Literary Quote of the Month

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies," said Jojen. "The man who never reads lives only one." - George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons

Monday, January 27, 2020

Memoir Monday...

Children of the Land by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo... When Marcelo Hernandez Castillo was five years old and his family was preparing to cross the border between Mexico and the United States, he suffered temporary, stress-induced blindness. Castillo regained his vision, but quickly understood that he had to move into a threshold of invisibility before settling in California with his parents and siblings. Thus began a new life of hiding in plain sight and of paying extraordinarily careful attention at all times for fear of being truly seen. Before Castillo was one of the most celebrated poets of a generation, he was a boy who perfected his English in the hopes that he might never seem extraordinary.

With beauty, grace, and honesty, Castillo recounts his and his family’s encounters with a system that treats them as criminals for seeking safe, ordinary lives. He writes of the Sunday afternoon when he opened the door to an ICE officer who had one hand on his holster, of the hours he spent making a fake social security card so that he could work to support his family, of his father’s deportation and the decade that he spent waiting to return to his wife and children only to be denied reentry, and of his mother’s heartbreaking decision to leave her children and grandchildren so that she could be reunited with her estranged husband and retire from a life of hard labor.

Children of the Land distills the trauma of displacement, illuminates the human lives behind the headlines and serves as a stunning meditation on what it means to be a man and a citizen.

When I started to read all the controversy surrounding American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, I found "alternative" books that were recommended to read instead of that book in order to understand the real experiences of undocumented people entering the US. Children of the Land by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo is one of those books. Unlike American Dirt, which is a book of fiction, Children of the Land is a memoir.

Marcelo Hernandez is an awarding winning poet, writer and teacher. He received a B.A. from Sacramento State University and was the first undocumented student to earn an MFA from the University of Michigan. His book Children of the Land, published by Harper, will be available tomorrow at your local bookstore. On my Wishlist.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

The Sunday Salon... and Should we Read American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Good morning! It's a beautiful sunny day in the Upstate. Upstate is how where I live is refered to in South Carolina. Not to be confused with the Low Country, which is the lower part of the state and I would say the more "popular" vacation destinations of Myrtle Beach and Charleston. It took me a while to really grasp  why the distinction, but it is a lot easier to tell people I live in the Upstate when talking to someone from South Carolina, because they just understand. In any case, today is a beautiful, but cold day in the Upstate. Winter is popping its head in and out and now that I'm retired, when it's really cold outside I tend to stay inside... and either play with some yarn and/or read!

This week I received a pre-order of American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins in the mail. I had read a lot of great press about the book and decided to pre-order and have it arrive at the house the day it came out... so I could avoid having to go out in that cold. It came! Yay! I opened the package and then I was struck by a little yellow circle blazing on my front cover like a beam of light from a freight train... and one of my pet peeves in book jacket designs. I HATE, let me repeat, I HATE those little "advertisements" on the front covers of books."Now made into a major motion picture", "So and so says blah, blah, blah", and this week, "Oprah's Book Club 2020". And that little Oprah blurb I can't even remove because it's actually part of the design. Something I didn't realize was happening when I ordered the book. I had no idea it was an Oprah pick. So, this week I was going to talk about that... Bookish Pet Peeves, but after getting American Dirt in the mail and starting to read it, the internet exploded with so much controversy over this book, I thought we'd touch on that this week... 

Do you care who writes your book?

The controversy surrounding American Dirt is simply this, Jeannine Cummins, who herself has said, is a White, Priviledged person. Because of this can she write this book? The book is about a Mexican Mother and her son who must flee Mexico after her whole family is murdered by a drug kingpin's gang. This story is about the migrant experience, the horrors of the journey to a better life. Can extensive research, and 7 years of research in Jeannine Cummins' case, trump the actual experience? 

So, now there is a raging argument that American Dirt is full of stereotypes and incorrect information on Mexican culture. In an online article for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jane Henderson writes: 

Latinx writers argue that their more authentic depictions in fiction and nonfiction have not gotten as much support from American publishers as books by white authors, and they pointed to elements in "American Dirt" they felt were stereotypes or errors regarding Mexican culture. Much of the criticism on social media was based on a review by Myriam Gurba.

