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, February 28, 2011

Memoir Monday... Day of Honey by Annia Ciezadlo

The cover photo captured my heart, of an innocent child, happy and smiling even though the world around her is hard to understand sometimes. In a Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love and War, author Annia Ciezadlo tries to make sense of it all for us as she opens up a window into a world usually hidden to outsiders.

From Inside the Jacket... In the fall of 2003, Annia Ciezadlo spent her honeymoon in Baghdad. Over the next six years, while living in Baghdad and Beirut, she broke bread with Shiites and Sunnis, warlords and refugees, matriarchs and mullahs. Day of Honey is her memoir of love, conglict and the hunger for food and friendship - a communion that feeds the soul as much as the body in times of war. As an American journalist married to a Lebanese man, she had an insider's view of these turbulent years, and she takes us inside the everyday life of two cities at war.

Living and reporting from occupied Baghdad, Ciezadlo longs for normal married life. She finds it in Beirut, her husband's hometown, a city slowly recovering from years of civil war. But as the young couple settles into their new home, and begins to discover the pleasures of food and family, the bloodshe they escaped in Iraq spreads to Lebanon and reawakens the terrible specter of sectarian violence. In lucid, fiercely intelligent prose, Ciezadlo uses food and rituals of eating to illuminate a vibrant Middle East that most Americans never see.

A luminous portrait of life in the Middle East, Day of Honey weaves history, cuisine and firsthand reporting into a fearless, intimate exploration of everyday survival.

I am so looking forward to reading this book! Just from sampling the writing, I know I'm in for a treat as Ciezadlo gives us a different view of war - from the everyday lives of the people she lived with and got to know, sharing their rituals and foods with us! (Yes, there are these wonderful recipes in the back of the book- actually pages and pages of them!) Sharing with us how they deal with the chaos around them while living as normal a life as possible.

I want to thank Free Press and Simon & Schuster for sending along a review copy! Look for my review next month. If you'd like to read this right now, Day of Honey by Annia Ciezadlo is available from your favorite bookstore! *P.S. This Book is Kindle Ready!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Sunday Salon... Signs of Spring: Birds AND Great "Bird" Books with Buzz!

It's another wonderful Sunday! Even though we received another gift of snow last night in Connecticut, it wasn't enough to have to dig out the snow shovel again. As I look at the extended forecast for the area, it looks like we'll be alternating between rain and snow for the better part of March. BUT Spring will come, as it always does! Yesterday afternoon, though, I heard a familiar sound - the sound of the song birds that nest in one of our windows. I wonder if the brief warm weather we had during the week didn't fool them into coming out and enjoying themselves. But that is a sure sign of spring - the return of the birds! My favorite visitors are the Hummingbirds. I'll have to wait a few months for them to show up, because they usually start coming in late April, but all this "Spring" talk has gotten birds on my mind, so today our Sunday Salon is about books with Birds in the Title! Don't let the titles fool you though - these books aren't really about our feathered friends!

The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen... When a bird flies into a window in Spring Green, Wisconsin, sisters Milly and Twiss get a visit. Twiss listens to the birds’ heartbeats, assessing what she can fix and what she can’t, while Milly listens to the heartaches of the people who’ve brought them. The two sisters have spent their lives nursing people and birds back to health. But back in the summer of 1947, they knew nothing about trying to mend what had been accidentally broken. Milly was known as a great beauty with emerald eyes and Twiss was a brazen wild child who never wore a dress or did what she was told. That was the summer their golf pro father got into an accident that cost him both his swing and his charm, and their mother, the daughter of a wealthy jeweler, finally admitted their hardscrabble lives wouldn’t change. It was the summer their priest, Father Rice, announced that God didn’t exist and ran off to Mexico, and a boy named Asa finally caught Milly’s eye. And, most unforgettably, it was the summer their cousin Bett came down from a town called Deadwater and changed the course of their lives forever.

I love stories with sisters - their interpay, their differences, and ultimately the bond between them. Add the era & place that Rebecca Rasmussen puts sisters Milly and Twiss in and I'm sure to enjoy it. The prepublication buzz on this book has been great for this novel! Just reading the excerpt on the authors website made me want more, but we'll all have to wait until it's released on April 12th, 2011! *P.S. This Book will be Kindle Ready! *P.S.S. I also love that cover!

