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, October 31, 2014

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Rabbit Doubt by Yoshiki Tonogai... A Review of the 2 Book Manga Series

Rabbit Doubt by Yoshiki Tonogai... There's a game going around Japan called 'Rabbit Doubt'. The premise of the game is that all of the players are rabbits in a colony, and one amongst them is randomly chosen to be a wolf that infiltrated the group of rabbits. Every round, the wolf kills off a rabbit, and every round, the group tries to figure out which of the rabbits is actually a wolf in disguise. Sometimes the kids who play this game decide to meet up in person, and Yuu, Mitsuki, Rei, Hajime, Eiji, and Haruka have done just that. Unfortunately, one of them has decided to take on the mantle of the wolf and has already killed once.

When I read about this Manga, the premise intrigued me. It had something a little "more" than the average Manga story. It's a guessing game, a deadly guessing game, and the reader is guessing right along with the characters involved. And the story is good! The artwork is good too, although at the very beginning I was confusing a couple of the girl characters because they looked so similar. But that worked out as soon as "the game" began...

So, what about the story and "the game"? The start of the story is about this group of kids who play this game called Doubt (or Rabbit Doubt) virtually, on their cellphones, and who decide to actually meet. After they get together, and we start to get acquainted with them ourselves, they decide to go out. Strange things happen and then mysteriously, no one can remember how, they all wind up in this abandoned building. The doors are all locked. Everyone has a bar code tattooed on them, which they are soon to discover can open certain doors. Can they work together to get out of there?! When one of them dies, they know that they are playing "the game" for real and must determine who the wolf is before everyone dies. This pits them against each other to a point, with fingers pointing and accusations flying until they start to try and solve the mystery of who has had the opportunity to kill. And YOU are trying to solve the mystery right along with them!

The story just slowly draws you in until you are turning those pages to see what happens next...

I'm not going to reveal anything here to spoil it for you, just know that this is a 2 book series. Book 1 ends with 2 people and the killer, and we still aren't quite sure who is who, which leads the reader to Book 2, which starts where Book 1 left off and then a killer plot twist (sorry had to use that) half way through the story and another twist at the end! I did not expect the plot twist in the middle, and then another plot twist makes this a better than average Manga. Plus there's a little opening at the end for possibly another story to come along.

Book 1 is 398 pages... Book 2 is 445 pages. It took me a couple of days to read them both, because I just had to keep reading along. I only bought Book 1 at first, but when I got to the end of it, I HAD to pick up the next book, so be warned you'll want to know how it ends and you can only find out in the next book.

*P.S. There is some violence here, so I would not recommend for very young readers.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Children's Corner… Is a Worry Worrying You? by Ferida Wolff and Harriet May Savitz, a Review

Is a Worry Worrying You?
                ... by Ferida Wolff and Harriet May Savitz

Worry takes on the form of a BIG blue/green furry monster is this cautionary tale to children on how to tame the worry monster.

The carefree life we imagine for children is in reality sometimes fraught with all sorts of stress. How to help children deal with their stress? In Is a Worry Worrying You, the authors use whimsical illustrations to help children learn how to creatively make worries go away…

What if you "had a lots elephants over and didn't have any tea to serve them?!" Well, you'd just serve them lemonade instead! Or, what if a monster lives under your bed and you're afraid to go to sleep? Well, "you can get rid of that worry by singing the monster lullabies until you both fall asleep." Creative ideas to get your child brainstorming their own solutions to their BIG blue/green furry monster.

Wonderful illustrations that will make you and your child smile as you turn the pages of this creative book on how to deal with stress. 32 pages, geared towards 4 - 8 year olds, and published by Tanglewood Press. Adults could also take a lesson from these pages, because we all have stress now and again! I enjoyed the humorous ways the authors presented dealing with the silly problems illustrated, and thought the illustrations were wonderful. 3 1/2 Big Blue/Green Furry Monsters for creativity!

I want to thank Tanglewood Press for the eGalley for my honest review!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Memoir Monday presents… The Birds of Pandemonium by Michele Raffin

There are plenty of books about animals out there, but tucked in between them you can find some special gems. That's what I thought when I heard about The Birds of Pandemonium: Life Among the Exotic and the Endangered by Michele Raffin. As I read the preface, I was immediately drawn in. Michele's writing is wonderful, lively and engaging and you can tell she genuinely loves her birds. And it's about these birds, their personalities, that make this a heartwarming read. Here's what the publisher has to say about this book…

Each morning at first light, Michele Raffin steps outside into the bewitching bird music that heralds another day at Pandemonium Aviaries. A full symphony that swells from the most vocal of more than 350 avian throats representing more than 40 species. “It knocks me out, every day,” she says.

Pandemonium, the home and bird sanctuary that Raffin shares with some of  the world’s most remarkable birds, is a conservation organization dedicated to saving and breeding birds at the edge of extinction, with the goal of eventually releasing them into the wild. In The Birds of Pandemonium, she lets us into her world—and theirs. Birds fall in love, mourn, rejoice, and sacrifice; they have a sense of humor, invent, plot, and cope. They can teach us volumes about the interrelationships of humans and animals.

Their amazing stories make up the heart of this book. There’s Sweetie, a tiny quail with an outsize personality; the inspiring Oscar, a disabled Lady Gouldian finch who can’t fly but finds a brilliant way to climb to the highest perches of his aviary to roost. The ecstatic reunion of a disabled Victoria crowned pigeon, Wing, and her brother, Coffee, is as wondrous as the silent kinship that develops between Amadeus, a one-legged turaco, and an autistic young visitor.

As we come to know the individual birds, we also come to understand how much is at stake for many of these species. One of the aviary’s greatest success stories is breeding the gorgeous green-naped pheasant pigeon, whose home in the New Guinea rainforest is being decimated. Thanks to efforts at Pandemonium, these birds may not share the same fate as the now-extinct dodo.

The Birds of Pandemonium is about one woman’s crusade to save precious lives, and it offers rare insights into how following a passion can transform not only oneself but also the world.

