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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

HF Virtual Book Tours Review: Revenge and Retribution by Anna Belfrage

Title: Revenge and Retribution
Author: Anna Belfrage
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Silverwood Books
Publish Date: July 1, 2014
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "'Revenge & Retribution' is the sixth book in Anna Belfrage's time slip series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham. Life in the Colony of Maryland is no sinecure - as Alex and Matthew Graham well know. But nothing in their previous life has prepared them for the mayhem that is about to be unleashed upon them. Being labelled a witch is not a good thing in 1684, so it is no wonder Alex Graham is aghast at having such insinuations thrown at her. Even worse, it's Matthew's brother-in-law, Simon Melville, who points finger at her. Not that the ensuing hearing is her main concern, because nowadays Alex's entire life is tainted by the fear of what Philip Burley will do to them once he gets hold of them. On a sunny May afternoon, Philip finally achieves his aim and over the course of the coming days Alex sees her whole life unravelling, leaving her family permanently maimed. As if all this wasn't enough, Alex also has to cope with the loss of one of her sons. Forcibly adopted by the former Susquehannock, Samuel is dragged from Alex's arms to begin a new life in the wilderness. How is Alex to survive all this? And will she be able to put her damaged family back together?"

My Two Cents:

You all know how I like reading about local places, right? When I heard that Anna Belfrage's Graham Saga took place in the colony of Maryland (Maryland, my Maryland!!!), I knew that I had to jump on the tour for the latest book in this series, "Revenge and Retribution." This was a great tour for me to jump on for sure! I really enjoyed this book and while it works perfectly fine as a stand alone novel, I really wish that I would have had the opportunity to read the first five books in the Graham Saga first! Alas, I must fix that in the future. For now, this book made for a great introduction.

In "Revenge and Retribution," time traveling Alex finds herself having lived in the colony of Maryland for a couple decades by now. She and her lovely Scottish born husband, Matthew, have several children, some of whom are fully grown. The story discusses their lives and really centers a lot on how Alex and Matthew are coping with their children growing and carving out lives for themselves, to include Samuel, their son, who is torn between living his life in the colonial town or in the wilderness with the Native Americans (called Indians in this book, of course) who surround the town. His plight was really fascinating to me.

This book was set in a really interesting time where there were a lot of questions about religion in Maryland. Maryland was actually established as a haven for Catholics but this book really shows how many questions there were about whether or not that should remain during the late 1600s. The book also centers on the great fear that witches were present in that time period. Anyone labelled a witch during that time was in great danger as Alex quickly realizes! I loved the element of historical detail in this book. I loved learning a little bit of new information about my state! Overall, this was a very good story that I ate up!

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Friday, August 15
Review at Just One More Chapter
Monday, August 18
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Tuesday, August 19
Review at WTF Are You Reading?
Guest Post at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, August 20
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Friday, August 22
Review at Layered Pages
Monday, August 25
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Tuesday, August 26
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Wednesday, August 27
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Friday, August 29
Review at Book Nerd
Monday, September 1
Review at Dianne Ascroft Blog
Tuesday, September 2
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Wednesday, September 3
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Thursday, September 4
Review at Kincavel Korner
Friday, September 5
Guest Post at Kincavel Korner
Guest Post at bookworm2bookworm’s Blog
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HF Virtual Book Tours Book Blast: Close to the Sun by Donald Michael Platt

