Literary Quote of the Month

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

Monday, November 29, 2010

Memoir Monday... The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

Isabel Wilkerson interviewed more than 1200 people "whose lives had followed the same basic pattern: early years in the South followed by relocation in either the North or the West." Her research & writing of The Warmth of Other Suns, took her almost 20 years and follows "the 55 year migration of black Americans across their own country". She culls from all those rich wealth of interviews, those of three rural Southerners, whose stories will bring life to The Warmth of Other Suns... Here's what the publishers say:

In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves.
With stunning historical detail, Wilkerson tells this story through the lives of three unique individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, who in 1937 left sharecropping and prejudice in Mississippi for Chicago, where she achieved quiet blue-collar success and, in old age, voted for Barack Obama when he ran for an Illinois Senate seat; sharp and quick-tempered George Starling, who in 1945 fled Florida for Harlem, where he endangered his job fighting for civil rights, saw his family fall, and finally found peace in God; and Robert Foster, who left Louisiana in 1953 to pursue a medical career, the personal physician to Ray Charles as part of a glitteringly successful medical career, which allowed him to purchase a grand home where he often threw exuberant parties.

Wilkerson brilliantly captures their first treacherous and exhausting cross-country trips by car and train and their new lives in colonies that grew into ghettos, as well as how they changed these cities with southern food, faith, and culture and improved them with discipline, drive, and hard work. Both a riveting microcosm and a major assessment, The Warmth of Other Suns is a bold, remarkable, and riveting work, a superb account of an “unrecognized immigration” within our own land.

This book has made more than one "Best Book of 2010" list, and with all the amazing buzz surrounding this book, for good reason. Just from reading the beginning excerpt of the book, I was immediately drawn into the lives of Ida Mae Gladney, George Starling, and Robert Foster, whose stories Isabel Wilkerson opens the book with. Some have wondered why The Warmth of Other Suns did not garner a nomination for the National Book Award, but awards aren't everything. This isn't really a memoir in the "traditional" sense, but I felt that the stories of Ida Mae Gladney, George Starling and Robert Foster demanded to be acknowledged as something more than history, as their stories, their lives, make up so much of The Warmth of Other Suns. This is an important book and I'm looking forward to reading it! *P.S. This Book is Kindle Ready!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Sunday Salon and The Beginning of the "Best of 2010" Book Lists

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! The day of the week where we bookish people catch up on what we've been reading, and all the other bookish things going on around us. Grab a cup of joe and relax. It's been a hectic weekend for most of us. First with preparing for our Thanksgiving with cooking & cleaning, welcoming family & friends to our homes, and then for some the tradition of a black friday shopping excursion. Did you start your Holiday shopping friday?! I usually work the day after Thanksgiving, and this year was no different, except that if I really wanted to, quite a few shops were open 10pm on Thanksgiving. And of course there were the 4am openings on friday. But I merrily avoided those long lines and drove to work, half comatose from eating way too much turkey and Juniors cheesecake for dessert! (Thanks to my sis-in-law that works in the city for picking the later up!) I did manage to get myself into a long line at Borders at the beginning of the week though, because they were tempting us readers with a 50% off anything coupon. It was the first time in a long time that I saw Borders that busy! Do you buy books for gift giving?! I usually do. Already there are "the best" of 2010 reading lists out there. How do we qualify the books published in the last few months of the year? Remind me that if I ever publish a book I do in the middle of the year! In any case, I love reading these "best of " lists. So, today's Sunday Salon is a few books on the top of the "Best of 2010" Books, that I keep seeing on list after list....

Just Kids by Patti Smith... In 1967, 21-year-old singer–song writer Smith, determined to make art her life and dissatisfied with the lack of opportunities in Philadelphia to live this life, left her family behind for a new life in Brooklyn. When she discovered that the friends with whom she was to have lived had moved, she soon found herself homeless, jobless, and hungry. Through a series of events, she met a young man named Robert Mapplethorpe who changed her life—and in her typically lyrical and poignant manner Smith describes the start of a romance and lifelong friendship with this man: It was the summer Coltrane died. Flower children raised their arms... and Jimi Hendrix set his guitar in flames in Monterey. It was the summer of Elvira Madigan, and the summer of love.... This beautifully crafted love letter to her friend (who died in 1989) functions as a memento mori of a relationship fueled by a passion for art and writing. Smith transports readers to what seemed like halcyon days for art and artists in New York as she shares tales of the denizens of Max's Kansas City, the Hotel Chelsea, Scribner's, Brentano's, and Strand bookstores. In the lobby of the Chelsea, where she and Mapplethorpe lived for many years, she got to know William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Johnny Winter. Most affecting in this tender and tough memoir, however, is her deep love for Mapplethorpe and her abiding belief in his genius. Smith's elegant eulogy helps to explain the chaos and the creativity so embedded in that earlier time and in Mapplethorpe's life and work.

