Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion… A Review

Want a fun, light-hearted read with a good dose of sweetness? A romantic comedy with quirky memorable characters? The Rosie Project by Gaeme Simsion is just that and more! I devoured it in a couple of days and enjoyed every minute of it and wanted more (and I'll get more because there's a sequel coming out!).

Don Tillman is a professor of genetics and is looking for a wife. The problem is that conventional dating is not working very well. Don has some peculiarities that make him seem a bit eccentric. He has difficulty in social situations, has a schedule that he must adhere to (down to the minute!), and has a hard time with expressing his emotions. Don suffers from an undiagnosed case of Aspergers. But when he devises a rigid questionnaire to meet the woman of his dreams, Rosie comes along and turns Don's world upside down.

Rosie is everything not acceptable on the questionnaire! (she smokes, she drinks and a zillion other things as well... except maybe her BMI does measure up). But when Rosie needs a geneticist to help find her biological father, Don becomes her knight in shining armor… and eventually someone realizes that the questionnaire may not be the best way to find a mate.

Great characters, a heart-warming story, and wonderful writing! A quirky love story ready to melt the most jaded reader. A Charming tale of true love! My recommendation…. READ IT!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Sunday Salon and Sunday Cooking with… Down South by Donald Link (A Review and RECIPE!)



Welcome to the Sunday Salon! It's that one day of the week we talk BOOKS! And today I want to share a wonderful cookbook! Way back when I was growing up, Sunday's use to be family and food. A big Sunday dinner with family and friends to share the hours with. Things are a bit different now, but I still think of Sunday as a day for cooking, and what better way to spend it virtually then with our heads in a cookbook! Not only am I sharing the cookbook, BUT a great recipe the publisher gave me permission to share. A recipe I tried out to see just how good these recipes were. At the very bottom of today's post, you can see some of the photos from the "cooking journey"...

OMG, talk about gorgeous covers and that's not where it stops! Absolutely beautiful food photography all throughout the book AND mouth watering, easy to follow recipes to boot!


When I first picked up Down South by Donald Link and Paula Disbrowne, it was love at first sight. The cover was gorgeous, the book itself had a nice heft to it and of course, the recipes were something my Southern boy at home was going to enjoy- " a collection of remembrances and recipes meant to make you hungry, make you laugh, and convey what it's like to be both a chef and an eater in today's South."

Down South starts out with "Drinks", such as a Chuck Berry made with fresh blueberries and Prosecco, or an Antiguan Julep made with rum and Simple Syrup (also included as a recipe). Then we move on to "Cocktail Parties", with appetizers that are tempting just reading about them. There's Parmesan Bacon Gougeres, Crab Louis with Toast Points, and Shrimp Remoulade, which can be either an appetizer or a light meal (this is the recipe we made to give this cookbook a tryout and did it pass with flying colors!! psst… I'm going to share this recipe with Ya'll!) And we cannot forget about the Spicy Roasted Peanuts! It's a take on the spicy boiled peanuts you'll find everywhere down South, and if you've never had them, you need to drive there to have some!

Then we move to the main courses… "Cook it Outside", grilling and some smoking, with recipes such as Chicken Chivito Sandwich with Ham and Olive Spread, made with boneless, skin-on chicken thighs, and smoked ham or Grilled Chicken with Alabama White Barbecue Sauce. "Roast, Braise, Simmer and Fry" with recipes including Smothered Chicken, Tupelo Honey-Glazed Ham and Guinea Hen Gumbo. "Heads, Feet, Necks and Bones" with recipes for how to make your own Breakfast Sausage, Pork Rillons, and Beef Short Rib Sugo. "Seafood from the Gulf and South Atlantic", including recipes for New Orleans Barbecued Shrimp, and Crisp Fried Frog Legs.

We wrap up the cookbook tour with… "Fresh, Seasonal Southern Sides", including Smoked Ham and Rice Salad, Ham Hocks and Crowder Peas, and Cajun Macaroni Salad. And of course desserts, or "Southern-Style Sweets" including Salted Caramel Peanut Brittle Ice Cream, Spiced Apple Pecan Bread and Banana Pudding with Moonshine Whipped Cream.