Courtesy of Algonquin Books, I received an eGalley of The Birds of Pandemonium (published Oct. 7, 2014), in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Sweet Surrender of Janet Buchanan by Paula Quinn… A Review

Hold onto your Tartan, this Highlander romance is passionate, tender and HOT!

The Sweet Surrender of Janet Buchanan by Paula Quinn is a romance filled with a hunk of a Scottish Highlander, a feisty & strong willed woman and a storyline that is perfect for this sweet novella. This is the story of Janet Buchanan and Darach Grant, who have this wonderful distaste for each other, but also an unbelievable attraction to each other. She has a mind of her own and is no man's possession; He is arrogant, confident and adept with the ladies... and never shares the same bed twice. 

The story begins with Janet being ceremoniously offered up in marriage to save an attack on the castle and lands her brother is steward of. This is suppose to be just a delay tactic, while they wait for the true lord of the castle, Malcolm MacGregor, to come and protect his keep. While Malcolm is otherwise engaged, he sends none other than Darach Grant, the man who stole Janet's heart and left many months ago. But that's all he sends! Janet doesn't know which is worse, being married off to save the castle or having Darach back in her life, and HIM being the sole answer to her problem!  

The banter between them is funny and sweet, and stinging at times. AND it is wonderful! The romance starts of teasing us and then it is hot, HOT, HOT! As soon as I started reading this story, I could not stop. The writing is wonderful! Paula Quinn sets the stage with an authentic Scottish landscape, wonderful characters that are fully fleshed out, and a believable & fun romance.

My only complaint with The Sweet Surrender of Janet Buchanan is that is was too short! I thought Janet and Darach deserved more to their story, and the ending seemed a bit abrupt. But this is a novella and just a little present to the readers of her The MacGregors: Highland Heirs series. This book is 1.5 in the series, so I can only hope Janet and Darach make another appearance!

Even though I thought it was a bit short, I enjoyed every minute of this novella! I would recommend The Sweet Surrender of Janet Buchanan to any girl who loves her men in plaid, and loves a good HOT romance! I give this Highlander Romance 5 Tartans!

*BTW, I received this as an eGalley from the publisher for an honest review.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Children's Corner… Birds of a Feather by Vanita Oelschlager, a Review

Birds of a Feather: A Book of Idioms and Silly Pictures…
written by Vanita Oelschlager and illustrated by Robin Hegan

This silly and delightful book will teach children what idioms are with humorous and cute illustrations. And do you know what an idiom is?! An idiom is a group of words that have a meaning when put together, but generally nothing to do with the words themselves. One example is "It's raining cats and dogs!" It's not really raining cats and dogs, but that's an idiom. Of course it means it's raining very heavy, but what does that have to do with cats and dogs?! These idioms have origins, but what Birds of a Feather does is illustrate some of these idioms we use every day in a humorous, colorful way. The explanation of the meaning of the idiom is explained, with an example in a sentence in the corner of the page, so everyone understands.

"Goosebumps", "Bright eyed and bushy tailed", "Look what the cat dragged in", are only some of the idioms explained. Very cute and sometimes very funny illustrations make for a picture book that will be enjoyed many times after the first reading. Oh, and it's educational too! 32 pages, and written with Pre-school - 3 year olds in mind, I enjoyed it myself and I'm nowhere near 3!

BTW, I received Birds of a Feather as an eGalley from Vanita Books for an honest review. Thank you!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Palmetto Moon by Kim Boykin... A Review

Pour yourself a Sweet Tea and relax… 

Palmetto Moon by Kim Boykin is like a welcoming breeze on a warm summer day. When I opened the book for the first time, I stepped into Charleston, South Carolina and didn't look back until the last page. Kim Boykin's writing is inviting, engaging and wonderful.

Vada Hadley is a sweet Southern girl, just out of college, from a wealthy family, who is destined to marry drop dead gorgeous Justin McLeod to solidify the ties of these two wealthy families. But it's just a marriage of convenience, with Justin, quite a ladies man, who doesn't intend to change his ways and Vada not really liking Justin at all. On the eve of her wedding, Vada's Murrah, Ruth Lee, the woman who practically raised her from birth, comes up to her bedroom with her suitcase, giving Vada the option no one else wants to give her - a way out. Without any money of her own, and a handful of her designer dresses, Desmond, Ruth Lee's husband, whisks Vada off to anyplace she wants to go to escape. Vada chooses Round O, a small rural South Carolina town about 50 miles from Charlestown, where she was offered a teaching job after graduating from college. No way her family would look for her there. And so, Vada starts life as a working girl, living in a run down boarding house with a bitter old woman as a land lady, and a handsome hunk running the local diner. Hmmm, maybe things aren't so bad… romance, friendship and a wonderful portrayal of the South, Palmetto Moon is more than I could have wanted when I opened the book for the first time. Even though the year is 1947, the book has a contemporary feel to it, and it just draws you in. The romance starts very sweet (1947), but the embers underneath are HOT and don't disappoint!

I can't say enough about how much I enjoyed this book. But there are two things I can tell you…

1. I'm going to be reading more of Kim Boykin ( and I just downloaded an advanced copy of her Christmas novella, Just in Time for Christmas coming out later this month.)

2. If you like romance novels and/or Southern fiction, YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK!

I give Palmetto Moon by Kim Boykin a 5 Sweet Tea rating!

I want to thank Pump Up your Book Tours for sending along a copy of Palmetto Moon by Kim Boykin for an honest review! Thank you, I loved it!

**Kim stopped by Chick with Books to us what inspired her to write Palmetto Moon… Here's the LINK!

Guest Post with Kim Boykin... The Story Behind Palmetto Moon

Kim Boykin is an accomplished writer with 4 published novels under her belt. She has always received great reviews, written about strong Southern women,  and according to RT Book Reviews, 'her stories' feel like they’re being told across a kitchen table. Chick with Books is thrilled to have Kim Boykin stop by today to share a bit of herself and insight into her writing her novel, Palmetto Moon! Join me in a warm welcome to Kim!

The Story Behind Palmetto Moon

If I could wish ANYTHING for you, other than unlimited good health and happiness, it would be to experience that ethereal place I write from. It’s a place I learned to trust implicitly a long time ago.

