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, December 29, 2013

The Sunday Salon & The Best Books of 2013

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! It's the day of the week we devote to talking books! So, pull up a chair, pour yourself a cup of Joe and get comfy! Let's talk books……

I hope everyone's Christmas was nice! Did you get bookish presents?! Being a voracious reader has it's drawbacks when receiving gifts. Sometimes people hesitate to buy you books because they think you already have every book in the store, but we always appreciate a book and we readers simply do not have every book published! (or not quite)…

It's also the end of the year! And what do you always find in the media at the end of the year? The Best of Lists! Some of these lists actually start to come out way before the end of the year, but how can they have the best of when there's still months of publishing to go!?! So, I scoured the Best Books of 2013 lists that have come out recently to see what some of the big names have to say… that is Goodreads, The New York Times, NPR, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Publisher's Weekly, and The Guardian, and found books that seem to be showing up on multiple lists. Here are some of the books that made the mark…

Some Notable Fiction:
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
A Constellaton of Vital Phenomenon
The Wool Trilogy by Hugh Howey
The House Girl by Tara Conklin
A Tale For the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Z A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Theresa Anne Fowler
Wool Trilogy by Hugh Howey
                                Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang, a Graphic Novel

Some notable Memoirs & True Stories:
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala
The Lost Girls: an unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker

Some notable Children's books:
Mr. Wuffles by David Weisner
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

What books are missing? What did you read that is on YOUR Best Books of 2013 list? Here are a few that I enjoyed, aren't on any "The Best of" list and I recommend…

Wild by Cheryl Strayed… Memoir. Twenty-something girl screws life up, divorces her best friend, gets into drugs and hits rock bottom. Decides to take a hike… literally, and the result is this amazing journey and memoir. I loved it!

Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky… Romance. More than a romance, there's a  Perfect beach read. Wonderful story. I just fell in love with the characters and felt like I could feel the cool breeze off the lake on my skin as I read it!

The Last First Day by Carrie Brown… Fiction. Wonderful slow paced story of the life of a married couple. it will quietly hit you when your not expecting it at the end. The story stayed with me for some time afterwards.

Want to see what's on "The Lists"? Here is a sampling of the "Best Books 2013 Lists" and their links…..

Goodreads Choice Awards 2013 After 1,953,770 votes were cast, Goodreads put together this very comprehensive list, dividing the books up by genre, such as Best Horror, Best Historical Fiction and Best Food & Cookbooks. A great list!

The Atlantic Magazine serves us The Best Food Books 2013 This list is wonderful for the Foodie! I've heard of a few of the cookbooks, but I definitely will be checking out a few of these gems, such as the newly reissued Cooking for Crowds by Merry White and One Good Dish by David Tanis.

Publisher's Weekly Best Books 2013  shares their top 10 of the year.

NPR gives us their Guide to Best Reads 2013 The staff at NPR was tired of coming up with a list of Best Books, so they decided to reach out to their book critics and staff for recommendations of great reads. Their list comes from the 200 responses they received. Oops, sorry it's not a "list", it's a "book concierge". In any case, it's a great source with book descriptions if you hover your mouse over the title.

The New York Times lists their 10 Best Books of 2013 choices.

If you are a Kindle owner, Amazon has a Kindle Edition of their Best Books of 2013 selections, and it's free! Otherwise, here's the link to Amazon's Best Books of 2013 section of their website.

And if none of these satisfies your Best of Lists, you can always Google "Best Books of 2013" for pages and pages of what everyone else thinks. But what are these lists really for? Is it just a popularity list? Are these books the ones that got the most push from the publishers? Where as a name like J.K. Rowling means automatic success in selling a multitude of books, would her book be on a "best of list" if it weren't for that? My feelings on "The Best Books" list is that it's fun to see what everyone liked, and it's fun to see if the books you liked appear on any of the lists. Best Books lists are also great starting points in finding fresh reading for yourself.

The end of the year brings us "The Best of Lists" and the beginning of a new year brings us… resolutions! Or in the case of the reader… Challenges! So, next Sunday Salon, I'll be bringing you some reading Challenges hosted by some great reading blogs. All you need to participate in any of these challenges is the love of reading, and an internet connection, so you may want to join in on some of the fun! And starting January 2nd, I'll be posting what Challenges I'll be participating in! BTW, First one I've signed up for is The Chunkster Challenge, which is all about reading FAT books!

