Literary Quote of the Month

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

Monday, November 21, 2011

Memoir Monday (almost)... Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai... It's a memoir... but not exactly. It's a children's book, and it did win the National Book Award for YA Lit this year, but it's more than that. Inside Out & Back Again is a verse book, or a book totally written in short verses, but not a book of poetry. What is Inside Out & Back Again exactly then? It's a poignant look at a young child's life as she is being thrown into a new life unexpectedly and how she deals with it all. It's an immigrant's story, but the perspective we see is from the voice of an intelligent 10-year-old girl, who has a little spunk behind her, and who simply tells us in unfaltering prose what it's like to lose your best friend, dream, be torn from all you know and ultimately be the outsider. The last time I read a book that was in complete verse (Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow) I didn't like the medium at all. But this is a different story, and Thanhha Lai measures her words more carefully like a delicate brushstroke at times, almost like Haiku.

The life of Ha is based on the life of author Thanhha Lai, who moved to Alabama at the end of the Vietnam War. And so, though this isn't really a memoir, it really is. Here's what's on the front jacket flap...

No one would believe me but at times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama.

For all the ten years of her life, HÀ has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by . . . and the beauty of her very own papaya tree.

But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. HÀ and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, HÀ discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape . . . and the strength of her very own family.

This is the moving story of one girl's year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next.

The story is moving, and wonderfully written. A sweet story for any young girl at heart, but also a story of the hopes, dreams and reality of immigration.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Sunday Salon... Rolling out the Dough at Chick with Books

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! It's that time of the week where we all virtually get together and talk books! So grab you're cup of java, pull up achair and let's talk...

The Holiday season is slowly surrounding us. I'm not really a cookie baker, but I just got an invite to what is going to be an annual cookie swap. I actually helped organize it. What was I thinking?! I was thinking it would be a great way for us girls to get together and have some fun. I was not thinking too much about the cookies. But now that the invitations went into the mail, I needed to figure out what cookie I was going to make dozens of. The last cookie swap I went to, about 10 years ago, I made Whoopie Pies. Do you realize that Whoopie Pies are like 2 cookies plus?! No Whoopie Pies this time, but what to bake...

So, today's Sunday Salon I thought I would take a peek at some great cookie books!

Betty Crocker's Cooky Book... This is the "cooky book" I'm going to use to bake those cookies! Originally published in 1963, Betty Crocker's Cooky Book is a classic! If you don't have an originally copy, don't worry, General Mills reprinted the original copy, spiral bound, with all the original illustrations and photographs. It's a blast from the past, along with all your favorite traditional cookies like Chocolate Crinkles, Toffee Squares and Chocolate Kisses. My friend Lauretta has baked Christmas cookies from this book for over 20 years and they always turn out great!
So, I'm halfway to great cookies with at least the book!

One Girl Cookies: Recipes for Cakes, Cupcakes, Whoopie Pies, and Cookies from Brooklyn's Beloved Bakery by Dawn Casale and David Crofton... Tucked away on a quiet, tree-lined street in Brooklyn, New York, is One Girl Cookies: a charming bakery and café whose owners have created what they call an Urban Mayberry. Little do most people know that this dessert destination—famous for its gorgeous bite-sized cookies, amazingly moist cakes, seasonal pies and tarts, and dangerously addictive whoopie pies—started simply, with one girl baking cookies out of a tiny apartment. One Girl Cookies shares the recipes for the shop’s sought-after treats, as well as the sweet story behind its beginnings. There we go again with those Whoopie Pies. OK, looking towards a more contemporary cookie cookbook, I stumbled upon One Girls Cookies "Cookie Book". If the selection of cookies on their website tempts you, this cookie book should too! Although I couldn't get a peek inside because it's not going to be published until Jan. 10th! So, I can't share what's in it... we'll all just have to wait and see, but I love these cookbooks from family eateries because they are from real people who put love in their cooking, and in this case lots of sugar!

Sweet Auburn Desserts: Atlanta's "Little Bakery That Could" by Sonya Jones... Tucked in a historic section of downtown Atlanta, Sweet Auburn Bread Company celebrates and showcases southern and African-American baking. After discovering the thriving business in 2009, CNN featured Sweet Auburn on television, naming the segment "The Little Bakery That Could." This beautifully illustrated book depicts the fresh-baked desserts and delicious breads that have brought the locale national recognition. From classic recipes to innovative creations, Chef Sonya Jones's best baking secrets fill the pages of this mouth-watering collection. This cookbook grabbed me just from the front cover! And it's another cookbook from a small bakery. I haven't cracked the spine on this one yet either, but I'll be looking for it my next trip to the bookstore. How can you not be tempted with 200 pages dripping in confectioners sugar and strawberries!

