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, January 31, 2011

Memoir Monday... Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton

I love "food" memoirs; memoirs that give us a little behind the scene look at the restaurant business, as in Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphire: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise or Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. So I was excited to receive in the mail recently an ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) of Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton from Random House. Here's what the publishers have to say...

If you were to take the heartfelt food memories of Ruth Reichl’s Tender at the Bone, mix them with the complex family relationships of Augusten Burroughs’s Running with Scissors, throw in a little of the behind-the-scenes revelations of Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, then strip the mixture down to its grittiest core, you’d get a sense of Gabrielle Hamilton’s new memoir BLOOD, BONES, AND BUTTER.

Before Hamilton opened her acclaimed New York City restaurant, Prune, she spent twenty fierce, hard-living years trying to find the purpose and meaning in her life. BLOOD, BONES, AND BUTTER recounts this unconventional journey through the many kitchens Hamilton inhabited. The result is an unflinching and lyrical work that marks the debut of a tremendous literary talent.

Hamilton will appeal to both foodies and literary audiences alike as she deliciously divulges her experiences in love, life, and food. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, GQ, Bon App├ętit, Saveur, and Food & Wine. She also authored the eight-week “The Chef” column in The New York Times, and her work was anthologized in six volumes of Best Food Writing.

Just leafing through the book, I found Gabrielle Hamilton's writing to be compelling; easy to get lost in; enjoyable. And I'm really looking forward to sinking my teeth into Blood, Bones & Butter! This is the next course on my plate! Next month look for my full review...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Chi's Sweet Home by Konami Kanata... A Review

If you love cats, this is a Manga series for you! Chi is a very cute little kitten that has lost its way. On an outing with her mother and siblings, Chi becomes separated from them. Realizing that she is lost, she desperately searches and encounters all sorts of scary things out there- like dogs and speeding cars! Exhausted and scared, Chi wanders into a park, and with a thud falls down, tears streaming down her face. This just tugged at my heart! At the same time a very young boy named Yohei falls with a thud right across from Chi, crying. The two look into each other's tear filled eyes and Chi thinks, "You don't know where your home is either, huh?" And then Yohei's mother comes to help Yohei up. Yohei tells his mother that the kitten fell down too, and asks his mother what they should do. Well, how can you leave a cute little abandoned kitten all alone in a park? They bring Chi home...

Although there are complications... the Yamada family lives in a building that doesn't allow cats... And Chi still yearns for her family, especially her mother. But after failing to find a good home for Chi, the Yamadas decide to keep Chi as part of their family, and hide her from the neighbors. This makes for some very entertaining stories, one of which is how the Yamadas solve the problem of Chi showing herself to the neighbors after learning to jump onto the window sill so she can get a look at the whole world!

Chi's Sweet Home is written by Konami Kanata. In volume 1, there are 20 short chapters that see Chi learn to use the litter box, learn what taking a bath is all about, learn what the vet is and other cat like adventures. It is a very sweet, very cute Manga that even Publisher's Weekly picked as one of the best Manga in 2010...

"This manga has got to be the cutest thing 2010 has seen. Kanata gets inside the head of a tiny lost kitten who has a mind of her own which gets her into all sorts of wild adventures. Full color fun and a perfect reminder of why cats are adorable."

There are currently 4 volumes available, with the fifth volume coming this february. Nice features of Chi's Sweet Home is that it is written in a western style, which means you read it like a normal graphic novel. AND, it is in full color! Another nice touch, because most Manga is in black & white.

This is a Manga series that all ages can enjoy. In Japan this Manga is popular with adults as well as children. Chi is a sweet kitten, but she does have spunk and a mind of her own! If you've ever lived with a kitten you will really appreciate this story, but it's a universal story about finding ones place in the world and being part of a family. I really enjoyed reading this first volume of Chi's Sweet Home and look forward to the next volume!

*P.S. I read this as part of The Manga Reading Challenge 2011!

The Sunday Salon... Let's Sail Away with some Great Sci-Fi!

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! Pull up a chair, grab a cup of java and relax a little. It's that time of the week to chat books! Last Sunday was a bit of a departure as Bloggiesta was going on, that time of the year where bloggers concentrate on tweaking their blogs, learn a thing or two and just have a lot of fun. I virtually met so many great bloggers that weekend and found some great new blogs. If you're new here, Sundays are the day of the week I chat about what great books I spied over the week, or caught wind of , and all sorts of other bookish things. Today, I'm feeling like sailing away! With all this SNOW, and more to come, I just need to get away! So, let's sail away together with some great Sci-Fi with a splash of Dystopia... SciFi is not my usual cup of tea. Not that I don't enjoy reading good sci-fi, it's just not what I usually reach for first. But when I do veer in thatdirection, I always wonder why I don't read more sci-fi. I found out that I love Dystopian fiction when I read The Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, followed by The Maze Runner by James Dashner. Is Sci-Fi a place where you go looking for a good book? If it isn't your norm, you may want to give one of today's featured books a try. They've gotten some great buzz, especially our first book...

