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

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Sunday Dinner... or The Sunday Salon and 3 "Dinner" Books to wet your appetite.

Welcome to The Sunday Salon and Chick with Books! It's been beautiful weather here in South Carolina. The evenings are starting to be a little cooler and we've been able to enjoy dinner outside after a long day of doing "stuff". "Stuff" still includes unpacking moving boxes, but it also includes finishing up planting a butterfly and bird garden that I started a few months ago when we first landed here. Slowly I'm getting back to having some time to read, which got put on the back burner during all this moving chaos. My Mom came for a visit a few weeks ago and we lounged around a few days reading the books we picked up while on a shopping trip. Mom's book was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, which she really enjoyed, and mine was The Stand by Stephen King, which at over 1000 pages I have not finished, but am enjoying quite a bit. This is the expanded edition, or what you may call the "unedited" version, where King expands some of the storylines he "abbreviated" in the original book because the publishers thought it was too long...

A few weeks ago I also read about The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle, which made me think of another book I read called Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent, which made me hungry for more "Dinner books", and so for this weeks Sunday Salon I thought I would share some "Dinner" with you...

First course... 
The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle... "When Sabrina arrives at her thirtieth birthday dinner she finds at the table not just her best friend, but also three significant people from her past, and well, Audrey Hepburn. As the appetizers are served, wine poured, and dinner table conversation begins, it becomes clear that there’s a reason these six people have been gathered together..At one point or another, we’ve all been asked to name five people, living or dead, with whom we’d like to have dinner. Why do we choose the people we do? And what if that dinner was to actually happen? These are the questions Rebecca Serle contends with in her utterly captivating novel, THE DINNER LIST."

What a fun premise for a book! Protagonist Sabrina has 5 people at her dinner, who would your 5 people be? This is one my nightstand waiting for a spare moment to dive in for dinner. (I might have to put Stephen K. down to read this now!) I gave you a teaser friday with the first lines, but from what I've read about The Dinner List, this is worth a full reading! Rave reviews!

Second course...
Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent... "When Isabel meets Edward, both are at a crossroads: he wants to follow his late wife to the grave, and she is ready to give up on love. Thinking she is merely helping Edward’s daughter--who lives far away and has asked her to check in on her nonagenarian dad in New York--Isabel has no idea that the man in the kitchen baking the sublime roast chicken and light-as-air apricot soufflĂ© will end up changing her life."

I happen to pick this up at the library as I was looking through the new book shelves one day. This was a while back because it is now in paperback and I read the hardcover. I have to tell you I was absolutely charmed by this book and loved it! The friendship and love that grow between Edward and Isabel is wonderful, the dinners Edward cooks are amazing to read about, and the story is just perfect. I read this in a few sittings because I wanted to savor it. It's a mere 240 pages, but I would definitely tell you to pick up a copy if you love "foodie" books and romances. This is not fiction though, it's 100% the real deal!

Final course...
Dinner with Georgia O'Keeffe by Robyn Lea... "chronicles the artist’s lifestyle and work through food. That it coincides with the “Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern” exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum is happenstance. While the show links Ms. O’Keeffe’s strong fashion sense to her art, the book goes further, adding the aesthetic of her homes and dinner table to the equation. Early on, the artist was a devotee of health foods. At a time, about 60 years ago, when the trend was hardly on the radar, she insisted on whole grains, some of which she ground herself; yogurt, which she could make; and organic ingredients. “She is quite a cook,” her husband, the photographer Alfred Stieglitz, once wrote."

Who would not want to have dinner with Georgia O'Keeffe?! An amazing bold artist who made a statement with every painting she did, who had an incredible sense of fashion and who we now learn was ahead of her time in the kitchen. The book contains 50 of her favorite recipes, with notes and quotes. Love the idea of her handwritten notes about the recipes are included. And from what I can tell, the photography is beautiful. This is on my wish list!

Do You Like to Read "Foodie" books... 
Books that have stories that include recipes or talk about food?