pPublication Date: June 15, 2014 Fireship Press eBook; 404p Genre: Historical Fiction Add to GR Button Close to the Sun follows the lives of fighter pilots during the Second World War. As a boy, Hank Milroy from Wyoming idealized the gallant exploits of WWI fighter aces. Karl, First von Pfalz-Teuffelreich, aspires to surpass his father's 49 Luftsiegen. Seth Braham falls in love with flying during an air show at San Francisco's Chrissy Field. The young men encounter friends, rivals, and exceptional women. Braxton Mobley, the hotshot, wants to outscore every man in the air force. Texas tomboy Catherine "Winty" McCabe is as good a flyer as any man. Princess Maria-Xenia, a stateless White Russian, works for the Abwehr, German Intelligence. Elfriede Wohlman is a frontline nurse with a dangerous secret. Miriam Keramopoulos is the girl from Brooklyn with a voice that will take her places. Once the United States enter the war, Hank, Brax, and Seth experience the exhilaration of aerial combat and acedom during the unromantic reality of combat losses, tedious bomber escort, strafing runs, and the firebombing of entire cities. As one of the hated aristocrats, Karl is in as much danger from Nazis as he is from enemy fighter pilots, as he and his colleagues desperately try to stem the overwhelming tide as the war turns against Germany. Callous political decisions, disastrous mistakes, and horrific atrocities they witness at the end of WWII put a dark spin on all their dreams of glory.

Blogger Praise for Close to the Sun

"Donald Michael Platt's Close to the Sun is an amazing story told from the perspective of average male fighter pilots in the onset and during WWII, juxtaposing between various men from many sides of the war. The details in this novel were spectacular, creating imagery and depth in the scenes and characters, as well as the dialogue being so nostalgic and well-written it felt right out of a 1950s film. The romantic nuances of his storytelling felt incredibly authentic with the tug and pull of the men being called to serve and the women whom they loved who had their own high hopes, dreams, or work. I loved how he portrayed this women the most strongly and fiercely independent. I've read several other books by Platt, and this is the best one I've read yet! I couldn't stop reading. " - Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Hook of a Book "Donald Platt's Close To The Sun, is nothing short of Historical Fiction gold. Platt's flair for emotionally provocative storytelling makes this book attractive to both male and female readers. Seamlessly weaving the threads of action and feeling into a brilliant tableau of humanity. This is a masterfully penned tale of war, ambition, love, loss, and ACES!" - Frishawn Rasheed, WTF Are You Reading? "Fast-paced and riveting I couldn't get enough of Hank, Karl and Seth's exploits! CLOSE TO THE SUN is a thrilling novel that leads readers through idyllic dreams of heroism and the grim reality of war. Platt provides readers with a unique coming-of-age story as three adventure-seeking boys discover far more than how to be an aerial combat pilot. CLOSE TO THE SUN is an amazing tale of adventure, heroism, war and the drive within us all that keeps us going when things look bleak." - Ashley LaMar, Closed the Cover "I found Close to the Sun to be an entertaining read, it was well written, with well developed characters, these characters had depth and emotion. A unique plot, told from the point of view of pilots prior to and during World War II. It was a well researched and interesting book" - Margaret Cook, Just One More Chapter

Buy the Book

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About the AuthorDonald Michael Platt Author

Author of four other novels, ROCAMORA, HOUSE OF ROCAMORA, A GATHERING OF VULTURES, and CLOSE TO THE SUN, Donald Michael Platt was born and raised in San Francisco. Donald graduated from Lowell High School and received his B.A. in History from the University of California at Berkeley. After two years in the Army, Donald attended graduate school at San Jose State where he won a batch of literary awards in the annual SENATOR PHELAN LITERARY CONTEST. Donald moved to southern California to begin his professional writing career. He sold to the TV series, MR. NOVAK, ghosted for health food guru, Dan Dale Alexander, and wrote for and with diverse producers, among them as Harry Joe Brown, Sig Schlager, Albert J. Cohen, Al Ruddy plus Paul Stader Sr, Hollywood stuntman and stunt/2nd unit director. While in Hollywood, Donald taught Creative Writing and Advanced Placement European History at Fairfax High School where he was Social Studies Department Chairman. After living in Florianpolis, Brazil, setting of his horror novel A GATHERING OF VULTURES, pub. 2007 & 2011, he moved to Florida where he wrote as a with: VITAMIN ENRICHED, pub.1999, for Carl DeSantis, founder of Rexall Sundown Vitamins; and THE COUPLE'S DISEASE, Finding a Cure for Your Lost  Love  Life, pub. 2002, for Lawrence S. Hakim, MD, FACS, Head of Sexual Dysfunction Unit at the Cleveland Clinic. Currently, Donald resides in Winter Haven, Florida where he is polishing a dark novel and preparing to write a sequel to CLOSE TO THE SUN. For more information please visit Donald Michael Platt's website. You can also connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

