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

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Giveaway: The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker... A Great Book Club Selection!

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker

Congratulations to Jonita, Beth and Marilu! They each won a copy of The Little Giant of Aberdeen County! Thank you to EVERYONE for joining in on the fun by entering and tweeting the giveaway!

When Truly Plaice's mother was pregnant, the town of Aberdeen joined together in betting how recordbreakingly huge the baby boy would ultimately be. The girl who proved to be Truly paid the price of her enormity; her father blamed her for her mother's death in childbirth, and was totally ill equipped to raise either this giant child or her polar opposite sister Serena Jane, the epitome of femine perfection. When he, too, relinquished his increasingly tenuous grip on life, Truly and Serena Jane are separated--Serena Jane to live a life of privilege as the future May Queen and Truly to live on the outskirts of town on the farm of the town sadsack, the subject of constant abuse and humiliation at the hands of her peers.

Serena Jane's beauty proves to be her greatest blessing and her biggest curse, for it makes her the obsession of classmate Bob Bob Morgan, the youngest in a line of Robert Morgans who have been doctors in Aberdeen for generations. Though they have long been the pillars of the community, the earliest Robert Morgan married the town witch, Tabitha Dyerson, and the location of her fabled shadow book--containing mysterious secrets for healing and darker powers--has been the subject of town gossip ever since. Bob Bob Morgan, one of Truly's biggest tormentors, does the unthinkable to claim the prize of Serena Jane, and changes the destiny of all Aberdeen from there on.

When Serena Jane flees town and a loveless marriage to Bob Bob, it is Truly who must become the woman of a house that she did not choose and mother to her eight-year-old nephew Bobbie. Truly's brother-in-law is relentless and brutal; he criticizes her physique and the limitations of her health as a result, and degrades her more than any one human could bear. It is only when Truly finds her calling--the ability to heal illness with herbs and naturopathic techniques--hidden within the folds of Robert Morgan's family quilt, that she begins to regain control over her life and herself. Unearthed family secrets, however, will lead to the kind of betrayal that eventually break the Morgan family apart forever, but Truly's reckoning with her own demons allows for both an uprooting of Aberdeen County, and the possibility of love in unexpected places.

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker has the qualities of a great book club selection, with a good story, interesting characters, complicated family dynamics and a sympathetic protagonist. Plenty of story to make a good roundtable discussion at your next reading group get together. Below you will find the reading group guide from the publisher to help a discussion along. But even if you don't belong to a reading group, reading group guides offer an individual reader insight into the story too. A story of "friendship, love and identity", this book has gotten plenty of good buzz, and is coming out in paperback in January! Look for my review coming soon, but in the meantime would you like to read an excerpt? Here's a link to Chapter One! How about winning a copy for yourself?! Courtesy of Valerie of Hachette Book Group, I have 3 copies for a giveaway! Here's how...

To Enter this giveaway...

*For one entry leave me a comment with your email address!

*Get an extra entry for following my blog! Just leave a comment letting me know you're a follower! ( Not a follower yet? No problem, sign up by clicking on the 'followers" button on the sidebar to the right! Just let me know you became a new follower!)

*Blog or tweet about this giveaway and leave me the link.

This giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents only.(No PO boxes). The books will be shipped to the winners directly from the publisher. Contest ends 11:59pm EST on Jan. 23rd. I will randomly pick the winners the next day and email them! (please check your email.. winner must reply to me within 3 days! Thanks!) Good Luck!


Reading Group Guide

1. Truly is the “little giant” of this book, yet her size seems to make her less, rather than more, visible to the town around her. Can you explain this phenomenon? What do you think the author is trying to say about her outsider status?

2. Serena Jane and Truly are as physically different as sisters can be, yet Truly sees that this difference is crucial, explaining “the reason the two of us were as opposite as sewage and spring water, I thought, was that pretty can’t exist without ugly.” (pp. 97-98) How would you describe Truly and Serena’s connection? How is it different from Truly’s relationship with Amelia Dyerson? Which seems the more genuine sisterhood to you?

3. As the successor to a long line of old-fashioned, small-town doctors, Robert Morgan is traditional, strict, and often cruel. I the end, however, the legacy terminates with him and he becomes Aberdeen’s last Dr. Morgan. How do he and Bobbie stray from the family paradigm? What Morgan characteristics stayed with each of them? Is the town “more modern” without a Dr. Morgan, and with Bobbie and Salvatore’s restaurant instead? Is the replacement of nurturing through nourishment rather than doctoring a symbolic replacement?