Patti Smith won The National Book Award this year for Just Kids in the nonfiction category. This book sounds like a wonderful trip back to the New York of the 60's and 70's. I don't know much about Patti Smith, but being an art student in the 70's, I knew about the photography of Robert Mapplethorpe. Besides the National Book Award, Just Kids has gotten lots of great buzz, and is on almost every "best of" list I've seen. And how can you go wrong with a book that "shares tales of Scribner's, Brentano's and Strand."?! Right now the paperback version of this book is priced at $7.71 at Amazon, so if you know someone who loves memoirs, Rock 'n Roll and New York back in the day, pick this one up. I've got it on my wish list now. *P.S. This Book is also Kindle Ready!

The Girl who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow... Durrow's debut draws from her own upbringing as the brown-skinned, blue-eyed daughter of a Danish woman and a black G.I. to create Rachel Morse, a young girl with an identical heritage growing up in the early 1980s. After a devastating family tragedy in Chicago with Rachel the only survivor, she goes to live with the paternal grandmother she's never met, in a decidedly black neighborhood in Portland, Ore. Suddenly, at 11, Rachel is in a world that demands her to be either white or black. As she struggles with her grief and the haunting, yet-to-be-revealed truth of the tragedy, her appearance and intelligence place her under constant scrutiny. Laronne, Rachel's deceased mother's employer, and Brick, a young boy who witnessed the tragedy and because of his personal misfortunes is drawn into Rachel's world, help piece together the puzzle of Rachel's family.

This book was released in early January of this year, and that it makes more than one "best of" list speaks volumes. The author wrote a great column for Bookpage, talking about what inspired her to write The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, and what she wanted to impart to the reader. This has book club pick written all over it, with the story exploring race and identity. This book also won The Bellwether Prize for Fiction in 2008. The Bellwether Prize is awarded to an unpublished novel representing "serious literary fiction that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships. The prize is awarded to a previously unpublished novel representing excellence in this genre." The Bellwether Prize is awarded on even-numbered years, includes a $25,000 cash payment to the author, and guarantees publication by a major publisher. This January Algonquin Books will release this in paperback, in the meantime it is available in hardcover from your local bookstore, or This is Kindle Ready!

Before I
Fall by Lauren Oliver... Here's NPR's Gayle Forma's review:
High school senior Samantha Kingston is a typical mean girl. She and her popular troika of friends cavalierly treat the lesser students like dirt because th
ey can. Early on in the book, on Feb. 12, Sam is killed in a car accident on the way home from a party with her friends. But instead of floating away to some afterlife, Sam wakes up in her bed to find it's the morning of Feb. 12, and she must relive the last day of her life over. With the rules upended, Sam tweaks her actions (seducing a teacher, ditching school to spend the day with her little sister, attempting to help a deeply unhappy "loser," kissing the boy she maybe should have been kissing all along). This may sound like Groundhog Day meets Afterschool Special, but it's actually a subtle, layered and ultimately ethical book. As Oliver widens her lens, Sam comes to understand not only the butterfly effect of kindness but also the cumulative effect of cruelty: "If you cross a line and nothing happens, the line loses meaning. ... You keep drawing a line farther and farther away, crossing it every time. That's how people end up stepping off the edge of the earth." By the end, Sam's (and the reader's) understanding of herself and of her friends is so complete that the bitches from chapter one have become complex, even sympathetic girls.

This is one of those YA books that tugs at our adult hearts. Had we the chance to change something when we were young, would we? Do we view our teenage years differently now that we are adults? I love the idea that Sam comes back (after dying) and discovers the world around her that she never took the time to get to know. There are plenty of "dead teens" coming back stories, but Before I Fall is the one getting some great buzz and topping some YA lists to boot! It's a 480 page book too! The hardcover is under $11 right now at Amazon, and This Book is Kindle Ready!

Here are some sights to check out for the Best of 2010 Book lists:
I'm going to sit down and look back over the next few weeks and make my own "favorites" list from this year's reading. What were your favorites? Do you like reading the Best Book lists? Who's list do you read?

I hope you had a great reading week! And a great Thanksgiving! Did you get any reading done this week? Share your favorites! I'd love to hear about what you're reading! Next week, I will be reviewing Cake Boss by Buddy Valastro! I was going to review it this past weekend, but things got a little hectic after Thanksgiving....

Happy reading... Suzanne

Friday, November 26, 2010

First Lines...

"Jack Rosenblum switched off the wireless and nestled back into his leather armchair. A beatific smile spread across his face and he closed his eyes. "So there is to be more rain," he remarked to the empty room, stretching out his short legs and giving a yawn. He was unconcerned by the dismal prognosis; it was the act of listening to the bulletin that he savored. Each evening during the weather forecast he could imagine he was an Englishman." ...Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English by Natasha Solomons

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving... and a Special Thanks to Sarah Josepha Buell Hale!