Each chapter has an introduction to the particular types of recipes and the foods involved, and the story behind them. There's a little tidbit or "introduction" to each recipe too, talking about its origins, a cooking tip on preparation or buying, or how it's related to Southern cooking. It's another reason why this is so much more than your average cookbook. Down South is packed with Southern Charm. It's good food, a good story and rooted in great tradition. It's an oversized cookbook with large enough print to read the recipes with ease. AND the recipes are easy to follow with fully explained directions. Nothing too hard here, with ingredients that should be easy to find too. Want to see for yourself?! Follow this link to read the FIRST CHAPTER!

Now, I like to try out a recipe before making my "final judgement" on a cookbook I'm reviewing, and for that purpose I chose Shrimp Remoulade. I love shrimp and I love trying new sauces and this recipe filled both bills. Shrimp Remoulade is a cold dish. It's in the "Cocktail Parties" section, but it also states in the recipe it can be a light meal as well. How many times have you just eaten shrimp for dinner?! I was game and so was my Southern boy. Courtesy of  the Publisher, Clarkson Potter, a division of Penguin Random House, I have permission to share the recipe with YOU! Here it is (with my photo)…

*Shrimp Remoulade 
(serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer or light meal)                                            1 Cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon cayenne
10 bay leaves
2 lemons sliced
2 pounds medium-large shrimp in the shell
1 cup Sauce Remoulade (recipe follows)
1/2 head iceberg lettuce thinly sliced                                                      
                                                                                                   

Combine the salt, cayenne, bay leaves and lemon slices in a large pot with 1 gallon of water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the shrimp and cook until the shrimp are bright pink and just cooked through, 3 to 3 1/2 minutes. Immediately pour 2 gallons of ice into the pot and allow the shrimp to cool completely in the poaching liquid. (this should take 5 to 10 minutes) Peel.

Toss the peeled shrimp with the sauce and serve over the lettuce.

*Sauce Remoulade
(makes 1 1/2 cups)

You'll need only a portion of this recipe for 2 pounds of shrimp. The remainder will keep in the fridge for two to three days, and will make a quick mean when tossed with more shrimp or crab, or slathered on a fried fish sandwich.

1/2 cup grated yellow onion
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon or chervil
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Use a rubber spatula to combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

*Recipe Reprinted from Down South. Copyright (c) 2014 by Donald Link. Photographs copyright (c) 2014 by Chris Granger. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.

Since we were making this just for the 2 of us, I tweaked the recipe a little. I made it with only 1 pound of shrimp, and we halved the recipe for the sauce, and had plenty left to enjoy on other food. We also used super hot "fresh" cayenne pepper from the natural foods store, which may or may not have added extra heat to this dish.

Now let me tell you about the flavor… It was delicious! The shrimp absorbed all this wonderful flavor from the poach, and even as you bit into the shrimp, which were cooked perfectly at 3 minutes, and had the wonderful "hot flavored" creamy remoulade sauce on top, you could tell the shrimp had a heat all their own.

My final verdict… A+! If you enjoy cooking, like Southern food, or want to try some Southern cooking, this would be a great cookbook to have. Easy flavorful dishes that will satisfy all your tastebuds! There's something for everyone here. A Big Thank you to Blogging for Books for sending along this cookbook for me to review!

Here are some random photos from our cooking journey with Shrimp Remoulade...










The Final Dish…And it was YUMMY!



*FTC disclaimer… I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest              review.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Sunday Salon and Addicted Reading...


Welcome to The Sunday Salon! This is the time of the week we all get together virtually to talk about what we love - Books and reading! This week I've had my head in a book and had to tear myself away to do my "chores", but now that I'm almost done (with the book, not the chores) I'm trying to slow down because I am going to hate to come to the end of this tale… Am I addicted?!

We've all been there… a book that just grabs a hold of you and won't let go. Sometimes it's a book that you've been anticipating, book #2 or the next in a sequel, or sometimes it's a book that is totally not what you expected or better than you expected. There is nothing more satisfying than starting a book reluctantly only to find yourself all wrapped up and having to remind yourself to breathe… and this week I was totally wrapped up in a book that isn't my normal reading, though I do love historicals, and took me to unfamiliar terrain that I just lost myself in. The sites, the sounds, the smells, the way the people lived, the honor among men, all of it swept me up before I realized it and I was hooked.