4. Death haunts Truly and all of Aberdeen, sometimes in unexpected ways. As a gardener, Marcus’s aim is to “make things live,” but, as Truly realizes, “wasn’t it also true that gardeners were always wrestling with death, whether in the form of drought, or blight, or hungry insects? In a garden, Marcus always said, death was the first, last and only fact of life.” What other parallels do you see in the ways Marcus and Truly court life and death?

5. Truly’s size marks her as an outcast, but throughout the novel, other characters have trouble “fitting in” in a more figurative way. Examine how this manifests in Bobbie, Marcus, Amelia, even Serena Jane. What larger point do you this the author might be trying to make about the importance of conforming?

6. What role does Aberdeen County play in the novel? Could the story or these characters exist elsewhere? Do the effects of the 60s and the Vietnam War seem to touch Aberdeen in the same way they touched the rest of the country? What is unique and what is not about Aberdeen as a setting?

7. When Amelia discovers how Priscilla Sparrow and Robert Morgan died, she asks Truly whether it was mercy or murder that killed them. What do you think? How do you feel about Truly’s actions? What in Truly’s character draws her to “collect souls” as she comes to call it?

8. When Marcus and Truly finally come together, Marcus says “We’re not exactly a match made in heaven, you and I, but I figure we’re good enough for here on earth” (p. 334) What does he mean by this? Do you agree?

9. Why doesn’t Robert Morgan “care” that his son runs away? What does it say about what he thinks of himself? How does this connect to Serena Jane’s leaving and his reaction to that event?

10. After Robert Morgan’s death, Truly gradually takes on some of his responsibilities as town doctor by using the knowledge she’s gained from Tabitha’s quilt. How is this a fitting purpose for Truly, and a fitting counterpoint to the legacy of Morgan doctors?

11. What about this story is larger than life or possesses elements of a tall tale or folklore? How are these details woven into the story? How is the book similar to or different from other works in this tradition?

*P.S. This Book is Kindle Ready!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld... A Review

Sometimes Beauty isn't just Skin Deep...

What could be more important to a teenager raging with hormones, acne, and all the awkwardness that the teenage years are filled with?... Fitting in maybe?... Welcome to the world of Tally Youngblood, where at age 16 you are turned pretty and everything is wonderful... or so you would think...

Scott Westerfeld has created a future filled with Hoverboards, Interface rings and crash bracelets... Uglies is a future that is different, but strangely recognizable and believable.

Uglies is set in the future after society picked itself up after almost total annihilation and created a world where the errors of the past would never be part of the future... The world was different back then when the "Rusties" built the cities they lived in from metal, oil was the main source of fuel, and they lived like 'animals' among the trees and open lands. The new society was better... Everyone was beautiful, life was easier, food was plentiful. The children were protected by checkpoints and curfews, invisible barriers and finally by becoming 'Pretty'. In Uglies you're considered 'Ugly' until at the age of 16 EVERYONE goes thru a surgical procedure to conform to what society deems 'Pretty'... acceptable. From a "Littlie", you are taught that you are ugly... because your features are not perfect, your lips might be too thin, your hair might be frizzy, or you might not be curvy enough. Talk about helping a teenager's self esteem! But there is an answer, and that answer happens at age 16, when you are made drop dead gorgeous. There are parties every night, you are accepted by everyone, and life is easy... But what if you like being who you are? What if you don't want to be like everyone else? Is happiness really just a pretty face?

Tally Youngblood is 15 waiting for her birthday to become Pretty. Her best friend Peris, who she has grown up with, already became pretty and she is lonely and desperate to join him in New Pretty Town, where he lives now. As she sneaks over to New Pretty Town to talk to Peris, causes an amazing bit of trouble, and tries to get back over the river to where the Uglies live, she meets Shay... and all Tally knows about life and her future is turned upside down...

Tally is young, adventurous, and full of life. Shay is her equal in all of that, except she looks at becoming a Pretty differently... She questions societies forcing this conformity and looks at the values that the Pretty's have as shallow... But their friendship blossoms with late night adventures and mischief... Until one day Shay tells Tally there is another choice besides becoming Pretty... there is another place... The Smokes...

