Tuesday, August 14, 2018

0 Escapement - An Exquisite Tale of Love and Passion by Kristen Wolf Feature and Giveaway


Escapement - An Exquisite Tale of Love and Passion
by Kristen Wolf

Publication Date: August 1, 2018
Pixeltry
Paperback & eBook; 481 Pages
Genre: Fiction/Historical/Women's


***WINNER of the 2018 IndieReader DISCOVERY AWARD***

From the bestselling Author of THE WAY, hailed by O, THE OPRAH MAGAZINE as “A Title To Pick Up Now!”

Henri keeps many secrets. Some even from herself...

Prepare to be transported into a sensual world of possibility by this lush, heart-wrenching and gorgeously-written tale. Brimming with passion, intrigue, extraordinary characters and breathtaking surprises, ESCAPEMENT will arouse the senses and seduce readers of every persuasion.

“Wolf is a masterful storyteller who has created an enchanting novel… It will resonate with anyone who has ever felt passion.”
—IndieReader

Cristofer's star is poised to rise. Everyone expects the dashing and gifted composer to soar to the heights of musical genius—an expectation that terrifies the young artist as much as it drives him.

Walking into the fire with Cristofer is his housekeeper, Henri, a passionate and handsome young woman who takes pleasure in dressing as a man. Tending to her employer’s domestic needs, Henri has crafted a carefree life of routine behind which she hides the truth of a tragic past. Possessed herself of an extraordinary talent, she covertly guides her employer through the trials of his artistic and romantic pursuits while carefully guarding his most closely-held secret.

But Henri’s deceptively simple life is ripped apart when a wealthy and ruthless patron grants Cristofer a spectacular commission, then unwittingly hires Henri—whom he believes to be male—to give piano lessons to his alluring wife.

The resulting entanglements rise to a dangerous pitch as Cristofer struggles to create music of epic proportions while Henri is ignited by a love more powerful than any she has ever known. But when the monstrously ambitious patron catches wind of a duplicity, he and his henchmen mobilize quickly to target the threat and soon the only hope for either friend’s survival depends on one publicly exposing the other’s hidden truth—an act that would defy the bonds of love and loyalty and bring all their lives crashing down.

Can Henri stop the oncoming tragedy and still hold onto her greatest love? Or must she lose everything?

"ESCAPEMENT is a symphony of words marked by lyrical phrases and exquisite rhythm... a testament to the artistic spirit... breathtaking."
—IndieReader

“A passionate story.”
—Kirkus Reviews

Available in Paperback & eBook on Amazon


Thank you to Marcie and the To Read or Not to Read team for having me here to write a guest post!

It was hard to choose just one topic to explore, but I thought I'd answer the question I've been asked the most since ESCAPEMENT came out, and that is:

What served as the primary inspiration for ESCAPEMENT?

Well, the truth is, the idea actually occurred to me many, many years ago.

When I was a sophomore in college, I took a music history course that explored the great classical music repertoire. As a child, I’d never really listened to classical music and was completely overwhelmed by what I heard. I became enchanted and obsessed at the same time. I basically fell in love – hard – not only with the music but with the stories and lives of the famed composers and musicians themselves. In fact, I was so inspired that I decided to learn how to play piano. I found a teacher and took some basic lessons and then played for hours and hours and hours. Literally. Finally I could start to play some of the music that had so enchanted me and it was the most amazing experience. So it was then, when I was eighteen and obsessed, that the seeds of the story first took root.

The idea then sat in the back of my mind and grew little by little as time went by. Stealing a detail from here, a character trait from there. Until, years later, it formulated fully enough to be written.

None of my other works took so long to come to fruition. But I learned later that having big ideas build over long periods of time isn't all that unusual an occurrence. I love the work of Steven Johnson and in his book, WHERE GOOD IDEAS COME FROM, he explained that large works and innovations that seem complex often start from very small details that are sticky. Sticky meaning they are interesting to the person who notices them. And as that individual grows and has new experiences and gains new knowledge and insights , bits and pieces get stuck to the original detail. And so it expands like a rolling snowball. That was very much my experience with ESCAPEMENT. In fact, there are details and features from so many different parts of my life, and different parts of myself, wrapped into the tale. So that by the time I sat down to write I felt as though I knew the characters and the storyline inside and out.

There was, however, one thing that really surprised me during the writing of the book. Normally, I’ve only been able to write when there is peace and quiet. It's been so ever since I can remember. But when I began ESCAPEMENT I quickly discovered that I could only write when I had music playing. In fact, I kept the Adagio from Brahms’ First Piano Concerto playing on a repetitive loop. The piece (the concerto's second movement) would play for twelve minutes or so and wind down to its ominous conclusion, then start right back up again, over and over. When I completed the first draft, I checked the little counter on iTunes and it said I’d listened to that piece over 2,500 times. I was completely shocked when I saw that!

