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, October 31, 2010

The Sunday Salon and a little Ghost Story by Mark Twain for Halloween

It's Sunday! And Halloween! The ancient Celts thought that Halloween was the day when the dead can return to roam the earth, and they would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off the evils of the night... Are you lighting your bonfires tonight?! Maybe just a pumpkin or two? What better time of year for a ghost story... There have been many ghost stories written by famous authors including The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving and The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe. Even Edith Wharton has written a collection of ghost stories, including Kerfol which is said to be her best, where a wealthy bachelor, urged by friends to purchase a home in Brittany, finds the estate of Kerfol devoid of human presence and populated instead by a pack of eerily silent dogs. Directed to a regional chronicle by a local resident, the narrator reads the 200-year-old account of a woman terrorized by her jealous husband, a mysterious and gruesome murder, and the sensational trial of the survivor. You can follow the links above to read all three tales online, and for today's Sunday Salon I thought I'd share a different kind of ghost story by literary favorite, Mark Twain... about the Cardiff Giant...

A Ghost Story

I TOOK a large room, far up Broadway, in a huge old building whose upper stories had been wholly unoccupied for years, until I came. The place had long been given up to dust and cobwebs, to solitude and silence. I seemed groping among the tombs and invading the privacy of the dead, that first night I climbed up to my quarters. For the first time in my life a superstitious dread came over me; and as I turned a dark angle of the stairway and an invisible cobweb swung its slazy woof in my face and clung there, I shuddered as one who had encountered a phantom.

I was glad enough when I reached my room and locked out the mould and the darkness. A cheery fire was burning in the grate, and I sat down before it with a comforting sense of relief. For two hours I sat there, thinking of bygone times; recalling old scenes, and summoning half-forgotten faces out of the mists of the past; listening, in fancy, to voices that long ago grew silent for all time, and to once familiar songs that nobody sings now. And as my reverie softened down to a sadder and sadder pathos, the shrieking of the winds outside softened to a wail, the angry beating of the rain against the panes diminished to a tranquil patter, and one by one the noises in the street subsided, until the hurrying foot-steps of the last belated straggler died away in the distance and left no sound behind.

The fire had burned low. A sense of loneliness crept over me. I arose and undressed, moving on tiptoe about the room, doing stealthily what I had to do, as if I were environed by sleeping enemies whose slumbers it would be fatal to break. I covered up in bed, and lay listening to the rain and wind and the faint creaking of distant shutters, till they lulled me to sleep.

I slept profoundly, but how long I do not know. All at once I found myself awake, and filled with a shuddering expectancy. All was still. All but my own heart -- I could hear it beat. Presently the bed- clothes began to slip away slowly toward the foot of the bed, as if some one were pulling them! I could not stir; I could not speak. Still the blankets slipped deliberately away, till my breast was un- covered. Then with a great effort I seized them and drew them over my head. I waited, listened, waited.

Once more that steady pull began, and once more I lay torpid a century of dragging seconds till my breast was naked again. At last I roused my energies and snatched the covers back to their place and held them with a strong grip. I waited. By and by I felt a faint tug, and took a fresh grip. The tug strengthened to a steady strain -- it grew stronger and stronger. My hold parted, and for the third time the blankets slid away. I groaned.

An answering groan came from the foot of the bed! Beaded drops of sweat stood upon my forehead. I was more dead than alive. Presently I heard a heavy footstep in my room -- the step of an elephant, it seemed to me -- it was not like anything human. But it was moving FROM me -- there was relief in that. I heard it approach the door -- pass out without moving bolt or lock -- and wander away among the dismal corridors, straining the floors and joists till they creaked again as it passed -- and then silence reigned once more.

When my excitement had calmed, I said to myself, "This is a dream -- simply a hideous dream." And so I lay thinking it over until I convinced myself that it WAS a dream, and then a comforting laugh relaxed my lips and I was happy again. I got up and struck a light; and when I found that the locks and bolts were just as I had left them, another soothing laugh welled in my heart and rippled from my lips. I took my pipe and lit it, and was just sitting down before the fire, when -- down went the pipe out of my nerveless fingers, the blood forsook my cheeks, and my placid breathing was cut short with a gasp! In the ashes on the hearth, side by side with my own bare footprint, was another, so vast that in comparison mine was but an infant's'! Then I had HAD a visitor, and the elephant tread was explained.

I put out the light and returned to bed, palsied with fear. I lay a long time, peering into the darkness, and listening. Then I heard a grating noise overhead, like the dragging of a heavy body across the floor; then the throwing down of the body, and the shaking of my windows in response to the concussion. In distant parts of the building I heard the muffled slamming of doors. I heard, at intervals, stealthy footsteps creeping in and out among the corridors, and up and down the stairs. Sometimes these noises approached my door, hesitated, and went away again. I heard the clanking of chains faintly, in remote passages, and listened while the clanking grew nearer -- while it wearily climbed the stairways, marking each move by the loose surplus of chain that fell with an accented rattle upon each succeeding step as the goblin that bore it advanced. I heard muttered sentences; half-uttered screams that seemed smothered violently; and the swish of invisible garments, the rush of invisible wings. Then I became conscious that my chamber was invaded -- that I was not alone. I heard sighs and breathings about my bed, and mysterious whisperings. Three little spheres of soft phosphorescent light appeared on the ceiling directly over my head, clung and glowed there a moment, and then dropped -- two of them upon my face and one upon the pillow. They spattered, liquidly, and felt warm.