Hope you've found some interesting books here today! Share what is on YOUR Best Books of 2013 list! I'd love to hear about them! And I'll list them for everyone else to know too!

Happy reading… Suzanne

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Wanderers by Paul Stutzman… A Review

An Amish Love Story About Hope and Finding Home

Everything in God’s nature, Johnny observed, did what it was created to do. Everything, that is, except the human race. Johnny was born into an Amish family, into a long line of farmers and good businessmen. He is expected to follow the traditions of family and church as he grows to adulthood. But even as a boy, he questions whether he can be satisfied with this lifestyle. He wants “more” — more education, more travel, more opportunity.

His restlessness leads him down a dangerous road where too much partying and drinking result in heartbreaking consequences. He’s adrift, and no one seems to be able to help him find his direction.

Then he meets spunky Annie, who seems pure and lovely and devoted to her God. Her past, though, holds sin and heartbreak. She was a worm, she explains, but God has transformed her into a butterfly. Johnny falls hopelessly in love; and eventually he, too, finds the power of God to transform lives. Settling down on the family farm, he forgets about the questions and the restlessness, thinking that he is happy and at home, at last.

But in a few short hours, tragedy changes his life forever, and he is again wondering… and wandering on a very long journey.

Entwined with Johnny and Annie’s story is the allegory of two Monarch butterflies, worms who have been transformed into amazing creatures specially chosen to carry out the miracle of the fourth generation. They, too, must undertake a long journey before they finally find home.

First Chapter Thoughts: We meet Johnny, born into the Amish life, but struggling against it. The first line of the book and chapter, hint that this isn't your typical Amish boy…"I was ten when I had my first taste of beer." The last line tempts you into reading more… "I was an Amish man living the dream. Until it was all taken from me." I felt right from the start that Johnny was a complicated character, and this just showed the beginning of the richness of Paul Stutzman's characters.

What did I think of The Wanderers? There's a quiet calm to Paul Stutzman's book, The Wanderers. The writing is hypnotizing, the story is wonderful and the characters just wrap around your heart, especially Johnny and Annie. A simple love story that will capture your heart, but also a story of acceptance, redemption and finding ones' place in the world.

I have never read any Amish literature. There are plenty of authors who base their stories in the Amish way of life, but my choice to read The Wanderers was because the love story between Johnny and Annie seemed so sweet, and I liked the idea of Monarch butterflies playing a part of the story. What's refreshing is that there is no blatant sex. Love, God and family play a major part of the structuring of the story and the reader can breath a sign of relief that the story itself is so good, that we don't need to be distracted. We enter the Amish world, but are not stationed there. We experience the way of life and as we walk outside of it, we can see and understand the differences. The characters Johnny and Annie are not perfect, but are written with a beautiful human quality that overpowers their flaws and makes the reader empathize with them. The Monarch butterflies- well, that is a sweet surprise for you to discover. They have their own story intertwined with Johnny and Annie, but written separate from them.  Simply put, The Wanderers was a wonderful read, and I would definitely recommend it if you enjoy Amish fiction, enjoy love stories and don't need all the sex, and basically enjoy relaxing with a good book that will break your heart in spots, but also make you smile in others.

I want to thank Pump Up Your Book and Paul Stutzman for including me in the Virtual Tour of The Wanderers and sending along a review copy of the book! You can read more about Paul and his new book at Paul's Website! The Wanderers is available on Kindle! Click on the title for more info.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Twas The Night Before Christmas...

Merry Christmas Everyone! Enjoy this reading of Twas The Night Before Christmas...

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Sunday Salon and The Gifts of Christmas...

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! It's that time of the week we get together with other bookish people and talk about bookish things. So find a comfy chair, pour yourself some hot cocoa and relax!

