Thursday, September 19, 2019

Best Movie Year Ever: How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen by Brian Raftery

Title: Best Movie Year Ever:  How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen
Author: Brian Raftery
Read by:  George Newbern
Publisher: Simon & Shuster Audio
Length: Approximately 10 hours and 55 minutes
Source: Review Copy from Simon & Shuster Audio.  Thank-you!

Words cannot express how much I enjoyed this audiobook.  I love movies and books . . . and listening to an audiobook about movies is right up my ally.  Even better is that I was 21 years old in 1999 so I will go along with the thesis that 1999 was a premiere year for movies.  I always have read and heard how 1939 was the premiere movie year so it was interesting to listen to a new perspective, and one that is more current. 

I was surprised listening to this audiobook just how many excellent movies came out in 1999:  Fight Club, Office Space, The Matrix, The Sixth Sense, 10 Things I Hate About You are just a few examples and all movies I love.  As a young woman, I was in college, and watching these movies either at the theatre or on videotape.  I remember watching The Blair Witch project on campus with the cheap movies that would play weekly through the year. 

This audiobook had a great narrator who made it interesting to listen to – I love his conversational, enthused tone.  He made the audiobook like a conversation I would have with a friend about movies.  It was very entertaining.

I had not watched all of the movies that were mentioned, but I found it all interesting.  Author Brian Raftery masterfully gives not only a summary of what the movie is about, but what made it special and capture the imagination of people in 1999.  There were insights into how the movie was made, marketed, and released.  It also had interviews from those involved in the making of the movie from the actors, actresses, directors, etc.  It discussed why the movie fit into what people were feeling at the time.  It was fascinating, even learning about movies that I have not seen.

I’ll admit I loved when favorite movie critics from the 90’s (example Owen Gleiberman from Entertainment Weekly) and Premiere magazine were mentioned.  I was a subscriber to both Entertainment Weekly and Premiere at the time and it was a great blast from the past. 

I really liked the discussion about how the proliferation of indie movies at the time allowed freedom, experimentation, and unique movies.  It made me sad that we don’t see that now, but author Brian Raftery made a case for TV having taken over the mantel shortly afterwards with the Sopranos and how now many of the new daring movies are shown on streaming services.  It was a very interesting discussion point. 

Overall, Best Movie Year Ever:  How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen is a fascinating audiobook for those that love movies and late 90’s culture or who would like to learn about it.    I would love to listen to more audiobooks like this.  Does anyone else know of other good books about movies?  I hope Brian Raftery writes more books!

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The Lost Daughter by Gill Paul (TLC Book Tour Review)

A family with their five children were gunned down in the night.  This would be a tragedy in any age, but when this tragedy befell the Romanovs, the last ruling family in Russia, it’s a tragedy that has captured the public’s imagination for the past 100 years.  The question always lingers, did any of the family survive?

I have been intrigued by this mystery since I was a young girl.  I remember watching an Unsolved Mysteries episode about it in my youth.  This led me to read books about Anastasia and the Romanovs.  I was sure Anastasia had survived.  I was devastated when the bodies were found, but I always still have the hope that someone did survive.

The Lost Daughter tells two parallel stories.  Maria is the middle daughter of the Romanov family.  She feels unloved at times by her family, and the stress of the imprisonment.  She is a vivacious teenager and dreams of romance.  She tries to befriend their guards, but it leads to trouble for both herself and her family.  When the fateful night occurs, it is her friendship with her guards that allows her to survive.  Trying to keep her history secret, Maria lives through tumultuous times in Russia and through great love and lose.  Will Maria’s secret get out?  Will her family survive?

Val Doyle is a housewife in 1970’s Australia.  She grew up with an abusive father and an absent mother.  As an adult she has a beloved daughter, but she is married to an abusive man.  After getting a phone call from a nursing home about her estranged father, Val discovers that he has been telling everyone that he didn’t mean to hurt anyone and about blood everywhere.  Val starts to dig into her past.  Where did her mother go?  What is her father talking about?  What is his mysterious past in Russia?  Will Val be able to set herself free from her abusive husband?

I LOVED this novel and couldn’t put it down over the Labor Day weekend.  It was a wonderful historical fiction story that gave a great insight into what life in Russia was like during the revolution and immediately afterwards.  It gave me a lot to think about.  The personal stories of both Maria and Val were both riveting.  Sometimes in duel narratives, one story is stronger than the other.  In this case, both narratives were equally intriguing and I found myself constantly wondering what would happen next in both stories.  I loved that Val had a coming of age story in her 30’s to really discover her past and who she is moving forward.  I would love to read more novels written by Gil Paul.

