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Friday, December 9, 2016

Review: The Empress of Bright Moon by Weina Dai Randel

Title: The Empress of Bright Moon
Author: Weina Dai Randel
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publish Date: April 5, 2016
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "In the captivating sequel to The Moon in the Palace, Mei must protect her people from a murderous empress

The second book in this stunning duology, The Empress of Bright Moon follows Mei as she struggles for power within the Emperor's palace, risking her life to dethrone the murderous Empress and establish herself as the new female ruler of China.

After Mei's lover, Pheasant, is crowned Emperor, a power struggle erupts between Mei and Pheasant's wife, Empress Wang. Both women are desperate to secure their name and rank. But when Empress Wang takes their feud to a new level by murdering Mei's supporters, Mei realizes that she must defeat the bloodthirsty Empress—not only to save herself, but also to protect her country."

My Two Cents:

"The Empress of Bright Moon" is the second book in a duology. This is the continuing story of Mei, a concubine who rises up to be the new potential empress in ancient China. In this book, Mei is now more confident in her skills and power. When her lover becomes the new Emperor, Mei knows that she must force her way to the top any way that she can. She knows that she will be better for Pheasant than any other women, including his current wife.

Like I said, this is the second book in a duology. Definitely go back and read the first book! It will give you a lot of insight into the various characters, including Mei. Mei has definitely changed since the first book. She is now more confident and able to get what she wants. I loved watching her transformation between this book and the previous book. She is such a fascinating character!

Again in this book, the historical detail will make this a true treat for any historical fiction lover. I loved the detail about court life in the first book but even more so in the second book. The stakes are higher for Mei in this book and she must even more carefully navigate the in's and out's of court life in order to stay on top. It is incredibly intriguing!

I was not ready for this book to end and will definitely be looking for more from this author in the future!


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Review: The Moon in the Palace by Weina Dai Randel

Title: The Moon in the Palace
Author: Weina Dai Randel
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publisher Date: March 1, 2016
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "A concubine at the palace learns quickly that there are many ways to capture the Emperor’s attention. Many paint their faces white and style their hair attractively, hoping to lure in the One Above All with their beauty. Some present him with fantastic gifts, such as jade pendants and scrolls of calligraphy, while others rely on their knowledge of seduction to draw his interest. But young Mei knows nothing of these womanly arts, yet she will give the Emperor a gift he can never forget.

Mei’s intelligence and curiosity, the same traits that make her an outcast among the other concubines, impress the Emperor. But just as she is in a position to seduce the most powerful man in China, divided loyalties split the palace in two, culminating in a perilous battle that Mei can only hope to survive.

The first volume of the Empress of Bright Moon duology paints a vibrant portrait of ancient China—where love, ambition, and loyalty can spell life or death—and the woman who came to rule it all."

My Two Cents:

"The Moon in the Palace" is the story of Mei, a concubine of the Chinese Emperor. This is the first book in a duology that takes readers back to ancient China. When Mei comes to court, she finds herself in stiff competition for the Emperor's affections. She really has no idea what she is doing and the way that she captures his attention is unlike any other concubine. This book explores the gilded court life and Mei's fascinating life at the center of it!

This book is so filled with court intrigue. Mei is at the center of so much in this book. We see when she first arrives at the Palace and how competitive it is with the other concubines. Mei is so happy to have a chance at a better life inside the palace walls that she isn't really aiming to impress the Emperor at first. It seems to be a happy accident that he is so enthralled with her. The author does a great job of showing Mei's growth throughout the book.

You all know that I love historical fiction. I especially love when it takes me to some place I am not familiar with. Ancient China definitely fits the bill. The author does a great job of incorporating a lot of detail in a seamless way to give you a good feeling as to what court life was like under the Chinese emperors. I ate up all of the rich detail! This was a great start to this duology!


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

TLC Book Tours: Grape, Olive, Pig: Deep Travels Through Spain's Food Culture by Matt Goulding

Title: Grape, Olive, Pig: Deep Travels Through Spain's Food Culture
Author: Matt Goulding
Format: ARC
Publisher: HarperCollins 
Publish Date: November 15, 2016
Source: HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours 

What's the Story?:

From "Grape, Olive, Pig is a deeply personal exploration of Spain, a country where eating and living are inextricably linked. Crafted in the "refreshing" (Associated Press), "inspirational" (Publishers Weekly) and "impeccably observed" ( style of the acclaimed Rice, Noodle, Fish, and written with the same evocative voice of the award-winning magazine Roads & Kingdoms, this magnificent gastronomic travel companion takes you through the key regions of Spain as you’ve never seen them before.

