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

Monday, April 13, 2015

Not Without My Father Book Tour



Can an epic adventure succeed without a hero?

Andra Watkins needed a wingman to help her become the first living person to walk the historic 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did. She planned to walk fifteen miles a day. For thirty-four days.

After striking out with everyone in her life, she was left with her disinterested eighty-year-old father. And his gas. The sleep apnea machine and self-scratching. Sharing a bathroom with a man whose gut obliterated his aim.

As Watkins trudged America’s forgotten highway, she lost herself in despair and pain. Nothing happened according to plan, and her tenuous connection to her father started to unravel. Through arguments and laughter, tears and fried chicken, they fought to rebuild their relationship before it was too late. In Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace, Watkins invites readers to join her dysfunctional family adventure in a humorous and heartbreaking memoir that asks if one can really turn I wish I had into I’m glad I did.

What did I think of the Book? Here's my review…
In a few words, Not Without My Father by Andra Watkins was fresh, funny, heart breaking, and a lesson in perseverance. Plus add a few lessons on how to get along with your aging parents.  In sometimes self deprecating humor, Andra, named after one of the Lawrence Welk singers (because her Dad thought the singer was hot), invites us on her walking journey of the Natchez Trace, a historical path that is about 440 miles stretching from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee. What could have been just a pleasant travelogue, is turned into a humorous, heart wrenching at times adventure because Andra goes on this adventure with her aging father as her side kick. Not that that is a good thing. Their relationship has always been tenuous, but he is her last hope. He's a storyteller, he's a couch potato and he has a lot of gas, but he untimately agrees to tag along. Eventually her mother shows up to save them both. But it's Andra's reflections and thoughts along the trail, where we learn about her quirky family, how things don't always go as planned, as well as her love/irritated relationship with her father and dealing with him, that make this memoir a reading adventure a step or two above the other adventure memoir's out there. Her father Roy even joins in, writing his thoughts along the way, and reading those passages was very touching. It was life sustaining and life changing for Andra, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! The writing was good, it kept me turning the pages and the story was perfect.

 I give it 5 walking shoes out of 5! 

About the Author…

Andra Watkins lives in Charleston, South Carolina. A non-practicing CPA, she has a degree in accounting from Francis Marion University. She’s still mad at her mother for refusing to let her major in musical theater, because her mom was convinced she’d end up starring in porn films. In addition to her writing talent, Andra is an accomplished public speaker. Her acclaimed debut novel To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis was published by Word Hermit Press in 2014.

Her latest book is the memoir, Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444 Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace.


For More Information…

Visit Andra Watkins’ website.
Connect with Andra on Facebook and Twitter.
Find out more about Andra at Goodreads.
More books by Andra Watkins.
Contact Andra.

Chick with Books is part of the Not Without My Father Book Tour presented by Pump Up Your Book promotions. I want to thank Andra, the author, for sending along a copy of her book for my reading pleasure and review! I really enjoyed it and will take to heart one of the messages you impart's along the way - make a memory! You show a great example of that in your book!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Meditation is an Open Sky Book Tour!

It's the Meditation is an Open Sky Book Tour! Author Whitney Stewart is traveling around the blogosphere promoting her book, Meditation is an Open Sky: Mindfulness for Kids, and today the tour stops at Chick with Books! What a fantastic book too! A children's picture book, Meditation is an Open Sky can also be read & appreciated by adults! 

Here's what the publisher has to say about the book…

Feeling mindful is feeling good! You know when you're having a bad day, you have that wobbly feeling inside and nothing seems to go right? Find a quiet place, sit down, and meditate! In this daily companion, kids of any age will learn simple exercises to help manage stress and emotions, find focus, and face challenges. They'll discover how to feel safe when scared, relax when anxious, spread kindness, and calm anger when frustrated. Simple, secular, and mainstream, this mindfulness book is an excellent tool for helping kids deal with the stresses of everyday life.

Here's an excerpt from the book…

You know when you’re having a bad day and nothing seems to go right? You have that wobbly feeling inside that makes you scared, sad, and mad all at the same time. Well, find a quiet place, sit down, and meditate.

Meditation won’t take away your problems, but it will help you deal with them. You’ll learn to watch your feelings pop up and disappear like soap bubbles. 

Read through this book and pick one meditation for today. 

Sit in a chair or cross-legged on a pillow on the floor. 
Keep your back straight but not stiff, and put your hands on your knees or in your lap. 

Close your eyes or keep them slightly open and stare at a spot on the floor. 

Inhale and feel your breath fill up your belly. 

Then breathe out slowly. Continue with slow, full breaths during meditation. 

