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, February 22, 2015

The Sunday Salon and The Oscar Goes to... "Which Book?"

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! It's that day of the week where we sit down virtually with all our reader friends and talk books! And this week not only is it books, it's also movies!

For months now the media has been all abuzz about movies. It's the big push before the coveted Oscars. You see your movie theater bringing back the Oscar nominees for another go in the box office and you read all sorts of stellar reviews. That is, if you're into the big screen. I've always enjoyed a good movie, but when a book that I dearly loved is slated for the big screen I feel dread. It never use to be that way, but time and time again, I've been disappointed.

It's not entirely the movie industries fault that a movie doesn't translate (or translate for me) on the screen as well as the book. The director has a certain vision, there are time constraints that may hinder the full development of the movie on the screen, and as readers, we create in our minds the setting, the people, the everything from the author's words on the page. But sometimes it does work...

I'd have to say, all the Harry Potter books were great as movies. I loved the books and equally loved each movie. They "got it". The characters fit, the sets were brilliant, and the stories weren't chopped to fit the screen. The Time Traveler's Wife I thought was well done. It was amazing how they got all that time traveling pretty much on the mark, with the characters and the settings. The Shining was another amazing movie from a great book. It was perfect. Brokeback Mountain was amazing! I loved that movie and the short story by Annie Proulx was equally wonderful. Although a bit controversial, 2 gay cowboys falling in love, the love story was given the time and space to develop perfectly on the screen and the cinematography was beautiful.

And then there were some movies that weren't quite right... I loved the book Jurassic Park, and I do really like the movie, BUT the ending of the movie is so different from the book I was in shock while I was watching. The Reader was a moving, heart wrenching read, and the movie was wonderful UNTIL the ending. Why did "they" think they needed to change it? I don't know, but the ending in the book was perfect as it was, the ending of the movie was not. Memoirs of a Geisha was an amazing book, the movie was visually beautiful, but could not match the written word.

This year I did read one book-to-movie, a book I absolutely loved and a movie I was so disappointed with... Wild. If you did not read the book, the movie could stand alone and be good. If you read the book, you'd be wondering where half the book was. I thought the book was heart wrenching, sad, compelling, and I felt such empathy towards Cheryl Strayed, but the movie left me a bit empty. Her life was mostly told in small vignettes that just didn't have the power of the pages and pages that were devoted to how Cheryl became the woman that she was. I was doing a play by play afterwards to enlighten my husband as to the background of some of what was going on so he could better understand the circumstances.... Now, this is just one girl's opinion. My feelings may reflect my love of the book and how the movie did not live up to my expectations (which were low).

Here are a few books I LOVED that have been made into movies (and I haven't seen yet)... The Help, The Book Thief, Water for Elephants, Bridget Jones Diary, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The Kite Runner, and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.

What books have you enjoyed that have been made into a movie? Are you excited to hear a book you loved is being turned into a movie? Have you read any of the books-to-movies up for an Oscar this year? I like to read the book before I venture out to see the movie, but maybe I shouldn't anymore!

Happy reading... Suzanne

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Robot Dreams by Sara Varon… A Review

Robot Dreams by Sara Varon is wordless and a poignant venture into the nature of friendships. Sara Varon's drawings are simple and very effective, moving me to such sadness at one point…

In Robot Dreams, a dog buys himself a mail-order robot to be his friend. They become best friends, renting movies, making popcorn,  and life is wonderful, until one day dog decide to take them to the beach. After venturing in the water, robot's metal parts are rusted so that he can't move. Night comes and dog has no choice but to leave him behind.  But dog goes to the library and gets a book on robot repair and goes back to the beach, only to find the beach closed and no way to get to his friend. Both friends miss each other, but as the months pass before the beach is open again, robot lies on the beach dreaming of being reunited with his friend, but dog moves on, trying to fill the void left by his best friend with new friends. The ending brought a tear to my eye and was bittersweet, but ultimately this story is about how friendships can change over time.