Across the Universe by Beth Revis. Our first trip today is going to be on the ship Godspeed... Amy is a cryogenically frozen passenger aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed. She expects to wake up on a new planet, 300 years in the future. But fifty years before Godspeed's scheduled landing, Amy's cryo chamber is unplugged, and she is nearly killed. Now, Amy is caught inside an enclosed world where nothing makes sense. Godspeed's passengers have forfeited all control to Eldest, a tyrannical and frightening leader, and Elder, his rebellious and brilliant teenage heir. Amy desperately wants to trust Elder. But should she? All she knows is that she must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets before whoever woke her tries to kill again.

This YA novel has received so much praise already! Reviewers are loving it! It has murder, intrigue, love & friendship all rolled together with a splash of that Dystopian world I love to read about. And Beth Revis has created a believable, detailed world inside that spaceship, which should enrich the story. Another interesting thing to mention is the cover. My dust jacket was a little off kilter when I received it, and in straightening it back around the book, I noticed the inside of the dust jacket could also be used for the outside- AND that jacket is a detailed map of the ship. There is a little speculation that if this series, and it is going to be a trilogy, takes off (like the Hunger Games) that you'll see more "space based" YA novels.

Virga: Cities of the Air by Karl Schroeder... Next, let's take a trip in a fullerene Balloon! How can you resist a world existing in a floating balloon?! It is the distant future. The world known as Virga is a fullerene balloon three thousand kilometers in diameter, filled with air, water, and floating chunks of rock. The humans who live in this vast environment must build their own fusion suns and “towns” that are in the shape of enormous wood and rope wheels that are spun for centripetal gravity. The complex and fascinating world is the setting for the novels of Virga, Karl Schroeder’s interstellar far-future space habitat sealed off from contamination by the rest of the inhabited universe.

Virga: Cities of the Air is an omnibus of the first two books in Karl Schroeders Virga novels. Those novels are Sun of Suns and Queen of Candesce. What Karl Schroeder is known for his ability to create a believable complex world operating in a balloon. I won a copy of book three in this series, Pirate Sun, from Shellie at Layers of Thought and TOR Books, and am thinking of starting from the beginning with Virga: Cities of the Air first. Although it does seem that each book can be read as a stand alone, it's always nice to get to know the characters from their humble beginnings. There is a great review of Virga: Cities of the Air at Layers of Thought if you'd like to learn a little more.

Phantom Universe by Laura Krietzer... Now, a more "traditional" mode of travel- a pirate ship! Sold into slavery to pirates at the young age of four, Summer learns to survive the rough seas of subterfuge and thieves through silence. When the boat she’s lived on most of her life is destroyed, Summer finds herself washed up on the shore of a new world, a phantom universe full of the bizarre and extraordinary. She meets Gage, the one boy who understands the girl with no speech. But when their lives are put on the line, will Summer finally call out? Or will all be lost in the fathomless depth of silence?

I heard some great buzz about Phantom Universe and after reading the prologue to the book, needed to read more! The prologue finds Summer and her mother running from the powers that are looking for Summer. It really pulled at my heart, and in that brief prologue Summer really got under my skin. And from the pre-pub reviews I've read, she is quite the heroine. Laura Krietzer will be a guest here at Chick with Books in late March. And in the meantime, if you want to sail away with Summer on this pirate ship, you can pre-order Phantom Universe , either ebook format or autographed paperback, from Laura's website

So, are you going to sail away this weekend? Is Sci-Fi something you read regularly? If you haven't read either The Uglies or The Maze Runner, you can find links to my reviews of them in my Dystopian Reading Challenge post. You won't be sailing away with them, but you'll be entering worlds where government rule strives to put things in "perfect" order.

Hope you've found something to pique your interest today! Let me know if you've read any of these books, and if you have any suggestions for other sci-fi we should try!

Happy reading... Suzanne

Friday, January 28, 2011

First Lines...

"It was a vibrant blue-skied Afghan morning, the kind that made Yazmina stop to loosen her scarf and tilt her face to the sun. She and her younger sister, Layla, were returning from the well, their calloused feet accustomed to repeated treks on the ancient dirt. The tiny cowrie shells that decorated Yazmina's long black dress clacked with every step. She looked toward the snow-capped peaks to the north and prayed that this winter, Inshallah, God willing, would not be as bad as the last. It was so cold, so unforgiving, killing the goats, freezing the earth, destroying any chance of a good wheat crop. Another winter like that would surely make the threat of starvation real."
...A Cup of Friendship by Deborah Rodriguez (just published!)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt... A Review

Did you know that Winston Churchill suffered from depression? Author Rebecca Hunt very cleverly uses this bit of information to create a literary character out of Winston Churchill's real life & well known depression which he affectionately referred to as The Black Dog. Depression is personified as a BIG black dog, who calls himself Black Pat, that can talk and has meaningful conversations with both Churchill, who is soon to retire from Parliament and is suffering with the decision and Esther Hammerhans, a young librarian in the House of Commons, who has advertised for a lodger, and gets Black Pat answering her notice.

Black Pat claims he is in need of a room, close to work. But once "Black Pat" moves in, Esther can't help but wonder if he is coming to stay with her for another reason. You see Esther lost her dear husband almost a year ago, and as the anniversary of his death nears, Esther can feel the pull of Black Pat. There's something enticing about him, at the same time revolting. And he can be so charming when he wants to be...

"Let me stay."

A heavy uncertain stare from Esther. Above the orange light and the chaos of the kitchen grew a thin sadness, the empty sadness of a dying relationship. Here it was unstoppably. Black Pat fawned his chops against the wall with a moan.