If we think back to 1842, it was Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, editor (she preferred editress) of the popular nineteenth century publication Godey's Lady's Book, who first lobbied president Abraham Lincoln for a national Thanksgiving Day. Initially Lincoln proclaimed August 6th as the date, but Sarah felt that the 4th thursday in November, as selected originally by George Washington, was a better choice. As we all know, Sarah won out on the date. And we won out on the food - originally the "modern" Thanksgiving was a day of fasting and giving thanks. Sarah Josepha Buell is known as "The Mother of the American Thanksgiving", so when you are enjoying your Thanksgiving today, also give thanks to Sarah...

There is a great childrens book about Sarah entitled, Thank You Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving by Laurie Halse Anderson, and beautifully illustrated by Matt Faulkner. It's geared towards 4 - 8, but the writing is entertaining (and informative) for adults as well! You can learn more about Thank You Sarah at Laurie Halse Anderson's website. While you're there, you can also follow links to learn more about Sarah Josepha Hale!

Aside from reading, I want to wish Everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! I baked my pumpkin pie last night (from a recipe in The Cake Boss that I'm reviewing this week!), and I'm starting all the rest of the cooking after relaxing just a bit with a cup of joe. I hope everyone has a wonderful day! In the meantime, let's all be thankful for the family & friends we can share this day with and keep in our hearts the people that can't be with us.

Monday, November 22, 2010

American Widow by Alissa Torres... A Review

"American Widow is my graphic novel memoir about life after my husband died at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001."... Alissa Torres

I can't imagine what it felt like to lose someone on 9/11. Listening to the radio... watching the videos play out on television... waiting for someone to come home... searching hospitals... waiting for the phone to ring... 9 years ago Alissa Torres was 7 1/2 months pregnant living in NYC. Her husband, Eddie Torres, started his new job at Cantor Fitzgerald on Sept. 10th, 2001. The Cantor Fitzgerald offices were located in the North Tower of the World Trade Center... American Widow is her story. It is the terror, the frustration, the utter chaos Alissa had to live through. If mere words can make you come to realize what it was like to lose someone on 9/11, then the words (and images) in American Widow accomplish that.

9/11 still echoes the horrors of the terrorism that took the lives of the men and women that day. Alissa Torres is one of those victims of the aftermath. On that day, Sept. 11th, 2001, her life changed forever. American Widow tells the story of Alissa Torres & Eddie Torres in the form of a graphic novel. And it is a wonderful example of the power of a graphic novel. American Widow is drawn in black & white with aqua tinting by artist Sungyoon Choi, whose expressive images drive home the powerful story. Alissa doesn't pull any punches either, as she navigates the bureaucracy, people and the media to try and get through her grief and be able to support her family.

The book opens with the events of 9/11, but in flashbacks that flow seamlessly throughout the book, we get to know Alissa & Eddie... how they met & fell in love, the life they started together and even the life before they met. We learn about Eddie's immigrant status, how he worked multiple jobs to support himself and send money back to his family. And how he worked hard enough to climb the corporate ladder to become a currency broker. It really makes the loss of Eddie in Alissa's life all the more poignant, because you've virtually experienced their life together. It also makes you think, the same way Alissa did, "What if?" What if Eddie didn't go to work that morning... What if he never got fired from his other job... What if, what if, what if?

When American Widow was published, people wanted to know, "Why a graphic novel?!" Her inspiration for turning her story into a graphic novel came from a statement she made one day...
"My life is like a comic book!"
Alissa then read Art Spiegelman's Maus, David Chelsea in Love by David Chelsea, who she met through a friend and who recommended Scott McCloud’s book, Understanding Comics. In an interview with GraphicNovelReporter, Alissa Torres says...
"McCloud’s work gave me greater understanding and sensitivity of the genre as I went on to read more first-person works: Lynda Barry’s 100 Demons, Joe Sacco’s Palestine, and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. These graphic novels gave an immediacy and intimacy to the stories they told. These books, along with Maus, were proof to me of the beautiful, accessible, and moving outcomes that were possible from the genre."

American Widow is a moving story, one that was important for Alissa Torres to write, but also an important story for other people to read. Even if you've never picked up a graphic novel before, now is the time...

*P.S. I read American Widow as part of The Graphic Novels Challenge 2010! Click on The Graphic Novels Challenge link to see what other graphic novels I read this year!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Sunday Salon... A Look at The National Book Awards

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! Relax, pull up a chair and grab a cup of joe. It's the day of the week where we can relax, get together virtually with our bookish friends to chat about bookish news and what great books we've discovered this week!

This week we've seen some great bargains for your literary plate... Have you read Little Bee by Chris Cleave? How about Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen? Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford? All three are great reads and all are still under $7 at Amazon! Check out my post Great Reads at Bargain Prices to learn more about those books and a few others that are on my "must reads" list. And speaking of must reads, this past monday I hosted the virtual book tour for The Snow Globe by Sheila Roberts, which is a charming holiday story filled with family and friendships with a splash of magic. It's the perfect little book to settle down with when life becomes too hectic during the holidays! And if you're into Romance, there's still time to enter the Give Thanks for Great Books November Romance Giveaway! Giveaway ends Nov. 27th, so if you'd like to put add a little fun to your reading, don't forget to follow the link at the top of Chick with Books to enter.

