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, June 27, 2022

Memoir Monday...



The Puzzler by A.J. Jacobs... What makes puzzles—jigsaws, mazes, riddles, sudokus—so satisfying? Be it the formation of new cerebral pathways, their close link to insight and humor, or their community-building properties, they’re among the fundamental elements that make us human. Convinced that puzzles have made him a better person, A.J. Jacobs—four-time New York Times bestselling author, master of immersion journalism, and nightly crossworder—set out to determine their myriad benefits. And maybe, in the process, solve the puzzle of our very existence. Well, almost.

In The Puzzler, Jacobs meets the most zealous devotees, enters (sometimes with his family in tow) any puzzle competition that will have him, unpacks the history of the most popular puzzles, and aims to solve the most impossible head-scratchers, from a mutant Rubik’s Cube, to the hardest corn maze in America, to the most sadistic jigsaw. Chock-full of unforgettable adventures and original examples from around the world—including new work by Greg Pliska, one of America’s top puzzle-makers, and a hidden, super-challenging but solvable puzzle that will earn the first reader to crack it a $10,000 prize*—The Puzzler will open readers’ eyes to the power of flexible thinking and concentration. Whether you’re puzzle obsessed or puzzle hesitant, you’ll walk away with real problem-solving strategies and pathways toward becoming a better thinker and decision maker—for these are certainly puzzling times.

I'm a puzzle solver and a scrabble player. I love a good word search. I love Wordle. I guess you could call me a word nerd. The Puzzler by A.J. Jacobs sounds like a fun read... and it is contains a puzzle too. Published by Crown just this past April, this read is on my wishlist.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Memoir Monday...

 


Amy Bloom began to notice changes in her husband, Brian: He retired early from a new job he loved; he withdrew from close friendships; he talked mostly about the past. Suddenly, it seemed there was a glass wall between them, and their long walks and talks stopped. Their world was altered forever when an MRI confirmed what they could no longer ignore: Brian had Alzheimer’s disease.

Forced to confront the truth of the diagnosis and its impact on the future he had envisioned, Brian was determined to die on his feet, not live on his knees. Supporting each other in their last journey together, Brian and Amy made the unimaginably difficult and painful decision to go to Dignitas, an organization based in Switzerland that empowers a person to end their own life with dignity and peace.

In this heartbreaking and surprising memoir, Bloom sheds light on a part of life we so often shy away from discussing—its ending.

I've read fiction by Amy Bloom over the years, but this is not fiction. And no matter how many books you've written, or how famous (or not famous) you are, Alzheimer's doesn't care. It will invade and devastate. This is what Amy Bloom and her husband must deal with in her memoir, In Love

"In Love is an unforgettable portrait of a beautiful marriage, and a boundary-defying love."

This book has gotten so much praise, high recommendations and it received a Star Review from Kirkus. It seems it all stems from the wonderful writing of Amy Bloom and the way she writes about the subject, not as just a disease, but of a love story that the disease just can't crush. Published by Randomhouse this past March. On my book list...

Monday, June 13, 2022

Memoir Monday... and a Great Father's Day Gift!



The Baseball 100 by Joe Posnanski... A magnum opus from acclaimed baseball writer Joe Posnanski, The Baseball 100 is an audacious, singular, and masterly book that took a lifetime to write. The entire story of baseball rings through a countdown of the 100 greatest players in history, with a foreword by George Will.

Longer than Moby-Dick and nearly as ambitious,​The Baseball 100 is a one-of-a-kind work by award-winning sportswriter and lifelong student of the game Joe Posnanski that tells the story of the sport through the remarkable lives of its 100 greatest players. In the book’s introduction, Pulitzer Prize–winning commentator George F. Will marvels, “Posnanski must already have lived more than 200 years. How else could he have acquired such a stock of illuminating facts and entertaining stories about the rich history of this endlessly fascinating sport?”

Baseball’s legends come alive in these pages, which are not merely rankings but vibrant profiles of the game’s all-time greats. Posnanski dives into the biographies of iconic Hall of Famers, unfairly forgotten All-Stars, talents of today, and more. He doesn’t rely just on records and statistics—he lovingly retraces players’ origins, illuminates their characters, and places their accomplishments in the context of baseball’s past and present. Just how good a pitcher is Clayton Kershaw in the twenty-first- century game compared to Greg Maddux dueling with the juiced hitters of the nineties? How do the career and influence of Hank Aaron compare to Babe Ruth’s? Which player in the top ten most deserves to be resurrected from history?