Esther said, "Sorry?"

That old Romeo, what he said next was shameless. He said it slowly and full of clues. "If you let me love you it will be the longest love of your life."

The book is quirky, fun and Rebecca Hunt does a clever job of representing depression as a living breathing ugly creature. In her dialogue between the characters she plays with the subtleties of real depression, in a quiet respectful way. The characters are "proper English subjects", keeping a stiff upper lip even in the throws of trouble, keeping their emotions in check until lured into conversation with Black Pat, who is also Mr. Chartwell, which is a reference to Winston Churchill's home which was called Chartwell. Mr. Churchill is believable as a stoic leader, quietly suffering. And Esther is also believable as a proper English widow. When the story lines of Winston Churchill and the "proper" English librarian finally meet, it is with some unexpected and wonderful twists. Black Pat eventually reveals his real relationship with his "clients" as well.

I really enjoyed this book. It wasn't the kind of book where you are turning the pages as fast as you can, but the kind of book that you sit down to read in a big comfy chair, with a steaming cup of tea for company. I loved Esther, who is demure, but finally comes through at the end to show she's got real spunk! But all the characters are memorable. And Rebecca Hunt's writing is wonderful.

I highly recommend Mr. Chartwell to anyone who enjoys literary fiction. This would also make a perfect Reading Group choice, as it really is rich with the meat of good conversation. I want to thank the folks at Random House & The Dial Press for sending along a copy of Mr. Chartwell for review! I can see this being a favorite read.

Mr. Chartwell will be available from your local bookstore Feb. 8th! *P.S. This book will be Kindle Ready!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Memoir Monday presents... Reading Lips: A Memoir of Kisses by Claudia Sternbach

A new memoir came my way from those wonderful people atUnbridled Books! It's Reading Lips: A Memoir of Kisses by Claudia Sternbach, where Claudia writes about "the kisses - platonic and romantic - that shaped her life." Thinking about it, don't we girls remember certain kisses in our life?! From the pulblisher...

Kisses, even the ones that don’t happen, can be the trace of what’s constant when life changes. In childhood, when what seems to define everything is competition—for style, for knowing, for experience—a kiss is the first first. When a girl’s father moves out and chooses a new family, a kiss on the head from him may be the trace of constancy that she wants most.

Later, such things take on a different flavor. Sometimes the kiss she wants doesn’t come. Sometimes the one she wouldn’t have is forced upon her. From time to time, the one she has kissed before is lost to her.

Some kisses are final. When things are most hectic a kiss can be a celebration. And when circumstances grow threatening—to a woman, her family, her sister—a kiss becomes the reassertion of the most vital connections.

The rich story in these essays rings with good humor and with moving wistfulness. Throughout, Sternbach maintains a perfect balance between them as her story moves from the bittersweet desires of childhood on through loss and love.

Reading Lips is the tale of one woman who is just trying to get life right.

Reading Lips: A Memoir of Kisses by Claudia Sternbach will be published this coming April. It's already gotten some great pre-publication praise for Claudia's writing. Look for my review coming in February!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

10 Things I Learned During Bloggiesta! And My Bloggiesta Wrap-up!

Bloggiesta 4 Wrap-up!

Almost 76 hours later and the 4th Edition of Bloggiesta is almost over! Wow, what a fun weekend! OK, work, but fun! Not only did I learn a whole bunch of great new things, I met some great bloggers and visited equally great blogs that I discovered while tweeting and participating in #bloggiesta with the 200 plus other bloggers!

Now, nursing a strained knee (and a fur baby who is recuperating from major surgery) meant I was homebound this weekend, so this year I was able to devote a lot of time to Bloggiesta. So, here are the highlights of...

10 Things I learned during Bloggiesta 4

1. Labels & Tags Challenge... This mini-challenge was all about labeling your posts so people could easily search your blog for relevant information. ( and for us bloggers that happens in the footer of our posts) What I did was create a tab at the top of the blog for "Author Interviews", and "Reviews", and have been slowly adding authors/books with links so readers have one place to look for these. Thanks to Beth @ Beth Fish Reads for hosting this challenge!

2.Google Forms Challenge... This Challenge was all about learning how to use Google Docs to create forms. You need a gmail account, which I have, and what I did for this challenge was to create a form for future giveaways. You can see a sample of this type of form on my recent Sunday Salon. I also created a "contact me" form, you can find by clicking on the "contact me" button in my sidebar. Thanks to Jen @ Devourer of Books for hosting this challenge!

3. Organize Thy Books Challenge... This Challenge was all about organizing the books you receive for review and that you review, but it could easily help anyone who buys books! Jenn of Jenn's Bookshelves talks about using Google Docs to make a spreadsheet to keep track of your books, and using a virtual bookshelf, such as LibraryThing, to keep track of your books. What I did was create a spreadsheet in Google Docs with info to keep track of the when, where and who of the books I receive. Thanks to Jenn @ Jenn's Bookself for hosting this challenge!

4. Mr.Linky/Linky Tools Challenge... This Challenge was all about learning how to create "Linky's" for your blog events. Helpful for reading challenges, and link-ups. I learned how to create both types of Linky tools Thanks to Jen @Teach Mentor Texts. Thanks for hosting!

