Literary Quote of the Month

“For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough)—they are experiences,” … Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Sunday Salon & The Best Books of 2013





Welcome to The Sunday Salon! It's the day of the week we devote to talking books! So, pull up a chair, pour yourself a cup of Joe and get comfy! Let's talk books……

I hope everyone's Christmas was nice! Did you get bookish presents?! Being a voracious reader has it's drawbacks when receiving gifts. Sometimes people hesitate to buy you books because they think you already have every book in the store, but we always appreciate a book and we readers simply do not have every book published! (or not quite)…

It's also the end of the year! And what do you always find in the media at the end of the year? The Best of Lists! Some of these lists actually start to come out way before the end of the year, but how can they have the best of when there's still months of publishing to go!?! So, I scoured the Best Books of 2013 lists that have come out recently to see what some of the big names have to say… that is Goodreads, The New York Times, NPR, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Publisher's Weekly, and The Guardian, and found books that seem to be showing up on multiple lists. Here are some of the books that made the mark…

Some Notable Fiction:
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
A Constellaton of Vital Phenomenon
The Wool Trilogy by Hugh Howey
The House Girl by Tara Conklin
A Tale For the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Z A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Theresa Anne Fowler
Wool Trilogy by Hugh Howey
                                Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang, a Graphic Novel


Some notable Memoirs & True Stories:
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala
The Lost Girls: an unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker

Some notable Children's books:
Mr. Wuffles by David Weisner
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

What books are missing? What did you read that is on YOUR Best Books of 2013 list? Here are a few that I enjoyed, aren't on any "The Best of" list and I recommend…

Wild by Cheryl Strayed… Memoir. Twenty-something girl screws life up, divorces her best friend, gets into drugs and hits rock bottom. Decides to take a hike… literally, and the result is this amazing journey and memoir. I loved it!

Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky… Romance. More than a romance, there's a  Perfect beach read. Wonderful story. I just fell in love with the characters and felt like I could feel the cool breeze off the lake on my skin as I read it!

The Last First Day by Carrie Brown… Fiction. Wonderful slow paced story of the life of a married couple. it will quietly hit you when your not expecting it at the end. The story stayed with me for some time afterwards.

Want to see what's on "The Lists"? Here is a sampling of the "Best Books 2013 Lists" and their links…..

Goodreads Choice Awards 2013 After 1,953,770 votes were cast, Goodreads put together this very comprehensive list, dividing the books up by genre, such as Best Horror, Best Historical Fiction and Best Food & Cookbooks. A great list!

The Atlantic Magazine serves us The Best Food Books 2013 This list is wonderful for the Foodie! I've heard of a few of the cookbooks, but I definitely will be checking out a few of these gems, such as the newly reissued Cooking for Crowds by Merry White and One Good Dish by David Tanis.

Publisher's Weekly Best Books 2013  shares their top 10 of the year.

NPR gives us their Guide to Best Reads 2013 The staff at NPR was tired of coming up with a list of Best Books, so they decided to reach out to their book critics and staff for recommendations of great reads. Their list comes from the 200 responses they received. Oops, sorry it's not a "list", it's a "book concierge". In any case, it's a great source with book descriptions if you hover your mouse over the title.

The New York Times lists their 10 Best Books of 2013 choices.

If you are a Kindle owner, Amazon has a Kindle Edition of their Best Books of 2013 selections, and it's free! Otherwise, here's the link to Amazon's Best Books of 2013 section of their website.

And if none of these satisfies your Best of Lists, you can always Google "Best Books of 2013" for pages and pages of what everyone else thinks. But what are these lists really for? Is it just a popularity list? Are these books the ones that got the most push from the publishers? Where as a name like J.K. Rowling means automatic success in selling a multitude of books, would her book be on a "best of list" if it weren't for that? My feelings on "The Best Books" list is that it's fun to see what everyone liked, and it's fun to see if the books you liked appear on any of the lists. Best Books lists are also great starting points in finding fresh reading for yourself.

The end of the year brings us "The Best of Lists" and the beginning of a new year brings us… resolutions! Or in the case of the reader… Challenges! So, next Sunday Salon, I'll be bringing you some reading Challenges hosted by some great reading blogs. All you need to participate in any of these challenges is the love of reading, and an internet connection, so you may want to join in on some of the fun! And starting January 2nd, I'll be posting what Challenges I'll be participating in! BTW, First one I've signed up for is The Chunkster Challenge, which is all about reading FAT books!

Hope you've found some interesting books here today! Share what is on YOUR Best Books of 2013 list! I'd love to hear about them! And I'll list them for everyone else to know too!

Happy reading… Suzanne

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Wanderers by Paul Stutzman… A Review

An Amish Love Story About Hope and Finding Home

Everything in God’s nature, Johnny observed, did what it was created to do. Everything, that is, except the human race. Johnny was born into an Amish family, into a long line of farmers and good businessmen. He is expected to follow the traditions of family and church as he grows to adulthood. But even as a boy, he questions whether he can be satisfied with this lifestyle. He wants “more” — more education, more travel, more opportunity.

His restlessness leads him down a dangerous road where too much partying and drinking result in heartbreaking consequences. He’s adrift, and no one seems to be able to help him find his direction.

Then he meets spunky Annie, who seems pure and lovely and devoted to her God. Her past, though, holds sin and heartbreak. She was a worm, she explains, but God has transformed her into a butterfly. Johnny falls hopelessly in love; and eventually he, too, finds the power of God to transform lives. Settling down on the family farm, he forgets about the questions and the restlessness, thinking that he is happy and at home, at last.

But in a few short hours, tragedy changes his life forever, and he is again wondering… and wandering on a very long journey.

Entwined with Johnny and Annie’s story is the allegory of two Monarch butterflies, worms who have been transformed into amazing creatures specially chosen to carry out the miracle of the fourth generation. They, too, must undertake a long journey before they finally find home.

First Chapter Thoughts: We meet Johnny, born into the Amish life, but struggling against it. The first line of the book and chapter, hint that this isn't your typical Amish boy…"I was ten when I had my first taste of beer." The last line tempts you into reading more… "I was an Amish man living the dream. Until it was all taken from me." I felt right from the start that Johnny was a complicated character, and this just showed the beginning of the richness of Paul Stutzman's characters.

What did I think of The Wanderers? There's a quiet calm to Paul Stutzman's book, The Wanderers. The writing is hypnotizing, the story is wonderful and the characters just wrap around your heart, especially Johnny and Annie. A simple love story that will capture your heart, but also a story of acceptance, redemption and finding ones' place in the world.

I have never read any Amish literature. There are plenty of authors who base their stories in the Amish way of life, but my choice to read The Wanderers was because the love story between Johnny and Annie seemed so sweet, and I liked the idea of Monarch butterflies playing a part of the story. What's refreshing is that there is no blatant sex. Love, God and family play a major part of the structuring of the story and the reader can breath a sign of relief that the story itself is so good, that we don't need to be distracted. We enter the Amish world, but are not stationed there. We experience the way of life and as we walk outside of it, we can see and understand the differences. The characters Johnny and Annie are not perfect, but are written with a beautiful human quality that overpowers their flaws and makes the reader empathize with them. The Monarch butterflies- well, that is a sweet surprise for you to discover. They have their own story intertwined with Johnny and Annie, but written separate from them.  Simply put, The Wanderers was a wonderful read, and I would definitely recommend it if you enjoy Amish fiction, enjoy love stories and don't need all the sex, and basically enjoy relaxing with a good book that will break your heart in spots, but also make you smile in others.