The B
rd House by Kelly Simmon... About Kelly's book from TLC Book Tours:
Every family h
as its secrets. But when you are suddenly the matriarch, tending the dark fires of memory, and your own mind is fading, who do you dare to share them with? Your dia
ry, or your eight-year-old granddaughter?
Interweaving diaries penned forty years apart, Kelly Simmons’s captivating second novel, The Bird House, blends the fierce voice of Ann Biddle, a woman struggling to bond with her only grandchild, Ellie, while railing against the ravages of early dementia, with her point-of-view as a young wife and mother. We witness the secrets of Ann’s family and her grand-daughter and daughter-in-law’s through every len
s— from the clarity of the rearview mirror to the haze of Alzheimer’s. And we see her grappling through the ‘60’s with sleep deprivation, breast cancer, her own mother’s death, a passionate affair, and a tragedy that leaves her stunned until, four decades later, her whip-smart granddaughter unwittingly sheds a burst of light on the family’s shadowy history.
A subtly tense, darkly psychological tug of war between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, present and past, The Bird House is a moving treatise on family, love, and memories—both lost and found.

This book looks to have it all! A strong female lead character, great story with a layer of family secrets that we are promised to have revealed, and great writing. I read the first chapter of this and was hooke
d. It's gotten great reviews too! This book was recently released (Feb. 1st) and isKindle Ready! It's also on my wish list!

Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres... Set on the eve of World War I, Birds Without Wings tells the story of Eskibahçe, a charming and vibrant ethnically mixed town in present-day Turkey, and how it is irrevocably changed by the ravages of nationalism, war, and religious fervor. Before the war, Eskibahçe is filled with a wild assortment of characters, Christian and Muslim, Turkish and Armenian, the mad and the sane, the rich and the poor, living side by side in remarkable harmony. There is Ali the Snowbringer, who lives with his family and his donkey inside a hollowed-out tree; Iskander the Potter, who supplies the town with proverbial wisdom along with his pots; Karatavuk—Iskander’s son—and Mehmetçik, whose deep friendship reaches across religious barriers; Father Kristoforos and Abdulhamid Hodja, priest and imam, who hail each other playfully as “infidels”; Rustem Bey, the landlord and protector of the town, who finds happiness with a Circassian mistress after his wife is nearly stoned to death for adultery. There are lunatics as well—a crazy Sufi known as “the Dog,” who lives in a tomb and terrifies everyone with his smile, and a man known as “the Blasphemer,” who flies into cursing fits at the sight of any holy man. There is Philothei, a girl of such disquieting beauty that she must be veiled, and her besotted lover, Ibrahim the Goatherd, who will be driven mad by the horrors of war. And there is Mustafa Kemal, whose military daring will lead him to many stunning victories against the invading Western European forces and to a reshaping of the whole region. What happens to these characters—and their beloved town—because of the war is the great tragedy that Birds Without Wings describes with such unforgettable vividness.

Louis de Bernieres is also the author of the well known book (and film), Corelli's Mandolin. He is known to create wonderful in depth characters, which it seems he's accomplished here. But for us historical fiction fans, this book looks to be a wonderful treat as we are immersed in a small town during WWI, and can experience through de Bernieres writing how war impacts the humble people far away from the front lines. This is a nice fat book (576 pages) and has gotten great reviews. It's an oldie (published in 2005) but one you may not be familiar with. This has been on my TBR list for a while, and I think would make a great book club selection because of all the vivid characters and their circumstances.

Weekly Recap... This past week we celebrated my 2nd Blogiversary! Last Sunday Salon I celebrated my Blogiversary and my Sunday Salon posts with a giveaway! On Sunday's I usually highlight some great Books with Buzz, and last Sunday's Salon was all about those books from the past year I highlighted! There's still time to enter the Sunday Salon Blogiversary Giveaway! Follow the link to last Sunday's Salon to get all the details! I also celebrated my Blogiversary with a giveaway highlighting the last years Monday Memoir posts! I found so many wonderful memoirs coming into my hands that I started highlighting them on mondays, with the meme, Monday Memoirs. So, as part of my Blogiversary I'm giving away a copy of any of those Monday Memoir books I highlighted! That giveaway ends midnight Feb. 28th, so if you haven't entered yet, follow the link Monday Memoir Giveaway and get all the details!

