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

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Walking to Gatlinburg by Howard Frank Mosher... A Review

"Years later Morgan Kinneson would conclude that it was probably reading that had gotten him and his brother, Pilgrim, into trouble in the first place..."

Walking to Gatlinburg by Howard Frank Mosher is a wonderful story of a young man, 17-year-old Morgan Kinneson, who travels from Vermont to the Great Smoky Mountains trying to find his older brother, Pilgrim, who went missing during the Battle at Gettysburg. Along the way, as in all good tales, Morgan encounters a whole host of quirky characters including a weeping elephant, a woman who lives in a tree, and the not so quirky and very beautiful slave girl named Slidell.

The year is 1864. The Kinneson family has been helping runaway slaves enter Canada from Vermont by way of the Underground Railroad for some time. A chance encounter with one of those slaves, leaves Morgan in possession of a mysterious rune with strange markings and a pack of 5 murderous thugs after him (and the rune). As Morgan deals with his "problems" he makes his way through the rugged terrain searching for any clues as to the whereabouts of his brother. The backdrop for the story is the Civil War, one of America's bloodiest wars, where at times brother fought brother, and where, as I was reading, could feel the hopelessness of it all. What makes this book stand out is the way the author blends the history of the times with the beauty of the American landscape and adds a twist of wry humor. Howard Frank Mosher has written a coming of age story during the turbulent times of the Civil War and added quirky entertaining characters to help us see past the horrors of war and see what the American pioneer spirit was founded on. Imagine Charles Frazier writing as Mark Twain and you’ll understand Walking to Gatlinburg.

Howard Frank Mosher calls himself a natural born liar. Something he's not lying about is that he's no Charles Frazier, and Walking to Gatlinburg is no Cold Mountain... and for that I am thankful, because Mr. Howard has his own blend of New England charm. Howard Frank Mosher knows how to craft a yarn. He is a gifted storyteller and knows his history. Walking to Gatlinburg is engaging, his characters are filled with personality, and I loved it! Walking to Gatlinburg is an adventure, it's historical fiction, and it'll make you smile more than once...

Read an excerpt of Walking to Gatlinburg at Mr. Mosher's website, and while you're there check to see if he'll be making an appearance somewhere near you. He has a fascinating slide show to go along with his book tour called "Transforming History into Fiction: the Story of a Born Liar". You get a glimpse at how Walking to Gatlinburg came to be and how there's not only a liar in the Mosher family, but a murderer (or an almost murderer) in his family too. (Which makes for another great story!)

*P.S. This Book is Kindle Ready!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Memoir Monday... Lift by Kelly Corrigan

Lift by Kelly Corrigan... I came across this little book, 96 pages, as I was wandering the bookstore... It was such a beautiful looking little book so I picked it up. I'm not a mother, but I had a childhood and Kelly's wonderful writing and wry sense of humor grabbed me from the start. Written as a letter to her children, Kelly relays her deepest fears, frustrations and fierce love through the weaving of three relevant stories from her life. It’s the kind of book that will make you pause for a moment and take stock of the riches in your life…

Here's what the publisher says..."Kelly Corrigan’s Lift is a tender, intimate, and robust portrait of risk and love; a touchstone for anyone who wants to live more fully. In Lift, Corrigan weaves together three true and unforgettable stories of adults willing to experience emotional hazards in exchange for the gratifications of raising children.

Lift takes its name from hang gliding, a pursuit that requires flying directly into rough air, because turbulence saves a glider from “sinking out.” For Corrigan, this wisdom—that to fly requires chaotic, sometimes even violent passages—becomes a metaphor for all of life’s most meaningful endeavors, particularly the great flight that is parenting.

Corrigan serves it up straight—how mundanely and fiercely her children have been loved, how close most lives occasionally come to disaster, and how often we fall short as mothers and fathers. Lift is for everyone who has been caught off guard by the pace and vulnerability of raising children, to remind us that our work is important and our time limited."

Kelly Corrigan writes, "I heard once that the average person barely knows tens stories from childhood and those are based more on photographs and retellings than memory..." If you take one thing away from Lift, it should be that life passes by swiftly and we should take a moment to stop and breath it all in. A loving testament, Lift can be appreciated not only by parents, but anyone with parents...