The National Book Awards were announced this week! The National Book Awards, created by The National Book Foundation, is meant to celebrate the best in American literature. It's mission is to "celebrate the best in American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of good writing in America." The first awards were given out in 1950! This year there were 1115 books submitted for the award in the following catagories...

Fiction: 302
Nonfiction: 435
Poetry: 148
Young People’s Literature: 230

Today, I thought we'd take a look at the winners of the Fiction, Nonfiction and YA catagories...

Lord of Misrule by Jaimie Gordon... At the rock-bottom end of the sport of kings sits the ruthless and often violent world of cheap horse racing, where trainers and jockeys, grooms and hotwalkers, loan sharks and touts all struggle to take an edge, or prove their luck, or just survive. Lord of Misrule follows five characters—scarred and lonely dreamers in the American grain—through a year and four races at Indian Mound Downs, downriver from Wheeling, West Virginia. Horseman Tommy Hansel has a scheme to rescue his failing stable: He’ll ship four unknown but ready horses to Indian Mound Downs, run them in cheap claiming races at long odds, and then get out fast before anyone notices. The problem is, at this rundown riverfront half-mile racetrack in the Northern Panhandle, everybody notices—veteran groom Medicine Ed, Kidstuff the blacksmith, old lady “gyp” Deucey Gifford, stall superintendent Suitcase Smithers, eventually even the ruled-off “racetrack financier” Two-Tie and the ominous leading trainer, Joe Dale Bigg. But no one bothers to factor in Tommy Hansel’s go-fer girlfriend, Maggie Koderer. Like the beautiful, used-up, tragic horses she comes to love, Maggie has just enough heart to wire everyone’s flagging hopes back to the source of all luck.

I hadn't really heard much about this book prior to its winning the award, but I'm sure it will be garnering a bit of publicity now. Lord of Misrule beat out some other great books - Great House by Nicole Krauss, Parrot and Oliver in America by Peter Carey, and I Hotel by Karen Tei Yamashita, which has actually been on my TBR list. (more on that one in another post...) I did pick this book up and read a bit, but it didn't pull me it with the brief time I spent with it. Maybe because my favorite "horse racing" book is Sea Biscuit by Lauren Hillenbrand. Lauren's book though is a true tale, but it flows so beautifully and is so entertaining that it feels like fiction. Read my review of Sea Biscuit , and if you haven't read this book yet put it on your TBR list because it is that good! (even if you know nothing of horses and racing!)

Just Kids by Pattie Smith... In Just Kids, Patti Smith’s first book of prose, the legendary American artist offers a never-before-seen glimpse of her remarkable relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the epochal days of New York City and the Chelsea Hotel in the late sixties and seventies. An honest and moving story of youth and friendship, Smith brings the same unique, lyrical quality to Just Kids as she has to the rest of her formidable body of work—from her influential 1975 album Horses to her visual art and poetry.

Now this book has gotten a lot of great press. Seems like there are a lot of memoirs this year of musicians, Life by Keith Richards and Composed: A Memoir by Rosanne Cash among them. One of my favorite memoirs in the "musician" category was Wonderful Tonight by Patti Boyd. Patti was the wife of George Harrison and love of Eric Clapton. Her life was so interesting without adding George and Eric, but when she does you get a very different look into the world of rock and roll and the Beatles. Not to mention the origins of some great songs!

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine... In Caitlin’s world, everything is black or white. Things are good or bad. Anything in between is confusing. That’s the stuff Caitlin’s older brother, Devon, has always explained. But now Devon’s dead and Dad is no help at all. Caitlin wants to get over it, but as an eleven-year-old girl with Asperger’s, she doesn’t know how. When she reads the definition of closure, she realizes that is what she needs. In her search for it, Caitlin discovers that not everything is black and white—the world is full of colors—messy and beautiful.

Great buzz about this book! Praised for its' writing and how it sheds some light on a misunderstood disease- Asperger's disease. I also read that the 1962 movie, To Kill a Mockingbird, influenced the book.

Book awards are a way to shine the light on some great writing. Whether or not we agree with the choices really comes down to whether our tastes match the people judging the book and the criteria of the judging. What are your favorite book awards? My favorite book award is The Man Booker Prize. I love following the nominations from longlist to shortlist, and finally learning who the winner is. What are your favorite book awards? Have you read any of The National Book Award finalists? Share your favorites here, because we all love to know about a good book!

Have a wonderful Sunday and a Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Kindle Korner... Let There Be Light (at least on the page I'm reading!)

Let There Be Light...