I want to thank Pump Up Your Book and Paul Stutzman for including me in the Virtual Tour of The Wanderers and sending along a review copy of the book! You can read more about Paul and his new book at Paul's Website! The Wanderers is available on Kindle! Click on the title for more info.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Twas The Night Before Christmas...

Merry Christmas Everyone! Enjoy this reading of Twas The Night Before Christmas...

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Sunday Salon and The Gifts of Christmas...


Welcome to The Sunday Salon! It's that time of the week we get together with other bookish people and talk about bookish things. So find a comfy chair, pour yourself some hot cocoa and relax!

It's just a few days before Christmas! Have you finished your Christmas shopping?! We took a drive today to enjoy the unseasonable warm winter weather (it was 67 degrees! in Connecticut) and as we drove through the "city" part of our drive, there were droves of people crowding the stores. This year I did most of my Christmas shopping online. This year is also the first year, and hopefully the last year, that I am in a wheelchair for any trips out to the store. It is definitely not easy being in a wheelchair, and  with aisles stuffed with all sorts of wonderful things to buy, sometimes it is hard to get around, hard to hold more than a few things, hard to hold a basket. I have new found empathy for people who have to use a wheelchair permanently, and look forward to being able to walk again someday. And so, most of my shopping was online. Etsy being one stop… have you ever shopped at Etsy?! It is filled with amazing craftsy people, artists and wonderful objects. I can't reveal what I purchased because I don't want to reveal what I bought for certain people, but suffice it to say there were some beautiful things sent through the mail.

I received an early Christmas present from my Secret Elf! This year I participated in the Goodreads, Books on the Nightstand, Secret Santa gift exchange. It was organized by Ann Kingman of Books on the Nightstand, that great podcast hosted by Ann and Michael Kindness, with the help of 4 other "Elfs" through Elfster.com and was so much fun! Everyone who joined in on the fun randomly got a name of another bookish person, and then the fun began! We were to send something on the person's wish list or thing of some other bookish gift(s) to give with a limit of $25. My Secret Elf was none other than Michael Kindness himself! I'm such a fan that the package from him would have been enough, but inside my package were two wonderful books, both of which were on my wish list. Here they are…

Aimless Love, new and selected poems by Billy Collins… from Booklist: Collins, or the speaker in his poems, watches himself with helpless bemusement as he lives “a life of continual self-expression, / jotting down little things.” Obsessive “noticing” gets him into all sorts of trouble, as recounted so wryly, so tenderly in “Aimless Love,” the poem that gives this vital and shrewdly provocative volume its title and in which the speaker records his sequential ardor for a wren, a mouse, and a bar of soap. In selections from his four most recent collections, from Nine Horses (2002) to Horoscopes for the Dead (2011), and 51 glimmering new poems, former poet laureate and reader favorite Collins, the maestro of the running-brook line and the clever pivot, celebrates the resonance and absurdity of what might be called the poet’s attention-surfeit disorder. He nimbly mixes the timeless––the sun, loneliness—with the fidgety, digital now. Some poems are funny from the opening gambit to the closing flourish. But Collins’ droll wit is often a diversionary tactic, so that when he strikes you with the hard edge of his darker visions, you reel.

I really enjoy Billy Collins' poems. They are not ornamental or filled with curly cues, but down to earth and sparse only to the point of getting his point across. He has a dry wit that is showcased in his poems and they are just simply enjoyable to read. Billy Collins was also the poet laureate for the US for two years. What is a poet laureate? Here's the official word from Wikipedia:

Laureates receive a US$35,000 stipend and are given the responsibility of overseeing an ongoing series of poetry readings and lectures at the library, and a charge to promote poetry. No other duties are specified, and laureates are not required to compose for government events or in praise of government officials. However, after the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001, the then Poet Laureate, Billy Collins, was asked to write a poem to be read in front of a special joint session of Congress. Collins wrote "The Names" which he read on September 6, 2002, which is available in streaming audio and video.

There are voracious readers who never consider reading poetry. I find that poetry can be fun, comforting, inspirational. What do you think? Poetry reader or not? If you are new to poetry and want to try some contemporary poems, I would definitely recommend Billy Collins! And Aimless Love by Billy Collins is a great collection!

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt & illustrated by Oliver Jeffers… Crayons have feelings, too! Poor Duncan just wants to color. But when he opens his box of crayons, he finds only letters, all saying the same thing: His crayons have had enough! They quit! Beige Crayon is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown Crayon. Black wants to be used for more than just outlining. Blue needs a break from coloring all those bodies of water. And Orange and Yellow are no longer speaking—each believes he is the true color of the sun. What can Duncan possibly do to appease all of the crayons and get them back to doing what they do best?

This book is hilarious! Of course Crayons have feelings! Black is happy that he's used quite a bit, but geez, why does he only get to outline everything?! Why do all the other colors get to be used to color in? Can't he have some fun too! And poor Pink! Pink never gets used! Why it's been over a year and that was just because Duncan's Sister used it! And Blue is very happy because it gets used a lot, but it's so short now it can't see over the wall anymore. Each Crayon writes Duncan a letter, and illustrates some of their points. It is fun and would be a great book for children- especially to have them try and use the colors for things they would not ordinarily use them for! (Even my Hubby thought this book was creative).

This week on Chick with Books, stop by Tuesday, Dec. 24th for a reading of Twas The Night Before Christmas on the Blog. It will be available all day and through Christmas, so if you'd like to relax and have someone read to you, this is the spot! Check it out, you won't be disappointed!

And the rest of the week will be quiet and I'll be enjoying time spent with family and friends. Next Sunday, will be close to New Years and the END OF THE YEAR. There have been "Best of Year" book lists for months now, but I like to wait until the end of the year to let all those "late" published books in on the list. So, next Sunday we'll take a look at the best of 2013.

Until then… I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!

Suzanne

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Sunday Salon and "Snow" books...

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! It's that time of the week where we sit down, relax and talk books. So get comfy, pour yourself a cup of hot cocoa and let's talk…

Yesterday was the first day the snow came down steadily. It was windy and cold and the sky got dark around 4pm. No use in getting out the snow shovels until the morning after, because it snowed until late at night. This morning the sun smiled down on all that beautiful snow and the sound of plows, blowers and shovels could be heard echoing down the streets. So, I thought today we'd talk about "snow" books…


Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon… from Goodreads: In this elegant, haunting, and highly anticipated debut novel from 5 Under 35 National Book Foundation honoree Paul Yoon, a North Korean war refugee confronts the wreckage of his past. With spare, evocative prose, Snow Hunters traces the extraordinary journey of Yohan, who defects from his country at the end of the war, leaving his friends and family behind to seek a new life in a port town on the coast of Brazil. Though he is a stranger in a strange land, throughout the years in this town, four people slip in and out of Yohan’s life: Kiyoshi, the Japanese tailor for whom he works, and who has his own secrets and a past he does not speak of; Peixe, the groundskeeper at the town church; and two vagrant children named Santi and Bia, a boy and a girl, who spend their days in the alleyways and the streets of the town. Yohan longs to connect with these people, but to do so he must sift through his traumatic past so he might let go and move on. In Snow Hunters, Yoon proves that love can dissolve loneliness; that hope can wipe away despair; and that a man who has lost a country can find a new home. This is a heartrending story of second chances, told with unerring elegance and absolute tenderness.

