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, September 28, 2009

Memoir Mondays and Banned Book Week... I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

"being aware of her displacement is the rust on
the razor..."

Today is Monday... and that means Memoir Monday! How would you feel if you poured out your soul, revealed painful secrets and someone decided your heartfelt words, in essence your life was "too graphic", "pornographic" and "objectionable"...

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings is the autobiography of Maya Angelou and describes her coming of age as a precocious but insecure black girl in the American South during the 1930s. Dealing with abandonment issues (her parents divorce when she's three & off she goes to live with a grandmother), racism, segregation, being brutally raped at 8, guilt & shame, an unwanted pregnancy and life as it came to a young black girl in the south, we get a picture of a hard and frightening life. These are hard issues to deal with and in Maya Angelou's lyrical prose and remarkable candor, she shows that racism is a product of ignorance and prejudice, and that she has found the strength to rise above her horrible circumstances. Courage is a word that come to mind along with part of the poem of the same name as her book and written by her...

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill

Of things unknown but longed for still

And his tune is heard on the distant hill for

The caged bird sings of freedom.

Interesting is the part of the book where Maya is introduced to the wonderful world of books and the power of words, all of which help Maya deal with her world...

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings was nominated for a National Book Award in 1970 and remained on The New York Times paperback bestseller list for two years. It has been used in high schools & universities, and the book has been "celebrated for creating new literary avenues for the American memoir." It has been praised as an important piece of literature, and the New York Times Book Review calls Maya Angelou an author who "writes like a song, and like the truth."

What are you reading for Banned Books Week? Have you read I Know Why The Cage Bird Sings? Tell me what you think of the writing and the message...

*P.S. This book is Kindle Ready! For a Bargain Price of $6.99!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Salon... Banned Book Week Continues... and some Great Banned Books you should READ! Plus a banned book bargain on Kindle!

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...

Banned Books Week continues with highlights of some great books that were NOT on the top 10 list of someone out there... books that for one reason or another someone found objectionable. Can you believe that Charlotte's Web by E.B. White was challenged? The beloved children's story of friendship between a pig and a spider was challenged for its "unnatural" depiction of talking animals! Or how about Little Red Riding Hood? In 1990 it was banned by two California districts because an illustration shows Little Red Riding Hood's basket with a bottle of wine in it (along with bread & butter), and this could be seen as condoning the use of alcohol! Besides quite a few of my favorite children's books being on the Banned and Challenged list, there are a few recent additions to the banned book list that if you haven't read, you should! Oh, and at the very bottom of the page... you just HAVE to watch the video that The American Library Association put out for Banned Books Week! It's only 2 minutes long, but it says it all!

The first banned book today I want to showcase is The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. What a wonderfully written book of friendship, loyalty and betrayal! The novel centers around the friendship of two boys, Amir & Hassan, in Afghanistan. Amir is the privileged son of a wealthy businessman in Kabul, and Hassan is the son of Amir's father's servant. They are from different classes but are the best of friends and inseparable. The book has been challenged repeatedly for its violence and a sexually explicit scene. That particular scene was brutal and heart wrenching... The story brought me to tears and haunted me for quite some time afterwards. The meaning of friendship, the horrors of war and a class system that seems unfair. If you haven't picked this book up I would highly recommend it. There are some amazing twists and turns in the plot and the story spans the time from boyhood to manhood for these two characters. A friend lent me this book and as I reluctantly picked it up to read it, I found myself lost in the story and couldn't put it down.

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult was pulled from classrooms in Clawson, Michigan in 2008 because the story was to racy for middle school children. "Anna Fitzgerald has spent her whole life in and out of hospitals, not because there is anything wrong with her, but because she has the ability to help keep her older sister alive. In fact, that was the sole reason Anna was conceived and genetically selected. Her older sister Kate has a rare form of leukemia and her parents will try anything to save her. When Kate needs one of Anna's kidneys, at age 13, Anna decides enough is enough and sues her parents for the right to control her own body." This was a thought provoking and wonderfully written book. Jodi Picoult is known for her books dealing with sticky issues and this story is a good example. We read this in my reading group and the story lends itself to a great discussion! The ethics of having a baby to help a sick sibling... Moral obligations to a member of your family... Harvesting of organs... But this isn't just a straightforward story of family obligations, there are things going behind the scenes between these two sisters who do indeed love eachother... If you haven't read My Sister's Keeper yet, put it on your TBR list!