You can read an excerpt of Lift at

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Sunday Salon... Bookish Tidbits & Books with Buzz

I enjoy early sunday mornings... It seems the perfect time of day to relax with a steaming cup of coffee, reflect on the week that's just gone by and look ahead to the coming week...

One of the exciting things coming at the end of this week is the iPad by Apple. How is this book related? Well, not only will there be an iBook store, but Amazon has developed Kindle App for Tablet Computers so that you can download Kindle books onto your iPad. You will also be able to read the Kindle books you already own on your iPad. As eBooks gain popularity, and the iPad should push this along a little too, book sales reported by 85 publishers fell .7% in January. EBooks on the other hand had a 261% increase in sales! Even with the popularity of the eReaders and eBooks, publishers still are still debating release dates (4 month delay for Kindle books?), pricing platforms and availability (Random House is debating whether to publish for iPad). As a girl who loves her Kindle, but still buys from the Brick & Mortar store, I am not going to buy the hard cover of a new release just because the Kindle version is delayed 4 months and I would hope that books would someday be released in all eBook versions, so I can purchase it on a Kindle, but my friend can also read it on her Nook. Alright Kindle users, what do you think?!

Another book related tidbit this week... With the soaring popularity of Alice in Wonderland, due in part to the Johnny Depp movie (I think), DailyLit is offering Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll for your reading enjoyment! I posted about DailyLit last July when I discovered their wonderful site. If you're not familiar with what DailyLit is, well basically they deliver a daily dose of literature to you via your email or RSS feed. Each book that you sign up to read is divided into segments that should take you only 5 minutes to read. You can read more about DailyLit at

There have been some sequels released recently that may interest you too... Flavia De Luce returns in The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag written by Alan Bradley. The first book, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, was a hit last year as aspiring chemist Flavia de Luce dabbles in murder... Gabry returns in The Dead-Tossed Waves written by Carrie Ryan. Gabry first appeared in The Forest of Hands and Teeth, the dystopian story with an added dose of zombies...

Which all leads into this weeks Book with Buzz... Here are a few books to keep your eyes out for while you are wondering your favorite Brick & Mortar bookstore...

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson... The Major leads a quiet life valuing the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. But then his brother's death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition? This book has gotten so much great buzz! "Delightful", "entertaining", "Charming", are all words used to describe this book in the numerous blurbs I've read. I think it's safe to say this is going to be a hit especially with reading groups. You can read an excerpt at Helen Simonson's website! *This Book is Kindle Ready!

One Good Dog by Susan Wilson... Adam March is a self-made “Master of the Universe.” He has it all: the beautiful wife, the high-powered job, the glittering circle of friends. But there is a price to be paid for all these trappings, and the pressure is mounting—until the day Adam makes a fatal mistake. His assistant leaves him a message with three words: your sister called. What no one knows is that Adam’s sister has been missing for decades. That she represents the excruciatingly painful past he has left behind. And that her absence has secretly tormented him all these years. When his assistant brushes off his request for an explanation in favor of her more pressing personal call, Adam loses it. And all hell breaks loose... Adam is escorted from the building. He loses his job. He loses his wife. He loses the life he’s worked so hard to achieve. He doesn’t believe it is possible to sink any lower when he is assigned to work in a soup kitchen as a form of community service. But unbeknownst to Adam, this is where his life will intersect with Chance. Chance is a mixed breed Pit Bull. He’s been born and raised to fight and seldom leaves the dirty basement where he is kept between fights. But Chance is not a victim or a monster. It is Chance’s unique spirit that helps him escape and puts him in the path of Adam. What transpires is the story of one man, one dog, and how they save each other—in ways they never could have expected. I love "dog" books, and this is sure to please The Art of Racing in The Rain fans, Marley & Me fans, and dog lovers alike. Chance is suppose to really steal the show here... *P.S. This Book is Kindle Ready!

Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes... From Publishers Weekly: Thirty years in the making, Marlantes’s epic debut is a dense, vivid narrative spanning many months in the lives of American troops in Vietnam as they trudge across enemy lines, encountering danger from opposing forces as well as on their home turf. Marine lieutenant and platoon commander Waino Mellas is braving a 13-month tour in Quang-Tri province, where he is assigned to a fire-support base and befriends Hawke, older at 22; both learn about life, loss, and the horrors of war. Jungle rot, leeches dropping from tree branches, malnourishment, drenching monsoons, mudslides, exposure to Agent Orange, and wild animals wreak havoc as brigade members face punishing combat and grapple with bitterness, rage, disease, alcoholism, and hubris. A decorated Vietnam veteran, the author clearly understands his playing field (including military jargon that can get lost in translation), and by examining both the internal and external struggles of the battalion, he brings a long, torturous war back to life with realistic characters and authentic, thrilling combat sequences. Marlantes’s debut may be daunting in length, but it remains a grand, distinctive accomplishment. This book has gotten a lot of press this past week. Riveting and unforgettable are two words that I've seen describe this book. What struck me about this book was that it's not political. Matterhorn is a portrait of young men at war. Not an uplifting read, but one to sink your teeth into. *P.S. This Book is Kindle Ready!

The week ahead promises more great reading & reviewing... I'm finishing The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno by Ellen Bryson , which takes place in the time of P.T. Barnums world of curiosities, and transforms those curiosities into real people. Review will be posted soon. AND I will post my review of Walking to Gatlinburg by Howard Frank Mosher this coming week. I wanted to post it this past week, but time just slipped away and Mr. Mosher's book deserves more than a brief mention - I thoroughly enjoyed Walking to Gatlinburg! I'm also participating in Ted Dekker's book tour for this upcoming release The Bride Collector, and will be reviewing that book this week!

What are YOU reading this week? And what books have caught your eye?!

Happy Reading... Suzanne

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Favorites by Mary Yukari Water... A Review

Mothers and Daughters...
Secrets and Silence.

Like a soft whisper, Mary Yukari Waters' writing is quietly powerful. Her book, The Favorites, is simply wonderful. She perfectly captures the subtle nuances of a relationship between a mother and her daughter, and the 3 generations of women this story is about...

"Kyoto 1978. Fourteen-year-old Sarah Rexford feels like an outsider when she returns to Japan for the first time in five years, to stay with her mother's family. As Sarah begins to reacquaint herself with her relatives and learn more about the culture she came from, she discovers a secret that stretches across three generations, its presence looming over the family home. She quickly learns that personal boundaries are firmly drawn in traditional Kyoto, and actions are not always what they appear..."

The Favorites by Mary Yukari Waters is narrated through the voice of 14-year-old Sarah as she returns to Kyoto to visit her mother's family. Her innocent observations guide the story, as she learns about the beauty of Japan, the streets & surroundings that her mother walked as a child, and the complexities of the relationships between the women of her family.

The Favorites also touches on the challenges an immigrant experiences in a land foreign to them- Sarah is half Japanese because her mother married an American, so she deals with her feelings of being an outsider,with strangers on the street, but also with her family. We learn of the differences of Sarah's mother living in America as a foreigner and her return to her native home. What's also wonderful is how Sarah views these differences, and her growing appreciation and love as a result

I loved this book! In near perfect prose Mary Yukari Waters relates the honesty in feelings a daughter has for her mother; the unconditional love, the teenage embarrassment, the growing respect & love... and how everyone has a special place in a family. Mary Yukari Waters writes so well about the complex feelings these women have for each other. She uses the eyes of Sarah to tell us and does this with the backdrop of one of my favorite places, Japan. A country filled with wonderful traditions, beauty, and superstitions... All is slowly divulged as the story takes us from the everyday lives of the women of the Kobayashi and Asaki houses one long summer in 1978. Sarah begins to slowly fade a bit as the story seems to tell itself in other parts, and in doing so we learn more details of another important woman in the household, and how the secret that binds the houses has affected her. Their histories and passions create a wonderful story that will stay with you after the last page is turned... Mary Yukari Waters writes the stories of these women with passion, but with the restrained grace of the Japanese women she is writing about.

This novel was so moving. The story still haunts me... If you enjoy stories of mothers & daughters, sisters & family secrets, The Favorites with be a very satisfying read!

A Big Thank you to Book Chick City, a British chick who loves to read and and has a wonderful blog, for sending this novel to me! Check out her blog Book Chick City! And learn more about The Favorites and the author, Mary Yukari Waters, at Simon & Schuster!