Paul Yoon is one of the authors to keep your eye out for. He has gotten such praise as being one of the up and coming young authors of the day. This book has gotten great reviews and should showcase what is wonderful writing. I did enjoy his novel of short stories called Once the Shore, so Snow Hunters is on my "To Read" list now. Snow Hunters is available in a Kindle Edition, and Paperback now.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See…  A journey back to a captivating era of Chinese history where the journey delves into one of the most mysterious of human relationships: female friendship. In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, an “old same,” in an emotional match that will last a lifetime. The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she has written a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret, away from the influence of men. As the years pass, Lily and Snow Flower send messages on the fan and compose stories on handkerchiefs, reaching out of isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. Together they endure the agony of footbinding and reflect upon their arranged marriages, their loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace in their friendship, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their relationship suddenly threatens to tear apart.

This is one of my all time favorite books! If you have a girlfriend, a BFF, or a Sister, this is a great book to share with them. The characters are wonderful, those two little girls will wrap themselves around your heart, and after you are done reading Snow Flower and The Secret Fan, the story will stay with you for a long long time. Here are the links for the Kindle Edition and the Paperback Edition .

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi… In the winter of 1953, Boy Novak arrives by chance in a small town in Massachusetts, looking, she believes, for beauty—the opposite of the life she’s left behind in New York. She marries a local widower and becomes stepmother to his winsome daughter, Snow Whitman. A wicked stepmother is a creature Boy never imagined she’d become, but elements of the familiar tale of aesthetic obsession begin to play themselves out when the birth of Boy’s daughter, Bird, who is dark-skinned, exposes the Whitmans as light-skinned African Americans passing for white. Among them, Boy, Snow, and Bird confront the tyranny of the mirror to ask how much power surfaces really hold.

This book has gotten a lot of great pre-publication praise. Helen Oyeyemi's writing is suppose to be beautiful. A very controversial subject matter in such a deft hand should make this a great book club selection, but I think this is going to be one of those break out reads with a wider audience. Write this one down because you'll have to wait until March 6th 2014 for this to be out, but here you can pre-order Boy, Snow, Bird: A Novel.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Guest Post with Paul Stutzman… Butterflies and Amish


Paul Stutzman was born in Holmes County, Ohio in an Amish family. His family left the Amish lifestyle soon after Paul was born. They joined a strict Conservative Mennonite Church where Paul was raised to fear God and obey all the rules the church demanded. Paul continued to live among and mingle with his Amish friends and relatives his entire life. Paul married a Mennonite girl and remained in the Amish community working and raising a family. After Paul lost his wife to cancer, he sensed a tug on his heart- the call to a challenge, the call to pursue a dream. With a mixture of dread and determination, Paul left his job, traveled to Georgia, and took his first steps on the 2,176 mile Appalachian Trail. What he learned during the next four and a half months changed his life-and can change yours too.

After completing his trek Stutzman wrote Hiking Through—a book about this life changing journey. In another adventure where he pedaled 5000 miles across America he wrote Biking Across America.  Now Paul Stutzman has written his first novel entitled The Wanderers, a story about Johnny, a young Amish boy growing up in a culture he is not sure he wants to embrace. A young Amish girl named Annie wins his heart and life is great for a time. Entwined with Johnny and Annie’s story is the allegory of two Monarch butterflies.

Chick with Books is thrilled to have Paul Stutzman stop by today to share a bit of himself and insight into his writing. Join me in a warm welcome to Paul!

Butterflies and Amish

Writing my first novel, The Wanderers, I devoted my pen (well, keyboard, in my case) to truths and the truth—truths about our journey through life and the truth about a people very much in the spotlight today, the Amish.

The seeds for the book were planted years ago by my wife’s love of Monarchs. Every fall she would hunt out milkweed plants and find a tiny Monarch worm munching away on its leaves. She’d bring that worm home, keep it in a mason jar covered with a screen, and watch the process of an unseemly worm being transformed into a beautiful butterfly. She celebrated the emergence of the butterfly as a new birth, and released it to spread its wings and fly away. The Monarch butterfly migrates in the fall, and its story is amazing; it takes four generations to complete one cycle of migration.

My wife passed away from breast cancer on September 7, 2006. On the evening of her funeral, I fell into an exhausted sleep on my recliner. Around 2:00 AM, a fluttering sound awakened me. Flying in circles above me was a Monarch butterfly. One of Mary’s friends, knowing how much my wife loved Monarchs, had created a flower arrangement that included a branch with a chrysalis attached. The butterfly had emerged while I slept—on the very night of my wife’s funeral. I was amazed. As a spiritual person, I took that as a sign that God was showing me He had transformed my wife from an earthly creature into a heavenly one.

I released the butterfly into the cold September night. Over the next several years, as I recovered from the loss of my wife, I was often reminded of that butterfly. It was fourth generation, the generation that was genetically equipped to make the long pilgrimage of migration. What happened to that butterfly? Did it survive its long journey?

I wrote the account of that night in an early chapter of my first book, Hiking Through, the story of my journey through grief. But the questions and the fascination with the Monarch’s story never left me.

So when I began to write about the Monarch, I found that the butterfly’s story is an allegory that parallels many experiences in our own journeys. This opened another opportunity for me. I have long been disgusted with the portrayal of the Amish in many of today’s movies, books, and television shows. I was born into an Amish home and have lived all of my life in the middle of a large Amish community. I wanted folks to know that most of what they see in today’s media is sensationalized and exaggerated. I wanted to write about the Amish as accurately as I know them.

And so I paired the allegory of the Monarch’s story with the love story of two young Amish people, and the result is The Wanderers, a story of transformation, love, wandering, and looking for a place we call home.  
                                      *****************************************

Thank you Paul for sharing a bit of yourself in such a heartfelt post and sharing your writing process on Chick with Books today!

Want to learn more about Paul? Here's a link to the author's website. Want to read the first chapter of The Wanderers?! You can find the first chapter at Pump Up Your Book Virtual Tours! The premise of The Wanderers sounds wonderful and I can't wait to open the pages of the book myself! I'll be sharing my review of The Wanderers  on Dec. 26th!

Monday, December 9, 2013

An American Bride in Kabul by Phyllis Chesler... a Review

I was immediately drawn into the story of how a young bride innocently  ventures into the foreign homeland of her new Afghan groom, and is totally blindsided. Author Phyllis Chesler's writing is captivating as she recounts her life as an "American Bride in Kabul". Dealing with the cultural differences was hard enough, but also having to deal with her new Mother-in-law, and a husband that suddenly seemed a stranger, made this all a nightmare.

This book is part love story, part history lesson as Ms. Chesler tells us her story and infuses it with the history of the women who have come before her and the land that she still holds dear in her heart. And it's all fascinating! I read it straight through without needing a rest. Ms. Chesler's writing is inviting, as she opens the door into a world usually not visible from the outside. She does not leave us at the door though, she guides us through, letting us virtually experience life in her Kabul.