Close to the Sun Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, August 18 Review at Forever Ashley & Closed the Cover Wednesday, August 20 Spotlight at A Bookish Affair Thursday, August 21 Review at Tribute Books Mama Friday, August 22 Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews Saturday, August 23 Review at Beth's Book Reviews Monday, August 25 Review at Jorie Loves a Story Tuesday, August 26 Interview at Jorie Loves a Story Wednesday, August 27 Spotlight at Princess of Eboli Thursday, August 28 Guest Post at The Writing Desk Friday, August 29 Review at Queen of All She Reads Monday, September 1 Review at Book Nerd Tuesday, September 2 Review & Guest Post at My Tangled Skeins Book Reviews Wednesday, September 3 Review at Book Babe Thursday, September 4 Spotlight at Layered Pages Spotlight at Kinx's Book Nook Friday, September 5 Guest Post at Cynthia Robertson Blog  photo 7503ee07-da36-4ed1-bfc9-e7938f096684.png

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Review: Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican

Title: Brutal Youth
Author: Anthony Breznican
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Thomas Dunne
Publish Date: June 10, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "With a plunging reputation and enrollment rate, Saint Michael’s has become a crumbling dumping ground for expelled delinquents and a haven for the stridently religious when incoming freshman Peter Davidek signs up. On his first day, tensions are clearly on the rise as a picked-upon upperclassmen finally snaps, unleashing a violent attack on both the students who tormented him for so long, and the corrupt, petty faculty that let it happen. But within this desperate place, Peter befriends fellow freshmen Noah Stein, a volatile classmate whose face bears the scars of a hard-fighting past, and the beautiful but lonely Lorelei Paskal —so eager to become popular, she makes only enemies.

To even stand a chance at surviving their freshmen year, the trio must join forces as they navigate a bullying culture dominated by administrators like the once popular Ms. Bromine, their embittered guidance counselor, and Father Mercedes, the parish priest who plans to scapegoat the students as he makes off with church finances. A coming-of-age tale reversed, Brutal Youth follows these students as they discover that instead of growing older and wiser, going bad may be the only way to survive."

My Two Cents:

Luckily, I was able to kind of do my own thing in high school without anyone bothering me. I had a great group of friends and those that weren't exactly friends were still fairly nice. "Brutal Youth" made me happy that was my experience rather than what some of the nicer kids at crumbling St. Mike's had to go through in this book. This book almost feels like a movie in some regard and reminded me a lot of some of the darker high school flicks (which I am still totally into, by the way) like maybe "Heathers" or something along that line so if you are in the mood for something along that vein, this might be a really good pick for you!

Branded as YA, this book will definitely appeal to adults as well. It's right on that line and if being read by teens, would probably be most appropriate for older teen readers. I love the way that this book was written. Told in third person, we get a great overview of what each of the students and some of the teachers are struggling with. There is a lot of inner turmoil here.

This is very much a character driven story and I absolutely loved the main characters (Peter, Noah, and Lorelei) as you really get to know them. You will definitely be pulling for them throughout the book! On his first visit to St. Mike's, Peter gets a taste of what he's in for and he isn't sure he likes it but he knows that he has to go in order to fill in for his disappointing brother. When he returns for the fall, he and his new friend Noah are thrust in the middle of St. Mike's annual freshman hazing where none of the adults are really paying attention. The hazing is really at the center of the book.

Overall, I really liked this book. The storytelling is good and kept me well entertained!