With Palmetto Moon, I wrote about Round O, South Carolina as if I knew it like the back of my hand. I’d never been there before and had only driven through Walterboro, another town in the book, on the way to Edisto Island over thirty years ago. So, before I turned the Palmetto Moon manuscript into my editor, last summer, I decided I should visit to make sure I got the places right.

I was pleasantly surprised and then shocked at one of those ethereal moments. Dana and Bonita Cheney, the nice couple from the Colleton County Historical Society who showed me around Walterboro, offered to show me Round O. To be honest, with the majority of the story taking place there, and having never been there, I was more than a little nervous.

I’d sent Dana and Bonita a synopsis of Palmetto Moon, that mentioned Miss Mamie’s Boarding House. When we got to Round O, which really is a crossroads community (for those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a crossroads with a few houses, maybe a church, a little store,) Dana asked me if I’d like to see Miss Mamie’s Boarding House.

There on the corner was a dilapidated two-story clapboard home that very well could have been Vada’s home in 1947. I was amazed. Then he asked me if I wanted to see what it looked like in 1947. He eased down the road about 100 feet and there was the EXACT house I’d pictured when I was writing the book. I know this picture is a little cockeyed but I was completely stunned.

A few weeks later, I approached Dick Elliott, the owner of Maverick Southern Kitchens, and nationally renowned SNOB in Charleston about contributing recipes for the book. I wanted to use them in lieu of Reader Questions. Turns out the executive chef’s name at SNOB is Frank Lee, and my hero’s name is Frank Darling. Coincidence? Maybe, but I’m tagging it as a gift from the ether.

Thank you, Kim for sharing the story behind your newest book, Palmetto Moon! And thanks for the great post!

A Little About Kim... 
Kim Boykin was raised in her South Carolina home with two girly sisters and great parents. She had a happy, boring childhood, which sucks if you’re a writer because you have to create your own crazy. PLUS after you’re published and you’re being interviewed, it’s very appealing when the author actually lived in Crazy Town or somewhere in the general vicinity.

Almost everything she learned about writing, she learned from her grandpa, an oral storyteller, who was a master teacher of pacing and sensory detail. He held court under an old mimosa tree on the family farm, and people used to come from all around to hear him tell stories about growing up in rural Georgia and share his unique take on the world.

As a stay-at-home mom, Kim started writing, grabbing snip-its of time in the car rider line or on the bleachers at swim practice. After her kids left the nest, she started submitting her work, sold her first novel at 53, and has been writing like crazy ever since.

Thanks to the lessons she learned under that mimosa tree, her books are well reviewed and, according to RT Book Reviews, feel like they’re being told across a kitchen table. She is the author of The Wisdom of Hair from Berkley, Steal Me, Cowboy and Sweet Home Carolina from Tule, and Palmetto Moon, also from Berkley 8/5/14. While her heart is always in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, she lives in Charlotte and has a heart for hairstylist, librarians, and book junkies like herself.
Kim Boykin stopped by Chick with Books today as part of her Virtual Book Tour hosted by Pump Up Your Book. You can learn more about Kim at her website,, and you can also read an excerpt of the first chapter to Palmetto Moon HERE!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Children's Corner… Mr. Squirrel and the Moon by Sebastian Meschenmoser, a Review

Mr. Squirrel and the Moon 
                                    Sebastian Meschenmoser

Mr. Squirrel is in a panic! The Moon has landed on his tree! He's just got to get rid of it before someone thinks HE has stolen it and throws him in prison! As he tries to solve his problem he accidentally makes it the problem of his friend the Hedgehog, and then a billy goat, until some mice happen to come by and help them all out.

This is a delightful story that children will love to have read to them or to read to themselves, time & time again, with beautiful drawings that complement the story perfectly! It's 48 pages and geared towards 4 - 8 year olds, but I enjoyed it myself and so will you! Cute and funny, you'll be seeing the moon in a whole different light after reading this! I give it 4 Moons!

You'll have to wait a bit to pick this up, though, it's publishing date is January 2015! I want to thank North South Books for the eGalley of Mr. Squirrel and the Moon for my honest review!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Mailbox Monday

Welcome to Mailbox Monday! It's a weekly event for bloggers to share what books arrived in their mailboxes. Mailbox Monday was originally created by Marcia of To Be Continued and is now hosted by Vicki, Serena and Leslie at Mailbox Monday's own blog.

It's been a romantic week in my mailbox! I've gotten some great books that will be welcoming me into the arms of a hunky Highlander, a Scottish Prince, a pirate, a lord, and land me finally in time for Christmas, back into South Carolina, where I am lingering now thanks to Palmetto Moon by Kim Boykin, which I finished recently but still feel like I'm there. And after all that, I'm going to fire up the slow cooker to learn some new recipes courtesy of Dina Cheney and Taunton Press.

Here's what came in my mailbox this week and what the publishers tell us about them... all were digitally downloaded...

The Sweet Surrender of Janet Buchanan... 
SHE WOULD NOT BE CONQUERED... Janet Buchanan is no man's property. She refuses to marry her family's sworn enemy-consequences be damned. She'd rather take a dagger to the brute herself. Yet when a tantalizing-and infuriating-man from her past comes to her rescue, Janet finds herself undeniably tempted by his hot, hungry kiss.

HE COULD NOT BE TAMED... Notorious for his prowess as a lover and a fighter, Darach Grant has only one goal in mind: to defend his kin's land from the impending siege of a hostile clan. The last thing he needs is the delicious distraction of Janet Buchanan-the only woman who can stir his ire as deeply as she warms his blood. But Janet's intended will stop at nothing to claim her,     forcing Darach to choose between surrendering his honor . . . or his heart.