Intuition told me they had turned to gouts of blood as they fell -- I needed no light to satisfy myself of that. Then I saw pallid faces, dimly luminous, and white uplifted hands, floating bodiless in the air -- floating a moment and then disappearing. The whispering ceased, and the voices and the sounds, and a solemn stillness followed. I waited and listened. I felt that I must have light or die. I was weak with fear. I slowly raised myself toward a sitting posture, and my face came in contact with a clammy hand! All strength went from me apparently, and I fell back like a stricken invalid. Then I heard the rustle of a garment -- it seemed to pass to the door and go out.

When everything was still once more, I crept out of bed, sick and feeble, and lit the gas with a hand that trembled as if it were aged with a hundred years. The light brought some little cheer to my spirits. I sat down and fell into a dreamy contemplation of that great footprint in the ashes. By and by its outlines began to waver and grow dim. I glanced up and the broad gas flame was slowly wilting away. In the same moment I heard that elephantine tread again. I noted its approach, nearer and nearer, along the musty halls, and dimmer and dimmer the light waned. The tread reached my very door and paused -- the light had dwindled to a sickly blue, and all things about me lay in a spectral twilight. The door did not open, and yet I felt a faint gust of air fan my cheek, and presently was conscious of a huge, cloudy presence before me. I watched it with fascinated eyes. A pale glow stole over the Thing; gradually its cloudy folds took shape -- an arm appeared, then legs, then a body, and last a great sad face looked out of the vapor. Stripped of its filmy housings, naked, muscular and comely, the majestic Cardiff Giant loomed above me!

All my misery vanished -- for a child might know that no harm could come with that benignant countenance. My cheerful spirits returned at once, and in sympathy with them the gas flamed up brightly again. Never a lonely outcast was so glad to welcome company as I was to greet the friendly giant. I said:

"Why, is it nobody but you? Do you know, I have been scared to death for the last two or three hours? I am most honestly glad to see you. I wish I had a chair -- Here, here, don't try to sit down in that thing!

But it was too late. He was in it before I could stop him, and down he went -- I never saw a chair shivered so in my life. "Stop, stop, You'll ruin ev--"

Too late again. There was another crash, and another chair was resolved into its original elements.

"Confound it, haven't you got any judgment at all? Do you want to ruin all the furniture on the place? Here, here, you petrified fool--"

But it was no use. Before I could arrest him he had sat down on the bed, and it was a melancholy ruin.

"Now what sort of a way is that to do? First you come lumbering about the place bringing a legion of vagabond goblins along with you to worry me to death, and then when I overlook an indelicacy of costume which would not be tolerated anywhere by cultivated people except in a respectable theater, and not even there if the nudity were of YOUR sex, you repay me by wrecking all the furniture you can find to sit down on. And why will you? You damage yourself as much as you do me. You have broken off the end of your spinal column, and littered up the floor with chips of your hams till the place looks like a marble yard. You ought to be ashamed of yourself -- you are big enough to know better."

"Well, I will not break any more furniture. But what am I to do? I have not had a chance to sit down for a century." And the tears came into his eyes.

"Poor devil," I said, "I should not have been so harsh with you. And you are an orphan, too, no doubt. But sit down on the floor here -- nothing else can stand your weight -- and besides, we cannot be sociable with you away up there above me; I want you down where I can perch on this high counting-house stool and gossip with you face to face."

So he sat down on the floor, and lit a pipe which I gave him, threw one of my red blankets over his shoulders, inverted my sitz-bath on his head, helmet fashion, and made himself picturesque and comfortable. Then he crossed his ankles, while I renewed the fire, and exposed the flat, honey-combed bottoms of his prodigious feet to the grateful warmth.

"What is the matter with the bottom of your feet and the back of your legs, that they are gouged up so?"

"Infernal chillblains -- I caught them clear up to the back of my head, roosting out there under Newell's farm. But I love the place; I love it as one loves his old home. There is no peace for me like the peace I feel when I am there."

We talked along for half an hour, and then I noticed that he looked tired, and spoke of it. "Tired?" he said. "Well, I should think so. And now I will tell you all about it, since you have treated me so well. I am the spirit of the Petrified Man that lies across the street there in the Museum. I am the ghost of the Cardiff Giant. I can have no rest, no peace, till they have given that poor body burial again. Now what was the most natural thing for me to do, to make men satisfy this wish? Terrify them into it! -- haunt the place where the body lay! So I haunted the museum night after night. I even got other spirits to help me. But it did no good, for nobody ever came to the museum at midnight. Then it occurred to me to come over the way and haunt this place a little. I felt that if I ever got a hearing I must succeed, for I had the most efficient company that perdition could furnish. Night after night we have shivered around through these mildewed halls, dragging chains, groaning, whispering, tramping up and down stairs, till, to tell you the truth, I am almost worn out. But when I saw a light in your room to-night I roused my energies again and went at it with a deal of the old freshness. But I am tired out -- entirely fagged out. Give me, I beseech you, give me some hope!"

I lit off my perch in a burst of excitement, and exclaimed:

"This transcends everything -- everything that ever did occur! Why you poor blundering old fossil, you have had all your trouble for nothing -- you have been haunting a PLASTER CAST of your- self -- the real Cardiff Giant is in Albany!