5. Backing up your Blog flashback mini-challenge... This mini-challenge is called a flashback because it was from last years bloggiesta, but there are always links to the previous challenges that were particularly helpful, and backing up your blog is definitely helpful! In 3 easy steps I was able to back-up my blog "just in case". Thanks to Farm Lane Books for hosting this challenge!

6. Anchors Away flashback Challenge... This flashback challenge was about using good descriptive text to link to the actual location in your blog posts. Instead of writing Here is Chick with Books and creating the link with "Here", it's better to write Here is Chick with Books and linking with the actual location. Lots of blogging reasons for doing this and Thanks to Michelle @ Galleysmith for hosting this challenge!

7. Google Alerts Challenge... This flashback challenge was about setting up Google's search engine to email you with current information posted on the WWW on a particular topic of your choosing. Anyone with a google account can do this, topics range from your favorite football team to "your blog". Thanks to Emily @ Emily's Reading Room for hosting this challenge.

8.Designing You Own Buttons/Banners mini-challenge... This challenge was to make either a button or banner for your blog. Callista of SMS Book Reviews listed some great free sites to help accomplish this. What I did was make a "Contact Me?" button, put it on my sidebar and linked it to a form that allowed someone to contact me. Callista @ SMS Book Reviews hosted this challenge!

9. Best Email Practices Challenge... Trish of Hey Lady Whatcha Readin'? offers 11 great tips on keeping your email organized! And gives us 5 reasons why gmail is the best email server. This is great advice for ANYONE who has an email account. I spent some time over the weekend cleaning up my email, although I have more work to do to organize it better. Thanks Trish for hosting this challenge!

10. Your Review Policy Challenge... This challenge is for solely for bloggers. It's a great post, and very informative about what you should include in your review policy that is typically somewhere in your blog, either a separate heading or included in "About Me". This is something I am working on. I tend to be a little anal about these kind of things and it will take me a little more time than this weekend to put it together, BUT I want to Thank Girls Gone Reading for hosting this challenge!

I did visit lots of blogs! And took a peek at all the challenges and mini-challenges! All the challenges were creative and fun! I wish there were more time to participate in all of them! Thank you to all the Challenge hosts for taking the time to write great & informative posts! Thanks to Natasha of Maw Books Blog for organizing & hosting this wonderful blogging event! Thanks to everyone who stopped by this weekend to offer help, a hello and a "you go girl"!

Did you participate in Bloggiesta 4? What challenges did you find the most helpful?! Have a great rest of the weekend! There's still a little time left for challenges, so have fun to anyone still counting down the time to the end at 8am monday morning!

The Sunday Salon... Bloggiesta 4 Continues

It's Sunday! It's also the final day of Bloggiesta 4! So, just for today, instead of a "normal" Sunday Salon with great "books with buzz" and other bookish things, I'm hard at work on the Chick with Books Blog. Have you heard of Bloggiesta 4? I blogged about Bloggiesta 4 this week on tuesday, and was at the Bloggiesta start line early friday morning! Picture a marathon full of bloggers and you'll have an idea what Bloggiesta is all about- over 200 Bloggers getting together virtually to Plan, Edit, Develop, Review & Organize their blogs and helping each other with questions, tips and a general cheering on! Oh, and BTW, our mascot is that little guy in the corner with the yellow sombrero, and his name is "PEDRO". You can follow all the excitement in Twitter with the hashtag #bloggiesta.

I really have learned quite a bit in the html department this weekend, as well as making forms and labels. I've designed a new contest entry form (that I'll be trying out SOON!) that allows everyone to enter their information and send it along to me privately, so that your email isn't available to spammers. PLUS, I created a button on the left sidebar, "Contact Me?", that allows you to send a little note my way (You can try it out if you want, and say hello!- it would also let me know it's working).

Today, I'm working on making a list of my reviews with links to the actual review. Funny how I just never thought of doing that (also it wasn't the easiest thing to do in Blogger until they made "tabs" available for us Bloggers), I had my reviews listed on the side with covers & links, but rotated them. I'm still going to have the most recent and favorite books reviewed on the sidebar, but soon you'll be able to go to the "Reviews" tab on top and find them all there.

So, off I go... I'll be making a wrap-up post to list all the things I checked off of my "to do" list, and sharing links and any tips I learned, just in case you may want to do a thing or two yourself.

*P.S. Here's a little sample of "What I learned at Bloggiesta 4"... Don't be shy... Fill it out and send it to me! When you hit that submit button, only I will see your answers!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

When a Woman Takes an Axe to a Wall by Allegra Bennett... A Review

Women are strong, resilient, and able to handle many of life's problems that come their way. We are nurturers and care givers. We can handle a cheese souffle or a dinner party for forty, so what's so different about fixing a light switch?! In When a Woman Takes an Axe to a Wall, author and renovating woman Allegra Bennett shares with us stories about women not afraid to "slip into overalls and strap on tool belts in the making of their perfect space and, in that, the renovation of their state of mind." What these stories show us is that when a woman takes on the four walls around her, she not only repairs her own home, but her own soul.

When a Woman Takes an Axe to a Wall is a collection of inspiring stories from women who have taken a journey of self-discovery to "uncover the foundation of her real self" by overcoming their fears, apprehensions or lack of knowledge by picking up that power drill, or stripping off the wallpaper, maybe by simply asking how to do something with the results being a renovation of their spirits as they renovate their homes.