There is also controversy over the LARGE amount of money for the author received for the book from the publisher, and how if it was a Latinx writer the amount would not have been as significant. 

On the flip side of the controversy, with publishers and reviewers who have praised the book, but now feel as though they need to take a step back, there is the thought that even if there are things "wrong" with the depictions and the story, this book will open the eyes of many to the horrors of these migrants who travel the dangerous road to a better life. 

What do you think? Personally I rarely discount an author's work just based on what I hear, although it does happen. Recently after I purchased The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes I discoverd a whole slew of controversy over plagerism and publisher favoritism. Supposedly the publisher helped the book along by pulling ideas from another book that they were publishing, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson. At that point I did a bit of research on the latter book and decided after reading how much book clubs loved Kim's book to choose that one for my book club's January read. I still have the Jojo Moyes book, but it really irks me that the publisher might have done that. When I do read it, I will judge for myself if there are too many similarities in the story. 

I'm still going to read American Dirt. The beginning of the book was absolutely terrifying and just sucked me in. And no matter what the critisism's are, I was really enjoying her writing. Maybe we can all enjoy it as a story of a Mother's love for her son and be happy with that? Or maybe I can treat it as a book of FICTION and keep that in the back of my head as I read the story for what it is. It's not as though Jeannine Cummins stole the idea from another author either. And if you do a google search for American Dirt controversy, you'll have pages of links, some of which give you alternative reads. Why can't I just read this one? I think I will...

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins was published by Flatiron books and released january 21st. It is an Oprah Book Club pick, The #1 Indie Next Choice, and Editors Choice of the New York Times Book Review. It has been praised by many, many authors. Share your thoughts on this in the comments below! I would love to hear what you think!

Happy Reading... Suzanne

Friday, January 24, 2020

First Lines Friday...

The girl is forbidden from making a sound, so the yellow bird sings. He sings whatever the girl composes in her head: high-pitched trills of piccolo; low-throated growls of contrabassoon. The bird chirps all the musical parts save the percussion, because the barn rabbits obligingly thump their back feet like bass drums, like snares. The lines for violin and cello are the most elaborately composed. Rich and liquid smooth, except when fear turns the notes gruff and choppy. 
                                                  ...The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner

I was lucky enough to receive a digital copy of The Yellow Bird Sings this month and just finished it. How can you say you enjoyed reading about a Mother and her young daughter desperately hiding in a barn from German soldiers? But the story is sensitive and I became so emotionally involved in this WWII story of persecution and survival that I was actually having nightmares. I'll be posting a review next week, but in the meantime I give it 4 stars!  Definitely for WWII readers. This will be released March 3, 2020 by Flatiron Books.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Batman: The Killing Joke written by Alan Moore, illustrated by Brian Bolland.... A Review

Batman: The Killing Joke, written by Allan Moore and illustrated by Brian Bolland Deluxe (New Edition) 2019...

Let me first say, I am not a superhero kind of girl. I Use to watch Batman and Superman on TV when I was very young, but I never read any of the comic books. I do like graphic novels and comic books though, so I will sit down and read one every now and then. But this one is different...

I kept hearing about Jaoquim Phoenix's awards for his outstanding performance of Joker in the movie by the same name. So I rented it to see what all the fuss was about. Let me tell you, it was depressing. Really depressing. BUT, what a performance by Jaoquin Phoenix! He was amazing as Joker. And the film was amazing too. Remember, I'm not really a superhero kind of girl, so what I was expecting was not what I got. The movie is not a superhero movie, but a human look at the man behind the Joker. Who was he? How did his circumstances make him into the Joker? All so very fascinating, which made me wonder about the comic it was based on.