*Hey, I'm sharing this review with Cym Lowell's Book Review Party!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Memoir Monday... Keeping the Feast by Paula Butturini

Love, Food, and Healing in Italy

Keeping the Feast by Paula Butturini... Back of the Book: Paula and John met in Italy, fell in love, and four years later, married in Rome. But less than a month after the wedding, tragedy struck. They had transferred from their Italian paradise to Warsaw and while reporting on an uprising in Romania, John was shot and nearly killed by sniper fire. Although he recovered from his physical wounds in less than a year, the process of healing had just begun. Unable to regain his equilibrium, he sank into a deep sadness that reverberated throughout their relationship. It was the abrupt end of what they'd known together, and the beginning of a new phase of life neither had planned for. All of a sudden, Paula was forced to reexamine her marriage, her husband, and herself.

Paula began to reconsider all of her previous assumptions about healing. She discovered that sometimes patience can be a vice, anger a virtue. That sometimes it is vital to make demands of the sick, that they show signs of getting better. And she rediscovered the importance of the most fundamental of human rituals: the daily sharing of food around the family table.

A universal story of hope and healing, Keeping the Feast is an account of one couple's triumph over tragedy and illness, and a celebration of the simple rituals of life, even during the worst life crises. Beautifully written and tremendously moving, Paula's story is a testament to the extraordinary sustaining powers of food and love, and to the stubborn belief that there is always an afterward, there is always hope.

Keeping the Feast is an amazing memoir. It stirs the taste buds, as Paula describes the wonderful food that keeps her going..."I would buy a shiny, plump purple-black eggplant. Or a handful of slender green beans, so fresh and young you could eat them raw... a mountain of mid-winter spinach, barely warm and drizzled with olive oil and lemon...". We are entranced by the descriptions of the narrow streets of Italy, the vendors that abound, and the beauty. But at the same time we are enjoying the wonderful descriptions of food, Italy and love, we read along as tragedy strikes and Paula must deal with her husband Johns external wounds as well as his growing depression. It's a story of the "simple rituals of life" and how important they can be in our every day lives. Paula feeds the senses with her writing as the story unfolds in flashbacks. It's an important story, one in which others dealing with tragedy and the difficulties of living with someone with depression or an illness may find inspiration from Paula Butturini. Read the first chapter of Keeping the Feast! The story is captivating and the writing will keep your attention.

I want to thank Lydia from Riverhead Books for sending this book along to me! Thanks Lydia, it was such a good read!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Sunday Salon... Books Coming soon to a shelf near you... and Kindle for Mac!

It's been a beautiful week in Connecticut! The sun is finally showing its face and the crocuses have too. Taking your reading outside is such a treat after a long winter, and that's exactly what I did this week. I've spent the last week walking to Gatlinburg with Morgan Kinneson from King County and have enjoyed every step. Along the way, Morgan and I met a handful of quirky characters that brought a smile to my face. This week I'll be posting my review of Walking to Gatlinburg by Howard Frank Mosher... Exciting news for John Sanford fans as the 20th Prey Novel will soon come out. The name is Storm Prey, it's a new Lucas Davenport thriller, and I happen to have an uncorrected proof of it in my hands! The publisher is finalizing some fun marketing campaigns, stay tuned for more news about that next month... Ted Dekker also has a new thriller coming out in April 13th called The Bride Collector. I can't say too much about it yet, but suffice it to say it I have a better appreciation of serial killers... Emily St. John Mandell, who wrote the wonderful book Last Night in Montreal, is coming out with her second novel, The Singer's Gun... On to some great Kindle news for Mac owners! Kindle for Mac is now available! It's a free application for Macintosh owners. If you have a Kindle already, you can access your books, bookmarks & annotations right from your Mac! This application has been available for a while for PC, but as with most Mac applications is a PC world Macintosh owners had to wait just a bit longer. I love seeing my book covers in full color on the computer screen too!

Here are two other wonderful books to be on the lookout for...