[Footnote by Twain: A fact. The original fraud was ingeniously and fraudfully duplicated, and exhibited in New York as the "only genuine" Cardiff Giant (to the unspeakable disgust of the owners of the real colossus) at the very same time that the latter was drawing crowds at a museum in Albany.]

Confound it, don't you know your own remains?"

I never saw such an eloquent look of shame, of pitiable humiliation, overspread a countenance before.

The Petrified Man rose slowly to his feet, and said:

"Honestly, IS that true?"

"As true as I am sitting here."

He took the pipe from his mouth and laid it on the mantel, then stood irresolute a moment (unconsciously, from old habit, thrusting his hands where his pantaloons pockets should have been, and meditatively dropping his chin on his breast), and finally said:

"Well -- I NEVER felt so absurd before. The Petrified Man has sold everybody else, and now the mean fraud has ended by selling its own ghost! My son, if there is any charity left in your heart for a poor friendless phantom like me, don't let this get out. Think how YOU would feel if you had made such an ass of yourself."

I heard his, stately tramp die away, step by step down the stairs and out into the deserted street, and felt sorry that he was gone, poor fellow -- and sorrier still that he had carried off my red blanket and my bath tub.

From "Sketches New and Old", Copyright 1903, Samuel Clemens

Happy Halloween Everyone! And Happy Reading... Suzanne

Friday, October 29, 2010

First Lines...

"He had never been able to stand the sight of blood. There was something about the consistency, thick and pulsating. He knew it was irrational, especially for someone like him. Recently this revulsion had taken over his dreams, taking expression in ways he couldn't control." Red Wolf by Liza Marklund (coming Feb. 2011! A Swedish Mystery!)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Memoir Monday... Memoir Rock-n-Rollers: Literally, Figuratively and Secretly Speaking

Yesterday I blogged about some great Fall reads, but it seems that there are quite a few Fall Memoirs coming out too! So, today I thought instead of highlighting just one memoir, I'd highlight 3! Three very prominent Rock-n-Rollers- one literally, one figuratively, and one secretly speaking! Intrigued? Well, let's get to them...

First we have our literally speaking Rock-n-Roller...

Life by Keith Richards... The long-awaited autobiography of the guitarist, songwriter, singer, and founding member of the Rolling Stones. Ladies and gentleman: Keith Richards. With The Rolling Stones, Keith Richards created the songs that roused the world, and he lived the original rock and roll life. Now, at last, the man himself tells his story of life in the crossfire hurricane. Listening obsessively to Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters records, learning guitar and forming a band with Mick Jagger and Brian Jones. The Rolling Stones's first fame and the notorious drug busts that led to his enduring image as an outlaw folk hero. Creating immortal riffs like the ones in "Jumping Jack Flash" and "Honky Tonk Women." His relationship with Anita Pallenberg and the death of Brian Jones. Tax exile in France, wildfire tours of the U.S., isolation and addiction. Falling in love with Patti Hansen. Estrangement from Jagger and subsequent reconciliation. Marriage, family, solo albums and Xpensive Winos, and the road that goes on forever.

I grew up first listening to the Beatles, Elton John, Billy Joel and groups like Journey, Boston, Jethro Tull... The Rolling Stones was not my generation. That said, I knew all about them- and about lead guitarist Keith Richards. I may have passed by this memoir, except I saw an interview segment on one of the Sunday morning shows yesterday that showed an entirely different man than what I had pictured. And he himself said there were two Keith Richards, one man the image of the bad boy rocker, and another later version that we see now as the family man, gardener, etc. It intrigued me enough that I had to stop and listen, and now read Life. This book will be released on Oct. 26th. *P.S. This Book will be Kindle Ready!

Next our figuratively speaking Rock-n-Roller...

Extraordinary, Ordinary People by Condoleeza Rice... From Booklist: Having served under two Bush presidencies—as national security advisor and secretary of state—Rice is well known for her icy demeanor and steely disposition. This memoir presents a young woman deeply attached to her devoted parents, who encouraged her at every step of her life to overcome racism, sexism, and her own personal doubts. Her roots are deep in the South, with a family that pridefully skirted racism—never using the “colored” facilities or riding in the back of the bus. Her mother, Angelena, was a cultured teacher who taught her piano, while her father, John, was a Presbyterian minister and later a college administrator who, despite his Republican politics, strongly admired black radicals, developing a friendship with Stokely Carmichael. He declined to march with Martin Luther King in nonviolent protests and was more inclined to sit on the front porch with a loaded shotgun to ward off white night riders. The Rice family personally knew the young girls who were killed in the church bombing, one of the more violent episodes the family endured before they eventually left the South. Rice presents a frank, poignant, and loving portrait of a family that maintained its closeness through cancer, death, career ups and downs, and turbulent changes in American society.

No matter what your political leanings are, you have to admire Condoleeza Rice whose strong family values and loving family came to shape her into the woman who would overcome racism and sexism to become the Secretary of State. It took 207 years before a woman was appointed to Secretary of State of the United States, and that was in 1997 with the appointment of Madeline Albright. Condoleeza Rice is only the second woman to ever hold the position. (Figuratively speaking she's a rock-n-roller, 'cause she rocks! ) *P.S. This Book is Kindle Ready!

And finally our secretly speaking Rock-n-Roller...

