Literary Quote of the Month

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

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Kindle Korner... or What .99 Can Buy You Today!


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...

It has been so long since we talked about eBooks! And since we did, so many people I know have either reluctantly been given one (yes Steve, I'm talking about you!) or have made the plunge. I myself have always had mixed feelings about eReaders. I love the feel and heft of a paper book in my hand, and yet my house is filled to the brim with books and no place left for any more. Cost is another consideration... if an ebook is about the same price as its' paperback, I am prone to buy the paperback. Why? I guess it's because of my physical love of books. It feels like you really own something when you buy that paperback. But when the ebook is A LOT cheaper than the paperback, it's time to hit that purchase button for my Kindle. And the Kindle is not the only eReader I own, as you probably remember. I love my Sony eReader maybe even more, but it is so much easier to give my money to Amazon when it comes to downloading, because I don't have the Sony Wifi eReader... (yet).

But what I thought I'd pass along today is some great eBook deals from Harper Perennial! For the whole month of August, Harper Perennial is offering 20 of their favorite eBooks for just .99 cents! And we're talking what looks to be like some great reading! Not only is it great to get eBooks for under a dollar, but it's a great opportunity to try some authors without breaking the bank! Thank you Harper Perennial for the special treat!

There is a variety of books to choose from, but here are the top three that caught my eye...

The Ruins of Us by Keija Parssinen... More than two decades after moving to Saudi Arabia and marrying powerful Abdullah Baylani, American-born Rosalie learns that her husband has taken a second wife. That discovery plunges their family into chaos as Rosalie grapples with leaving Saudi Arabia, her life, and her family behind. Meanwhile, Abdullah and Rosalie’s consuming personal entanglements blind them to the crisis approaching their sixteen-year-old son, Faisal, whose deepening resentment toward their lifestyle has led to his involvement with a controversial sheikh. When Faisal makes a choice that could destroy everything his embattled family holds dear, all must confront difficult truths as they fight to preserve what remains of their world. The Ruins of Us is a timely story about intolerance, family, and the injustices we endure for love that heralds the arrival of an extraordinary new voice in contemporary fiction.

The Ruins of Us interested me because of it's setting in Saudi Arabia and what I hope will be an interesting take on cultural differences. I also like the idea of the love story between Abdullah and Rosalie and how we see their relationship changes due to the culture that surrounds them as they go back to live their lives in Saudi Arabia. This reminds me a bit of The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, which showcased the cultural differences between generations, and the strife it can cause. And speaking of cultural differences, Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez, a true story, was a wonderful read. It was a love story and a cultural triumph for women all rolled up in one. Here is the Kindle link.

Lean on Pete by Willy Vlautin... From Publishers Weekly: A blend of road novel and not-quite hard luck story, the latest from Vlautin begins when 15-year-old Charley Thompson and his father move from Spokane, Wash. to Portland, Ore., to give starting over yet another try. When Charley's dad takes up with a married secretary and stops coming home, Charley takes a job with Del Montgomery, a crank based out of the nearby racetrack who, among other things, shoots up a horse with vodka. After Charley's father dies from wounds suffered during a fight with his lover's husband, Charley, whom Vlautin has conveniently given the pastime of running, runs away with Pete, a horse and his only friend. This is where the narrative sours; Charley's trek across the West, occasionally on horseback, is dominated by an unbelievable stretch of luck: men appear to dispense food and money, miraculously uninhabited trailers contain washers and dryers, and his hitchhiking is eerie, but not dangerous. Still, Vlautin's characters, despite their unrealistic arcs, shine with his sparse style. It might be difficult to believe Charley's bottomless cache of silver linings, but it's remarkably easy to root for the kid.

Maybe a love story between a boy and his horse? Maybe a bit of a coming of age story, as Charley is forced to grow up fast? Will we get a peak at the American West on horseback? My hope for Lean on Pete is to have all of that and more. Here is the Kindle link.

Daughters of the North by Sarah Hall... In her stunning novel, Hall imagines a new dystopia set in the not-too-distant future. England is in a state of environmental crisis and economic collapse. There has been a census, and all citizens have been herded into urban centers. Reproduction has become a lottery, with contraceptive coils fitted to every female of childbearing age. A girl who will become known only as "Sister" escapes the confines of her repressive marriage to find an isolated group of women living as "un-officials" in Carhullan, a remote northern farm, where she must find out whether she has it in herself to become a rebel fighter. Provocative and timely, Daughters of the North poses questions about the lengths women will go to resist their oppressors, and under what circumstances might an ordinary person become a terrorist.

Dystopian fiction is so interesting. Posing the question of "What if?". Laying out scenarios that are usually not too far fetched and where you try and imagine how you would handle things. I enjoy dystopian fiction. The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist and Delirium by Lauren Oliver both come to mind. They are on my top ten list for this type of genre. (And if you haven't read these books, you should!) Daughters of the North seems to have all the qualities of great dystopian fiction, and a reluctant but strong heroine is one of those qualities I look for and it has! Here is the Kindle link.

