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, April 29, 2016

Peaches, a poem by Donna Marie Merritt


She could fit in the palm of your hand
when she was born. She was cute.
Stil, I told her right from the start,
I don't like dogs.
I had given in for the sake
of my daughters.
When she was old enough, at eight weeks,
to be separated from her mother,
we brought this bundle of fur home.
I held her on my lap in the car,
but only because she was scared.
After all, she had just left her
mother and siblings. Yet, I told her,
I don't like dogs.
When I lifted her from the kitchen and set her down
one step into the family room (she was afraid
to make the leap), I told her,
I don't like dogs.
When we replaced the carpet in the famiily room
because training had not gone well at first,
you know what I told her
(though I did like the new carpet).
When she barked incessantly
every tiime someone entered,
When she ran in circles
waiting to go outside,
When she shook with excitement
eager for a treat,
When my back ached from shoveling a path
and clearing an area in the snow-covered yard
so she could do her business, I told her sternly,
I don't like dogs.
When she forgot she was playing fetch
and wandered awawy to lie in the sun or
When she curled up on my lap,
I told her, as I petted her,
I don't like dogs.
When I carried her from the kitchen and set her down
on the chair because she was too weak and sick
to do it on her own,
I looked in her eyes and remembered how she danced
around for twelve years as if I were praising her
each time I told her
I don't like dogs.
When I cleaned up her vomit and feces,
When I cooked bacon and eggs and steak
and tried to coax her to eat,
When I carried her outside to feel the cool grass
one more time, I told her,
I don't like dogs
and she seemed comforted.
When her eyes glazed over,
When my daughters and I held her
for the last time, I told her,
You're a good dog.
I will miss you...
I think she knew.
                                ... Donna Marie Merritt
                                    from her book, Her House and Other Poems
*reprinted here with special permission from the author, Donna Marie Merritt

About the Poet...

Donna Marie Merritt is the author most recently of We Walk Together and of Her House and Other Poems. She is also the author of the Poetry for Tough Times series: What’s Wrong with Ordinary? Poems to Celebrate Life; Cancer, A Caregiver’s View; and Job Loss, A Journey in Poetry. Donna’s work has appeared in magazines, school reading programs, and American Library Association’s Book Links. Her poems can be found in a variety of anthologies, including: Garbanzo, volume 5, by Seraphemera Books; Caduceus, volumes 9 and 10, by the Yale Medical Group; Olives, Now and Then: poems in honor of Donald Hall by the Connecticut Poetry Society; and Dear One: A Tribute to Lee Bennett Hopkins by the National Council of Teachers of English. Her children's poems have been included in anthologies such as National Geographic's Book of Nature Poetry. 

Donna is a former columnist for Teaching K–8 magazine, was a teacher for 14 years, spent a dozen years as an editor, and is the author of 15 math and science books for children.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Lanyard, A Poem by Billy Collins

The Lanyard - Poem by Billy Collins

The other day as I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room
bouncing from typewriter to piano
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
I found myself in the 'L' section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word, Lanyard.
No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one more suddenly into the past.
A past where I sat at a workbench
at a camp by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid thin plastic strips into a lanyard.
A gift for my mother.
I had never seen anyone use a lanyard.
Or wear one, if that's what you did with them.
But that did not keep me from crossing strand over strand
again and again until I had made a boxy, red and white lanyard for my mother.
She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,
set cold facecloths on my forehead
then led me out into the airy light
and taught me to walk and swim and I in turn presented her with a lanyard.
'Here are thousands of meals' she said,
'and here is clothing and a good education.'
'And here is your lanyard,' I replied,
'which I made with a little help from a counselor
'Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth and two clear eyes to read the world.' she whispered.
'And here,' I said, 'is the lanyard I made at camp.'
'And here,' I wish to say to her now,
'is a smaller gift. Not the archaic truth,
that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took the two-toned lanyard from my hands,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless worthless thing I wove out of boredom
would be enough to make us even.'
                               ...Billy Collins

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Sunday Salon and Taking The Plunge.. 3 Books Where You End up Somewhere You Never Want to Be...

 Welcome to The Sunday Salon and The Sunday Post! It's that day of the week bloggers from all over the internet get together virtually in a large gathering place called The Sunday Salon and talk books!  And at The Sunday Post, which is a weekly meme hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer, in which more bloggers share their bookish news!

