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

Friday, March 21, 2014

A Thousand Perfect Things Blog Tour!

Historical Fiction… Epic Fantasy… Sci-Fi with a Twist

A Thousand Perfect Things… 

In this epic new work, the award-winning Kenyon, whose work has be compared to Larry Nivens and Stephen R. Donaldson, creates an alternate Earth in the 19th century. This Earth is ruled by two warring factions—scientific Anglica (England) and magical Bharata (India).

Tori Harding, a Victorian woman, whose heart aches to claim the legendary powers of the golden lotus, must leave her reasoned world behind and journey to Bharata. In pursuit of the golden lotus, Tori will be forced to brave its magics, intrigues, deadly secrets and haunted places, to claim her destiny and choose between two lovers in two irreconcilable realms.

As a great native insurrection sweeps the continent of Bharata—Tori will find the thing she most desires, beautifully flawed and more wonderfully strange than she could have ever dreamed.

What did I think? I thoroughly enjoyed myself! Though sci-fi and fantasy are not my "norm", it's nice to step out of the box once in a while. What tempted me in the first place was the alternate world which I love so dearly in the dystopian fiction I read. What Kay Kenyan creates is nothing less than wonderful! The world is so believable, the fantasy easily becomes reality, and her writing is so easy to breathe in. I would have to say that even though this is characterized as both sci-fi and fantasy, it felt more fantasy to me because the world created, though sprinkled with magic, didn't make me reach to believe it. I also liked the dichotomy of the two worlds, one of science and one of magic. It's a plot that I think works well and I've enjoyed in other books. Other pluses… a story with a strong female protagonist is always a treat! And the India setting, also gets high marks. Reading A Thousand Perfect Things makes me also want to try other stories written by Kay Kenyan, and there are plenty to choose from! P.S. LOVED this cover!

About the Author...

Kay Kenyon is the author of eleven science fiction and fantasy novels, including A Thousand Perfect Things. She is the author of the critically acclaimed science fiction quartet, The Entire and The Rose. Bright of the Sky was among PW’s top 150 books of 2007. The series has twice been shortlisted for the ALA Reading List awards and three times for the Endeavour Award. Four of her novels have been translated into French, Spanish and Czech. Along with her novels Tropic of Creation and Maximum Ice, two of the works in the quartet received starred reviews from PW.

You can learn more about Kay Kenyon at her Website, and can connect with her on Facebook & Twitter.

I want to thank Kathy from I Am a Reader, for inviting me to be a tour host for A Thousand Perfect Things! Loved the book!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Debt of Tamar Virtual Book Tour!

                                   Historical Fiction… Undying Love… Exotic Landscapes

The Debt of Tamar by Nicole Dweck… 

During the second half of the 16th century, a wealthy widow by the name of Doña Antonia Nissim is arrested and charged with being a secret Jew. The punishment? Death by burning. Enter Suleiman the Magnificent, an Ottoman "Schindler," and the most celebrated sultan in all of Turkish history. With the help of the Sultan, the widow and her children manage their escape to Istanbul. Life is seemingly idyllic for the family in their new home, that is, until the Sultan's son meets and falls in love with Tamar, Doña Antonia's beautiful and free-spirited granddaughter. A quiet love affair ensues until one day, the girl vanishes.

Over four centuries later, thirty-two year old Selim Osman, a playboy prince with a thriving real estate empire, is suddenly diagnosed with a life-theatening condition. Abandoning the mother of his unborn child, he vanishes from Istanbul without an explanation. In a Manhattan hospital, he meets Hannah, a talented artist and the daughter of a French Holocaust survivor. As their story intertwines with that of their ancestors, readers are taken back to Nazi-occupied Paris, and to a sea-side village in the Holy Land where a world of secrets is illuminated.

Theirs is a love that has been dormant for centuries, spanning continents, generations, oceans, and religions. Bound by a debt that has lingered through time, they must right the wrongs of the past if they're ever to break the shackles of their future.