One of my favorite books of all time, Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett! Removed from a Cleburne, Texas high school English summer reading list in 2009 because the novel contains a rape scene and passages of explicit sex. By the sounds of it, that is all you would remember of the story, but it's definitely not. This book was also my very first recommendation on Chick with Books! Here's my blurb about it from February, "A wonderful story with all the elements! Adventure, treachery, art, love, sex and superstition. What starts as a story of Tom Builder and his love of family & craft, grows into the tale of the assasination and sainthood of Thomas Becket. The characters are so real they almost walk out of the pages! So, get ready to experience the building of a magnificent cathedral, the world of 12th-century England and a cast of characters you simply will not forget. You will not be able to put this book down once you open it. You'll wish there were 900 more pages!" If you like stories set in the middle ages you will love this book! We also read this in my reading group. I had to do a bit of convincing because it was such a thick book, but EVERYone loved it! The pages just flew by! When you are done with the book tell me what you thought of William!

Want to see the list of the top 100 banned or challenged classics? Here's the link to the American Library Associations list. And here's the link to the beginning of Banned Book Week here at Chick with Books. Read all about what the Freedom to Read is all about, and see who else is participating in Banned Books Week! What books have you enjoyed that can be found on the banned & challenged book list? Are you going to read any banned books this week? Let me know what books are on your shelf and what you're reading! ....*Oh, and I just started Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger... if you look at the post before this one, I talk about meeting Holden Caulfield!

Stop by tomorrow for Memoir Monday and our memoir that was a banned book!

*P.S. The Kite Runner, My Sister's Keeper and Pillars of the Earth are all Kindle Ready! And Pillars is a bargain right now at under $7!

Happy reading... Suzanne

Catcher in the Rye update... Spoiler Alert

I met Holden Caulfield yesterday... he was playing the tough guy, but I could tell it was all an act. He doesn't quite fit in... he feels an awkwardness that makes him call the people around him morons & phonies, but he still wanted to be part of them...

He joined the fencing team... as manager. Not really involved with the team but there... He went to the Big Game but sat on top of the hill looking down at everyone instead of joining in... (it was pretty cold up there, snow and all and I kept trying to convince him to leave.) He isolates himself and it's so sad... No real friendships... Maybe it's because he keeps getting thrown out of schools... Did I tell you? Oh I guess not, Holden just flunked out of Pencey's. This is the third exclusive boys boarding school...

When his history teacher Mr. Spencer leaves him a note saying he wants to see him, you can almost see that warm & fuzzy feeling inside of him that someone is going to miss him. Until he gets there and it's a lecture... ( at least we left that cold snowy hill!) So that's it. He goes back to his dorm, packs it up and is getting out of there... His one last act is to try and feel something about leaving... trying to remember something that will make him miss what he's leaving behind so he can say goodbye to it all... finally he remembers a time where he was playing football with a couple of guys and that's it... he feels something to miss... On his way out the door...

"When I was all set to go, when I had all my bags and all, I stood next to the stairs and took a last look down the corridor. I was sort of crying. I don't know why..." But then at the top of his voice he yells, "Sleep tight, ya morons!"

I left Holden on his way out the door... I'll meet up with him at chapter 8 to see where he's going...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I Read Banned Books! Join Banned Book Week to Celebrating Your Freedom to Read!

"Reading Revolutionary" cartoon created by the talented Stephanie Piro and used with her permission just for this occasion! All copyrights Stephanie Piro. Cartoons may not be used without written permission". You can find Stephanie at and at her other hang-out (and business), .