Kindle and Nook owners... Let there be light! If you're looking for the perfect eReader light, look no further. The Solis eReader light by Octovo is my favorite light, and they just came out with the Solis for the latest generation of Kindles! With an arm that swings the light out,the coverage is remarkable from the top of the page to the bottom and with virtually no glare. (Check out the Solis eReader on the Octovo website to see for yourself). Plus, the light is a single LED so Octovo says the Solis "can be expected to light your Kindle pages for up to 40 years" (I don't think they're referring to the battery life here, just the life of the LED). The base of the light rests on top of your Kindle at a slight angle, which helps to eliminate glare on the reading page. Now, the Solis lights for the Kindle 2's fit snugly on the top of the Kindle, and I haven't gotten to actually try the new Solis lights yet, so I'm not sure how snug they are as the description on the website says "rests on top". But I did order one and will let you know when I finally get to read in the dark with it! Also, the base of the Solis for the latest generation Kindles is dark to match the graphite color of the new graphite Kindles. If you have the "classic" Kindle color (white) you'll have to settle for the same one because Octovo only made the new Solis lights with a dark base. I emailed Octovo today to ask about if they would be coming out with a Solis eReader light to match the "classic" Kindle color of white for the new Kindles, and was told that there are no plans to produce them right now.

Solis eReader lights for the Kindle 2 are made to match the "classic" color though. And Nook owners, you are not left out because the Solis eReader is available for Nooks now too! The Solis eReader light retails for $29.99 for either the Kindle versions or the Nook version. Oh, and the original Solis eReader light for the Kindle 2 operated on 2 AA batteries. I'm assuming that the new Solis eReader for the Kindle 3 and the Nook also need 2 AA batteries, although the website doesn't say.

There are plenty of eReader lights available at all different prices. In a previous Kindle Korner post, I talked about the Kandle eReader light for Kindle (now available in black for $25 or white for $21.50), which clips on the top of the Kindle and is a nice choice, and the Mighty Bright Lights, which are your basic "goose neck" eReader lights that also clip on any eReader and sell for about $15.oo. Click on the Kindle Korner link above to check out the previous reviews!

Do you read in the dark? Which eReader light are you using? Do you find the coverage to be adequate? Share what you're doing for your "after hour" reading!

Friday, November 19, 2010

First Lines...

"On the day that Nan Gilbert decided to kill herself, she awoke sometime after noon to the sound of her neighbor playing the radio in his backyard. The song was new to her, but the voice was familiar. It was Paul Simon singing without Garfunkel. And though "Kodachrome" was a rueful song about the bright-colored days of youth, it seemed quaint to Nan, who couldn't imagine that people still experienced the world in any kind of light." ... The Other Life by Ellen Meister (coming Feb. 2011)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Great Reads at Bargain Prices

Book Bargains!

I just happen to be lurking around Amazon and noticed that one of my favorite books, Little Bee by Chris Cleave, was marked down quite a bit. I decided to check out a few more of my "must" reads and found some other great bargains too. SO, if you're in the mood for some great reading, and you haven't yet read any of these books, go grab them at Amazon before the price goes up! Amazon prices go up and down, so as of tonight these prices were good, just click on the book title for the link to the book....

Little Bee by Chris Cleave... I loved this book! Here's my original review from way back in March 2009. What's the book about? All the publisher says is "the story of two women whose lives collide one fateful day." It is so much more than that! One woman, 16 year-old Little Bee, is a Nigerian refugee living in a UK detention center and the other woman is an affluent British yuppie on Holiday with her husband in Nigeria. Their two worlds collide and it is an amazing read! (BTW, Nicole Kidman bought the movie rights to this) Right now the paperback is at the bargain price of $5.74!

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen... I read this before I started the blog, so I never reviewed it "officially". BUT it is such a satisfying read! And another "must read" if you haven't already! It's a love story, it's a story about the circus, it's fabulous writing! 90 year old Jacob Jankowski is living in a nursing home and begins to tell his story of life in the circus. You are then swept back in a nostalgic time. There are wonderful characters, a love triangle, and a fabulous elephant! Right now the paperback is $6.99!

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford... I chose this for my reading group last year and it was a big hit! It's a story of young love, and forbidden love, as Henry Lee 12-year-old Henry Lee, a Chinese boy, falls in love with Keiko Okabe, a 12-year-old Japanese girl, during WWII in Seattle. They are separated as Keiko's family is swept up in the prejudice that existed during WWII for Japanese Americans, and are relocated to an internment camp. The novel starts in 1986 and sweeps back in time to WWII and the friendship between Henry and Keiko. If you love historical fiction, and the time frame of WWII, this is a perfect read I wrote about it in a 2009 Sunday Salon ! Right now the paperback is just $6.01!

Other great reads at a Bargain Price (all under $7.00!)... The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shafer & Annie Barrows, and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak!

Have you read any of these yet?! Let me know what you thought!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Guest post with Sam Moffie... God Bless You Mr. Vonnegut!

This week I introduced author Sam Moffie and his book, The Book of Eli, to Chick with Books readers. Today I'd like to welcome Sam Moffie himself to Chick with Books, where he'll share with us a little bit about himself and share some of his acerbic wit. Join me in a warm welcome to Peter!


When I was a boy, 5000 bottles of Merlot ago, I thought by age 47 it would be a lot easier to break into the limelight. Now I know how Kilgore Trout felt. The man had hundreds of books written, and the only magazines he could find his name in print, were rags that were very poor by pornographic standards. Wait a minute; at least he was getting published regularly.