What Did I Think About the Book? Here's my review…

Simply put, Meditation is an Open Sky by Whitney Stewart is a beautiful, calming book that helps young children understand their feelings and helps them deal with them through simple meditative techniques. I noticed myself becoming calm just reading the book, which by the way is beautifully illustrated by Sally Rippin in soft muted colors.

In the 32 pages, Whitney Stewart teaches about meditation in a storybook setting, having a cute elephant demonstrate the techniques such as relaxing in a bathtub, thinking about a peanut for "Mind Drawing for Focus", and sitting under a coconut tree with a ice cream cone for "Finding a Special Place to Relax". Whitney also covers how to help a friend and at the end of the book, answers questions about meditation. It's a book that I feel can grow with a child, but also a book that can help adults learn to find calm in their own storm. A picture book with a wonderful purpose! 

Should be on every child's book shelf and I would give it... 5 stars.

About the Author...

Whitney Stewart grew up in New England and graduated from Brown University. She published her first award-winning, young adult biography after interviewing the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, the subject of two of her books. She trekked with Sir Edmund Hillary in the Everest region of Nepal; interviewed Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon, Burma; and traveled extensively in Asia to research the lives of Deng Xiaoping, Mao Zedong, and Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha. She is the author of three middle-grade novels and multiple middle-grade nonfiction books, including an unknown tale of Abraham Lincoln and artist Francis Bicknell Carpenter. Her newest picture books include A Catfish Tale, a bayou retelling of the Grimm brothers’ Fisherman and his Wife, and Meditation is an Open Sky: Mindfulness for Kids.

For More Information about the author, Visit Whitney Stewart’s website.
Connect with Whitney on Facebook and Twitter.
Find out more about Whitney at Goodreads.
Visit Whitney’s blog.
More books by Whitney Stewart.
Contact Whitney.

More Information about The Book…
Meditation is an Open Sky: Mindfulness for Kids is available at Amazon.
Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
Purchase at Albert Whitman & Company.
Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

I want to thank Pump Up Your Book for inviting me to be part of the book tour and sending along a copy of Meditation is an Open Sky for review! Loved the book!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Sunday Salon and The Night I Spent with Garth Stein (Thanks to an Indie Bookstore)...

     
Welcome to The Sunday Salon! It's that day of the week we sit back and chat virtually with all our bookish friends. So, grab a cup of Joe, find a comfy chair and let's talk books… or better yet, let's talk about my Saturday night with author, Garth Stein

It was a cold and dreary day in Connecticut yesterday, a sudden snow storm had left piles of new snow the day before that was now melting. But all was sunshine and anticipation as I prepared for my date with Garth. It was saturday night and there was just a sliver of moon. With much anticipation I got into my car… we were meeting at the library... Actually, me and 50 or so other women (yes, there were even a few men) were meeting him at the library, because thanks to Independent bookstore, Byrd's Books, Garth was doing a reading and presentation of his new book, A Sudden Light

First, let me say, having a wonderful writer like Garth Stein fly in from Seattle to our little town in Connecticut, is very special. Meeting your favorite writer, being able to ask a question or just listening to an author read from his work is wonderful. Garth was charming and funny, and truly enjoyed interacting with the audience. I have to give him a lot of credit too, because he was working on only a few hours sleep due to his original flight on friday being canceled due to snow and having to take a flight on saturday.

Hosting events like this is another reason why Independent bookstores are special too. Independent bookstores are about reading, authors and nourishing what we as readers like - getting lost in a good book. Of course there is still a bottom line in an Independent bookstore, but before you get there (the bottom line), there is a a shared love of reading. Thank you Byrd's Books for treating our community to this wonderful reading event! Now more on the event and Garth Stein…

You may remember a little book called The Art of Racing in The Rain. That was the amazing little story told by Enzo (the family dog) on the eve of his death, taking stock of his life, sharing the ups and downs of his human family and written by Garth Stein in 2008. Smash hit, numerous awards and literally put (ok, not funny) Garth in the hands of many new readers. But after reading The Art of Racing in The Rain, we wanted MORE! Garth had two books previously published, How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets and How Raven Stole the Moon, which I really enjoyed, here's my review, but after reading the latest you look towards the future… and that future was A Sudden Light just published this past September. Thanks to Simon & Schuster, I had the opportunity to read A Sudden Light before it was published and LOVED IT! (Here's my review). All of which leads us to my date night (ok, me and 50 other women… the men too) with Garth last night…