The setting for the book is the Normandy Conquest. English, Normans, Welsh, Vikings and the like all battling for the English land they all want to claim for their own. The book? The Splintered Kingdom by James Aitcheson, a book I got an email from the publisher about reviewing, and after reading a 60 page sampling of the first book, jumped at the chance to read it.

I haven't quite finished it, but the writing is wonderful. The characters are so well rounded and the landscape is so easy to visualize. Before I read the sample I was a bit apprehensive because Knights, war, and 11th century England are not what I normally would call fun, (mostly the war part not being fun) but this book and this series is terrific! Every free moment I've got my head in this book! I'm addicted...

The great part about this book, besides being able to read it courtesy of the publisher, is that next month James Aitcheson is going on a Virtual Tour and making a stop here!!! I'll be "officially"reviewing The Splintered Kingdom AND HAVING A GIVEAWAY!!! Yes, I have a beautiful hardcover copy of The Splintered Kingdom and another copy of the first book in the series Sworn Sword to giveaway to one lucky Chick with Books reader! All the fun starts Sept.4th! Mark your calendar! But in the meantime…

Let me know what books you have been addicted to lately! Any books surprise you when they swept you away?

Happy reading… Suzanne

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Sunday Salon and Anticipation...


Welcome to The Sunday Salon! It's that day of the week we sit back and talk about one of our favorite subjects… BOOKS! Yes, and this week there's some great books I want to share with you from some of our favorite authors!

Don't you just love it when an author you love reading is coming out with a new book?! I get excited… will it be as good as the last book? Will I love the characters? Will the writing take me away to places I can only dream of? It doesn't what genre you're favorite author write's in, it's all about the anticipation...


Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami...  From Publisher's Weekly: Living a simple, quotidian life as a train station engineer, Tsukuru is compelled to reexamine his past after a girlfriend suggests he reconnect with a group of friends from high school. A tight-knit fivesome for years, the group suddenly alienated Tsukuru under mysterious circumstances when he was in college. For months after the break, not knowing what had gone wrong, he became obsessed with death and slowly lost his sense of self: “I’ve always seen myself as an empty person, lacking color and identity. Maybe that was my role in the group. To be empty.” Feeling his life will only progress if he can tie up those emotional loose ends, Tsukuru journeys through Japan and into Europe to meet with the members of the group and unravel what really happened 16 years before. The result is a vintage Murakami struggle of coming to terms with buried emotions and missed opportunities, in which intentions and pent up desires can seemingly transcend time and space to bring both solace and desolation

If you are a fan of Haruki Murakami, you will be chomping at the bit for this one! It's been 2 years since we heard from this wonderful author, whose quiet, yet insightful writing makes us think and almost listen to each word he puts on the page. This is the English translation of the same book that has sold a millions the first week it came out in Japan. The book has gotten 5 star reviews all around, so I can't wait! If you are new to Murakami, you should be able to enjoy this book as well. Coming out August 12th...

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell… Following a scalding row with her mother, fifteen-year-old Holly Sykes slams the door on her old life. But Holly is no typical teenage runaway: A sensitive child once contacted by voices she knew only as “the radio people,” Holly is a lightning rod for psychic phenomena. Now, as she wanders deeper into the English countryside, visions and coincidences reorder her reality until they assume the aura of a nightmare brought to life. For Holly has caught the attention of a cabal of dangerous mystics—and their enemies. But her lost weekend is merely the prelude to a shocking disappearance that leaves her family irrevocably scarred. This unsolved mystery will echo through every decade of Holly’s life, affecting all the people Holly loves—even the ones who are not yet born. A Cambridge scholarship boy grooming himself for wealth and influence, a conflicted father who feels alive only while reporting on the war in Iraq, a middle-aged writer mourning his exile from the bestseller list—all have a part to play in this surreal, invisible war on the margins of our world. From the medieval Swiss Alps to the nineteenth-century Australian bush, from a hotel in Shanghai to a Manhattan townhouse in the near future, their stories come together in moments of everyday grace and extraordinary wonder. 