Based upon my recent experiences in trying to find a reputable agent and/or a publishing house, it appears that American icon Kurt Vonnegut, like his creation Kilgore Trout, would only be published in tasteless porno magazines in today’s totally absurd literary world.

What do I mean?

I have spent the better part of three months sending out 90% intact Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions to various agents and publishing places disguised as The Perfect Martini, only to be rejected time in and time out by all BUT ONE agent, who recognized my sample 20 pages as the first 20 pages of Breakfast of Champions.

Think of that dear reader! If Kurt Vonnegut would be, say my age of 47, we wouldn’t know of him and his characters, because the publishing world would have ignored him. Or as two publishing houses said to me in their little ratty form rejection notes in envelopes THAT I PAID the postage for: “Unfortunately, we have to take a pass,” or “We made our selection, and sorry your story didn’t fit our needs.” I wonder how these two press houses being university affiliated will feel when they get the notice from me about whose writing THEY actually did turn down? For you see, Kurt Vonnegut’s books have always done so well with the university crowd.

Not only am I a huge fan of Vonnegut as a reader; his writing has also served as a sort of teacher for me to try my new trade as a writer of fiction. Although, it is very hard for me to picture Kurt Vonnegut receiving rejection after rejection from notable agents and agencies who after turning you down, do not even send you a personal rejection slip, but scribble a few lines on the original query and mail back to me in my pre-paid stamped addressed envelope how “the work doesn’t fit their need.” “Thanks, I’ll take a pass.” My favorite is: “Not taking on new writers.” How does that one strike you? Imagine how these uber-agents will feel when I inform them how they have rejected the work of Kurt Vonnegut?

This leads me to question a few things. One, obviously, did the agents I query even read the submission? Two, if they did, did they ever read Vonnegut? Three, if they didn’t ever read Vonnegut, what are they doing selling themselves to authors as literary agents who know fiction? And most importantly, four; has an agency or publishing house ever bought a stamp?

I think Mr. Vonnegut would appreciate this story. At least he would admire my imagination in attempting to shine a very small light on today’s publishing world. For sure, Kilgore Trout would be pretty happy with my attempt to kick the publishing world right in the tush, and hopefully shake it out of the slumber it is in when it comes to non-linear fiction, unknown authors, non-celebrity books, diet books, fantasy books, how-to-books, legal books, horror books, and did I mention non-linear as well as unknown authors?

I have been warned by many, that my attempt might embarrass a few people. Agents and publishing houses might boycott me. That this ”hoax” of mine will backfire, because Kurt Vonnegut has only been dead for a short time and the book I picked only 34 years old. My response is two-fold. What, they won’t publish me? They are ignoring me already! Furthermore, I turn to Kurt Vonnegut himself for help.

In 1954 he was hired by “Sports Illustrated.” Knowing very little about sports he was given a picture of a horse which was jumping a fence. Vonnegut spent some time pondering what to write as the caption. His one line was: “The horse jumped over the f---ing fence.” He walked out after leaving that masterpiece.

I guess you could say like Vonnegut, I’m taking a chance.

And, so it goes.

Thank you Sam for guest posting today on Chick with Books! And sharing a bit of yourself and your perseverance in getting published!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Snow Globe by Sheila Roberts Virtual Book Tour

"This is for someone who needs a miracle.
If that's you, please take it."

Ready for the Holidays?! Well, author Sheila Roberts brings readers a heartwarming story of family, friendships and love in The Snow Globe! This really is the perfect little story to treat yourself to when things are starting to get hectic this holiday season! And my first Holiday Book choice!

Three close friends have a girls weekend away... Kylie recently lost her job (and her fiance to her sister!), Suzanne is a workaholic & neat freak (but doesn't really realize how either is impacting her family), and Allison is missing her grandmother who held her chaotic family together, especially during the holidays... They each could use a little Christmas magic to make their lives a little brighter... And on that "girls only" weekend, Kylie finds herself drawn to a little antique shop...

On a blustery afternoon, Kylie Gray wanders into an antique shop and buys an enchanting snow globe. “There’s a story behind that snow globe,” the antique dealer tells her. The original owner, he explains, was a German toymaker who lost his wife and son right before Christmas. When the grieving widower received the handcrafted snow globe as a Christmas gift, he saw the image of a beautiful woman beneath the glass—a woman who would come into his life, mend his broken heart and bring him back to the world of the living. For years, the snow globe has passed from generation to generation, somehow always landing in the hands of a person in special need of a Christmas miracle.

Kylie loved the story the shop owner shared (I did too!), and thought maybe the snow globe could bring her a little Christmas miracle. She bought it, took it home, and the wonderful story begins to unfold...What Kylie saw when she shook the snow globe was indeed a little bit of Christmas magic... She shares the story with her friends and the snow globe, and we are treated to a story of how dreams can come true if we just open our hearts a little.