Hosted by Independent bookstore, Byrd's Books of  Bethel, CT. and held at the Ruth Haas Library at Western Connecticut State University, Garth Stein walked nonchalantly into the library about 6:15pm. AND he had SWAG! First he walked around giving everyone these cool matchboxes that looked like miniature A Sudden Light books (Very cool), then he handed out Enzo pins, and finally Enzo temporary tattoos! Then he walked up to the podium and started talking, about independent bookstores, about The Art of Racing in The Rain, about his independent film making career, about his connection to Danbury, Ct . (my little home in Connecticut), about his inspiration for writing A Sudden Light, and about being a writer. He was so interesting (ok, he was cute too) and everyone seemed to have a great time. After his presentation, which seemed more like talking to an old friend, he answered questions from the audience and then signed our books on the way out. Thank you Garth for coming to our little town and thank you Byrd's Books for hosting the event!

Want to learn more about Garth Stein and his books? Here's the link to Garth's Website! Want to learn more about Byrd's Books? Here's a link to Byrd's Books Website ( you can even order books there!)

What better way to spend a saturday night?! ...Ok, now how about your next book Garth! ;-)

Happy reading… Suzanne

Monday, March 9, 2015

Seed by Lisa Heathfield... Blog Tour & A Review

Pearl is fifteen, naive and living a sheltered life in a community called "Seed". She was born into this "family", happy to be a part of her family of brothers & sisters, Kindreds and "Mothers", and loving Papa S, their "father".

Why are we so fascinated by these communities? In theory, "the outside" is what poisons our minds and bodies, but the community in author Lisa Heathfield's book, Seed, is perfect on the outside, but pure evil on the inside. And as we slowly turn the pages to delve deeper into the story of Seed, we find exactly what makes some of these communities front page news...

About The Book: Seed by Lisa Heathfield: All that Pearl knows can be encapsulated in one word: Seed. It is the isolated community that she was born into. It is the land that she sows and reaps. It is the center of her family and everything that means home. And it is all kept under the watchful eye of Papa S.
 

At fifteen years old, Pearl is finally old enough to be chosen as Papa S.'s companion. She feels excitement . . . and surprising trepidation that she cannot explain. The arrival of a new family into the Seed community—particularly the teenage son, Ellis—only complicates the life and lifestyle that Pearl has depended upon as safe and constant. Ellis is compelling, charming, and worldly, and he seems to have a lot of answers to questions Pearl has never thought to ask. But as Pearl digs to the roots of the truth, only she can decide what she will allow to come to the surface.

What did I think of the book? I was captivated from the first page! The writing just drew me in and the characters were so real and full of heart. Pearl stole my heart from the beginning with her innocence and tentative inquisitiveness. Though born and brought up in this environment, she had a keen sense of right & wrong and had feelings that were "normal". Trying to deal with her growing pangs of adulthood while maintaining her "obedience" became an ever growing problem that made the story all the more real. A few shockers and a larger than life ending made it quite the literary trip. I have to say that I read it in one sitting because I just could not put it down. The story slowly builds into the climatic ending and when I turned to that last page I was looking for more! And I am going to get it, because there will be a sequel! Thank goodness, because when you read this first installment, you are going to want more too! Definitely a book for readers who enjoy those stories with the conflict of the cloistered world versus the "outside" with a touch of mad cult leader. The book reminded me a bit of those Amish literary books, but with a heftier dose of real world.

A Little About The Author...
Lisa Heathfield is a former secondary school English teacher, specializing in working with hearing-impaired children. Seed is her debut novel. She lives in Brighton, England, with her husband and three children.

Chick with Books is just one stop of Lisa Heathfield's Blog Tour for her book, Seed, which will be published March 10th, 2015 by Running Press, and available at your local bookstore then!  I want to thank Running Press for the review copy of Seed!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Sunday Salon and The Oscar Goes to... "Which Book?"

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! It's that day of the week where we sit down virtually with all our reader friends and talk books! And this week not only is it books, it's also movies!

For months now the media has been all abuzz about movies. It's the big push before the coveted Oscars. You see your movie theater bringing back the Oscar nominees for another go in the box office and you read all sorts of stellar reviews. That is, if you're into the big screen. I've always enjoyed a good movie, but when a book that I dearly loved is slated for the big screen I feel dread. It never use to be that way, but time and time again, I've been disappointed.

It's not entirely the movie industries fault that a movie doesn't translate (or translate for me) on the screen as well as the book. The director has a certain vision, there are time constraints that may hinder the full development of the movie on the screen, and as readers, we create in our minds the setting, the people, the everything from the author's words on the page. But sometimes it does work...