For some reason, though, I had to have that music playing while I wrote. Maybe it brought on a sort of musical trance that helped to enter the composers’ state of mind, I don’t know. Naturally I thought I’d discovered a secret to my writing process that would make every book so much easier. But when I picked what I thought would be a conducive soundtrack for the writing of my next book, I was completely surprised to find that I couldn’t stand listening to music at all! I found it entirely distracting and uncomfortable! And so I realized that listening to music was just something special and essential for the experience of writing ESCAPEMENT, and not a practice that would carry over to other projects. When I think about it now, it probably shouldn’t be all that surprising, but it really was.

Many of the early reader comments and reviews have mentioned a lyrical quality to the writing – which I certainly strove for consciously – but which I think also arose from an entirely unconscious place, a sort of seamless poetic soundwave that the music itself had created while I was working.

I want to say, too, that I've been so appreciative of the positive reception ESCAPEMENT has received. It's certainly not a book for everyone but when it finds the right match, it seems to create a sort of enchantment. And I've gotten some incredibly beautiful emails from readers about their moving experiences while reading the book.

I guess I'll end here by mentioning that the audiobook version of ESCAPEMENT just became available on Audible and iTunes. Though I'd never made an audiobook before, I felt strongly that I had to record this book because the lush and evocative music of the Romantic era is so intrinsic to the story and I just wanted people to be able to hear it for themselves!


The audio version has me reading the part of the protagonist, Henri, as well as a full cast of incredibly talented actors playing all the other characters. And, as the shiny star on top, I had a professional concert pianist record the solo piano pieces on a historic instrument – an 1895 Érard grand piano! It sounds so, well, romantic and it was incredible to watch her perform the pieces.


For me, making the audiobook was a magical experience and I hope it will be for its listeners, too.

Thank you again for this opportunity to share with your readers. I really enjoyed it.

I hope everyone has a great rest of their summer and discovers lots of amazing books that they love!

~Kristen

About the Author

KRISTEN WOLF is an award-winning author, creative and wondernaut living in the Rocky Mountains. Her debut novel, THE WAY, was hailed by O, The OPRAH Magazine as “A Title to Pick Up Now!” Her second novel, ESCAPEMENT, is a *WINNER - 2018 IndieReader Discovery Award* and received this praise: “Wolf is a masterful storyteller who has created an enchanting novel... It will resonate with anyone who has ever felt passion.” —IndieReader

To learn more about Kristen's books and other creative projects, subscribe to her Newsletter at www.kristenwolf.com/subscribe. You can also find Kristen on Twitter, Book Bub, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, August 6

Tuesday, August 7

Friday, August 10
Feature at Donna's Book Blog

Monday, August 13
Review at Bri's Book Nook

Tuesday, August 14

Wednesday, August 15

Friday, August 17
Guest Post at The Book Junkie Reads

Monday, August 20

Friday, August 24

Wednesday, September 5

Sunday, September 9

Monday, September 10

Wednesday, September 12
Interview at Jorie Loves a Story

Thursday, September 13
Review & Guest Post at Clarissa Reads it All

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away two signed copies of Escapement and two $5 iTunes Gift Card! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on September 13th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US, UK, and Canada residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Escapement


Friday, August 10, 2018

0 Audiobook Review: What Should Be Wild


What Should Be Wild
by Julia Fine, Narrated by Cassandra Campbell, Rebecca Gibel
Published May 8th 2018 by HarperCollins
Length: 11 hrs and 41 mins
9781538519455

Summary


Cursed. Maisie Cothay has never known the feel of human flesh: born with the power to kill or resurrect at her slightest touch, she has spent her childhood sequestered in the family's manor at the edge of a mysterious forest. Maisie's father, an anthropologist who sees her as more experiment than daughter, has warned Maisie that local villagers talk of men disappearing inside this dark wood; when they return, their minds are addled, their stories strange. What he has not told her is that for centuries, her female ancestors have also vanished into the wood, never to emerge.But one day Maisie's father disappears and Maisie must venture beyond the walls of her carefully constructed life to find him. Away from her home and the woods for the very first time, she encounters a strange and terrifying world filled with love, excitement, and dark human forces. Yet the further she strays, the more the wood calls to her. For only there can Maisie finally reckon with her power and come to understand the wildest parts of herself.

My Thoughts

The first sentence in What Should Be Wild intrigued me. "They grew me inside of my mother," which was unusual, because she was dead. It was as if Julia Fine pulled up a chair next to me and said, "Let me tell you a story ..."

Maisie Cothay was cursed even before she was born. She has the power to kill or resurrect with just a small touch. She grows up in her family's old manor that is surrounded by a curious forest with an interesting past. Nobody, except a few people, know of Maisie's existence. She grows up never knowing the feel of human flesh, no hugs, no goodnight kisses. And despite the lengths her father goes to to make sure she's safe, I think he does more harm than good.

What Should Be Wild is a coming-of-age story about a girl who has to break the rules to learn how to live. The story is told from Maisie's perspective intermingled with some of her female ancestors, who in their own ways have been repressed. Maisie's isolation lends to her naïvety and some stupid decisions when her father goes missing, and she had to rely on a stranger, who may not be all that he seems.