There also was a great giveaway courtesy of author Michelle Moran for a signed copy of her newest release, Madame Tussaud, that ended last week! Congrats to Cheryl (CherylS22) who won not only the signed copy of Madame Tussaud, but also a pair of "let them eat cake" earrings! Earlier in the month Michelle stopped by for a guest post on the real Madame Tussaud, if you missed follow this link: Madame Tussaud: The Woman.

I also reviewed Laura Lippman's newest Tess Monaghan novel, The Girl in the Green Raincoat. It really is a novella that was previously serialized on The New York Times Magazine section, and finally published all together last month by Harper Collins. It's a great murder mystery that stands fine on its own, but if you're a Tess Monaghan fan you'll be in for a treat!

AND, friday's First Lines highlighted The Twin's Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logsted. The first lines were a tease, but a friend of the author handed me a copy to read, so I'll be opening up the pages for a better taste. Look for a review next month.

How was your week? What books have you got on your nightstand? Share what great books you're reading right here, because I'd love to hear about them! And Bird Books? Do you know any great books with Birds in the title?

Happy Reading... Suzanne

Friday, February 25, 2011

First Lines...

"I was thirteen the year everything changed with a single knock at the door.

It was a strong door, sturdy oak, the kind designed to keep the worst of the world's elements outside while keeping safe the occupants on the inside..."
...The Twin's Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard... A Review

Do you have Stuff? Where exactly does your stuff come from? And do you know what happens to your stuff when you throw it away? Well The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard answers these questions and more...

Whether you're an environmentally green person or not, we all agree that the planet that we live on is important to us. We basically live off the land even in the 21st century- the planet sustains our lives. Our stuff whether we admit it or not impacts the environment in some way. Annie Leonard in a humorous, but in all seriousness, writes about "each stage of the life of our stuff" and how it impacts us. The book, The Story of Stuff, is divided into 5 chapters: Extraction (getting the ingredients), Production (how we turn the ingredients into our stuff), Distribution (how we get our stuff), Consumption (or in Annie's opinion overconsumption), and Disposal. With cartoons and anecdotes Annie Leonard takes us behind the scenes of our everyday lives and shows us what really goes on.
"Nothing is more important to human beings than an ecologically functioning, life sustaining biosphere on the Earth. It is the only habitable place we know of in a forbidding universe. We all depend on it to live and we are compelled to share it; it is our only home." ... Joseph Guth, lawyer, biochemist, and the legal director of the Science and Environmental Health Network
Annie began her expertise in stuff as a college student in New York City. As she walked 6 blocks to class every morning to Barnard College she passed mounds and mounds of garbage. When her college day ended and she walked the six blocks home, miraculously all the sidewalks were empty- NO garbage. She wondered what was all that stuff and where did it go. Her fascination with garbage lead her to a degree in environmental science and landed her a job at Greenpeace. She traveled the world learning about garbage. Anne is an expert in international sustainability and environmental health issues. In 2008 she was named one of Time magazines Heroes of the Environment. And in the Story of Stuff, author Annie Leonard "sheds light on America's consumptions craze as she connects the dots between all the Stuff in our lives and the environmental, economic, and social issues we face."

The Story of Stuff is a fascinating look at the environment and how everything, us included, effects each other. Annie does a great job of laying it all out for us in a readable and accessible way. Her writing is good, evident by her ability to make all this "stuff" so interesting!

Want to learn about our impact on the environment (and where all our stuff ends up)?! The Story of Stuff is the go to book. Not a preachy "you've got to recycle" kind of book, but a book that will raise your eyebrows more than once and will make you think twice before tossing that water bottle!

I want to thank Free Press for sending along a review copy of The Story of Stuff! It was an interesting and fun look at "Stuff"! You can pick up a copy of The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard at your favorite bookstore now! And if you'd like to learn more about Annie and The Story of Stuff, visit her website The Story of Stuff and watch her short and sassy video.