It's just a few days before Christmas! Have you finished your Christmas shopping?! We took a drive today to enjoy the unseasonable warm winter weather (it was 67 degrees! in Connecticut) and as we drove through the "city" part of our drive, there were droves of people crowding the stores. This year I did most of my Christmas shopping online. This year is also the first year, and hopefully the last year, that I am in a wheelchair for any trips out to the store. It is definitely not easy being in a wheelchair, and  with aisles stuffed with all sorts of wonderful things to buy, sometimes it is hard to get around, hard to hold more than a few things, hard to hold a basket. I have new found empathy for people who have to use a wheelchair permanently, and look forward to being able to walk again someday. And so, most of my shopping was online. Etsy being one stop… have you ever shopped at Etsy?! It is filled with amazing craftsy people, artists and wonderful objects. I can't reveal what I purchased because I don't want to reveal what I bought for certain people, but suffice it to say there were some beautiful things sent through the mail.

I received an early Christmas present from my Secret Elf! This year I participated in the Goodreads, Books on the Nightstand, Secret Santa gift exchange. It was organized by Ann Kingman of Books on the Nightstand, that great podcast hosted by Ann and Michael Kindness, with the help of 4 other "Elfs" through and was so much fun! Everyone who joined in on the fun randomly got a name of another bookish person, and then the fun began! We were to send something on the person's wish list or thing of some other bookish gift(s) to give with a limit of $25. My Secret Elf was none other than Michael Kindness himself! I'm such a fan that the package from him would have been enough, but inside my package were two wonderful books, both of which were on my wish list. Here they are…

Aimless Love, new and selected poems by Billy Collins… from Booklist: Collins, or the speaker in his poems, watches himself with helpless bemusement as he lives “a life of continual self-expression, / jotting down little things.” Obsessive “noticing” gets him into all sorts of trouble, as recounted so wryly, so tenderly in “Aimless Love,” the poem that gives this vital and shrewdly provocative volume its title and in which the speaker records his sequential ardor for a wren, a mouse, and a bar of soap. In selections from his four most recent collections, from Nine Horses (2002) to Horoscopes for the Dead (2011), and 51 glimmering new poems, former poet laureate and reader favorite Collins, the maestro of the running-brook line and the clever pivot, celebrates the resonance and absurdity of what might be called the poet’s attention-surfeit disorder. He nimbly mixes the timeless––the sun, loneliness—with the fidgety, digital now. Some poems are funny from the opening gambit to the closing flourish. But Collins’ droll wit is often a diversionary tactic, so that when he strikes you with the hard edge of his darker visions, you reel.

I really enjoy Billy Collins' poems. They are not ornamental or filled with curly cues, but down to earth and sparse only to the point of getting his point across. He has a dry wit that is showcased in his poems and they are just simply enjoyable to read. Billy Collins was also the poet laureate for the US for two years. What is a poet laureate? Here's the official word from Wikipedia:

Laureates receive a US$35,000 stipend and are given the responsibility of overseeing an ongoing series of poetry readings and lectures at the library, and a charge to promote poetry. No other duties are specified, and laureates are not required to compose for government events or in praise of government officials. However, after the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001, the then Poet Laureate, Billy Collins, was asked to write a poem to be read in front of a special joint session of Congress. Collins wrote "The Names" which he read on September 6, 2002, which is available in streaming audio and video.

There are voracious readers who never consider reading poetry. I find that poetry can be fun, comforting, inspirational. What do you think? Poetry reader or not? If you are new to poetry and want to try some contemporary poems, I would definitely recommend Billy Collins! And Aimless Love by Billy Collins is a great collection!

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt & illustrated by Oliver Jeffers… Crayons have feelings, too! Poor Duncan just wants to color. But when he opens his box of crayons, he finds only letters, all saying the same thing: His crayons have had enough! They quit! Beige Crayon is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown Crayon. Black wants to be used for more than just outlining. Blue needs a break from coloring all those bodies of water. And Orange and Yellow are no longer speaking—each believes he is the true color of the sun. What can Duncan possibly do to appease all of the crayons and get them back to doing what they do best?

This book is hilarious! Of course Crayons have feelings! Black is happy that he's used quite a bit, but geez, why does he only get to outline everything?! Why do all the other colors get to be used to color in? Can't he have some fun too! And poor Pink! Pink never gets used! Why it's been over a year and that was just because Duncan's Sister used it! And Blue is very happy because it gets used a lot, but it's so short now it can't see over the wall anymore. Each Crayon writes Duncan a letter, and illustrates some of their points. It is fun and would be a great book for children- especially to have them try and use the colors for things they would not ordinarily use them for! (Even my Hubby thought this book was creative).