This book is the quintessential dark fairy tale that explores the subjugation of women over the ages. What Should Be Wild truly is a fascinating tale that will have you glued to the pages or earbuds. I listened to this book on audio. It has two narrators: Cassandra Cambell and Rebecca Gibel. They both did a superb job of making this audiobook an adventure.

Julia Fine's debut novel is a unique story that will leave you waiting impatiently to see what she writes about next.

*My thanks to HarperCollins for the review copy. While I am extremely grateful to them for the opportunity to read and review this book, it in no way influenced my review. All opinions are my own. 


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

0 Review: Ghosted by Rosie Walsh


Ghosted
by Rosie Walsh
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published July 24th 2018 by Pamela Dorman Books 
9780525522775

Summary


Seven perfect days. Then he disappeared. A love story with a secret at its heart.

When Sarah meets Eddie, they connect instantly and fall in love. To Sarah, it seems as though her life has finally begun. And it's mutual: It's as though Eddie has been waiting for her, too. Sarah has never been so certain of anything. So when Eddie leaves for a long-booked vacation and promises to call from the airport, she has no cause to doubt him. But he doesn't call.

Sarah's friends tell her to forget about him, but she can't. She knows something's happened--there must be an explanation.

Minutes, days, weeks go by as Sarah becomes increasingly worried. But then she discovers she's right. There is a reason for Eddie's disappearance, and it's the one thing they didn't share with each other: the truth.

My Thoughts

Sarah meets Eddie. They have seven perfect days together, and then without any warning he disappears from her life. Sarah is convinced something must have happened to him. After all, people get ghosted all the time. Her friends try to convince her that's what happened. I thought so too. I thought Sarah was losing her mind. I started to think this book was about an unhinged woman, but then Rosie Walsh throws her readers a curve ball, and the whole game changed.

I don't believe in love at first sight. How can you love somebody without knowing them? I do believe in attraction at first sight though. I also don't believe that love conquers all. It'a nice sentiment, but not realistic. Because there's always something, some sort of deal breaker that always hangs in the air, a line that shouldn't be crossed--ever. And that's sort of what this book is dealing with. 

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh starts out a bit slow, at least for me, as the story unfolds leaping from the past to the present. The author uses the combination of the two to tell Eddie and Sarah's story. Her friends and the events that surround her all giving subtle clues to what's really going on, but nothing really made sense until I was two-thirds of the way through. The story didn't really start to come alive for me until I was about halfway through. But I'm glad I stuck with it because the ending had me on the edge of my seat.

Ghosted is an intriguing mystery with romance at its heart that brings up some thought-provoking questions about love. After it was all said and done, I thought the story was done well. I thought I had it all figured out, and then there was a major twist full of emotional turmoil. For a book that started out slow, it definitely ended on a high note.

*I received a copy of Ghosted for review purposes by the publisher. This in no way influenced my opinions of the book. 






Monday, August 6, 2018

0 The Wedding from Hell, Part 2: The Reception is available now and it's FREE


The Wedding from Hell
Part 2: The Reception
by J. R. Ward
Available: August 7, 2018
Gallery Books | E-book Original
ISBN: 9781982105372 | Free


The Wedding from Hell, Part 2: The Rehearsal Dinner is the exciting second adventure in J.R. Ward’s three-part ebook serialization: The Wedding From Hell. This exclusive prequel to her upcoming standalone suspense, Consumed (available in Fall 2018) takes us back to the night steamy arson investigator Anne Ashburn and ‘bad boy’ firefighter Danny Maguire will never forget.






About the Book:
The Wedding From Hell, Part 2: The Reception: As the wedding from hell continues, Anne and Danny find themselves walking the delicate balance between professional distance and explosive attraction. Will the desire they feel last through the night and change their lives? Or are they doomed to part after one night of passion?

About the Author:
J.R. Ward is the author of more than thirty novels, including those in her #1 New York Times bestselling Black Dagger Brotherhood series. There are more than fifteen million copies of her novels in print worldwide, and they have been published in twenty-six different countries around the world. She lives in the South with her family.







Excerpt:


Saturday, October 31
T minus 2 hours ’til blastoff
St. Mary’s Cathedral, New Brunswick, Massachusetts