Matt Goulding introduces you to the sprawling culinary and geographical landscape of his adoptive home, and offers an intimate portrait of this multifaceted country, its remarkable people, and its complex history. Fall in love with Barcelona’s tiny tapas bars and modernist culinary temples. Explore the movable feast of small plates and late nights in Madrid. Join the three-thousand-year-old hunt for Bluefin tuna off the coast of Cadiz, then continue your seafood journey north to meet three sisters who risk their lives foraging the gooseneck barnacle, one of Spain’s most treasured ingredients. Delight in some of the world’s most innovative and avant-garde edible creations in San Sebastian, and then wash them down with cider from neighboring Asturias. Sample the world’s finest acorn-fed ham in Salamanca, share in the traditions of cave-dwelling shepherds in the mountains beyond Granada, and debate what constitutes truly authentic paella in Valencia.

Grape, Olive, Pig reveals hidden gems and enduring delicacies from across this extraordinary country, contextualizing each meal with the stories behind the food in a cultural narrative complemented by stunning color photography. Whether you’ve visited Spain or have only dreamed of bellying up to its tapas bars, Grape, Olive, Pig will wake your imagination, rouse your hunger, and capture your heart.

My Two Cents:

A book like "Grape, Olive, Pig" should carry a warning level and that warning level should say something like "Do not read on an empty stomach." I would also be inclined to add "Make sure you already have a future trip to Spain planned." Unfortunately for me, I do not have a trip to Spain booked... yet but this book makes me think that Spain needs to be a little higher up on my list.

This book is a exploration of all of the delicious food that Spain has to offer. The author lives in Spain and is married to a Spanish woman. He is from the United States but fell in love with the gastronomic culture of the country and treats readers to a first hand look at what makes Spain such a rich food culture. In the tradition of shows like "Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain" (who put his name on this book!), this book explores in a way that will make readers feel like they're right alongside of the author as he eats delectable seafood for a late night dinner and steaming, hot churros for breakfast in the morning.

The writing is soooo very detailed in the book and all of the detail leaps off of the page. This is exactly why you can't read this book on an empty stomach. The book is broken down by regions, which really made me appreciate how different the menus and food culture is throughout Spain where people are more inclined to associate themselves with region rather than country. In addition to just talking about delicious food, I really liked that the author included tips for traveling to Spain as well as profiles of various people associated with the food world in Spain.

This book is travel writing done right. Goulding fully immerses readers in a new world where the writing is so detailed that you can taste the food and picture exactly what the world of the Spaniards looks, feels, and sounds like. This was a true treat for me! This book is the definition of what armchair traveling should feel like!

This is the second book in a series from "Roads and Kingdoms," a website that brings together travel, food, and culture. The first book was "Rice, Noodle, Fish," which was an exploration of food culture in Japan and after reading this book, I'm very excited to read the first book!


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Review: Flight Patterns by Karen White

Title: Flight Patterns
Author: Karen White
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: NAL
Publish Date: May 24, 2016
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Georgia Chambers has spent her life sifting through other people’s pasts while trying to forget her own. But then her work as an expert of fine china—especially of Limoges—requires her to return to the one place she swore she’d never revisit...

It’s been thirteen years since Georgia left her family home on the coast of Florida, and nothing much has changed, except that there are fewer oysters and more tourists. She finds solace seeing her grandfather still toiling away in the apiary where she spent much of her childhood, but encountering her estranged mother and sister leaves her rattled.

Seeing them after all this time makes Georgia realize that something has been missing—and unless she finds a way to heal these rifts, she will forever be living vicariously through other people’s remnants. To embrace her own life—mistakes and all—she will have to find the courage to confront the ghosts of her past and the secrets she was forced to keep..."

My Two Cents:

In "Flight Patterns," Georgia is forced to go back home, a place she never wanted to go back to, for her work. She is an expert in old China and when James, a client, turns up with a hard-to-find limited edition Limoges piece, Georgia knows that she has seen the pattern before in the house she grew up in. Committed to finding out where the china came from, Georgia goes home, bringing James along for the ride. Georgia eventually realizes that you can never outrun the past no matter how hard you try.

This is the perfect kind of book for when you want to get lost in a story. The author is a master world builder and I found myself quickly engulfed in Georgia's world. Between the setting and the great characters, it was easy to get lost in this book. Georgia is a great character! She has gotten so used to hiding from her past that when she is suddenly confronted with it, she doesn't know what to do at first. I certainly felt for her plight! We get to see as Georgia begins to realize that the way she thought things were between her and her family may not reflect reality. As she comes to terms with her past, readers will be cheering for her.