This week on Chick with Books, stop by Tuesday, Dec. 24th for a reading of Twas The Night Before Christmas on the Blog. It will be available all day and through Christmas, so if you'd like to relax and have someone read to you, this is the spot! Check it out, you won't be disappointed!

And the rest of the week will be quiet and I'll be enjoying time spent with family and friends. Next Sunday, will be close to New Years and the END OF THE YEAR. There have been "Best of Year" book lists for months now, but I like to wait until the end of the year to let all those "late" published books in on the list. So, next Sunday we'll take a look at the best of 2013.

Until then… I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!


Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Sunday Salon and "Snow" books...

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! It's that time of the week where we sit down, relax and talk books. So get comfy, pour yourself a cup of hot cocoa and let's talk…

Yesterday was the first day the snow came down steadily. It was windy and cold and the sky got dark around 4pm. No use in getting out the snow shovels until the morning after, because it snowed until late at night. This morning the sun smiled down on all that beautiful snow and the sound of plows, blowers and shovels could be heard echoing down the streets. So, I thought today we'd talk about "snow" books…

Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon… from Goodreads: In this elegant, haunting, and highly anticipated debut novel from 5 Under 35 National Book Foundation honoree Paul Yoon, a North Korean war refugee confronts the wreckage of his past. With spare, evocative prose, Snow Hunters traces the extraordinary journey of Yohan, who defects from his country at the end of the war, leaving his friends and family behind to seek a new life in a port town on the coast of Brazil. Though he is a stranger in a strange land, throughout the years in this town, four people slip in and out of Yohan’s life: Kiyoshi, the Japanese tailor for whom he works, and who has his own secrets and a past he does not speak of; Peixe, the groundskeeper at the town church; and two vagrant children named Santi and Bia, a boy and a girl, who spend their days in the alleyways and the streets of the town. Yohan longs to connect with these people, but to do so he must sift through his traumatic past so he might let go and move on. In Snow Hunters, Yoon proves that love can dissolve loneliness; that hope can wipe away despair; and that a man who has lost a country can find a new home. This is a heartrending story of second chances, told with unerring elegance and absolute tenderness.

Paul Yoon is one of the authors to keep your eye out for. He has gotten such praise as being one of the up and coming young authors of the day. This book has gotten great reviews and should showcase what is wonderful writing. I did enjoy his novel of short stories called Once the Shore, so Snow Hunters is on my "To Read" list now. Snow Hunters is available in a Kindle Edition, and Paperback now.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See…  A journey back to a captivating era of Chinese history where the journey delves into one of the most mysterious of human relationships: female friendship. In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, an “old same,” in an emotional match that will last a lifetime. The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she has written a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret, away from the influence of men. As the years pass, Lily and Snow Flower send messages on the fan and compose stories on handkerchiefs, reaching out of isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. Together they endure the agony of footbinding and reflect upon their arranged marriages, their loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace in their friendship, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their relationship suddenly threatens to tear apart.

This is one of my all time favorite books! If you have a girlfriend, a BFF, or a Sister, this is a great book to share with them. The characters are wonderful, those two little girls will wrap themselves around your heart, and after you are done reading Snow Flower and The Secret Fan, the story will stay with you for a long long time. Here are the links for the Kindle Edition and the Paperback Edition .

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi… In the winter of 1953, Boy Novak arrives by chance in a small town in Massachusetts, looking, she believes, for beauty—the opposite of the life she’s left behind in New York. She marries a local widower and becomes stepmother to his winsome daughter, Snow Whitman. A wicked stepmother is a creature Boy never imagined she’d become, but elements of the familiar tale of aesthetic obsession begin to play themselves out when the birth of Boy’s daughter, Bird, who is dark-skinned, exposes the Whitmans as light-skinned African Americans passing for white. Among them, Boy, Snow, and Bird confront the tyranny of the mirror to ask how much power surfaces really hold.