No compendium of baseball’s legendary geniuses could be complete without the players of the segregated Negro Leagues, men whose extraordinary careers were largely overlooked by sportswriters at the time and unjustly lost to history. Posnanski writes about the efforts of former Negro Leaguers to restore sidelined Black athletes to their due honor, and draws upon the deep troves of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and extensive interviews with the likes of Buck O’Neil to illuminate the accomplishments of players such as pitchers Satchel Paige and Smokey Joe Williams; outfielders Oscar Charleston, Monte Irvin, and Cool Papa Bell; first baseman Buck Leonard; shortstop Pop Lloyd; catcher Josh Gibson; and many, many more.

The Baseball 100 treats readers to the whole rich pageant of baseball history in a single volume. Chapter by chapter, Posnanski invites readers to examine common lore with brand-new eyes and learn stories that have long gone unheard. The epic and often emotional reading experience mirrors Posnanski’s personal odyssey to capture the history and glory of baseball like no one else, fueled by his boundless love for the sport.

When I read about this book, I immediately thought of my husband. He's such an avid baseball fan. But fan doesn't even come close to his knowledge of baseball and it's subtle intricacies. I can see him debating the choices and the players that Joe Posnanski ranks in his 100 of the greatest players of baseball and I think that any fan of the game would have fun doing it as well. Published by Avid Reader Press (a division of Simon Schuster) in 2021, I think this would make a great Father's Day gift for the guy who loves baseball... 

Friday, June 10, 2022

First Lines Friday...


"Anna regularly dreamed about killing him. About creeping up on him and swiftly running the blade across his throat. That was why, on this particular morning, she didn’t sit up in bed with a jolt but calmly linked as she woke from yet another dream that left a kaleidoscope of violent images on the inside of her eyelids and filled her with excitement..."   from The Corpse Flower by Anne Mette Hancock

Any time I hear Scandinavian Noir my ears perk up. I love Scandinavian writing, and particularly Scandinavian Thriller/Noir. So, when I read a little about The Corpse Flower I wanted to find out more. From the authors agency page at the Nordin Agency, this is what I read...

"In 2017 she made her debut as an author with The Corpse Flower, where we are introduced to journalist Heloise Kaldan and police officer Erik Schäfer. This poignant suspense novel awarded her with the Danish Crime Academy’s debutant prize in 2017. The second book in the series, The Collector, was published in 2018 to great acclaim. That very year Anne Mette Hancock was named Author of the year in Denmark. Her third novel Pitbull was published in January 2020 and went straight to the top of the Danish bestseller chart."

I'm all in now after reading all that about her. I was able to read the first 4 chapters and thought the writing was really good too. The Corpse Flower was published by Crooked Lane Publishing October of last year. The Collector is scheduled to be released Nov 8, 2022. And there is no date yet for the release of Pitbull in the US, but if the first two books do well, I'm sure we'll see it released in the US as well. Anne Mette Hancock's characters, journalist Heloise Kaldan and police officer, Erik Schafer are the investigators in the ongoing series. The Corpse Flower is on my nightstand...

Monday, June 6, 2022

Memoir Monday... Can We Talk About It?


Code Talker, The first and only memoir by one of the original Navajo code talkers of WWII by Chester New...

His name wasn’t Chester Nez. That was the English name he was assigned in kindergarten. And in boarding school at Fort Defiance, he was punished for speaking his native language, as the teachers sought to rid him of his culture and traditions. But discrimination didn’t stop Chester from answering the call to defend his country after Pearl Harbor, for the Navajo have always been warriors, and his upbringing on a New Mexico reservation gave him the strength—both physical and mental—to excel as a marine.

During World War II, the Japanese had managed to crack every code the United States used. But when the Marines turned to its Navajo recruits to develop and implement a secret military language, they created the only unbroken code in modern warfare—and helped assure victory for the United States over Japan in the South Pacific.

I have always been fascinated by the WWII Code Talkers. It's such an amazing part of history and an important one. Imagine the dedication these young men had to fight for their country, the country that pretty much turned its back on the Indians and their culture, forcing them off their land. 