Hey Everyone! It's Banned Books Week! This is the week we celebrate the Freedom to Read!

Over the past eight years, American libraries were faced with 3,736 challenges

"Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. This years event is September 26−October 3, and is meant to highlight the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States." The art of the banned book is not just happening in The United States, censorship is a worldwide! Here at Chick with Books, we are going to celebrate our Freedom to Read by highlighting some great books this week that were either banned or challenged, in The U.S or outside the U.S. So stop by this coming week to see what challenged or banned books are featured! The Sunday Salon will be a little different this week too because I'm going to feature some great books, all from the 'censorship' list. And follow my progress as I crack open the spine of Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger!

There are some other places to check out Banned Book Week at... First I'm involved in the Banned Book Challenge at The Biblio Blogazine! It's a fantastic blog and is hosting a whole bunch of people who are reading and reviewing banned books this week! There are links to everyone involved! And my friend Lisa, who has a great blog called Book Blab, is also doing her share of celebrating the freedom of choice at her blog! Stop by her blog to see what she's reviewing! Also check out the ALA (The American Library Association) website and their list of the top 100 Banned or Challenged books! Anyone else doing something special for Banned Books Week?! Share your info here so we can check it out! And share with us some great books you've read that are on "the list"!

Here are some other Wonderful Bloggers celebrating the Freedom to Read this week...

* Cait is celebrating Banned Book Week on her blog, escape through the pages ! She's having a giveaway for The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier to celebrate, as well as reviewing all sorts of books! Check her blog out by clicking on her blog's name!

* Salamandergrey is also celebrating BBW on her blog, Pencil-Pushers and Ink Splotches.
Check out her take on BBW by clicking on her blog's name!

*Jennifer is celebrating at her blog NY Book Cafe ! Check out her cool blog by clicking on her blog's name!

*Icedream is celebrating on her blog Reading in Appalachia ! Her first recommendation & review is for Looking For Alaska by John Green. Click on her blog's name to read all about it!

* Lexie is also celebrating with an amazing list of discussions! Her blog is Poisoned Rationality! Click on her blog's name to visit her events!

*Mary is celebrating on her blog The Sweet Bookshelf! She says "we are discussing some of my favorite banned books this week. At the end of the week we will be discussing ways we can get involved and how to protect our favorite books from being banned!"

*Tracie is celebrating on her blog Yule Time Reading! First post is a a list of 10 banned books and why they are banned! Click on her blog to read the list!

A Special Thanks goes to Stephanie Piro, who is the talented artist who drew the cartoon above for Banned Book Week! Thanks Stephanie! I think it encourages us all to be reading revolutionaries!

Friday, September 25, 2009

How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World... A Review

How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World
The Art of Living with Style, Class, and Grace

This smart and sassy guide shows young women how to find their own glamorous style, professional success, and love with class and grace.

In a society driven by celebutante news and profiles, women of class, style, and charm are hard to come by. But as thongs, rehab, and outrageous behavior burn up the daily headlines, employers still like to see a tailored suit, men still want women they can take home to their moms, and peers still respect professional conduct.

Christy helps women channel their inner Kate or Audrey, dusting off old-fashioned virtues and giving them a whole new spin in today’s sexed-up culture.

She shows how modern women can be beautiful, intelligent, and have it all — glamorous style, professional success, and true love and keep their values and morals intact along the way.

What Did I Think ?!...
What a wonderful little book! Even the cover is classy! Jordan Christy shows us girls that classy is back! With her wonderful advise we learn to win the guy, get the job, make & keep wonderful friends and look like a million dollars with a little effort and good choices! Jordan doesn't preach to us, wagging her finger at us - In her hip voice she shows us how being chic, sophisticated and modest fares better than "leaving nothing to the imagination". Her message is simple- respect yourself and you will be respected... and get the guy, and the job and ...