A Soft Place to Land by Susan Rebecca White... Back of the Book, For more than ten years, Naomi and Phil Harrison enjoyed a marriage of heady romance, tempered only by the needs of their children. But on a vacation alone, the couple perishes in a flight over the Grand Canyon. After the funeral, their daughters, Ruthie and Julia, are shocked by the provisions in their will... Spanning nearly two decades, the sisters’ journeys take them from their familiar home in Atlanta to sophisticated bohemian San Francisco, a mountain town in Virginia, the campus of Berkeley, and lofts in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. As they heal from loss, search for love, and begin careers, their sisterhood, once an oasis, becomes complicated by resentment, anger, and jealousy. It seems as though the echoes of their parents’ deaths will never stop reverberating—until another shocking accident changes everything once again. I received a copy of A Soft Place to Land this week and it looks to be a wonderful story. I did read a little and found the writing to be so enjoyable. I can't wait to dive in now. I can see this to be a good reading group selection and there are wonderful praises for A Soft Place to Land including one by Kathryn Stockett (The Help), who says, "It's smart, funny, moving and wise." I also really love the cover, it just reminds me of lazy summer days as a teenager. It's due to be released April 6th by Simon & Schuster. I'll have a few review after I finish.

She-Rain by Michael Cogdill... Back of the Book, In the early 20th Century, a pair of North Carolina mountain children sow the seed of a love that becomes their only solace in the hard yet beautiful world they know. They grow it from steep ground of poverty, ignorance, and violence. A landscape so brutal it can kill hope long before claiming life... Bloodshed years later finally sends Frank Locke on the run, deep into wilderness, abandoning his extraordinary love, Mary Lizbeth. When a whitewater river washes this desperate soul into the hands of Sophia, he discovers a luminous woman steeped in mystery, trapped in a tragically brilliant life. Far ahead of her time. Secreted from the world. As she awakens Frank’s mind, they rise to meet a love that binds three people for a lifetime. Michael Cogdill's prose is beautiful. Written in an Appalachian voice, this love story will have you turning the pages. It reminds me of Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain a bit. Not so much for the time period of the Civil War, but the flavor of the book and the characters. Release date is scheduled for March 31st! A full review coming soon!

What are you reading this week?! Hope you enjoy the week ahead! Stop back this week for a review of Walking to Gatlinburg by Howard Frank Mosher, and a review of The Favorites by Mary Yukari Waters...

Happy Reading... Suzanne

Friday, March 19, 2010

NASCAR Fan? The Ultimate NASCAR INSIDER'S Track Guide by Liz Allison... A Review & GIVEAWAY!

And The Winners are... Beth, Kim & Laura! Congratulations! And Thank you to Everyone who joined in on the fun!

Hey NASCAR Fan's! Here's the ULTIMATE guide for any NASCAR Fan!

Back of the Book... From dining to shopping to lodging to packing, this is a practical guide that no NASCAR fan should be without! Liz Allison maximized her personal connections at every NASCAR Sprint Cup track to determine what fans really need to know, including listings for hotels around the track and on- and off-site camping; dining, from fast food to sit-down restaurants; tips for medical emergencies and nearby hospitals; area attractions, including golf courses where you might spot your favorite driver; veterinary services and pet-friendly lodging; and much more!

About a month ago, I reviewed He Crashed Me So I Crashed Him Back by Mark Bechtel about that fateful year that NASCAR put itself on the map with an amazing year. That book really brought the sport of NASCAR alive for me, as I knew little about the sport. Well, Brianna from Hachette Book Group wanted to know if I'd like to review another NASCAR related book- The Ultimate NASCAR Insider's Track Guide by Liz Allison. And I'm glad I said yes! What a great guide this is! Mark Bechtel's book peaked my interest in NASCAR, and Liz Allison's book, The Ultimate NASCAR Insider's Track Guide is a perfect guide for anyone to plan a little trip to catch a race somewhere. And who better than Liz Allison to write this guide!? Liz is a speedway veteran with over 20 years as a reporter, fan, wife of late NASCAR driver Davey Allison and a mother! And this guide leaves nothing out- from how to decide what kind of race you'd like to see, to how to buy tickets, to everything about planning your trip. In fact the book is divided into "Planning your trip", "At the track", and "Traveling with Kids". And then there is a separate track guide for each individual track in the circuit. And what a wealth of info you get about each track; a little history, track records, fun facts, what you can and cannot bring in the grandstands, places to stay, eat and places to have some fun outside of the races. A well organized guide to anything you possibly could want to know about planning your NASCAR trip and enjoying yourself once you're there. And even if you're not planning a trip it's a great book for any NASCAR fan! Would you like to take a peak? Here an EXCERPT !

