come in pretty packages with a note about why the book was chosen!



So, how does Book of the Month work? At the beginning of the month, you get to pick a book from the judges' selections. If you want more than one book, it's an additional $12.99, which is still a great deal for a new hardcover IMHO.

In August, I received "Local Girls." I could not choose between the books in September so I am getting Alice Hoffman's "The Marriage of Opposites" and Ben Mezrich's "Once Upon a Time in Russia." Look for my reviews of those books later on!

 Overall, I have enjoyed the service so far. This would definitely be a great gift for your favorite book lover (hint, hint, friends and family!!!).  There is not much on the discussion boards right now as the service is just getting started but I am hopeful that the boards will become more active as the site gets rolling!

Here's what people are saying:

Rachel Manwill, Editorial Manager of Book of the Month said:

On the re-launch:
“Book of the Month has been an iconic club for nearly 90 years. We’ve worked hard to honor the legacy of the club, while re-introducing it to better serve today’s readers.”
  
What you hope users will enjoy:
“We hope that we can provide members with a fun and inexpensive way to read a great new book each month, while continuing to support the careers of aspiring and established authors.”


Have you tried Book of the Month? 

HFVBT Guest Post: Kaaren Christopherson, Author of Decorum

I am very excited to have Kaaren Christopherson here to A Bookish Affair today!


Getting in touch with characters
By Kaaren Christopherson, author of Decorum

Work on Decorum began when Connor O’Casey appeared in my imagination, complete with top hat and silver-handled walking stick, demanding that the story of his Gilded Age pursuit of fortune and respectability be told. Almost before I knew what was happening, he was joined by Blanche Alvarado and Francesca Lund, whose relationship with Connor I didn’t know at first. Then followed Edmund, Nell, Vinnie, the Jeromes, the Worths, and a host of other characters in rapid succession. One of the great pleasures for me of writing historical fiction is developing characters—or rather putting them in situations and watching them interact, react, speak, and grow in breadth and depth as they reveal more and more about themselves.

As the characters absorbed my thoughts away from the computer, I found myself wondering about the characters—about their backstories and how they spend their time “off camera,” outside the plot. I got to know them better, like getting to know new friends, with the added step of documenting what I learned—when and where the characters were born, who their parents and siblings were and their parents’ professions, where they went to school, what jobs they’ve held and where, what religion they practiced, what hobbies they enjoyed or colors they favored or food they liked or pets they owned—a general census of Decorum’s population.

By the time I had gotten to know them this well, the characters began to crop up everywhere. One of the main places I “saw” them was in flea markets and antique shops. As I took particular note of Victorian period clothes, jewelry, and furnishings, I would happen across items that I felt might have belonged to them. A cup and saucer found at a local antique shop occupied space on my desk while writing Decorum; I knew it “belonged” Francesca. A chat with the antique dealer confirmed the period and place of origin and ended with the dealer saying, “I wonder what the story is behind this cup?” Okay, okay, I said, wrap it.





A good rummage through old jewelry unearthed treasures the characters would have recognized. A ring of my grandmother’s inspired the description of Francesca’s engagement ring. My grandfather’s mother-of-pearl collar button and cufflinks might have belonged to Connor. When my own desk drawer yielded a polished piece of Jasper, I knew this was something Connor could well have carried his pocket—a reminder of his days in the American West as a young man. Many of these items never found their way into Decorum, but their tangible presence helped me form a link with the past, a connection with something they may have known and touched, even if only in my imagination. On the other hand, my own very real feline companions Archie and Sammy wound up with cameo appearances, giving comfort to the animal-loving Francesca.

A terrific outlet for this accumulated information was in developing an 1890s tabloid called The O’Casey Chronicle for my website. The O’Casey Chronicle features articles about the off-camera activities of the characters and includes brief bio sketches as well as words of wisdom from “Miss Decorum” (http://www.kaarenchristopherson.com/the-ocasey-chronicle). Discovering as much as I could about Decorum’s cast of characters gave me the confidence to let them go, to let them do what came naturally to them in whatever circumstances they found themselves. They developed Decorum along with me, sometimes saying and doing outrageous things and taking the story in surprising directions. Was I ever tempted to rein them in? Not really. Left to themselves, they often displayed a greater facility in storytelling than I. The real wisdom lay in letting them get on with it.