Anne Ashburn had never had veil envy, as they called it. As a young girl, she had never pictured herself walking down an aisle in a white dress, ready to be rescued by a knight-in-shining-armor groom who was going to take charge and take care of her for the rest of her life.
                Nope. Anne had wanted to fight fires like her father and then her brother. Even though she no longer respected the former, and had a strained relationship with the latter, she’d wanted to pull on turnouts and strap an air tank to her back and breathe canned air as she ran into open flames dragging hundreds of pounds of charged line with her. She’d wanted to rescue grandmothers, and children, and people who had succumbed to smoke inhalation. She’d been ready to cut open crumpled cars and drag broken bodies out of wreckage at the sides of highways. She’d been determined that the extremes of cold winter nights, hot summer days, physical exhaustion, and mental fatigue would never keep her from doing her job.
                So, yup, the old fashioned Mrs. degree had never held any fascination for her. There was no way in hell she was going to be like her mother, living a derivative, nineteen-fifties version of life, nothing but a pretty blow-up doll that was expected to cook, clean, and cut the yapping.
                On that note, as she pulled into St. Mary’s parking lot and looked up at the great cathedral’s stained glass windows and lofty spires, she decided it made sense that not only was she not the bride, she wasn’t even a bridesmaid.
                Like the rest of the crew down at the 499 firehouse, she was a groomsmen in the impending nuptials of Robert “Moose” Miller and Deandra—what the hell was her last name anyway? Cox. That was it.
                Anne was thinking groomsmen was a role she might as well get used to. Not that Duff, Emilio, Deshaun, or any of the other men she worked with were settling down anytime soon.
Especially not Dannyboy Maguire.
Right on cue, a Ford truck entered the parking lot, the late afternoon sun flashing across its windshield.
As Anne’s heart kicked in her chest, she was tempted to hustle in the side door of the church—but she had never been one to run from a challenge.
Danny was more than just a challenge, though.
And okay, fine. So maybe she had already run out of his way at least once: Last night, at the rehearsal dinner, she’d positively bolted after he’d made that speech of his.
                I never believed in love . . . I thought it was just a word, a title folks gave to daydreams and misconceptions about destiny, a lie folks told to themselves to make them feel solid in this imperfect, unreliable, and mean-ass world.
Now I know it can happen between two people. And it doesn’t have to make sense because it’s not about logic. And it doesn’t have to have good timing because forever is like infinity, without beginning or end. And it doesn’t have to be defined because truth is like faith—it just is.
So, let’s toast to love.
He’d looked at her while he’d spoken. He had been talking . . . to her . . . in that slow, deep voice.
Everybody else had toasted Moose and Deandra. But Anne had known it hadn’t been about them. Danny, ever the ladies man, king of the one-night stand, he who shalt never be tied down . . . seemed to be suggesting not just that he’d had a change of heart.
But that he might have given his own to Anne.
Unless she was misreading everything? Then again, they had kissed the night before that. In her living room. While riding an adrenaline high after they’d saved a life in an alleyway.
And lips-to-lips had been better than good, the rare circumstance when reality had improved on a fantasy. After two years of attraction and sizzle and unacknowledged heat, that which had been pushed under the rug was exposed now. And there was no going back.
Especially as she felt the same way.
So hell yeah she had bolted out of that restaurant. The second she had been able to get up from her chair, she had hit the exit and left Danny without a ride home.
He’d called two hours later. He’d been in a bar, probably
Timeout where the crew always went, the noise in the background loud and raucous.
She had not answered. He had left a short message, but not called again.
Anne just wasn’t sure what to do. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. There were plenty of things she wanted to do to him, with him, on him—all of which were naked and erotic and not necessarily only horizontal.
Refocusing, she watched Danny’s truck pass by. From behind the wheel, he looked over at her.
She waited for him to find a space and get out, and as he walked across to her, she tried—tried—not to go sixteen-year-old girl at the sight of him in a tuxedo.
#epicfail
He was very tall, over six feet five, and he was built hard and muscular, his shoulders so wide, his chest so broad, his waist the point of the inverted triangle of his torso. His jet-black hair was still damp, and what sunlight there was in the mostly cloudy sky flashed blue in its depths. He was freshly shaven—his cologne reaching her nose even before he stopped in front of her—and his eyes were that brilliant blue that had always arrested her. Irish eyes.
But they were not smiling.
For a man who was rarely serious, he looked positively grim, and she frowned.
“You okay?” Stupid question. “I mean—”
“Yeah, no. I’m fine.”
Standard answer for firefighters when they were in pain. And she wondered if it had to do with that speech of his, and what she could have sworn he had been telling her.
His eyes shifted off to the side and then his mouth got thinner.
“And here’s the blushing bride.”
A stretch limo entered the parking area and made a fat turn toward the back door of the cathedral. When it stopped, its driver got out and went to the rear door.
Seven all-in-pink, spray-tanned, body-glittered, and blond-streaked women got out one by one, a clown car of bridesmaids who were such carbon copies of each other, it was like they had been ordered out of a catalogue.
And then the white dress emerged.
Deandra, Moose’s intended, had her blond-streaked hair—natch—piled up on her head in an organized, sculpted waterfall of curls. Her veil was a gossamer fall over her tiny waist and her big skirt, and the shimmer of crystals across the bodice and down the front and sides of the gown made her look like a princess.
Provided you didn’t catch her expression.
She was sour as an old woman with gout and shingles. In spite of the fact that she was supposedly marrying her true love, she looked downright nasty as she snapped at the driver, glared at her maid of honor, and yanked her skirting up to march into the back of the church.
“Wow,” Anne muttered. “That’s a happy bride.”
“Whatever. They’re on their own with this dumbass idea.”
“Did you happen to talk to Moose last night?” she blurted.
“As in out of this? Or would that be considered tacky given it was less than twenty-four hours before the priest hit the altar with them.”
Danny rolled his eyes. “He’s bound and determined to ball-and-chain himself. Personally, I’d be running in the opposite direction.”
And then there was silence between them. Tension coiled up quick, and as Anne’s temples started to pound, she decided it was going to be a long night, just not for the reasons she’d assumed at the beginning of the weekend.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