Friendship & Love, Loyalty & Betrayal, Regret and Redemption are all words I think of in describing this story. What makes a person beautiful? What are the important things in life? What is special about being your own person? This YA story touches on all these important questions and will make you sit back and think. As the story unfolds, Scott Westerfeld creates a history we can follow, shows us how things aren't always quite what they seem on the surface and what an amazing adventure life is, especially when Tally looks outside the box to see a world she could never have imagined and one in which the "authorities" take great measure to try and destroy. The friendship between Tally and Shay is believable & wonderful! There is plenty of action and thrills as Tally makes a journey to find her true self! Scott Westerfeld has created a world you can step inside and explore. You'll be turning those pages to find out what happens next! The characters are rich and the writing is compelling. This is a YA novel, but adults will enjoy reading it as well. I know I really enjoyed reading it! There is a cliff hanger at the end of the story, but the book stands on its own and you will enjoy it even if you don't read any further. The Uglies is a 4 book series... (originally it was suppose to be a trilogy, but there was one more story in Scott!)... I just ordered the rest of the series... and I can't wait! If you were ever went through the angst of being a teenager and had a BFF you will appreciate Uglies!

I read this as part of my DystopYA Reading Challenge. Dystopian fiction is generally fiction about a world that is attempting to be perfect but contains a fatal flaw, and you'll soon find out what that flaw is in Uglies!

Have you read this series yet? What did you think? Do you think being 'Pretty' is the answer to societies problems? Share your thoughts! I'd love to read them! Follow this link to Chapter One! And Scott Westerfeld has written a great selection of discussion questions for Uglies! Here is the Link! The questions illustrate what a thought provoking book this really is...

*P.S. This Book is Kindle Ready!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Memoir Mondays... A Giveaway for Corked by Kathryn Borel

A Father, a Daughter and an unforgettable Road Trip...

Congrats to the winners: Maxine, Karen & Bonnie! They each won a copy of Corked! And Thank you to EVERYone who joined in on the fun! Thanks for the Tweets & blogging about the giveaway! And thanks for stopping by!

Meet Kathryn Borel, bon vivant and undutiful daughter. Now meet her father, Philippe, former chef, eccentric genius, and wine aficionado extraordinaire. Kathryn is like her father in every way but one: she's totally ignorant when it comes to wine. And although Philippe has devoted untold parenting hours to delivering impassioned oenological orations, she has managed to remain unenlightened. But after an accident and a death, Kathryn realizes that by shutting herself off to her father's greatest passion, she will never really know him. Accordingly, she proposes a drunken father-daughter road trip. Corked is the uncensored account of their tour through the great wine regions of France. Uproarious, poignant, painfully introspective, and filled with cunning little details about wine, this is a book for any reader who has sought a connection with a complex family member or wanted to overcome the paralyzing terror of being faced with a restaurant wine list.

Kathryn Borel was born in 1979 in Toronto, the daughter of a hotelier. After several years, she became the older sister to Nico, who was named after the family cat. She spent her early years living in hotels in Paris, Bermuda, Dallas, and New Jersey, finally settling in Quebec City. In 2002 she moved to Toronto to follow a man. The relationship ended. Kathryn continues to live and work in Toronto, has written food and wine reviews for radio and print and Corked is her first book...

Corked will be released in February 2010! I'm always up for a memoir, and one dealing with the relationship between a father & daughter seemed like it would be worth reading. I will be reviewing this as soon as my copy arrives and I'm able to crack the spine, so look for that a bit later. In the meantime, would you like to read an excerpt? Here's a link to Kathryn's website, where you can download the first chapter! AND Courtesy of Anna of Hachette Book Group I have 3 copies to giveaway!

To Enter this giveaway...

*For one entry leave me a comment with your email address!

*Get an extra entry for following my blog! Just leave a comment letting me know you're a follower! ( Not a follower yet? No problem, sign up by clicking on the 'followers" button on the sidebar to the right! Just let me know you became a new follower!)

*Blog or tweet about this giveaway and leave me the link.

This giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents only.(No PO boxes). The books will be shipped to the winners directly from the publisher. Contest ends 11:59pm EST on Feb. 1st. I will randomly pick the winners the next day and email them! (please check your email.. winner must reply to me within 3 days! Thanks!) Good Luck!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Sunday Salon... Books You May Have Missed & One You Shouldn't!...