#Dryland1992: On Wednesdays We Wear Plaid

I'm still celebrating the pub week for Dryland by Sara Jaffe.

Here's the lineup for pub-week:

  • Monday, 8/31: Mixed-Tape Memories: Post a picture of a favorite cassette tape, mention a favorite memory or artist/album/playlist
  • Tuesday, 9/1: Then and Now Around Town: How as your city changed since '92?
    Wednesday, 9/2: On Wednesdays We Wear Plaid: Post a picture of yourself wearing plaid with the book!
  • Thursday, 9/3: Not-So Current Events: Reminiscence on events in your life and in the news in '92
  • Friday, 9/4: Favorite Picture Friday: Dare to share a picture of yourself rocking overalls, crimped hair, choker necklaces...we will, too!
On to today's topic: Not-So Current Events!

So back in 1992, I was 7 years old and mostly concerned with going to school and having fun (those were the days). I can remember starting to pay attention to politics. Politics have always fascinated me and living in the D.C. area, it is hard not to pay attention even if you want to not pay attention because you are always surrounded by politics.

It's kind of crazy that in 1992, the Clintons were big news and now in 2015, they are still big news. Time has passed but they are still in the spotlight. They have staying power whether you like it or not!

Here's Hillary Clinton in 1992:





Here she is in 2015: 



Wild no?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

#Dryland1992: On Wednesdays We Wear Plaid

As I mentioned last week, I'm going to be participating in a bunch of activities to celebrate the pub week for Dryland by Sara Jaffe.

Here's the lineup for pub-week:
  • Monday, 8/31: Mixed-Tape Memories: Post a picture of a favorite cassette tape, mention a favorite memory or artist/album/playlist
  • Tuesday, 9/1: Then and Now Around Town: How as your city changed since '92?
    Wednesday, 9/2: On Wednesdays We Wear Plaid: Post a picture of yourself wearing plaid with the book!
  • Thursday, 9/3: Not-So Current Events: Reminiscence on events in your life and in the news in '92
  • Friday, 9/4: Favorite Picture Friday: Dare to share a picture of yourself rocking overalls, crimped hair, choker necklaces...we will, too!

On to today's topic: On Wednesdays We Wear Plaid!

I don't have a lot of plaid so I wore what I have! A scarf!


HFVBT Review: Decorum by Kaaren Christopherson

Title: Decorum
Author: Kaaren Christopherson
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Kensington Books
Publish Date: March 31, 2015
Source: HFVBT






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "In 1890s New York, beautiful, wealthy Francesca Lund is an intriguing prospect for worthy suitors and fortune hunters alike. Recently orphaned, she copes by working with the poor in the city's settlement movement. But a young woman of means can't shun society for long, and Francesca's long-standing acquaintance with dashing Edmund Tracey eventually leads to engagement. Yet her sheltered upbringing doesn't blind her to the indiscretions of the well-to-do...

Among the fashionable circle that gathers around her there are mistresses, scandals, and gentlemen of ruthless ambition. And there is Connor O'Casey--an entirely new kind of New Yorker. A self-made millionaire of Irish stock, Connor wants more than riches. He wants to create a legacy in the form of a luxury Madison Avenue hotel--and he wants Francesca by his side as he does it. In a quest that will take her from impeccable Manhattan salons to the wild Canadian Rockies, Francesca must choose not only between two vastly different men, but between convention and her own emerging self-reliance."


My Two Cents: 

In "Decorum," Francesca is suddenly orphaned as a young adult and this leaves her with a whole bunch of money. Since it's the late 1800s, as a woman she is not seen as being able to take care of herself and mind her money so she has a couple suitors vying for her hand in marriage but not for necessarily altruistic reasons.

I was interested in reading this book because I haven't read a whole lot set in the late 1800s and New York City is always an interesting setting to me, particularly when it comes to historical fiction. This novel is intricate and complex and standing at about 420 pages, it's quite long as well. Long books are fine but I did find myself wishing that some parts of this book had been slimmed down a little bit in order to keep the story moving as it seemed to bogged down in detail a little bit.