0 Review: The Whale: A Love Story


Paperback, 288 pages
Published June 26th 2018 by Penguin Books 
9780399562358

Summary

A rich and captivating novel set amid the witty, high-spirited literary society of 1850s New England, offering a new window on Herman Melville's emotionally charged relationship with Nathaniel Hawthorne and how it transformed his masterpiece, Moby-Dick

In the summer of 1850, Herman Melville finds himself hounded by creditors and afraid his writing career might be coming to an end--his last three novels have been commercial failures and the critics have turned against him. In despair, Melville takes his family for a vacation to his cousin's farm in the Berkshires, where he meets Nathaniel Hawthorne at a picnic--and his life turns upside down.

The Whale chronicles the fervent love affair that grows out of that serendipitous afternoon. Already in debt, Melville recklessly borrows money to purchase a local farm in order to remain near Hawthorne, his newfound muse. The two develop a deep connection marked by tensions and estrangements, and feelings both shared and suppressed.

Melville dedicated Moby-Dick to Hawthorne, and Mark Beauregard's novel fills in the story behind that dedication with historical accuracy and exquisite emotional precision, reflecting his nuanced reading of the real letters and journals of Melville, Hawthorne, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and others. An exuberant tale of longing and passion, The Whale captures not only a transformative relationship--long the subject of speculation--between two of our most enduring authors, but also their exhilarating moment in history, when a community of high-spirited and ambitious writers was creating truly American literature for the first time.

My Thoughts

I didn't know anything about the lives of Nathaniel Hawthorne or Herman Melville before reading The Whale by Mark Beauregard. And I never would have guessed I would be on the edge of my seat wondering if these two famous authors were going to get together. Was it love, admiration, or just hero worship? Or a combination of all three?

I recently finished reading Moby Dick where I did note that the book was dedicated to Nathaniel Hawthorne. In truth, I gave it no more than a passing thought that they were friends. After all they're both notable authors who probably admired each other's work. But I had no idea there was more to the story. And I wanted to know more. Also, another reason why this book interested me was because it takes place while Melville is toiling away at writing the great tome Moby Dick.

Before I get into the story I want to note that Beauregard used many sources to write this novel including biographies, letters, and journals. And if you've read any of their books, you might have noticed the underlying themes that point in this direction. So while this work is fiction, its basis is in fact. 

Herman Melville met Nathaniel Hawthorne at a picnic. It's there that an immediate attachment is formed. It was as if their two souls had recognized each other. From then, it's almost as if Melville became a little bit obsessed with Hawthorne. Needing to see him, be with him. But they were both married with children living in a society where their feelings could lead them down a path of destruction and ultimate ruin.

And while Beauregard does a wonderful job recounting their relationship. The majority of the book had me wondering: will they or won't they? The story followed as closely as possible to the events as they occurred, and for me, that made the story all the better. The Whale: A Love Story is an interesting look into the past about two authors and their hidden desires. Their story will stay with you long after you close the book. 


Friday, July 27, 2018

0 Audiobook Review: Not That Bad


Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture
Edited by Roxane Gay
Published May 1st 2018 by HarperAudio
9780062848703
Length: 8 hrs and 41 mins

Summary

In this valuable and revealing anthology, cultural critic and best-selling author Roxane Gay collects original and previously published pieces that address what it means to live in a world where women have to measure the harassment, violence, and aggression they face, and where they are "routinely second-guessed, blown off, discredited, denigrated, besmirched, belittled, patronized, mocked, shamed, gaslit, insulted, bullied" for speaking out. Contributions include essays from established and up-and-coming writers, performers, and critics, including actors Ally Sheedy and Gabrielle Union and writers Amy Jo Burns, Lyz Lenz, and Claire Schwartz.
Covering a wide range of topics and experiences, from an exploration of the rape epidemic embedded in the refugee crisis to first-person accounts of child molestation, this collection is often deeply personal and is always unflinchingly honest. Like Rebecca Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me, Not That Bad will resonate with every listener, saying "something in totality that we cannot say alone."

Searing and heartbreakingly candid, this provocative collection both reflects the world we live in and offers a call to arms insisting that "not that bad" must no longer be good enough.

Narrators include: Roxane Gay, Gabrielle Union, Ally Sheedy, Amy Jo Burns, Lyz Lenz, Claire Schwartz, Aubrey Hirsch, Jill Christman, Lynn Melnick, Brandon Taylor, Emma Smith-Stevens, A.J. McKenna, Lisa Mecham, Vanessa Mártir, xTx, Sophie Mayer, Nora Salem, V.L. Seek, Michelle Chen, Liz Rosema, Anthony Frame, Samhita Mukhopadhyay, Miriam Zoila Pérez, Zoe Medeiros, Sharisse Tracey, Stacey May Fowles, Elisabeth Fairfield Stokes, Meredith Talusan, Nicole Boyce, and Elissa Bassist.

