Literary Quote of the Month

"Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing."... Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

If we think back to 1842, it was Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, editor (she preferred editress) of the popular nineteenth century publication Godey's Lady's Book, who first lobbied president Abraham Lincoln for a national Thanksgiving Day. Initially Lincoln proclaimed August 6th as the date, but Sarah felt that the 4th thursday in November, as selected originally by George Washington, was a better choice. As we all know, Sarah won out on the date. And we won out on the food - originally the "modern" Thanksgiving was a day of fasting and giving thanks. Sarah Josepha Buell is known as "The Mother of the American Thanksgiving", so when you are enjoying your Thanksgiving today, also give thanks to Sarah

There is a great childrens book about Sarah entitled, Thank You Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving by Laurie Halse Anderson, and beautifully illustrated by Matt Faulkner. It's geared towards 4 - 8, but the writing is entertaining (and informative) for adults as well! You can learn more about Thank You Sarah at Laurie Halse Anderson's website. 

As I stream the Macy's Thanksgiving parade on Roku and get my sweet potatoes in the water, I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! I hope ya'll are sharing this day with family, friends and great food! Gobble, gobble!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Perfection Combination Review & Book Tour!

Welcome to the Perfect Combination Book Tour! Chick with Books is hosting today's book tour with a review of Jamillah & David Lamb's book, Perfect Combination! Along with my review, we'll learn a little bit about the authors, Jamillah & David Lamb...

First, What did I think of the book? Perfect Combination is a wonderful book about Jamillah and David, how they met, fell in love and how they keep that love alive and growing. It's their wish to share how they've managed to overcome all the pitfalls of falling in love and become happy healthy partners. Their book is arranged in sections that cover what they call the "Seven Key Ingredients to Happily Living & Loving Together," and I have to say that they've done a great job. In a kind of dialogue, with Jamillah talking first and then David adding his perspective and then vice versa, we learn the lessons that Jamillah and David learned while navigating the dating game, getting married and eventually working together in a business. All these "Key Ingredients" are common sense, but sometimes we just need a kick in the butt to remember why we fell in love in the first place and this book is a perfect reminder. Some of the things I took away from reading Perfect Combination were to "Let your past be the past" (we are made up of all our experiences, but let's not bring all that bad baggage with us), "Create Lasting Memories" (these are things that enhances a good relationship), Appreciate your partner, always be a friend to yourself and your significant other, be supportive, and of course don't forget to add a little romance to keep things fresh.

With anecdotes, playlists and stories, Jamillah and David share with you what has worked for them and what could work for you. Unlike some dry self help books, Perfect Combination is an entertaining read and written from the heart. I definitely enjoyed my time reading this book. Would be a good book for your single friend navigating the dating game, as well as a good book for any young couple wanting to heed some great advice.

A Little About Jamillah and David Lamb... David and Jamillah Lamb are the creative and dynamic couple that founded Between The Lines Productions, Inc. to fulfill their co-mission: to spread inspiration, joy, and love through the power of theater and other media.

David was born in Queens, NY and raised in public housing in Astoria, Queens. He attended Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and New York University School of Law. The successful playwright of the hit off-Broadway play Platanos Y Collard Greens, David has found the love of his life in Jamillah. Despite knowing he had found the right person, David struggled to lower his guard and put aside his tendency to be suspicious of women. Before Jamillah, David would often find himself breaking up with girlfriends rather than risk being hurt by rejection. Recognizing he had found a “kind heart and sweet spirit” in Jamillah, he made the decision “to grow up and grow into feeling what love felt like.” As the relationship has deepened, he’s learned other lessons. He now smiles at his typically male (let’s be honest!) expectation that Jamillah be able to read his mind. The ability of love and romance to conquer hurts and overcome hardships is a theme that runs through David’s books and plays. He loves being a business, marriage, and parenting partner with Jamillah.