Way back in 1988, DC comics ran a one-shot, basically a story that begins and ends with one comic book. It was about the origin of Joker written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Brian Bolland. Because of the release of the movie, based on this comic, DC reprinted a deluxe hardcover version with beautiful new coloring and some backstory of how the comic was created... and it is wonderful! There have been so many improvements on how these comics are produced that Brian Bolland went back and colored the story the way he always wanted to (along with a few fixes here and there in the illustrations that he always wanted to do too). And the coloring is beautiful.

Now the story was changed a little for the movie. In the comic, the Joker has a Fiance and he wants a better life for them and their future children. He left his job in the local chemical plant, is a failure as a comic, and is convinced to do something by some thugs to earn a little money. Things go terribly wrong though and the rest as they say, is history. This is a great story! The other thing the movie changed was the way the Joker looks. In the movie it's all grease paint, but in the comic it is something entirely different. (you need to read this to find out!) The comic has some aspects of violence, but humourous in other spots. The interaction between Batman and Joker is great too. And the end of the story puts a human side to the "relationship" between Batman and Joker. The book doesn't stop there though, because there are a few bonus stories and a section on how the story is put together with the first drawings and how the artist shows the writer the intent of the scenes. The back of the book is filled with Brian Bolland drawings, who is an award winning artist, some in full color, of Joker and Batman in various other projects that he's done. The original story is 53 pages, the book itself is 96 pages total. There is a 30th anniversary edition that has more of the original comic book included at twice the price as the Deluxe edition I read, but I am very satisfied with the edition I read.

Final Course... Great story! I thoroughtly enjoyed it and found it entertaining. The artwork is beautiful! Brian Bolland did an amazing job coloring it as well. I would recommend this to any comic book fan, movie fan, and for someone who really hasn't gotten into comic books, but would like to give comics a try. Now this is considered a graphic novel, but when I think of graphic novels I think of much longer and thicker works. Published by DC Comics in September of 2019.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Memoir Monday

Know My Name by Chanel Miller... "She was known to the world as Emily Doe when she stunned millions with a letter. Brock Turner had been sentenced to just six months in county jail after he was found sexually assaulting her on Stanford's campus. Her victim impact statement was posted on BuzzFeed, where it instantly went viral--viewed by eleven million people within four days, it was translated globally and read on the floor of Congress; it inspired changes in California law and the recall of the judge in the case. Thousands wrote to say that she had given them the courage to share their own experiences of assault for the first time.

Now she reclaims her identity to tell her story of trauma, transcendence, and the power of words. It was the perfect case, in many ways--there were eyewitnesses, Turner ran away, physical evidence was immediately secured. But her struggles with isolation and shame during the aftermath and the trial reveal the oppression victims face in even the best-case scenarios. Her story illuminates a culture biased to protect perpetrators, indicts a criminal justice system designed to fail the most vulnerable, and, ultimately, shines with the courage required to move through suffering and live a full and beautiful life.

Know My Name will forever transform the way we think about sexual assault, challenging our beliefs about what is acceptable and speaking truth to the tumultuous reality of healing. It also introduces readers to an extraordinary writer, one whose words have already changed our world. Entwining pain, resilience, and humor, this memoir will stand as a modern classic."

Published by Viking in September 2019. Chosen as Best Book of the Year by The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, TIME, Elle, Glamour, Parade, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, and BookRiot. A book that gives voice to the victim and has made quite an impact. And Chanel Miller's writing has been praised. On my wishlist.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

The Sunday Salon and Breaking Up is Hard to Do... What to read after you break up with your book.

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! Winter is starting to settle in, in South Carolina. We started the week with 70 degrees and sunny and yesterday we couldn't get above 40 degrees! So, I grab two things to keep me warm in the winter... crocheting and a good book. Of course this is all done in front of a cozy fire going in the fireplace and possibly something interesting to drink.

This week I finished a great book! The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michel Richardson had all the things that hold your attention -- a great lead character, well developed minor characters, an interesting story (which in this case happens to be based on history), some interesting plot twists with a little romance thrown in for good measure. I'll be reviewing it later in the week, but trust me, if you enjoy historical fiction, write this one down for your TBR list!