What did I think?  Anytime I have an opportunity to read historical fiction that blends an exotic landscape and a love story that spans centuries, I'm in. And that's what The Debt of Tamar promised on first sight. What made it even better is that author Nicole Dweck delivered an amazing story and beautiful, lyrical writing!

The opening of the story introduces us to the family of Dona Antonia, a wealthy woman living her life in Portugal 1542 A.D. with her daughter Reyna and nephew Jose. The Royal family comes calling to arrange the marriage of their son and Reyna. Wouldn't you think that Dona Antonia would be thrilled? The fact of the matter is that Dona Antonia holds a secret that we are just going to learn about in the most horrifying way, and that secret precludes her from blessing any marriage between the Royal Family of Portugal and her daughter…

Thus begins the saga of Dona Antonia's family. And a story that held my attention from the very start. It is a telling tale of persecution, prejudices, fear and love. And the fact that the story spans centuries makes it all the more appetizing. I liked the historical perspective of the different prejudices and tolerances experienced in being Jewish in the different countries and times. And I liked the exotic locals, which were painted so well. The characters were so alive, and the dialogue felt real.

If you enjoy historical fiction, put this on your TBR list. If you enjoy family sagas that continue through generations and centuries, you will enjoy this. A nice touch is that Nicole Dweck did a great job of seamlessly putting together. Sometimes you can get lost with the characters and their connections when you are talking centuries, but not in this story.

Great story, well written and held my attention… The Debt of Tamar gets an A in my book.

P.S. I LOVE the cover! Isn't is beautiful?!

About the Author…

Nicole Dweck is a writer whose work has appeared in newspapers and magazines across the country.

As a descendant of Sephardic (Spanish) refugees who escaped the Inquisition and settled on Ottoman territory, Dweck has always been interested in Sephardic history and the plight of refugees during the Spanish Inquisition. The Debt of Tamar, her debut novel, was a two-time finalist in the UK’s Cinnamon Press Novel Award Competition. It has also received an honorable award mention in the category of Mainstream/Literary Fiction from Writers Digest and was the highest rated book for two weeks running on the Harper Collin’s “Authonomy” website. It has claimed a #1 Bestseller spot in the Amazon Kindle Middle East Fiction category, a #1 Bestseller spot in Amazon Kindle Jewish Fiction category, and has been included as one of the “Hot 100″ Kindle bestsellers in the category of Historical Fiction.

Dweck holds a BA in Journalism and a Masters Degree in Global Studies with a focus on Middle East Affairs (NYU) . Her non-fiction articles have appeared in several magazines and newspapers including The New York Observer and Haute Living Magazine.

She lives in New York City with her husband and son.

You can learn more about Nicole at her Website and can find her on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads!

I want to thank Amy of Historical Fiction Virtual Tours for inviting me to participate in The Debt of Tamar's Virtual Tour! I thoroughly enjoyed the read!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Book Riot and Their Quarterly Co. Surprise Box...

There's kind of a fun program from a company called Quarterly Co. that connects you with "people you find interesting". How they connect you is by having you subscribe to a particular person or "curator" that shares your interest and that person or "curator" sends you a surprise package in the mail very 3 months…

I love surprises, so I couldn't resist giving this subscription thing a try. Book Riot,who has a great website with all sorts of bookish news and has contributors who write about bookish things, was the "curator" I connected to, and last week their surprise package came in the mail…

So, now the question… Was it worth it? First, you need to know that there is a cost to subscribing. AND, you can either subscribe to get the shipments every quarter OR you can just try one shipment. Book Riot's subscription was $50 with free shipping if you subscribed, and $50 plus shipping if you wanted to just try one shipment. Even though I though it was a bit pricey, I couldn't resist. Let's see what's in the box…

Upon opening the box, there was a note from Book Riot about what they packed in the box and how they chose what they did…

Next, I found a really neat poster they included from Melville House, entitled "Read Every Where" and the background is a photo of people in old time book mobile. I like the photo, the poster is 11 x 17 on heavy paper. Unfortunately to get it in the box they had to fold it up a few times, so there are heavy creases, but that's ok with me.