Another beautiful day in Connecticut! There is a cool breeze in the air, that just reminds me that I am alive and that nature is calling my name. But nature can be cruel too... And that's what today's Sunday Salon is about: Nature being cruel whether by challenging us to survive the icy waters of the ocean, the terror of a tsunami, or surviving a disaster like what happened on the Hindenburg... These are fictional stories, though, and stories that have gotten a lot of Buzz from the reading community recently. So, let's take a look at these books... Let's take the plunge...

Before The Fall by Noah Hawley... On a foggy summer night, eleven people-ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter-depart Martha's Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs-the painter-and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul's family. With chapters weaving between the aftermath of the crash and the backstories of the passengers and crew members-including a Wall Street titan and his wife, a Texan-born party boy just in from London, a young woman questioning her path in life, and a career pilot-the mystery surrounding the tragedy heightens. As the passengers' intrigues unravel, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy. Was it merely by dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in an escalating storm of media outrage and accusations. And while Scott struggles to cope with fame that borders on notoriety, the authorities scramble to salvage the truth from the wreckage. Amid pulse-quickening suspense, the fragile relationship between Scott and the young boy glows at the heart of this stunning novel, raising questions of fate, human nature, and the inextricable ties that bind us together. 

I have seen this book on numerous review sites, all with great pre-publication praise. This was also a staff pick for best summer read from Publisher's Weekly, where it also told me that Grand Central Publishing called it "The thriller to read in 2016". I just downloaded the eGalley and I am thrilled! I thought the writing was good when I read a sample and by page 21 the crash has happened and the story starts to slowly take off from there. I'll be diving into this one this weekend! Published by Grand Central Publishing, this is going to be released May 31st!

Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon... On the evening of May 3rd, 1937, ninety-seven people board the Hindenburg for its final, doomed flight to Lakehurst, New Jersey. Among them are a frightened stewardess who is not what she seems; the steadfast navigator determined to win her heart; a naive cabin boy eager to earn a permanent spot on the world’s largest airship; an impetuous journalist who has been blacklisted in her native Germany; and an enigmatic American businessman with a score to settle. Over the course of three hazy, champagne-soaked days their lies, fears, agendas, and hopes for the future are revealed. Flight of Dreams is a fiercely intimate portrait of the real people on board the last flight of the Hindenburg. Behind them is the gathering storm in Europe and before them is looming disaster. But for the moment they float over the Atlantic, unaware of the inexorable, tragic fate that awaits them. Brilliantly exploring one of the most enduring mysteries of the twentieth century, Flight of Dreams is that rare novel with spellbinding plotting that keeps you guessing till the last page and breathtaking emotional intensity that stays with you long after. 

There was a lot of press for this book when it came out at the end of February, but has since died out. I picked up a copy because I read a sample and loved the writing. It just drew me in. I don't want to say it's a light read, but the story just flows from the voice of the characters as you get to know them and learn about the time frame. Definitely take a look at this one if you enjoy historical fiction! Published by Doubleday, this is available now from your local bookstore!

Two If By Sea by Jacquelyn Mitchard... Just hours after his wife and her entire family perish in the Christmas Eve tsunami in Brisbane, American expat and former police officer Frank Mercy goes out to join his volunteer rescue unit and pulls a little boy from a submerged car, saving the child’s life with only seconds to spare. In that moment, Frank’s own life is transformed. Not quite knowing why, Frank sidesteps the law, when, instead of turning Ian over to the Red Cross, he takes the boy home to the Midwestern farm where he grew up. Not long into their journey, Frank begins to believe that Ian has an extraordinary, impossible telepathic gift; but his only wish is to protect the deeply frightened child. As Frank struggles to start over, training horses as his father and grandfather did before him, he meets Claudia, a champion equestrian and someone with whom he can share his life—and his fears for Ian. Both of them know that it will be impossible to keep Ian’s gift a secret forever. Already, ominous coincidences have put Frank’s police instincts on high alert, as strangers trespass the quiet life at the family farm. The fight to keep Ian safe from a sinister group who want him back takes readers from the ravaged shores of Brisbane to the middle of America to a quaint English village. Even as Frank and Claudia dare to hope for new love, it becomes clear that they can never let Ian go, no matter what the cost. A suspenseful novel on a grand scale, Two If by Sea is about the best and worst in people, and the possibility of heroism and even magic in ordinary life. The fight to keep Ian safe from a sinister group who want him back takes readers from the ravaged shores of Brisbane to the middle of America to a quaint English village. Even as Frank and Claudia dare to hope for new love, it becomes clear that they can never let Ian go, no matter what the cost. A suspenseful novel on a grand scale, Two If by Sea is about the best and worst in people, and the possibility of heroism and even magic in ordinary life.