That about does it for this week...

Happy reading... Suzanne

Friday, September 28, 2018

First Lines Friday...

We’ve been waiting for an hour.” That’s what Audrey says. She states it with a little bit of an edge, her words just bordering on cursive. That’s the thing I think first. Not Audrey Hepburn is at my birthday dinner but Audrey Hepburn is annoyed.”
                                                       ...The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle

Think of 5 people, dead or alive, you'd like to invite to dinner... Then read Rebecca Serle's book and find out the 5 people her protagonist Sabrina writes down on a list to have at her dinner... and show up! I've got this one on my nightstand waiting to crack the spine. Sounds like a fun read and has gotten rave reviews!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Sunday Salon and "Southern Living"...

Welcome back to The Sunday Salon and Chick with Books! It's been a little bit since I've posted, but as most of you know it's because of "the move". AND NOW, the move is just about finished! We are settling in, unboxing as aposed to boxing, and loving our new home in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains!

The photo you see next to the beginning of the post is the view from our deck in the front of the house. It's very relaxing and quiet. Sitting on the front deck you can hear the water flowing down the creek that's across the street and the occasional chiming from my wind chimes. Life is good...

So, what's a girl going to do in a new town that she calls home now? Find books of course! And I'm not talking about the zillion books that I moved with me ( I figure by the end of the year I'll find them all, along with some desperately needed kitchen equipement), I'm talking about other sources of reading material... my local library and indie bookstores.

My new library is really a "library system". What that means is that I have access to all the libraries that are in the county I live in! So, I have 4 "local" libraries in Pickens County, SC! I have visited 2 of those libraries, but the Village Library in Pickens, SC is the closest and the branch I have been patronizing. Such friendly staff and a very nice library. I am also able to search for available books online and then reserve them. And a plus for having "4" libraries is that I get to search for a book from 4 branches and being able to check out the book at my local branch! More on my "libraries" in future posts...

Now for independent bookstores...

There are quite a few Indie bookstores "near me" (and "near me" is a relative term)... The first one I visited was Poor Richards Booksellers and is about 10 miles away in Easley, SC. Poor Richards can feed my addiction with all the latest plus they have a nice collection of used books in the back of the store. The next Indie I visited was Fiction Addiction, which is about 24 miles away in Greenville, SC and is not only a great source of books, but has some great author book signings, which once I'm settled in I'll be taking advantage of. There are 6 more Indies within a 25 mile radius that I'll be planning to visit too!

And the books...

I did pick up some "Southern" reading as I walked thru Fiction Addiction (of course!), and here what's I picked up...

Low Country Boil by Susan M. Boyer who is a local author, having a home in Greenville, SC. The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy, another wonderful South Carolina author. Under a Cloudless Sky by Chris Fabry, and Daisy Cakes Bakes by Kim Nelson, a cookbook (bakebook?!) from the famed Southern mail order bakery, which I can't wait to try because I now have a new convection oven!

So as I settle in, get the books put away and the boxes unpacked 900 miles or so from where I started life, I'll be getting back to posting regularly on Chick with Books. Thanks for sticking around for the transition because we have so many more books to talk about...

Happy reading... Suzanne

Monday, July 9, 2018

Kidnapped By a Rogue by Margaret Mallory... A Review

I recently had the good fortune of receiving an eGalley of Kidnapped by a Rogue from author, Margaret Mallory.  Margaret posted on her Facebook page that she was looking for a handful of reviewers and I immediately volunteered! I love her writing and she has never, and I mean never, disappointed me! Her newest novel, out today (Monday, July 9th), is no exception.

Immersing the reader into a story rich in Scottish history and adding a hunky Highlander with a spunky independent lady is only the beginning... you'll find within the pages of Kidnapped by a Rogue, romance, sex, jealousy, deceit, intrigue, secrets, hope, humor and adventure. I loved this book! When I started reading it, I literally could not put it down! It is the 3rd book in a series, but the story stands on its own, so no need to have to read the previous 2 (but after reading this one, you're going to want more!)