The food, traditions, the sights & smells of the streets, and the personalities of the people Ms. Chesler lived with and met, all come alive in this memoir of an innocence lost. One of the better memoir's I've read this year, I would recommend An American Bride in Kabul to anyone who is interested in different cultures, women's right and memoirs. The love story between Ms. Chesler and her Afghan groom is worth the read itself, but An American Bride in Kabul is not a romance in the conventional sense, the central theme is really the cultural differences of the treatment of women.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Sunday Salon and Holiday Themed Novels

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! It's the day of the week where we sit down and talk books. So, pull up a chair, get comfy, grab a cup of joe and relax. The Christmas season seems to be flying by fast with just a little over 2 weeks until Christmas. Are you done with your Christmas shopping?! Are you taking time for yourself to relax? Sometimes Christmas can be a hectic, stressful time of year. So, today's post is about relaxing with a good Christmas themed book, that let's you slip out of hectic and remember what the season is all about with these stories that find hope, romance and miracles within their pages. Here are some novels that I found that may just fit the bill….

The Snowglobe by Sheila Roberts… On a blustery afternoon, Kylie Gray wanders into an antique shop and buys an enchanting snow globe.  “There’s a story behind that snow globe,” the antique dealer tells her.  The original owner, he explains, was a German toymaker who lost his wife and son right before Christmas.  When the grieving widower received the handcrafted snow globe as a Christmas gift, he saw the image of a beautiful woman beneath the glass—a woman who would come into his life, mend his broken heart and bring him back to the world of the living.  For years, the snow globe has passed from generation to generation, somehow always landing in the hands of a person in special need of a Christmas miracle.

Every year my book club reads one of Sheila Roberts Christmas theme novels. This was the first that we read and it was wonderful, charming and was like a nice cup of cocoa on a cold wintry night. Sheila knows how to write characters that we can relate to and like. Her books have wonderful romance without the need for overtly sexual scenes. And this book is short, under 200 pages, and should be easy to fit into a busy schedule.

Candlelight Christmas by Susan Wiggs… A single father who yearns to be a family man, Logan O'Donnell is determined to create the perfect Christmas for his son, Charlie. The entire O'Donnell clan arrives to spend the holidays in Avalon, a postcard-pretty town on the shores of Willow Lake, a place for the family to reconnect and rediscover the special gifts of the season. One of the guests is a newcomer to Willow Lake—Darcy Fitzgerald. Sharp-witted, independent and intent on guarding her heart, she's the last person Logan can see himself falling for. And Darcy is convinced that a relationship is the last thing she needs this Christmas. Yet between the snowy silence of the winter woods, and toasty moments by a crackling fire, their two lonely hearts collide. The magic of the season brings them each a gift neither ever expected—a love to last a lifetime.

Susan Wiggs is a favorite among romance readers, and this is her newest Christmas themed novel.


Starry Night by Debbie Macomber… Carrie Slayton, a big-city society-page columnist, longs to write more serious news stories. So her editor hands her a challenge: She can cover any topic she wants, but only if she first scores the paper an interview with Finn Dalton, the notoriously reclusive author. Living in the remote Alaskan wilderness, Finn has written a megabestselling memoir about surviving in the wild. But he stubbornly declines to speak to anyone in the press, and no one even knows exactly where he lives. Digging deep into Finn’s past, Carrie develops a theory on his whereabouts. It is the holidays, but her career is at stake, so she forsakes her family celebrations and flies out to snowy Alaska. When she finally finds Finn, she discovers a man both more charismatic and more stubborn than she even expected. And soon she is torn between pursuing the story of a lifetime and following her heart.

Another favorite in the romance category, this is Debbie Macomber's newest Christmas themed novel.

Do you enjoy Holiday themed novels? Would you read them any other time of year? I think that it's a treat that some of our favorite authors write something special for the Holiday season. A book that we can enjoy on it's own without further commitment. What are your favorite Holiday themed novels?

Hope you are enjoying the season and are able to relax a bit and open a good book. Maybe one of these books will be the answer to that!

Happy reading… Suzanne

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Sunday Salon and Black Friday Deals for the Bookish

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! It's that time of the week where we sit down and relax a bit and talk books! So find yourself a comfy chair, grab a cup of joe and let's share our passion for reading!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Here in Connecticut we had all the usual fixings, except I wasn't able to cook! My dear hubby buried himself in the kitchen as I looked from afar from my walker… which prevented me from participating in Another event --- Black Friday! Black Friday originated in Philadelphia, where the phrase was coined to describe the heavy pedestrian and vehicle traffic the day after Thanksgiving. By 1975 the term began spreading outside of Philadelphia and became better known as the busiest shopping day of the year, and the official start of the Christmas shopping season. I have participated in this ritual a few times, just for fun and not at any of the noted "crazy & dangerous" places like Walmart, but there are bargains to be had without venturing out of your house… especially for us bookish people.

First of all, if you want a wonderful eReader at a incredible price, the Nook HD 8 GB is available for only $79! That's $50 off the normal price for a eReader and Tablet that has one of the most resolute screens on the market! Now, online they are all sold out, so you need to get one at your local Barnes & Noble before the end of today! And the Nook Simple Touch, which is their basic eReader is on sale for only $39! As far as I can see, you can still get the Nook Simple Touch online at BarnesandNoble.com.
Next Black Friday bargains are at Google Play Books. Now, when Google took over my Nook HD I was not very happy. Clogging my Apps page were Google Apps I did not want. All I wanted my Nook HD for was reading, the occasional movie and email. But as I explored the Nook for it's virtues as a tablet, because I am thinking of buying one as a gift for someone who wants something to use instead of his laptop, I am rethinking the benefits of Google on my Nook. And today I just happened to click on the Google Play store and under Books it had Black Friday bargains galore! Want the Hunger Games Trilogy for your Nook? $12.99! How about Allegiant by Veronica Roth? $3.49! Dark Witch by Nora Roberts is only $2.49!!!! Wild by Cheryl Strayed is $2.49! I picked up The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, both of which were under $3.50. If you go to Google Play Bookstore, you can learn more about how you can take advantage of the bargains for your eReader. Basically you need to download the App for your Android reader and iPad/iPhone or transfer your file to your Nook, Kobo, or Sony eReader.

Finally, Barnes & Noble is offering some great books and box sets at 50% off. You can find what's offered at Barnes&Noble.com. And it seems that these bargains run thru cyber Monday. I found a few nice coffee table books there…

The Library: A World History by James Campbell and Will Pryce… Architectural historian James Campbell and photographer Will Pryce traveled the globe together, visiting and documenting over eighty libraries that exemplify the many different approaches to thinking about and designing libraries. The result of their travels, The Library: A World History is one of the first books to tell the story of library architecture around the world and through time in a single volume, from ancient Mesopotamia to modern China and from the beginnings of writing to the present day. As these beautiful and striking photos reveal, each age and culture has reinvented the library, molding it to reflect their priorities and preoccupations—and in turn mirroring the history of civilization itself. Campbell’s authoritative yet readable text recounts the history of these libraries, while Pryce’s stunning photographs vividly capture each building’s structure and atmosphere.