Author Allegra Bennett's renovation of spirit started after divorcing and getting the house in the process. Her ex didn't even fight for it, which Allegra soon discovered was because it was WORK. HomeownHERship is hard, but as she learned how to fix things, she began to feel empowered and good about herself. She shared what she learned with other women in the same or similar circumstances in a 90 second weekly home radio program. She found that there were a lot of women who were taking on the challenge of fixing up their homes themselves, either because of the desire or more often out of necessity. Women shared with her their challenges and successes. And it is out of these stories that When a Woman Takes an Axe to a Wall was born. Also her magazine, Renovating Woman: the do it herself magazine, which is published 4 times a year, AND the Renovating Woman Website, where Allegra answers questions and offer tools, tricks and tips.

I enjoyed reading through When a Woman Takes an Axe to a Wall. The stories were short, anecdotal, and affirming that as women, no matter what our experience, we are all capable of taking care of things ourselves and not have to wait for the "Knight in Shining Armor". Some of the stories were fun - as in a few ghosts that wanted a little input into the renovations. There was a nice flow to the stories, and even though the book is geared towards the single or divorced woman, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone thinking about picking up that hammer for the first time - because reading about these fearless women will give you the motivation to do your own repairs!

I want to thank Shana of Writers Lair Books for sending a review copy to me!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Bloggiesta Has Started!

The 4th Edition of Bloggiesta Has Started!

Blogger's it's time to work on your blogs! Bloggiesta has started! And that means it's time for me to work on my blog! Bloggiesta starts 8am Friday, January 21st and goes for 76 hours! (Ending Sunday, Jan. 23rd, 8am) Are you wondering what Bloggiesta is?! Here's all the details from my "official" Bloggiesta Post. In a nutshell, it's a blogging marathon for bloggers! It's the time of year we Plan, Edit, Develop, Review and Organize! Over 200 bloggers have officially signed up to participate! I'll be updating throughout the weekend of Twitter, #bloggiesta, and will sum it all up at the end of the weekend on my Bloggiesta Post. This BIG event is graciously hosted by Maw Books Blog, with mini-challenges, tips, tricks and help to solve all those blogging questions! Are you ready?! Good luck!

**Hey, I know I will "officially" update what I did throughout Bloggiesta weekend in a later post, but I thought I would try something I learned about today... Linky Tools. I've seen them, I've entered my info in them, but thanks to Jenn at Teach Mentor Texts I think I might be able to use them in my own posts when needed... Here goes...

If you're participating in Bloggiesta or just cheering people on, share your Name and/or Blog by clicking on "Click here to enter" below and let me see if this works! Thanks! Happy Bloggiesta!

First Lines...

"Everyone has a secret.
Like the oyster with its grain of sand, we bury it deep within, coating it with opalescent layers, as if that could heal our mortal wound. Some of us devote our entire lives to keeping our secret hidden, safe from those who might pry it from us, hoarding it like the pearl, only to discover that it escapes us when we least expect it, revealed by a flash of fear in our eyes when caught unawares, by a sudden pain, a rage or hatred, or an all-consuming shame."
... The Tudor Secret by C.W. Gortner (coming Feb. 1st!)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Manga Reading Challenge 2011

Manga Challenge 2011

Last year I got my feet wet a little with Manga. The word Manga literally means "humorous pictures", with highly stylized artwork (big eyes, small mouths, wild colorful hair), and stories that range from love, sex, violence and many other emotions. Some Manga have an element of magic, some are more traditional stories, but all are wildly popular in Japan, where almost everyone reads it. Traditional Manga is read from the back of the book to the front, right to left. Sound confusing? Don't worry, once you read your first Manga it all flows very naturally. Check out my post last year on Manga to learn all about its origins, types and how-to's, and in the meantime I'm signing up for this years Manga Reading Challenge! Rhinoa of Rhinoa's Ramblings is hosting again, and the rules are simple... Read 6 Manga's! That's it! Interested?! Here are the details:

Manga Reading Challenge 2011 Rules...

*Sign up at Manga Challenge Blog to participate.

*Read a minimum of 6 Manga.

*Post a link to your review at the Review Post at the Manga Challenge blog.

I was a bit overwhelmed with all the different stories and books out there. But going to the challenge site and reading other people's reviews and suggestions really helped. If you're unfamiliar with Manga, stayed tuned here to see what books I'll be sharing and reviewing! And let me know if you've read any Manga and what your suggestions are!

Get Ready for the 4th Edition of Bloggiesta!

Bloggers Get Ready for the 4th Edition of Bloggiesta!

Are you a Blogger? Then this is the event you've been waiting for! The 4th Edition of Bloggiesta! It's 76 hours of Planning, Editing, Developing, and basically working on your blog! It's a blogging marathon with 169 bloggers (and counting) that are participating!

Here's How to Participate:

*The dates are: Friday January 21st, Saturday the 22nd and Sunday the 23rd. You can really start whenever you want within that time but official hours are 8am to 8am (wherever you are). That is a total of 76 hours, the hours spent on the challenge do NOT need to be in a row. Use the entire 76 hour time frame and see what you can do with it.

*It’s your call as to how much you want to put into it. But you have to put something into it or it’s not a challenge. So stay up all night or sleep and take care of kids when you need to.

