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

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins… A Review

The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins… OMG! This has to be one of my absolute favorite reads so far this year! Murder, obsession, evil, jealousy, cruelty and heartbreaking at times, The Girl on The Train has what it takes to keep you turning those pages and let me tell you… the twist at the end will have your jaw drop! It is so deceptively simple in some ways, that as you are reading, suddenly the sun is setting, day turns into night and your eyes have not left the page. I wasn't furiously turning the pages, I was absentmindedly turning the pages because I was so engrossed in the story.

Here's the gist… Rachel Watson rides the train everyday past a housing complex and becomes obsessed with this couple she sees most days lounging on their patio… until Rachel sees something that she shouldn't see. But because Rachel has some problems of her own, when she tries to tell someone what she saw, no one believes her… until…

 Read this book! Both a great murder mystery and literary fiction. Well written characters, a leading lady that you can empathize with, and a great story. If Hitchcock were to write murder mysteries, this would be it!

I give this 5+ Train Tickets! Hop aboard and enjoy!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Memoir Monday… Pieces of My Mother by Melissa Cistaro

Pieces of My Mother by Melissa Cistaro…
One summer, Melissa Cistaro's mother drove off without explanation Devastated, Melissa and her brothers were left to pick up the pieces, always tormented by the thought: Why did their mother abandon them?

Thirty-five years later, with children of her own, Melissa finds herself in Olympia, Washington, as her mother is dying. After decades of hiding her painful memories, she has just days to find out what happened that summer and confront the fear she could do the same to her kids. But Melissa never expects to stumble across a cache of letters her mother wrote to her but never sent, which could hold the answers she seeks.

Haunting yet ultimately uplifting, Pieces of My Mother chronicles one woman's quest to discover what drives a mother to walk away from the children she loves. Alternating between Melissa's tumultuous coming-of-age and her mother's final days, this captivating memoir reveals how our parents' choices impact our own and how we can survive those to forge our own paths.

Heartfelt. Sad. Wonderful writing. The story of Melissa coming to understand the woman who was her mother in painful memories and present day moments as Melissa comes to be with her mother as she lay dying at home. Finding unsent letters in a folder reveals to Melissa a woman who is more than just the mother who left her. The chapters alternate between "Then" and "Now", which in another writers hands may be confusing, but Melissa Cistaro navigates this territory wonderfully, and it seems to flow so naturally. If you enjoy memoirs, if you are a mother, if you have a mother, if you see a baby crying in her stroller and you just want to pick her up and hug her, you will enjoy this book. Reminds me a bit of The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I was deeply moved at times and felt such empathy towards Melissa. Definitely a good read and a worth your time.

This book was released on May 5th by Sourcebooks, and is available from your favorite book seller! I received an eGalley of this book for my honest review.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Sunday Salon and Reading Anticipation (With Giveaways to Come…)!

Welcome to the Sunday Salon! It's the day of the week we virtually talk about that thing we love… READING! And finally, in Connecticut, we can step out of the house and not into a foot of snow! It's a beautiful sunny day here and it just makes me feel refreshed and ready for a new reading season! So let me ask you...

Do you get excited when you hear that a favorite author or series is coming out with a new book?! I do and so today I thought we'd talk about one such series that is wrapping up with the final chapter… Deborah Harkness's All Souls Trilogy! And what's even more fun is that the publisher is celebrating as well with a giveaway! And to top that is, you can enter the giveaway and read a guest post by Deb, right here starting June 6th! Don't miss it, it's going to be a blast!

So what is the All Souls Trilogy?! Take one part Anne Rice mix that with the Twilight series and a good helping of historical fiction, and you have an idea what you're in for with the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. An enchanted manuscript, known as Ashmole 782, a reluctant witch and a sexy vampire…

A Discovery of Witches (Book 1)… "When historian Diana Bishop opens a bewitched alchemical manuscript in Oxford’s Bodleian Library it represents an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordinary life. Though descended from a long line of witches, she is determined to remain untouched by her family’s legacy. She banishes the manuscript to the stacks, but Diana finds it impossible to hold the world of magic at bay any longer.

For witches are not the only otherworldly creatures living alongside humans. There are also creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires who become interested in the witch’s discovery. They believe that the manuscript contains important clues about the past and the future, and want to know how Diana Bishop has been able to get her hands on the elusive volume.

Chief among the creatures who gather around Diana is vampire Matthew Clairmont, a geneticist with a passion for Darwin. Together, Diana and Matthew embark on a journey to understand the manuscript’s secrets. But the relationship that develops between the ages-old vampire and the spellbound witch threatens to unravel the fragile peace that has long existed between creatures and humans—and will certainly transform Diana’s world as well."