Jamillah grew up in Chicago in the same neighborhood as First Lady Michelle Obama. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Wesleyan University and then a Masters degree in Public Policy from Harvard University. A former Vice-President at Citibank, Jamillah uses her education and experience in the daily operations of their business. Just like David, Jamillah had baggage of her own to overcome. Raised in a strict environment with high expectations, she struggled to lighten up. She put men she met before David “through the ringer,” worrying that allowing someone to care for her meant being less independent. As she learned to overcome her fears and become more trusting, she came up against other challenges. Becoming a family with the birth of their daughter Kaira was not a straight path. The journey to this incredible blessing was filled with adversity and pain, but also the support of David. Jamillah made one of her most important life decisions in 2005. At that time, Jamillah was a VP at Citibank, while also helping get David’s first play off the ground. The play had been going well for a couple of years, but it was still a big leap of faith when she made the decision to leave a comfortable corporate job to work on their business full-time. Through ups and downs, and the typical financial worries of growing a business, Jamillah has never regretted her decision. The choice has allowed them to be together day in and day out doing creative, passionate work together.

For More Information...
       Visit the authors’ website.
       Connect with the authors on Facebook and Twitter
       Find out more about the authors at Goodreads.

I want to thank Jamillah and David for sending along a copy of their book to me to read for this review! And I'd like to that Pump Up Your Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of the Perfection Combination Book Tour!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Fault in Book Censorship or How could They Ban The Fault in Our Stars...

I just finished The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. After crying my eyes out for a good 20 minutes near the end of the book, I paused to think about how unfair life can be. I guess the unfair part is not life, but things that can happen because you have a life. How you have so many days, have no idea how many days that actually is until you have no days left and then probably still don't know how many days because it's just over… Thank you Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters for making me remember that you only get so many days, so let's enjoy them or waste them or do whatever you'd like to do with them, just remember to be conscious of them while it's going on…

I read The Fault in Our Stars for Banned Book Week. The book had been lingering on my Kindle for a very long time and Banned Book Week gave me the necessary push to read it. It was banned initially for a complaint by a parent that "the morbid plot, crude language, and sexual content was inappropriate for her children." My initial thoughts were that I was happy to see a parent paying attention to what her children were reading, or what was available to read, but let's not make those decisions of what's appropriate for other people's children. My thoughts after reading the book were how can anyone think those things about this book

I guess death is a morbid thought. I'm sorry but people die, and I'm even sorrier that children die, but wouldn't it be better to have a dialogue about this instead of putting it away into a closet? I thought the book dealt with Hazel Grace's mortality in a refreshingly honest way. I'm sure that the way Hazel and her teenage friends dealt with the subject is the way real teenagers would.

“I told Augustus the broad outline of my miracle: diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer when I was thirteen. (I didn’t tell him that the diagnosis came three months after I got my first period. Like: Congratulations! You’re a woman. Now die.)” 

Crude language?… OK, I guess when someone has cancer in a certain male area and talks about it, it could be considered crude. Actually, Hazel Grace made light of the counselor who survived his cancer, since at the beginning of every support group meeting he had to tell everyone once again about "his cancer".

And, finally sexual content… well, spoiler alert here…. 16-year-old Hazel Grace and 17-year-old Augustus Waters have sex, but it is primarily left to the imagination. No Fifty Shades, no graphic detail, just a few buttons, hoses and removal of a prosthetic involved. You could almost miss it, but just know that it happened. I imagine that this could be inappropriate for young children, but I'm sure teenagers know about sex. Good teaching opportunity here too.

So, what did I think about The Fault in Our Stars?! I loved it! It was amazing, compassionate, honest and shattering. I loved Hazel Grace immediately and was rooting for her and Augustus Waters from the start, even though I kinda knew that their love story was doomed. There was a twist that left me breathless and crying my eyes out and realizing that John Green is an amazing writer and I should have read this a long time ago. If you haven't read this, READ THIS! An amazing love story, an honest look at "how cancer sucks", and a reminder to all of us to live our life mindfully.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Banned Books Week and Memoir Monday

A Young Woman's Coming of Age Story...
During the Turbulent Political Backdrop of the Islamic Revolution in Tehran

Young Marjane Satrapi came from a well off, loving, modern family. She went to a non-religious french school. Her father drove a cadillac and her family had a maid. All that changed in 1980, when Marjane turned 10 years old... because Marjane lived in Tehran... During the cultural revolution... and 'the veil'.