I tried to resist this book for a long time. It received such amazing praise, but I still wasn't sure. I think it was the part where the boy that survives and is rescued/kidnapped by the protagonist is suppose to have "an extraordinary telepathic gift" that kind of made me "roll my eyes" (just a little). But, I read the beginning of the story and really liked the writing, so I'm willing to see where the story goes. On my wishlist! Published by Simon & Schuster, this is available right now at your local bookstore!

Weekly Wrap-up... Only one more week and National Poetry Month will be over. Have you been enjoying all the poetry and poetry related posts?! This year I've been more enthused about sharing poetry than previous years, though I don't know why exactly. But this past week was filled with poetry "stuff"...

*Monday... This is How You Celebrate National Poetry Month
*Tuesday... What the Living Do, poem by Marie Howe
*Wednesday... 5 Tips for Poetry Performance by Renee   LaTulippe
*First Lines Friday... The Last Painting of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith.

Question... Do You Read "Disaster" Books, and if so, Has it Changed the Way you Feel About Flying, Swimming, Sailing, etc?

Next week I'll be wrapping up National Poetry Month with a special poem by Donna Marie Merritt, that if you are an animal lover, you will want to read! And if you're a dog lover, you HAVE to come back and read! Donna is a special person and I'll be reviewing her book, Her House, next week. She has also agreed to come to my reading group one night and read & discuss her poetry! Yay! That will be happening in June, and I'll be posting about all about it then. It will be interesting because I have a few "poetry haters" in my group, that I think will soften their opinions after meeting and hearing Donna.... And speaking of reading groups, this months my group will be reading The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney. I'm a little over a third the way through and am really enjoying it! It's a really good read. The characters are so well written and their interactions are so real. I should be reviewing it in a couple weeks, but suffice it to say it's a keeper.

What are you reading this week?! And what interesting bookish things are you taking the plunge with? I'd love to hear about it! Until then...

Happy Reading... Suzanne

Friday, April 22, 2016

First Lines Friday...

The painting is stolen the same week the Russians put a dog into space. Plucked from the wall right above the marital bed during a charity dinner for orphans. This is how Marty de Groot will tell the story in the years ahead, how he’ll spin it for the partners at the law firm and quip it to comedic life at dinner parties and over drinks at the Racquet Club. We’re dipping shrimp in cocktail sauce, working Rachel’s best china out on the terrance because it’s mild for early November, you understand, while two things- middlemen disguised as caterers, let’s say- are swapping out the real painting with a meticulous fake. He’ll be particularly proud of that last phrase - meticulous fake. He’ll use it with friends and insurance agents and the private investigator, because it sets up the rising action of the story, suggests that a prodigy or mastermind has been patiently plotting against him, just as the Russians have been conspiring all these years to colonize the stratosphere. The phrase will also help disguise the fact that Marty didn’t notice the beautiful forgery for months.

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos:  A Novel by Dominic Smith

Question: Would you keep reading or move on?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

What the Living Do, a Poem by Marie Howe

What the Living Do

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won't work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven't called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It's winter again: the sky's a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat's on too high in here and I can't turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I've been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss — we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm speechless:
I am living. I remember you.

    ... Marie Howe

    From What the Living Do.

Monday, April 18, 2016

This is How You Celebrate National Poetry Month...

This is How You Celebrate National Poetry Month!

Throughout the whole month of April we've been celebrating National Poetry Month! We've shared books, poems, videos of poets reading their poems and I even shared about the poetry reading I went to on a friday evening. Just in case you missed any of the posts, I thought it would be a great idea to list all the poetry posts we've done so far this month on Chick with Books...You can click on the post title to take you to the post...

More Poets, Poems and Poetry Talk Coming All Month Long...

Memoir Monday and... The Violet Hour: Great Writers At The End by Katie Roiphe

From one of our most perceptive and provocative voices comes a deeply researched account of the last days of Susan Sontag, Sigmund Freud, John Updike, Dylan Thomas, Maurice Sendak, and James Salter—an arresting and wholly original meditation on mortality.