The Prince Who Love Me by Karen Hawkins... Romance sizzles in this Cinderella story set in Scotland, the first in a sparkling new spinoff series from New York Times bestselling author Karen Hawkins. Prince Alexsey Romanovin enjoys his carefree life, flirting—and more—with every lovely lady who crosses his path. But when the interfering Duchess Natasha decides it’s time for her grandson to wed, Alexsey finds himself in Scotland, determined to foil her plans. Brainy, bookish, and bespectacled, Bronwyn Murdoch seems the perfect answer—she isn’t at all to the Duchess’s taste. Living at the beck and call of her ambitious stepmother and social butterfly stepsisters, Bronwyn has little time for a handsome flirt—no matter how intoxicating his kisses are. After all, no spoiled, arrogant prince would be seriously interested in a firm-minded female like herself. So…wouldn’t it be fun to turn his “game” upside down and prove that an ordinary woman can bring a prince to his knees…

Alanna by Katherine Bittner Roth... 
Wolf caught the faint scent of cinnabar and roses.
The girl turned her head and stared boldly at him, her cool demeanor at odds with the fire in her look. And then her lips parted, as if she needed more air. A punch of lust hit Wolf's groin.
There was pure sin in his startling blue eyes.
The moment hung suspended between them, and then expanded as his feral gaze held hers. Stranger? Not to Alanna. He went by the name of Wolf, and he was a legend in these parts, known from San Francisco to Boston as a relentless tracker of lost persons. His quest to find his mother's killer would lead him to Alanna...and his destiny.
In his arms, she would never be lost again. . .

Moonlight Raider by Amanda Scott... 
Border lord Walter Scott of Rankilburn, grief-stricken after burying his father, goes to the forest seeking solace. Instead he finds a half-naked young lady fleeing pursuit. Wat offers his protection, but honor demands that he return the golden-eyed beauty to her rightful husband-even though the last thing he wants is to see her in another man's arms.

Molly Cockburn has fled her home, family, and the brutal scoundrel she was forced to wed. Her pursuers are closing in when the powerful new Lord of Rankilburn bravely intervenes, then promises to help prove her marriage unlawful. Though fiercely loyal to her family, Molly fears they might harm the man she is coming to love, and now she must decide whether to remain faithful to her blood . . . or to her heart.

Just in Time For Christmas by Kim Boykin... Nobody does Christmas like Miranda Hamilton, and now that she finally has her chance to chair Magnolia Bay's tree lighting and the cotillion, which benefits her late mother’s breast cancer foundation, this Christmas is shaping up to be the best ever. That is until her childhood nemesis Logan Mauldin buys his way on her committee and starts making plans of his own. 

Logan Mauldin loves to get under Miranda's very sexy skin, and it's only fair. She's been getting under his since long before their first kiss at 13. Logan’s the last man interested in co-chairing a Christmas committee or participating in a sexy bachelor auction, but since that night he interrupted Miranda on a date and cornered her under the mistletoe, he can't stop thinking about her. Or vying for her attention and bugging the hell out of her.

Christmas cheer isn’t the only thing that heats up between the Miranda and Logan, but, thanks to a lie that is as much her fault as it is his, he loses the woman he’s loved since forever. Logan will need a Christmas miracle for Miranda to forgive him. A grand gesture to melt her heart and win her back just in time for Christmas.

Year Round Slow Cooker: 100 Favorite Recipes for Every Season by Dina Cheney...
Make more than stew in your slow cooker! Year-Round Slow Cooker gives you an eye-opening look at 100 amazing recipes you can make in this handy device. See how the crock pot you depend on for chilly-weather soups and stews is so much more versatile than you may think.

25 innovative recipes for each season. Author and cooking teacher Dina Cheney taps into the growing trend for eating fresh and uses her know-how to make it easy for the home cook. She has developed 25 slow-cooker recipes for each season that feature fresh, seasonal ingredients. Along with classics like corned beef and cabbage, you can also enjoy summer Greek-style brisket, peach and apricot bread pudding, Asian-style short ribs, and more. Get the most from your slow cooker. With Year-Round Slow Cooker you can simplify meal prep, prepare make-ahead dishes, and eat fresh from January to December.

I am so excited to have my eReader filled with these wonderful books! Thank you to all the publishers. Look for my reviews on all these books coming soon... 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Sunday Salon and Tell Me a Story... Short Story Collections

When I was a kid, I loved bedtime stories! I still love them now, but they take the form of a different genre... Short Stories. Sometimes you just don't have time to invest in a full length novel, but you hunger to read all the same.

There are many great writers who love writing short stories. Ray Bradbury is famous for writing a short story every day. William Sydney Porter, also known as O'Henry, was such a beloved short story writer that there is an award in his name, the O'Henry Award. Who hasn't read Edgar Allen Poe or Washington Irving, both wonderful short story writers, during the month of October? Alice Munro even won the Nobel Prize in Literature, and she ONLY writes short stories.

Where to find some great short stories? Here are 3 newly published collections that may satisfy that late night snack called reading...

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel... Penetrating characterization, unsparing eye, and rascally intelligence are fully on display in this collection of stories. Mantel's classic wicked humor in each story—which range from a ghost story to a vampire story to near-memoir to mini-sagas of family and social fracture—brilliantly unsettles the reader in that unmistakably Mantel way. Mantel brutally and acutely writes about gender, marriage, class, family, and sex, cutting to the core of human experience. Unpredictable, diverse, and even shockingly unexpected, each story grabs you by the throat within a couple of sentences.

Hilary Mantel has won numerous literary awards, including 2 Man Booker Prizes, and now offers us up some of that great writing in smaller tidbits. This has gotten a lot of great press and I have put it on my TBR list! 

Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood... A recently widowed fantasy writer is guided through a stormy winter evening by the voice of her late husband. An elderly lady with Charles Bonnet’s syndrome comes to terms with the little people she keeps seeing, while a newly-formed populist group gathers to burn down her retirement residence. A woman born with a genetic abnormality is mistaken for a vampire. And a crime committed long-ago is revenged in the Arctic via a 1.9 billion year old stromatalite. In these nine tales, Margaret Atwood ventures into the shadowland earlier explored by fabulists and concoctors of dark yarns such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Daphne du Maurier and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Margaret Atwood, famous for her speculative fiction (that's kind of like science fiction without all the interstellar travel) gives us a sampling of her writing with her take on short stories. No stranger to short stories, these stories from Margaret Atwood should prove satisfying as always. Another book on my wish list!