The book opens with Marjane showing us how a 10 year old perceives the sudden requirement to wear the veil... The little girls didn't understand the need to wear one. One day you don't have to, and the next day you do? Her bilingual school was closed down because it was a symbol of capitalism and decadence... And soon Marjane was being indoctrinated into the political fray. First she is taught that the Shah was chosen by God, then when he is overthrown she is taught to tear his pictures out of all the school books. People were being persecuted, executed, tortured. And Marjane's parents did not protect her from the truth because it seemed the only way to save her from becoming one of the persecutors...

Her parents protested, there were raids & bombs, and patrols... Relatives are murdered, friends of the family disappear, a friend dies is a bombing. How is a 1o year old suppose to deal with all this? Honestly... Unfortunately her honesty was perceived as blasphemy... Marjane called her teacher a liar when she taught that there were no more political prisoners and recited the facts, she wore a simple bracelet under her garment and was expelled... It was then decided that a little girl with a penchant for rebellion and a sharp tongue would be safer growing up away from Iran... So, Marjane next goes to Austria to live with a friend of her mother's... and as if things couldn't get worse, they do.

What is so interesting and compelling in this story is that Marjane is the same as all young girls- she likes music, and posters, jewelry and wearing jeans. But because of where she is born she is forced to grow up faster and learn to survive. Her "slips" are mostly from her acting like a 10 year old. How she deals with all this conflict, even the conflict within herself as she grapples with what is going on around her and what is in her heart, is written and drawn wonderfully.

This coming of age story, The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, is a tender, heartfelt story of a girl growing up in a world of conflict. The relationship she has with her mother and grandmother are loving and volatile. But what she takes from each of them and tucks away into her soul shows us glimpses of a girl growing up. How she deals with the war & revolution are important, but how she deals with the injustices imposed on her just because she is a female is even more important. The wearing of the veil, the cut of her clothes, the wearing of make-up, a strand of hair out of place, moral etiquette, dating, divorce... these are all things we learn how a young Iranian girl deals with. All of this is why I thought this book would easily fit into the Women Unbound Reading Challenge... This book shows how this young woman deals with the social and political issues present as she grows up in Iran. Marjane is candid, honest, funny and angry. The book will tug at your heart at moments and infuriate you other times. The book spans 14 years, and it is well worth your time cracking the spin!

I really enjoyed reading this book. The Black & White drawings were so expressive and the story flowed easily from the page. I read it in one sitting because I became absorbed in the Marjane's story. If you're not exactly a graphic novel reader, I hope you'll open this book anyway, it is a wonderful read and would be a great start to reading graphic novels!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Sunday Salon and Read a Banned Book Week!


Welcome to the Sunday Salon! Every Sunday we set aside a little time to chat books, and this week is no different, with the theme being Banned Books! So, grab a cup of joe, find a comfy chair and let's talk books!

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read
September 27−October 3, 2015

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community –- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types –- in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

Yes, it's the 21st century and still we have book burners and censorship. I think that the point here is that parents should be involved in what their children read and help them understand what they are reading, guide them in choosing appropriate material for their curious minds. BUT, let's not infringe on the reading rights of another child, whose parent may not wish to ban a certain book. Most banning and censorship takes place in the most accessible (and free) place to check out a book - a library! Let's not make reading a privilege. What do YOU think?!

This year the theme of Banned Books Week is Young Adult (YA) fiction… Here are the top 10 banned or challenged YA books for 2014-2015:

 1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie (Little, Brown Books for  Young Readers)
 2. Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon Books/Knopf Doubleday)
 3. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston)
 4. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini (Bloomsbury Publishing)
 5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky (MTV Books/Simon & Schuster)
 6. Drama, by Raina Telgemeier (Graphix/Scholastic)
 7. Chinese Handcuffs, by Chris Crutcher (Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins)
 8. The Giver, by Lois Lowry (HMH Books for Young Readers)
 9. The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros (Vintage/Knopf Doubleday)
10.Looking for Alaska, by John Green (Dutton Books/Penguin Random House)

It seems that Banned Books Week has been taking on a theme, instead of just promoting the reading of all banned books. Last year was comic books, and I read The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey (read my review), which I loved. In 2013, I read a classic, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, incredible writing and totally not what I was expecting. And I spent a week with Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger in 2009.

