Literary Quote of the Month

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

Sunday, September 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


Unknown said...

Everything Sucks was so totally hilarious and fun to read that I had to get another copy after my friend stole it because I was reading aloud... enjoy it Suzanne!!

Literary Feline said...

Hi, Suzanne! I hope you are enjoying your weekend. I enjoy reading memoirs occasionally too. The human interest stories are particularly favorites of mien. I confess I'm not that into celebrity memoirs and the like though.

Homer's Odyssey is one I hope to read soon. Gwen Cooper was such a good sport when I was trying to find out the outcome of her novel to decide if I would read it or not.

I've had Say You're One of Them on my TBR shelf for awhile now. I really need to read that one. I'm kicking myself for not reading it before now. Now everyone will think I'm reading it because Oprah endorsed it. LOL

Lisa said...

I am STILL hyperventilating over Diana G's NEW BOOK COMING OUT IN 2 DAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Always so happy to meet another fan of hers! :)

Suzanne Yester said...

Hi Francesca!
Thanks for the great endorsement of Hannah's book! I got an email from her promoting her book and she was just so funny in the email I knew that her book would be just the same! Glad I picked it up!

Hi Literary Feline!
I'm with you, I generally don't read the celebrity memoirs either... And as far as Say You're One of Them, I'll let everyone here know you bought it BEFORE Oprah! :D I know how you feel.. I bought the first Harry Potter book way before all the hoopla too! I loved it and made everyone I know read it too! But then everyone started reading it and it exploded into the phenomenon that it is...

Suzanne Yester said...

Oh Lisa!
I am SO excited about the new Outlander book! But I still haven't caught up yet! There will be lots of flashlight under the covers reading so I can read An Echo in the Bone soon!

Lisa said...

Oh, I like the idea of Memoir Mondays. I'll be eager to check in with you every week to see what you've got because I love memoirs.

Suzanne Yester said...

Hi Lisa!
I'm glad to see so much interest in memoirs! I just slowly started to make memoirs part of my reading... and now there's a whole bunch in the TBR pile!

Anonymous said...

Yes, Across the Endless River, with its entrancing title, appears to be a fine historical novel about Jean Baptiste Charbonneau. Book lovers can also appreciate his actual biography entitled Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, Man of Two Worlds. It reveals a life that surpasses fiction.

Heidi V said...

Homer's Odyssey sounds like a me book!

Thank you for the recommendation...

Becky said...

I too love memoirs and I think mainly for the reason you first described- memoirs are like reading a secret journal. Love your list of books and wanted to share one that I also found to be a great memoir, "Replacement Child: A Memoir" by Judy L. Mandel. A true, documented story about a tragic accident and a families road to healing. I actually found the book to be quite uplifting, hopeful and sometimes even funny. Thanks again for the great list- Please keep Memoir Monday's going- love it!

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