The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1 by Mark Twain and edited by Harriet E. Smith and others involved in The Mark Twain Project... From Goodreads: "I've struck it!" Mark Twain wrote in a 1904 letter to a friend. "And I will give it away-to you. You will never know how much enjoyment you have lost until you get to dictating your autobiography." Thus, after dozens of false starts and hundreds of pages, Twain embarked on his "Final (and Right) Plan" for telling the story of his life. His innovative notion-to "talk only about the thing which interests you for the moment"--meant that his thoughts could range freely. The strict instruction that these texts remain unpublished for 100 years meant that when they came out, he would be "dead, and unaware, and indifferent" and therefore free to speak his "whole frank mind." The year 2010 marks the 100th anniversary of Twain's death. In celebration of this important milestone and in honor of the cherished tradition of publishing Mark Twain's works, UC Press is proud to offer for the first time Mark Twain's uncensored autobiography in its entirety and exactly as he left it. This major literary event brings to readers, admirers, and scholars the first of three essential volumes and presents Mark Twain's authentic and unsuppressed voice, brimming with humor, ideas, and opinions, and speaking clearly from the grave as he intended.

Mark Twain is our secret Rock-n-Roller because this is the book that will reveal a side to Samuel Langhorne Clemens, aka Mark Twain, that we may not have known. Mr. Twain specified that this book, his autobiography, should not be released until 100 years after his death. The reason being that he would not offend or embarrass any family or friends. The book will be published in three volumes. And I for one, and there have been many great reviews of this book, am looking forward to reading the "uncensored" version of Mark Twain. Official release date of this book is November 15th, but it is available now from Amazon. *P.S. This Book is Kindle Ready!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Sunday Salon... Books with Buzz that Travel Through Europe during Times of War

Hey, it's Sunday! Welcome to The Sunday Salon! Pull up a chair, pour yourself a cup of Joe and settle in for a bit of book talk! Fall seemed to settle in, in Connecticut. We threw a few logs in the wood stove at night, and put a jacket on as we stepped out the front door in the morning. Fall also seems to be the time of year for some great reading! Today we'll be traveling through Europe with the books that caught my eye this week, as well as seeing a bit of war - first we take a trip to northern Spain during the Spanish Civil War, then we'll head to England during WWII, and finally a stop in the French Pyranees after The Great War, or WWI...

The Wrong Blood by Manuel De Lope... In the Basque Country in northern Spain, just before the Civil War, three men in dinner suits stop for a drink at a bar before continuing on their way to a wedding. Their trip is interrupted when their leader, the wealthy Don Leopoldo, has a stroke in the restroom.This event, bizarre and undignified though it is, begins to weave together the lives of two remarkable women: the bride, the beautiful and distinguished Isabel Cruces, and María Antonia Etxarri, the bar owner’s adolescent daughter. Shortly after the outbreak of the war, María Antonia is raped and Isabel’s newlywed husband, Captain Julen Herraiz, is shot. Both women find themselves violently altered, alone, and pregnant. A crippled but wise local doctor is the only witness to the mysterious, silent agreement these women conclude in the loneliness and desperation of their mutual suffering. Many years later, a young student, grandson to Isabel, returns to the scene of the events to spend an innocent summer studying for law exams. As he goes about his work, he unwittingly awakens the ghosts haunting both María Antonia and the doctor, and through their memories the passionate stories of the past unfurl before the reader.

The Wrong Blood has gotten great reviews, particularly for its beautiful writing and imagery. The novel starts out sixty years after the war, and moves back and forth to the time of the war. I love novels that transport me back in time and I'm looking forward to that in this novel, which is on my TBR list! This is also the first novel translated into to English by the Spanish author, Manuel De Lope. This book has been recommended for people who enjoyed Shadow in the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, not so much for the story, but the similar writing style. The Wrong Blood is available now from your local bookstore! *P.S. This Book is Kindle Ready!

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton... A long lost letter arrives in the post and Edie Burchill finds herself on a journey to Milderhurst Castle, a great but moldering old house, where the Blythe spinsters live and where her mother was billeted 50 years before as a 13 year old child during WW II. The elder Blythe sisters are twins and have spent most of their lives looking after the third and youngest sister, Juniper, who hasn’t been the same since her fiance jilted her in 1941. Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in ‘the distant hours’ of the past has been waiting a long time for someone to find it.

This sounds wonderful! Secrets revealed, a crumbling castle, exploring the past! Fans of The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton will be happy to find another book to devour by the author- this time a romantic thriller. Pre-release reviews have given The Distant Hours great reviews, although some thought that it was a little long. I'm still excited about this book, whose release date is officially November 9th! *P.S. This Book will be Kindle Ready!

The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse... A compelling story of ghosts and remembrance. The Great War took much more than lives. It robbed a generation of friends, lovers and futures. In Freddie Watson's case, it took his beloved brother and, at times, his peace of mind. In the winter of 1928, still seeking resolution, Freddie is travelling through the French Pyrenees. During a snowstorm, his car spins off the mountain road. He stumbles through woods, emerging in a tiny village. There he meets Fabrissa, a beautiful woman also mourning a lost generation. Over the course of one night, Fabrissa and Freddie share their stories. By the time dawn breaks, he will have stumbled across a tragic mystery that goes back through the centuries. By turns thrilling, poignant and haunting, this is a story of two lives touched by war and transformed by courage.