In The Violet Hour, Katie Roiphe takes an unexpected and liberating approach to the most unavoidable of subjects. She investigates the last days of six great thinkers, writers, and artists as they come to terms with the reality of approaching death, or what T. S. Eliot called “the evening hour that strives Homeward, and brings the sailor home from sea.”

Roiphe draws on her own extraordinary research and access to the family, friends, and caretakers of her subjects. Here is Susan Sontag, the consummate public intellectual, who finds her commitment to rational thinking tested during her third bout with cancer. Roiphe takes us to the hospital room where, after receiving the worst possible diagnosis, seventy-six-year-old John Updike begins writing a poem. She vividly re-creates the fortnight of almost suicidal excess that culminated in Dylan Thomas’s fatal collapse at the Chelsea Hotel. She gives us a bracing portrait of Sigmund Freud fleeing Nazi-occupied Vienna only to continue in his London exile the compulsive cigar smoking that he knows will hasten his decline. And she shows us how Maurice Sendak’s beloved books for children are infused with his lifelong obsession with death, if you know where to look.

The Violet Hour is a book filled with intimate and surprising revelations. In the final acts of each of these creative geniuses are examples of courage, passion, self-delusion, pointless suffering, and superb devotion. There are also moments of sublime insight and understanding where the mind creates its own comfort. As the author writes, “If it’s nearly impossible to capture the approach of death in words, who would have the most hope of doing it?” By bringing these great writers’ final days to urgent, unsentimental life, Katie Roiphe helps us to look boldly in the face of death and be less afraid.

There have been numerous "death and dying" memoirs lately; When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, and Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande to name just two. Here comes another book on "death". The Violet Hour by Katie Roiphe has gotten wonderful reviews: "Profound", "Poetic", "Tender", but still I hesitate to add this to my own TBR list. Am I tired of reading about "death" no matter how beautifully written in can be? I offer this in Memoir Monday because it has garnered wonderful reviews. Published by The Dial Press at the beginning of March. I still might add this to my wish list.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Sunday Salon and Poetry is For the Byrd's... Plus 3 Reasons Why You Should Go to a Poetry Reading

 Welcome to The Sunday Salon and The Sunday Post! It's that day of the week bloggers from all over the internet get together virtually in a large gathering place called The Sunday Salon and talk books!  And at The Sunday Post, which is a weekly meme hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer, in which more bloggers share their bookish news.

Ahhhh, the morning sun is shining in the window and I'm ready for an absolutely beautiful day in Connecticut! I'm still in that poetry kind of mood, especially since I went to a poetry reading friday night at my local indie bookstore, Byrd's Books... and yes, that's why "Poetry is for the Byrd's". You may wonder what happens at a poetry reading. Oh yes, poets read their poems, but it's more than just reading poems. It's an experience really. And if you DON'T like poetry, or if you're kind of ify on it all, going to a poetry reading just may tip the scale in favor of poetry, and here's 3 reasons why...

1. You get to actually hear the person who wrote the poems READ the poem. To me, poetry should be read out loud! And hearing the person who wrote the poem actually read the poem the way they think it should sound is wonderful. The loudness, the softness, the subtleness of the words. The timing, the breaks, and the emphasis of certain phrases.

2.  You learn the story behind the poem. Poems are like little stories and to know what it's all about makes the poem more meaningful, even if it isn't your story.

3. You learn about the poet. What motivates the poet? What are their life experiences? How did they come by writing poetry. Learning about the poet helps you connect with what they write.

So, what about the poetry reading I went to... 

Friday evening at 7pm, my girlfriend Grace and I, arrived at Byrd's Books in Bethel, Ct. Light refreshments, a great independent bookstore, and 5 poets awaited... David K. Leff, Donna Marie Merritt, Amy Nawrocki, Lisa Schwartz (Newtown, Ct's Poet Laureate) and Susan Tuz.  This was the first time I had ever been to Byrd's Books and I immediately fell in love... but that's a story for another time. After looking around, and glancing through some poetry books, we sat down...