But the thing with reading a great book is that sometimes you need an emotional break. I was getting so into the book that starting another book wasn't going to be easy. It's almost like breaking up with your book because sometimes you become so invested in the characters and story that when it ends you are just so... alone, lonely, spent.

How do you recover? Big breath and then I try to read something "light".  Maybe a graphic novel, some poetry, a funny book... I need to go thru a detox. So, here are some "inbetween" books or books to lighten your emotional load...

Strange Planet by Nathan Pyle...

"Nathan Pyle fills the pages of his new book Strange Planet with big eyed, bright blue aliens from a planet that shares a lot in common with Earth. These aliens sunbathe, sneeze and even wish each other sweet dreams like us, but they describe these practices with deadpan technical terminology like "sun damage" and "face fluid explosions." The lifegiver aliens even implore their offspring to "imagine pleasant nonsense" as they tuck them in for the night."...NPR's Liz Metzger.

A friend of mine recently shared this graphic novel that he received as a Christmas present. He's not really the graphic novel kind of guy, but he loves humor and that is exactly what Nathan Pyle dishes out in 144 pages. Nathan started drawing Strange Planet and sharing it on Instagram, where he has his aliens exploring all of our human emotions and explaining them in their own "alien" terms. Follow the link to his Instagram page and check it out. Little tidbits of human wisdom on each page. I love reading them! This book is on its way to me! Published by MorrowGift.

Adulthood is a Myth by Sarah Andersen... These casually drawn, perfectly on-point comics by the hugely popular young Brooklyn-based artist Sarah Andersen are for the rest of us. They document the wasting of entire beautiful weekends on the internet, the unbearable agony of holding hands on the street with a gorgeous guy, and dreaming all day of getting home and back into pajamas. In other words, the horrors and awkwardnesses of young modern life. Oh and they are totally not autobiographical. At all.

Another artist who posted her comics on social media before releasing her  popular humorous books. She really hits the nail on the head sometimes with her poignant funny cartoons. She has a big following too. Lighten up with Sarah's Scribbles! Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy... Charlie Mackesy offers inspiration and hope in uncertain times in this beautiful book based on his famous quartet of characters. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse explores their unlikely friendship and the poignant, universal lessons they learn together.

This book won Barnes & Noble's Best Book of the Year 2019 award! It has rave reviews and there is and was a lot of buzz about it after it was published in October by HarperOne. Sit down and relax with this one and slowly take it in. A great book to reset your mindset with. And this book is on it's way to me also. Published by HarperOne.

Now those were some sweet, fun reads to enjoy while getting back to the business of serious literary reading, but what if you wanted a little bit more to sink your teeth into? Well, my last recommendation is a 180 from these others...

Batman: The Killing Joke written by Alan Moore, illustrated by Brian Bolland... "For the first time the Joker's origin is revealed in this tale of insanity and human perseverance"

I started reading this after I watched the movie Joker starring Jaoquin Pheonix. Have you seen that movie yet? I am not really a superhero kind of girl, but this movie had gotten so much buzz (and a few awards) about the performance Jaoquin Pheonix did that I just had to rent it. I have to say it is depressing. Really depressing and sad. And it's not really a superhero movie. This movie is really about the person the Joker was before becoming notorious and how his circumstances created the crazy evil guy that we know today. This is the comic book that the movie is based on and it really is a great story. Read the deluxe hardcover edition, the artwork is amazing and the story is so interesting. This edition also shares the process of story boarding and developing the actual drawing of the story. I really only knew the Joker based on the Batman series on TV. This graphic novel really puts a human face to the criminal we all thought we knew. Not a "light" read, but not a complex literary tomb either. Published by DC Comics.

Weekly Update...
Memoir Monday... highlighted Hill Women by Cassie Chambers and tells the story of the strong Kentucky women who helped shape her and how she left her humble beginnings to find a different way of life

First Lines Friday... highlighted Ordinary Grace by William Kent Kreuger, and his beautiful opening lines for Ordinary Grace.