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...

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas with family & friends! Ate wonderful meals, and amazing desserts! This is the last Sunday Salon of the year! But I'm not ready to look at the year behind yet, I'm still looking ahead! And this week I'd like to look at a few of the books I am looking forward to reading!

One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni... Like an extra Christmas present that Santa tucked in my mailbox yesterday, an ARC of One Amazing Thing arrived in a plain manilla envelope from the publisher. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is a new author to me, but she is an accomplished writer and poet. Her published books span almost 20 years! I had read a blurb about this book and thought it sounded so interesting... "Late afternoon in an Indian visa office in an unnamed American city. Most customers have come and gone, but nine people remain. A punky teenager with an unexpected gift. An upper class Caucasian couple whose relationship is disintegrating. A young Muslim-American man struggling with the fallout of 9/11. A graduate student haunted by a question about love. An African-American ex-soldier searching for redemption. A Chinese grandmother with a secret past. And two visa office workers on the verge of an adulterous affair...When an earthquake rips through the afternoon lull, trapping these nine wildly individual characters together, their focus first jolts to a collective struggle to survive. There’s little food. The office begins to flood. Then, at a moment when the psychological and emotional stress seems nearly too much for them to bear, the young graduate student suggests that each tell a personal tale, “one amazing thing” from their lives, which they have never told anyone before. As their surprising stories of romance, marriage, family, political upheaval, and self-discovery unfold against the urgency of their life-or-death circumstances, the novel proves the transcendent power of stories and the meaningfulness of human expression itself." As I opened the envelope and reached inside for the book, little did I know what a treat I was in for. I found out when I opened and started to read... Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's prose is simply lyrical. And I find myself unable to put the book down. I'll save the rest of my thoughts for a proper review following the turn of the last page, but suffice it to say I am enjoying the time spent reading this! It's official release date is scheduled Feb. 2010.

2666 by Roberto Bolano... I had heard so many great things about this book that it's been on my wish list for a while... And I found it under the tree this year! (Thanks mom!) This is suppose to be Bolano's masterpiece. Poetic & complicated, with a bit of wicked humor tossed in... Three academics on the trail of a reclusive German author; a New York reporter on his first Mexican assignment; a widowed philosopher; a police detective in love with an elusive older woman--these are among the searchers drawn to the border city of Santa Teresa, where over the course of a decade hundreds of women have disappeared. The book is divided into 5 parts, all pieces of the story that intersect in the city of Santa Teresa. It's translated from the Spanish and weighs in at a whopping 893 pages! Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, I'm hoping that it will not disappoint! And from leafing thru the pages, I don't think I will!

The Help by Kathryn Stockett... I had picked this book up soon after it was published and have been patiently waiting to absorb all it's wonder. A book about women and the invisible lines that are crossed in order to save one another... Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step. Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone. Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken. Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own. Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk... they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed. I picked this for my reading group choice for January. Look for a post about The Help as a book club choice with a reading group guide. And of course a review... *P.S. This Book is Kindle Ready!

Of course these books are just the tip of the iceberg, but I wanted to share these with you this week! What are you looking forward to reading? What are you reading now?! Share your reading pile! And let me know if you've read any of these books yet and what you thought! In the meantime, have a wonderful weekend! And a Happy New Year...

Happy reading, Suzanne

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Visit From St. Nicholas... A Poem and a Mystery...

A Visit From St. Nicholas

Legend has it that it was a 19th century professor of classics, Clement C. Moore, that wrote one of the most beloved Christmas poems, A Visit From St. Nicholas, for his family on Christmas Eve of 1822, during a sleigh ride home from Greenwich Village. Supposedly the jolly Dutchman who drove his sleigh that night was who he based Santa Clause on. Since that fateful day in when the beloved poem was first published anonymously in The Troy Sentinel newspaper in 1823, no one has really questioned the authorship of A Visit From St. Nicholas (also known as 'Twas The Night Before Christmas). In 1844 Clement C. Moore officially took credit for the poem... But another family is claiming that the poem was probably written by their relative Henry Livingston Jr., a gentleman-poet of Dutch descent. So a 7th generation descendant of Mr. Livingston, Mary Van Deusen, hired literary sleuth Don Foster, an English professor at Vassar College and a scholar of authorial attribution, to investigate. (BTW, Don Foster is the guy who figured out who wrote the book Primary Colors a few years back). Do people who love reading Twas The Night Before Christmas every year as a family tradition care who actually wrote the poem? Clement Clarke Moore II, a descendant of the famous poet, said he was not concerned about the challenge. "It is the poem itself that is important, not the authorship." What do you think? And in the meantime...