Don't be discouraged if you don't own a Kindle, Harper Perennial is offering the eBook deals for Nook fans, Kobo fans, Google Book fans as well as iBook fans. Use the "eBook deals from Harper Perennial" link above to go right to Harper Perennial's facebook page, which has the full list and links for all the available eBook sources, or search for the books that interest you via your eReader and check out the deals. Make sure of the price before you buy, just in case they change the pricing!

Here is the complete list of the eBooks offered by Harper Perennial with their Kindle links...

Everything Beautiful Began After by Simon Van Booy
The Most Beautiful Walk in the World by John Baxter
Flatscreen by Adam Wilson
Drinking Closer to Home by Jessica Anya Blau
The Average American Male by Chad Kultgen
Daughters of the North by Sarah Hall
In the Hot Zone by Kevin Sites
Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love by Andrew Shaffer
The Ruins of Us by Keija Parssinen
Nothing by Blake Butler
Lean on Pete by Willy Vlautin
Everything is Wrong with Me by Jason Mulgrew
Dishwasher by Pete Jordan
Skinny by Diana Spechler
Two for Sorrow by Nicola Upson
The London Train by Tessa Hadley
Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think? by John Brockman
Seeds by Richard Horan
The Great Lover by Jill Dawson
What He's Poised to Do by Ben Greenman

Have you been using your eReader lately? What books have you read lately? Find any great eBook deals? Share what's been on your eReader lately!

Happy Reading... Suzanne

Friday, August 10, 2012

First Lines...

"A Sharp Clip-Clop of Iron-shod hoofs deadened and died away, and clouds of yellow dust drifted from under the cottonwoods out over the sage. 
Jane Withersteen gazed downt he wide purple slope with dreamy and troubled eyes. A rider had just left her and it was his message that held her thoughtful and almost sad, awaiting the churchmen who were coming to resent and attack her right to befriend a Gentile.''

Riders of The Purple Sage by Zane Grey, published 1912

Monday, August 6, 2012

Memoir Monday... Ghost Dances

Ghost Dances: Proving Up on the Great Plains by Josh Garrett-Davis... Growing up in South Dakota, Josh Garrett-Davis knew he would leave. But as a young adult, he kept going back—in dreams and reality and by way of books. With this beautifully written narrative about a seemingly empty but actually rich and complex place, he has reclaimed his childhood, his unusual family—and the Great Plains. Among the subjects and people that bring his Midwestern Plains to life are the destruction and resurgence of the American bison; Native American "Ghost Dancers" who attempted to ward off annihilation by supernatural means; the political allegory to be found in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; and current attempts by ecologists to "rewild" the Plains, complete with cheetahs. Garrett-Davis infuses the narrative with stories of his family as well—including his great-great-grandparents' twenty-year sojourn in Nebraska as homesteaders and his progressive Methodist cousin Ruth, a missionary in China ousted by Mao's revolution. Inspiring and fascinating, Ghost Dances is a fluid combination of memoir and history and reportage that reminds us our roots matter.

Memoir Monday returns today with a memoir that sounds like a historical romp through the American Midwest. The cover is what caught my eye at first. I just love that cover! I did not see it in a store, it's publishing date is set for August 21st, but found it while reading some reviews online. The reviews are good, but I couldn't even see a sample of Josh Garrett-Davis' writing! I thought I would highlight Ghost Dances: Proving Up on the Great Plains because it seemed so fresh. Not your average coming of age memoir, but something that intertwines a unique history with the roots that invisibly tie us down or tether us to the place we call home. That is my hope for Josh Garrett-Davis' book, but I'll have to wait! And so will you! Little, Brown and Company is publishing it August 21, 2012! And it will be Kindle Ready too!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Importance of Reading... Alexander McCall Smith

Welcome to Sunday and The Sunday Salon! Sit back and relax; grab a cup of Joe and let's talk books! It's the first time in a while that I've been able to sit back and relax, but I've always made sure to grab a cup of Joe and have a book in my hand!

This week I've received a copy of Alexander McCall Smith's The Importance of Being Seven. I just love that title! What it refers to is Bertie turning seven, and if you're unfamiliar with the 44 Scotland Street Series you may be scratching your head. Today I thought we'd take a look at 2 series (and a mention of the other 2) that Alexander McCall Smith writes...

I first met Alexander McCall Smith with The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency... "Meet Mma Ramotswe, the endearing, engaging, simply irresistible proprietress of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, the first and only detective agency in Botswana. With persistent observation, gentle intuition, and a keen desire to help people with the problems of their lives, she solves mysteries great and small for friends and strangers alike." I liked the writing and the book itself was charming. The setting was different, but the Alexander McCall Smith made it seem familiar. But for some reason, the series didn't quite capture my need to read further. Sometimes we read books at the "wrong" time. We may need an entirely different kind of book to quench our thirst, and I think that this may be what happened here. But I wasn't giving up on Alexander McCall Smith because I did like his easy going style of writing.... And then it happened- a new series by Alexander McCall Smith that did hit the mark....