This whole week we'll celebrate Banned Books Week highlighting challenged and banned books. And I'll be reading...
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, which was banned in a Riverside, Ca. middle school in 2014 because one parent felt, "the morbid plot, crude language, and sexual content was inappropriate for her children... "HER" children. That book was a reading sensation and really promoted kids picking up a book. It may have been inappropriate for her children, and I applaud her for being involved in what her children read, but don't take the ability to read that book away from others. And so, this week, I will finally read The Fault in Our Stars, which has been lingering on my Kindle for some time.

The second book I'm going to read is not YA, but a children's book, And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. It's a true story about 2 male penguins at the Central Park Zoo in NYC who enjoyed doing everything together, and when the time came they built a nest just like all the other Penguin couples, but they couldn't lay an egg. Eventually they are given an abandoned egg and raise this as their own. This book is one of the top banned books of all time, and it really makes me scratch my head. Can reading this book really change your child's sexuality? I view this book as a cute book about the love between the two penguins, and I'm not really viewing this as a book about homosexuality. Am I wrong?! I guess it could teach children about tolerance. My library does carry the book, but I could not find it in any of my bookstores.

This whole week we'll celebrate Banned Books Week highlighting challenged and banned books. What will YOU be reading?!

Weekly Recap… This past week I finished Circling the Sun by Paula McLain, and all I can say is WOW! What an amazing beautiful book. I did not want this book to end and my heart sank as I turned that last page. The writing brought me right into the heart of Africa, and the people became real and part of my life the 2 weeks I stretched out this novel. I'll be posting my review this week. But all I can say is READ THIS BOOK! The writing reminded me of Laura Hillenbrand's Sea Biscuit with the movie Out of Africa as the backdrop. If this were a movie, it would be a sweeping big screen epic.

My reading group read Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline and everyone loved it! It was so different than what I had expected and the author did a wonderful job of merging 2 stories from 2 different time periods together. Look for my review this week on Orphan Train too!

That about does it for this week. Are you planning on reading any banned or challenged books this week? How do you feel about censorship? Follow the link to The Top Ten Frequently Challenged Books Lists of the 21st Century to see the many other books that have offended someone somewhere.

Happy Reading… Suzanne

*Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Sunday Salon and Mysteries, Histories and Something to give you the Down Right Creepies

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! It's that time of the week we share a little reading time, or at least share what we've been reading! My reading this week has been going back and forth between my hardcover copy of Circling the Sun by Paula McLain (which I am loving) and my Kindle edition of The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald (which I am equally loving!) I don't read two books at the same time too often, but forgot the one book one day and started the other and can't really let go of either for too long. While I've been wrapped up in these two books, there were a few other books that were trying to get my attention… one is a kind of history (of a marriage), one is a mystery, and one is a dark story that will give anyone the creeps…

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff… Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years. At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love, and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but with an electric thrill we understand that things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed. With stunning revelations and multiple threads, and in prose that is vibrantly alive and original, Groff delivers a deeply satisfying novel about love, art, creativity, and power that is unlike anything that has come before it.

I have read so many starred reviews of this book I wonder if it's really that good or if it's just the momentum that's carrying it along. BUT, I did read the beginning of this novel and have to say that Lauren Groff's writing is captivating. I was immediately drawn into the story and wanted to read on. But will the writing live up to itself through the whole novel? I'm hoping so and have put this on my must read list! This is written in two interwoven stories and that in itself sounds like it would make for an interesting read! This was just released this week in hardcover. Paperback due to arrive in January.
In a Dark, Dark, Wood by Ruth Ware… What should be a cozy and fun-filled weekend deep in the English countryside takes a sinister turn in Ruth Ware’s suspenseful, compulsive, and darkly twisted psychological thriller. Leonora, known to some as Lee and others as Nora, is a reclusive crime writer, unwilling to leave her “nest” of an apartment unless it is absolutely necessary. When a friend she hasn’t seen or spoken to in years unexpectedly invites Nora (Lee?) to a weekend away in an eerie glass house deep in the English countryside, she reluctantly agrees to make the trip. Forty-eight hours later, she wakes up in a hospital bed injured but alive, with the knowledge that someone is dead. Wondering not “what happened?” but “what have I done?”, Nora (Lee?) tries to piece together the events of the past weekend. Working to uncover secrets, reveal motives, and find answers, Nora (Lee?) must revisit parts of herself that she would much rather leave buried where they belong: in the past.