Her advise isn't a cookie cutter printout either. Jordan takes into consideration your personal style while she's giving her advise with cute quizzes throughout the book, such as The Hepburn Guide to Self-Respect Quiz to find out what your image is saying about you. Or The Personal Style quiz, which afterwards depending on how you answered she virtually goes through your closet and tells you what to toss and what to keep. She also talks about friendships- how to have good friend habits and ways to enjoy your friends (Start your own book club is one of her GREAT ideas!) And part of Jordan's suggestions to celebrate your friendships is with a dinner party, which she includes ideas for themes AND a few choice RECIPES (one of which is Gooey German Chocolate Bars!).

With the book divided into chapters, with cute titles such as Keep Your Chin Up and Your Skirt Down, Choose Your Friends Wisely, Let Him Come Calling, and Less is More, you will find a lot of advise, examples and a quiz or two, dished out in a fun way! And what a great book to give as a gift to any young lady starting out in life! But girls of all ages will appreciate this book! Jordan Christy shows us all what a good role model is! A small book with a big message! And I thoroughly enjoyed reading it!

In Jordan's own words...

"The idea for How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World really started in junior high, when I felt surrounded by "stupid girls." It seemed that the smart, classy, modest girls were always the minority. Then, little by little, certain celebrities began making headline news on a daily basis with their bad behavior and late-night antics, and I couldn't help but wonder...why were these girls the ones representing our female gender? Why were we just sitting back and allowing our timeless values and standards to be trampled into the ground by their stiletto heels? By the time I reached my 20's, I realized that many other girls felt the same way I did, and set out to make intelligence, self-respect and class attractive again."

"HOW TO BE A HEPBURN IN A HILTON WORLD is much more than a book – it’s a call to action for women everywhere to stop puttering along this life trail of tube tops, hangovers & jail time, & learn how to find success, style & love...the classy way"

Would you like to learn more About Jordan Christy? Here's a link to her website!

And a Big Thank you to Valerie of Hachette Book Group for sharing this book with me! Thanks Valerie! Loved it!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Author Michelle Moran visits Chick with Books Today with a Guest Post!

The very talented and beautiful author of Nefertiti, The Heretic Queen & Cleopatra's Daughter, Michelle Moran stops by Chick with Books today to share a little of herself & her inspirations when it comes to her writing. Join me in welcoming Michelle here today!

Michelle's Guest Post...

For every novel I have written, I can look back and say that there has been a very specific moment of inspiration - usually in some exotic locale or inside a museum - where I’ve said, “Aha! That’s going to be the subject of my next novel.” I never began my writing career with the intention to write books about three different princesses in Egypt. In fact, I had no intention of writing about ancient Egypt at all until I participated in my first archaeological dig.

During my sophomore year in college, I found myself sitting in Anthropology 101, and when the professor mentioned that she was looking for volunteers who would like to join a dig in Israel, I was one of the first students to sign up. When I got to Israel, however, all of my archaeological dreams were dashed (probably because they centered around Indiana Jones). There were no fedora wearing men, no cities carved into rock, and certainly no Ark of the Covenant. I was very disappointed. Not only would a fedora have seemed out of place, but I couldn’t even use the tiny brushes I had packed. Apparently, archaeology is more about digging big ditches with pickaxes rather than dusting off artifacts. And it had never occurred to me until then that in order to get to those artifacts, one had to dig deep into the earth. Volunteering on an archaeological dig was hot, it was sweaty, it was incredibly dirty, and when I look back on the experience through the rose-tinged glasses of time, I think, Wow, was it fantastic! Especially when our team discovered an Egyptian scarab that proved the ancient Israelites had once traded with the Egyptians. Looking at that scarab in the dirt, I began to wonder who had owned it, and what had possessed them to undertake the long journey from their homeland to the fledgling country of Israel.