This book has gotten a lot of great pre-publication praise. Helen Oyeyemi's writing is suppose to be beautiful. A very controversial subject matter in such a deft hand should make this a great book club selection, but I think this is going to be one of those break out reads with a wider audience. Write this one down because you'll have to wait until March 6th 2014 for this to be out, but here you can pre-order Boy, Snow, Bird: A Novel.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Guest Post with Paul Stutzman… Butterflies and Amish

Paul Stutzman was born in Holmes County, Ohio in an Amish family. His family left the Amish lifestyle soon after Paul was born. They joined a strict Conservative Mennonite Church where Paul was raised to fear God and obey all the rules the church demanded. Paul continued to live among and mingle with his Amish friends and relatives his entire life. Paul married a Mennonite girl and remained in the Amish community working and raising a family. After Paul lost his wife to cancer, he sensed a tug on his heart- the call to a challenge, the call to pursue a dream. With a mixture of dread and determination, Paul left his job, traveled to Georgia, and took his first steps on the 2,176 mile Appalachian Trail. What he learned during the next four and a half months changed his life-and can change yours too.

After completing his trek Stutzman wrote Hiking Through—a book about this life changing journey. In another adventure where he pedaled 5000 miles across America he wrote Biking Across America.  Now Paul Stutzman has written his first novel entitled The Wanderers, a story about Johnny, a young Amish boy growing up in a culture he is not sure he wants to embrace. A young Amish girl named Annie wins his heart and life is great for a time. Entwined with Johnny and Annie’s story is the allegory of two Monarch butterflies.

Chick with Books is thrilled to have Paul Stutzman stop by today to share a bit of himself and insight into his writing. Join me in a warm welcome to Paul!

Butterflies and Amish

Writing my first novel, The Wanderers, I devoted my pen (well, keyboard, in my case) to truths and the truth—truths about our journey through life and the truth about a people very much in the spotlight today, the Amish.

The seeds for the book were planted years ago by my wife’s love of Monarchs. Every fall she would hunt out milkweed plants and find a tiny Monarch worm munching away on its leaves. She’d bring that worm home, keep it in a mason jar covered with a screen, and watch the process of an unseemly worm being transformed into a beautiful butterfly. She celebrated the emergence of the butterfly as a new birth, and released it to spread its wings and fly away. The Monarch butterfly migrates in the fall, and its story is amazing; it takes four generations to complete one cycle of migration.

My wife passed away from breast cancer on September 7, 2006. On the evening of her funeral, I fell into an exhausted sleep on my recliner. Around 2:00 AM, a fluttering sound awakened me. Flying in circles above me was a Monarch butterfly. One of Mary’s friends, knowing how much my wife loved Monarchs, had created a flower arrangement that included a branch with a chrysalis attached. The butterfly had emerged while I slept—on the very night of my wife’s funeral. I was amazed. As a spiritual person, I took that as a sign that God was showing me He had transformed my wife from an earthly creature into a heavenly one.

I released the butterfly into the cold September night. Over the next several years, as I recovered from the loss of my wife, I was often reminded of that butterfly. It was fourth generation, the generation that was genetically equipped to make the long pilgrimage of migration. What happened to that butterfly? Did it survive its long journey?

I wrote the account of that night in an early chapter of my first book, Hiking Through, the story of my journey through grief. But the questions and the fascination with the Monarch’s story never left me.

So when I began to write about the Monarch, I found that the butterfly’s story is an allegory that parallels many experiences in our own journeys. This opened another opportunity for me. I have long been disgusted with the portrayal of the Amish in many of today’s movies, books, and television shows. I was born into an Amish home and have lived all of my life in the middle of a large Amish community. I wanted folks to know that most of what they see in today’s media is sensationalized and exaggerated. I wanted to write about the Amish as accurately as I know them.

And so I paired the allegory of the Monarch’s story with the love story of two young Amish people, and the result is The Wanderers, a story of transformation, love, wandering, and looking for a place we call home.  

Thank you Paul for sharing a bit of yourself in such a heartfelt post and sharing your writing process on Chick with Books today!

Want to learn more about Paul? Here's a link to the author's website. Want to read the first chapter of The Wanderers?! You can find the first chapter at Pump Up Your Book Virtual Tours! The premise of The Wanderers sounds wonderful and I can't wait to open the pages of the book myself! I'll be sharing my review of The Wanderers  on Dec. 26th!