"On August 7, 1942, U.S. Marines of the 1st Marine Division hit the beaches of Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and the Florida islands in the first land offensive against Japan. Of the 11,000 Marines who landed, 15 were Navajo Code Talkers. This was to be their inaugural test in battle—three months after they’d been initially sworn in at Fort Wingate, New Mexico on May 4, 1942. In those three months, the code talkers went through basic training, underwent extensive instruction in radio operation and message transmittal, and developed and memorized a code that not even other native Navajo speakers could decipher."

Navajo Code Talkers Day was established by President Ronald Reagan on August 14, 1982. In 2014, Arizona passed legislation declaring every August 14 Navajo Code Talkers Day in Arizona. And every year around this time, there is a special Ham Radio Event commemorating the history of the Navajo Code Talkers. I had the privilege to talk to a relative of one of the Code Talkers on my ham radio last August. It was an honor and such an interesting conversation. I look forward to reading Code Talker by Chester Nez, published by Dutton Caliber, a boutique imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, in 2011. 

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Relatively Normal by Whitney Dineen... A Review

 


Relatively Normal by Whitney Dineen...

Whitney Dineen sure knows how to add fun to her stories and Relatively Normal is a wonderful example. High School sweethearts Sam and Cat have their whole lives planned out, or so Cat thought until Sam breaks her heart. 14 years later the fun begins again, but not how you'd expect. Cat is engaged, bringing her fiancé and his parents home for a true Scottish Thanksgiving. What is a true Scottish Thanksgiving? You have no idea... But hold that thought because things are going to get even crazier... Cat's parents welcome her future in-laws with open arms AND have invited Cat's ex and HIS parents! What?!? Oh yes, and this is where the real fun begins! As the story unfolds, Cat must decide to play it safe or gamble with her heart once again in a scenario that seems all too familiar, and her "good girl" practical self is struggling to not lose the battle.

Relatively Normal is a fun RomCom (translation: romantic comedy), with a quirky cast of characters that will warm your heart. Whitney Dineen is a master with her writing abilities and she proves it with this delight of a tale. The story did not slow down for me at all, kept my attention and made me want to open the book every chance I got. I loved it! A light fun read that any type of reader will surely enjoy. Put this one on your TBR list! I read the eBook, Published by Whitney in 2018.

Friday, June 3, 2022

First Lines Friday...

 


June 12, 1954… The drive from Salina to Morgen was three hours, and for much of it, Emmett hadn’t said a word; For the first sixty miles of so, Warden Williams had made an effort at friendly conversation. He had told a few stories about his childhood back East and asked a few questions about Emmett’s on the farm. But this was the last they’d be together, and Emmett didn’t see much sense in going into all of that now. So when they crossed the border from Kansas into Nebraska and the warden turned on the radio, Emmett stared out the window a the prairie, keeping his thoughts to himself.

                                                 ... The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles


We will be reading The Lincoln Highway next month as a reading group pick. We had read Amor Towles wildly popular previous book, A Gentleman in Moscow and everyone had enjoyed the story and the writing, so we have high hopes for this book. Published last October by Viking (a division of PenguinRandomhouse), this book has garnered a lot of praise and starred reviews. Click on the link to read an excerpt of The Lincoln Highway

Monday, May 30, 2022

Memoir Monday... a Children's book to understand Memorial Day...

 Memorial Day is a day of remembrance. It's a day honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. It is a somber day, not a day of celebration. One way to honor these brave men and women is to not forget... Not to forget the ultimate sacrifice they gave and the difficulties they endured. 

In a children's book, The Wall by Eve Bunting we find a way to teach our children the importance of Memorial Day...

The Wall by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ronald Himler... A young boy and his father visit the Veterans Memorial to find Grandpa's name. What makes "The Wall" so moving is that instead of answering questions it will get children to ask them. A great book to open discussion with the class about war and it's consequences.

 School Library Journal reviews The Wall as: "A sensitive and moving picture book, and a great discussion book as well."

Sunday, May 29, 2022

The Sunday Salon...and some Library Love

 


Welcome to The Sunday Salon! It's that day of the week bloggers gather all over in a virtual library and chat about books! Pull up a chair, pour yourself a cup of Java and relax..