On my flight back to America I stopped in Berlin, and with a newfound appreciation for Egyptology, I visited the museum where Nefertiti’s limestone bust was being housed. The graceful curve of Nefertiti’s neck, her arched brows, and the faintest hint of a smile were captivating to me. Who was this woman with her self-possessed gaze and stunning features? I wanted to know more about Nefertiti’s story, but when I began the research into her life, it proved incredibly difficult. She’d been a woman who’d inspired powerful emotions when she lived over three thousand years ago, and those who had despised her had attempted to erase her name from history. Yet even in the face of such ancient vengeance, some clues remained.

As a young girl Nefertiti had married a Pharaoh who was determined to erase the gods of Egypt and replace them with a sun-god he called Aten. It seemed that Nefertiti’s family allowed her to marry this impetuous king in the hopes that she would tame his wild ambitions. What happened instead, however, was that Nefertiti joined him in building his own capital of Amarna where they ruled together as god and goddess. But the alluring Nefertiti had a sister who seemed to keep her grounded, and in an image of her found in Amarna, the sister is standing off to one side, her arms down while everyone else is enthusiastically praising the royal couple. From this image, and a wealth of other evidence, I tried to recreate the epic life of an Egyptian queen whose husband was to become known as the Heretic King.

Each novel I’ve written has had a similar moment of inspiration for me. In many ways, my second book, The Heretic Queen is a natural progression from Nefertiti. The narrator is orphaned Nefertari, who suffers terribly because of her relationship to the reviled "Heretic Queen". Despite the Heretic Queen's death a generation prior, Nefertari is still tainted by her relationship to Nefertiti, and when young Ramesses falls in love and wishes to marry her, it is a struggle not just against an angry court, but against the wishes of a rebellious people.

But perhaps I would never have chosen to write on Nefertari at all if I hadn't seen her magnificent tomb. At one time, visiting her tomb was practically free, but today, a trip underground to see one of the most magnificent places on earth can cost upwards of five thousand dollars (yes, you read that right). If you want to share the cost and go with a group, the cost lowers to the bargain-basement price of about three thousand. As a guide told us of the phenomenal price, I looked at my husband, and he looked at me. We had flown more than seven thousand miles, suffered the indignities of having to wear the same clothes for three days because of lost luggage… and really, what were the possibilities of our ever returning to Egypt again? There was only one choice. We paid the outrageous price, and I have never forgotten the experience.

While breathing in some of the most expensive air in the world, I saw a tomb that wasn't just fit for a queen, but a goddess. In fact, Nefertari was only one of two (possibly three) queens ever deified in her lifetime, and as I gazed at the vibrant images on her tomb - jackals and bulls, cobras and gods - I knew that this wasn't just any woman, but a woman who had been loved fiercely when she was alive. Because I am a sucker for romances, particularly if those romances actually happened, I immediately wanted to know more about Nefertari and Ramesses the Great. So my next stop was the Hall of Mummies at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. There, resting beneath a heavy arc of glass, was the great Pharaoh himself. For a ninety-something year old man, he didn't look too bad. His short red hair was combed back neatly and his face seemed strangely peaceful in its three thousand year repose. I tried to imagine him as he'd been when he was young - strong, athletic, frighteningly rash and incredibly romantic. Buildings and poetry remain today as testaments to Ramesses's softer side, and in one of Ramesses's more famous poems he calls Nefertari "the one for whom the sun shines." His poetry to her can be found from Luxor to Abu Simbel, and it was my visit to Abu Simbel (where Ramesses built a temple for Nefertari) where I finally decided that I had to tell their story.

It’s the moments like this that an historical fiction author lives for. And it probably wouldn’t surprise you to learn that my decision to write Cleopatra’s Daughter came on an underwater dive to see the submerged city of ancient Alexandria. Traveling has been enormously important in my career. My adventures end up inspiring not only what I’m currently writing, but what I’m going to write about in the future.

Thanks Michelle for the wonderful guest post! And thanks also for your generosity! When I reviewed Michelle's book, Cleopatra's Daughter, a few weeks ago, Michelle nicely offered a signed copy of Cleopatra's Daughter and a signed copy of The Heretic Queen to the readers of Chick with Books! But there are only a few days left for this giveaway (ends Sept. 26th)! Here's the link to the giveaway details and the review!