The Girl in the Green Raincoat by Laura Lippman... A Review

What a perfect little murder mystery! Laura Lippman's novella, The Girl in the Green Raincoat, at 158 pages has quite a good "bang for the buck". We meet Tess Monaghan in her 11th outing as the very determined P.I. who decides to stick her nose into some dangerous business. How dangerous? Let's just say the sleazy Romeo involved may have killed his 3 wives and a girlfriend. To make it all more dangerous, the very pregnant Tess is confined to bed rest and can hardly get up from the chaise lounge she calls home during the day...

"I am being held hostage," Tess Monaghan whispered into her iPhone.

As Tess passes the day away people watching out her sun porch window, a fun nod to Hitchcocks thriller Rear Window, she notices one girl in particular - a girl in a green raincoat. What makes her stand out really is the fact that her dog is wearing a matching green raincoat. Every day like clockwork, Tess sees "the girl" walking that dog in that green raincoat... until one day Tess spies the dog running loose in the park, alone, leash still attached...

Add a few great side kicks who help flush out the bad guy, toss in a few dogs who know how to save the day and you've got a terrific and satisfying murder mystery that shows off Laura Lippmans' talent as a great storyteller, as she keeps the readers on the edge of their seats even at 158 pages. Originally serialized in The New York Times Magazine, The Girl in the Green Raincoat posed some problems originally for the author as she wanted to hold the attention of the reader, who could only read part of the story each week, satisfy them and yet have the reader want more. She definitely succeeded, and now that the story has finally been rounded up into one book, readers who missed the original serialized story can now enjoy it. I really did!

Do you need to have read the other 10 Tess Monaghan novels to enjoy this one? No! The story really stands up on its own, and Laura Lippman subtly gives us background on the characters as we're reading so we feel like old friends. If you are a fan of Tess Monaghan you will love this! You'll find her best friend Whitney helping, as well as her faithful dogs right by her side. I've enjoyed some of Laura's other novels, but Tess Monaghan P.I. was a new character to me and now I'm going to have to go back and read these novels! Tess is a feisty & fun character and I want more!

Like a good murder mystery?! You'll enjoy The Girl in the Green Raincoat! Like great female characters? Tess Monaghan is your girl! And how can you not like a story with a few dogs thrown in!

The Girl in the Green Raincoat by Laura Lippman is now available from your favorite bookstore! Plus, this book is Kindle Ready! I want to thank Harper Collins for sending along the review copy! Loved the book!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Celebrating Memoir Monday and My 2nd Blogiversary!

Memoir Mondays... A long long time ago, actually in Sept. 2009, I decided that there were so many great memoirs coming into my hands that I would do a weekly feature. That feature became Memoir Mondays and almost every monday since, I've reviewed, highlighted and chatted about memoirs. Last year there seemed to be an explosion of celebrity memoirs, and we've had our share of furry and four legged memoirs, not to mention the memoir of a Goldfish last year too! But no matter whose memoir, there was always that something that resonated with us... something we had in common, or a feeling we could share that made us want to open up that book, or take a better look at, and discover someone else's story, that may not be so far from our own. What makes you pick up that memoir? Why do you enjoy reading about the life of someone else?

This week is the week of my 2nd Blogiversary! (You probably knew that already!), and today to celebrate I'm giving you a chance to take a deeper look at one of those memoirs! Today I'm giving away any one of the memoirs I've highlighted or reviewed in the past year since my last Blogiversary to one lucky reader! Which memoir will you choose if you win?! Maybe something with Wild Snails? Or Birds? Or a girl dressed in orange? Come join in the fun! Enter the Memoir Monday Giveaway by filling out the form below! And since this is all about memoirs, tell me why you like reading them! *Remember, all the information I receive is private and for my eyes only. Here's all the particulars...

To Enter the Memoir Monday Giveaway...

* First, take a look at all the memoirs I highlighted on a Memoir Monday from Feb. 18th, 2010 - Feb. 14th, 2011. You can find those Memoir Monday posts by going to the Blog Archive in my sidebar on the left of the blog and clicking on a year or a month and looking through the Memoir Monday posts. *remember the book needs to be from a Memoir Monday post...

* Fill out the form below with your name, email, and answer why you like reading memoirs, plus your mailing address so I know where to send the book if you are chosen as the lucky winner.