My Thoughts

I requested Not That Bad as an audiobook for review after listening to the introduction by Roxane Gay. I knew from the brief excerpt that this was going to be a powerful, moving, life-changing book. I listened to the whole audiobook immediately and then had to walk away for a bit. Not because it wasn't all the things I thought it would be, but because it brought up so many emotions that frankly I didn't know how to deal with. 

After listening to this book it is my view that this should be required reading for everybody. And I would definitely recommend the audiobook instead of the hardcover or paperback because listening to these pieces narrated by their authors is powerful, hearing their stories in their own voice, hearing the emotions, it will change you. 

Not That Bad tackles rape culture in America. Little girls are taught to stick together in groups. In fact, boys often make fun of girls going to the bathroom together. But our mother's have taught us, just like their mothers have taught them, that there is safety in numbers. Safety from what you ask? Safety from people who think it's their right to take what doesn't belong to them. Most women you talk to have a story. Some men have them too. Sexual orientation, economic status, gender identification, taking the bus home after a long day, walking with your kid down the street, etc. doesn't matter. Keep quiet, don't talk, keep moving, don't make eye contact, don't wear a ponytail, don't wear a skirt, and if you don't say no, well that definitely means yes. 

The authors in this anthology bravely show the different ways they've been marked by rape culture. And further explains how brainwashed society is in thinking that since you were able to walk away from it, then it's not that bad. Roxane Gay did a wonderful job putting together this book mainly because it represents a wide spectrum of people from different walks of life. Rape culture is a problem. It's a problem cultivated every day by millions of people. It's a power trip. And as long as people don't speak out against it, it will continue. 

Not That Bad left me feeling raw. Listening to this collection made me think about how much we're surrounded by rape culture and have, well, learned to live with it. From catcalling, to movies, music, and just general behavior of other people. With the #metoo movement, it's definitely shined a light on it, but I can't help feeling it needs to be more. And books like this will help.



Wednesday, July 25, 2018

0 Review: Bella Figura: How to Live, Love, and Eat the Italian Way by Kamin Mohammadi


Bella Figura: How to Live, Love, and Eat the Italian Way
by Kamin Mohammadi
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published May 8th 2018 by Appetite by Random House
9780449016749

Summary

One woman's story of finding beauty, and herself--and a practical guide to living a better life, the Italian way! 

Kamin Mohammadi, a magazine editor in London, should have been on top of the world. But after heartbreak and loneliness, the stress of her "dream life" was ruining her physical and mental health. Gifted a ticket to freedom--a redundancy package and the offer of a friend's apartment in Florence--Kamin took a giant leap. It did not take her long to notice how differently her new Italian neighbors approached life: enjoying themselves, taking their time to eat and drink, taking their lives at a deliberately slower pace. Filled with wonderful characters--from the local bartender/barista who becomes her love advisor, to the plumbers who fix her heating and teach her to make pasta al pomodoro--here is a mantra for savoring the beauty and color of every day that Italians have followed for generations, a guide to the slow life for busy people, a story of finding love (and self-love) in unlikely places, and an evocative account of a year living an Italian life.


My Thoughts

"The concept of Bella Figura is about making every aspect of your life as beautiful as it can be." This way of living includes everything from what we put in our bodies to how we dress to how we speak to ourselves and to others on a daily basis. And if you're not 'feeling it,' then you fake it 'til you make it. 

Kamin Mohammadi left her stressful job and retreated to Italy, There she planned to finally get her life back on track. She expected to find solace and re-evaluate her life, but what she didn't expect was to find a whole new way of life. Over the course of a year, Kamin discovered so much more than she expected.

Bella Figura has twelve chapters. Each chapter correlates to a month and a lesson she learned in that month. For example, chapter one is January, How To Slow Down. From that title you might think this is a how-to book, but it's not. It's more of a memoir that contains a tip or two that worked for Kamin. Kamin learns from her environment, her neighbors, her new friends that life can be beautiful at any age. 

And the best part is, you don't have to move halfway around the world to achieve this. Though, I wouldn't say no to a year in Italy. I really enjoyed reading this memoir. It's a gentle reminder that you need to be good to yourself in even the tiniest way. Also, each chapter contains a recipe, and I may have salivated a little too much while reading them.  Bella Figura is a great philosophy to add to your life. And let's face it, we all need a life detox every now and then.


Monday, July 23, 2018

0 My Year With Moby Dick

My Year With Moby Dick 


In 2017 I, along with my children, began to read the American classic tome, Moby Dick. This book has taken up real estate on my shelf for almost a decade. It's been on my to-read list for even longer. I read In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick in 2016 and watched the movie based on said book as well. When I read that the events that took place In the Heart of the Sea inspired Melville to write his masterpiece,  it spurred me on to finally read it.

Since I had just the one copy of Moby Dick, I downloaded a digital copy for my kids to read on their Kindles. Moby Dick is available in the public domain so this cost me nothing but the time it took to download it. I also decided that maybe listening to it as an audiobook would be a good addition to our little book club. I checked out audible.com, and they had many options that are probably really fantastic, but I decided to go in a different direction.