Happy reading... Suzanne

Monday, September 21, 2009

Memoir Mondays... The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, a Review

The Glass Castle
An Amazing Story of Joy & Survival

To see Jeanette Walls today, you would never suspect her upbringing. She graduated from Columbia University's Barnard College with honors and went on to become a reporter for New York magazine, Esquire, USA Today and To say her beginnings were humble would be an understatement- to see what she overcame to become the intelligent successful woman that she is today is almost unbelievable and would have been a great work of fiction if it wasn't all true.

Living like nomads, moving between towns and sometimes living out in the desert, Jeanette Walls and her 3 siblings learned to take care of themselves. Her mother was a free spirit and an artist, who would rather paint than take care of her children, her father was a charismatic drunk who always had plans for the next big invention. Her family was dysfunctional, and as we learn later on her father came from worse. Food was scare at times with butter sandwiches, popcorn, or crab apples stolen from a neighbors tree for dinner sometimes. They didn't accept food stamps because Jeanette's mother didn't want them to "feel like charity cases". And their education for the most part was learned on the road. But Jeanette doesn't speak with bitterness about her childhood. At times her childhood was a wonderful adventure, with her father teaching them about the sky above them as they sat out in the dessert late at night learning the constellations and how to navigate by the North Star. As her father said, " Rich city folks lived in fancy apartments, but their air was so polluted they couldn't even see the stars. We'd have to be out of our minds to want to trade places with any of them." And so they grew to feel privileged in their own way.

You are immediately drawn into Jeanette's life from the opening scene in the book where she describes a taxi ride where she is on her way to a party and spots her mother dressed in rags and picking through the trash on the side of the road. She was mortified, but not for her mother, but for herself- she was afraid someone would know they were connected. She had tried numerous times to get her mother 'help', but her mother didn't think she needed it. "You want to help me change my life?", her mother said. "I'm fine. You're the one who needs help. Your values are all confused." And that was the beginning of a change in Jeanette. The beginnings of Jeanette accepting her parents for who they were.

And what am I supposed to tell people about my parents?
Just tell the truth, her mother said, That's simple enough

From there we are transported to Jeanette's earliest memories when she was 3 and where the adventure of a lifetime start. Compelling, honest and shocking at times, The Glass Castle will have you turning the pages and wondering how Jeanette came out of all that "life experience" normal. I felt anger, joy and empathy as I leafed through the pages. It's a wonderfully written story, where we see first hand the ability of people to overcome the obstacles thrown in their way, the great power of forgiveness, and how leading your own life can mean different things to different people.

In Jeanette's words in an interview with Cindy Bokma of Conversations With Famous Writers...

"I’m just a scrawny girl who grew up without indoor plumbing, and here I am wearing my fancy designer clothes asking Nicole Kidman questions. Life is so strange."

*P.S. This Book is Kindle Ready!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday Salon... Memoirs for Mondays, Books with Buzz, and a Book coming tuesday to a bookstore near you!

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...

There are plenty of genres of books to read, and I enjoy an eclectic taste in this respect, reading historical fiction, literary fiction, romance, etc. I've always thought that a well written book has no genre. Lately I've been reading a lot of memoirs. Memoirs are a little like reading someone else's diary...A little voyeuristic... glimpses into a secret life... Sometimes they are funny! Sometimes they are reassuring in that they show us that we aren't the only ones who can get ourselves into certain predicaments... And on mondays I'm going to be giving you some glimpses into some of the memoirs on my shelves! Here are a few samples of what's on the shelf for Memoir Mondays...