What Happened Here, a novella & stories by Bonnie ZoBell...  A  wildly different cast of characters living on the same block in North Park, San Diego, site of the PSA Flight 182 crash in 1978. The crash is history, but its legacy seeps in the stories of the neighborhood’s inhabitants, bringing grief, anxiety, and rebellion to the surface and eventually assists in burning clean the lives of those who live in the shadow of disaster. Amidst the pathos of contemporary life, humor flits through these stories like the macaws that have taken to the trees of North Park. The birds ensure that there’s never a dull moment in the neighborhood, and their outrageous colors and noisome squawks serve as constant reminds of regrowth.

I was excited to receive this short story collection to review because the stories sounded so grounded. Stories about real people dealing with real situations. The reviews for this book have been wonderful and Bonnie ZoBell, even though she is not a household name (yet), has won numerous accolades and awards for her writing. I'm looking forward to cracking the spine on Bonnie's collection of stories and will be reviewing it soon!

So, do you read short stories? I know a lot of readers who don't, because they feel that these collections are not "real" books. I don't prefer short stories, but it is a nice escape. Any recommendations for our short story reading?! Let me know what some of your favorite short stories are! In the meantime...

Happy reading... Suzanne

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Speculative Fiction... Isn't it all Speculation?!

Ok, Speculative Fiction... Do you know what it is? I've never really paid attention to the term, but there it was when I recently tried to define Margaret Atwood. She's not quite science fiction, but her world is NOT what we normally encounter. BUT, it could be...

Most people refer to speculative fiction, a term coined by Robert Heinlein, one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time, as belonging to science fiction, fantasy and horror, but it doesn't necessarily have to be any of those. What is does have to be is a kind of what if scenario. The Hunger Games is a good example. It's not what you'd normally consider sci-fi, but it's something not quite of this world. If things were just a little different in our present day, The Hunger Games could be plausible. Like Dystopian fiction, these worlds, plots, characters, could be a reality if things were tweaked just right. But wouldn't you say EVERYTHING is "Speculative"? Fiction is just that - fiction, and the author tries, and mostly succeeds, to make us believe that the story is plausible.

What do you think?

P.S. Some popular books referred to as "speculative fiction" ...

The Hobbit by Tolkien , The Giver by Lois Lowry, 1984 by George Orwell, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, and even the Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Memoir Monday and Happy Columbus Day... Or Indigenous People's Day!

Happy Columbus Day... or Indigenous People's Day! What?! People in Seattle and Minneapolis have decided to celebrate the people one the "other side" of that famous 1492 encounter. They will celebrate the people that were indigenous to the "new world" and their culture. When I was a child, we learned that Columbus discovered America in 1492... but then that wasn't exactly the case and the Indians that Columbus encountered didn't fare very well in the end.  But, whichever Holiday you celebrate, and 16 states don't celebrate Columbus Day at all, and South Dakota has celebrated Native American Day since 1990, Christopher Columbus is a man of legend. What do we really know about him? Laurence Bergreen wrote a biography, Columbus: The Four Voyages (I know, not a memoir) to enlighten us a bit on what really happened on that fateful voyage, and some of his other expeditions, to make his mark on history...

Columbus: The Four Voyages by Laurence Bergreen... Christopher Columbus’s 1492 voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a trading route to China, and his unexpected landfall in the Americas, is a watershed event in world history. Yet Columbus made three more voyages within the span of only a decade, each designed to demonstrate that he could sail to China within a matter of weeks and convert those he found there to Christianity. These later voyages were even more adventurous, violent, and ambiguous, but they revealed Columbus’s uncanny sense of the sea, his mingled brilliance and delusion, and his superb navigational skills. In all these exploits he almost never lost a sailor. By their conclusion, however, Columbus was broken in body and spirit. If the first voyage illustrates the rewards of exploration, the latter voyages illustrate the tragic costs—political, moral, and economic. In rich detail Laurence Bergreen re-creates each of these adventures as well as the historical background of Columbus’s celebrated, controversial career. Written from the participants’ vivid perspectives, this breathtakingly dramatic account will be embraced by readers of Bergreen’s previous biographies of Marco Polo and Magellan and by fans of Nathaniel Philbrick, Simon Winchester, and Tony Horwitz.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Sunday Salon and 3 Books to Sink Your Teeth Into...

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! It's the one day of the week we virtually connect to one another to talk about, what else?... BOOKS! Last week we explored Manga during Chick with Books Manga Week and I hope you've discovered some interesting reading! This week it's back to some great fiction. Here's what's on my nightstand and on my wishlist...

Secret of A Thousand Beauties by Mingmei Yip... Set against the vibrant and intrigue-laden backdrop of 1930s China, Mingmei Yip's enthralling novel explores one woman's defiant pursuit of independence. Spring Swallow was promised in marriage while still in her mother's belly. When the groom dies before a wedding can take place, seventeen-year-old Spring Swallow is ordered to become a ghost bride to appease his spirit. Under her in-laws' protection, she will be little more than a servant, unable to know real love or bear children. Refusing to accept her fate as a "bad-luck woman," Spring Swallow flees on her wedding day. In the city of Soochow, Spring Swallow joins a community of renowned embroiderers. The women work for Aunty Peony, whose exquisite stitching once earned her the Emperor's love. But when Aunty Peony agrees to replicate a famous painting--a lucrative assignment that will take a year to complete--betrayal and jealousy emerges within the group. Spring Swallow becomes entangled in each woman's story of heartbreak, even while she embarks on a dangerous affair with a young revolutionary. On a journey that leads from the remote hillsides around Soochow to cosmopolitan Peking, Spring Swallow draws on the secret techniques learned from Aunty Peony and her own indomitable strength, determined to forge a life that is truly her own.

One of my favorite authors is back with her 5th novel set in the land of China. I am so lucky to have an ARC for this and I am diving in head first. Her books always have beautiful settings, wonderful plots, intrigue, folklore, great characters and have a good bit of humor in them. Mingmei Yip never fails to trap me in the pages of her books. Secret of A Thousand Beauties will be available Nov. 25th from your local bookstore. Keep your eye out for a review from me soon.