Here's the fun part... Planning on a NASCAR trip? How about just being a NASCAR fan? Well, courtesy of Brianna and Hachette Book Group I have 3 copies of The Ultimate NASCAR INSIDER'S Track Guide by Liz Allison to give away! Here's how to enter...

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 April 3rd. 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!

BTW...Have an iPhone? Well, Hachette Book Group has just created an iPhone Application to go along with the book. Right now they have an App for Las Vegas, Fontana, Atlanta, Bristol and Daytona tracks. From dining and shopping to lodging and tips for getting driver autographs. The home screen features an outline of the track layout; click on a car to get to listings of restaurants, hotels, and area attractions. There is a how-to for ticket purchasing, tips on what you can [and can’t] bring in to the grandstands, instructions for using a garage area access pass, and much more. The app also includes a section on what to do in case of an emergency, whether it’s you or your four-legged friend. All phone numbers will automatically dial when clicked for any establishment listed [iPhone only]. You can watch a Youtube video of the app to learn more. Right now the apps are .99 cents each.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sugar by Bernice L. McFadden... A Review

Sugar by Bernice L. McFadden

From the Publisher... When a young prostitute comes to Bigelow, Arkansas, to start over, far from her haunting past. Sugar moves next door to Pearl, who is still grieving for the daughter who was murdered fifteen years before. Over sweet-potato pie, an unlikely friendship begins, transforming both women's lives--and the life of an entire town...

Sugar brings a Southern African-American town vividly to life, with its flowering magnolia trees, lingering scents of jasmine and honeysuckle, and white picket fences that keep strangers out--but ignorance and superstition in. To read this novel is to take a journey through loss and suffering to a place of forgiveness, understanding, and grace.

I didn't know what to expect from Sugar as I read the opening scene of a horrendous murder of a young black girl named Jude and the devastated mother she left behind named Pearl. The year was 1940, the place was a southern black town, and it was the era of segregation...

"No one cared except the people who carried the same skin color"

Bernice McFadden made me feel the anguish of a mother who lost her child; the injustice of the times as it was known nothing was going to be done about it... And then she whisked me ahead 15 years. Pearl is still mourning the loss of her daughter, Jude, in her quiet reserved manner... But there's a new girl in town, and her name is Sugar - a young prostitute looking to change her life. Sugar exudes sex, with her short short skirts, spiky high heels, and BIG attitude. Pearl is a quiet obedient church-going wife. Their unlikely friendship creates amazing changes in both of them... much to the dismay of Pearl's church going friends, but to the delight of Pearls family.

Bernice is a master storyteller. Her prose is beautiful. As the layers of this story unfold, of murder, secrets, jealousy and pride, Bernice seamlessly weaves it all together to an amazing ending. I felt a whirlwind of emotions as I read Sugar; I laughed, I cried and I felt anger. I saw past those short skirts Sugar wore and found a little girl struggling to catch her breathe. And I walked through a small town scared to open its arms to someone who obviously wasn't 'one of them'... or was she? I kept turning those pages... Graphic in nature at times, but not gratuitous, you will appreciate Sugar's sincerity. You'll appreciate the rich, complex and strong female characters fully fleshed out and who don't shy away from sharing their feelings. Bernice has also captured the feel of small town life, with the soft whispers heard between small clutches of people. The story will grab your attention, and your heart, and will not let you go until the very last page.

Sugar is friendship... it's honesty wrapped up in the poetry of words... it's redemption and it's powerful...

Would you like to read an excerpt? Read the first chapter at the publisher's website! You can also learn more about Bernice and her writing at her website, There you will also find discussion questions, because Sugar would make an excellent reading group pick! I want to thank Bernice for sending me a review copy! I just loved reading Sugar! And I want to thank Bernice for also letting me know that there is a sequel to Sugar! The story continues with This Bitter Earth! I'm so happy because I wasn't quite ready to give up visiting Bigelow, Arkansas and spending time with Sugar! A wonderful story & wonderful characters, what more can you ask for?!

*P.S.S. Hey, I'm sharing this review with Cym Lowell's Book Review Party!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Memoir Monday... The Storks' Nest by Laura Lynne Williams: Life and Love in the Russian Countryside! And A Review!