Through my online search for an audiobook I came across Moby Dick Big Read (MDBR). MDBR is a "not-for-profit" venture. It's free to listen to and if you feel moved to do so, you can donate to the  Whale and Dolphin Conservation,  "the international charity which works for the welfare of the animals about which Herman Melville wrote so eloquently, and so movingly." The book is narrated by the familiar voices of Tilda Swinton, Stephen Fry, Nathaniel Philbrick, Benedict Cumberbatch, plus many more. Each chapter is narrated by a different person. Some narrators do a phenomenal job, while others were just okay.

So once the decision was made on which audio version we'd use, we jumped in. Our reading schedule varied. We read for about thirty minutes a day. However, sometimes school schedules and work schedules and after school activities got in the way. Not to mention we took about a seven-week break during the summer. Finally finishing just before school got out this year. I'm not going to lie to you, sometimes it was just plain hard to read Moby Dick. For all of us. Sometimes it was boring. And it took a little bit of time to get used to Melville's writing style, and yes, some of the vocabulary, phrases,  and jokes went over the kids' heads. Sidebar: One reason I like the Kindle is that if you come across a word you're unfamiliar with, you just touch the word and the definition appears.

About 90% of Moby Dick is the whale in all its glorious splendor. From the anatomy to how they get
the oil. It reads more like a textbook than a work of fiction. Maybe Melville should have titled this book: An Ode to the Whale. Whales are really amazing. I don't wonder at his characters marveling at the creatures, but at times Melville seemed a little long-winded in his descriptions.

So the remaining 10% is the more exciting parts of the book. We meet Ishmael, who is bored with his life so he decides to go to sea. He meets a South Sea Islander and harpooner named Queequeg and they become bffs. They sign up on the Pequod on a three year expedition to hunt sperm whales. You meet the other crew members, who are peculiar in their own ways. Meanwhile, this whole time whispers are going around about the strange Captain Ahab. Usual rumors are over-exaggerated, but in Ahab's case, I think they were under-exaggerated. Because Ahab is off his rocker. And the crew recognizes it as well.

So the Pequod takes off on its journey. Once they're out to sea, Ahab basically tells them that while they may gets some sperm whales in the progress, they're only real goal is killing Moby Dick. The whale that took his leg. Ahab's done nothing but fantasize about his revenge for some time. At first the crew is like, "Wait! What?" But then Ahab offers them money and they consent to his crazy plan.

The Pequod travels far and wide. They meet other whaling ships, trade stories, go through storms, equipment breaks down, etc. Weird stuff happens. Many WTF moments. Ahab makes a 'special' harpoon. Coffins are built. And eventually I began to wonder if they were ever going to find Moby. Then it happens. Moby is spotted and chaos ensues. And I have to say, for me, the end was fitting. I couldn't imagine it ending in any other way. I will also include there is racism in this novel. I found this to be a great teachable moment for the kids. But there were some things we didn't go over, like wearing the whale penis as a raincoat. Yeah, I didn't know how to explain that one . . .

My youngest wasn't a fan of the book, but my oldest was okay with it. I'm not sure if I'll ever re-read Moby Dick, but I'll never say never. I can understand why it's considered an American classic. It has its faults, but it also has humor, gore, revenge, symbolism, and much much more.

Now that I'm finished with Moby Dick I might venture to read more of Melville's work. I've read Bartleby the Scrivener many years ago. So which book should I choose next?





Friday, July 20, 2018

0 Audiobook Review: The Secret of Flirting

The Secret of Flirting (Sinful Suitors #5)
by Sabrina Jeffries, narrated by Justine Eyre 
Audiobook, 416 pages
Published March 27th 2018 by Simon Schuster Audio

Summary

The moment spymaster Baron Fulkham meets the stunning Princess Aurore of Chanay, he's positive her royal persona is a ruse and that she's actually Monique Servais, the mysterious actress he met three years before in Dieppe. But as he pursues his suspicions, he uncovers a plot of attempted assassination and betrayal that could very well destroy his career, expose his own secrets...and ruin the woman he's rapidly coming to love.

The Secret of Flirting is a sizzling historical romance filled with fast-paced storytelling, an enchanting heroine, and a sexy hero, perfect for fans of Regency romance. 

My Thoughts

Justine Eyre could narrate a takeout menu and I would listen. She's an actress, model, and most importantly, one of the best narrators on this planet. She played all the characters extremely well and made this book a pure pleasure to listen to.

Sabrina Jeffries is one of my favorite romance authors. I've read several of her books and each time have been taken away to my happy place. I've not read any of the previous book is the Sinful Suitors series. I knew from past experiences this would not be a problem, so I proceeded to feet first into the wonderful world the Jeffries creates.

The storyline is nothing really new. It's The Prince and the Pauper of sorts with a little twist. Monique Servais is a French actress who is implored by her distant royal relatives to step in and imitate her lookalike cousin Princess Aurore of Chanay because Aurore has been ill and a kingdom is at stake. Monique does this mostly to help her poor ailing grandmother. However, Baron Fulkham, and odious man she met three years earlier, recognizes Monique from the stage. Fulkham is bound by honor to report these shenanigans to the proper authorities. But an attempt on Monique's life leaves Fulkham questioning her family's motives.