So, do you have a favorite cookie book? Favorite cookie you make? How about a favorite dessert cookbook? Share it here with us! I'd love to hear all about your Holiday cookie cooking! And until next week, when the books here will probably not be dripping with calories... Happy reading! Suzanne

*P.S. And what did I finally decide to make? Russian Tea Cakes! Wish me luck!

Friday, November 18, 2011

First Lines...

"From the Divine Pen fell the first drop of ink."
Habibi by Craig Thompson, 2011.
It's funny to think of graphic novels as having first lines, but they do, just like any other novel. Their first lines are in a panel and if you think about it, each panel must be a precise thought. I picked up a copy of Habibi by Craig Thompson because I loved his previous graphic novel Blankets. Blankets was the first graphic novel I ever read, and it's referred to by some as "the girlfriend's graphic novel". It's the graphic novel you give to your girlfriend so she'll understand what you spend all your time reading. Well, I was the girl who was interested in learning more about graphic novels, so that's what was put in my hands. The artwork was wonderful, the writing was moving and I was hooked. I had to wait 8 years for Craig Thompson to write another graphic novel, and I didn't hesitate to order it. Here's what Library Journal writes about Habibi...

Habibi tells the tale of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves bound to each other by chance, by circumstance, and by the love that grows between them. We follow them as their lives unfold together and apart; as they struggle to make a place for themselves in a world (not unlike our own) fueled by fear, lust, and greed; and as they discover the extraordinary depth—and frailty—of their connection.

The book itself is beautifully reproduced in a hardback tome. But I'm looking forward to cracking the spine and getting lost in the pages of another Craig Thompson story. Habibi has already received much praise from reviewers all over. Look for my review coming soon...

*BTW, if you've never read a graphic novel before, and I know there are some of you out there, pick up a copy of Blankets by Craig Thompson, you won't be sorry! I'll be reviewing that as well soon, as part of books I am reading once again.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Sunday Salon... Visiting Out of Oz: The Book and My Life

Thank you Harper Collins for sending along a copy of Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire! It's the final volume in Gregory Maguire's series of books covering what is referred to as "The Wicked Years", or the land of Oz with a twist.

Out of Oz came at an interesting time in my life, because I've been away from Chick with Books for a little while, traveling down what feels like that yellow brick road, encountering adventures along the way, with my life changing leaps and bounds. But just as Dorothy discovered at the end of her adventures, I knew that "there's no place like home"... So even though I've been thrown a few curves along the way, I'm back home! Nice to see you all again! And with that said, let's take a look at Out of Oz...

Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire... First, let's look at that gorgeous cover by illustrator Douglas Smith! Capturing the beauty of Oz and Dorothy with his scratchboard illustrations, Douglas Smith not only designs the book jacket and cover, but also illustrates the inside covers of the book too! They say don't judge a book by its cover, but I defy anyone not to pick this book up after walking past it. The jacket is cut out in the middle revealing Dorothy peaking through, and revealing a beautiful illustration right on the book cover itself. I just love books that are just as beautiful without their jackets on!

The story, of course, is the magical world of Gregory Maguire. Always taking us beyond the pages of Frank Baum's classic Wizard of Oz series, Mr. Maguire delights us again in this final story of Oz.

"Out of Oz The marvelous land of Oz is knotted with social unrest: The Emerald City is mounting an invasion of Munchkinland, Glinda is under house arrest, and the Cowardly Lion is on the run from the law. And look who’s knocking at the door. It’s none other than Dorothy. Yes, that Dorothy. Amid all this chaos, Elphaba’s granddaughter, the tiny green baby born at the close of Son of a Witch, has come of age. Now, Rain will take up her broom in an Oz wracked by war."

Opening the pages of Out of Oz, made me feel 10 years-old again. Though the story is not for the young, it is for the young-at-heart. A fairy tale with a bit of a bite to it. Though I have not devoured it all yet, I am excited to be visiting Oz and Gregory Maguire's writing is always wonderful and always captures me, holding me captive.

If you haven't read the Wicked, Son of a Witch and A Lion Among Men, the first 3 books in the series, no worries because Gregory Maguire briefly catches you up to speed on each book is about. But I might start at the beginning, just so you can enjoy the series for as long as you can...

Happy reading... Suzanne

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