I Loved this tender story. I also loved the artwork, which in muted colors absolutely conveyed the story without needing words. Written with 8 - 12 year-olds in mind, Robot Dreams has a special place on my shelf.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Secret of a Thousand Beauties by Mingmei Yip… A Review

MingMei Yip is a master storyteller. Her characters quietly move off the page and into your heart. Her stories bewitch you from the very beginning. And I look forward to every new novel that has Mingmei Yip as the author…

Secret of a Thousand Beauties is no exception to Mingmei's incredible storytelling…

We begin with meeting our young protagonist, Spring Swallow, who at seventeen is marrying a ghost. Betrothed before she was born, even though her husband-to-be died, she is obligated to fulfill the contract. What this means to Spring Swallow, is life as an indentured servant to her future mother-in-law. And as traditions go, she doesn't want any part of it. So, Spring Swallow runs away at the ceremony. With nowhere to go, and in a beautiful wedding kimono, Spring Swallow runs into a young girl, who takes pity on her and brings her home. Her home is actually the home of a master embroiderer, who has taken other young unfortunate women in before and thus allows Spring Swallow to stay and learn the trade. It is another form of prison though, and we are swept up in the beautiful art of embroidery, the wonderful culture and traditions of China, and an adventure of a girl, whose grasps at happiness are fleeting at best.

The story will enthrall you and keep you turning those pages until the story closes. Wonderful writing, a story that will wrap around your heart, and a landscape that fascinates as well as entertains. Secret of a Thousand Beauties by Mingmei Yip is story you'll long remember after the final page is turned.

I want to thank the author who sent along a copy of the book for me to read and review! I loved it!

Published by Kensington, Secret of a Thousand Beauties is available now from your local bookstore!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What Happened Here: A Novella and Stories by Bonnie ZoBell… A Review

So often we pass up collections of short stories because short stories aren't something we normally read. In order for a short story to "work", it has to be crisp and clean, a start and a finish that tells us a story, captures us and releases us in pages rather than chapters. That is what Bonnie ZoBell does with What Happened Here: A Novella & Stories. Bonnie does more than that though with this collection, this group of 10 short stories and 1 novella are linked by a tragic piece of real-estate … the area of San Diego called North Park.

In 1978 a tragedy happened in an area of San Diego called North Park. A passenger plane crashed in this neighborhood killing everyone on board and spreading unforgettable debris all over. Bonnie ZoBell takes this neighborhood and uses it as her backdrop for the novella and 10 short stories of What Happened Here. And these stories work. Each one takes on a life of their own, the characters owning the pages and letting us experience life after tragedy. Even though the stories are not about the crash per say, it seems as though the crash has a place in them. It's almost as though the crash reverberates years later, an underlying current in other stories. The first story in the collection is a novella, that captures the characters in a kind of remembrance, years later, of that crash in '78 that happened in their neighborhood. And the stories jump off from that starting point- North Park. But all the rest of the stories seem to be dealing with their own choices and tragedies almost as though the 1978 left an imprint that couldn't be shaked..Such as "Dear Sam", where Edgar writes a letter to Sam because he would understand his feelings because he experienced "the crash", or a free living Uncle, who tempts his prim and proper niece to abandoned her cookie cutter life to experience life (because you only live once). Or, my favorite story about spunky eighty-year-old Lucinda, who finds love and passion again after so many years and still wears her slippers to bingo.

Good stories that are powerful and readable. Great writing, interesting characters and a worthy collection of short stories that encourage the understanding of a full range of human emotions and experiences. Definitely a keeper and I have to thank the publisher for providing a copy of What Happened Here : A Novella and Stories by Bonnie ZoBell for my reading pleasure and a review!

I would definitely recommend this collection to anyone who enjoys reading short stories, especially ones that put you in the center of real life with characters that make real life decisions. They are thought-provoking, wonderful interconnected stories. And it's not all grim here, especially eighty-year old Lucinda who I still smile about when I think of her.

You can pick up your own copy of What Happened Here by Bonnie ZoBell at your local bookstore. OR, You can get either the paperback version of Bonnie's book or the Kindle version right now at Amazon for the bargain price of $2.50! Here are the links for the paperback and Kindle Book .

Monday, February 9, 2015

Audrey and Bill by Edward Epstein… A Review

Oh, how can you resist The Golden Age of Hollywood?! The elegance, the larger than life movie stars, the romance! I am a true romantic and I love old movies. I love movies like Casablanca, Mildred Pierce, and Gone with the Wind. It was during the 1950's, that stars like Audrey Hepburn and William Holden came into their own and captured the hearts of movie goers, and it was in the 1950's that Audrey and Bill captured the hearts of each other…

I was reading excerpts from this Springs new releases and came across this book about Audrey Hepburn and Bill Holden, Audrey and Bill by Edward Epstein. I started to read the few opening pages and couldn't stop. What a wonderful, but sad, real life love story that became a thread to link these two people together forever. I'm not a big fan of the tabloids or Hollywood gossip, but this book was written so differently. It really showed the people underneath the layer of the Hollywood lights that scrutinized them for much of their lives.