At 50% off this is pricey at $47.86, but what a wonderful gift. These are the kinds of books that you would rarely buy for yourself, but if someone gave you one, you would be thrilled. There are also some beautiful art books for under $20!

So, did you venture out for Black Friday? Any bargains?! And did you buy any bookish gifts yet? If you haven't yet, I hope today's Sunday Salon gave you some great ideas!

Happy Reading… Suzanne

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving Sarah Josephine Hale… and Thank You!


Happy Thanksgiving! Today is the traditional day where we enjoy the company of family & friends and remember those we could not be with. We should remember to thank Sarah Josephine Hale for her persistence in urging President Lincoln to set aside a day for such celebration…

From Sarah J. Hale to Abraham Lincoln, September 28, 1863

Sir.--

Permit me, as Editress of the "Lady's Book", to request a few minutes of your precious time, while laying before you a subject of deep interest to myself and -- as I trust -- even to the President of our Republic, of some importance. This subject is to have the day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival.

You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it now needs National recognition and authoritive fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution.

Enclosed are three papers (being printed these are easily read) which will make the idea and its progress clear and show also the popularity of the plan.

For the last fifteen years I have set forth this idea in the "Lady's Book", and placed the papers before the Governors of all the States and Territories -- also I have sent these to our Ministers abroad, and our Missionaries to the heathen -- and commanders in the Navy. From the recipients I have received, uniformly the most kind approval. Two of these letters, one from Governor (now General) Banks and one from Governor Morgan[2] are enclosed; both gentlemen as you will see, have nobly aided to bring about the desired Thanksgiving Union.

But I find there are obstacles not possible to be overcome without legislative aid -- that each State should, by statute, make it obligatory on the Governor to appoint the last Thursday of November, annually, as Thanksgiving Day; -- or, as this way would require years to be realized, it has ocurred to me that a proclamation from the President of the United States would be the best, surest and most fitting method of National appointment.

I have written to my friend, Hon. Wm. H. Seward, and requested him to confer with President Lincoln on this subject As the President of the United States has the power of appointments for the District of Columbia and the Territories; also for the Army and Navy and all American citizens abroad who claim protection from the U. S. Flag -- could he not, with right as well as duty, issue his proclamation for a Day of National Thanksgiving for all the above classes of persons? And would it not be fitting and

patriotic for him to appeal to the Governors of all the States, inviting and commending these to unite in issuing proclamations for the last Thursday in November as the Day of Thanksgiving for the people of each State? Thus the great Union Festival of America would be established.

Now the purpose of this letter is to entreat President Lincoln to put forth his Proclamation, appointing the last Thursday in November (which falls this year on the 26th) as the National Thanksgiving for all those classes of people who are under the National Government particularly, and commending this Union Thanksgiving to each State Executive: thus, by the noble example and action of the President of the United States, the permanency and unity of our Great American Festival of Thanksgiving would be forever secured.

An immediate proclamation would be necessary, so as to reach all the States in season for State appointments, also to anticipate the early appointments by Governors.[3]

Excuse the liberty I have taken

With profound respect

Yrs truly

Sarah Josepha Hale

Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College. Galesburg, Illinois.
Courtesy Library of Congress.

Sarah Josephine Hale was a remarkable woman for the times she lived in. She was a successful writer, took on many causes, and became the editor of Ladies Magazine. You can read more about her and her efforts at creating a proper Thanksgiving at Pilgrim Hall Museum. And you can read more about Sarah herself at the Boston Women's Heritage Trail website.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Sunday Salon celebrates Thanksgiving & Chanukah!

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! It's that time of the week where all of us readers get together virtually and share our bookish thoughts! So find a comfy chair, grab a cup of joe and let's talk books!

Surprisingly this week we will be celebrating both Thanksgiving and the start of Chanukah! So, I thought we'd talk about a few books for both occasions. First though, let's talk about not the miracle of lights, but the miracle of Chanukah falling on Thanksgiving…

The first day of Chanukah starts at sunset on Wednesday November 27 the night before Thanksgiving, on November 28, 2013. Here is how this "miracle" came about as explained by Deborah Mitchel Serval writing for the Press DemocratIt turns out that it has never happened before . . . and it will never happen again. Thanksgiving is set as the fourth Thursday in November, meaning the latest it can be is November 28. November 27  is also the earliest Chanuakah can be. The Jewish calendar repeats on a 19 year cycle, and Thanksgiving repeats on a 7 year cycle. You would therefore expect them to coincide roughly every 19×7 = 133 years... But They won't because the Jewish calendar is very slowly getting out of sync with the solar calendar, at a rate of 4 days per 1000 years which means that while presently Chanukah can be as early as November 28, over the years the calendar will drift forward, such that the earliest Chanukah can be is November 29.

Interesting huh?! Well, Thanksgiving is usually a wonderful, and potentially stressful family event, so I've got a last minute Thanksgiving cookbook, that's a bargain price on Kindle today, and something to lighten up Thanksgiving for the kids, and entertain the adults. Chanukah is a wonderful family celebration also, and I have something fun for the kids and a wonderful children's book that can be read every year to celebrate the meaning of Chanukah...

Thanksgiving: How To Cook It Well by Sam Sifton… From one of America’s finest food writers, the former restaurant critic for The New York Times, comes a definitive, timeless guide to Thanksgiving dinner—preparing it, surviving it, and pulling it off in style. From the planning of the meal to the washing of the last plate, Thanksgiving poses more—and more vexing—problems for the home cook than any other holiday. In this smartly written, beautifully illustrated, recipe-filled book, Sam Sifton, the Times’s resident Thanksgiving expert, delivers a message of great comfort and solace: There is no need for fear. You can cook a great meal on Thanksgiving. You can have a great time. With simple, fool-proof recipes for classic Thanksgiving staples, as well as new takes on old standbys, this book will show you that the fourth Thursday of November does not have to be a day of kitchen stress and family drama, of dry stuffing and sad, cratered pies.

Last minute Thanksgiving planning? Help may be on the way with this little gem from former restaurant critic Sam Sifton. This has gotten some great reviews. And today this is a BARGAIN KINDLE book! It's only $1.99! I gave it a chance and downloaded it. Sam Soften takes you from beginning to end in a very organized way and gives you wonderful basic recipes. From equipment to cleanup, from picking up a turkey to how to brine it to what to do with the leftovers, and he covers the classic Thanksgiving desserts too. As the title says, How To Cook it Well, is what the author is going to help you do. You want to cook a turkey, he will take you through! Want to give it a try, here is the link for Thanksgiving: How to Cook It Well Kindle Edition!

Gobble Gobble Mad Libs and Hanukah Mad Libs by  Roger Price and Leonard Stern… Both these Mad Libs  features 21 original stories. Gobble Gobble Mad Libs is all about the yummiest holiday--Thanksgiving! Featuring hilarious stories about preparing and eating dinner, Thanksgiving traditions, and Black Friday shopping, it's sure to keep kids laughing for hours. Hanukah Mad Libs is all about the Festival of Lights! Our book features a ton of hilarious stories about lighting the menorah, spinning the dreidel, and much, much more!