The 44 Scotland Street Series... "Welcome to 44 Scotland Street, home to some of Edinburgh's most colorful characters. There's Pat, a twenty-year-old who has recently moved into a flat with Bruce, an athletic young man with a keen awareness of his own appearance. Their neighbor, Domenica, is an eccentric and insightful widow. In the flat below are Irene and her appealing son Bertie, who is the victim of his mother’s desire for him to learn the saxophone and italian–all at the tender age of five." The characters were fun and fresh, and I was able to peak into their inner soul. I liked the setting of rooming house and the story revolving around the characters more so than a "who dun it". And of course Alexander McCall Smith's writing has that wonderful British wit. The book reminded me of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City, which was the fictional saga of life at 28 Barbary Lane, an apartment house in San Francisco, with young single Mary Ann Singleton opening the door for her and the reader to experience life there. I LOVED that book. I could relate to the era, the "innocence", and the characters in that novel. It was like I was visiting an old group of friends each time I opened the pages of that book. The saga of Mary Ann Singelton and 28 Barbary Lane continued on for 6 books plus a new stand alone novel Maupin wrote in 2007, Michael Tolliver Lives, revisiting one of the characters in the series. But about Alexander McCall Smith and his series...

There may be a reason that 44 Scotland Street reminded me of Tales of the City - Smith's series was the result of a conversation Alexander McCall Smith had with Armistead Maupin about the type of serial fiction that Tales of the City was, which was a story written in segments in a newspaper. That is how 44 Scotland began, as a chapter a day serial running in the local paper. It definitely works. The characters are quirky and Alexander McCall Smith knows how to endear the characters to the reader. I wouldn't call this series a cozy, but it has the feel of a cozy. It's a relaxing, humorous look at what makes people tick. He has the most amazing ability to put down on paper, what we would simply identify as human nature, but somehow we just never thought about it in that way. There are 5 previous books in the series, so it's not too late to get acquainted. And even if you've never read any of the other books in the series, you would enjoy the writing and the characters non-the-less. Just open the first page of The Importance of Being Seven, book 6 of the series, and tell me you just don't love that first line.

Which brings us to the next saga Alexander McCall Smith has written - The Corduroy Mansion novels.... "A delightful new setting—London—a wonderful new cast of characters and one incredibly clever dog. Corduroy Mansions is the affectionate nickname given to a genteel, crumbling mansion block in London’s vibrant Pimlico neighborhood and the home turf of a captivating collection of quirky and altogether McCall-Smithian characters. There’s the middle-aged wine merchant William, who’s trying to convince his reluctant twenty-four-year-old son, Eddie, to leave the nest; and Marcia, the boutique caterer who has her sights set on William." Here, Alexander McCall Smith leaves Edinburgh and travels to London and an old neighborhood in a section of London. The characters are different, but have the same endearing qualities that I'm getting use to in all of McCall Smith's books. Courtesy of Pantheon Books a division of Random House I have a copy of A Conspiracy of Friends, book 3 of that series waiting for me to dive in. Dive in is exactly what I'm going to do too! Love Alexander McCall Smith's writing and most importantly his characters. Not too late to go back and start from the beginning in this series as well. And I'll be reviewing this book soon.

There are two other series that Alexander McCall Smith has written. First, The Isabel Dalhousie Series, is about female sleuth Isabel Dalhousie with the setting in Edinburgh. 9 books in that series now. And The Portuguese Irregular Verbs, where we meet  Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld of the Institute of Romance Philolog, and experience his foibles at life. I have not picked up either of these series, but based on the author's writing I'm sure they would be well worth a turn of the page.

About his books, Alexander McCall Smith writes, "Like any saga, there is a story--but it is not a complicated one. These stories are character-based: what interests me is what makes the characters tick rather than intricate and potentially confusing plots." I think that really sums it up quite nicely!

Other bookish notes for this week... Mingmei Yip has published her 4th book! I really enjoy Mingmei Yip's writing. Her stories are usually set in places such as China and Hong Kong, which fascinates me. I reviewed Song of the Silk Road April of 2011, which at the time I called "Bridgett Jones Diary meets Memoirs of a Geisha." Loved that book! You can still read my review of Song of the Silk Road, and get a glimpse of what I thought about her writing. Her latest, Skeleton Women, is about a young orphan girl in Shanghai and how life changes once she is adopted. But those changes are not quite the stroke of good luck one thinks at first blush. This book will be available August 21st! Keep your eyes open, I'll be reviewing Skeleton Women this week...

Hope you give Alexander McCall Smith a turn of a page, or at least have learned a little more about this prolific writer. What's been on your nightstand these days? Share what great reads you've had so we can all enjoy them! And as usual, let me know how you are doing!

Happy reading... Suzanne
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