Favorite Quotes:

“One day he would realize what it was like to be a parent; one day he would feel the visceral tug on your heartstrings when you were apart from any one of them.”

Overall, The Lost Daughter is a riveting historical fiction novel that seamlessly blends two stories to tell a fantastic story of Russia during and after the revolution, and of two women finding themselves.

Book Source:  Review Copy from William Morrow for being on the TLC Book Tour.  Thank-you!  For more stops on this tour, check out this link.

Note – I’ve turned on review for comments as someone spent all of last night putting 600 plus Viagra links on various blog postings on my blog.  

About The Lost Daughter

• Paperback: 496 pages
 • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 27, 2019)  

If you loved I Am Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon you won't want to miss this novel about her sister, Grand Duchess Maria. What really happened to this lost Romanov daughter? A new novel perfect for anyone curious about Anastasia, Maria, and the other lost Romanov daughters, by the author of The Secret Wife.

 1918: Pretty, vivacious Grand Duchess Maria Romanov, the nineteen-year-old daughter of the fallen Tsar Nicholas II, lives with her family in suffocating isolation, a far cry from their once-glittering royal household. Her days are a combination of endless boredom and paralyzing fear; her only respite are clandestine flirtations with a few of the guards imprisoning the family—never realizing her innocent actions could mean the difference between life and death  

1973: When Val Doyle hears her father’s end-of-life confession, “I didn’t want to kill her,” she’s stunned. So, she begins a search for the truth—about his words and her past. The clues she discovers are baffling—a jewel-encrusted box that won’t open and a camera with its film intact. What she finds out pulls Val into one of the world’s greatest mysteries—what truly happened to the Grand Duchess Maria?.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Gill Paul

Gill Paul is an author of historical fiction, specialising in relatively recent history. She has written two novels about the last Russian royal family: The Secret Wife, published in 2016, which tells the story of cavalry officer Dmitri Malama and Grand Duchess Tatiana, the second daughter of Russia’s last tsar; and The Lost Daughter, published in October 2018, that tells of the attachment Grand Duchess Maria formed with a guard in the house in Ekaterinburg where the family was held from April to July 1918.

Gill’s other novels include Another Woman’s Husband, about links you may not have been aware of between Wallis Simpson, later Duchess of Windsor, and Diana, Princess of Wales; Women and Children First, about a young steward who works on the Titanic; The Affair, set in Rome in 1961–62 as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton fall in love while making Cleopatra; and No Place for a Lady, about two Victorian sisters who travel out to the Crimean War of 1854–56 and face challenges beyond anything they could have imagined.

 Find out more about Gill at her website, and connect with her on Twitter and Instagram.

Winner of The Chocolate Maker's Wife by Karen Brooks

Have you ever had your blog spammed?  I woke up this morning to a constant dinging on my phone only to find I had 600 plus Spam comments added to this blog. I've cleaned the blog up, but comments have to be reviewed now unfortunately to keep the spammers at bay. 

Thank-you to all who entered the giveaway for this wonderful historical fiction novel.  The lucky winner is Amy from Locks, Hooks, and Books who left a comment on August 31st.  She has been notified via email and has one week to respond with her mailing address before another winner is selected.

Thank-you to all those who entered the giveway! Thank-you to William Morrow for sending me an extra copy for the giveaway.  Thank-you to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be on the tour. 

For more information about this great novel, check out my review at this link.

Friday, August 30, 2019

The Chocolate Maker’s Wife by Karen Brooks (TLC Book Tour Review and Giveaway!)

Are you a fan of historical fiction and epic novels?  I have a new favorite novel for you, The Chocolate Maker’s Wife by Karen Brooks.  I started reading this book last week and it’s the kind of book that I carried everywhere with me to try to sneak in more reading time.  I was intrigued by the story and couldn’t stop reading it.  Set in England, in the seventeenth century, The Chocolate Maker’s Wife is the story of Rosamund.  Born on the wrong side of the blanket, Rosamund is living with her uncaring mother and abusive stepfather at an inn, trying to remain unnoticed.  While avoiding her stepbrothers, she is involved in an accident that puts her in the path of a gentleman.  Sir Everard Blithman decides he must have her and her mother quickly agrees to the match.  Rosamund is spirited away to London where she now becomes Lady Rosamund Blithman and the Chocolate Maker’s wife.  Sir Everard has started a chocolate house to serve the elite hot chocolate.  Rosamund uses her skills from working at the inn and the new chocolate making skills she is taught to become successful in her new role.  What secrets is Sir Everard hiding?  Why is he seeking vengeance against Matthew Lovelace?