Monday, August 18, 2014

#SRC2014 Review: The Curse of Van Gogh by Paul Hoppe

Title: The Curse of Van Gogh
Author: Paul Hoppe
Format: Paperback
Publisher: SparksPress
Publish Date: July 29, 2014
Source: BookSparks Summer Reading Challenge

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a mystery/ thriller fan.
  • You like art.
What's the Story?:

From "Tyler slides into a simple life of bartending in New York City, living his life day to day. And then at the hottest art opening of the season he meets Kommate Imasu, a Japanese billionaire and famed art collector, who seems to know more about Tyler than his own mother does.  With serious threats against his family and friends, Tyler has to decide how much risk he’ll take to protect them. He quickly learns that gambling against a billionaire is never a good idea. Tyler plunges headfirst into a world of art forgers, hit-men, Yakuza, a femme fatal named Chanel No. 5, and the legendary curse of Van Gogh, in order to pull off the greatest art heist in history."

My Two Cents:

In "The Curse of Van Gogh," Tyler has just gotten out of prison. He isn't sure that he ever wants to go back but he gets an offer that he can't refuse and it involves stealing major pieces of art from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. He knows that it is a high-stakes game but he doesn't think he can say no without bringing harm to him or his family.

I was drawn to this book because of the setting (I absolutely love reading about my beloved hometown of Washington, D.C.) and because I am an art lover. I don't read a lot of mysteries or thrillers but this one piqued my interest because it seemed to have something a little bit more to it, which I ended up really appreciating.

The storyline was definitely interesting to me and I enjoyed it. There were some parts that were really unrealistic to me though and I really had a difficult time getting over them. First off, Tyler has just gotten out of prison and he really doesn't want to go back there because of his girlfriend, his best friend, and his brother who he all feels responsible for in various ways. My logical mind says that he probably would not want to get involved with the heist because of that. Tyler is also able to move very freely around the entire country, no questions asked, which did not fit with him just having gotten out of prison! The suspension of disbelief here was really a little difficult for me!

I did like the excitement of the story though. Hoppe gives the book lots of little twists and turns in order to keep the reader engaged, which I really liked! Overall, this book was a mixed bag for me. I think some of the book could have been tightened up somewhat. 

Review: HRC by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes

Title: HRC
Authors: Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes
Publisher: Random House
Publish Date: February 11, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Source: Blogging for Books

Why You're Reading This Book:
  • You want to be a Washington Insider.
  • You like politics.
What's the Story?:

From "Hillary Clinton’s surprising defeat in the 2008 Democratic primary brought her to the nadir of her political career, vanquished by a much younger opponent whose message of change and cutting-edge tech team ran circles around her stodgy campaign. And yet, six years later, she has reemerged as an even more powerful and influential figure, a formidable stateswoman and the presumed front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, marking one of the great political comebacks in history. 
The story of Hillary’s phoenixlike rise is at the heart of HRC, a riveting political biography that journeys into the heart of “Hillaryland” to discover a brilliant strategist at work. Masterfully unfolded by Politico’s Jonathan Allen and The Hill’s Amie Parnes from more than two hundred top-access interviews with Hillary’s intimates, colleagues, supporters, and enemies, HRC portrays a seasoned operator who negotiates political and diplomatic worlds with equal savvy. Loathed by the Obama team in the wake of the primary, Hillary worked to become the president’s greatest ally, their fates intertwined in the work of reestablishing America on the world stage. HRC puts readers in the room with Hillary during the most intense and pivotal moments of this era, as she mulls the president-elect’s offer to join the administration, pulls the strings to build a coalition for his war against Libya, and scrambles to deal with the fallout from the terrible events in Benghazi—all while keeping one eye focused on 2016."

My Two Cents:

"HRC" is one of the latest in an onslaught of books that will probably come out about probable Presidential candidates for 2016 (it's not that far away in political terms, guys!!!). I had been wanting to read this book for quite awhile as Hillary Clinton is absolutely fascinating to me. She is definitely a divisive figure. Some really, really like her and have very high hopes for her chances in 2016. Others absolutely hate her and are terrified what another Clinton administration (this one presided over by the first Clinton's spouse) could mean for the country. This book looks mostly at Clinton's years during the 2008 election and her being chosen to be the chief diplomat for the country, the Secretary of State.