Looking for the next "The Girl on a Train"? This is suppose to be it! And it reads like it a bit, with a story that is simple on the outside, but with twists and turns hidden deep within. Touted as a psychological thriller, this is Ruth Ware's debut novel and it is a hit in the UK. I have this waiting in the wings when I'm done with my other two books and can't wait to dive it!
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh… The Christmas season offers little cheer for Eileen Dunlop, an unassuming yet disturbed young woman trapped between her role as her alcoholic father’s caretaker in a home whose squalor is the talk of the neighborhood and a day job as a secretary at the boys’ prison, filled with its own quotidian horrors. Consumed by resentment and self-loathing, Eileen tempers her dreary days with perverse fantasies and dreams of escaping to the big city. In the meantime, she fills her nights and weekends with shoplifting, stalking a buff prison guard named Randy, and cleaning up her increasingly deranged father’s messes. When the bright, beautiful, and cheery Rebecca Saint John arrives on the scene as the new counselor at Moorehead, Eileen is enchanted and proves unable to resist what appears at first to be a miraculously budding friendship. In a Hitchcockian twist, her affection for Rebecca ultimately pulls her into complicity in a crime that surpasses her wildest imaginings.

This is one of those books that has gotten so much "interesting" praise that your curiosity is what will win out. Eileen is suppose to be very dark and morbid, shocking at times, but also fascinating and witty. How does the author manage all of that at the same time? Great writing, but hard story. This book was on so many "lists" pre-publication, that I made a note to take a look at it when it finally came to print. I think if I can get through the self-loathing the Eileen shares at every chance to arrive at the mystery and crime to follow, it might be worth it. What do you think?
On a sad note, author Jackie Collins has died. She died from cancer, and had kept her illness a secret until the very end. Personally, I have not read any of her romances, but they are a world wide sensation, with larger than life characters and hollywood glamour. She kept writing throughout her illness and published 5 novels since being diagnosed with cancer. Looking at her wealth of novels, I think I may give Chances a try. It's a family saga with all the trimmings and one of Jackie's all time favorite characters, Lucky, is born. Have you read any Jackie Collins?

That will wrap it up for this weeks great books round-up! What have you been reading this week? And do you feel curious about what an author has written after they die if you've never read any of their books?

Happy reading… Suzanne

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Sunday Salon and Train Rides...

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! Find yourself a comfy chair, grab a cup of joe and relax- it's that time of the week that we talk books! And what better to talk about then books that make you go "Ahhhhhhh". Those books that leave you so satisfied and happy. And isn't that the way we feel when we read a really good book? With all the books I read, there are always a few clunkers, but the last 3 books I read were so good it made reading all the more fun again. What were those books? I'm glad you asked... Let's take a ride on a train or two, because the first two books do just that- involve trains rides. The last book doesn't have anything to do with train, but will take you on a eerie ride none the less...

The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins...  Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

This was a book club reading selection, but I had heard such great things about this book that I would have read it anyway! The beginning of the story innocently nudges you along, until you just can't stop reading. Poor Rachel, our protagonist, how did her life spiral so out of control? So pathetic? And was she imagining things when she saw what she did that fateful day riding on the train? And if she wasn't, how is she going to convince anyone that she did see it and it wasn't the alcohol messing with her ability to make a judgement call? Yes, Paula Hawkins hit one out of the park with this book. The writing was great, and the story even better. The subtle twists and turns led me to the shocking, never saw it coming , ending that left me saying, "OMG". READ THIS BOOK if you haven't.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline... A captivating story of two very different women who build an unexpected friendship: a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to questions no one has ever thought to ask. Nearly eighteen, Molly Ayer knows she has one last chance. Just months from "aging out" of the child welfare system, and close to being kicked out of her foster home, a community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping her out of juvie and worse. Vivian Daly has lived a quiet life on the coast of Maine. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past. As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly discovers that she and Vivian aren't as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance... The closer Molly grows to Vivian, the more she discovers parallels to her own life and discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life - answers that will ultimately free them both.