Monday, December 9, 2013

An American Bride in Kabul by Phyllis Chesler... a Review

I was immediately drawn into the story of how a young bride innocently  ventures into the foreign homeland of her new Afghan groom, and is totally blindsided. Author Phyllis Chesler's writing is captivating as she recounts her life as an "American Bride in Kabul". Dealing with the cultural differences was hard enough, but also having to deal with her new Mother-in-law, and a husband that suddenly seemed a stranger, made this all a nightmare.

This book is part love story, part history lesson as Ms. Chesler tells us her story and infuses it with the history of the women who have come before her and the land that she still holds dear in her heart. And it's all fascinating! I read it straight through without needing a rest. Ms. Chesler's writing is inviting, as she opens the door into a world usually not visible from the outside. She does not leave us at the door though, she guides us through, letting us virtually experience life in her Kabul.

The food, traditions, the sights & smells of the streets, and the personalities of the people Ms. Chesler lived with and met, all come alive in this memoir of an innocence lost. One of the better memoir's I've read this year, I would recommend An American Bride in Kabul to anyone who is interested in different cultures, women's right and memoirs. The love story between Ms. Chesler and her Afghan groom is worth the read itself, but An American Bride in Kabul is not a romance in the conventional sense, the central theme is really the cultural differences of the treatment of women.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Sunday Salon and Holiday Themed Novels

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! It's the day of the week where we sit down and talk books. So, pull up a chair, get comfy, grab a cup of joe and relax. The Christmas season seems to be flying by fast with just a little over 2 weeks until Christmas. Are you done with your Christmas shopping?! Are you taking time for yourself to relax? Sometimes Christmas can be a hectic, stressful time of year. So, today's post is about relaxing with a good Christmas themed book, that let's you slip out of hectic and remember what the season is all about with these stories that find hope, romance and miracles within their pages. Here are some novels that I found that may just fit the bill….

The Snowglobe by Sheila Roberts… On a blustery afternoon, Kylie Gray wanders into an antique shop and buys an enchanting snow globe.  “There’s a story behind that snow globe,” the antique dealer tells her.  The original owner, he explains, was a German toymaker who lost his wife and son right before Christmas.  When the grieving widower received the handcrafted snow globe as a Christmas gift, he saw the image of a beautiful woman beneath the glass—a woman who would come into his life, mend his broken heart and bring him back to the world of the living.  For years, the snow globe has passed from generation to generation, somehow always landing in the hands of a person in special need of a Christmas miracle.

Every year my book club reads one of Sheila Roberts Christmas theme novels. This was the first that we read and it was wonderful, charming and was like a nice cup of cocoa on a cold wintry night. Sheila knows how to write characters that we can relate to and like. Her books have wonderful romance without the need for overtly sexual scenes. And this book is short, under 200 pages, and should be easy to fit into a busy schedule.

Candlelight Christmas by Susan Wiggs… A single father who yearns to be a family man, Logan O'Donnell is determined to create the perfect Christmas for his son, Charlie. The entire O'Donnell clan arrives to spend the holidays in Avalon, a postcard-pretty town on the shores of Willow Lake, a place for the family to reconnect and rediscover the special gifts of the season. One of the guests is a newcomer to Willow Lake—Darcy Fitzgerald. Sharp-witted, independent and intent on guarding her heart, she's the last person Logan can see himself falling for. And Darcy is convinced that a relationship is the last thing she needs this Christmas. Yet between the snowy silence of the winter woods, and toasty moments by a crackling fire, their two lonely hearts collide. The magic of the season brings them each a gift neither ever expected—a love to last a lifetime.

Susan Wiggs is a favorite among romance readers, and this is her newest Christmas themed novel.

Starry Night by Debbie Macomber… Carrie Slayton, a big-city society-page columnist, longs to write more serious news stories. So her editor hands her a challenge: She can cover any topic she wants, but only if she first scores the paper an interview with Finn Dalton, the notoriously reclusive author. Living in the remote Alaskan wilderness, Finn has written a megabestselling memoir about surviving in the wild. But he stubbornly declines to speak to anyone in the press, and no one even knows exactly where he lives. Digging deep into Finn’s past, Carrie develops a theory on his whereabouts. It is the holidays, but her career is at stake, so she forsakes her family celebrations and flies out to snowy Alaska. When she finally finds Finn, she discovers a man both more charismatic and more stubborn than she even expected. And soon she is torn between pursuing the story of a lifetime and following her heart.