I'd have to say, all the Harry Potter books were great as movies. I loved the books and equally loved each movie. They "got it". The characters fit, the sets were brilliant, and the stories weren't chopped to fit the screen. The Time Traveler's Wife I thought was well done. It was amazing how they got all that time traveling pretty much on the mark, with the characters and the settings. The Shining was another amazing movie from a great book. It was perfect. Brokeback Mountain was amazing! I loved that movie and the short story by Annie Proulx was equally wonderful. Although a bit controversial, 2 gay cowboys falling in love, the love story was given the time and space to develop perfectly on the screen and the cinematography was beautiful.

And then there were some movies that weren't quite right... I loved the book Jurassic Park, and I do really like the movie, BUT the ending of the movie is so different from the book I was in shock while I was watching. The Reader was a moving, heart wrenching read, and the movie was wonderful UNTIL the ending. Why did "they" think they needed to change it? I don't know, but the ending in the book was perfect as it was, the ending of the movie was not. Memoirs of a Geisha was an amazing book, the movie was visually beautiful, but could not match the written word.

This year I did read one book-to-movie, a book I absolutely loved and a movie I was so disappointed with... Wild. If you did not read the book, the movie could stand alone and be good. If you read the book, you'd be wondering where half the book was. I thought the book was heart wrenching, sad, compelling, and I felt such empathy towards Cheryl Strayed, but the movie left me a bit empty. Her life was mostly told in small vignettes that just didn't have the power of the pages and pages that were devoted to how Cheryl became the woman that she was. I was doing a play by play afterwards to enlighten my husband as to the background of some of what was going on so he could better understand the circumstances.... Now, this is just one girl's opinion. My feelings may reflect my love of the book and how the movie did not live up to my expectations (which were low).

Here are a few books I LOVED that have been made into movies (and I haven't seen yet)... The Help, The Book Thief, Water for Elephants, Bridget Jones Diary, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The Kite Runner, and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.

What books have you enjoyed that have been made into a movie? Are you excited to hear a book you loved is being turned into a movie? Have you read any of the books-to-movies up for an Oscar this year? I like to read the book before I venture out to see the movie, but maybe I shouldn't anymore!

Happy reading... Suzanne

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Robot Dreams by Sara Varon… A Review

Robot Dreams by Sara Varon is wordless and a poignant venture into the nature of friendships. Sara Varon's drawings are simple and very effective, moving me to such sadness at one point…

In Robot Dreams, a dog buys himself a mail-order robot to be his friend. They become best friends, renting movies, making popcorn,  and life is wonderful, until one day dog decide to take them to the beach. After venturing in the water, robot's metal parts are rusted so that he can't move. Night comes and dog has no choice but to leave him behind.  But dog goes to the library and gets a book on robot repair and goes back to the beach, only to find the beach closed and no way to get to his friend. Both friends miss each other, but as the months pass before the beach is open again, robot lies on the beach dreaming of being reunited with his friend, but dog moves on, trying to fill the void left by his best friend with new friends. The ending brought a tear to my eye and was bittersweet, but ultimately this story is about how friendships can change over time.

I Loved this tender story. I also loved the artwork, which in muted colors absolutely conveyed the story without needing words. Written with 8 - 12 year-olds in mind, Robot Dreams has a special place on my shelf.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Secret of a Thousand Beauties by Mingmei Yip… A Review

MingMei Yip is a master storyteller. Her characters quietly move off the page and into your heart. Her stories bewitch you from the very beginning. And I look forward to every new novel that has Mingmei Yip as the author…

Secret of a Thousand Beauties is no exception to Mingmei's incredible storytelling…

We begin with meeting our young protagonist, Spring Swallow, who at seventeen is marrying a ghost. Betrothed before she was born, even though her husband-to-be died, she is obligated to fulfill the contract. What this means to Spring Swallow, is life as an indentured servant to her future mother-in-law. And as traditions go, she doesn't want any part of it. So, Spring Swallow runs away at the ceremony. With nowhere to go, and in a beautiful wedding kimono, Spring Swallow runs into a young girl, who takes pity on her and brings her home. Her home is actually the home of a master embroiderer, who has taken other young unfortunate women in before and thus allows Spring Swallow to stay and learn the trade. It is another form of prison though, and we are swept up in the beautiful art of embroidery, the wonderful culture and traditions of China, and an adventure of a girl, whose grasps at happiness are fleeting at best.

The story will enthrall you and keep you turning those pages until the story closes. Wonderful writing, a story that will wrap around your heart, and a landscape that fascinates as well as entertains. Secret of a Thousand Beauties by Mingmei Yip is story you'll long remember after the final page is turned.

I want to thank the author who sent along a copy of the book for me to read and review! I loved it!