Another great story that moves between the past and the present, The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse has been referred to as an "old school" ghost story. This story started out as a novella called The Cave and was written for the Quick Reads campaign to encourage adult literacy. The writing is not as "complex" as other books written by Kate Mosse, or as long (only 272 pages), but The Winter Ghosts has gotten thumbs up reviews, and should be an enjoyable quick read. The Winter Ghosts is currently available (although on back order) at UK bookstores such as The Book Depository, and will be released here in The States Feb. 11th, 2011. (I guess that would make this a UK Fall read and a US Winter read...)

There are plenty of biographies and memoirs coming out too! But we'll chat about that tomorrow for Memoir Monday. In the meantime, I'll be picking winners for the giveaways for Dewey's Nine Lives by Vicky Myron, Dewey the Small-Town Library Cat by Vicky Myron, and The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris. If you missed entering the giveaways you can still read my reviews by following the links. AND there's still time to enter the giveaways for Safe from the Sea by Peter Geye (a great father & son book), and The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett.

Have a great rest of the weekend! And don't forget to share what you've been reading too! I'd love to hear what books YOU spotted this week on your reading adventures!

Friday, October 22, 2010

First Lines...

"The Apocalypse has a way of fouling up one's plans. To its credit, humanity has done its best to anticipate the End of Days, but lacking any basis for a reliable timetable, they've jumped the gun on more than a few occasions. The Apocalypse's stubborn refusal to arrive on schedule has caused no end of trouble for the people who have volunteered to announce its arrival..."... Mercury Falls by Robert Kroese (coming Oct. 26th, 2010)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hey, Who Won the Man Booker Prize this year?!

He should have seen it coming.

His life had been one mishap after another. So he should have been prepared for this one...
That's not a quote about Howard Jacobson winning the Man Booker Prize this year, it's the beginning of his book, The Finkler Question "a scorching story of friendship and loss, exclusion and belonging, and of the wisdom and humanity of maturity." The Finkler Question is Howard Jacobson's 11th novel. Two previous novels longlisted for the Man Booker Prize were Kalooki Nights in 2006 and Who's Sorry Now in 2002. Much talk has circulated about Howard Jacobson being an underrated, but highly regarded writer. Winning the Man Booker Prize finally brings Jacobson into the limelight some say he should have gotten long ago. Part of the problem may be that Howard Jacobson writes comic novels (with a bit of tragedy thrown in for good measure). Aren't literary awards for the light of heart too?! Some also say that this is the first time in the 42 year history of the Man Booker Prize that a comic novel has won. Here's what The Finkler Question is all about...

Julian Treslove, a professionally unspectacular former BBC radio producer, and Sam Finkler, a popular Jewish philosopher, writer and television personality, are old school friends. Despite a prickly relationship and very different lives, they’ve never quite lost touch with each other - or with their former teacher, Libor Sevcik, a Czech always more concerned with the wider world than with exam results.

Now, both Libor and Sam are recently widowed, and with Treslove, his chequered and unsuccessful record with women rendering him an honorary third widower, they dine at Libor’s grand, central London apartment.

It’s a sweetly painful evening of reminiscence in which all three remove themselves to a time before they had loved and lost; a time before they had fathered children, before the devastation of separations, before they had prized anything greatly enough to fear the loss of it. Better, perhaps, to go through life without knowing happiness at all because that way you have less to mourn? Treslove finds he has tears enough for the unbearable sadness of both his friends’ losses.

And it’s that very evening, at exactly 11:30, as Treslove, walking home, hesitates a moment outside the window of the oldest violin dealer in the country, that he is attacked. And after this, his whole sense of who and what he is will slowly and ineluctably change.
I picked up a copy of Howard Jacobson's book because I do like to read the Man Booker Prize winners. I wait every year to see what books made the longlist to see if I've read any of them yet, and I love to guess what novels will make the shortlist.

Do you intend to read The Finkler Question because it won the Man Booker Prize? Do you tend to shy away from "comic" writing? The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson is available in paperback now! And Kindle readers can buy The Finkler Question for the Kindle for $7.84 right now! If you'd like to read a sample, you can read the First Two Chapters courtesy of Amazon.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much Giveaway!

What would you do for the love of a good book?
For John Charles Gilkey, the answer is: go to prison.

Back in September '09, Riverhead Books sent me a "book lovers" book in the mail called The Man Who Loved Books Too Much:The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession by Allison Hoover Bartlett. Allison is a great writer and the story of John Gilkey, a man who stole books for the pure love of the books, was so interesting! We had a lot of fun on the blog too, commenting on what books we would "steal" if we were a book thief! Here's what I wrote about the book...

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession by Allison Hoover Bartlett is an adventure for all of us who love books! For those of us who love not just what's inside them, but the heft of them in our hands, the sensation of the texture of the pages as we turn them, the beauty of the book itself...

This story takes us into the lives of John Gilkey, an obsessed & bold book thief, Ken Sanders the man who made it his mission to catch Gilkey, and the journalist and author, Allison Hoover Bartlett, who explores the world of rare & beautiful books with the people who sell & collect them, including Sanders AND Gilkey.

In the opening of the book, a 400 yr. old book called a Kreuterbuch sits on Allison Hoover Bartlett's desk. I love old books, and just the way Allison described the Kreuterbuch in the prologue, "the pages, when turned, make a muffled crack... a dry woody smell..." I knew this would be a different kind of 'book thief' story. A book written by a person who truly appreciates & enjoys books - and not just for what's inside!