David Mitchell, whose list of  popular books could fill a page plus, and who wrote Cloud Atlas, which was made into a movie (which does not make it a great book, but does show it's popularity) is coming out with what seems to be another great tale, where fantastic stories come together for an incredible wrap up.  His stories always appeal to me, but I have yet to crack the spine on any. One of those in the TBR pile that should make its way up. I'm putting this in my TBR pile and making sure I don't forget it because this sounds amazing. Coming Sept. 2, 2014

The Children Act by Ian McEwan… Fiona Maye is a High Court judge in London presiding over cases in family court. She is fiercely intelligent, well respected, and deeply immersed in the nuances of her particular field of law. Often the outcome of a case seems simple from the outside, the course of action to ensure a child's welfare obvious. But the law requires more rigor than mere pragmatism, and Fiona is expert in considering the sensitivities of culture and religion when handing down her verdicts. But Fiona's professional success belies domestic strife. Her husband, Jack, asks her to consider an open marriage and, after an argument, moves out of their house. His departure leaves her adrift, wondering whether it was not love she had lost so much as a modern form of respectability; whether it was not contempt and ostracism she really fears. She decides to throw herself into her work, especially a complex case involving a seventeen-year-old boy whose parents will not permit a lifesaving blood transfusion because it conflicts with their beliefs as Jehovah's Witnesses. But Jack doesn't leave her thoughts, and the pressure to resolve the case—as well as her crumbling marriage—tests Fiona in ways that will keep readers thoroughly enthralled until the last stunning page.

Ian McEwan is such a wonderful storyteller and writer. His writing is not all about furiously turning the pages, but wrapping yourself around the words and characters. I read just a small sampling of this book courtesy of the publisher and want more! He has won the famed Booker Prize and other writing awards, so it's no wonder that lovers of great fiction should make a note of his latest offering here, coming Sept. 9, 2014. Definitely on my TBR list!

What author's do you long for a new book from? I got some some of my wish list taken care of here, but there are plenty of great authors coming out with books this fall. AND next Sunday Salon, I'll be back with some more amazing new books from new authors coming our way (you won't want to miss them!)

Happy Reading… Suzanne




Wednesday, July 9, 2014

eReader versus Book… the Battle Continues


Monday, July 7, 2014

Memoir Monday and The Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills

About the Book, from the author's website… To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is one of the best loved novels of the twentieth century. But for the last fifty years, the novel’s celebrated author, Harper Lee, has said almost nothing on the record. Journalists have trekked to her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, where Harper Lee, known to her friends as Nelle, has lived with her sister, Alice, for decades, trying and failing to get an interview with the author. But in 2001, the Lee sisters opened their door to Chicago Tribune journalist Marja Mills. It was the beginning of a long conversation—and a great friendship.

In 2004, with the Lees’ blessing, Mills moved into the house next door to the sisters. She spent the next eighteen months there, sharing coffee at McDonalds and trips to the Laundromat with Nelle, feeding the ducks and going out for catfish supper with the sisters, and exploring all over lower Alabama with the Lees’ inner circle of friends.

Nelle shared her love of history, literature, and the Southern way of life with Mills, as well as her keen sense of how journalism should be practiced. As the sisters decided to let Mills tell their story, Nelle helped make sure she was getting the story—and the South—right. Alice, the keeper of the Lee family history, shared the stories of their family.

The Mockingbird Next Door is the story of Mills’s friendship with the Lee sisters. It is a testament to the great intelligence, sharp wit, and tremendous storytelling power of these two women, especially that of Nelle.

Mills was given a rare opportunity to know Nelle Harper Lee, to be part of the Lees’ life in Alabama, and to hear them reflect on their upbringing, their corner of the Deep South, how To Kill a Mockingbird affected their lives, and why Nelle Harper Lee chose to never write another novel. 