The Storks' Nest
[Life and Love in the Russian Countryside]

From the Publishers... The Storks' Nest is the true story of a young American woman who moves to a remote village in western Russia and falls in love with a nature photographer. Together they explore the wilderness of the impenetrable Bryansk Forest, coming face-to-face with bison and bears, apprehending poachers and a runaway stallion, and raising a stork and a moose. As they build a house and a life together, nature often sets the agenda, bringing floods and impassable roads, blood-sucking insects, and bone-chilling cold. Yet, these present-day hardships are nothing compared to those the Chukhrai villagers have experienced in the past century-from forced hunger to Communist repression to Hitler's invasion. As Laura learns about the history and life of the village and its 19 inhabitants, she discovers the enduring spirit of the Russian people and the immeasurable joys of living with nature.

Laura Lynne Williams fell in love... but not just with a Russian nature photographer named Igor, but with Russia and the hard working people of the isolated Russian village Chukhrai. The Storks' Nest by Laura Lynne Williams beautifully captures the powerful draw of nature to our souls. Living most of her life in "bustling polluted cities" and "working behind a desk" Laura's dream as a young college student at Cornell was to work in international nature conservancy. Her studies led her to joining the World Wildlife Federation, and then eventually becoming director of their first office in Russia promoting the conservation efforts to help sustain Russia's zapovedniki, which is a large network of strictly protected natural areas covering about 1.5 percent of the whole country. And this is where the story begins to draw you in... Laura eventually gives up her well paying job at WWF and accepts an offer from the handsome director of the Bryansk Forest Zapovednik, Igor Shpilenok, to run the educational center for the newly constructed visitor's center there for about $60 a month. Motivated primarily by her need to get out from behind her desk and back into the actual field Laura begins a new phase in her life. We trail behind her as she raises an orphaned moose, or catches a moor frog to feed a baby stork. I was captivated by her descriptions of the simple beauty surrounding her, and her everyday normal village life- laying pipes, digging trenches, cooking traditional Russian meals. The bison, beavers, moose and the rare black storks made up her surroundings, but also the hardships and small victories of village life. Sprinkled with photographs of the villagers and animals around her, there are also a few recipes within the pages. One recipe is for Bliny, a staple of the Russian diet, and a favorite treat of Kisa, Igor's red haired dachshund. Heartwarming and heartbreaking at times too, The Storks' Nest by Laura Lynne Williams will make you yearn for the great outdoors. You'll learn so much about Russia and the natural beauty that is rarely promoted. You'll also learn about a woman who followed her heart and became something more than just herself. If you love nature, you'll enjoy The Storks' Nest. It's not just a memoir though, The Storks' Nest is an important work reminding us that there are still places untouched by over-development, cell phones and highways, and that the wildlife and wilderness there should be preserved. I want to thank Katie at Fulcrum Publishing for sending me the review copy of The Storks' Nest! If you'd like to learn more about Laura Lynne Williams, you can read more about Laura and her husband, Igor, and their important work at the Center for Russian Nature Conservation. You can view the beautiful Russian nature photography of Igor Shpilenok at his online gallery too. *P.S. This Book is Kindle Ready!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Sunday Salon... Books with Buzz!

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...

Spring has finally sprung in Connecticut! At least for a few days earlier this past week... this weekend, though, it's suppose to rain, rain, and RAIN! But what does a reader do when it rains? Curl up with a good book somewhere quiet! Here are a few books with a lot of great buzz this week that you may want to curl up with yourself...