I had no idea that Audrey and Bill had a love affair, but during the filming of their first film together, and the film that would make Audrey Hepburn a star, Sabrina, they met and found in each other another person that they could open up to amid all the glitz and glamour neither one of them sought after. Audrey was young & naive and swept off her feet by the handsome, and married, leading man, who was no stranger to having affairs with his leading ladies. But this was different…

Audrey and Bill is not only about their love affair, but about their lives separate from each other. It's almost 3 biographies in one book- Audrey Hepburn, Bill Holden, and the behind the scenes look at Hollywood. The writing is seductive and so good. Their lives, their loves, their loses and ultimately how they both found contentment, albeit a little too late, is what you'll find in Audrey and Bill.

I don't want to spoil anything here, so let me just say, if you're a romantic and love old movies this book is for you! The writing is wonderful, the people come to life off the pages and you'll be transported to a time where prim and proper masked an underlying sensuality that was neatly dressed up.

Audrey and Bill: A Romantic Biography of Auddrey Hepburn and William Holden by Edward Epstein will be available from your local bookstore this April 14th! I want to thank Running Press for the eGalley I received to read for this review! I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Sunday Salon and 4 Women You're going to Want to Meet

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! It's that day of the week we relax a bit and talk virtually with our reading friends about what bookish things we've been doing. So, pull up a chair, grab a cup of Joe and let's talk books…

It's going to be another snowy weekend in Connecticut, but I am tired of "snowy" reads and want something a bit warmer. Let's turn our attention to some great books where not a snowflake can be found, where all the attention this week is in the bookish world and to these 4 great women...

I like books with strong female characters. Whimpy and whiney are not for me. And these days there are so many great female characters.This week, I found 4 women telling their tales from within the pages of some hot new and soon to be released books! We travel to the Jersey Shore, Tombstone, Arizona, and to France during WWII to meet these women, and here are their stories...

The first book that caught my eye this week and that I downloaded an eGalley of was The Summer after Me and You by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski. The premise sounded like your typical teen summer romance, but when I read the excerpt I fell in love with the easy going, wonderful writing and have been turning the pages for the last day or so. Here's the publisher's blurb...

 Then Superstorm Sandy sweeps up the coast, bringing Lucy and Connor together for a few intense hours. Except nothing is the same in the wake of the storm, and Lucy is left to pick up the pieces of her broken heart and her broken home. Time may heal all wounds, but with Memorial Day approaching and Connor returning, Lucy's summer is sure to be filled with fireworks.
For Lucy, the Jersey Shore isn't just the perfect summer escape, it's home. As a local girl, she knows not to get attached to the tourists. They breeze in during Memorial Day weekend, crowding her costal town and stealing moonlit kisses, only to pack up their beach umbrellas and empty promises on Labor Day. Still, she can't help but crush on charming Connor Malloy. His family spends every summer next door, and she longs for their friendship to turn into something deeper. 

You've got the Jersey Shore, that stirring of first love, a great FEMALE lead character and plenty of sunshine for a great summer read! The book reminded me of a teenage version of Barbara Delinsky's Sweet Salt Air, which I absolutely loved! Our girl Lucy, is a wonderful character. She's fresh and honest with her feelings, which made me open my heart to her. But you'll have to wait until May 5th to put your flip flops on with this one, because that's when Sourcebook Fire has it slated for publication! It looks like it's going right to eBook and Trade Paperback when it comes out. When I finish this read up, I'll let you all know what my final judgement is, but so far, it's two thumbs up.

Next book I stumbled across was Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell. It's a novel about Wyatt Earp and The O.K. Corral, but it's told through his wife, Josephine Sarah Marcus, and I was so frustrated by only getting a sample of the first few chapters, because it is so GOOD! Josephine opens the story in Tombstone, Arizona. We soon learn she is the live-in girlfriend of not Wyatt Earp, but the sheriff, Johnny Behan. Hmmm, now how does she end up Wyatt Earp's wife? We also learn the creative way Josephine ends up in Tombstone, which just goes to show you this girl has spunk (I don't want to spoil anything here by telling you how)! What a compelling character! If this were not a book about the O.K. Corral, Mary Doria Russell could have probably written a great book on Josephine Sarah Marcus, because her back story is that interesting! The writing definitely grabbed me from the start, and whether or not you are familiar with the O.K. Corral and all that legend says about those boys in Tombstone, Mary Doria Russell brings this time period to life from a different perspective… The Girl's. Coming March 3rd! Here's the blurb from the publisher about the book...