'Twas the Night Before Christmas
(A Visit from St. Nicholas)

by Clement Clarke Moore
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a Good-Night!"

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

New Years Resolutions for Readers... The Graphic Novels Challenge 2010

New Years Resolutions for The Reader
Graphic Novels Challenge 2010

Like New Years Resolutions, Readers also make resolutions! These resolutions are all about the challenges! Type of books, length of books and even how many books! It's all so much fun, you aren't punished if you don't finish your challenge, and you're joining your reading community and reading!

The first challenge I'm going to join this year is going to be the Graphic Novels Challenge 2010! I've really enjoyed the Graphic Memoirs I've been reading and decided it would be fun to read more Graphic Novels and not just graphic memoirs.... So, Nymeth at things mean alot and Chris at Stuff As Dreams Are Made On are hosting this challenge at a special blog appropriated called, Graphic Novels Challenge Blog.

Here are the rules and guidelines...

*The challenge starts on January 1st 2010 and ends on December 31st (but we don't mind you starting early.)

*You don't have to make a list beforehand (but you can, of course! Lists are great because they give ideas to people who aren't sure what to read. And if you do make one, don't feel forced to stick to it!)

*The levels of participation:
Beginner (3 Comics or Graphic Novels)
Intermediate (3-10)
Expert (10+) You're more than free to adjust your level of participation after the challenge has begun.

*There will be mini-challenges!

*Overlaps with other challenges are totally fine.

You don't have to have a blog to participate- all you have to do is read! You can share what your reading right here if you'd like! I'll be posting the links to my reviews here as I'm going along. Do you read graphic novels? And suggestions of some of your favorites?! Let me know what
you've read in the past or are reading right now! And click on the Graphic Novels Challenge link above to read all about and join the challenge!

Books I Read for The Challenge:

Stitches by David Small... This graphic novel is David Small's memoir of growing up in his dysfunctional family, and having a little operation that was suppose to be harmless, but left him virtually mute.
Read my full Review of Stitches.

American Widow by Alissa Torres... This graphic novel tells the story of 9/11 through the eyes of Alissa Torres who lost her husband, Eddie Torres, in the North Tower. American Widow depicts the horror, frustration, and utter chaos that Alissa had to deal with as she dealt with the realization that her husband would not be coming home. This is a powerful book that seamlessly weaves together the backstory of Eddie & Alissa, Eddie & Alissa before they met, how they met, fell in love and came to become part of the story of 9/11.

Tyranny by Lesley Fairfield... This graphic novel gives us a glimpse into the mind of a girl who begins to suffer from an eating disorder. The internal conflicts
and external pressures that cause Anna to battle with herse
lf about her self worth. Tyranny is Anna's alter ego, drawn as an angry squiggly line, who is constantly pushing her buttons and holding her back from living the life she was meant to. There is an important message in this slim graphic novel about eating disorders, and ultimately the novel shows that there is hope for young girls who suffer from this devastating disease. Read my full Review of Tyranny.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Memoir Mondays... The Autobiography of Santa Claus by Jeff Guinn

From the Publisher...It all started when Jeff Guinn was assigned to write a piece full of little-known facts about Christmas for his paper, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram. A few months later, he received a call from a gentleman who told him that he showed the story to an important friend who didn’t think much of it. And who might that be? asked Jeff. The next thing he knew, he was whisked off to the North Pole to meet with this “very important friend,” and the rest is, well, as they say, history... An enchanting holiday treasure, The Autobiography of Santa Claus combines solid historical fact with legend to deliver the definitive story of Santa Claus. And who better to lead us through seventeen centuries of Christmas magic than good ol’ Saint Nick himself? Families will delight in each chapter of this new Christmas classic—one per each cold December night leading up to Christmas!