Briefly (and without giving too much away) Finn is our hunk, who is a second son, meaning he will not inherit his father's lands. He's an amazing warrior who not only can wield a weapon, but can also wield a pretty good smile and has all the ladies aflutter. (Yes, he's very charming!) In his heart, he just wants a plot of land he can call his own, and it is this desire that causes him to accept a request to kidnap, Lady Margaret...

Well, Margaret is actually in need of kidnapping. Her husband has thrown her out and annulled the marriage (you'll have to read the book to discover why!) and now her older brothers want to marry her off to forge an alliance with anyone that they think will make their clan stronger, but she wants no part of that. So when Margaret finally "meets" Finn, sparks fly for a lot of reasons and Margaret willingly goes... and that's when the real fun begins...

If you enjoy romance, and if find Highlanders sexy as hell, READ THIS! Margaret Mallory's writing is wonderful, her stories are rich in details and are just fun to read. You will fall for Finn and be rooting for Lady Margaret and him to conquer all the obstacles to be together. You'll also be turning those pages as fast as you can! 

Friday, February 2, 2018

Great Book Club Selection...

Great book club get together last night! Great friends, great food... AND a GREAT BOOK! It's not very often that we all love a book so much that we all give it a 5 out of 5, but that's what we gave The Secret Wife by Gill Paul last night! Historical fiction at its best! Here's the Goodreads blurb:

A Russian grand duchess and an English journalist. Linked by one of the world’s greatest mysteries... 
Love. Guilt. Heartbreak. 
1914: Russia is on the brink of collapse, and the Romanov family faces a terrifyingly uncertain future. Grand Duchess Tatiana has fallen in love with cavalry officer Dmitri, but events take a catastrophic turn, placing their romance—and their lives—in danger...
2016: Kitty Fisher escapes to her great-grandfather’s remote cabin in America, after a devastating revelation makes her flee London. There, on the shores of Lake Akanabee, she discovers the spectacular jewelled pendant that will lead her to a long-buried family secret... 
Haunting, moving and beautifully written, The Secret Wife effortlessly crosses centuries, as past merges with present in an unforgettable story of love, loss and resilience.

Thanks author Gill Paul, for a great read! Look for my review coming soon... and in the meantime, check out what Gill Paul shares with her readers about The Secret Wife on Harper Reach.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Still Me by Jojo Moyes... A Review

I laughed, I cried, and I became totally enamored. Jojo Moyes weaves a story filled with love, humor, compassion and the need to be true to oneself. She does this by creating full of life characters that we grow to love and allowing us to still love the characters we've grown close to. I loved this book! Author Jojo Moyes amazes me. How you may ask? Let me tell you...

First, What is the storyline? Still Me is about how beloved character Lousia Clark leaves everything behind, England, her close family, her hunky new paramedic boyfriend Sam and moves across the pond to New York City. She's still trying to live in the moment and experience all life has to offer as her precious deceased love, Will Traynor, Me Before You, has inspired her to do. She accepts a job working for a very wealthy family, who is as dysfunctional as you can imagine and along the way she meets so many wonderful people, all of whom we really get to know because Jojo Moyes knows how to delve deep into the souls of her characters. The pulse of the story centers around the quirky people in the building Louisa works in and New York City itself (and let me tell you, Jojo really captures the sights and sounds of The City! You really feel like you are right beside Louisa as she is walking those streets!) There are a few twists and turns in the juggling act Louisa must do in order to keep her job, her boyfriend and her sanity, but you'll have to read Still Me to find out how that all works out. *Hint... have tissues ready, it's a bumpy, emotional fun-filled ride!

Now how is this story amazing? Well, revisiting a well loved character in a new book can be risky business. We loved Louisa Clark in England and the previous 2 books, Me Before You & After You, we loved character Will Traynor, we even loved Louisa's new love interest Sam, but would we love her moving across the pond? Would this new story pull us in or would we be missing everything Louisa and Jojo Moyes leaves behind in the last two books including those characters? The answer is that author Jojo Moyes does a fantastic job on all counts and Still Me is a wonderful read!