Here's another wonderful example of a recluse author opening up for us all to enjoy. The reviews of this book point out that there is nothing earth shattering revealed here, but a wonderful testament to Southern hospitality and a wonderful way of life. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books, and I look forward to The Mockingbird Next Door! On my TBR list!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Como Te Llamas?… Carlos Ruiz Zafon! ***Author Highlight***

What is it about Spanish authors? Their language is foreign to me, but their writing has such a beautiful rhythm & flow. It is as though I am reading their native language somehow, when I open one of their books and begin reading. The way the words are painted on the page seems so different. That is how I feel when reading Carlos Ruiz Zafon. From the first book I read of Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Shadow of the Wind, I was hooked on his writing, so today I thought I would share his "adult" books so you too could be swept away with his words…

Shadow of the Wind… Hidden in the heart of the old city of Barcelona is the 'cemetery of lost books', a labyrinthine library of obscure and forgotten titles that have long gone out of print. To this library, a man brings his 10-year-old son Daniel one cold morning in 1945. Daniel is allowed to choose one book from the shelves and pulls out LA SOMBRA DEL VIENTO by Julian Carax. 

But as he grows up, several people seem inordinately interested in his find. Then, one night, as he is wandering the old streets once more, Daniel is approached by a figure who reminds him of a character from LA SOMBRA DEL VIENTO, a character who turns out to be the devil. This man is tracking down every last copy of Carax's work in order to burn them. What begins as a case of literary curiosity turns into a race to find out the truth behind the life and death of Julian Carax and to save those he left behind. A page-turning exploration of obsession in literature and love, and the places that obsession can lead.

*The book that started it all, Shadow in the Wind, and my favorite. Complex, mysterious, with stories within stories, it is a wonderful read, and the writing is beautiful.

The Angel's Game… 'The whole of Barcelona stretched out at my feet and I wanted to believe that, when I opened those windows, its streets would whisper stories to me, secrets I could capture on paper and narrate to whoever cared to listen.' 

In an abandoned mansion at the heart of Barcelona, a young man, David MartÌn, makes his living by writing sensationalist novels under a pseudonym. The survivor of a troubled childhood, he has taken refuge in the world of books, and spends his nights spinning baroque tales about the city's underworld. But perhaps his dark imaginings are not as strange as they seem, for in a locked room deep within the house lie photographs and letters hinting at the mysterious death of the previous owner. 

Like a slow poison, the history of the place seeps into his bones as he struggles with an impossible love. Close to despair, David receives a letter from a reclusive French editor, Andreas Corelli, who makes him the offer of a lifetime. He is to write a book unlike anything that has existed - a book with the power to change hearts and minds. In return, he will receive a fortune, perhaps more. But as David begins the work, he realises that there is a connection between this haunting book and the shadows that surround his home. 

Set in the turbulent 1920s, THE ANGEL'S GAME takes us back to the gothic universe of the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books, the Sempere & Son bookshop, and the winding streets of Barcelona's old quarter, in a masterful tale about the magic of books and the darkest corners of the human soul. 

*Not my favorite book in the series. Sophomore curse? You know, how the second book is not up to the first for whatever reason, but a good read.

The Prisoner of Heaven… Barcelona, 1957. It the is week before Christmas in the Sempere & Sons bookshop. Daniel Sempere has married the love of his life Bea and they have had a son whilst their partner in crime, Fermín, is busy preparing for his wedding to Bernarda in the New Year. Just when it seems as if luck is finally smiling on them, a mysterious figure with a pronounced limp enters the shop. He insists on buying the most expensive volume on display - a beautiful illustrated edition of The Count of Monte Cristo - and then proceeds to inscribe the book with the words 'To Fermín Romero de Torres, who came back from the dead and who holds the key to the future'. 


Who is this man and what does he want of Fermín? The answer lies in a terrible secret that has lain hidden for two decades, an epic tale of imprisonment, betrayal, murder and love that leads back into the very heart of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.

*Back to what I expect from the author's writing! And I can't wait for the next book! 