Here's my Library books this week. It's funny how it's feast or famine sometimes when you request books. When they're not available and you have to wait for them to come back to the library, and wait for your turn, sometimes they all come in at once! And that's what happened to me this week. I'm excited though! I picked up The Charm Bracelet while I waited for the new Jennifer McMahon book, The Children on The Hill, and then read some great reviews about The Love of My Life by Rosie Walsh and requested that when it came back in. Wow, I have some great reading ahead of me...

The Children on The Hill by Jennifer McMahon...

1978: At her renowned treatment center in picturesque Vermont, the brilliant psychiatrist, Dr. Helen Hildreth, is acclaimed for her compassionate work with the mentally ill. But when she’s home with her cherished grandchildren, Vi and Eric, she’s just Gran—teaching them how to take care of their pets, preparing them home-cooked meals, providing them with care and attention and love. 
Then one day Gran brings home a child to stay with the family. Iris—silent, hollow-eyed, skittish, and feral—does not behave like a normal girl. Still, Violet is thrilled to have a new playmate. She and Eric invite Iris to join their Monster Club, where they catalogue all kinds of monsters and dream up ways to defeat them. Before long, Iris begins to come out of her shell. She and Vi and Eric do everything together: ride their bicycles, go to the drive-in, meet at their clubhouse in secret to hunt monsters. Because, as Vi explains, monsters are everywhere. 2019: Lizzy Shelley, the host of the popular podcast Monsters Among Us, is traveling to Vermont, where a young girl has been abducted, and a monster sighting has the town in an uproar. She’s determined to hunt it down, because Lizzy knows better than anyone that monsters are real—and one of them is her very own sister.

I love the writing of Jennifer McMahon! I am never disappointed. She writes suspense stories, sprinkling in a bit of a ghost story here and there and always with some great twists and turns. The Children on The Hill was released in April by Scout Press. BTW, one of my favorite Jennifer McMahon book is Dismantled... check that one out too! 

The Love of My Life by Rosie Walsh...

Emma loves her husband Leo and their young daughter Ruby: she’d do anything for them. But almost everything she's told them about herself is a lie. And she might just have got away with it, if it weren’t for her husband’s job. Leo is an obituary writer; Emma a well-known marine biologist. When she suffers a serious illness, Leo copes by doing what he knows best – researching and writing about his wife’s life. But as he starts to unravel the truth, he discovers the woman he loves doesn’t really exist. Even her name isn’t real. When the very darkest moments of Emma’s past finally emerge, she must somehow prove to Leo that she really is the woman he always thought she was . . But first, she must tell him about the other love of her life.
Rosie Walsh is a new author to me. I was reading reviews a few weeks ago and came across a starred review of The Love of My Life from Kirkus Reviews. Sounded great, lots more literary love for it on the internet, and I found it available to request at my local library! I can't wait to dive into this one too! Published by Pamela Dorman Books this past March, it's available now at your local bookstore OR your local library. Want to read an excerpt? Here's a link to Chapter One of The Love of My Life.

Libraries are a great source for reading material. In my little town in South Carolina, our library is part of the County and 3 other library towns. We can check books out of any of them, which helps if my local branch doesn't have the book I want, but one of the other branches do. And this included eBooks too!

Do you use your library? 

I'm about half way thru The Charm Bracelet by Viola Shipman and am enjoying it. It's a very light read, just what a summer afternoon almost requires. I believe these other books will have a bit more meat on their bones, but still qualify as summer reads, which tend to be more relaxing reads. 

I do have on my TBR list some much heavier books because I was reading about The International Booker Award for this year and everything (except for the winner) sounded so interesting. First, what is The Booker Award?

"The International Booker Prize is awarded annually for a single book, translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland."

And the winner this year was Tomb of Sand written by Geetanjali Shree and translated by Daisy Rockwell. When a majority of the reviews I read said it was work to get thru the novel, I pause before enthusiastically picking it up. And I wonder sometimes why certain novels win these awards. It may be that this book checks off some serious politically correct boxes? You can read about Tomb of Sand here. But quite a few of the other books really caught my eye... Let's talk about them later this week...

Let me know what the last library book you took out was! And do you follow book awards? Stop back later in the week and I'll talk about those International Booker Prize runners up...

Happy Reading... Suzanne

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