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, July 28, 2013

The Sunday Salon with a Wrap up of Reading and Reading Independently, Literally...

Welcome to the Sunday Salon! It's been a busy two weeks since I've gotten back from Savannah. Connecticut has been HOT and I've spent the last two weeks trying to stay cool and catch up on all my reading! So, here's what I finished, about to finish and in the reading pile...

First, I finished The Nine Fold Heaven by Mingmei Yip! What an incredibly fun read! I love Mingmei's writing style- it's light and airy, kind of dreamy and sprinkled with Chinese folklore. The stories she writes always have such depth that you might not notice right away because you are so into the characters that have become part of your life. Keep a look out for my review of The Nine Fold Heaven this week! Long story short is I really enjoyed it!

Next on the almost finished table is Bitter Blood by Jerry Bledsoe. It's a true crime novel that takes partly in place in Greensboro, NC, a place dear to my heart. I picked it as a book club book for two reasons. First, I've spent a lot of time in Greensboro, NC the last year and as everyone knew I was a voracious reader, they wanted to know if I had read about the gruesome murders that took place in town written about in Bitter Blood. I had not, so to the local bookstore I went. The second reason I picked it for the book club is, that most everyone in the group use to read murder mysteries and those types of books. The interesting thing that has happened over the years is that no one in the reading group reads much of that type of genre anymore. We kind of forced ourselves to read more "literature" and as time has passed (I think this year is the 9th year of the reading group?) our tastes have changed. One member in fact told me that he discovered that he didn't really like that type of book anymore. Reading groups can open up your reading horizons depending on the books you choose. I use to choose all the books for the group (and I enjoy all types of genres), but then suggested that we all take turns and pick books out. That suggestion opened up a floodgate of variety, made it fun for me to be surprised at what the next book was going to be and introduced new authors and subject matter. It also got the members more involved. I love our reading group and we always have a great time discussing our books. I always list our pick on the sidebar of this blog, so you can always check out what we're reading. And Bitter Blood? Well, I have enjoyed getting back to reading this genre, and Jerry Bledsoe really does his homework to cover the crimes with all the background and still make a good read that will have you turning those pages to see what's going to happen next. I'll be reviewing this the beginning of August.

Next on my reading plate is The Affairs of Others by Amy Grace Loyd. "Five years after her young husband’s death, Celia Cassill has moved from one Brooklyn neighborhood to another, but she has not moved on. The owner of a small apartment building, she has chosen her tenants for their ability to respect one another’s privacy. Celia believes in boundaries, solitude, that she has a right to her ghosts. She is determined to live a life at a remove from the chaos and competition of modern life. Everything changes with the arrival of a new tenant..." I have been dying to read this after so much great pre-release press! And thanks to the generosity of the folks at Macmillan, I am cracking the spine on this one today! (actually I cracked it already, but had to put it on hold to be polite to my other books!) Look for a review of The Affairs of Others coming soon... P.S. Don't you just love the cover?!

And this week on Chick with Books a return to talking about what's going on in the reading world. Sometimes we get wrapped up in just talking about the great books that are coming out, but there is so much more going on in the reading world and I've missed chatting about it on the blog. Like, what do you think about the J.K. Rowling admission that she wrote The Cuckoo's Calling? When it's initial release only sold 504 copies under Robert Galbraith, it then was revealed that J.K. actually wrote it,  and now the publisher is printing 300,000 copies (and I'm sure they will sell), what does that say about unknown writers? I have met "virtually" some great independent writers through my facebook page, (which has a link to a Chick with Books page...shameless promotion I know) and I am so impressed with their writing! These writers are publishing independently, digitally and paper, and silently making a surge in the reading community. I'll be highlighting some of these writers, and asking them to come aboard and tell us about their struggles and successes of publishing. Want to read a sample of one of them? ...

I talked to author Danielle Stewart after my trip Savannah, when I was beginning to organize a post on "Southern" fiction. She has begun this wonderful romance/suspense series called The Piper Anderson Series, and book one, Chasing Justice, which takes place in North Carolina, is FREE at all major digital retailers!!! (which includes Nook and Kindle). Here's a little about Chasing Justice from Goodreads...

Piper Anderson has been given a fresh start in the picturesque town of Edenville, North Carolina. But her plans of settling into a normal life are derailed when she witnesses a prominent judge in her community committing a violent assault. Running from her own past and fueled by a passion to make the judge answer for his crimes, Piper is forced to decide if she’ll play by the rules or achieve justice in her own way.