I loved this book! The friendships between the women were so rich and authentic, the way they each came to realize their own miracles was refreshing and the story was just perfect. If you enjoy holiday themed stories sprinkled with a bit of magic, you will enjoy The Snow Globe. An uplifting and charming holiday story! At about 175 pages this is the perfect book to relax with over a nice cup of tea during the holiday season! *P.S. This Book is Kindle Ready!

About the Author... Sheila Roberts lives in the Pacific Northwest. Her novels have appeared in Readers Digest Condensed books and have been published in several languages. Her novel Angel Lane was an Amazon Top Ten Romance pick for 2009 and her holiday perennial, On Strike for Christmas is slated to be a Lifetime Channel movie presentation this December. When she’s not hanging out with her girlfriends or hitting the dance floor with her husband, she can be found writing about those things dear to women’s hearts: family, friends, and chocolate. Visit Sheila's website to learn more about the author and her fabulous books!

Chick with Books is part of the Virtual Book Tour of The Snow Globe by Sheila Roberts sponsored by Pump Up Your Book! I want to thank Sheila for sending along a copy of The Snow Globe for me to review!

The Book of Eli Virtual Book Tour

The Book of Eli by Sam Moffie

Meet Eli Canaan- a sex crazed maniac making a trip to heaven courtesy of the wife he cheated on, a gypsy with an answer for her, and the hex that did the deed. The Book of Eli by Sam Moffie is the story of that trip and what lead up to it...

Eli Canaan is a believer. And, like many, he believes himself to be a principled and moral man. Well, for the most part anyway. But, after a series of missteps, sins, some would say, Eli's life is suddenly and unexpectedly altered forever. A spurned wife, a gypsy, a hex and spiritual intervention may all be at the root of Eli's unexpected, deep and earnest introspection, which is like nothing he has experienced before -

in THIS world.

An uplifting story of hope and meaning and belief in the goodness that can come by opening one's eyes to he Heavens...

My first impression when starting to read The Book of Eli by Sam Moffie was to put it down. The hero of the story was this sex crazed guy named Eli who had a one track mind, that was constantly painted in black & white (and I mean constantly) on the pages in front of me. When Eli finally finds himself in heaven, his wife had hired a gypsy to cast a hex on Eli's philandering ways and it turned out a little differently than she expected, the story takes a turn for the better. Eli encounters a cast of characters that aim to teach him a thing or two about himself and his sinning ways, and to prepare him for a job he was destined to do. God, who has the voice of Orson Welles, greets Eli upon his arrival, Groucho Marx is Eli's heavenly guide, and Freud has a thing or two to say too. Ayn Rand has a chit chat with Eli as does atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair. The banter between these characters warmed me to Eli and to the book. Well written with a good deal of sarcasm, The Book of Eli is ultimately a story of redemption. A slim book of about 150 pages, that's not quite a "chick" book, but definitely for readers who enjoy a bit of biting humor.

About Sam Moffie... The Book of Eli is Sam Moffie's fourth novel. The other three have won numerous awards and received glowing reviews. When not writing or marketing, he can be found observing human nature at his bars in Youngstown, Ohio. Forty-nine years of age, Sam resides with Juliette and a host of family members who enjoy a good fire, fine wine, backyard foosball, good movies and of course good books. When all else fails, there is always a walk with the dogs.

Sam Moffie is virtually touring the blogosphere to promote The Book of Eli this month courtesy of Pump Up Your Book. Chick with Books is participating in that tour with today's review! I also received my review copy of The Book of Eli courtesy of Pump Up Your Books.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Sunday Salon with "Books with Buzz", Upcoming Events and a Man Booker Bargain!

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! This week just flew by me! How about you?! Now it's time to relax, grab a cup of joe and chat about some books! This week I picked up The Distant Hours by Kate Morton, which I was eagerly awaiting the release of & talked about in a Sunday Salon last month. With a crumbling old castle, spinster sisters and the appearance of a mysterious letter 51 years after it was mailed, how could this book be bad?! I can't wait to crack the spine on this one! I'll let you know what I think. (I actually did read a little of it and loved what I read!) This week I saw some other interesting reads that should be added to our TBR pile! First, The Bells is historical fiction, and one of my favorite genres! Think Vienna and Opera and a long kept secret. Second up is Under Fishbone Clouds, a love story with elements of folklore as the story is told through the voice of the Kitchen God who was challenged by the Jade Emperor to unravel the secrets of the human heart, and finally The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey which looks to be a story to tug at our heartstrings with the friendship between a 91 year old man, Ptolemy, and a 17 year-old girl that renews Ptolemy's will to live... Here's how the publishers describe them...