Next, I found a neat little pile of books: Judging a Book by Its Lover by Lauren Leto, Parnassus On Wheels by Christopher Morley, and a galley of The Vacationers by Emma Straub. The Vacationers galley was a bonus advanced copy that Book Riot explains in their letter that randomly selected subscribers would receive. Actually there were 4 other galleys that could have been in my box, including Gemini by Carol Cassella (on my wish list). Here's what the books  included are about…

Judging a Book by Its Lover by Lauren Leto… Want to impress the hot stranger at the bar who asks for your take on Infinite Jest? Dying to shut up the blowhard in front of you who’s pontificating on Cormac McCarthy’s “recurring road narratives”? Having difficulty keeping Francine Prose and Annie Proulx straight? For all those overwhelmed readers who need to get a firm grip on the relentless onslaught of must-read books to stay on top of the inevitable conversations that swirl around them, Lauren Leto’s Judging a Book by Its Lover is manna from literary heaven! A hilarious send-up of—and inspired homage to—the passionate and peculiar world of book culture, this guide to literary debate leaves no reader or author unscathed, at once adoring and skewering everyone from Jonathan Franzen to Ayn Rand to Dostoyevsky and the people who read them.

This looks to be a fun read. It's basically Lauren's take on books, readers and writing. My kind of book, gets a thumbs up from "the box".

Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley… Parnassus on Wheels is the story of Roger Mifflin, a sprite like figure who moves through the New England countryside with his traveling book wagon. His story shows how book selling can be one of the world's highest callings, spreading enlightenment with a dose of delight.

Originally written in 1917, and the prequel to Chistopher Morley's Haunted Bookshop, Parnassus on Wheels was reprinted by Melville House Publishing as part of their Art of the Novella Series. The book is a cute little novella. I love the actual physical printing of the book, which is paperback, with a nice cover that also includes a front and back flap integrated into the cover. I look forward to reading this "bookish" story too! Another thumbs up from "the box".

The Vacationers by Emma Straub… For the Posts, a two-week trip to the Balearic island of Mallorca with their extended family and friends is a celebration: Franny and Jim are observing their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, and their daughter, Sylvia, has graduated from high school. The sunlit island, its mountains and beaches, its tapas and tennis courts, also promise an escape from the tensions simmering at home in Manhattan. But all does not go according to plan: over the course of the vacation, secrets come to light, old and nnew humiliations are experienced, childhood rivalries resurface, and ancient wounds are exacerbated.

This was a bonus book thrown in randomly to subscribers. My initial thoughts upon leafing through the book is that it really isn't really my cup of tea. The writing didn't grab me, and the story isn't something I would normally pick out. But that's not the fault of whoever put "the box" together, how can you match every book to every subscriber. A for effort, and it's always nice to receive a galley! (still wish it was the book Gemini by Carol Cassella)

My Thoughts on "The Books"… I love the selection of the two books that are actually part of "the box". They're cool because they are about books- Judging a Book by Its Lover is all about books and Parnassus on Wheels is a story taking place around books.

Now onto the other goodies… which include a cool ceramic mug, beautiful brass book darts, a cool kitchen magnet, and a USB drive from Short Story Thursdays. Here's the lowdown on the goodies...

The Mug… I LOVE the mug! It's a good hefty mug, black on the outside and has printed in bright colors names of Banned Books! On the front of the mug there is also the word "Banned" embossed.

The Brass Book Darts… Love them. Something I would probably not buy on my own, but would appreciate as a special gift from someone. They are small and fit delicately on the top of the page you want to keep bookmarked.

The Kitchen Magnet… It says YAY! BOOKS! and went right on the refrigerator. It's not ceramic, just basically a thick piece of magnetic "paper" like you'd get in an office supply to make magnet business cards, and on top of that is glued a glossy piece of paper with the YAY! BOOKS! printed on it. Cute throw in.