I've downloaded the book and am ready to dive in! The sample that I read showcases some great writing from Danielle, and brings to mind that you don't have to have a big name in publishing to be a wonderful writer. With the ever growing popularity of eBooks, these independent writers can satisfy your need to read. Stay tuned for more great writers and more about Danielle too! BTW, book two in Danielle's series just came out! It's called Cutting Ties and if you enjoyed book one, book two is a reasonable $2.99 right now for Nook or Kindle.

And speaking of eReaders... I think I've mentioned before how a special someone bought me my Nook HD for Christmas (yes, new hubby Jim!). I love it! BUT, all of a sudden Google has taken over my Nook! Look for my post next week on how Nook was supposedly saved by Google, but readers may have another opinion!

And how was your week?! Any bookish things happening in your neck of the woods? What great books have you discovered this week? And what do you think about independent writers? Have you tried any? I'd love to hear all about it!

Happy Reading... Suzanne

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Sunday Salon and Savannah on my mind...

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! Grab a cup of Joe, sit back and relax... It's the time of the week to take a step back and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. It's the time of the week we get to chat about the great books we've discovered in our travels...

My travels the past 2 weeks have taken me to Savannah, Ga., where the spanish moss drips from the massive oaks and creates such beauty as you walk along the city streets exploring the rich history, enjoy a ghost story or two, and of course enjoy all that River St. offers!

It was a road trip this time as my husband & I drove the 1300 miles to the city made famous in the book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. I had always wanted to visit Savannah since reading John Berendt's book. If you haven't read it, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is simply wonderful! With a cast of characters that will have you mesmerized, especially since they are all real people, John Berendt weaves a tale of the small Southern town, while investigating the mystery of a murder that took place in 1981. It's the kind of book that leisurely works its way to the ending you never want to have happen.

Although I brought books with me I had absolutely no time to read. But, I did manage to pick up a few books...

The Savannah Guidebook including 4 unique walking tours by Paul C. Bland... Historic photos, drawings and maps allow you to step back in time while experiencing her beauty today. The tours span Savannah's rich history from the earliest days as a British Colony to the modern day setting of books and movies with a few ghost and a little fun mixed in for good measure. 

We did not actually go on any of these walking tours, but this slim volume of 34 pages is the cat's pajama's when it comes to finding all the wonderful treasures Savannah has to offer. It has wonderful photographs of the favorite and important spots, along with a bit of history and how to get there. There is a great map in the back that shows the layout of Savannah's 22 squares and how to navigate them. The squares can be a bit confusing without a map, and you can get a free map of the streets, but this shows you where you can find all those places you're going to want to see. And unlike a lot of tour books, this one retails for $5.95! A real bargain! This book also serves as a great reminder of the places we have been and some we are going to go to when we go back to Savannah.

A trip to Savannah would not be complete without some great food! Seafood is the local choice, along with a serving of grits here and there, and we made the most of sampling some of the great food. I did try alligator tail while there... and yes, it does taste like chicken. 

Shrimp, Collards & Grits; Recipes, Stories and Art from the Creeks and Gardens of the Lowcountry by Pat Branning... "The South is a place where tea is sweet and accents are sweeter, macaroni and cheese is a vegetable, front porches are wide and words are long. Buttermilk pie is a staple. Y’all is the only proper noun. Chicken is fried and biscuits come with cream gravy. Everything is darlin’ and someone’s heart is always being blessed." 200 Lowcountry recipes, the full color, coffee table style cookbook features 150 fine art paintings by such noted Southern artists as Ray Ellis, Nancy Ricker Rhett, John Carroll Doyle and Joe Bowler among others.  Hardbound Coffee Style Book 144 pages. 

The lowcountry is what the coastal regions of South Carolin and Georgia are referred to. As we drove along, the landscape was flat and beautiful. That's what made a driving trip perfect, because we could really enjoy the changes in the landscape as we left Connecticut and headed South into NY, Pennsylvania, Va, West Va,  North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. This book is absolutely stunning with the wonderful reproductions of the paintings from local artists, and the beautiful full color photographs of the food and sites. All the recipes are well written out, not too long and complicated and cover a range of Southern food, from Deep South Hush Puppies, Sweet Potato Biscuits, Crab Bisque and Vidalia Onion Tart to Lowcountry Shrimp and Grits, Macaroni and Cheese, and Tailgate Pulle Pork Barbeque. I can't wait to give some of these recipes a try!