Shadow of the Wind was the start of a wonderful series. Set in Barcelona after the Spanish War, 1945, the story transports you to the dark hidden streets of Spain, with a story within a story. Though I think that the first book is the best, it is a gift to be able to read more from characters and places that you enjoyed and Carlos Ruiz Zafon gives us rich complex stories, layered with mystery and intrigue. Someday there will be a fourth and final book in the series, but until then…


Before his "adult" books, the author wrote YA novels. The Prince of Mist, The Midnight Palace and The Watcher in the Shadow were his first 3. I excitedly bought The Prince of Mist when it became available here (Zafon's novels usually take a year to make it to the States), but be it the timing, or the genre ( I never read YA back then), I just couldn't get into it. Maybe I was expecting more from it than I should have. I'm not giving up, I just put it aside for another time. But I am again excited that we are expecting another novel from Carlos Ruiz Zafon! Yes, it is another YA novel, but it sounds so good (and I do enjoy YA now)! It's also the last novel he wrote before Shadow in the Wind, and I'm hoping that translates into something different in his YA writing. This was also his last YA novel, and of that he writes:
"By then I had already published three novels for young adults but soon after embarking on Marina I knew that this would be the last I'd write in the genre. As the writing advanced, everything in the story began to acquire a shade of farewell, and by the time I'd finished it, I sensed that something inside me, something that even today I cannot explain, but that I still miss every single day, was forever left among its pages."
Here's the scoop on Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafon…

Marina… 'Fifteen years on, the remembrance of that day has returned to me. I have seen that boy wandering through the mist of the railway station, and the name of Marina has flared up again like a fresh wound. We all have a secret buried under lock and key in the attic of our soul. This is mine...' 

In May 1980, 15-year-old Oscar Drai suddenly vanishes from his boarding school in the old quarter of Barcelona. For seven days and nights no one knows his whereabouts... 

His story begins in the heart of old Barcelona, when he meets Marina and her father German Blau, a portrait painter. Marina takes Oscar to a cemetery to watch a macabre ritual that occurs on the fourth Sunday of each month. At 10 a.m. precisely a coach pulled by black horses appears. From it descends a woman dressed in black, her face shrouded, wearing gloves, holding a single rose. She walks over to a gravestone that bears no name, only the mysterious emblem of a black butterfly with open wings. 

When Oscar and Marina decide to follow her they begin a journey that will take them to the heights of a forgotten, post-war Barcelona, a world of aristocrats and actresses, inventors and tycoons; and a dark secret that lies waiting in the mysterious labyrinth beneath the city streets.

Intrigued by Carlos Ruiz Zafon? Have you read any of his books? If so, what did you think? Marina was published Dec. 2013 in the UK. It's not available here yet, but if you're as interested as I am, you can order it through The Book Depository (amazon's UK rival), where shipping is free worldwide and the prices are usually discounted a bit.

Happy reading… Suzanne

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Fourth of July and 2 Revolutionary "Dear John" books...


Happy Fourth of July! The American Revolution took place between 1765 and 1783 during which the Thirteen American Colonies broke from the British Empire and formed an independent nation, the United States of America. In a letter from John Adams to his wife, Abigail, he writes…

"The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more." 

The resolution for independence was approved on July 2, 1776, but the actual document, The Declaration of Independence, was signed July 4th and has remained the date we, in the USA, celebrate our independence from British rule.

John and Abigail Adams were friends, husband & wife and prolific writers. Their letters to each other have been published in various forms and have let us peek into the life of a husband & wife, political allies and independent thinkers. Want to learn more of these two? Here are a couple great books that you should read…

My Dear Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams... from Publishers Weekly: Hogan and Taylor, editors of the Adams Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society, have given history buffs a treat—the most comprehensive edition of letters between two extremely lively writers, America's second president and his wife. This edition contains 289 letters covering a longer period of time than the two earlier editions of selected letters. Here are trenchant political exchanges, such as Abigail's famous plea to her husband and the Continental Congress to Remember the Ladies, and Adams's less famous, revealing reply: he noted that while it was well known that the Revolution had prompted children, slaves and apprentices to rebel, your Letter was the first Intimation that another Tribe more numerous and powerful than all the rest were grown discontented. Many of the letters are personal, from coquettish courtship epistles to Abigail's moving premonition that the baby she was carrying would be stillborn. The letters shine a light on such aspects of daily life as illness, Sunday sermons and cuisine. Ellis's gushing foreword explains the rarity of such intimate correspondence—Martha Washington, for instance, destroyed most of the letters she and George wrote.