Read my Full Review from Sept. 9, 2009! Read the full list of the Books We'd Steal if we were book thieves from Sept. 18th, 2009! And in the meantime, The Man Who Loved Books Too Much is finally out in paperback and to celebrate, courtesy of Riverhead Books, we're going to have a giveaway! You have a chance to win one of two copies! Here's how to Enter...

*For One Entry, leave me a comment with your email address!

*For a Bonus entry, tell me what book you would steal if you were a thief! (we all love books, so don't be shy!)

This giveaway is open to U.S. Only (No PO boxes). The book will be shipped to the winner directly from the publishers. Contest ends 11:59pm EST on Oct. 29th, 2010. I will randomly pick the winners the next day and email them! Good Luck!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Sunday Salon and a Little Star Gazing

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! Grab a cup of Joe and pull up a chair. It's that time of the week to relax and chat about what bookish things we've been doing this week! For the past few Saturday nights I've been star gazing. Have you ever looked up in the sky and wondered about the stars and planets above? At the star gazing party I went to there were many people with their different kinds of telescopes sharing their love of the night sky, and sharing their knowledge with us "amateur" star gazers. What I find amazing to think about is that these are the same stars and planets that people have seen since before Galileo's time. And speaking of Galileo, in 1609 Galileo observed the moons of Jupiter and saw that this supported heliocentrism. (Heliocentrism is the theory that the Sun is at the center of the Universe). I learned about Jupiter and it's four moons these past few weekends, and learned how Jupiter is the closest it's been to the earth since 1963. You won't get another opportunity to see Jupiter so close again until 2022. So, get out your binoculars and take a peek because you'll actually be able to now. What has all this got to do with reading?! Well, there are some wonderful books about the stars & planets... It's a great way to spend some time with the kids outdoors... and it's fun! (Could also be romantic!)

Here's some books to satisfy your curiosity...

Discover the Stars by Richard Barry... For everyone who has looked up at the stars on a clear night and longed to know more about them, here is the perfect introduction and guide to discovering the stars. Discover the Stars leads you on a tour of all the stars and constellations visible with the naked eye and introduces you to deep-sky objects that can be seen with binoculars or a simple telescope. The tour is conducted by the editor of Astronomy magazine, Richard Berry, whose two-color, computer-plotted sky maps and clear instructions make stargazing fun and productive from your first night out. The heart of Discover the Stars is two sections of big, beautiful sky maps and charts. The first section features twelve maps that show the entire sky overhead as it appears during each month of the year. These outline all the constellations visible anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, and the accompanying text reveals the rich ancient mythology that surrounds the star groups. The second section is made up of twenty-three star charts that depict smaller regions of the sky in great detail. These charts give the names of key stars and lead you to fascinating features such as stars with unusual colors, double stars, variable stars, nebulae, and galaxies. Separate chapters cover basics, such as how the stars move through the sky, how to find your way around the moon and the planets, making an astronomer's flashlight, and choosing and using a telescope -- all in terms that are easy to grasp and remember.

I found Discovering the Stars to be a great introduction to the night sky. It's basic, well written and easy to understand. It also is helping me easily identify the stars above!

Nightwatch, A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe by Terence Dickinson... John Peters of the New York Public Library writes, This long-overdue update of a classic handbook for amateur astronomers combines a text both meaty and hard to put down with a great array of charts, boxes, tables, and dazzling full-color photos of the sky. Aiming this offering at new but serious hobbyists, Dickinson guides readers on a tour of the universe visible from any dark backyard, providing frank evaluations of many telescope models; specific advice for photographers; and a simple system for locating stars, constellations, nebulae, and other intriguing sights. Convenient charts track upcoming eclipses and the locations of the five planets visible to the naked eye (both through the year 2010). The author closes with lists of supplementary resources, including books, software, Web sites, and conventions. Dickinson's contagious enthusiasm and vast expertise earn this a place in reference and circulating collections of any size.

This is a big gorgeous book, with a wealth of information. Not as basic as Discovering the Stars, but well written and still a great book for the beginner.

Turn Left at Orion by Guy Jay Consolmagno... From the Publisher, A guidebook for beginning amateur astronomers, Turn Left at Orion provides all the information you need to observe the Moon, the planets and a whole host of celestial objects. Large format diagrams show these objects exactly as they appear in a small telescope and for each object there is information on the current state of our astronomical knowledge. This new edition contains a chapter describing spectacular deep sky objects visible from the southern hemisphere, and tips on observing the upcoming transits of Venus. It also includes a discussion of Dobsonian telescopes, with hints on using personal computers and the internet as aids for planning an observing session. Unlike many guides to the night sky, this book is specifically written for observers using small telescopes. Clear and easy-to-use, this fascinating book will appeal to skywatchers of all ages and backgrounds. No previous knowledge of astronomy is needed.

Another great big (oversized) book with a wealth of information for the beginner.

Feel like a little fiction with your star gazing? How about...

Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel... Inspired by her long fascination with Galileo, and by the remarkable surviving letters of his daughter, which Sobel has translated into English for the first time, Galileo's Daughter is a book of great originality and power, a biography unlike any ever written on Galileo. Sobel, the author of the bestseller Longitude, brings Galileo to life as never before—boldly compelled to explain the truths he discovered, human in his frailties and faith, devoted to family, especially to his eldest daughter. The voices of Galileo and his daughter, Suor Maria Celeste, echo down the centuries through letters and writings, which Sobel masterfully weaves into her narrative, building toward the crescendo of history's most dramatic collision between science and religion. In the process, she illuminates an entire era, when the flamboyant Medici grand dukes became Galileo's patrons, when the bubonic plague wreaked its terrible devastation and prayer was the most effective medicine, when the Thirty Years' War tipped fortunes across Europe, and when one man fought, through his trial and betrayal by his former friend, Pope Urban VIII, to reconcile the Heaven he revered as a good Catholic with the heavens he revealed thorough his telescope.

Dava Sobel has a reputation for her wonderful writings about science and making these subjects come to life. Besides Galileo's Daughter, she has written Longitude, about the man who solved the problem that eluded both Newton and Galileo, and without which many ships were lost at sea, and The Planets, which explores the links of mythology, astrology, science fiction, music and poetry to the exploration of the planets.

Speaking of star gazing, and keeping with the theme of the stars, Safe from the Sea by Peter Geye, (I just reviewed this great book this past week!) has a wonderful passage about how Olaf, captain of the Rag and father, use to sail by night using the stars above for his compass. Check out my review for Safe from the Sea if you missed it this week, AND enter the GIVEAWAY for Safe from the Sea. I can't say enough good things about this book, at a little under 250 pages, it's a gem of a novel! (P.S. Peter Geye wrote a fantastic guest post Thursday too. Check it out HERE if you missed it!)

There are some other fantastic giveaways going on Chick with Books now too...

The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris (ending Oct. 23rd), Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat by Vicki Myron (ending Oct.23rd) ,and Dewey's Nine Lives by Vicki Myron (ending Oct.23rd).

I hope I've peeked your interest today! When we look up into the night sky, we may take for granted what's up there, but these books should remind us of the wonders above. We might have to take our nose out of a book to see the planets and stars, but we can put it right back in a book about those planets and stars! Have you been a star gazer? Have you looked up and spotted something wonderful? Share you're night sky here! And share it with someone else too!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Safe from the Sea by Peter Geye... A Review

An Estranged Father and Son Attempt to Reconcile...
in Safe from the Sea by Peter Geye

As I opened the first few pages of Safe from the Sea by Peter Geye I could almost feel the chill in the air and smell the scent of the sea. The book opens with a prologue where we are sharing a moment on the midnight watch on the ore boat Ragnarok with the wheelsman and the officer in charge, some 20 nautical miles north of the Keweenaw Peninsula in water a hundred and fifty fathoms deep. There is a quiet to the moment as the captain reflects on the beauty of the sky before them and the birth of his son. There is a sadness to the moment too, as the captain reflects that his son was born just nine days ago, and here he was sailing away... The officer is Olaf, and the son born just nine days ago is Noah. It is their relationship, or lack of relationship, that makes Safe from the Sea such a powerful story. There is a yearning that comes across as Olaf and Noah struggle to reconcile their feelings as Olaf tells his son that he is dying...

From IndieBound... SAFE FROM THE SEA tells the story of Olaf and Noah Torr, a father and son whose long estrangement began after Olaf survived a shipwreck on Lake Superior. More than thirty years after the wreck, Olaf believes he is dying of cancer and asks his son to come home to his isolated cabin on the lake in order to help him die. Over the course of two weeks in November, against the backdrop of the dramatic upper Midwest landscape and weather, the men reconsider each other's lives, finally summoning the courage to confess, understand and forgive.

Noah's father finally tells his son for the first time the harrowing account of the wreck of Olaf's ore boat, the SS Ragnark, a horrible secret from that night, and the survivor's guilt that has dogged Olaf ever since and caused him to abandon his family. Noah's own struggle to make a life with an absent father finds its real reward in his relationship with his sagacious wife, Natalie, whose complications with infertility issues mark her husband's life in ways he only fully understands as the reconciliation with his father takes shape.

The story is powerful, and Peter Geye's writing is wonderful, with the emotionally charged dynamics between father and son, Olaf and Noah, subtlety floating off the pages. The story moves along with vignettes of Olaf and Noah in happier times, as Noah is growing up. It's these vignettes that pack a powerful punch as you contrast them against the present day, and wonder how a relationship can just slip away...

Part of the story in Safe from the Sea deals with Olaf sharing with Noah what actually happened on the Ragnark. When Olaf recounts the terrible wreck of the Ragnark, the ore boat Olaf was officer on, not only was Noah on the edge of his seat listening, so was I! What fantastic storytelling! You almost feel as though you are in that terrible storm, aboard the Ragnark. And that's one of the gifts of Peter Geye's writing- he can paint such meaningful images & feelings with his words.

Take a journey with a father and son as they discover if they have the ability to forgive... in a broken down house deep in the woods... with the memory of the past holding them together. Listen to the story of the shipwreck, the ships that sail the seas, and life onboard a ship... Listen to your heart as Noah also deals with the impending death of his father...

I enjoyed Safe from the Sea so much! Beautiful prose and a wonderful story. I want to thank Caitlin of Unbridled Books for sending along a review copy!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Guest Post with Peter Geye, author of Safe from the Sea

You may not be familiar with author Peter Geye yet, but if his debut novel Safe from the Sea is any indication of what we can expect from him I'm sure you'll be hearing quite a bit about him. Peter Geye was born and raised in Minneapolis, and Safe from the Sea is "set against the powerful lakeshore landscape of northern Minnesota". I'd like to welcome Peter to Chick with Books today, where he'll share with us a little bit about himself, and what he hopes to impart to the reader with his writing. Join me in a warm welcome to Peter!