Speaking of recipes... how about adding a little honey to all that from The Savannah Bee Company! Wandering the little shops in Savannah's squares, we happened upon this little store that sold the most incredible honey - edible and non-edible. I sampled the raw honeycomb, which is hand cut from the frame, and was hooked. Then I tried the Winter White Honey, which is a whipped creamy honey.... oh my gosh! But I also appreciate the origins of the company and how they use 99% all natural ingredients!
Savannah Bee founder Ted Dennard was first introduced to honey as a 12-year old boy on his father’s Coastal Georgia retreat property when a battered old pickup carrying beehives rattled into his life. The bee-covered driver of that flatbed truck was Roy Hightower, an elderly beekeeper scouting sites suitable for gathering “Swamp Honey” from the White Tupelo tree. In return for a place to keep his bees, Roy offered young Ted an education in that magical, buzzing world, but with a prophetic word of caution, “Son, bees sort of become a way of life.” 
Ted has traveled "the world to see bees making medicinal manuka honey in New Zealand, rubber honey in Vietnam, logwood honey in Jamaica, heather honey in Ireland, and the famous tilleul lavender honey of France." And he still raises his bees a hop, skip and a jump from Savannah. 

What I came home with from the Savannah Bee Company were two things... first, this amazing Royal Jelly Body Butter made from the most "precious product of the hive." This is what the future queen bee is fed daily as she develops. Their products have no animal testing and the Royal Body Butter is 99% natural ingredients, no paragons, no petroleum derived ingredients and feels like butter going on your skin. My fascination didn't stop with the honey samples or the body butter... the second thing I picked up was a copy of The Beekeeper's Bible: Bees, Honey, Recipes & Other Home Uses by Richard A. Jones and Sharon Sweeney-Lynch....

The Beekeeper’s Bible is as much an ultimate guide to the practical essentials of beekeeping as it is a beautiful almanac to be read from cover to cover. Part history book, part handbook, and part cookbook, this illustrated tome covers every facet of the ancient hobby of beekeeping, from how to manage hives safely to harvesting one's own honey, and ideas for how to use honey and beeswax. Detailed instructions for making candles, furniture polish, beauty products, and nearly 100 honey-themed recipes are included. Fully illustrated with how-to photography and unique etchings, any backyard enthusiast or gardener can confidently dive into beekeeping with this book in hand (or daydream about harvesting their own honey while relaxing in the comfort of an armchair).

This book is a big beautiful treatise on bees. Everything you'd want to know about the little guys with these amazing recipes that include full color photos! It weighs a ton (broke the PAPER bag they gave me to carry everything in), but I'm glad I lugged it around. If you are fascinated by bees, and they are an important part of how we grow crops, you will enjoy this book!
Of course Savannah wouldn't be Savannah without the ghost stories that float from every dark street corner. I love the lure of a good ghost tale and there are plenty of ghost tours to be had on every street corner on River st, which is the "festive" part of Savannah. We opted for a late night private carriage ride along the historic squares. Our host, Blake, and our horse, Bob, clip clopped along the romantically lit streets sharing the history of what we were riding by along with some great ghost stories of the houses and squares we saw...

Savannah Spectres and Other Strange Tales by Margaret Wayt DeBolt... Some seventy storiess skillfully interwoven with the heritage of the area's colorful past, and illustrated with over thirty photos and sketches. Incidents of precognition, extrasensory perception, deja vu and possible reincarnation are included in this personal and highly readable account.

Almost 300 pages, this was recommended to me as a great collection of ghost stories of Savannah. After reading a few, I don't think I will be disappointed. The writing pulls you in because it infuses the history with the story. 

Ghosts and Gravestones of Savannah Georgia by John F. Stavely... Do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever wondered what exists beyond our normal senses of sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing? Are you curious? 

This slim, 87 page, book includes 29 tales with accompanying black & white photographs. The author is involved with creating some of the ghost tours given in town, so this little book would probably be great to read before hopping on board for one of them, but also adds some great flavor to the homes and cemeteries that call Savannah home. 

Now that we are home, along with the great memories of oysters, grits & a frozen Margarita or two, I have some wonderful books that can bring me back to the place where the shadows may whisper your name and Southern hospitality is at a premium. Ever been to Savannah? What were your favorites? But if not Savannah, where did your travels take you this week? What good books can you share this week?

Now of course, Savannah is a great setting for fiction too, but let's save that for another day....

Happy reading.... Suzanne

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Reading a Good Book...

I'll be taking a journey myself for 2 weeks! Bringing a few good books and heading down to Savannah, Ga. (from CT.) with stops along the way as we drive the 2600 miles round trip. See ya'll in a couple of weeks!
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