Do you remember Mad Libs?! As a kid I use to love these! If you love words this is hilarious. Before the story, there is a list of words you must fill in randomly, such as a verb, adjective, noun, someone's name, etc. and then you take the list and fill in the blanks of the story.

"A Mad Lib is a funny, often ridiculous story created when you fill in the blanks with the part of speech that is requested."

Very entertaining for children who may become bored with Thanksgiving at the relatives, or a fun activity for the night of Chanukah! Both fun distractions for the adults! You can sample some Mad Libs at Its A Mad Libs World. And you should be able to pick up these or any number of fun Mad Lib theme books at your local bookstore for under $4.00 each. You can get Hanukah Mad Libs from Amazon for $2.52 at Hanukkah Mad Libs .

The Story of Hanukkah by David A. Adler… No celebration of Hanukkah would be complete without recountng the events of more than two thousand years ago that the holiday commemorates. In a simple yet dramatic text and vibrant paintings, the story of the courageous Maccabees and the miracle that took place in the Temple in Jerusalem is retold. For readers who want to continue the festivities, a recipe for latkes and directions for playing dreidel are included.

When I was looking for a nice children's book about the story of Chanukah last year, I found this book. It has beautiful illustrations and the story is well written. A great way to introduce your children to Chanukah, or even an adult! Here's a link to the Hardcover edition of The Story of Hanukkah .

The Week in Review… It was a slow week here due to my trying to get things done prior to surgery, but Memoir Monday returned with a blurb about A House in The Sky by Amanda Lindhout. Another girl going on an adventure with unfortunate results. From just reading an excerpt, I thought the writing was very good. Here's a link to Memoir Monday to check out the blurb from Monday, Nov. 18th.

The coming week will be a busy one with Chanukah on Wednesday night, followed by Thanksgiving the next day, putting up a Christmas tree soon after and lighting the menorah every night for the duration of Chanukah. Teaching my new husband about Chanukah has been fun, and having a Christmas tree is fun too.

I wish you and your families a wonderful Thanksgiving and if you celebrate Chanukah, I wish you a wonderful Holiday too! Hope you found something interesting to read here this week! How do you celebrate these Holidays? And do you read any Holiday themed books for the occasions?

Happy reading… Suzanne

Monday, November 18, 2013

Memoir Monday

A House in The Sky by Amanda Lindhout… From the author's website: The dramatic and redemptive memoir of a woman whose curiosity led her to the world’s most beautiful and remote places, its most imperiled and perilous countries, and then into fifteen months of harrowing captivity—an exquisitely written story of courage, resilience, and grace

As a child, Amanda Lindhout escaped a violent household by paging through issues of National Geographic and imagining herself in its exotic locales. At the age of nineteen, working as a cocktail waitress in Calgary, Alberta, she began saving her tips so she could travel the globe. Aspiring to understand the world and live a significant life, she backpacked through Latin America, Laos, Bangladesh, and India, and emboldened by each adventure, went on to Sudan, Syria, and Pakistan. In war-ridden Afghanistan and Iraq she carved out a fledgling career as a television reporter. And then, in August 2008, she traveled to Somalia—“the most dangerous place on earth.” On her fourth day, she was abducted by a group of masked men along a dusty road.

Held hostage for 460 days, Amanda converts to Islam as a survival tactic, receives “wife lessons” from one of her captors, and risks a daring escape. Moved between a series of abandoned houses in the desert, she survives on memory—every lush detail of the world she experienced in her life before captivity—and on strategy, fortitude, and hope. When she is most desperate, she visits a house in the sky, high above the woman kept in chains, in the dark, being tortured.

Another memoir by another young, idealistic girl who discovers that she is not invisible. Another story carved out from traveling innocently to another dangerous country, this time Somalia. I bypass these memoirs sometimes because it seems like it's the same type of story, just different person. This book has gotten great reviews, a lot of coverage and I did read an excerpt of the Prologue. I thought the writing was excellent and absorbing. The story seemed fresh. And so, this memoir, just published in September by Scribner is on my TBR list. The writing will make this one stand out. Here is the EXCERPT if you'd like to read it. And here are the links for the Hardcover and the Kindle Edition .

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Sunday Salon and Cookbooks for the Changing Season

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! It's that time of the week where we can all sit down, relax and talk about books! So grab a cup a joe, find a comfy chair and let's talk!

The cold weather has started to slip into Connecticut. There have been a few flurries of snow, but nothing to speak of… yet. But when the weather changes from bright sunny warm summer days to crisp fall days and then into gray colder days, my reading changes… and so does my cooking. I put away those summer beach reads and find comfort in longer tomes, different kinds of stories, maybe a classic or two. There are usually wonderful children's books about the season to amuse myself with, and I start to cook more comfort foods. The crockpot comes out, soups become welcome friends, and christmas cookies start dancing in my head.

I love cookbooks. I always have to take a peek at them when I'm wandering a bookstore. Even if you have a hundred cookbooks, if you enjoy cooking you always are tempted to pick up another one, especially if you found a recipe that looked like something you'd want to try. So, since it's that time of year again, I thought I would talk cookbooks….

Slow Cooker Revolution: Volume 2: The Easy Prep Edition by America's Test Kitchen… The test cooks at America’s Test Kitchen have worked their magic again, developing and perfecting an all-new collection of 200 slow- cooker recipes.With this volume, we looked at this must-have appliance in new ways to truly maximize its potential.You’ll learn how to make a host of dishes like Garlicky Shrimp, Chicken Soft Tacos, and Flourless Chocolate Cake--recipes you’d never expect to see coming out of a slow cooker. The moist heat of the slow cooker is tailor-made to serve up flavorful stews, chilis, and braises, but with our smart strategies and clever ingredient selections, we were also able to pull off full-flavored cheeseburgers, spice-rubbed roast chicken, ziti with meaty ragu, rare roast beef, poached salmon, and even cheesecake.

I have never been disappointed with any recipe coming out of America's Test Kitchen. They are amazing in their approaches to discovering the nuances that make a recipe work and taste good. I actually received a review copy of this not too long ago and am so excited to try some of these recipes! First of all, I have a big 6 Quart Crockpot, which is hard to find recipes actually tweaked for it. Yes, you can always double, add a little more of this & that, but sometimes it just doesn't work. This cookbook has recipes for 51/2 to 7 Quart slow cookers, and explains about time differences. What is also nice about this cookbook is that it is designed so that the prep time before you throw everything into the slow cooker no more than 15 minutes!! And finally, no recipe requires stovetop cooking, although I did see some microwaving in a few to prep something. There are fish recipes, beef & chicken and amazing desserts including Chocolate Cheesecake. You get an education here too, because there is plenty of the hows & whys explained. Want to try this cookbook? Here are the links for the Softcover Edition and the Kindle Edition !

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays by Ree Drummond… is an all-out celebration of the scrumptious, mouthwatering recipes that define our favorite occasions throughout the year. From luck-inducing Hoppin' John on New Year's Day, to a perfectly savory/sweet Glazed Easter Ham, to luscious Caramel Apples on Halloween, to a crowd-pleasing Thanksgiving feast with all the fixins, these pages are positively brimming with recipes guaranteed to make your holidays deliciously memorable . . . and memorably delicious! Twelve different holidays are covered in delectable detail: From New Year's Day to New Year's Eve . . . and all my favorites in between. Host a party for the Big Game for your football-loving friends, make Mom a lovely Mother's Day breakfast-in-bed, invite your sweetie to a Valentine's Day romantic dinner for two . . . or ring in the New Year with a fabulous cocktail party. There's food, glorious food in this cookbook, and you won't run out of yummy things to make.