This was another book club selection. One in which I was NOT looking forward to. This book had been plastered on all the book club reading selection sites, but I wasn't buying into any of it... Until I was forced to read it. And then, I was so wrapped up in it I couldn't put this book down either! My initial thoughts were "here we go again with a WWII story and the exploitation of innocent children and how it all works out in the end." How many similar stories does one really need to read? BUT, aside from the writing that was wonderful and would justify reading "another similar story", this story was nothing like I expected! The story flips back and forth between present day 2011 and 1929. In the present day, we follow Molly and 91-year-old Vivian. In 1929, we learn about the life growing up of Vivian, which is so interesting, sad and makes us see how Vivian and Molly are not so different even though they were born in different era's. The two stories are wonderful and as the stories merge, the ending has a great twist! The author really gets deep down with Molly and Vivian and as a result these characters come alive off the pages. How wrong I was about this book initially. Now, I'd have to say it's one of my favorite books of the year. I can't wait to talk about it with my reading group members, and I'll be reviewing this soon. If you haven't read this yet, DO IT!

The Night Sisters by Jennifer McMahon... Once the thriving attraction of rural Vermont, the Tower Motel now stands in disrepair, alive only in the memories of Amy, Piper, and Piper's kid sister, Margot. The three played there as girls until the day that their games uncovered something dark and twisted in the motel's past, something that ruined their friendship forever. Now adult, Piper and Margot have tried to forget what they found that fateful summer, but their lives are upended when Piper receives a panicked midnight call from Margot, with news of a horrific crime for which Amy stands accused. Suddenly, Margot and Piper are forced to relive the time that they found the suitcase that once belonged to Silvie Slater, the aunt that Amy claimed had run away to Hollywood to live out her dream of becoming Hitchcock's next blonde bombshell leading lady. As Margot and Piper investigate, a cleverly woven plot unfolds—revealing the story of Sylvie and Rose, two other sisters who lived at the motel during its 1950s heyday. Each believed the other to be something truly monstrous, but only one carries the secret that would haunt the generations to come.

I have read a few books by Jennifer McMahon and have never been disappointed. What's great about her books besides the wonderful writing, is the twist that always comes at the end. Both of the books I read left me with "OMG" at the end and this book was no different. It's fun, it's creepy, it's a heart pounder. The writing drew me in, but the mystery kept me reading. It has elements of coming-of-age, ghost stories and paranormal all wrapped together. The paranormal bend caught me a bit off guard, but fit the story. I had no idea until the very end how it was all was going to end. A good solid story. I would not say it was "The Best" mystery/ghost story I've read, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

What good books have you read lately?! And do you feel like you wasted part of your life reading a book that was just so-so? I enjoy reading, and for the most part, even when I read a book that didn't quite resonate with me, I have no regrets.
And the book I'm reading NOW is another winner in my opinion... Circling the Sun by Paula McLain! It's about famous aviator Beryl Markham and I am loving it! It vaguely reminds me of Loving Frank by Nancy Horan. But we'll talk about that book next week...

Happy reading... Suzanne

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Sunday Salon and What Should I Read Now?

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! It's the day of the week we kick back and relax, and virtually talk about the books we've found this week that we just HAVE to read! And I've found a few this week that made their way into my ever growing library and a few that are going right on that wish list… But how do we choose what we're going to read next? Are you ever influenced by what you just read?