Walking to Gatlinburg by Howard Frank Mosher... What IndieBound says, A stunning and lyrical Civil War thriller, Walking to Gatlinburg is a spellbinding story of survival, wilderness adventure, mystery, and love in the time of war... Morgan Kinneson is both hunter and hunted. The sharp-shooting 17-year-old from Kingdom County, Vermont, is determined to track down his brother Pilgrim, a doctor who has gone missing from the Union Army. But first Morgan must elude a group of murderous escaped convicts in pursuit of a mysterious stone that has fallen into his possession... It’s 1864, and the country is in the grip of the bloodiest war in American history. Meanwhile, the Kinneson family has been quietly conducting passengers on the Underground Railroad from Vermont to the Canadian border. One snowy afternoon Morgan leaves an elderly fugitive named Jesse Moses in a mountainside cabin for a few hours so that he can track a moose to feed his family. In his absence, Jesse is murdered, and thus begins Morgan’s unforgettable trek south through an apocalyptic landscape of war and mayhem... Along the way, Morgan encounters a fantastical array of characters, including a weeping elephant, a pacifist gunsmith, a woman who lives in a tree, a blind cobbler, and a beautiful and intriguing slave girl named Slidell who is the key to unlocking the mystery of the secret stone... Howard Frank Mosher has written 10 novels, including Walking to Gatlinburg. He's been compared to a modern day Mark Twain for his wonderful storytelling and this book has received an amazing amount of positive buzz! As part of his book tour for Walking to Gatlinburg he presents a unique slide show. “Transforming History into Fiction: the Story of a Born Liar”, which chronicles how he wrote Walking to Gatlinburg, from the surpassingly strange, never-before-told family stories that inspired the novel. Well, it just so happens that he is making a stop on his book tour a few towns over from where I live! So today I am going to the Ridgefield Library to listen to Mr. Mosher talk about his newest book! And I'm really looking forward to his slide show! I'll be picking up his book to read, so stay tuned for a review! You can read the first chapter of Walking to Gatlinburg by following the link to Howard Frank Mosher's website. You can also read all about his other books, and see if he'll be visiting a bookstore or library near you! *P.S. This Book is Kindle Ready!

The Last Child by John Hart... Thirteen year-old Johnny Merrimon had the perfect life: a warm home and loving parents; a twin sister, Alyssa, with whom he shared an irreplaceable bond. He knew nothing of loss, until the day Alyssa vanished from the side of a lonely street. Now, a year later, Johnny finds himself isolated and alone, failed by the people he’d been taught since birth to trust. No one else believes that Alyssa is still alive, but Johnny is certain that she is—-confident in a way that he can never fully explain... Determined to find his sister, Johnny risks everything to explore the dark side of his hometown. It is a desperate, terrifying search, but Johnny is not as alone as he might think. Detective Clyde Hunt has never stopped looking for Alyssa either, and he has a soft spot for Johnny. He watches over the boy and tries to keep him safe, but when Johnny uncovers a dangerous lead and vows to follow it, Hunt has no choice but to intervene. John Hart writes mysteries/thrillers, and The Last Child won The CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger in 2009! I've got a copy of this on my nightstand too! John Hart's character Johnny has been called a modern Huck Finn... *P.S. This Book is Kindle Ready!

The Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell... January 2006. In the Swedish hamlet of Hesjövallen, nineteen people have been massacred. The only clue is a red ribbon found at the scene... Judge Birgitta Roslin has particular reason to be shocked: Her grandparents, the Andréns, are among the victims, and Birgitta soon learns that an Andrén family in Nevada has also been murdered. She then discovers the nineteenth-century diary of an Andrén ancestor—a gang master on the American transcontinental railway—that describes brutal treatment of Chinese slave workers. The police insist that only a lunatic could have committed the Hesjövallen murders, but Birgitta is determined to uncover what she now suspects is a more complicated truth... The investigation leads to the highest echelons of power in present-day Beijing, and to Zimbabwe and Mozambique. But the narrative also takes us back 150 years into the depths of the slave trade between China and the United States—a history that will ensnare Birgitta as she draws ever closer to solving the Hesjövallen murders. We've met quite a few wonderful mystery writers from Sweden since Steig Larsson gave us The Girl with The Dragon Tatoo, and Henning Mankell is among them. The Man from Bejing is a March 2010 Indie Bookseller (Independent Bookseller) pick! (Ok, no references to Twain, Huck Finn or even Becky here) *P.S. This Book is Kindle Ready!

Hope you've found something to peak your interest! Next week be on the lookout for a review of The Favorites by Mary Yukari Waters, which I finished this week. It was a wonderful book about "three generations of women and a secret that binds them together". Mary Yukari Waters paints a beautiful picture of the complex relationships between women, all of which happens in a small village in Japan. And I'll be reviewing Sugar by Bernice L. McFadden which I had talked about in my Feb. 28th Sunday Salon post, which is a wonderful story of loss, friendship and redemption with the backdrop of the deep south.

Happy reading... Suzanne

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