I have enjoyed watching Lee Drummond show me how to prepare some great meals on her television show. Her story is a fun one - vegan loving city girl goes back home, falls in love with a cowboy, marries him and starts raising a family and cows. She found out cowboys don't eat salad and learned to cook crowd pleasing meals. She always makes it look simple, and her books have beautiful full color photos to show you what's going on in the prep. This is her newest cookbook that was just published last week. Now the Kindle edition is sold as an enhanced version, with audio & video! I might have to go for the Kindle edition instead of the hardcover just to experience that! Interested? Here are the links for the Hardcover and the Kindle Enhanced Edition ! And you can learn more about Lee at her website: The Pioneer Woman.

Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom, with over 300 Deliciously Simple Recipes by Deborah Madison… from the dust jacket: From the dust jacket: In her latest cookbook, Deborah Madison, America’s leading authority on vegetarian cooking and author of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, reveals the surprising relationships between vegetables, edible flowers, and herbs within the same botanical families, and how understanding these connections can help home cooks see everyday vegetables in new light. This groundbreaking new cookbook is Madison’s crowning achievement: a celebration of the diversity of the plant kingdom, and an exploration of the fascinating relationships between vegetables, edible flowers, herbs, and familiar wild plants within the same botanical families.

This cookbook has gotten rave reviews. I love cookbooks like this because besides some recipes, the author shares her passion about the subject matter. I learn things I never would just getting getting a vegetable recipe out of The Joy of Cooking. (Although that is a staple in our house too). Deborah Madison is a chef, cooking instructor and food writer specializing in seasonal vegetables. She encourages one to gather your veggies from farmers and use heritage varieties. This is also one of those cookbooks that would make a great gift to your favorite cook or your favorite gardener, because it may not be the "norm" when you are buying a cookbook for yourself. Published this year by Random House, it is available in Hardcover and here is the link for the Kindle Edition .

Weekly Recap… This week I finished Wild by Cheryl Strayed. What an amazing book and adventure. I would definitely recommend this book to any hiker, person who enjoys a great memoir, but also to all my female friends and acquaintances! This is girl-power to the tenth degree! Inspirational on a variety of levels. Here's my REVIEW from friday, Nov. 15th.

I also talked about The Pleasures of Buying a Book in a Brick & Mortar Store. I read on article on Buzzfeed.com about 10 lovable things about a brick & mortar store and shared them on Sat. Nov. 16th. Here's the link to The Pleasures of Buying a Book in a Brick & Mortar Blog Post.

This week I also finished An American Bride in Kabul by Phyllis Chesler. Look for a review next week.

So, how does your reading change in the winter? And how about your cooking? And speaking of cooking, do you ever use an eReader as your cookbook? For me, I so use an iPad sometimes with recipes that I'm using that are also on the internet. Hmmm, sounds like another good subject!

Happy reading… Suzanne

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Pleasures of Buying a Book… in a Brick & Mortar Store.

There's something special about picking up a book… To feel the heft of the book, to feel the texture of the pages, to crack the spine and read a sentence or two to get the feel for a book… That is what you get when you walk into a Brick & Mortar bookstore. That and more. Recently I read an article at Buzzfeed.com about 10 Lovable things about Brick-and-Mortar bookstores, and I couldn't agree more. Here is the list…

1. The Sense of Community... You have a common bond with the people in that book store. The owners remember what you read if you are part of that community.

2. Staff Picks Yes, people who work at the bookstore share with you what they like! It's a great way to discover new books!

3. Author Events!… Have you ever met a favorite author at your online store? I guess not. I have met some great authors at these events! I remember meeting Mary Higgins Clark once and being thrilled because she was one of the first mystery writers I ever read.

4. The Cafe… Well, I can't say that I have a cafe at any of my indie bookstores, but I did use to enjoy sitting with a cup of hot cocoa at my local Borders and leafing through the pages of a book I was going to buy. But having a cafe is a wonderful way to relax with your books and other readers.

5. The Luxury of Browsing… I definitely love browsing books, and I've found some great books that way. I remember leafing through The Help by Kathryn Stockett because I liked the cover (the original cover).

6. Discoverability… I think this goes hand in hand with browsing and staff picks, but wandering a bookstore gives you the opportunity to discover things.

7. The Staff… Yes, most indie bookstores or "Brick & Mortar" have readers as staff. People who actually can recommend something based on your tastes.

8. The Nerdy Stuff that isn't books… If you're looking for a gift for a bookish person and want something other than a book, bookish totes, mugs, bookmarks etc. usually can be found in your local bookstore.

9. They are the Best Places to Spend Time… I use to hang out many a Saturday night at my local bookstore and loved it! Oh the hours…

10.That Bookstore Vibe… If you're a reader, this speaks for itself!

What other pleasures can YOU think of when you walk into your local Brick & Mortar bookstore? Besides supporting our communities, "Brick & Mortar Bookstores" support us and our love of reading!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Wild by Cherly Strayed… A Review.

The Pacific Crest Trail is 2663 miles long. It is a wilderness trail that stretches from the Mexican border in California all the way to the Canadian border. It passes through California, Oregon and Washington, various mountain ranges, lakes, watering holes, icy expanses, and all manor of woods. Sharing the wilderness trail are bears, coyotes, rattlesnakes and numerous other wild animals, and a few wild humans too.  It is beautiful and at the same time dangerous.

Cheryl Strayed was emotionally damaged. She had lost her Mother, lost her family essentially, loved her stepfather, but felt estranged from him as his life went forward after her Mother's death. She was divorcing a man she loved and she was out of control trying to move forward when she didn't have the strength. The PCT or The Pacific Crest Trail gave her that strength. It made her focus.

In what could be considered a crazy move, Cheryl decides to go on a 3 month hike on the PCT. Crazy because she didn't have the knowledge one should have about long distance hiking. She never even hiked much before the PCT trip. But she had nothing to lose. Underfunded and carrying too much of a load, with only a guidebook in hand, Cheryl sets out to hike over 1000 miles alone. This is an amazing story. This is her story.

What did I think? I absolutely loved this book! Cheryl's writing is gripping and honest. I was enthralled from the first page and had to keep turning those pages. I was emotionally and almost physically walking that trail with her. She made me feel what she was going through. I was sad, devastated, elated and rooting her on as she took me on that 3 month journey. Her thoughts went back to her "other life" at times, sharing with us her struggles that lead her to buy those hiking boots and start something fresh. Those moments of reflection were seamless and moved the story along wonderfully. And the story itself was written as though it were happening in the present, even though Cheryl didn't start writing Wild until years later.