As a junior in high school, I had a reputation among my teachers as something of a wise guy, someone quicker to joke my way out of trouble than think it. And it didn’t matter the subject, or even necessarily the teacher; any occasion warranted a sarcastic response.
Then one day I had a teacher tell me it was easier to be a smart ass if you actually did the reading. The book in question was Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. I followed the teacher’s advice. His name was David Beenken, and I have him to thank for where I am today.
What I discovered in Hemingway’s classic was the transformative power of stories. I discovered the pain of doomed love, the horror of war, the importance of deep and abiding friendship. I discovered a new landscape and the seismic force of fate. And I knew, surely as I had done the reading, that there were a thousand more books to read.
Of course, there are way more than a thousand books to read, and still others to write, but I turn back to this memory as a way of reminding myself of the wonder and awe of a first favorite book. Never mind the sermons about how important reading is, what about how enjoyable and edifying it is?
When I began writing Safe from the Sea I reminded myself often to aspire to this, to try and imbue the story with as many moments of mystery as possible. Those moments, to my way of thinking, are what allow stories to engage many different types of readers. Whether it’s the suddenness with which the wind can change direction, ushering in an unexpected storm, or the way in which a simple, unabashed moment between characters not accustomed to each other’s company can transform their relationship by calling up a whole litany of memories, the moments in a story that rely on the reader’s imagination—as much as the author’s intention—are so often the best.
I hope there are plenty of those moments in my book, and I hope that its readers will find plenty of moments to pause and reflect on their own lives as they read about the lives of my characters. I’ve done my job if they do.

Peter Geye is currently touring virtually and on the road promoting his debut novel, Safe from the Sea, "a heartfelt novel in which a son returns home to reconnect with his estranged and dying father thirty-five years after the tragic wreck of a Great Lakes ore boat that the father only partially survived and that has divided them emotionally ever since. When his father for the first time finally tells the story of the horrific disaster he has carried with him so long, it leads the two men to reconsider each other."

Thank you Peter for guest posting today on Chick with Books! And sharing a bit of yourself and your inspiration for Safe from the Sea!

You can learn more about Safe from the Sea and the author himself, at Peter Geye's website. And to all my Chick with Books readers, I'll be reviewing Safe from the Sea by Peter Geye tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World GIVEAWAY!

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat dresses up for the Holidays!

And the Winners are... Kara, Linda & Debbie! Congrats! And Thank you to Everyone who joined in on the fun!

Here's the book that started it all- Dewey: The Small-Town Library Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron. This sweet story will touch your heart. It definitely touched mine. If you are owned by a cat, if you love animals or just love heartwarming tales, I highly recommend opening up the pages of Dewey by Vicki Myron. This is the story of one very special cat, and how he changed the lives of the people of Spencer, Iowa. I highlighted this wonderful book on a Memoir Monday a few weeks back, so check out my review of Dewey if you missed it. You can learn more about Dewey, the book, the cat & the author, at Read an Excerpt! And in the meantime, here's the synopsis from the publisher...

DEWEY is the heartwarming, true story of an abandoned kitten who went on to live an extraordinary life, inspiring a struggling single mother, transforming a sleepy library and the inhabitants of its depressed Iowa farm town, and ultimately capturing the hearts of animal lovers around the world.

Vicki Myron was a single mom who, after surviving the loss of her family farm and an abusive husband, went back to school and became a librarian (and her family’s first college graduate!). As the director of the Spencer (Iowa) Public Library, her biggest challenge was to raise the spirits of her beloved library’s patrons, the residents of an out-of-the way town deeply mired in the farm crisis of the 1980s. Her solution came in the unlikeliest of places when Vicki found a tiny, bedraggled kitten almost frozen to death in the library’s night drop box. Recognizing the extraordinary strength and uniqueness of this kitten, Vicki received approval from the library board to adopt him as Spencer’s resident library cat. From that moment on, her life – and the town of Spencer – would change forever.

Dewey, as the townspeople named the kitten, grew into a strutting, affable library cat whose antics kept patrons in stitches and whose sixth sense about those in need created hundreds of deep and loving friendships. As his fame grew, people drove hundreds of miles to meet Dewey, and he even ended up the subject of a hit documentary in Japan! Through it all, Dewey remained a loyal companion, a beacon of hope not just for Vicki Myron, but for the entire town of Spencer as it slowly pulled itself up from the worst financial crisis in its long history.

When Dewey died in 2006 at the age of 19, his obituary appeared in over 250 newspapers, including the New York Times, USA Today and the Des Moines Register, and was announced on the national television evening news.

It feels like Dewey week here at Chick with Books! We started the week with a great giveaway for Dewey's Nine Lives, the book that Vicki wrote after this book. If you haven't read Dewey: The Small-Town Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron yet, here's your chance to win a copy! Courtesy of Hachette Book Group I have 3 copies of this charming book to give away! It's the new trade paperback edition of Dewey with a special Holiday cover! Here's how to enter...

To Enter this Giveaway...

*Leave me a comment with your email address! That's it!

This giveaway is open to US & Canadian residents only (No PO boxes). The book will be shipped to the winner directly from the publisher. Contest ends 11:59pm EST on October 23rd. I will randomly pick the winner the next day and email them! Good Luck

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