It's Christmas week and what better "Memoir" to look at than one of Santa himself! I haven't read this book yet, but have heard some good things about it. The book follows the evolution of Santa Claus from 280 A.D. to modern times with historical facts backing up the majority of the story. This is also a book done with 24 chapters so you can read a chapter a day starting the beginning of december and finishing the book Christmas eve, which I always enjoy. Would you like to read an excerpt? Here is a link to Chapter One! Has anyone read this yet? Share your thoughts on what looks to be a fascinating fun read! This book is also Kindle Ready!

Next week we'll be back to more 'conventional' memoirs for Memoir Monday! And until then, have a wonderful Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Sunday Salon... "Snow Bound with Books"

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...

The fire is roaring in the woodstove as I write this morning... the big Nor'easter dropped a bit of snow, but not quite the 10 - 18 inches that was predicted. Of course it's still snowing... All this snow did bring to mind of few good books... all involving SNOW! So today's Sunday Salon will feature 2 books with snow in their title!

Snow Angels by James Thompson... The first thriller in a new series featuring Inspector Kari Vaara: the haunted, hardened detective who must delve into Finland's dark and violent underbelly. Kaamos: Just before Christmas, the bleakest time of the year in Lapland. The unrelenting darkness and extreme cold above the Arctic Circle drive everyone just a little insane . . . perhaps enough to kill.

A beautiful Somali immigrant is found dead in a snowfield, her body gruesomely mutilated, a racial slur carved into her chest. Heading the murder investigation is Inspector Kari Vaara, the lead detective of the small-town police force. The vicious killing may have been a hate crime, a sex crime-or one and the same. Vaara knows he must keep this potentially explosive case out of the national headlines or else it will send shock waves across Finland, an insular nation afraid to face its own xenophobia. The demands of the investigation begin to take their toll on Vaara and his marriage. His young American wife, Kate, newly pregnant with their first child, is struggling to adapt to both the unforgiving Arctic climate and the Finnish culture of silence and isolation. Meanwhile Vaara himself, haunted by his rough childhood and failed first marriage, discovers that the past keeps biting at his heels: He suspects that the rich man for whom his ex-wife left him years ago may be the killer... Endless night can drive anyone to murder.

Author James Thompson is American born, but has lived the last 10 years in Finland, and is considered a Finnish writer. Though he has been writing for years, Snow Angels will be his first published book in the U.S. Prior to Snow Angels he was having a hard time finding a publisher because they felt his writing was "too brutal and subject matter too controversial for publication." But the quality of his writing is evident in Snow Angels, a crime novel set in a place he knows so well, Finland. His writing has the ability to evoke the feelings of the dark, long days & nights of Kaamos, and the desperation it can cause. His characters are well developed and the writing is good. There are a few passages that involve some "honest" descriptions of the crime scene, but it's not gratuitous. I was immediately drawn into the story! If you like crime noir and would like to read a wonderful new & upcoming writer, Snow Angels will be published the beginning of January in the United States! AND it's going to be Kindle Ready! It's gotten a lot of great buzz, and the deal has been signed for book 2 already! Thank you to Lydia of G.P.Putnam's Sons for sending me an advanced copy of this book! I enjoyed investigating with Kari Vaara!

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See... This absorbing novel takes place in 19th century China when girls had their feet bound, then spent the rest of their lives in seclusion with only a single window from which to see. Illiterate and isolated, they were not expected to think, be creative, or have emotions. But in one remote county, women developed their own secret code, nu shu – "women's writing" – the only gender-based written language to have been found in the world. Some girls were paired as "old-sames" in emotional matches that lasted throughout their lives. They painted letters on fans, embroidered messages on handkerchiefs, and composed stories, thereby reaching out of their windows to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments.

This is one of my favorite books of all time! It is the story of 2 Chinese girls whose friendship and love for each other helps them survive the turmoil of living in China during the 19th century. The characters are rich and full. The setting is fascinating. The history of the times is so well woven into the story. And I learned so much about the culture and traditions that these 2 little girls grew up with! Lisa Sees' writing is beautiful, the story is mesmerizing & heartbreaking. If you've ever had a girlfriend, a BFF, you will look deep within yourself and your friendships as a result of reading this book. If you haven't read this yet, if you have a girl friend that you still have to buy a gift for, pick this book up! This book is also Kindle Ready!