There is a romantic story line in the book that I ate up. Georgia and James eventually start falling for each other. At first they seem to be clinging to each other out of grief but it turns into something else throughout the book. This is the happy kind of romance that had me curling my toes with happiness.

This is the second book that I have read by Karen White and it certainly will not be the last. I love the detail that she brings into her books. I don't know anything about china whatsoever and I loved the way that the detail about different companies and patterns was brought into the book. This was a good read!


Monday, December 5, 2016

Review: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

Title: My Lady Jane
Authors: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publish Date: June 7, 2016
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Edward (long live the king) is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown…

Jane (reads too many books) is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended…

Gifford (call him G) is a horse. That is, he’s an Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated). Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed—but then he wakes at dusk with a mouthful of hay. It’s all very undignified."

My Two Cents:

"My Lady Jane Grey" turns the story of Lady Jane Grey, otherwise known as the nine-day queen on its head. As a historical reminder, Lady Jane Grey became queen for 9 days before being killed after the death of Edward VI, who was Henry VIII's son. It's a very tragic story and definitely not one with a happy ending. In the hands of the three authors of this book, Lady Jane Grey is given a much better ending. This is a great story filled with magic and a much happier ending.

In this book, Jane is known as the one at court who always seems to have her nose in a book. She's promised to Gifford, who is hiding a secret, and doesn't want to get married. In this world, there are beings called "edians," who can turn into animals. Jane is absolutely fascinated by this and is pulled in to this world and making sure that those that are able to turn into animals have the safety to do so. It sounds like an incredibly strange permits for book but it definitely works. I was not ready for this book to end!

I love the way that the authors were able to be blend a bunch of magic with a bunch of historical detail as well. This is the first effort between Cynthia Hand, Brittany Ashton, and Jody Meadows and I'm definitely hoping that it won't be the last!


Friday, December 2, 2016

Review: All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner

Title: All Fall Down
Author: Jennifer Weiner 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Atria Books
Publish Date: June 2014
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Allison Weiss got her happy ending--a handsome husband, an adorable little girl, a job she loves, and a big house in the suburbs. But when she's in the pediatrician's office with her daughter and a magazine flips open to a quiz about addiction, she starts to wonder whether her use of prescription pills is becoming a problem. On the one hand, it's just medication, the stuff her doctors give her. Is a Percocet at the end of a hard day really different from a glass of wine? Is it such a bad thing to pop a Vicodin after a brutal Jump & Pump class...or if your husband ignores you?

Back in the car, after the appointment, with her daughter safely buckled behind her, Allison performs the familiar ritual, opening the Altoid tin in her purse and slipping a chalky white oval underneath her tongue. The pill unties her knotted muscles, erases the grime and ugliness of the city, soothes her as the frets about her looking-good life: that her husband's becoming distant, that her daughter is acting out, that her father's early Alzheimer's is worsening and her mother is barely managing to cope. She tells herself that the pills let her make it through her days...but what if her every-increasing drug use, a habit that's becoming expensive and hard to hide, is turning into her biggest problem of all?"

My Two Cents:

"All Fall Down" is the story of Allison, a woman who on the surface seems like she has it all. She has a seemingly nice husband, an adorable daughter, a nice house and good friends. She's hiding that she's addicted to prescription drugs. This is a pretty serious topic and definitely one that I think needs to be discussed of lot more especially with what's going on and our country currently.

I love the way that Jennifer Weiner is able to take a serious topic like addiction and give it a face through Allison. I think from the outside it can be difficult to understand how addiction happens and why people are susceptible to facingaddiction. Allison shows that even if your life looks perfect, you can be hiding a lot of secrets. The book goes through how Allison hides her addiction and how she spirals out of control. It happens in such a way that you don't really see that it's coming. Sometimes fiction is the best way to access difficult issues. This book definitely shows that!

I was pulling for Allison throughout the book. You see how difficult it is to even diagnose that you have a problem. Hopefully by talking about this issue, more and more people will be able to get the help that they need. Jennifer Weiner is my go-to when I want smart stories with a lot of heart. This book felt a little more serious than some of her other books, which I think comes from the subject matter. Again, I think it's so important for books to tackle really difficult subjects. You're in good hands with Weiner.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Giveaway: The Summer that Melted Everything!

Welcome, December! If you're anything like me, you're probably still doing your Christmas shopping and what better gift for anyone than a book? To help you with your shopping, I'm giving away a copy of "The Summer that Melted Everything" (U.S. only, please). This book was one of my faves this year!

Want to win? Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below and I will randomly choose one winner!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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