I love that this novel was set during Restoration England with King Charles II on the throne. The plot includes the Great London fire of 1666 as well as the plague.  I loved that Rosamund had a fire in her that helped her to make her way in the world while also helping those around her.  This novel reminded me of two of my other favorite books with a strong heroine in a similar time period – Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor and Through a Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen.  If you are fan of those books or meaty historical fiction in general, you will love this novel.

While I was engrossed with the intrigue, I’ll admit that I guessed the dark mysteries early on.  I was more interested in how Rosamund would react to the new information and how it would affect her love story. 

Karen Brooks wrote a great author’s note at the end of the novel that included a lot of great information about the history of chocolate making as well as the fact that some of the side characters in the novel were actual historical figures.  I had no idea while reading the book and really enjoyed that tidbit at the end.

Favorite Quotes:

“After all what’s the point of a chocolate house, or a coffee one for that matter, if not to exchange news?”

“What were buildings but the work of man?  And what were buildings if there were no men, women or children to fill them?  To make the walls echo with conversation, arguments, joy, grief, laughter, tears, and above all, love?”

“I was just thinking what a wasted emotion revenge is.  It fills the soul with nothing but darkness.”

Overall, The Chocolate Maker’s wife is a fascinating historical fiction novel with a strong intriguing heroine set during an enthralling period of history.

Book Source:  Review Copy from William Morrow for being on the TLC Book Tour.  Thank-you!  For more stops on this tour, check out this link.

About The Chocolate Maker's Wife

• Paperback: 608 pages • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 20, 2019)

 Australian bestselling novelist Karen Brooks rewrites women back into history with this breathtaking novel set in 17th century London—a lush, fascinating story of the beautiful woman who is drawn into a world of riches, power, intrigue…and chocolate.  

Damnation has never been so sweet...

Rosamund Tomkins, the illegitimate daughter of a nobleman, spends most of her young life in drudgery at a country inn. To her, the Restoration under Charles II, is but a distant threat as she works under the watchful eye of her brutal, abusive stepfather . . . until the day she is nearly run over by the coach of Sir Everard Blithman.

Sir Everard, a canny merchant, offers Rosamund an “opportunity like no other," allowing her to escape into a very different life, becoming the linchpin that will drive the success of his fledgling business: a luxurious London chocolate house where wealthy and well-connected men come to see and be seen, to gossip and plot, while indulging in the sweet and heady drink.

Rosamund adapts and thrives in her new surroundings, quickly becoming the most talked-about woman in society, desired and respected in equal measure.

But Sir Everard's plans for Rosamund and the chocolate house involve family secrets that span the Atlantic Ocean, and which have already brought death and dishonor to the Blithman name. Rosamund knows nothing of the mortal peril that comes with her new title, nor of the forces spinning a web of conspiracy buried in the past, until she meets a man whose return tightens their grip upon her, threatening to destroy everything she loves and damn her to a dire fate.

 As she fights for her life and those she loves through the ravages of the Plague and London's Great Fire, Rosamund's breathtaking tale is one marked by cruelty and revenge; passion and redemption—and the sinfully sweet temptation of chocolate. 

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Photo by Stephen Brooks

About Karen Brooks

Karen Brooks is the author of twelve books, an academic of more than twenty years' experience, a newspaper columnist and social commentator, and has appeared regularly on national TV and radio. Before turning to academia, she was an army officer for five years, and prior to that dabbled in acting. She lives in Hobart, Tasmania, in a beautiful stone house with its own marvellous history. When she's not writing, she's helping her husband Stephen in his brewery, Captain Bligh's Ale and Cider, or cooking for family and friends, travelling, cuddling and walking her dogs, stroking her cats, or curled up with a great book and dreaming of more stories. Find out more about Karen at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

I was accidentally mailed two Advance Reader Edition's of The Chocolate Maker's Wife so I am going to give one of them away! If you would like to win this book, please leave a comment on what interests you about this book.  Have you ever read a book about chocolate or the Restoration?  If so, which one, and what did you enjoy about it?
As part of your comment, you must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner.

For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway or post it on your sidebar. Provide a link to this post in your comment.

I will be using (or a Monte Carlo simulation in excel) to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is only open to addresses in the United States.

The deadline for entry is midnight on Friday September 13th!

Please make sure to check the week of September 16th to see if you are a winner. I send emails to the winner, but lately I've been put in their "junk mail" folder instead of their inbox.

Good luck!