The USB Drive from Short Story Thursdays… This USB drive is basically a promo for Short Story Thursdays.  The USB drive contains a video introduction to Short Story Thursdays and the author/creator Jacob Tomsky, 2 videos of Jacob reading a short story and 2 pdf's of different short stories. I thought it was clever to present the material on a USB drive, but it made me feel a little like it was advertising as apposed to a bookish gift. BTW, What is Short Story Thursdays? It's "a weekly, email-based, governmentally recognized not-for-profit short story organization"  and it's "designed to inject literature into your life on a weekly basis in a way that’s never been done before." You can find out more about Short Story Thursdays on Jacob's Website.

So there you have it, the contents of my Quarterly Co. Book Riot Box…

What do I think on the whole? Well, it was fun getting it in the mail, and for the most part I liked everything in the box. Was it worth the money? The actual value of the box is not suppose to be the actual contents. It's suppose to factor in "the experience" with connecting to the person sending it. Here's my estimate of the physical retail value… Books, $26; Mug, $13; Book Darts, $8, Magnet, $3, USB Drive, $0… for a grand total of $50. Of course that's not including shipping costs, and this box was pretty heavy, and that's an estimate of retail, not what someone in the business would pay. But all in all it just didn't feel like $50 worth of bookishness. What do you think? Would you sign up based on this box? Good value? Fun factor increases the value? Let me know what you think. I'm not canceling the subscription yet, I still like surprises, but wondering if I could spend that $50 better.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Sunday Salon and Feeding Your Soul with a Good Book

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! Yes, it's that day of the week we put aside  a little of our time to talk books… So, grab a cup of joe, find a comfy chair and relax.

My reading week had been engrossed in a book I talked about in last week's Sunday Salon - All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, which takes place during WWII about a blind girl who is raised by her father in Paris and a German orphan boy who grows up to be part of the Nazi intelligence. Their two stories merge when the girl and her father flee to the port city of Saint Malo, when Paris becomes part of the German occupation, and the German boy, now a man, lands in Saint Malo. The writing is wonderful, the story is so interesting and I cannot put it down. More on that after I finish it, but I think it's going to be one of those great stories that will stay with me for a while.

There are a few books that hit my radar when I did manage to poke my head out of the pages of that book…

Our Happy Time by Gong Ji-young… "Already a wildly popular bestseller in South Korea, this gripping and passionate debut novel is a death row love story of crime, punishment, and forgiveness"

Yu-Jung, beautiful, wealthy, and bright, is lying in her hospital bed, recovering from her third suicide attempt, when she receives a life-changing visit. Her no-nonsense aunt, a nun, appears by her side and suggests Yu-Jung accompany her on a charitable visit to death row. At her lowest ebb, Yu-Jung is resistant. But something compels her to go to the prison. There she meets Yun-Soo, a convicted murderer who will soon be put to death. Though she is repulsed by his crimes, something about the depth of his suffering strikes a chord in her. Shaken by their encounter, she returns to visit him the next week. And the next… Through their weekly, hour-long meetings, Yu-Jung and Yun-Soo slowly reveal to each other the dark secrets of their pasts and the hidden traumas that have shaped their lives. In doing so they form a deep, unbreakable bond, helping one another overcome their demons. But Yun-Soo’s hands are always in cuffs, the prison officers are always in the background, and they can never lose sight of the fact that their happy time together is tragically brief.

This book is already a smash hit in South Korea and has gotten rave reviews. In fact, Gong Ji-young is a best selling author in South Korea and this is her first book translated into English. I have a eGalley on my Nook and can't wait to start reading to see if it's going to live up to all the hype. I did take a peek at some of the first few chapters and I loved the intro…

"I am going to tell you a story. It is a story of murder. It is a story of a family that was only capable of destruction, where screaming and yelling and whippings and chaos and curses were their daily bread…"

I'll be sinking my teeth into this book next, so stay tuned for my review!