I had heard about Wild when it was first published the summer of 2012. It had gotten good reviews, but I was a bit "memoir outed". When Wild was picked as one of World Book Night's 2014 selections, I decided I would pick it up. Maybe it's because of my own past struggles that Wild resonated with me, or maybe it was because Cheryl was a woman trying to prove her abilities to be independent & strong. As I read I wanted Cheryl to succeed, not only with her long distance hike, but the struggles she had with missing her Mother, wanting her family back,  and trying to forgive herself for decisions she had made in her past. When I finally turned that last page, I felt that satisfaction and disappointment of finishing a really good book. The adventure between these pages wasn't all milk & cookies, some of the story was hard to take at times, but I would recommend this book to anyone wanting a wonderfully written story full of heart. Part adventure, part inspirational, Wild is about life.

Wild is published by Vintage, a division of Random House and is available in Paperback , a Kindle Edition , and for Nook. If you're interested, click on the links to purchase Wild and read it for yourself!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Sunday Salon and Book picks for Veteran's Day


Welcome to the Sunday Salon! What is the Sunday Salon? Imagine some university library's vast reading room. It's filled with people--students and faculty and strangers who've wandered in. They're seated at great oaken desks, books piled all around them, and they're all feverishly reading and jotting notes in their leather-bound journals as they go. Later they'll mill around the open dictionaries and compare their thoughts on the afternoon's literary intake....

That's what happens at the Sunday Salon, except it's all virtual. Every Sunday the bloggers participating in that week's Salon get together--at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones--and read. And blog about their reading. And comment on one another's blogs. Think of it as an informal, weekly, mini read-a-thon, an excuse to put aside one's earthly responsibilities and fall into a good book.

And since tomorrow is Veteran's Day, I thought we'd take a look at a few great books written about war. I'm not a big fan of "war" books, but there are stories that take you beyond the horrors of the fighting and show the human quality, a kind of behind the scenes look at war....

Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival by Mitchell Zuckoff... From the publisher: On November 5, 1942, a US cargo plane slammed into the Greenland Ice Cap. Four days later, the B-17 assigned to the search and rescue missue became lost in a blinding storm and also crashed. Miraculously, all nine men on the B-17 survived. With the weather worsening, the U.S. military launched a daring rescue mission, sending a Grumman Duck amphibious plane to find them. After picking up one member of the B-17 crew, the Duck flew into a severe storm, and the plane and the three men aboard vanished. In this thrilling, true-life adventure, Mitchell Zuckoff offers a spellbinding account of these harrowing crashes and the fate of the survivors and would-be saviors. He also recounts the efforts of a modern-day adventurer, Lou Sapienza, who worked for years with the Coast Guard and Commander Jim Blow to solve the mystery of the Duck’s last flight and recover the remains of its crew.

It amazes me sometimes the stories you never hear about until someone decides to write a book. I had never heard of this crash in this frozen wasteland, but I am so intrigued. That and the fact that the conditions were so harrowing that one rescue mission crashed and the other disappeared entirely makes this even more mysterious, and makes me want to read about what happened. This is on my TBR list! Published by Harper Collins this past April, Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival is available in HardcoverKindle Edition and Nook Book.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand... From the publisher: On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood.  Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared.  It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard.  So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War. The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini.  In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails.  As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile.  But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown. Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater.  Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion.  His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

Laura Hillenbrand is a fabulous writer. I absolutely LOVED her book Seabiscuit, which told the story of the racehorse with a heart, Seabiscuit, and the behind the scenes look at horse racing, which I could have cared less about, but once I opened that book I could not put it down and it still remains one of my favorite books today. Her WWII story, Unbroken, has gotten rave reviews and again tells one story that may have remained unknown to us had not someone decided to share it. This is on my TBR list. It was published in 2010 by Random House and is available in HardcoverKindle Edition and Nook book.

Night by Elie Wiesel... from the publisher: A candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of Elie Wiesel's survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. Elie reflects on the enduring importance of Night and his lifelong, passionate dedication to ensuring that the world never forgets man’s capacity for inhumanity to man. Night offers much more than a litany of the daily terrors, everyday perversions, and rampant sadism at Auschwitz and Buchenwald; it also eloquently addresses many of the philosophical as well as personal questions implicit in any serious consideration of what the Holocaust was, what it meant, and what its legacy is and will be.

Elie Wiesel's Night is a slim 148 pages, but it's not the length of the book, but the impact that the words contained in this account of being in a Nazi death camp that have made this an important piece of literature. Originally published in 2006, there is now a new translation offered in the newest edition from Macmillan, available in Paperback , Kindle Edition and Nook Book.

If you're looking for fiction, don't forget Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally, a novel based on the true story of Oskar Schindler, a German industralist who saved more than 1000 Jews from the Nazi death camps.

**UPDATE...Fellow book blogger Booksync, who has a wonderful blog called Books in The City, shared You Know When The Men are Gone by Siobhan Fallon as a recommendation for Veteran's Day reads. She writes,  "it is a collection of short stories each about life on the base when men are away fighting or just after they return. It was a really interesting perspective on the sacrifices military families make in addition to the soldier." Thank you Booksync for the recommendation! On Amazon it has earned 4 1/2 stars from over 100 reviews! Here are the links for the Paperback , Kindle Edition , and the Nook book.

Weekly Recap... This week on Chick with Books, for Memoir Monday we highlighted An American Bride in Kabul by Phyllis Chesler. The harrowing true account of falling in love and being whisked off to a foreign country, and suffering from the cultural differences. If you missed it, Here is the Link to read all about it.

And then on Thursday I put up the video made by about three dozen authors attending the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance trade show in New Orleans. the authors all read from Lane Smith's children's book, It's a Book, and then through the magic of editing, they put it all together so that each author was reading parts of the book as we followed along. Lane Smith's book is wonderful. It's a simple book about the beauty of an actual book with three friends, a Jackass, a mouse and a monkey. Jackass is internet savvy and can't quite understand how a book works, but eventually Monkey straightens him out. To watch the video, click on this link.

Book News... If you haven't heard, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is coming to the big screen! Keep your eyes open for the release in your area this month! The previews look wonderful! And the book? Well, the book was great! Here's the synopsis from School Library Journal...

"Death himself narrates the World War II-era story of Liesel Meminger from the time she is taken, at age nine, to live in Molching, Germany, with a foster family in a working-class neighborhood of tough kids, acid-tongued mothers, and loving fathers who earn their living by the work of their hands. The child arrives having just stolen her first book–although she has not yet learned how to read–and her foster father uses it, The Gravediggers Handbook, to lull her to sleep when shes roused by regular nightmares about her younger brothers death. Across the ensuing years of the late 1930s and into the 1940s, Liesel collects more stolen books as well as a peculiar set of friends: the boy Rudy, the Jewish refugee Max, the mayors reclusive wife (who has a whole library from which she allows Liesel to steal), and especially her foster parents. Zusak not only creates a mesmerizing and original story but also writes with poetic syntax, causing readers to deliberate over phrases and lines, even as the action impels them forward. Death is not a sentimental storyteller, but he does attend to an array of satisfying details, giving Liesels story all the nuances of chance, folly, and fulfilled expectation that it deserves." –Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA

*KINDLE BARGAIN BOOK ALERT... If you haven't read the The Book Thief yet, you should! Right now, it's available on Kindle for just $2.90! Here is the link to The Book Thief to grab that bargain price! 

Do you enjoy books on war? Fiction or nonfiction? Hope you enjoy the book selections this week! And to all of our Veterans... Thank you for your service!

Happy Reading... Suzanne
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