*When you start the challenge, go to Maw Books Blog ,(she's graciously hosting this BIG event), and to the “starting line” post and link to your specific post about beginning the challenge which is posted on your blog. That way I’ll be able to track participants and know who’s really at the party.

*How many updates (if any) you want to do is up to you. Make it work for you.

*There will be bloggers hosting mini-challenges as well. These are great to learn new information. To get an idea of the mini-challenges last time, check out the list.

*If you are on Twitter, use the hashtag #bloggiesta to join the chatter.

*Your final summary post needs to be posted no later than end of the day Monday, January 24th. Come back to the finish line and link to your specific summary post (again- can be that same post you’ve been updating). Your summary should include the number of hours spent on the challenge, what you accomplished, links to mini-challenge hosts if you completed them and any other experiences you’d like to add.

This is such a fun event for bloggers to share, inform and work on their blogs! Blogging is a year round fiesta, because we are constantly tweaking, redesigning and sharing with our readers, but Bloggiesta is especially fun because so many bloggers participate together. If you're not a blogger, you can still participate by visiting blogs and cheering us on as we work together to create the best blogs we can together!

Happy Bloggiesta!

Monday, January 17, 2011

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami... a Review

What an amazing memoir, but not quite a memoir! What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is the memoir of Japanese author Haruki Murakami. But even Murakami admits that it's not a "traditional" memoir, and in fact his original concept was to publish it as a book of essays. The story has its roots in Murakami's training for the New York City Marathon, but what makes this story so interesting is his veering off the track to share thoughts about his life, career, his childhood, music, and love. He reflects on living in Boston and Hawaii. He shares his views of the world around him, and in doing he innocently gives the reader food for fodder for our own lives. And all cleverly linked together by his training.

"Once you set the pace, the rest will follow. The problem is getting the flywheel to spin at a set speed - and to get to that point takes as much concentration and effort as you can imagine."

What's particularly interesting to me is the insights he gives on writing and the origins of his writing. Not knowing much about Murakami except for his being a brilliantly popular writer, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running really let me get to know the man behind the writing. The bar owner turned writer, who loves to run even though his aging body is slowing down. And even a book "about running" in the hands of Haruki Murakami is beautifully written. It's inspiring, it's humbling.
"Sometimes when I think of life, I feel like a piece of driftwood washed up on shore."
I listened to the audiobook of What I Talk About When I Talk About Running as part of the Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge, which includes listening to audiobooks. But I enjoyed the story so much I intend to buy a copy of the book! The audiobook itself is a little over 4 hours, and is narrated by Shakespearean actor Ray Porter, who has an extensive audiobook background. Although the voice of the narrator is pleasing, at first I was a little taken aback, because I really expected a different type of voice to represent Murakami, but I slowly got use to Mr. Porter, who did a great job with all the subtleties of sharing the story with us.

I would definitely recommend What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami to any runner or athlete, because it's a wonderful love story to the hard work of training for any event, but it's also a love story of living. There are so many other reasons to praise this book- it's inspiring, it's beautifully written, it's a great way to get to know the man behind the wildly popular books you can find in any bookstore. I loved it for all those reasons. And, if I could I would put on a pair of running shoes right now and go out running!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Sunday Salon... Scholarly Women Heroines and Other Bookish Finds

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! Grab a cup of joe and relax. If you are living on the east coast, then you've been snow bound this week like me, and in between shoveling out, maybe you've managed a little time for bookish pursuits. It was a slow week at Chick with Books this week trying to recover from the weather, which was a record breaking 24 plus inches of snow! (and I heard on the news that all but a handful of states got snow this week!) but I did manage to find some great books to curl up with...

A book I came across this week was A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. First of all how can you not love an author who while at college researched the history of magic and science during such an interesting period of time- 1500 thru 1700?! And used her education, she now teaches European history and history of science at the University of Southern California in L.A., to create a heroine that is both a scholar and a witch? Throw in a handsome 1500 year old Vampire and an ancient mystery and I'm hooked. That the beginning of the story finds our heroine Diana in a beautiful old library doesn't hurt either, because I love old libraries myself. Here's the blurb from the publishers about the book...

When historian Diana Bishop opens a bewitched alchemical manuscript in Oxford’s Bodleian Library it represents an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordinary life. Though descended from a long line of witches, she is determined to remain untouched by her family’s legacy. She banishes the manuscript to the stacks, but Diana finds it impossible to hold the world of magic at bay any longer. For witches are not the only otherworldly creatures living alongside humans. There are also creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires who become interested in the witch’s discovery. They believe that the manuscript contains important clues about the past and the future, and want to know how Diana Bishop has been able to get her hands on the elusive volume.

A Discovery of Witches is scheduled for a Feb. 8th release date and it's definitely on my wish list. It's gotten a lot of great buzz from early reviewers too!

Another scholarly heroine is Anna Bennett from Night Waking by Sarah Moss. What really drew me to this book was the idea of the Anne Bennett, the protagonist, finding letters written 200 years before that slowly unravel the mysteries that abound in the story, AND that somehow the lives of the Anne and the letter writer will intersect. Here's how the publisher describes the book...