The Moon Sisters by Therese Walsh… After their mother's probable suicide, sisters Olivia and Jazz take steps to move on with their lives. Jazz, logical and forward-thinking, decides to get a new job, but spirited, strong-willed Olivia—who can see sounds, taste words, and smell sights—is determined to travel to the remote setting of their mother's unfinished novel to lay her spirit properly to rest. Already resentful of Olivia’s foolish quest and her family’s insistence upon her involvement, Jazz is further aggravated when they run into trouble along the way and Olivia latches to a worldly train-hopper who warns he shouldn’t be trusted. As they near their destination, the tension builds between the two sisters, each hiding something from the other, until they are finally forced to face everything between them and decide what is really important.

This is touted as a coming of age novel. I like the idea of the sisters going on this adventure together, and look forward to how the story wraps itself around these two.

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman… Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a Coney Island boardwalk freak show that thrills the masses. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father’s “museum,” alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred-year-old turtle. One night Coralie stumbles upon a striking young man taking pictures of moonlit trees in the woods off the Hudson River. The dashing photographer is Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who has run away from his father’s Lower East Side Orthodox community and his job as a tailor’s apprentice. When Eddie photographs the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the suspicious mystery behind a young woman’s disappearance and ignites the heart of Coralie.

Alice Hoffman is a great storyteller and this novel sounds like a quirky love story, with all the elements of a innocent girl being rescued from her evil captor and whisked off to mysterious other world. I look forward to reading, which was published this past February.

Other bookish things this week include my surprise box from Book Riot. Book Riot is part of a program  from Quarterly Company that boxes up little surprise boxes filled with stuff you're interested in. You can subscribe yearly or try one box. Book Riot is all about readers, so they box up bookish things. This was my first "box" and I subscribed because I just love surprises, and couldn't resist a surprise box filled with bookish things. It's a bit expensive - $50 a quarter if you subscribe, $50 plus shipping if you just order one box to try. Was I impressed? Come back Monday and we'll look at what came in the box and I'll tell share my thoughts on fun versus value.

In The News… Amazon Prime members dues are going up. Yes, the fee Amazon Prime members pay for free shipping, free Kindle lending and other member only perks is going up $20 to $99. I have been a Prime Member from the beginning and have more than made my "dues" up in free shipping, but $99 is pushing it just a little. I don't think I'll be unsubscribing, but it did make me pause since I'm using the library more, downloading more eBooks and not ordering as much as I once did of "other things". If you aren't a Prime Member and were considering joining, if you join before the new price is in effect, April 17th, you'll get a whole year at the old price of $79.

How was your reading week? Reading anything you've just got to share with someone?! I'd love to hear about it! I'm always on the lookout for great reads! And what do you think about Amazon Prime? Are you a member? Worth the price?

Have a great week! And don't forget to stop back this week to see what bookish things I got in my Book Riot box!

Happy reading… Suzanne

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Sunday Salon and Spring Ahead with Great New Books

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! It's that time of the week to relax, find a comfy chair and talk books. So grab a cup of joe and lets chat about books!

It's been crazy cold & snowing like anything in Connecticut the past few weeks, and I'm really over winter now! Spring can't come soon enough for me or soon enough for some great books! So, I thought I would leave the snow & cold behind today and look towards some great books coming this Spring…

Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas ButlerWelcome to Little Wing. It’s a place like hundreds of others, nothing special, really. But for four friends—all born and raised in this small Wisconsin town—it is home. And now they are men, coming into their own, or struggling to do so. One of them never left, still working the family farm that has been tilled for generations. But others felt the need to move on, with varying degrees of success. One trades commodities, another took to the rodeo circuit, and one of them even hit it big as a rock star. And then there’s Beth, a woman who has meant something special in each of their lives. Now all four are brought together for a wedding. Little Wing seems even smaller than before. While lifelong bonds are still strong, there are stresses—between the friends, between husbands and wives. There will be heartbreak, but there will also be hope, healing, even heroism as these memorable people learn the true meaning of adult friendship and love.