Saturday I shared my Book Bingo Card for 2020! Ever play Book Bingo? Every year I create a Bingo Card with bookish squares that my reading group tries to fill in during the year. The squares range from reading a MYSTERY to Read a Book Whose Author's Last Name Starts with the First Letter of Your Name. Want to play along?? Follow the link and print out the Bingo Card!

Do you need a break after reading a really good book? 
...or do you dive right into your next read?

I've got quite a few books to choose from to get back to "literary" reading this week. One of which is a WWII tale of a girl and her mother hiding from German soldiers in a barn... and there is a Barbara Delinsky eBook I just got from the publishers too. I always love reading Barbara Delinsky! and this one will be released May 2020. (I also love Barbara Delinsky because she was also sweet enough to Skype with my reading group once).... What are your plans this week? What great books have you been reading?! Share in the comments because I would love to know!! 

Happy Reading... Suzanne

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Chick with Books Book Bingo 2020...

It's that time of year again when I release.... This years Book Bingo Card! Ever play Book Bingo? Well, you're in for a treat either way! Book Bingo is set up like your typical Bingo card, except the spaces are filled with types of books. As the year goes on, you X thru squares. Say you read The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes, which is fictional account of the historic Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project, you would X out the square that has "Historical Fiction". The point of the Bingo card is to have fun Xing out each square based on the books you are reading this year and see how many squares you can X. All of them X'd out is pretty darn good. And remember each book can only be for ONE square, so if a book can really be for 2 squares, you need to decide which square you are going to count it for.

I do one of these cards every year for my reading group and everyone loves it. At the end of the year we have some fun with prizes and such, but the best part is to see if you can match up your books and fill the whole square up! Are you up for the challenge?!

I've read 2 books already this year. Fredrik Backman's And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer, which at 76 pages fulfills "A Book with less than 202 pages", and Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, which I am going to use for "Any Celebrity Book Club pick", because Reese's Book Club (Reese Witherspoon), Hello Sunshine, picked it as their January Book Club pick. 
Join in on the fun and stop by each week to see what squares I check off if any, and share the squares you check off and what books you did them with! You can click on the Bingo card below and print it out too!

Friday, January 17, 2020

First Lines Friday...

All the dying that summer began with the deaht of a child, a boy with golden hair and thick glasses, killed on the railroad tracks outside New Bremen, Minnesota sliced into pieces by a thousand tons of steel speeding across the prairie toward South Dakota. His name was Bobby Cole, He was a sweet-looking kid and by that I mean he had eyes that seemed full of dreaming and he wore a half smile as if he was just about to understand something you'd spent an hour trying to explain.
                                     ... Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

I was hearing a lot of buzz about This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger and saw that this was not his first book. In fact, William Kent Krueger has an award winning mystery series with #17 having been published in 2018. But Ordinary Grace and This Tender Land were not mysteries, but were literary fiction, coming-of-age novels. As I read the sample of Ordinary Grace I was struck by the easy going readability, the really good story writing and decided he was someone I needed to read. This Tender Land is on my TBR list, but Ordinary Grace is on my nightstand now. Published by Atria Books in 2014.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Memoir Monday...

 After rising from poverty to earn two Ivy League degrees, an Appalachian lawyer pays tribute to the strong “hill women” who raised and inspired her, and whose values have the potential to rejuvenate a struggling region. Nestled in the Appalachian mountains, Owsley County is one of the poorest counties in both Kentucky and the country. Buildings are crumbling and fields sit vacant, as tobacco farming and coal mining decline. But strong women are finding creative ways to subsist in their hollers in the hills... Cassie Chambers grew up in these hollers and, through the women who raised her, she traces her own path out of and back into the Kentucky mountains.

Published this past week by Ballantine Books, Hill Women by Cassie Chambers gives us another book that follows the journey of a determined girl to rise from her very humble beginnings and make a different life for herself. This has gotten great reviews so far from early reviewers. It's on my wishlist!
my read shelf:
Suzanne's book recommendations, favorite quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)