Shadow of Night (Book 2)… "Book Two of the All Souls Trilogy plunges Diana and Matthew into  Elizabethan London, a world of spies and subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the mysterious School of Night.  The mission is to locate a witch to tutor  Diana and to find traces of Ashmole 782, but as the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them they embark on a very different journey, one that takes them into heart of the 1,500 year old vampire’s shadowed history and secrets. For Matthew Clairmont, time travel is no simple matter; nor is Diana’s search for the key to understanding her legacy.

Shadow of Night brings us a rich and splendid tapestry of alchemy, magic, and history, taking us through the loop of time to deliver a deepening love story, a tale of blood, passion, and the knotted strands of the past."

The Book of Life (Book 3!)…  "After traveling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. In the trilogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago."

I don't know where I was at the beginning of this trilogy, but I'm a good ways into book 1, A Discovery of Witches, and I am hooked! From the very beginning when I found myself in an old dusty library with Diana Bishop I did not want to come out! For a reader, who wouldn't love a story set among old dusty books. And even though Diana is a witch (she's a reluctant witch), this book doesn't seem to rely on that as its sole plot, there just feels like so much more substance to this story. More of a historical fiction feel with a bit of spice. So, if you haven't read this series you need to catch up! The Kindle version is only $2.99 right now for  A Discovery of Witches: A Novel (All Souls Trilogy, Book 1) and $4.99 for Shadow of Night: A Novel (All Souls Trilogy, Book 2). Book 3, The Book of Life comes out July 15th by Penguin Group, so you and I both have time to read up to the final chapter in the series.

I am lucky though, because I just received this series in the mail courtesy of Penguin Books! And I can't wait to share my thoughts after reading each book. But from the looks of it, I'm going to be liking this series A LOT! And I'm going to love participating in the celebration so some of my Chick with Books readers can win some cool stuff! OK… it's back to the books for me! You come back this week to learn more about those great giveaways!

Happy reading… Suzanne

Saturday, May 9, 2015

What's Cooking on Your Reading List?

Cookbooks and Reading...

There are certain times of the year when I have an overwhelming urge to try new recipes, read cookbooks and try new foods. In the winter that translates to comfort food, but in the summer it's all different types of food. Cookbooks are a guide to trying new foods and recipes. But are cookbooks your typical reading? Yes and no. I think sometimes we just forget that cookbooks are books. We blindly open the pages and leaf through the recipes we find, glance at the stories that make up the other pages of the book and get to business. But what fun it is to actually READ it! How many cookbooks have you actually read?! I was able to sample some great cookbooks with some eGalleys thanks to a some generous publishers over the past few months.  Here's some great "cooking book" finds...

Mastering Pasta b Marc Vetri…  Award-winning chef Marc Vetri wanted to write his first book about pasta. Instead, he wrote two other acclaimed cookbooks and continued researching pasta for ten more years. Now, the respected master of Italian cuisine finally shares his vast knowledge of pasta, gnocchi, and risotto in this inspiring, informative primer featuring expert tips and techniques, and more than 100 recipes.

Vetri's personal stories of travel and culinary discovery in Italy appear alongside his easy-to-follow, detailed explanations of how to make and enjoy fresh handmade pasta. Whether you're a home cook or a professional, you'll learn how to make more than thirty different types of pasta dough, from versatile egg yolk dough, to extruded semolina dough, to a variety of flavored pastas—and form them into shapes both familiar and unique. In dishes ranging from classic to innovative, Vetri shares his coveted recipes for stuffed pastas, baked pastas, and pasta sauces. He also shows you how to make light-as-air gnocchi and the perfect dish of risotto. 

Loaded with useful information, including the best way to cook and sauce pasta, suggestions for substituting pasta shapes, and advance preparation and storage notes, Mastering Pasta offers you all of the wisdom of a pro. For cooks who want to take their knowledge to the next level, Vetri delves deep into the science of various types of flour to explain pasta's uniquely satisfying texture and how to craft the very best pasta by hand or with a machine. Mastering Pasta is the definitive work on the subject and the only book you will ever need to serve outstanding pasta dishes in your own kitchen. 

What did I think? Fresh pasta, even the thought of it makes my mouth water. Have you ever had fresh pasta? There's a certain kind of lightness, texture and taste. There is no mistaking fresh pasta and here, in Mastering Pasta, author Marc Vetri not only shares with us the how to make this wonderful staple, with chapters on hand forming certain pastas, or making sheet pasta, and stuffed pasta, along with amazing sauces, but the history and make-up of what goes into pasta. This is definitely one to have on the shelf! Mouth watering and thought provoking! Easy access to everything is by way of Table of Contents and a great Index. 5 bowls of pasta for this one!
The James Beard Cookbook… Hailed by the New York Times as “one of the best basic cookbooks in America,” The James Beard Cookbook remains as indispensable to home cooks today as it was when it was first published over fifty years ago. James Beard transformed the way we cook and eat, teaching us how to do everything from bread baking to making the perfect Parisian omelet.