Seldom has the American heartland been so richly and accurately portrayed. Though the town may have changed, the one thing that hasn’t is the beauty of the Wisconsin farmland, the lure of which emerges as a vibrant character in the story.

This book is betting plenty of positive buzz from the publishing industry. It sounds like a wonderful story of friendship with a wonderful backdrop. A kind of book you can sit back and relax to read, but something you should still be able to sink your teeth in. I have not been able to read any excerpts, so I'm not sure about the writing, but I'm putting this on my tbr list anyway. Shotgun Lovesongs is being published by Thomas Dunne Books and is coming out March 11, 2014.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony DoerrMarie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie- Laure’s converge.

This book has gotten amazing pre publishing praise! The word is that the "imagery is stunning", and the writing is "moving". Anthony Doerr certainly put his time in with investing 10 years to write this novel. This time period has produced some amazing fiction, including The Book Thief, and if all the hype is true, I think this is going to be a must read this year. Sounds like a potential great book club read too. All The Light We Cannot See is being published by Scribner and pub date of May 6, 2014. On my TBR list now.

The Undertaking of Lily Chen by Danica Novgorodoff…  Deshi, a hapless young man living in northern China, is suddenly expelled from ordinary life when his brother dies in an accident. Holding Deshi responsible for his brother’s death, his parents send him on a mission to acquire a corpse bride to accompany his brother into the afterlife, in accordance with an ancient Chinese tradition that has many modern adherents. Eligible dead girls are in short supply, however. When Deshi falls into company with a young--and single--woman named Lily, he sees a solution to his problems. The only hitch is that willful, tart-tongued Lily is still very much alive. As Deshi and Lily adventure through a breathtaking mountain landscape, meeting a host of eccentric characters and dangerous adversaries along the way, Deshi just can’t decide whether to kiss the girl or to kill her.

This is a graphic novel coming out of First Second Books, and that alone piques me interest because the last two graphic novels I have really enjoyed have been published by them (Sailor TwainRelish).  The combination of Chinese folklore and what appears to be a fun adventure should make this a good graphic novel. The sample of the artwork for The Undertaking of Lily Chen, did not blow me away, but I'm counting on the story to make up for that. Publication date is March 25th, 2014. On my wish list.

Weekly Recap… Anniversary week saw 2 giveaways and a book review! …

*Congrats to Heather C. for winning the Happy Blogoversary giveaway of ANY book I reviewed over the past 4 years! Heather chose to receive a copy of Dark Witch by Nora Roberts, the first in her Nora Roberts newest trilogy set in Ireland with family curses, witches and as always a nice touch of romance.

*Congrats to Linda K. for winning a copy of the Audiobook Love & War by Mary Matalin and James Carville during the Memoir Monday blogoversary giveaway. A great book that goes beyond politics and policies to a story of love, kids and trying to remain sane in a Washington, DC existence.

*My review for Love & War by Mary Matalin and James Carville was posted for Memoir Monday, February 17th. I really enjoyed their story and their reading alternate sections was wonderful.

Personal Update… Last week was a busy one for me as I endured physical therapy 3 times a week, plus a rigorous regime at home. Whew! I'm out of the wheelchair and learning to walk with the aid of a walker. My arms will probably look like Hulk Hogans until I build up the strength in my legs! But I have a nice pile of books now to catch up with! INCLUDING a wonderful little book form Little, Brown and Company called Black Lake by Johanna Lane. Watch out for a review of this little gem next week- it was a wonderful surprise when I found it in the mail and it was even more wonderful as I opened it up to get a feel for it and could not put it down.

So, how was your reading week?! Any books you're looking forward to this Spring?! Share what you've found, I'd love to hear about them all!

Happy reading… Suzanne
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