If you love the character Louisa Clark, if you've read the previous 2 books, or just Me Before You, you will love Still Me! If you haven't read the previous adventures of Louisa Clark, you still can enjoy Still Me and will fall in love with quirky, full of heart character Louisa Clark for the first time. In any case, pick up a copy of Still Me by Jojo Moyes and be prepared to be swept up in Louisa's newest adventure! A little romance, a little heartbreak, a lot of fashion and a great story! Coming to your bookstore of choice January 30th! Published by Penguin Random House.

I want to thank Penguin Random House for sending along a review copy of Still Me for an honest review! I loved it!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Interview with Author Jojo Moyes...

Today I'd like to welcome author Jojo Moyes to Chick with Books! She's the wonderful author that pulled at our heartstrings with Me Before You, where we originally fell in love with her character Louisa Clark and a romance that seemed eternal. Jojo has written quite a few books, and a follow-up to Me Before You called After You, but today we wanted to get some insight into her new book coming out the end of January, Still Me, where she brings back the character Louisa Clark in a whole new adventure "across the pond" and ask her a bit about her writing...

In STILL ME, you bring Louisa Clark, the beloved character you created in Me Before You, to New York City. Why the transatlantic journey? 

I really wanted to stretch Louisa in a place where she would be out of her depth. What’s one of the wildest, most metropolitan places you could land a small-town girl? The heart of Manhattan. I have spent a lot of time in the US over the past five years and most trips begin with some time in New York so I have long been viewing the city through alien eyes myself. It’s tough, exciting, challenging, and unforgiving and enormous fun. The perfect backdrop for Lou’s adventure.

NYC is far from Lou’s home in Stotfold, England—what was your research process for finding the places and experiences that Lou enjoys in the Big Apple?

As well as the time I spend on work trips, I came out in October and did a week’s solid research.  I tried to do all the things that I put Lou through—except sleep in a horrible hotel with bedbugs! A friend got me into one of the really exclusive apartment buildings overlooking Central Park, which was invaluable, and the owner then put me in touch with a very experienced realtor who gave me chapter and verse on the realities of living in one of these places. It’s VERY specific, in the same way that it would be if you were a North or South Londoner, and it was important to me that I didn’t get things horribly off-key.

Reading STILL ME is like catching up with an old friend. How did it feel to revisit the story of Lou Clark and some of the other familiar characters, such as Treena and Ambulance Sam?

I absolutely love writing Louisa. By now she does feel like an old friend. It’s really hard sometimes to find your way into a character, and with her it’s like slipping on your favorite clothes. I know her. I know how she would react to any given circumstance. She’s genuine and funny and a bit daft. But what was fun in this book was to really push her forward a bit. She grows up a lot, especially in the last third of the book. I think like many of us she is really still working out who she is.

One character remarks that New York suits Lou. What is it about Lou that makes you want to take her on new experiences? Why do you think she resonates with readers?

I think Lou is very identifiable for a whole raft of people. In Me Before You, it was about being aware that life had somehow slipped away from you and reaching an age and finding yourself leading a very small life—and not being entirely sure how you got there or whether you even wanted to be somewhere else. But in After You a lot of readers seemed to identify with her grieving process—the difficulty of everybody else expecting you to move on and be cheerful and outgoing when you really don’t feel like that at all. Most importantly, Lou is someone who really tries to do the right thing—but often does the wrong thing—which I think makes her like an awful lot of us...

Class divide is a major theme in your books—Lou often finds herself in circles far different from her working-class upbringing, with employment to the Traynors in Me Before You and the Gopniks in STILL ME. Why is this dichotomy important to you and in your writing?

I think in this book it’s much less class than money. All good narratives thrive on tension, and if you push together rich and poor or upper and working class then you have an inbuilt tension in your story. It’s a growing issue in society—the polarization of money and opportunity—and for most people we will only ever have our noses pressed against the window.