Everything SUCKS: Losing My Mind and Finding Myself in a High School Quest for Cool by Hanna Friedman. "When everything sucks, change everything..." and that's exactly what Hannah sets out to do. "in an ambitious attempt to bust our of a life of obscurity and absurity and into an alternate world of glamour, wealth and popularity" all when she enters onto one of the country's most prestigious boarding schools... Hannah transforms herself into everything she is not: cool. By senior year, she has a perfect millionaire boyfriend, a perfect GPA, a perfect designer wardrobe, and is part of the most popular clique in school, but somehow everything begins to suck far worse than when she first started... Putting her life back together will take more than a few clicks of her heels..." Hannah's determination and candor intrigued me...

The Center of the Universe by Nancy Bachrach. Nancy Bachrach is living in Paris, advertising deodorant to the French, when her parents are in a freak accident back home aboard their boat, the aptly dubbed Mr. Fix It. Her mother, the self-proclaimed "center of the universe," is taken to a tiny seaside hospital in a coma (her chart says she's in a "comma.") Nancy rushes home to sit by her mother's bedside, thus begins a true (and darkly hilarious) family reunion with her brother Ben (a piano prodigy and eventual surgeon born with three thumbs), and sister Helen (the wild child, now an "abnormal psychologist), in the incongruously named town of Providence, where a few of the relatives are eyeing the plug. A tale of genius, madness, ineptitude, collateral damage, and hope - with an ending that is improbable, as only the truth can be. A story rich with fascinating characters that just happen to be flesh and blood!

The English American by Alison Larkin. In many ways, Pippa Dunn
is very English: she eats Marmite and toast, knows how to make a proper cup of tea, went to a posh English boarding school, finds it entirely familiar to discuss the crossword rather than exchange any cross words over dinner with her proper English family. But Pippa--creative, disheveled, and impulsive to the core--has always felt different from her perfectly poised, smartly coiffed sister and steady, practical parents, whose pastimes include Scottish dancing, gardening, and watching cricket. When Pippa learns at age twenty-eight that her birth parents are from the American South, she feels that lifelong questions have been answered. Caught between two opposing cultures, two sets of parents, and two completely different men Pippa is plunged into hilarious, heart-wrenching chaos.

Homer's Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat by Gwen Cooper.Once in nine lives, something extraordinary happens... The last thing Gwen Cooper wanted was another cat. She already had two, not to mention a phenomenally underpaying job and a recently broken heart. Then Gwen’s veterinarian called with a story about a three-week-old eyeless kitten who’d been abandoned. It was love at first sight... For all the animal lover's out there here is a tale that will warm your heart. For those that enjoyed Dewey The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched The World by Vicki Myron, this is another great cat & owner tale.

A few other notable books this week...

First a little something for historical fiction fans... Across The Endless River by Thad Carhart. A historical novel about Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau, the son of Sacagawea, and his intriguing sojourn as a young man in 1820’s Europe. Born in 1805 on the Lewis & Clark expedition, Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau was the son of the expedition’s translators, Sacagawea and Toussaint Charbonneau. Across The Endless River evokes the formative years of this mixed-blood child of the frontier, entering the wild and mysterious world of his boyhood along the Missouri. Imagine wild frontiers and undiscovered territories! The time of Lewis & Clark was a time of great adventure and I'm excited to start reading about this young man torn between two cultures and the obstacles both personal and physical that existed then. This book has a lot of positive buzz!

And finally, the Winner of the Commonwealth Writer's Prize 2009 for the African Region in Best First Book is Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan. The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize covers the Commonwealth regions of Africa, Europe and South Asia, The Caribbean and Canada, and South East Asia and the South Pacific. The objectives of the prize are to promote new voices, reward achievement. Say You're One of Them is a collection of stories, set in Africa, and are often told from a child's point of view. This book also happens to be the book Oprah chose for her newest book club selection. But there is more to this book than just Oprah's endorsement. Uwem Akpan writes beautifully! His prose floats off the page one moment and then disappears the next as we are transported into some agonizing scene. Each story in this jubilantly acclaimed collection pays testament to the wisdom and resilience of children, even in the face of the most agonizing circumstances... A family living in a makeshift shanty in urban Kenya scurries to find gifts of any kind for the impending Christmas holiday. A Rwandan girl relates her family’s struggles to maintain a facade of normalcy amid unspeakable acts. A young brother and sister cope with their uncle’s attempt to sell them into slavery. Aboard a bus filled with refugees—a microcosm of today’s Africa—a Muslim boy summons his faith to bear a treacherous ride across Nigeria. Through the eyes of childhood friends the emotional toll of religious conflict in Ethiopia becomes viscerally clear. Uwem Akpan's debut signals the arrival of a breathtakingly talented writer who gives a matter-of-fact reality to the most extreme circumstances in stories that are nothing short of transcendent. Would you like to read a sample of his writing? The New Yorker Magazine has two stories from the book on their website! Here is the LINK to My Parent's Bedroom and An Ex-Mas Feast.