I absolutely loved the main character, Monique. I love her unabashed ambition. I love the way she stood up to Fulkham. I love she was willing to do anything to protect her family. I did not have the same love for the hero of the story, Fulkham. He rubbed me the wrong way since the moment he was introduced to the heroine. He was so quick to judge, to assume. I did not understand why Monique was attracted to him. He did lighten up a bit as the story progressed, but not as much as I had hoped. And his explanation as to why he treated her that way was somewhere along the same lines as the reason little boys hit little girls is because they like him. (Disclaimer: Fulkham did not hit Monique. This was just an example.)

Fulkham was really my only problem with the story. I did like the overall storyline. Loved the narrator. And I still love the author. This book just wan't one of my favorites. 

*I listened to the audiobook through a digital download provided by the publisher. This is no way influenced my opinions of this book.



Thursday, July 19, 2018

0 @audiobookSYNC gets adventurous with this week's #free #audiobook titles #ILoveAudiobooks



Summer has flown by, and this is the final week for Sync's Summer of Free Audiobooks for Teens. Thank you to Sync for putting on this fantastic event, as well as the publishers for making these titles available for a free download. Remember these titles are available to download for free 07/19 - 07/26  only. Everything you need to know about downloading this week's titles can be found at audiobooksync.com.



by Elizabeth Fama | Read by Katherine Kellgren
Published by Macmillan Audio

Fierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences. Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse? With Ezra's help, Hester investigates her family's strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean—but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago.





by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle | Read by Glen McCready
Published by Naxos Audiobooks

The Lost World was written fairly late in Conan Doyle’s career (1912), and stands as a work of early science fiction, fitting comfortably next to the likes of Wells, Haggard, Verne and Burroughs. It is also a book that uses Darwinian evolutionary theory as a thread in the narrative (although there are occasions where the science dips into early 20th-century prejudice). It was the inspiration for many other books and films that took its central premise as their starting point. And it is peopled with characters that are as brimful of energy and determination as Doyle himself – as well as some surprising political references and far more humor than readers of the Sherlock Holmes stories have much right to expect. The basis of the story is the possibility that there might be dinosaurs still living on the earth, unaffected by the usual evolutionary forces at work elsewhere. Dinosaurs have long exercised a peculiar fascination for the public, from those who still hunt Loch Ness monsters to those who finance huge-budget (and huge audience) films, but this was one of the first books to use them as a central part of the story. The other factor gripping the public of the time was the very existence of unknown parts of the globe and what they might contain – travelers were returning from previously unknown places (especially Africa and South America, where The Lost World is set) with astonishing stories. At the same time, paleontology was becoming extremely popular – Doyle himself found some dinosaur footprints in Sussex, something that may well have inspired the book. Uniting these popular themes (and using his own scientific understanding and his many contacts in the world of science and exploration to give them credibility), Doyle then introduced his cast of characters – the love-struck journalist Edward Malone, who does what any self-respecting Edwardian would do to impress his beloved: ask to go on a life-threatening assignment. This is exactly the kind of get-up-and-go that Doyle himself possessed, and he seems to think any lack of it is indicative of a failing of moral fiber. Then there is Professor Summerlee, a rather meticulous scientist; Lord John Roxton, an adventurer; and finally, the simply extraordinary Professor Challenger – vast, booming, powerful, utterly convinced of his own rightness, and prepared to take on the establishment with his fists if need be. All of these characters are drawn with a freshness and brio that suggests Doyle was enjoying himself; but he was also making a few veiled political statements. While Challenger was (loosely) based on William Rutherford, and Summerlee on another professor Doyle had studied with at Edinburgh, the people who inspired Roxton and Malone were based on more contentious figures, two of whom ended up being arrested for treason during WWI, and one of whom went missing searching for a lost city in Brazil. Edmund Morel was one of the bases for Malone. Morel had campaigned against the appalling treatment of the people in the Congo, and Doyle had lectured with him on the slavery that resulted from colonial trading. But he was a pacifist (which Doyle was not), and was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment after the publication of some leaflets. One of Roxton’s originals was the British diplomat, Roger Casement. Again, Doyle approved of Casement’s work against the slavery associated with rubber plantations; but Casement was also an Irish nationalist, and his attempts to get the Germans to free any Irish prisoners of war in return for German assistance to fight the British were discovered, and Casement was executed. Colonel Percy Fawcett, a surveyor, archaeologist and explorer, was also an inspiration for Roxton – and he and his son both disappeared in 1925 (The Lost City of Z). But the fact that such people existed and were public figures, the science underlying the Boy’s Own adventure genre, the thrill of the unknown being discovered - all these fueled the public passion for such adventurous imaginings. And if there was ever a man to feed a passion for adventurous imaginings, Arthur Conan Doyle was he. ~ Roy McMillan




 

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