All in all, I thought this was a very even keeled book about Clinton (a lot of other books out there are not so balanced). The authors do make some leaps to conclusions in some places but for the most part, it is left up to the readers to make a decision on how they feel. I think this can be incredibly difficult to do with such a polarizing figure like Hillary Clinton. The authors definitely succeed here. I really appreciated that the authors drew on a lot of interviews with people who have known and worked with Clinton. Not all of the sources have been named but you can tell what kinds of people that the authors were dealing with.

Although Clinton did many things before her time presiding over the Department of State, I think her years there most clearly show how she worked and made strategic decisions that changed how people saw both her and the Department of State. You get some insight into her psyche here. I also liked all of the recounts of her stories from the road. Clinton traveled a lot when she was Secretary of State and seemed to strongly believe in the ability to "reach out and touch" rather than conducting business all of the time from Washington. Overall I thought this was a pretty good book.

Friday, August 15, 2014

HF Virtual Book Tours Author Guest Post: The Typewriter Girl

I am very excited to welcome Alison Atlee here to A Bookish Affair today!

A notion exists out there in the world of fiction-writing:  the story you want to tell in your book already exists, fully formed, within your subconscious. Getting the story to the page is merely a matter of accessing that subconscious knowledge enough times.
Well, who knows? I don’t think writing a book is “merely” one thing or another, but there are moments when that detail I thought didn’t matter at all suddenly, serendipitously makes me feel a little brilliant: “So that’s why I did it that way!”
Three “throwaway” details from The Typewriter Girl that ended up being rather important:
1.  Lillian hearts Tennyson:  Why did I have Lillian Gilbey give John (the male lead in The Typewriter Girl ) a volume of Tennyson’s poems? Wealthy Lillian sees John as potential husband material, but he needs, in her opinion, “remodeling,” including some cultural education. Tennyson was a quick choice when I was drafting, little thought behind it other than knowing he fit Lillian’s tastes—contemporary and intellectual, but not too much of either of those.
Much later, when my editor at Simon & Schuster asked me to add another scene with Lillian, I wasn’t sure what to do, but I started by browsing a volume of Tennyson. Turns out, Tennyson wrote a poem entitled “Lilian.” Reading it filled me with glee because I knew my Lillian would hate it, and that became the basis of the new scene.
2. Buttoned Up:  I have a particular fondness for the fitted, buttoned bodice silhouette of the late-Victorian era, so when Betsey’s new supervisor requires her to wear a uniform, of course I made sure it had lots of buttons going down the front. But I didn’t know those buttons would keep turning up in the story. By the time I reached the last chapter, I realized Betsey’s journey and development as a character could be followed through her buttons.
3. This is embarrassing:  Betsey needed to have some job, and I picked typewriting probably because I was in front of a keyboard. “I can always change it,” writers tell themselves, but sometimes the Jell-O sets before you get to stir in the canned fruit.  The qualities of a good typist, what it took for a poor woman in Victorian England to learn to type and then get a good job doing it—those things helped me discover Betsey’s character.
Still, when my agent was discussing revisions with me and suggested changing my beloved-but-awful original title to “The Typewriter Girl,” I knew:  “There needs to be a lot more typing in this book!” Having that one detail helped me revise to a stronger character arc for Betsey.
Maybe my subconscious knew all along I was making good choices. Maybe it needed time to make sense of what I was throwing at it. Either way, the discovery that makes things snap together is pure magic for a writer.
See the places and fashions that inspired The Typewriter Girl on Pinterest; connect with Alison on Facebook or Twitter: All the links are at her website,