Historian Anna Bennett has a book to write. She also has an insomniac toddler, a precocious, death-obsessed seven-year-old, and a frequently absent ecologist husband who has brought them all to Colsay, a desolate island in the Hebrides, so he can count the puffins. Ferociously sleep-deprived, torn between mothering and her desire for the pleasures of work and solitude, Anna becomes haunted by the discovery of a baby's skeleton in the garden of their house. Her narrative is punctuated by letters home, written 200 years before, by May, a young, middle-class midwife desperately trying to introduce modern medicine to the suspicious, insular islanders. The lives of these two characters intersect unexpectedly in this deeply moving but also at times blackly funny story about maternal ambivalence, the way we try to control children, and about women's vexed and passionate relationship with work.

This book is coming the beginning of February, but to the UK first. Easy to order from The Book Depository if you are in the US, and shipping is always free!

This week I read about how it was the first time in 11 years that the TODAY SHOW did not interview the winners of the Caldecott and Newbery Award winners after the awards were announced. And to add insult to injury, it was Snooki, the Jersey Shore reality TV star that was interviewed instead. Well, librarian Betsy Bird and author James Kennedy are launching a fun contest as a result of the slight - it's called the 90-second Newbery! Anyone can enter the contest, the rules are pretty simple and basically are make a 90 second video about the story of any Newbery award winning book. It's meant to be fun, creative and highlight the great books that have won the award. You can find all the details about the contest at James Kennedy's website, and find a great example of a 90-second video of A Wrinkle in Time. You can read about what Publisher's Weekly wrote about the Today Show Snub at While I was at James Kennedy's website, I came across his YA book, The Order of Odd-Fish, that seemed like such a fun read, and what maybe Monty Python might write for children. Here's the blurb from James' website...

The Order of Odd-Fish by James Kennedy... Jo Larouche has lived her thirteen years in the California desert with her Aunt Lily, a faded Hollywood starlet, ever since she found in Lily’s laundry room with this note pinned to her blankets: This is Jo. Please take care of her. But beware. This is a DANGEROUS baby. Up until this point, Jo has been, as Aunt Lily puts it, “as dangerous as a glass of milk.” But all that’s about to change. At Lily’s annual Christmas costume party, several strange things happen: a boy in a hedgehog shoots an elderly Russian colonel; a talking cockroach is found tied up in the basement, moaning about how this will play in the tabloid press; and a box falls from the sky, addressed to Jo from “The Order of Odd-Fish.” Soon, worsening circumstances lead Jo and Lily out of California forever—and into the mysterious, strange, fantastical world of Eldritch City. There, Jo learns the scandalous truth about who she is, and she and Lily join the Order of Odd-Fish, a colorful collection of knights who research useless information. Glamorous cockroach butlers, impossible quests, obsolete weapons and bizarre festivals fill their days, but Jo’s dream turns to nightmare when she learns that instead of a hero of Eldritch City, she may in fact become its destroyer. By the novel’s wrenching climax, Jo comes to understand who she truly is—and what it means to call a city home.

How can you go wrong with a talking cockroach and the promise of a world that is sure to entertain us! This is going on my wishlist now!

Some Great Kindle News! My bookish friend Michele, emailed me this week with news of the Kindle Book Lending Program. Yes, that's right, now some Kindle Books are lendable, depending on if the publisher enabled the lending feature of the book. You can lend your Kindle book to anyone with a Kindle or a Kindle Reading App for PC, Mac, iPhone, Blackberry and Android devices. You can get all the details at Lending Kindle Books on the Kindle Help page. BTW, Kindle Books can be lent for 14 days. Has anyone done this yet?! I'm curious how easy it is. It really makes buying Kindle Books even better when you can lend them to your friends just like passing around that great paperback!

Here's a Recap of this past weeks blog... I reviewed Brody's Ghost by Mark Crilley as part of the Graphic Novels Challenge 2011. It is a slim book, and the first book in a six book series, but it's a great introduction to the series and to the wonderful artwork of Mark Crilley. There is such amazing detail in the scenes that accompany the text, it's almost worth getting Brody's Ghost for the art. If you missed my review, here's the link to Brody's Ghost Review. Mark Twain made a splash in the news this week, as Twain scholar Adam Gribben's announcement of his intentions to edit The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, that is taking out the "n" word, which appears 219 times, and replacing it with "slave". It created heated debates throughout the internet. Read my take on it in Rewriting History One Word at a Time. And share what you think! I'd love to hear more thoughts on this type of editing. And this weeks First Lines was from It Happened One Night by Lydia Dare. It's been a while since I've chatted about romance, but colder weather always makes me want to heat things up a bit. I'll be reviewing Lydia Dares book next month, but in the meantime you can read the First Lines if you missed them and let me tell you it's about a centuries old ghost who is trapped and haunting an abandoned Scottish castle and the modern day woman who may be just the one to release him!

So, how was your week? What books have you been reading, or spotted in your bookish travels?! Share them here, I'd love to hear about them! And in the meantime have a great week! I hope you are shoveled out!