* Anyone can join in on the fun as long as I can mail a book to you using the US Postal Service, or for International Participants, The Book Depository can mail you a book.

*This Giveaway will end February 28, 2011 at 11:59 pm EST. I will randomly pick a winner the next day. Good luck!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Sunday Salon... Celebrating My 2nd Blogiversary and The Sunday Salon!

Welcome to the Sunday Salon! What is the Sunday Salon? Imagine some university library's vast reading room. It's filled with people--students and faculty and strangers who've wandered in. They're seated at great oaken desks, books piled all around them, and they're all feverishly reading and jotting notes in their leather-bound journals as they go. Later they'll mill around the open dictionaries and compare their thoughts on the afternoon's literary intake....

That's what happens at the Sunday Salon, except it's all virtual. Every Sunday the bloggers participating in that week's Salon get together--at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones--and read. And blog about their reading. And comment on one another's blogs. Think of it as an informal, weekly, mini read-a-thon, an excuse to put aside one's earthly responsibilities and fall into a good book.

Each Sunday I sit down with a cup of joe in my virtual corner of the reading room and chat books. Lately I've had books wrapped around a theme, like Epistolary Novels or Scholarly Women Heroines. But I've also just chatted about books (and ebooks) that just caught my eye as I wandered my favorite bookstores, taken a trip through the WWW, or opened up a surprise in the mail. This week I celebrate my 2nd Blogiversary, and I hope you'll join me!

Today I wanted to celebrate The Sunday Salon. Have you enjoyed the sneak peeks at the books I highlighted on Sundays? Well, here's your chance to win one! One lucky reader is going to have their choice of any one of the books I've highlighted on the past Blogiversary years' Sunday Salons. What's the past Blogiversary Year Sunday Salons? Any Chick with Books Sunday Salon post between the February 28th, 2010 Sunday Salon, the Sunday Salon after last years Blogiversary celebration, and the February 13th, 2011 Sunday Salon, the last Sunday Salon before my 2nd Blogiversary. How do you take a peek at those older Sunday Salons? I've moved the searchable "Blog Archive" to the left sidebar. All you need to do is click on the month or year to bring up the list of posts, then click on a particular Sunday Salon post and see what books were hot that week! What do you have to do to enter? Just fill out the form below (only I will be able to see your answers!). AND since we're celebrating great books, as part of the giveaway, how about sharing a great book with me?! Here's the particulars of entering...

How to Enter The Sunday Salon Blogiversary Celebration Giveaway...

* Find a book from any of my Sunday Salons from Feb. 28, 2010 through Feb. 13, 2011
* Fill out the form below, which includes a favorite book of yours! (Remember, your information is private, like your mailing address, - only I will be able to see what you write!)
* Anyone can join in on the fun! As long as I can mail a book to you using the US Postal Service or in the case of International Entrants, anywhere The Book Depository can mail a book, you can enter the giveaway!
*This Giveaway will end 11:59 pm EST Feb. 27, 2011. I'll randomly pick a winner the next day. And I'll come back to this post and update it with the name of the lucky winner!

Friday, February 18, 2011

It's My 2nd Blogiversary!

Hey, It's My 2nd Blogiversary!

Two years ago today I began Chick with Books! I can hardly believe it's been 2 years. Originally I just wanted a place to chat about books and share my love of reading. What I found was a world of warm & friendly people; readers who were as passionate about reading as I was! We've shared more than just great books... we've shared our lives; we've laughed and we've shed a few tears. A BIG Thank you to EVERYONE who has stopped by and said hello, shared a favorite read, shared comments, read posts and entered the giveaways! A BIG Thank you to the publicists, publishers and authors who have shared their books, shared a bit of themselves with guest posts and fed Chick with Books readers and my reading passion! You've all made it so much fun! And have helped make Chick with Books what it is today! This coming week let's celebrate! I'm planning some Blogiversary giveaways starting on Sunday! So swing back on Sunday, say hello and see what's on the agenda to celebrate Chick with Books' 2nd year!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Giveaway! Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution by Michelle Moran

Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution
by Michelle Moran

And the Winner is... Cheryl (CherylS22)! Congrats!