*P.S. For fans of Diana Gabaldon, An Echo in the Bone, the much-anticipated 7th novel featuring Jamie & Claire traveling across time, will be released this tuesday! Don't miss it! And if you're unfamiliar with Diana Gabaldon's Outlander Series, and you like historical romance, with a twist of time travel, start reading! The first book is Outlander!

That about does it for this week... Tell me what's on your shelf! And what books you've come across we should all know about! Are you an Oprah fan? What do you think about her choice? Do you like short stories? And tell me, do you read memoirs?

Happy reading... Suzanne

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much AND The Books We'd Love to "Steal" If We Were Book Thieves!

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much
AND The Books We'd Love to "Steal" If We Were Book Thieves!

There was a lot of book lust going on last week as the giveaway for The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett was going on! Thanks to everyone who joined in on the fun! What great books we all would 'steal' if we were book thieves like John Gilkey! Here's the list of what books we'd slip under our hats if we were so inclined! Oh, and I didn't list the identities to protect the innocent...

* A First edition of ANY F. Scott Fitzgerald novel (Famous for his novel The Great Gatsby!)
* The Very First edition of ANYTHING by Edgar Allen Poe
* The First edition of The Collected Works of Shakespeare published in 1623
* The Gutenberg Bible ( the first substantial book printed with movable type, completed in 1455. If your interested, here's a list of where the 21 remaining complete Gutenberg Bibles can be found)
* A Soldier of The Great War by Mark Helprin
* A First Edition of Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
* A First Edition of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Jane was a popular girl, mentioned a few times!)
* A Handwritten draft by Jane Austen
* A First Edition of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
* a first edition of Paradise Lost by John Milton
* An Original Copy of ANY Shakespeare play (another popular choice!)
* A First Edition of the Dick and Jane Reader (this one brings back fond memories, but not from when they were first used which was the 1930's)
* A Copy of Oscar Wilde and Me by Lord Alfred Douglas
* Who Killed Amanda Palmer by Amanda Parker and Neil Gaiman
* An Original Play by Henrik Ibsen (known for his successful Pillars of Society)
* An Original Copy of Grimms Fairy Tales (Would you like to read a few? Here's a site with all the stories available to read!)
* Emmuska Orczy’s Scarlet Pimpernel books
* The Tunnel Calamity by Edward Gorey
* The Tao Te Ching, the ancient Chinese “Book of the Tao” by philosopher Lao Tzu around 2500 BC
* Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
* First Edition of a Nero Wolfe novel, such as The Doorbell Rang (BTW, Rex Stout wrote the Nero Wolfe novels!)
* Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran ( Enter my giveaway for a copy of this!)
* A Signed First Edition of Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
* A First Edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
* A Huge Bag Full of Books from Barnes & Noble Bookstore!
Here are some added favorites from other Chick with Books readers:
* Books from the Bronte sisters!
* The Wizard of Oz series!

Any other books that we should add to this list of great books we wish were in our libraries? Any John Steinbeck fans? Dr. Seuss? Jennifer won the giveaway for The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, but as of today it's available from your local bookstore! (and is Kindle Ready!) As for the other books mentioned... you may have a harder time finding them!

Happy reading...

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