A deeply divided nation. Vicious politics. A shamelessly partisan media. A president loathed by half the populace. Smuggling and gang warfare along the Mexican border. Armed citizens willing to stand their ground and take law into their own hands... That was America in 1881. All those forces came to bear on the afternoon of October 26th when Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers faced off against the Clantons and the McLaurys in Tombstone, Arizona. It should have been a simple misdemeanor arrest. Thirty seconds and thirty bullets later, three officers were wounded and three citizens lay dead in the dirt. Wyatt Earp was the last man standing, the only one unscathed. The lies began before the smoke cleared, but the gunfight at the O.K. Corral would soon become central to American beliefs about the Old West. Epitaph tells Wyatt’s real story, unearthing the Homeric tragedy buried under 130 years of mythology, misrepresentation, and sheer indifference to fact. Epic and intimate, this novel gives voice to the real men and women whose lives were changed forever by those fatal 30 seconds in Tombstone. At its heart is the woman behind the myth: Josephine Sarah Marcus, who loved Wyatt Earp for forty-nine years and who carefully chipped away at the truth until she had crafted the heroic legend that would become the epitaph her husband deserved.

And finally, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. There has been so much press about this book. And again, we have female voices, two sisters, telling the tales of war and of love from their own perspectives. Weaving a story of WWII, one of my favorite historical fiction time periods, I wanted more from The Nightingale after reading about 30 pages. It just came out this week and definitely on my wish list! Here's the blurb from the publisher…

In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.

FRANCE, 1939. In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front.  She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France...but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When a German captain requisitions Vianne’s home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive. Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth.  While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can...completely.  But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.

What else is happening? Did you hear the news about the NEW Harper Lee novel? Yes, a new novel called Go Set a Watchman is about Scout (To Kill a Mockingbird) 20 years later. The book was found recently among some of Harper Lee's papers, and actually was the novel Harper Lee intended to write instead of To Kill a Mockingbird. Her publisher liked the flashbacks from Scout and asked Harper Lee to develop that aspect of the story and the result was To Kill a Mockingbird. I wrote about it this past wednesday, Follow this link for more details and links for a few other sources about the book and the controversy surrounding it. Questions abound about whether Harper Lee wrote it, and actually approved of it being published some 50 years after writing it without editing it. In frail health in an assisted living facility, people are questioning whether anyone is taking advantage of her. Fiercely private, it does seem suspect that she would welcome all the hoopla after so long. What do you think?

ALSO...For the past few years, publishers have put together a digital download called Buzz Books for Spring and Summer books. I love taking a peek and reading through the excerpts. There were about 40 books in all different genres and I bookmarked quite a few of them for future reading, a few books I downloaded to continue reading the full book and one book I downloaded and finished reading in about 3 days, which was about the romance of Audrey Hepburn and William Holden, called Audrey and Bill by Edward Epstein. It is a biography of Audrey Hepburn and William Holden written about them separately and as a couple. It was so wonderfully written and I was totally absorbed! Tomorrow, "Memoir Monday", will highlight that book and you can read my full review. Let's just say, if you are a true romantic and love old movies, this books for you!

What's on your reading plate this week? Any new books we need to know about!? Hope you found something here today!

Happy Reading… Suzanne

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Once Upon a Northern Night by Jean Pendziwol… A Wintery Children's Book Review

There is something so beautiful in Once Upon a Northern Night written by Jean E. Pendziwol and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. A children's book celebrating the wonder of a snow laden winter evening…

                           Once upon a northern night,
                           while you lay sleeping,
                           wrapped in a downy blanket,
                           I painted you a picture.

Like a gentle lullaby soothing us to sleep, the words and beautiful simple illustrations sweep us out into the night to witness the quiet goings on of the natural world around us, beyond a sleeping boy's window. The one snowflake that became two, that soon becomes a snowy blanket for the earth, the snowshoe hares that frolic playing hide and seek with a fox, a mother deer and her fawn nibbling the frozen apples on a tree, and other silent visitors that peek out from their daytime hideaways to enjoy the winter wonderland.

Beautiful prose that carries you softly from beginning to end and beautiful illustrations in muted colors reminiscent of the season create a perfect bedtime story for a snowy winter night. I loved Once Upon a Northern Night!  Published by Groundwood Books.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

My Family Tree and Me by Dušan Petričić… A Review

One of my other hobbies besides "books" is genealogy. I've been researching my family genealogy off and on for 20 plus years. My very first questions about my extended family were when I was about 12 years old. I have a piece of notebook paper with my grandparents names and their brothers and sisters and their children, all the way down to my parents. I put that aside for a long time and then got "the bug" again. What I wish I had done was NOT put aside my curiosity at that time, when all my relatives were alive and sharing the family stories. And so, I can appreciate this sweet book, My Family Tree and Me by Dušan Petričić which is being published by Kids Can Press this coming April 2015.