Thank you to EVERYONE who entered, tweeted, and blogged about this great giveaway!

The world knows Madame Tussaud as a wax artist extraordinaire…but who was this woman and how did she become one of the most famous sculptresses of all time? In these pages, her tumultuous story comes to life as only Michelle Moran could tell it. The year is 1788, and a revolution is about to begin…

Marie Tussaud has learned the secrets of wax sculpting by working alongside her uncle in their celebrated wax museum, the Salon de Cire. From her popular model of the American Ambassador, Thomas Jefferson, to her tableau of the royal family at dinner, Marie’s museum provides Parisians with the very latest news on fashion, gossip, even politics. Her customers hail from every walk of life, and when word arrives that the royals themselves are coming to see their
likenesses, Marie never dreams that the king’s sister will request her presence at Versailles as a royal tutor in wax sculpting. Yet when a letter with a gold seal is delivered to her home, Marie knows she cannot refuse—even if it means time away from her beloved Salon and her increasingly dear friend, Henri Charles.

As Marie becomes acquainted with her pupil, Princess Élisabeth, she is taken to meet both Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI, who introduce her to the glamorous life at court. From lavish parties with more delicacies than she’s ever seen, to rooms filled with candles lit only once before being discarded, Marie steps into to a world entirely different from her home on the Boulevard du Temple, where people are selling their teeth in order to put food on the table.

Meanwhile, many resent the vast separation between rich and poor. In salons and cafés across Paris, people like Camille Desmoulins, Jean-Paul Marat, and Maximilien Robespierre are lashing out against the monarchy. Soon, there’s whispered talk of revolution…Will Marie be able to hold on to both the love of her life and her friendship with the royal family as France approaches civil war? And more importantly, will she be able to fulfill the demands of powerful revolutionaries who ask that she make the death masks of beheaded aristocrats, some of whom she knows?

Spanning five years from the budding revolution to the Reign of Terror, Madame Tussaud brings us into the world of an incredible heroine whose talent for wax modeling saved her life and preserved the faces of a vanished kingdom.

Courtesy of author Michelle Moran, and Crown Publishing, I have a SIGNED COPY of Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution to GIVE AWAY! PLUS, Michelle is including a pair of Marie Antoinette cupcake earrings to the lucky winner!

This giveaway is open Worldwide! Michelle will send the lucky winner their book ANYWHERE in the world! (Hey, Michelle's a world traveler, why would she mind her book traveling a little too!) Contest ends 11:59pm EST on February 22nd, 2011. I will randomly pick the winners the next day and email them! Good Luck!

**Now, I'm trying out a NEW form for the giveaways (OK, new to me...). So, to enter the giveaway, you need to click on the link below. It will take you to a form, for my eyes only... that means no one will see your email or any of your information but me, and you don't have to have a google account to enter either.

*For this giveaway, Get an extra entry for following my blog! There's a place on the form to let me know! ( Not a follower yet? No problem, sign up by clicking on the 'followers" button on the sidebar to the left! ) You'll also get an extra entry for blogging or tweeting about the giveaway, and there's a place on the form for that too! OK, ready?! ...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Memoir Monday presents... House of Prayer No. 2 by Mark Richard

Called a "special child," Southern social code for mentally — and physically — challenged children, Richard was crippled by deformed hips and was told he would spend his adult life in a wheelchair. During his early years in charity hospitals, Richard observed the drama of other broken boys' lives, children from impoverished Appalachia, tobacco country lowlands, and Richmond’s poorest neighborhoods. The son of a solitary alcoholic father whose hair-trigger temper terrorized his family, and of a mother who sought inner peace through fasting, prayer, and scripture, Richard spent his bedridden childhood withdrawn into the company of books.

As a young man, Richard, defying both his doctors and parents, set out to experience as much of the world as he could — as a disc jockey, fishing trawler deckhand, house painter, naval correspondent, aerial photographer, private investigator, foreign journalist, bartender and unsuccessful seminarian — before his hips failed him. While digging irrigation ditches in east Texas, he discovered that a teacher had sent a story of his to the Atlantic, where it was named a winner in the magazine's national fiction contest launching a career much in the mold of Jack London and Mark Twain.