The book club I started over 10 years ago is still going strong. We've added a member or two, lost a member, but the original 5 are still there (although one is in Florida, but she joins us via Skype). Originally I picked out the selections, but quickly decided everyone should get a chance to pick a book they want the group to read. This took the pressure off me in finding the "perfect" book every time and also opened up my reading to choices I would not have made. This month's book club selection was The Devil in The White City by Erik Larson. I had heard long ago that this was a good read, but just never got around to reading it. Although, when I first opened up the book I could not get into it. OMG, it was so boring it was a struggle to get through the first page. But then I have to remember that I just read an incredible suspense thriller. Was that the problem? Was the Erik Larson book so different in style that I just couldn't adjust? I think so, because after struggling with the book, I suddenly couldn't stop reading it and after finishing it this week I can enthusiastically say I really enjoyed it! So, how do we choose what we're going to read next? And do we need a breather before we start another book? I know quite a few people who pick up a book immediately after putting down a book. I'm not that way unless it's part of a trilogy or continuation. I need to enjoy "the moment" after finishing a book, especially a great book. And maybe taking that breather will help when changing "styles" of books. The Devil in The White City was certainly not a thriller, but how exciting it was to be in 19th century Chicago building the Worlds Fair and meeting all sorts of people like the guy who designed Central Park, or The Flat Iron Building, or made the first Ferris Wheel or even made Cracker Jack, not to mention meeting one of the world's most infamous serial killers that settled in Chicago while the fair was there. So, after taking a "breather", I've found some books that are vying for the next reading position…

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain… Transporting readers to colonial Kenya in the 1920s, Circling the Sun brings to life a fearless and captivating woman—Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator caught up in a passionate love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, who as Isak Dinesen wrote the classic memoir Out of Africa. Brought to Kenya from England as a child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl is raised by both her father and the native Kipsigis tribe who share his estate. Her unconventional upbringing transforms Beryl into a bold young woman with a fierce love of all things wild and an inherent understanding of nature’s delicate balance. But even the wild child must grow up, and when everything Beryl knows and trusts dissolves, she is catapulted into a string of disastrous relationships. Beryl forges her own path as a horse trainer, and her uncommon style attracts the eye of the Happy Valley set, a decadent, bohemian community of European expats who also live and love by their own set of rules. But it’s the ruggedly charismatic Denys Finch Hatton who ultimately helps Beryl navigate the uncharted territory of her own heart. The intensity of their love reveals Beryl’s truest self and her fate: to fly

Maybe this is because I just read a historical fiction book that this book appealed to me, but this has gotten so much great press that I have to read it. I also enjoy books with strong female protagonists and Beryl Markham seems to fit the bill with that too. But when I opened the first pages I felt like I was gently swept up in the arms of the book and placed in far off Kenya. The book telling its' story in such a manner that I was totally relaxed and listening intently. Some say this is going to be the "it" book in 2015, but we have  a long way to go before declaring that.

Night Sisters by Jennifer McMahon… Once the thriving attraction of rural Vermont, the Tower Motel now stands in disrepair, alive only in the memories of Amy, Piper, and Piper's kid sister, Margot. The three played there as girls until the day that their games uncovered something dark and twisted in the motel's past, something that ruined their friendship forever. Now adult, Piper and Margot have tried to forget what they found that fateful summer, but their lives are upended when Piper receives a panicked midnight call from Margot, with news of a horrific crime for which Amy stands accused. Suddenly, Margot and Piper are forced to relive the time that they found the suitcase that once belonged to Silvie Slater, the aunt that Amy claimed had run away to Hollywood to live out her dream of becoming Hitchcock's next blonde bombshell leading lady. As Margot and Piper investigate, a cleverly woven plot unfolds—revealing the story of Sylvie and Rose, two other sisters who lived at the motel during its 1950s heyday. Each believed the other to be something truly monstrous, but only one carries the secret that would haunt the generations to come.

I loved Jennifer McMahon's book Dismantled! I also have read Island of Lost Girls for book club. She's a really good writer and always surprises me with her plot twists. I haven't picked her up in a while, but when I saw this book coming out, I could not resist. Sounds like it's going to be a fun read and has that signature plot twist that will make us go, "wow".

The President's Shadow by Brad Metzler… To most, it looks like Beecher White has an ordinary job.   A young staffer with the National Archives in Washington, D.C.,, he’s responsible for safekeeping the government’s most important documents…and, sometimes, its most closely-held secrets. But there are a powerful few who know his other role. Beecher is a member of the Culper Ring, a 200-year old secret society founded by George Washington and charged with protecting the Presidency. Now, the current occupant of the White House needs the Culper Ring’s help.  The alarming discovery of the buried arm has the President’s team in a rightful panic.  Who buried the arm? How did they get past White House security?  And most important:  what’s the message hidden in the arm’s closed fist? Indeed, the puzzle inside has a clear intended recipient, and it isn’t the President.  It’s Beecher, himself.
Beecher’s investigation will take him back to one of our country’s greatest secrets and point him towards the long, carefully-hidden truth about the most shocking history of all:  family history.