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters... It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned, the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa, a large silent house now bereft of brothers, husband and even servants,  life is about to be transformed, as impoverished widow Mrs Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers. For with the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the 'clerk class', the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. And as passions mount and frustration gathers, no one can foresee just how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.

I started reading a sample of this and had to go out and buy the whole book. Sarah Waters is a wonderful writer. In The Paying Guests, the pace seems slow, but it isn't really, it's delicious. I felt I was slowly devouring the pages like a piece of decadent chocolate cake. Look for a review coming soon for this one too!

The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith ... Set in a small coastal town in North Carolina during the waning years of the American Revolution, this incandescent debut novel follows three generations of family—fathers and daughters, mother and son, master and slave, characters who yearn for redemption amidst a heady brew of war, kidnapping, slavery, and love. Drawn to the ocean, ten-year-old Tabitha wanders the marshes of her small coastal village and listens to her father’s stories about his pirate voyages and the mother she never knew. Since the loss of his wife Helen, John has remained land-bound for their daughter, but when Tab contracts yellow fever, he turns to the sea once more. Desperate to save his daughter, he takes her aboard a sloop bound for Bermuda, hoping the salt air will heal her. Years before, Helen herself was raised by a widowed father. Asa, the devout owner of a small plantation, gives his daughter a young slave named Moll for her tenth birthday. Left largely on their own, Helen and Moll develop a close but uneasy companionship. Helen gradually takes over the running of the plantation as the girls grow up, but when she meets John, the pirate turned Continental soldier, she flouts convention and her father’s wishes by falling in love. Moll, meanwhile, is forced into marriage with a stranger. Her only solace is her son, Davy, whom she will protect with a passion that defies the bounds of slavery.

The storyline of this book seems a lot to digest, but it sounds so interesting. To see how these two girls grow up virtually together and yet separate because of their differences in birth. This is a time period seems interesting too and I can't wait to see how North Carolina is portrayed. On my TBR list.
Weekly Recap... If you missed last week on Chick with Books, you missed Manga Week! Here's all the Manga we covered in just one week...

Last Sunday, Oct. 5th... Discovering the World of Manga... All about what Manga is, how to read it and where to find it.

Monday, Oct. 6th, Memoir Monday... A memoir about an American girl named Jamie Lynn Lao, and how she traveled to Japan to become an assistant to a Mangaka, or an artists assistant helping to draw and put out a Manga series. A behind the scenes look at how Manga are made.

Tuesday, Oct. 7th, What's So Cute About Manga... All about Cute and 2 Cute Manga's you've got to try.

Wednesday, Oct. 8th, A Review of the Manga Series called Ooku: The Inner Chambers by Fumi Yoshinaga... This is historical fiction with a dystopian take on Japanese history. LOVE this series! The women and men switch places in this series and it is so interesting. Think Shogun with women.

Friday, Oct. 10th, A Review of the Manga Series called Battle Royale by Koushun Takami and Masayuki Taguchi... Before The Hunger Games there was Battle Royale. Amazing Story, Graphic and Beautifully drawn this is a must read... if you can get through it.

Saturday, Oct. 11th, One Shot Manga's and 3 You Should Read Now... You don't need to always read a series of books to enjoy Manga. One Shots are stories that are complete in one book.

So, there's the recap of what we talked about all last week... Now lets add some more fun Manga to that (follow the links to learn more...)

Oh! My Goddess by Kosuke Fujishima, xxxHolic by CLAMP,  Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi, Emma by Kaoru Mori (Victorian England), Midnight Secretary  by Tomu Ohmi (Vampire Romance Manga), Uzumaki by Junji Ito (Horror Manga).

So as we put down our Manga, what good books have you picked up this week?! Share them here! I'd love to know what's on your nightstand. And if you did you get a chance to check out some Manga, I'd love to know what you thought!

Happy reading... Suzanne

Saturday, October 11, 2014

One Shot Manga's and 3 You Should Put in Your TBR Pile Now!

In the world of Manga, series are "the norm", with some series going on for 10 or more years with over 40 volumes. But do we really want to get involved with a series that's on book 35?! And do we always want to read a series? There is another choices of Manga called One Shots. One Shots are just that - one full complete story in one book. Usually, these One Shots start out in a Manga magazine, running 40 - 60 pages.  If the story proves popular, then it possibly will be turned into a series. There are many popular series that started out as One Shots such as Naruto, Bleach, and Death Note. If we are lucky enough, One Shots that are popular are published as a book and made available here in the States (for us Manga readers who don't read the Manga magazines). Here are 3 One Shots you should check out...

Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms by Fumiyo Kouno  ...What impact did World War II and the dropping of the atomic bomb have on the common people of Japan? Through the eyes of an average woman living in 1955, Japanese artist Fumiyo Kouno answers these questions. This award-winning manga appears in an English translation for the first time. Fumiyo Kouno's light, free style of drawing evokes a tender reflection of this difficult period in Hiroshima's postwar past. As the characters continue with everyday life, the shadow of the war and the atomic bombing linger ghostlike in the background. Kouno's beautiful storytelling touches the reader's heart but is never overly sentimental. A widely embraced best seller in Japan, where the work was also controversial, Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms is the winner of several prestigious awards including Grand Prize at the 8th Japan Media Arts Festival (2004), New Life Award at the 9th Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prizes (2005). Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms is made up of interconnected short stories; the first is a love story entitled Town of Evening Calm; followed by the two-part story Country of Cherry Blossoms 

A story collection that is suppose to be and heart wrenching and thought provoking. Many good reviews and recommendations on this collection. I liked the artwork from what I sampled. It is expressive and flowing. It should be interesting how Fumiyo Kouno weaves the story of the present, or in the case of the first story, 10 years after the bomb, with the subtle reminders of the bomb just hovering in the background.