Happy reading... Suzanne

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Rewriting History One Word at a Time... Huckleberry Finn in the 21st Century

"Censorship is telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it." ... Mark Twain on the Censorship of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Since its publication in 1885, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been the center of numerous censorship challenges. Originally the objections to the book were for the "coarse language", and the use of slang throughout the book, which was called demeaning and damaging. Even favorite author Louisa May Alcott publicly criticized Mr. Twain saying, that if "Mr. Clemens cannot think of something better to tell our pure-minded lads and lasses he had best stop writing for them." But soon the focus of all the objections turned from the coarse language, to one particular word - the "n" word. The "n" word is without question offensive, but taking the "n" word out of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn doesn't change the fact that racism existed, or that that was the language of the day. Instead of ignoring our past, and Huckleberry Finn is America's past, wouldn't it be more beneficial to open up a dialogue about the wrongs of the past?! Putting The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn back in the classroom gives teachers and parents an opportunity to address the objectionable language and racism, to teach the history of that Jim Crow era and to help a child to understand how the attitudes expressed at the time are wrong.

Rewrite Huckleberry Finn? really? Are we gonna take the Holocaust out of Anne Frank's diary too? Or maybe rewrite Lolita so shes 18 yrs old? ... @Jury_Jury Jackson Harris comment on Twitter

Ernest Hemingway called The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn "the best book we've had. The book where all American writing comes from." T.S. Eliot called it a "masterpiece", and Twain scholar Alan Gribben's intensions seem to be to get Huckleberry Finn read by more children who otherwise would not be "allowed", by rewriting the text of Huckleberry Finn with a less hurtful word. But at what cost?

"For a single word to form a barrier, it seems such an unnecessary state of affairs," he said.

Is this censorship or compromise? I say censorship. What do you say? Jamelle Bouie, in an online article for The Atlantic entitled Taking the History Out of Huck Finn, writes: "erasing "n*****" from Huckleberry Finn—or ignoring our failures—doesn't change anything. It doesn't provide racial enlightenment, or justice, and it won't shield anyone from the legacy of slavery and racial discrimination. All it does is feed the American aversion to history and reflection." I couldn't have said it better myself.

The "n" word appears 219 times in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and NewSouth books is initially printing 7500 copies of Mark Twain's Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn: The NewSouth Edition, which will change the "n" word to "slave". NewSouth books is not looking to ban the original version, just add an option to those who find the original version uncomfortable to read. Looking at it in a different light, is it better to change "the word" and have schools embrace the book in their reading programs again or dig our heels in in the name of justice for the authors work? Maybe just by changing one word, a new dialogue will open up...

Brody's Ghost (Book 1) by Mark Crilley... A Graphic Novel and a Review!

Brody's Ghost (Book 1) by Mark Crilley... Brody is a lost soul in a futuristic kind of dystopian world. He doesn't care too much for shaving or cutting his hair. He gets by with dead end jobs, like stocking shelves at what appears to be a grocery store. He also plays guitar to earn a little cash, and one day makes his way to a street corner with his tip jar to work his magic. But instead of seeing the money go in the jar, he gets this feeling he's being watched and notices this pretty young girl giving him the eye across the street. When she comes floating out of the top of the van and over to him, he can't believe his eyes...

The girls name is Talia, she's a ghost, she's been dead for about 5 years from Leukemia, and can't get into heaven (she doesn't want to talk about what she did to be banned from heaven). But if she does this "super good deed", a "life task" she's got a chance at the afterlife. Her life task is a big one - to solve the Penny murders, a series of unsolved murders all involving young women. But even with all her ghostly ways, she can't figure out who the murderer is. Then it comes to her - what she needs is a ghostseer! Someone who can see and communicate with ghosts. AND use his psychic abilities to figure who the murderer is! She searches long and hard for 5 years until she finds "The One"... And Brody is it! Of course Brody doesn't know about any "abilities", and so begins the story...

A hero who doesn't really want to be a hero, and a sassy little ghost who means to get into heaven any way she can- and if it means making Brody shape up, she's going to do it. Oh, and part of that "shaping up" is training by a centuries old samurai warrior ghost, but Brody's got to prove himself before the guy will take him on as a student. The theme is simple, but the story is engaging. And the artwork is beautiful. Mark Crilley's artwork is heavily influenced by Manga and his characters are beautifully drawn, stylistic but not cartoonish. He doesn't just focus on the characters in his artwork either, the surrounding landscapes are well developed too. At the beginning of Brody's Ghost it feels like you are walking through actual streets. The details in the streets and the buildings are a nice touch. The story is well written, with an easy, natural flow between characters. Of course this should be no surprise to fans already familiar with Mark Crilley's work, he is the creator of the Manga series Miki Falls, and the comic book series Akiko, which started out as a comic and was soon turned into a story book series for Random House.

Brody's Ghost will be six volumes total. This first volume is a slim 89 pages, but a wonderful introduction into what looks to be a great story. BTW, at the end of Book 1, Mark gives us a look at the development of the characters, from the way he first envisioned them on the page to his final developed drawings, which I thought was pretty interesting.

Brody's Ghost will be my first entry in the 2011 Graphics Novel Challenge. Ever since "stepping out of the box" last year and joining in the 2010 graphic novels challenge, I've discovered some great books. A good graphic novel will be a treat visually as well as literally, and if you're still on the edge I'd say take a step over and see what you've been missing. It really is a different kind of reading experience and so much fun. I would recommend Brody's Ghost to to anyone who enjoys a story with that reluctant hero, a samurai and a bit of the supernatural- that would be that spunky Talia. There's also that element of good versus evil lingering in the background. It's hard to recommend the series after reading just the first book, but the story hooked me and I look forward to picking up Book 2 later this month.
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