I'm usually not the political thriller type, but I did like Angels and Demons by Dan Brown (no, I never did read The DaVinci Code, although I did see the movie), and this is suppose to be similar in type of book… secret societies, long buried secrets and a race to find the truth before something happens to ruin the country. After reading Greg Isles and the first two books in the Natchez Burning trilogy,  and really loving the writing, I thought I'd try Brad Metzler. This just came out and piqued my interest. I'm stepping out of the box for this one, but think it will be worth it!

So there you have it, three very different styles. Historical fiction, mystery and political thriller. I think I'm going to take a brief breather and pick up Night Sisters first. I'll let you know how it goes. What have you found this week to read?! And do you need a breather after a good read? I'd love to hear all about it!

More great books coming next week…

Happy Reading… Suzanne

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Sunday Salon and Road Trip Reading

The month of July came and went with the blink of an eye. My reading in July was a bit sporadic... for two reasons. First, because I read a fantastic book that ruined my reading for a while. Do you know what I mean?! I was so into that story that when it was over nothing could hold my interest (The book was The Bone Tree by Greg Iles, and it is the second in a planned trilogy taking place in Natchez, Mississippi. And my review will be posted soon). And secondly, hubby and I went on a road trip to the lowcountry, to Charleston, SC...

Road trips are fun! For 2 weeks we drove the back roads, making our way to Charleston, SC from Connecticut and then making our way to other parts of the Carolina's and finally back to Connecticut. Charleston was beautiful! Heaped in history, beauty and culture, my reading changed from fiction to history. Plantations and beautiful gardens abound, but reminders of the War Between the States, or the Civil War as us Northerners refer to it, also dominate the culture of the city. In Charleston Harbor is Fort Sumter, site of the first shots fired in the war between the states, a war not over slavery, but of the South's independence and freedom from the high tariffs imposed by the federal government. Beautiful HUGE homes still line the streets of the historic section of Charleston, a reminder of the wealth generated by the cotton trade, as well as a section of homes painted in pastel colors referred to as Rainbow Row, that is rumored to have been painted that way so that drunken sailors could distinguish their home from others. Downtown, you can also find the Gullah making their beautiful
Sweetgrass baskets! Sweetgrass baskets are a traditional West African art form passed down from generation to generation for over 300 years. I was fortunate to be able to take one home with me, the sweet smell subtly filling my livingroom and reminding me of our trip.

Charleston is also the place of a horrible tragedy that happened June 17th when a 21 year old man, opened fired in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, after attending a bible study, and killed 9 people. He admittedly was trying to ignite a race war, but instead launched a modern day debate on the flying of the confederate flag, which has been associated with certain hate groups, but is also a symbol of heritage for the descendents of the men and women who gave their lives during a war against tyranny.

My trip also included food! Southern fried chicken, grits and deep fried pickles! Our travels landed us at Mary Lou's Kitchen for some authentic lowcountry food, which consisted of the most delicious fried chicken I've ever eaten, gumbo, and cornbread. And I also found some absolutely to die for Shrimp & Grits at Tommy Condon's Irish Bar. Although I've always liked Southern made grits, I think Shrimp & grits is the new "it" food, because every restauraunt has a version. Tommy Condon's consisted of Shrimp & grits with a creamy tomato parmesan sauce.

So, my Road Trip Reading consisted of reading about the War Between the States, Antebellum homes and architecture, the history behind Sweetgrass baskets, the history of Fort Sumter, lowcountry cooking and Magnolia Cemetery (yes, we made a special trip to this historic cemetery, filled with incredible headstones, beautiful landscaping and wonderful genealogy!)! Oops, I forgot to mention I also was reading road maps because you need to if you want to travel "unconventional" roads.

What do you do on vacation? Do you have time to open a book? Do you immerse yourself in the history of the places you'll be visiting? What was your favorite vacation spot this year? I'd love to hear all about it!

On to more "conventional" reading next week! And of course some hot reading recommendations!

Happy reading... Suzanne

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