At the same time, I think a lot of us now have the lives of very rich people broadcast to us daily—whether they be Kardashians or movie stars, on Instagram or via other social media, which makes that difference more obvious. With Lou, I wanted to ask how it would feel to step into one of those lives.

There is a thread in STILL ME about a public library on the brink of closing in Washington Heights. What significance does the library play in your life and why is it important in the story?

I am passionate about libraries—they are one of the few cost-free resources that offer people not just shelter but the chance to entertain or improve themselves. I spent some time at a library in a very mixed area of Washington Heights where I saw quite how many different functions the public library performed—from a learning opportunity to a safe place, to somewhere people could make job applications, or just escape from their lives for a while. It really worries me how hard libraries are being squeezed in both the UK and the US. There are so few places that don’t require a financial transaction, that really are just about the joy of learning. Once they are gone we won’t get that resource back again.

Another prominent theme in STILL ME is the struggle for women to “have it all.” Louisa finds herself between the pull of New York high society and her life in England; Mrs. De Witt was torn between her fashion career and family life; Agnes struggled to maintain her old friendships after marrying into wealth. Why is a woman’s unique balance to play many roles in life while staying true to herself important to discuss?

When I was a girl I assumed I was the equal to any boy and that I would be treated the same as an adult. For the most part that was the case—until I had children, at which point I discovered that there is always a choice to be made, always a compromise, and that in most cases that belongs to the woman. I’m lucky enough to have a husband who supports my work and does his best to be an equal partner in all ways—but I am a rarity. I know elderly women who had to give up their careers to follow their husbands, and I know younger women who gave up their jobs because their partners couldn’t be home for the children. I hope that one day we can find a way to make this a little more equitable. It’s good for men, too!

Fashion is a significant element in Lou’s story, notably the red dress and bumblebee tights in Me Before You. In STILL ME, Louisa becomes involved with an East Village vintage emporium, and Mrs. De Witt is revealed as a former fashion magazine editor. What is your interest in this world?

Well, most of my friends would laugh at the idea that I was massively interested in fashion. My default uniform is shirt, jumper, jeans, boots. I rarely wear anything else. But it feels like such an integral part of Louisa’s character, and over the past few years I have discovered a love of vintage clothes. I have a number of vintage outfits—and suppliers—and I find them so much more enjoyable, both to buy and wear, than just a chain boutique. It’s partly textural—the work that goes into some of these older clothes—beading, cutting, stitching—is just beautiful. Even I can appreciate it!

In a couple of your books, including STILL ME, you created dogs that, much like your human characters, have distinct personalities and quirks. Why do your animal characters receive such prominent roles?

I guess because animals are such a fundamental part of my own family. We joke that if we didn’t have our animals we’d have nothing to talk about. All our animals have distinct voices that we use for them (for some reason Eric, our shorthair cat, has a Spanish accent, whereas BigDog, our rescue Pyrenean, has a more lugubrious tone). I think anybody who has close contact with an animal knows that they have just as much personality and just as many expressions as humans do. If I’m writing one into a story, I can’t see why it shouldn’t have a fully formed character in the way that a human does.

Your books always evoke a wide range of human emotion—on one page, you leave readers laughing out loud and on the next, reduce them to tears. Is it a difficult process to combine such an accurate portrayal of the comedies and tragedies of life? How do you create such deep characters and storylines?

Thank you! I consider that an enormous compliment. I guess it comes from the fact that I try to write the books I like to read—and if a book can make me laugh or cry then that author earns my undying loyalty. The key to writing them, I think, is that both laughter and tears have to come from a place that is honest—something that feels true to the character. If I know the character then as I write their experiences I feel what they are feeling—it then becomes easier to translate that emotion onto the page.

What was the Me Before You movie experience like? If you were to cast STILL ME, who do you see playing some of the new main characters?