I hope if you're snowbound today like me, that your fire is burning brightly, you have the comfort of family, friends and a good book! If snow hasn't come your way, I wish for you a wonderful relaxing sunday as well! Tell me what you're reading! And if you've read either of these books, please share what you thought!

Enjoy the day! Suzanne

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Jane Austen Birthday Celebration Week continues with Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict
by Laurie Viera Rigler

Reading all those Jane Austen Novels really helps when you travel back in time...

After nursing a broken engagement with Jane Austen novels and Absolut, Courtney Stone wakes up and finds herself not in her Los Angeles bedroom or even in her own body, but inside the bedchamber of a woman in Regency England. Who but an Austen addict like herself could concoct such a fantasy?

Not only is Courtney stuck in another woman’s life, she is forced to pretend she actually is that woman; and despite knowing nothing about her, she manages to fool even the most astute observer. But not even her level of Austen mania has prepared Courtney for the chamber pots and filthy coaching inns of nineteenth-century England, let alone the realities of being a single woman who must fend off suffocating chaperones, condom-less seducers, and marriages of convenience.

This looking-glass Austen world is not without its charms, however. There are journeys to Bath and London, balls in the Assembly Rooms, and the enigmatic Mr. Edgeworth, who may not be a familiar species of philanderer after all. But when Courtney’s borrowed brain serves up memories that are not her own, the ultimate identity crisis ensues. Will she ever get her real life back, and does she even want to?

As we wrap up the Jane Austen Birthday Celebration week, here's another book that looks to be a fun read! I like time traveling and this is what our heroine in Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict does. I look forward to reading how author Laurie Viera Rigler handles the story line... Author Laurie Viera Rigler also has a great website with lots of Austen trivia, links and other fun stuff. You can visit HERE, and when there don't forget to take her "addiction" quiz and see how bad your Jane Austen Addiction is, such as "Your friends carry pictures of their children or significant others in their wallets. You carry on your cellphone a screen shot of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy (or Matthew MacFadyen, depending on your personal taste)." (Amazon also has the paperback version of this book at a Bargain Price of under $6.00!) Have you read this book yet? And if so, what did you think?! I hope you enjoyed the Jane Austen inspired "books with buzz" this week! Let me know what your favorite Austen inspired books are!

*P.S. This book is Kindle Ready!

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Jane Austen Birthday Celebration Week continues with The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

A Fictional Book Club that loves Jane Austen!

In California’s central valley, five women and one man join to discuss Jane Austen’s novels. Over the six months they get together, marriages are tested, affairs begin, unsuitable arrangements become suitable, and love happens. With her eye for the frailties of human behavior and her ear for the absurdities of social intercourse, Karen Joy Fowler has never been wittier nor her characters more appealing. The result is a delicious dissection of modern relationships. Dedicated Austenites will delight in unearthing the echoes of Austen that run through the novel, but most readers will simply enjoy the vision and voice that, despite two centuries of separation, unite two great writers of brilliant social comedy.

A few years back The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler was all the rage! It was a favorite among book clubs (it's always fun to read about other book clubs!) and it still gets a lot of great buzz today. It's been on my TBR list for a long time, so what better time then Jane Austen's Birthday Celebration Week to finally pull it out and start reading! Karen Joy Fowler is known for her wonderfully developed characters and her great writing. In The Jane Austen Book Club each chapter focuses on a particular Austen novel and the character that is hosting the discussion of that book- slowly unfolding the lives of each of the book club members little by little as you read the book. The book club members also come up with their own discussion questions (which is interesting to read!), but here is a LINK to the discussion questions from the publisher for your book group! I also think that it's nice to look through a reading group guide after you've read a book yourself- sometimes the questions posed can add an interesting viewpoint you may not have considered. So check it out even if you're reading this on your own! Would you like to read an excerpt? Here is a link to Chapter One. The cover shot that I used is the first PB cover, now the cover is the movie tie-in image. (I prefer non-movie tie in covers!) So, if you're looking for it, keep your eye out for a different cover....

As we continue Jane Austen Birthday Week Celebration, this is one book that is more chick-lit than vampire & sea monsters, and should satisfy the reader who doesn't really get into Mr. Darcy with fangs. It should also be a fun read and one I'm looking forward to finally starting! Have you read this one yet? What did you think!? And if you have a review, I'd love to put a link here so we can all check it out!

*P.S. This Book is Kindle Ready!

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