Another favorite in the romance category, this is Debbie Macomber's newest Christmas themed novel.

Do you enjoy Holiday themed novels? Would you read them any other time of year? I think that it's a treat that some of our favorite authors write something special for the Holiday season. A book that we can enjoy on it's own without further commitment. What are your favorite Holiday themed novels?

Hope you are enjoying the season and are able to relax a bit and open a good book. Maybe one of these books will be the answer to that!

Happy reading… Suzanne

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Sunday Salon and Black Friday Deals for the Bookish

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! It's that time of the week where we sit down and relax a bit and talk books! So find yourself a comfy chair, grab a cup of joe and let's share our passion for reading!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Here in Connecticut we had all the usual fixings, except I wasn't able to cook! My dear hubby buried himself in the kitchen as I looked from afar from my walker… which prevented me from participating in Another event --- Black Friday! Black Friday originated in Philadelphia, where the phrase was coined to describe the heavy pedestrian and vehicle traffic the day after Thanksgiving. By 1975 the term began spreading outside of Philadelphia and became better known as the busiest shopping day of the year, and the official start of the Christmas shopping season. I have participated in this ritual a few times, just for fun and not at any of the noted "crazy & dangerous" places like Walmart, but there are bargains to be had without venturing out of your house… especially for us bookish people.

First of all, if you want a wonderful eReader at a incredible price, the Nook HD 8 GB is available for only $79! That's $50 off the normal price for a eReader and Tablet that has one of the most resolute screens on the market! Now, online they are all sold out, so you need to get one at your local Barnes & Noble before the end of today! And the Nook Simple Touch, which is their basic eReader is on sale for only $39! As far as I can see, you can still get the Nook Simple Touch online at
Next Black Friday bargains are at Google Play Books. Now, when Google took over my Nook HD I was not very happy. Clogging my Apps page were Google Apps I did not want. All I wanted my Nook HD for was reading, the occasional movie and email. But as I explored the Nook for it's virtues as a tablet, because I am thinking of buying one as a gift for someone who wants something to use instead of his laptop, I am rethinking the benefits of Google on my Nook. And today I just happened to click on the Google Play store and under Books it had Black Friday bargains galore! Want the Hunger Games Trilogy for your Nook? $12.99! How about Allegiant by Veronica Roth? $3.49! Dark Witch by Nora Roberts is only $2.49!!!! Wild by Cheryl Strayed is $2.49! I picked up The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, both of which were under $3.50. If you go to Google Play Bookstore, you can learn more about how you can take advantage of the bargains for your eReader. Basically you need to download the App for your Android reader and iPad/iPhone or transfer your file to your Nook, Kobo, or Sony eReader.

Finally, Barnes & Noble is offering some great books and box sets at 50% off. You can find what's offered at Barnes& And it seems that these bargains run thru cyber Monday. I found a few nice coffee table books there…

The Library: A World History by James Campbell and Will Pryce… Architectural historian James Campbell and photographer Will Pryce traveled the globe together, visiting and documenting over eighty libraries that exemplify the many different approaches to thinking about and designing libraries. The result of their travels, The Library: A World History is one of the first books to tell the story of library architecture around the world and through time in a single volume, from ancient Mesopotamia to modern China and from the beginnings of writing to the present day. As these beautiful and striking photos reveal, each age and culture has reinvented the library, molding it to reflect their priorities and preoccupations—and in turn mirroring the history of civilization itself. Campbell’s authoritative yet readable text recounts the history of these libraries, while Pryce’s stunning photographs vividly capture each building’s structure and atmosphere.

At 50% off this is pricey at $47.86, but what a wonderful gift. These are the kinds of books that you would rarely buy for yourself, but if someone gave you one, you would be thrilled. There are also some beautiful art books for under $20!

So, did you venture out for Black Friday? Any bargains?! And did you buy any bookish gifts yet? If you haven't yet, I hope today's Sunday Salon gave you some great ideas!

Happy Reading… Suzanne
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