The Bells by Richard Harvell... The celebrated opera singer Lo Svizzero was born in a belfry high in the Swiss Alps where his mother served as the keeper of the loudest and most beautiful bells in the land. Shaped by the bells´ glorious music, as a boy he possessed an extraordinary gift for sound. But when his preternatural hearing was discovered–along with its power to expose the sins of the church–young Moses Froben was cast out of his village with only his ears to guide him in a world fraught with danger. Rescued from certain death by two traveling monks, he finds refuge at the vast and powerful Abbey of St. Gall. There, his ears lead him through the ancient stone hallways and past the monks´ cells into the choir, where he aches to join the singers in their strange and enchanting song. Suddenly Moses knows his true gift, his purpose. Like his mother´s bells, he rings with sound and soon, he becomes the protégé of the Abbey´s brilliant yet repulsive choirmaster, Ulrich. But it is this gift that will cause Moses´ greatest misfortune: determined to preserve his brilliant pupil´s voice, Ulrich has Moses castrated. Now a young man, he will forever sing with the exquisite voice of an angel–a musico–yet castration is an abomination in the Swiss Confederation, and so he must hide his shameful condition from his friends and even from the girl he has come to love...

I resisted this book for a few months before picking it up at my local bookstore. When I did finally open it up and started reading it, I fell in love with Richard Harvells writing. I was immediately swept back in time and loving every moment of it. It was so hard to put this book down, but I'll be starting this right after my reading obligations later this month! *P.S. This Book is Kindle Ready!

Under Fishbone Clouds by Sam Meekings... a universal love story, a family saga, and a journey through Chinese history, myth, and culture. Following a young Chinese couple as their love grows, and is tested, during Mao's Cultural Revolution, this elegant debut novel provides a rare and personal glimpse into the birth modern China. When the Kitchen God is challenged by the Jade Emperor to fathom the workings of the human heart, he chooses to follow the life of Jinyi and his wife Yuying, from their blossoming love until their old age, in hope of finding an answer. The Kitchen God watches as the new government strictures split their family in two, living inside their hearts as they they endure the loss of two children, homesickness, and isolation, all while keeping alive a love that survives famine, forced labor, and even death. Weaving together the story of their life with China’s recent political history, as well as traditional folktales and myths, the Kitchen God illuminates the most impenetrable aspects the human condition.

I just love the idea of the Kitchen God being challenged by the Jade Emperor, and having the love story of this young couple unfold before our eyes. I also love this time period. Under Fishbone Clouds will be released Dec. 7th!

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley... At ninety-one years old, Ptolemy Grey is one of the world’s forgotten: by his family, by his friends, by even himself. Marooned in a cluttered Los Angeles apartment overflowing with mementos from his past, Ptolemy sinks deeper into lonely dementia and into a past that’s best left buried. He’s determined to pass the rest of his days with only his memories for company. Until, at his grandnephew’s funeral, he meets Robyn and experiences a seismic shift, in his head, his heart, and his life. Seventeen
and without a family of her own, Robyn is unlike anyone Ptolemy has ever known. She and Ptolemy form an unexpected bond that reinvigorates his world. Robyn will not tolerate the way he has allowed himself to live, skulking in and out of awareness barely long enough to cash his small pension checks, living in fear of his neighbors and the memories that threaten to swallow him. With Robyn’s help, Ptolemy moves from isolation back into the brightness of friendship and desire. But Robyn’s challenges also push Ptolemy to make a life-changing decision that will affect both of them: to recapture the clarity and vigor of his fading mind and unlock the secrets he has carried for decades.

For all my mystery reading, I have never read Walter Mosley. This definitely isn't one of his mystery books, but the premise of the story drew me in. How the elderly are often times forgotten, and how the friendship of a young girl breathes new life into an old man just grabbed me. Lots of early praise for this book too! I'm looking forward to reading this too! *P.S. This Book is Kindle Ready!

Coming up this week on Chick with Books are two Virtual Book Tours! First, The Book of Eli by Sam Moffie makes a stop monday... Cheating husband meets sudden demise via hex from gypsy hired by wife. Husband makes trip to heaven for redemption. Author Sam Moffie has an ascerbic sense of humor, and it shows in The Book of Eli. Ready for the Holidays?! Well, author Sheila Roberts brings readers a heartwarming story of family, friendships and love in The Snow Globe! The Snow Globe by Sheila Roberts is the second Virtual Book Tour this week, also on monday. I loved this book! It's a perfect little book to escape into during the hectic holidays! My reading group is also going to read it in December and have a live chat with Sheila! I'll let you all know how that goes too!

What have I got my nose into these days? Right now I'm reading Cake Boss by Buddy Valastro! I love watching Cake Boss on the TLC network! If you aren't familiar with the show, it's a cake making reality show at its' best! Buddy Valastro runs the family bake shop, Carlo's Bake Shop, in Hoboken, NJ. with his mother, sisters and brother-in-laws. The show is a blast and the book is too! This book lets us know a little more about Buddy and his family with stories and recipes! And you know I love a good cook book, and the recipe's in this book are dee-lish! I'll be reviewing this book the week of Thanksgiving!

Book Bargain Alert! If you are interested in reading this years Man Booker Prize winner, The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson, you can pick up the paperback for $5.99 right now at Amazon, and the Kindle Ready version for $5.69! And Nook owners, you too can pick up the NOOKbook for $5.69!

So that's what I've been reading, how 'bout you?! What books have you put on your wishlist? Share what books you've found this week, because I'd love to hear about them!
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