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Monday, August 4
Review at Peeking Between the Pages (Audio Book)
Book Blast at Mina’s Bookshelf
Book Blast at Princess of Eboli
Book Blast at Literary Chanteuse
Book Blast at What Is That Book About
Tuesday, August 5
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews (Print)
Book Blast at So Many Books, So Little Time
Wednesday, August 6
Book Blast at Let Them Read Books
Thursday, August 7
Book Blast at Mari Reads
Book Blast at Book Lovers Paradise
Friday, August 8
Book Blast at Book Blast Central
Saturday, August 9
Book Blast at Caroline Wilson Writes
Sunday, August 10
Book Blast at Book Nerd
Monday, August 11
Review at Just One More Chapter (Audio Book)
Book Blast at Gobs and Gobs of Books
Tuesday, August 12
Book Blast at Queen of All She Reads
Wednesday, August 13
Review at Historical Tapestry (Audio Book)
Book Blast at The Lit Bitch
Book Blast at CelticLady’s Reviews
Thursday, August 14
Review at A Bookish Affair (Print)
Guest Post at Historical Tapestry
Friday, August 15
Review at Brooke Blogs (Audio Book)
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair
Saturday, August 16
Book Blast at Broken Teepee
Sunday, August 17
Interview at Closed the Cover
Monday, August 18
Review at The Maiden’s Court (Audio Book)
Tuesday, August 19
Book Blast at Layered Pages
Book Blast at Always with a Book
Wednesday, August 20
Book Blast at Literary, Etc.
Thursday, August 21
Review at Books in the Burbs (Print)
Book Blast at Bibliotica
Friday, August 22
Review at Bibliophilia, Please (Audio Book)
Saturday, August 23
Book Blast at Reading Lark
Book Blast at Ageless Pages Reviews
Sunday, August 24
Book Blast at Passages to the Past
Monday, August 25
Review at Flashlight Commentary (Audio Book)
Book Blast at Historical Fiction Connection
Tuesday, August 26
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, August 27
Book Blast at Susan Heim on Writing
Thursday, August 28
Review at Luxury Reading (Print)
Review at The True Book Addict (Audio Book)
Review at Jorie Loves a Story (Print)
Friday, August 29
Interview at Jorie Loves a Story

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#SRC2014 Review: In Bloom by Katie Delahanty

Title: In Bloom
Author: Katie Delahanty
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Publish Date: February 10, 2014
Source: BookSparks Summer Reading Challenge

What's the Story?:

From "My name is Olivia Bloom and I. Am. Free.

I left for LA with everything I owned piled into my old Volkswagen and dreams of becoming a costume designer. Little did I know I’d wind up designing for a lingerie company—yeah, not sure how I landed this gig—and taken under the wing of two young Hollywood insiders. The fashion shows and parties were great, but life really got exciting when the seriously hottest lead singer of my favorite band started to fall for me. 

How does someone like me, an ordinary girl from Pittsburgh, wind up in the arms of the world’s sexiest rock star—surrounded by celebrities, fashion, and music—and not be eaten alive? Berkeley is everything I've ever dreamed of in a boyfriend, but the paparazzi, the tabloids, the rumors, it's all getting a bit too crazy. My life has become every girl’s dream come true, if only I don’t blink and lose it all…"

My Two Cents:

In "In Bloom," Liv is brand new to Hollywood. One part of her is extremely and utterly excited to be following her dreams, the other side of her wonders what she is doing there and how she could possibly have such frivolous dreams. She wants to follow her heart though and see where it leads her to. This was a really fun, light read and I am looking forward to the rest of Liv's adventures as Goodreads tells me that this is only the first book in a planned series!

I like Liv's character a lot. I can totally identify with wanting to do something with my life that others may see as being frivolous (I can't tell you how many times I had people ask about my Liberal Arts major in college - so frustrating). Liv's dream is huge though and it is one that very few people succeed at when you compare to how many actually try. I really enjoyed reading about that aspect.

I also really liked the story between Liv and Berkeley too. Berkeley is the ultimate rock god and Liv is a little bit embarrassed with how much that she has lusted after him and his gorgeous music before she even has a chance to meet him. When they finally meet, they both realized that they are fantastically entranced with each other and the chemistry is totally on point. There were a lot of twists and turns in their relationship that I was totally engrossed in.

I really like that this book was written from Liv's point of view because I loved seeing what she was seeing. It was totally engaging!

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