All My Darling Daughters by Fumi Yoshinaga ... From Goodreads: By the Eisner-winning author of Antique Bakery and Ôoku. R to L (Japanese Style). Yukiko, a salarywoman in her thirties, still lives with her mother Mari. But their relationship suffers a sudden change when Mari announces that she’s getting married—to an ex-host and aspiring actor who’s younger than Yukiko. Yukiko, convinced he’s out to fleece her mom, can’t stand to stay in the house and decides to move in with her boyfriend. Fumi Yoshinaga weaves together the lives of Yukiko, a thirty something salary woman, and her friends in five short stories, exploring the various relationships women have with all the skill and elegance she is known for.

I have read 2 of the 5 stories. The first story introduces us to Yukiko and Mari, and their relationship as mother and daughter. The story hit the mark with how mother/daughter relationships can be. The end of the story, the last panel, hit an emotional note that left me wanting more. Story 2 was strange to say the least. All the stories have the thread of Yukiko and story 2 is about an acquaintance who was the victim of sexual harassment with a strange twist. I'm hoping the stories return to Yukiko and her mother because Fumi Yoshinaga seems to be able to translate what can be a very complicated relationship into words and drawings that bleed understanding.

Sexy Voice and Robo by Iou Kuroda... She calls herself Sexy Voice. To most of the world, she's just Hayashi Niko, an ordinary schoolgirl - but when time permits, she lives a double life as a hired investigator/spy. To help her, she has recruited the rather unlikely assistant she calls Robo, a geeky lump of a man who doesn't really know why he feels the need to do everything she tells him to. He just does it. Together, the odd team solve a number of cases for Sexy Voice's employer, an aging gangster.

I read the first story in this One Shot Manga and just loved the smart dialogue and the story. The artwork is nice too, almost looking like woodcuts. It's a fun story, with Hayashi (Sexy Voice) having the skills to investigate because of her experience as a telephone operator (a.k.a. sex phone operator). She knows what makes people tick (very helpful in both her jobs). The first story introduces the 3 main characters, Sexy Voice, Robo, and the aging gangster, and lays the foundation of how they start to investigate cases together. Love this so far!

As we wrap up Manga Week on Chick with Books, I hope you've found some great reading. Manga can be fun & lighthearted or serious & thought-provoking. For me, it's an escape from what I normally read. And the silly outrageous stories I've found always make me smile. What makes you smile? Are you ready to try some Manga now?!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami and Masayuki Taguchi... A Review on the series

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami and Masayuki Taguchi... Long before there were the Hunger Games there was Battle Royale. It is a gritty, violent, artistically beautiful Manga series based on the original book by Koushun Takami about 42 ninth graders who think they are going on a class trip only to discover that they are the new contestants in "the program", a reality tv show that is fought to the death, with only one student allowed to survive. They are fitted with an explosive collar and given a bag of supplies, included with those supplies is a randomly selected weapon to protect themselves or ultimately kill. Every 24 hours, someone must die or else "Central Command" will kill everyone.

The series spans 15 volumes, a movie and an actual book that everything stems from. It is an amazing series, one that will leave you in awe if you can get through it...

I did not know what to expect when I picked up that first book. The premise reminded me of The Hunger Games, but this is not your Hunger Games... this is more. It is an amazing storytelling feat as well, because even though there are 42 students, you will get an intimate look at each one. The character development is incredible with so many in the story, but there are sub-stories and plots, and in these "mini-stories" we get to know each and every one of those students. 

While reading we experience intrigue, mystery, friendship, love, sex, fear, and anger for the children that must go through this program. The story is gripping and even with the violence, you will need to know what happens next. But it isn't all violence, although what violence is here is brutal. There is an underlying story of friendship and sacrifice. And you become invested in some of these characters, hoping that they'll make it out in one piece.

Some of my thoughts on this Manga...
     1. The artwork is beautiful. The drawings are so compelling and expressive, but this also means some of it is VERY graphic. These children die violent deaths.

     2. Even though these are suppose to be ninth graders, most of them appear to be much older, say 17 or 18 years of age. This would also explain some of the blatant sex that exists in some of the pages.
     3. I wouldn't recommend this to young children because of the violence, and even with adults, some of this is hard to take...

BUT, the story is gripping, on the edge of your seat kind of reading. The dialogue is great, the sub-plots are captivating. Should you read this? All I can say is that I could not put this down, but the violence gave me nightmares. I read all 15 books in about a week.

5 stars for the story, 5 stars for the violence.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Ooku: The Inner Chambers by Fumi Yoshinaga... A Review of the Series

Ooku: The Inner Chambers by Fumi Yoshinaga... Let me just say that this is an amazing Manga series. If you love dystopian fiction, this should be right up your alley. The artwork is beautiful, the story is based on actual history with an interesting twist - it's based on Japanese history of the Edo period, where the Shogun is the leader, but the Shogun is not a man as was the actual history in this series, it's a woman. In Ooku: The Inner Chambers, there has been a terrible Red Pox disease that has taken the lives of most of the men before they reach manhood, so the women are the ruling class in this alternate history and it is such a great story! Talk about role reversal!
There are 9 volumes in this series, so far. It is ongoing, with volume 10 coming out in mid-november. Each volume a little over 200 pages, and filled with intrigue, jealousy, revenge, love, sex, friendship and kindness.The story flows through each volume, following the lives, loves and friendships of the ruling Shogun until that Shogun passes the rule to the next in line. It is story rich in tradition and so full of depth that it's hard to believe that it's a piece of fiction. The characters are alive and the story is moving. I am almost through all nine volumes, only stopping briefly to read my book club's monthly selection.

If you enjoy Japanese history, this is a great Manga series! The dialogue is good, the artwork is beautiful, although there was a section that I was having a hard time telling some of the lead women apart, and the story will hold you captive.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

What's so cute about Manga? Let me tell you...

It's Manga Week on Chick with Books and we need to talk about cute. When I first "discovered" Manga, I only saw cute. Big eyes, bright faces, and very stylized. School girls with special powers, etc. Then I saw that there was more to it than that. And as this week will show, there are all sorts of genre of Manga. Wanting to read "real" books, I chose to stay away from "the cute"... but then I discovered some cute that I just could not resist...