It's a beautiful and simple children's picture book that shows how a small boy came to be, starting with his great great grandparents. The front of the book is the boys' father's family, where you'll leaf through the pages of first the great great grandparents, accompanied by a beautiful color illustration of them and a small bit of prose, then the great grandparents with another beautiful drawing and description, then his grandparents, then his "uncle, aunt and dad", and finally his uncle, aunt and dad with their spouses including his mom and dad, all beautifully drawn out with a description of who they are. Flip the book over and you find the boy's mother's family, starting with his great great grandparents on his mothers' side and working down to his mother and her siblings, and their spouses and parents. In the center of the book is the WHOLE family! All the aunt's & uncles, grandparents on both sides, cousins, Mom & Dad and of course the little boy.

What did I think? I thought the illustrations were beautiful and the simple prose that went with it perfect...
                                                             "Thanks to them,
                                                               a long, long time ago
                                                               there lived my
                                                               who met and married my 

What a great starting point to begin talking to your child about his or her family history! I like the idea of the flip book, with one side of the family at the front of the book and flipping the book over for the other side of the family. I love the idea of the whole family, both sides of the family in a beautiful illustration in the center of the book.

Just a little aside… The publisher provided an eGalley of the book for me to review. I wish I had a physical copy of the book to review because I think it would work so much better than the eBook. In the eBook as you start at the front of the book, when you get to the end of the boys' father's family and want to flip to the back of the book, you have to leave the book and go to the table of contents to start with the back of the book OR you have to quickly flip through the whole book to get to the back and then slowly start backwards. I found this a bit awkward. Can they fix this somehow in the final eBook? I'm not sure. So, I would buy the physical book instead of the eBook.

My Family Tree and Me is written for 3 - 7 year olds, 24 pages and is written and illustrated by Dušan Petričić, who is an awarding winning illustrator. I would give it 5 family tree leaves as a great book for that beginning genealogist child in your family! (3 leaves for the eBook).

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Have you Heard?!… Scout grows up!

It's the talk of the town... and every literary circle around the world… a lost manuscript for "the sequel" to To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee has been rescued from obscurity!

Go Set a Watchman, is scheduled to be published by Harper Collins in July. It is essentially the follow-up to To Kill a Mockingbird, about Scout, 20 years later, going back home..

" When Scout travels to her small Southern town of Maycomb, from New York City, to visit her father, Atticus, she is, Harper explained, "forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand both her father’s attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood."… A. P. Report

Though "the sequel" is really what the original book was going to be, Harper Lee's publisher liked the parts of the story where Scout was reflecting on her days of growing up, and the publisher asked Lee to work on this aspect of the story, so she did.

Even though there is much excitement about the prospect of a new book written by one of America's most reclusive writer's, there is also controversy… 2 months after Harper Lee's sister Alice passed away, the one person in Harper Lee's life that protected her ferociously from the outside world, we have Harper Lee agreeing to be thrown back in the spotlight after 50 plus years with an unedited first attempt at a novel that she agreed to have published as is. In declining health, living in an assisted living facility near her home in Monroeville, AL, already "possibly" forgetting some of the things she agreed to such as her blessing on the Marja Mills novel, The Mockingbird Next Door, or having to sue to retain her copyright for To Kill a Mockingbird, which she signed over to her publisher (would she knowingly do that?!), and even suing the town museum that honors her book, it has been asked, is anyone taking advantage of Miss Nelle? It certainly would be a goldmine to publish anything written by Harper Lee. The world has waited over 50 years for another novel.

Oh, how I hope this book is being published with Harper Lee's blessing! I was enjoying The Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills, the book about Harper Lee and her sister that Marja wrote while living next door to Harper Lee in Monroeville, until I read that Harper Lee said the book was "unauthorized". But then Penguin produced a letter signed by Harper Lee saying she did give her blessing. With her affairs essentially being handled by attorneys now, since neither Lee sister had children, we may never know the true sentiments of Harper Lee. But in any case, I look forward to peeking between the pages of a new Harper Lee novel that I hope she would want the world to enjoy.

Read more from…

The BBC, The Vulture, and Publishers Weekly

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