Writing and being part of the filming of Me Before You was, without doubt, the best—and most challenging—experience of my professional life. I was on the steepest learning curve and I worked flat out for months. But I loved the cast and crew and the director, producers and I are still good friends, so it never really felt like work.

If I were to cast STILL ME I would obviously want Emilia Clarke to return as Lou. And having Sam Claflin as Josh would be a lovely way of bringing him back in! I have no idea who would play Margot—but I always saw her as looking a little like Iris Apfel, the famous NY society fashion icon.

What's next? More adventures for Lou?

I’ve been saying no, as I would hate to be seen flogging her to death. But when I think about never writing her again I feel ridiculously sad. Maybe a short story?

About the Author... 
Jojo Moyes was born in 1969 and grew up in London. After a varied career including stints as a minicab controller, typer of braille statements for blind people for NatWest, and brochure writer for Club 18-30, she did a degree at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, London University. In 1992, she won a bursary financed by The Independent newspaper to attend the postgraduate newspaper journalism course at City University.

Jojo worked as a journalist for ten years, including a year at South China Morning Post in Hong Kong, and nine at The Independent where she worked variously as News Reporter, Assistant News Editor and Arts and Media Correspondent.

Jojo has been a full time novelist since 2002, when her first book, Sheltering Rain was published. Since then she has written a further eleven novels, all of which have been widely critically acclaimed. Jojo has won the Romantic Novelist’s Award twice, and Me Before You has been nominated for Book of the Year at the UK Galaxy Book Awards. Me Before You has since gone on to sell over 8 million copies worldwide.

Presently, Jojo lives (and writes!) on a farm in Essex, England with her husband, journalist Charles Arthur, and their three children.

Look for Jojo Moyes newest book, Still Me, out on January 30th! In the meantime, for more information about Jojo and her books, please visit the webpage here.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Memoir Monday...

Molly's Game by Molly Bloom... From the back cover: When Molly Bloom was a little girl growing up in a small Colorado town, she watched her brothers win medals, ace tests, and receive high praise from everyone they met. Molly wanted nothing more than to bask in that glow a little herself, so she pushed herself too—as a student, as an athlete. She was successful but felt like she was always coming from behind. She wanted to break free, to find a life without rules and limits, a life where she didn't have to measure up to anyone or anything—where she could become whatever she wanted.

Molly wanted more, and she got more than she could have ever bargained for.

In Molly's Game, Molly Bloom takes the reader through her adventures running an exclusive high-stakes private poker game. Her clients ranged from iconic stars like Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Affleck to politicians and financial titans so powerful they moved markets and changed the course of history. With rich detail, Molly describes a world that until now has been shrouded in glamour, privilege, and secrecy, one where she fearlessly took on the Russian and Italian mobs—until she met the one adversary she could not outsmart, even though she had justice on her side: the United States government.

Molly's Game is an incredible coming-of-age story about a young girl who rejected convention in pursuit of her version of the American dream. It's the story of how she gained—and then lost—her place at the table, and of everything she learned about poker, love, and life in the process.

I'm not really sure where I saw this originally. The cover struck me and I had to read what it was about. I thought it was some piece of literary fiction with a central character that had some cat and mouse game going on. But wow, it looks like this definitely is not what I was expecting! Molly Bloom was an olympic class skier, who got involved with high stakes poker that lead her to be arrested by 17 automatic rifle wielding FBI agents in the middle of the night. I'm thinking Orange Is The New Black meets poker. I read an excerpt and really liked the writing! It's now a major motion picture... read the book before the movie! On my TBR list NOW!

Friday, January 12, 2018

First Lines Friday...

“I remember the gunshots made a wet sort of sound, phssh phssh phssh, and each time he hit her she screamed. Do the math and the whole thing probably went on for as long as 10 minutes. I just stood there and watched.”
                                             ...Grist Mill Road by Christopher J. Yates

A Thriller published by Picador and published January 9th!
my read shelf:
Suzanne's book recommendations, favorite quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)