Chi's Sweet Home written and illustrated by Kanata Konami... Chi is a cute playful kitten out for a walk with her mother and siblings. She's enjoying the outdoors so much that she gets lost. She can't find her mother! She's terrified & scared and collapses in the grass with tears in her eyes. Along comes a little boy named Yohei, finds Chi all alone in the park, and asks his mother if they can take her home. Well, it looks like Chi's too little to be left on her own, but the Yamada family live in a building that doesn't allow pets... OK, they take her home until they can find a permanent home for her... BUT, no one seems to be able to take her, and Chi is so cute, they end up keeping her and this it about her adventures.

Adorable doesn't come close to this Manga series! If you are a cat person, you have to read this! I'm a dog person, with some cat leanings, and I just love this series! The drawings are simple and the stories and fun. Told through the eyes of Chi, and the way she views things sometimes is hilarious, this is simple a must read.  The series continues and book 11 comes out Oct. 10th.

Yotsuba& by Kiyohiko Azuma... Yotsuba is a 5 year old little girl with green hair. The story revolves around her life with her adoptive father and their neighborhood friends. This is another cute, light and fun Manga. Yotsuba has a beautiful sense of wonder and we experience the world around her through fresh eyes. Everything is new and strange to her. The air conditioner and pizza and a multitude of everyday things. And this also hints to the fact that there is something "different" about this little girl. Where did she actually come from? She does have green hair after all... What these stories of Yotsuba teach us is to enjoy the world around us. This is a charming and heartwarming series that is still going strong too. Volume 12 came out last November, so look for volume 13 soon. Yotsuba is silly, charming and lighthearted. I enjoy reading this series now and then. It's not a "must" read for me, but when looking for something "light and easy" these stories always make me smile.

These light, fun, sometimes silly stories are very popular with a wide audience in Japan. These are not reserved for children, but are appreciated and enjoyed by adults. These types of Manga are a great escape that can simply make us smile.

Happy Manga reading... Suzanne

Monday, October 6, 2014

Memoir Monday and The Princess of Tennis: My year working in Japan as an assistant Manga Artist by Jamie Lynn Lao

The Princess of Tennis: My Year working in Japan as an assistant Manga artist by Jamie Lynn Lao seems like a fitting memoir for Manga week. This is on my TBR list simply because it's an inside look at working in the world of Manga. The book is based on Jamie's blog,

Here's the book description that Jamie shared with the online book sites...

The true story of one girl-- an American living and working in Tokyo-- and the crazy experience of working in a world-famous manga studio. Based on the blog, "Living Tall in Japan."

Not much of a description, but enough to make me want to quench my curiosity of how she landed that job and how those manga books are created. Jamie's blog posts from before the book was self-published are still there and follow her journey as an assistant without having to buy her book if you'd rather just read her blog. The book is the compilation of the blog posts with editing. Here's a great interview with Jamie from Organization Anti-Social Geniuses .

Ever have ambitions of being a Manga artist working in Japan? You can read how Jamie Lynn Lano did it in her book!

*Tomorrow on Manga Week, we talk about 2 series that will warm your heart...

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Sunday Salon and Discovering the world of Manga

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! This week I’d like to start out with something a little different... Manga! Ever read it? Like it? Confused by it? Well, I’ve gotten to enjoy Manga when I never thought I would. And THIS WEEK on Chick with Books is all about Manga. Stop by and share your thoughts, expertise and enjoy discovering some great reading...

Discover Another World... Manga

If you've ever ventured into the Manga section of your local bookstore, you may feel overwhelmed... I know I did. I was confronted with colorful covers, titles that gave me no clue as to what the book was about ("Fruit Basket"?), and books that had over 27 issues in a series! The artwork is highly stylized (big eyes, small mouths, wild colorful hair), but some of it is absolutely amazing. Between the covers there is love, sex, violence, and a whole range of emotional stories. I have since read quite a bit of Manga, and have enjoyed what I've picked out for the most part. Right now, let me share a little about Manga...

First, the definition of Manga:
Manga are Japanese comic books. Manga is often made into Japanese cartoons, or Anime. The art in Manga has a very definite look to it and is often referred to as “Manga Style.”

Next, how do you Pronounce 'Manga':
(Maw – Nnnnn – Gah) In Japanese, it is actually three syllables, although the middle "N" is spoken very quick. Americans have a habit of pronouncing it "Man-Gah", but that is not actually correct.

How to Read Manga:
Traditional Manga is read from the back of the book to the front, right to left; text and images read right to left... see illustration at right... The bold numbers represent the boxes that contain the drawings, and the circled numbers represent the order of the dialogue.

Types of Manga: These are just some of the categories
ShônenBoy’s Manga – (Pronounced Show-Nen) Usually involves action & adventure.
ShôjoGirl’s Manga – (Pronounced Show-Joe) Usually has romance & is more lighthearted.
SeinenMen’s Manga – (Pronounced Say-Nen) usually for a mature audience.
Josei (or redikomi) Women’s Manga – (Pronounced Joe-Say) usually for a mature audience.
Kodomo – Children’s Manga – (Pronounced Kow-Dow-Mow)

The word Manga can be translated as, “humorous pictures.” Manga became very popular in the 20th century when laws prohibiting the publication of those kinds of items were lifted. It has since become a huge part of Japanese culture. Unlike in America, Manga is read by most people in the country. The artists and writer of Manga are well respected for their work, much like the writers of literature in America. The stories first usually appear in serial form in a Manga magazine. If they become popular, they are reprinted in book form, usually small digests.

So now that we know a little about Manga, how do you figure out what to read? Recommendations from people who read Manga are my first choice. Next I would look through the books at my local bookstore and see what artwork & story-lines capture your attention. On the website Manga Worth Reading there is a section called 'Manga starting points', which highlights some books. And of course the online bookstores all have a comic & graphic novel section, which would include Manga. Another way, is to join a challenge and find reviews and recommendations from other people who are part of the challenge! Joining the 2014 Graphic Reading Challenge this year has lead me to reviews from others about what they've read in both graphic novels and Manga, which has opened up some interesting reading, which I am going to talk about this week during Chick with Books Manga Week! I'll be reviewing a few series and challenging you to give Manga a try. So today was a primer, and this week will be reviews on some great Manga...
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