As I mentioned, women during this time did not have a whole lot of power and a lot of the underlying story revolves around Francesca simply having to bow to society and the unspoken rules that society of the time demanded. Each book or each chapter is introduced with a section of a book entitled "Decorum" which tells how those and high society are supposed to act during that time. It was very eye-opening to me! I also must mention that I had a hard time warming up to either of the love interests in the book as their motives didn't always seem to stand up for me.

Overall, I thought this was a interesting take on what it was like to be a woman at the time.  



Tuesday, September 1, 2015

#Dryland1992: Then and Now Around Town

As I mentioned last week, I'm going to be participating in a bunch of activities to celebrate the pub week for Dryland by Sara Jaffe.

Here's the lineup for pub-week:
  • Monday, 8/31: Mixed-Tape Memories: Post a picture of a favorite cassette tape, mention a favorite memory or artist/album/playlist
  • Tuesday, 9/1: Then and Now Around Town: How as your city changed since '92?
    Wednesday, 9/2: On Wednesdays We Wear Plaid: Post a picture of yourself wearing plaid with the book!
  • Thursday, 9/3: Not-So Current Events: Reminiscence on events in your life and in the news in '92
  • Friday, 9/4: Favorite Picture Friday: Dare to share a picture of yourself rocking overalls, crimped hair, choker necklaces...we will, too!

On to today's topic: Then and Now Around Town!

By 1992, my family had lived in Maryland for about two years. My family is originally from Colorado so the novelty of living so close to the Nation's Capital was very much fresh and new. We spent a lot of time going downtown. From where we lived, you had to either take the Metro (which I thought was awesome at the time) or we would drive our Ford Taurus station wagon into the city and down New York Avenue. New York Avenue is still not the nicest stretch of road ever but back in 1992, it was much different and quite overwhelming for my Midwestern parents who always told us that no matter what, we weren't to stare at anyone out the windows!

Once we got down into D.C., we very rarely went anywhere that wasn't right on the National Mall unless it was the zoo and we went to the zoo a ton! There is so much more to do in D.C. these days for adults and children alike!

Review: The Paris Key by Juliet Blackwell

Title: The Paris Key
Author: Juliet Blackwell
Format: Paperback
Publisher: NAL
Publish Date: September 1, 2015 (Today!)
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "As a girl, Genevieve Martin spent the happiest summer of her life in Paris, learning the delicate art of locksmithing at her uncle’s side. But since then, living back in the States, she has become more private, more subdued. She has been an observer of life rather than an active participant, holding herself back from those around her, including her soon-to-be-ex-husband.

Paris never really left Genevieve, and, as her marriage crumbles, she finds herself faced with an incredible opportunity: return to the magical city of her youth to take over her late uncle’s shop. But as she absorbs all that Parisian culture has to offer, she realizes the city also holds secrets about her family that could change her forever, and that locked doors can protect you or imprison you, depending on which side of them you stand."



My Two Cents:

"The Paris Key" is the story of Genevieve, who is running away from her marriage after her husband has an affair. She's heartbroken and she thinks that getting back to the city that her mother fell in love with and taking over her uncle's locksmith shop might just be the trick to getting her life back on track. Genevieve can barely speak French when she arrives in Paris but slowly she begins to build a life for herself and begins to unravel the mystery of what happened to her mother in Paris.

This book is the story of family, love, and family secrets. This book started off a little bit shaky for me and throughout the book there were places where I felt that the author told a little bit too much and gave a little bit too much detail which gummed up some of the narrative. Luckily for me there were only a couple places like that and in general, the storytelling was very good. I was entranced by the story of Angela, Genevieve's mother, and how she fell in love in Paris. I don't want to give anything away about Angela's love story because that makes a huge crux of the story arc. The story is definitely originally when it comes to Angela's story, which I appreciated.

Paris is definitely one place that I love to read about. I would love to visit someday and this book had me wishing that even more. I thought that the author gave a really unique look at Paris in the present day as well as Paris in the more recent past. Overall, I thought this was a good story and I read it pretty quickly!


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