This book has gotten wonderful reviews based on the letters, but also on the way the letters are presented and put together by the editors. 

Abigail Adams by Woody Holton... from Publishers Weekly, While Abigail Adams has always been viewed as one of the most illustrious of America's founding mothers, University of Richmond historian Holton (Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution), drawing on the rich collection of Adams's letters and other manuscripts, paints a strong-minded woman whose boldness developed in the context of the revolutionary era in which she lived. Holton offers a captivating portrait of a reformer both inside and outside the home. Best known for exhorting her husband, John Adams, to remember the ladies in devising America's new political system, she also, Holton has discovered, wrote a will leaving most of her property to her granddaughters, in defiance of the law that made her husband the master of all she owned. Furthermore, she was a businesswoman and invested her own earnings in ways John did not always approve of. Tracing Adams's life from her childhood as the daughter of a poor parson to her long and sometimes uncertain courtship with John, her joys and sorrows as a mother and her life as the wife of a president, Holton's superb biography shows us a three-dimensional Adams as a forward-thinking woman with a mind of her own.

An independent woman in her own rite, this book has gotten great reviews as well. Well written and not dry, put this on your TBR list!

Enjoy the fireworks & sparklers, picnics & potato salad, but don't forget about some great reading about the day we celebrate as Independence Day! 

Happy Fourth of July… and happy reading… Suzanne

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Books can be Called Pieces of Art, But can "Art" Books be Read Just Like Any Other Book? A Review

My Father's House by Thomas Dunn is a book written about a series of 9 paintings by the artist Will Barnet. The series was called My Father's House, and the paintings are just that - paintings representing some aspect of his Father's House, where his aging Sister Eva still lived.

In another lifetime, I was an art student who loved Will Barnet. I actually met him at a small gallery show back in the late 70's. His paintings are simple, elegant and some may characterize them as stark. They are stylized without a brushstroke out of place, like some japanese paintings and I loved them for his cats. One of his favorite subjects was the family black cat and he painted a lot of paintings with that cat.

In 2009, Will Barnett was donating one of the painting in the My Father's House series to Amherst College, and the curator of American art at the Mead Museum (the museum associated with Amherst College) called Thomas Dumm in hopes that he would come to the presentation and speak. Dumm is a professor at Amherst and had written about Loneliness and people. The curator thought it would be a good match, based on the fact that most of Barnet's paintings conveyed a kind of loneliness. What happened was that Dumm and Barnet became fast friends because Dumm could relate to Barnet's paintings and understood some of the deeper meaning that Barnet conveyed in his paintings. This book is a result of that relationship.

In My Father's House, Dumm interprets each of the 9 paintings individually. I found his interpretations interesting and I enjoyed reading this part. He makes you look beyond what the actual paintings physically represent and dig deeper to what the artist was saying in the painting. The questions about loneliness, dealing with the ghosts of our past, what can you see beyond the obvious. This is what art students love…

What I didn't love was the long, I want to stop reading because I am falling asleep and I "got" what you were trying to say already 20 pages ago, introduction. Yes, this is suppose to be scholarly and Thomas Dumm introduces us to the concepts of Emerson, Spinoza, Cavell and Nietzsche, to name a few, that influenced Barnett's work, but I thought it could have been more concise and it was not necessary to take up 30% of the book. Is an introduction suppose to be as long as the book?!

I did enjoyed the preface, which told the story of Dumm and Barnet's meeting, and a brief smattering of Barnett's life and influences. Maybe if this could have been expanded just a bit it without the intro it would have worked for me.

I would recommend this book to art students because the interpretations of the paintings were thought provoking and enjoyable. If you're an Will Barnet fan, this would also be a nice book to pick up. "Regular" readers not into the arts may want to skip this one.

My Father's House: On Will Barnet's Painting by Thomas Dumm will published by Duke University Press Sept. 2014. I received an eGalley of My Father's House by Thomas Dumm from Duke University Press for review. I want to thank Duke University Press Books for the opportunity to review this book.
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