A superbly written and irresistible blend of history, travelogue, and personal reflection, House of Prayer No. 2 is a remarkable portrait of a writer’s struggle with his faith, the evolution of his art, and of recognizing one's singularity in the face of painful disability. Written with humor and a poetic force, this memoir is destined to become a modern classic.

Mark Richard sounds like an amazing person, overcoming not only the stigma of being called "special", and not in a good way, but his physical handicaps as well. This story sounds inspiring, and with all the buzz surrounding this memoir, especially about Mark's wonderful prose, I'm looking forward to devouring this one. House of Prayer No. 2 is being released tomorrow! But you can find Mark Richard's writing already on your bookstores shelves! He's written numerous books as well as winning numerous writing awards including the PEN/Hemingway Award for his short story collection The Ice at the Bottom of the World.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Sunday Salon... "Love Stories" Aren't Just Romances

Welcome to another Sunday Salon! Pull up a chair, grab that second cup of joe and let's talk books! Tomorrow is Valentine's Day! And that makes me think of great romances in literature! Even if you don't read romances per say, there are plenty of romances in all types of literature. Which are the most memorable ones?! Which ones make your heart sing? We all remember the tragic love story of Romeo & Juliet, and of course there is always Heathcliff and Catherine of Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. What other love stories come to mind? Here are a few notables on my shelf...

The Time Travelers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger... The story of Clare, a beautiful art student, and Henry, an adventuresome librarian, who have known each other since Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-three and Henry thirty-one. Impossible but true, because Henry finds himself periodically displaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity from his life, past and future. His disappearances are spontaneous, his experience unpredictable, alternately harrowing and amusing.

This is such a wonderful love story, and Audrey Niffenegger did a wonderful job writing it. I love time travel stories and this was unique in that the reader just doesn't go back and forth in two time frames, Henry jumps back in forth in time all throughout Clare's life. The time jumps may be a little confusing at first, but soon the story takes over and you're totally wrapped up in the developing love story between Clare and Henry. If you have not read this yet, READ IT! One of my all time favorite books. And as far as the movie goes, they did a pretty good job with that too.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini... The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father's servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption, and it is also about the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.

This is the story of the love of between two young boys growing up. It is a beautiful story and a devastating one. If you haven't read this book yet, go out and buy it NOW! And be prepared for your heart to break in the process.The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini... From Barnes & Noble:
"I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975." So begins The Kite Runner, a p
oignant tale of two motherless boys growing up in Kabul, a city teetering on the brink of destruction at the dawn of the Soviet invasion. Despite their class differences, Amir, the son of a wealthy businessman, and Hassan, his
devoted sidekick and the son of Amir's
household servant, play together, cause mischief together, and
compete in the annual kite fighting
tournament -- Amir flying the kite, and Hassan running down the kites they fell. But one day, Amir betrays Hassan, and his betrayal grows increasingly devastating as their tale continues. Amir will spend much of his life coming to terms with his initial and subsequent acts of cowardice, and finally seek to make reparations.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon... Claire Randall is leading a double life. She has a husband in one century, and a lover in another... In 1945, Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon—when she innocently touches a boulder in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an "outlander"—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of our Lord...1743. Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire's destiny in soon inextricably intertwined with Clan MacKenzie and the forbidden Castle Leoch. She is catapulted without warning into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life ...and shatter her heart. For here, James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a passion so fierce and a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire...and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

Ok, I did tell you I loved time travel stories, and Diana Gabaldon hits a home run with the love story between Jamie Fraser and Claire Randall! This story is HOT, historical and addictive. There are 7 books (big fat books!) in this series and if you haven't read the first book in the series, and you love historical romance, this is a perfect choice. Diana Gabaldon's writing is wonderful too! BTW, the "old" covers are beautifully illustrated. The "new" covers are a plain color with the title.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy... Anna Karenina tells of the doomed love affair between the sensuous and rebellious Anna and the dashing officer, Count Vronsky. Tragedy unfolds as Anna rejects her passionless marriage and must endure the hypocrisies of society. Set against a vast and richly textured canvas of nineteenth-century Russia, the novel's seven major characters create a dynamic imbalance, playing out the contrasts of city and country life and all the variations on love and family happiness. While previous versions have softened the robust, and sometimes shocking, quality of Tolstoy's writing, Pevear and Volokhonsky have produced a translation true to his powerful voice. This award-winning team's authoritative edition also includes an illuminating introduction and explanatory notes. Beautiful, vigorous, and eminently readable, this Anna Karenina will be the definitive text for generations to come.