Beard was the master of cooking techniques and preparation. In this comprehensive collection of simple, practical-yet-creative recipes, he shows us how to bring out the best in fresh vegetables, cook meat and chicken to perfection, and even properly boil water or an egg. From pasta to poultry, fish to fruit, and salads to sauces, this award-winning cookbook is a must-have for beginning cooks and expert chefs alike. Whether it is deviled pork chops or old-fashioned barbecue, there is not a meal in the American pantheon that Beard cannot teach us to master. 

Do you really read a cookbook?!
Why of course you can! And this classic tome has a wealth of cooking knowledge in-between the recipes! Did you know if you put an egg in bowl of cold water and it sinks, that means it's fresh? Or, did you know white veggies will stay whiter if you cover the pan? And adding a dash of lemon juice can help too.This is only the third revision of this classic cookbook, with a few recipes tweaked for modern times and the addition of a couple dozen new recipes. This is one of those cookbooks everyone should have on their shelf! It's a place for a beginner cook to start learning the basics and a place for the more advanced cook to come to to discover what are some of the things they could do to make their cooking advance to the next level. Great information and easy to follow recipes. Cooking terms, techniques, tools, recipes to build on. Love this cookbook! Loads of useful info and wonderful recipes. I may even have to get it in hardcover!
Whether a five-star chef or beginning home cook, any gourmand knows that recipes are far more than a set of instructions on how to make a dish. They are culture-keepers as well as culture-makers, both recording memories and fostering new ones.

Organized like a cookbook, Books that Cook is a collection of American literature written on the theme of food: from an invocation to a final toast, from starters to desserts. All food literatures are indebted to the form and purpose of cookbooks, and each section begins with an excerpt from an influential American cookbook, progressing chronologically from the late 1700s through the present day, including such favorites as American Cookery, the Joy of Cooking, and Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The literary works within each section are an extension of these cookbooks, while the cookbook excerpts in turn become pieces of literature—forms of storytelling and memory-making all their own.

Each section offers a delectable assortment of poetry, prose, and essays, and the selections all include at least one tempting recipe to entice readers to cook this book. Including writing from such notables as Maya Angelou, James Beard, Alice B. Toklas, Sherman Alexie, Nora Ephron, M.F.K. Fisher, and Alice Waters, among many others, Books that Cook reveals the range of ways authors incorporate recipes—whether the recipe flavors the story or the story serves to add spice to the recipe. Books that Cook is a collection to serve students and teachers of food studies as well as any epicure who enjoys a good meal alongside a good book.

Thoughts on this one… This was a hard book to digest at the beginning. I was expecting to read about cooking and food from a "literary" stand point, but having it all arranged like a cookbook became a bit tedious at times. I found myself flipping to different sections because I needed to enjoy reading it as apposed to "studying" it, which I almost felt like when I tried to read it in order. The bits of writing were wonderful, but approach this as a book of short stories instead of a literary cookbook and you'll enjoy it more. I think that I would have been able to enjoy doing that more if it were a physical book, so that I could turn the pages and browse better.

So, do you read cooking books? Read about food? Enjoy food writing? Share your Yummy reads so we all can savor them!

Friday, May 1, 2015

First Lines… The Summer After You and Me by Jennifer Salvato Doktokski

"I open the window shade in my third-story attic bedroom anticipating my usual - somewhat obstructed- ocean vie and instead get an eyeful of Connor Malloy, sans shirt, on the roof of his parents' bungalow. Better than a mocha latte with two shots of espresso and whipped cream, as far as early morning eye-openers and guilty pleasures go. Or at least he use to be until last fall, the Big Mistake, and the big storm…" 
             ...The Summer After You and Me by Jennifer Salvato Doktokski

Are you starting to get ready for your summer reads?! Make sure you add this to the list! It's a perfect start for the summer and I loved it! It's YA, but really any girl over a certain age will enjoy this. It reminded me of Summer Sisters by Judy Blume. The writing was wonderful, it made me feel those first love flutters in my own stomach, and Lucy, our main character, will capture your heart with her heartfelt honesty. What can go wrong with the cutest guy on the planet spending the summer next door? Everything… The Summer After You and Me is coming out on Tuesday, May 5th! My full review coming this week too!
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