Published by Kensington, Secret of a Thousand Beauties is available now from your local bookstore!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What Happened Here: A Novella and Stories by Bonnie ZoBell… A Review

So often we pass up collections of short stories because short stories aren't something we normally read. In order for a short story to "work", it has to be crisp and clean, a start and a finish that tells us a story, captures us and releases us in pages rather than chapters. That is what Bonnie ZoBell does with What Happened Here: A Novella & Stories. Bonnie does more than that though with this collection, this group of 10 short stories and 1 novella are linked by a tragic piece of real-estate … the area of San Diego called North Park.

In 1978 a tragedy happened in an area of San Diego called North Park. A passenger plane crashed in this neighborhood killing everyone on board and spreading unforgettable debris all over. Bonnie ZoBell takes this neighborhood and uses it as her backdrop for the novella and 10 short stories of What Happened Here. And these stories work. Each one takes on a life of their own, the characters owning the pages and letting us experience life after tragedy. Even though the stories are not about the crash per say, it seems as though the crash has a place in them. It's almost as though the crash reverberates years later, an underlying current in other stories. The first story in the collection is a novella, that captures the characters in a kind of remembrance, years later, of that crash in '78 that happened in their neighborhood. And the stories jump off from that starting point- North Park. But all the rest of the stories seem to be dealing with their own choices and tragedies almost as though the 1978 left an imprint that couldn't be shaked..Such as "Dear Sam", where Edgar writes a letter to Sam because he would understand his feelings because he experienced "the crash", or a free living Uncle, who tempts his prim and proper niece to abandoned her cookie cutter life to experience life (because you only live once). Or, my favorite story about spunky eighty-year-old Lucinda, who finds love and passion again after so many years and still wears her slippers to bingo.

Good stories that are powerful and readable. Great writing, interesting characters and a worthy collection of short stories that encourage the understanding of a full range of human emotions and experiences. Definitely a keeper and I have to thank the publisher for providing a copy of What Happened Here : A Novella and Stories by Bonnie ZoBell for my reading pleasure and a review!

I would definitely recommend this collection to anyone who enjoys reading short stories, especially ones that put you in the center of real life with characters that make real life decisions. They are thought-provoking, wonderful interconnected stories. And it's not all grim here, especially eighty-year old Lucinda who I still smile about when I think of her.

You can pick up your own copy of What Happened Here by Bonnie ZoBell at your local bookstore. OR, You can get either the paperback version of Bonnie's book or the Kindle version right now at Amazon for the bargain price of $2.50! Here are the links for the paperback and Kindle Book .




Monday, February 9, 2015

Audrey and Bill by Edward Epstein… A Review

Oh, how can you resist The Golden Age of Hollywood?! The elegance, the larger than life movie stars, the romance! I am a true romantic and I love old movies. I love movies like Casablanca, Mildred Pierce, and Gone with the Wind. It was during the 1950's, that stars like Audrey Hepburn and William Holden came into their own and captured the hearts of movie goers, and it was in the 1950's that Audrey and Bill captured the hearts of each other…

I was reading excerpts from this Springs new releases and came across this book about Audrey Hepburn and Bill Holden, Audrey and Bill by Edward Epstein. I started to read the few opening pages and couldn't stop. What a wonderful, but sad, real life love story that became a thread to link these two people together forever. I'm not a big fan of the tabloids or Hollywood gossip, but this book was written so differently. It really showed the people underneath the layer of the Hollywood lights that scrutinized them for much of their lives.

I had no idea that Audrey and Bill had a love affair, but during the filming of their first film together, and the film that would make Audrey Hepburn a star, Sabrina, they met and found in each other another person that they could open up to amid all the glitz and glamour neither one of them sought after. Audrey was young & naive and swept off her feet by the handsome, and married, leading man, who was no stranger to having affairs with his leading ladies. But this was different…

Audrey and Bill is not only about their love affair, but about their lives separate from each other. It's almost 3 biographies in one book- Audrey Hepburn, Bill Holden, and the behind the scenes look at Hollywood. The writing is seductive and so good. Their lives, their loves, their loses and ultimately how they both found contentment, albeit a little too late, is what you'll find in Audrey and Bill.

I don't want to spoil anything here, so let me just say, if you're a romantic and love old movies this book is for you! The writing is wonderful, the people come to life off the pages and you'll be transported to a time where prim and proper masked an underlying sensuality that was neatly dressed up.

Audrey and Bill: A Romantic Biography of Auddrey Hepburn and William Holden by Edward Epstein will be available from your local bookstore this April 14th! I want to thank Running Press for the eGalley I received to read for this review! I thoroughly enjoyed it!


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