This was a wonderful read! It is such a classic and the doomed love affair between Anna and Count Vronsky is unbelievably contemporary for being written in the 19th century! A few things to note though in reading Anna Karenina- there are a lot of names to keep straight. In Russian literature, there are proper names, nicknames and "common" names. There is a "key" to the names at the beginning of the Pevear and Volokhonsky version, which is the translation that I highly recommend, but eventually you will become familiar with who is who. Also, the story is centers around the love story of Anna and Count Vronsky, but there is a lot of political talk that you'll have to muddle through that may not interest you, but adds to the climate of the times. Loved this book!

An oldy but goodie...

The Glass Lake by Maeve Binchy... From Publisher's Weekly: Bestselling novelist Binchy again explores the passions and priorities of Irish women in a seductively written tale that's a bona fide page-turner. She sets this story in the small village of Lough Glass, the "glass lake" of the title, in Dublin and in London, animating each place more by the robust characterization of the people who live there than by the use of descriptive detail. When Kit McMahon is 12, her sad and distant mother disappears while walking along the lake. Authorities find the family's boat overturned, and, when Kit discovers a sealed letter addressed to her father, she fears that the suicide confession will keep her mother from a consecrated burial. She burns the letter, adding another burden to her misery. Helen is not dead, however...When Kit discovers her years later, the anguish of both women is intensified by the complex situation, and the secret they now share eventually explodes in a way neither could have foreseen.

This was actually the first "romance" I ever read. A friend handed me this book and said I should read it. It sat on my headboard for a LONG time. Gosh, it was almost 600 pages! I finally decided I better get it back to her and opened it up. Well, I really enjoyed it! It's the story of a mother's love, but also how she is torn between being a mother and a woman in her own right. The twist in the story is what Helen decides to do in the name of love, and the consequences of her actions. This was also my first Maeve Binchy novel. I enjoyed her writing and the almost 600 pages went by in a flash. And this also opened up my reading to romance.

Other great "love story" notables... Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See (another all-time favorite book!), Dracula in Love by Karen Essex, The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson, and yes I'm going to mention... Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. Let's not forget Love Story by Erich Segal either!

What "love stories" can you add?! Love stories can be romances, but love encompasses the deep feelings we have for our family & friends as well, not to mention the love we feel for our furry friends too! Share your favorite love stories!

Here's a Recap of this past weeks blog... for Memoir Monday I highlighted The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok. "Using a mnemonic technique from the Renaissance—a memory palace—Bartók imagines, chapter by chapter, a mansion whose rooms secure the treasured moments of her reconstructed past." Combining the authors artwork with her memories, creates a unique premise for a memoir and became a must read on my list! ...Monday was also the first discussion of Jane Eyre for the Jane Eyre Read-a-Thon hosted by Laura's Review Bookshelf. This is the first I've read Jane Eyre, and something I didn't realize is how Jane was an orphan being brought up by her Aunt. AND how cruel her Aunt and cousins treated her. I have to say I'm really enjoying Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Her writing is fresh. ...On tuesday, author Michelle Moran stopped by with a guest post about Madame Tussaud, the woman. Michelle's newest book coming out Feb. 15th is Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution and her guest post reveals a little of the woman behind the wax museum! I also just received an ARC of Michelle's book, Madame Tussaud, and from the first page the story hooks you!! I'm really enjoying it! *AND, to celebrate the release, I'm having a giveaway for Madame Tussaud which starts this coming tuesday!...Then on friday for First Lines, I shared the beginning of The Coffins of Little Hope by Timothy Schaffert. Schaffert gives us Essie, an octogenarian obituary writer, who may have found "the story" of her life, which turns the sleepy little town into something else as curiosity seekers embark on the town.

So, how was your week? What great books have you put on your shelf?! Share your reading suggestions, so we all can enjoy great reads! And in the meantime, have a wonderful day!
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