Lisa Schwartz
After each poet was introduced with a little background info, (the who, what, and whys), the reading of the poetry started. Each poet read for about 15 minutes, and it was just so wonderful. These were little stories that kept our attention, warmed our heart, made us laugh (yes, Lisa Schwartz I'm talking about you!), and even made a few of us shed a tear (that one's for you, Donna Marie Merritt). Through these simple words we were able to connect with these people, these poets and feel something. And that's what poetry is all about.. feeling something! Just like the lyrics to your favorite song, poetry can be enjoyed...

At the end, each poet read just one of their poems, so we could hear the difference in the poetry and the poets, because they were all different. The subjects, the way they were written, the feelings they drew out of you. And it was interesting to hear the different voices reading the poems too.

Donna Marie Merritt
After the reading, we mingled with the poets, asked all sorts of questions and got to know some of them a little better. All the poets were wonderful. Each poet had their own style, and I found something to enjoy in all of them. Of course, some of the poetry resonated with me more than others. Lisa Schwartz, who is the poet laureate of Newtown, Ct. was a riot! Her poems were funny and snarky at times. She likes to write poems for occasions, which is perfect for a poet laureate, because she will write poems for the town of Newtown when they celebrate town milestones or occasions. Unfortunately, Lisa does not have a published collection of poetry (YET) because I would have loved to come home with one.... And then there was Donna Marie Merritt, whose poetry was simply beautiful. Her poems tugged at my heartstrings and I was wrapped up in every word. She told a story about leaving a poetry reading one night and seeing a homeless man with a sign that said, "will work for food". As she drove by, she thought to herself that she'd like to do something, but all she had were poetry books, but she turned around anyway, rolled down the window and asked if the man would like a poetry book? He accepted it gratefully, put down his sign, and walked off reading the book. Who was this man? How did he get to the place he is in now? How easy it would be to assume things. This random encounter moved her to write her most recent book of poetry called We Walk Together, which shows us that we are not so much individuals as we are human beings, interconnected. I picked up Donna's book, Her House and Other Poems, which is described on her website as, "From walks in the woods to ocean strolls, from a good glass of wine to celebrating joy in growing older, Merritt's fourth poetry collection speaks to the heart with poems about everyday life." She read a poem she wrote called Peaches from this book. It is about her dog and it had us all in tears. (With Donna's permission, I'm going to be posting her poem Peaches this week and you HAVE to come back and read it!!) And there are many other poems to enjoy in this beautifully written collection.  (BTW, I'll be reviewing this soon, but I can say I'm really enjoying reading it!) At about 9pm, Grace and I purchased our poetry books, I had my books signed, and off we went home, both of us enthused with poetry. A special thanks goes to Byrd's Books for hosting this wonderful event! I really enjoyed it and I'm sure everyone else did too! I'll be talking more about some of the poetry books from this evening in a future post...

It's still National Poetry Month, and that means I'll be posting more poetry for you to sample! If you missed any this week, Here are the links...

Tuesday... After the Movie by Marie Howe . Marie Howe is a contemporary poet who is just wonderful!

Thursday... If You Forget Me by Pablo Neruda. Pablo is a romantic and wrote a book of poetry for his lover before they were married. This poem is part of that collection called The Captains Verses.

Here are all the links for all the "poetry posts" so far this month...

Question... Have you ever been to a Poetry Reading? If not, do you think you would go to one?

Byrd's Books
That about wraps it up this week. Still reading poetry, finished my reading group's book called The Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman and will see what everyone thought of it on Tuesday, and will be starting my reading group choice of The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney. I read the prologue and just loved it, so hope all the praise from everywhere is warranted. What have you been reading this week? Any poetry for National Poetry Month? I'd love to hear about it!!

Happy Reading... Suzanne

Thursday, April 14, 2016

If You Forget Me, A Poem by Pablo Neruda

If You Forget Me - Poem by Pablo Neruda

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.
..................................Pablo Neruda

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

After the Movie by Marie Howe

After the Movie

My friend Michael and I are walking home arguing about the movie.
He says that he believes a person can love someone
and still be able to murder that person.

I say, No, that's not love. That's attachment.
Michael says, No, that's love. You can love someone, then come to a day

when you're forced to think "it's him or me"
think "me" and kill him.

I say, Then it's not love anymore.
Michael says, It was love up to then though.

I say, Maybe we mean different things by the same word.
Michael says, Humans are complicated: love can exist even in the
murderous heart.

I say that what he might mean by love is desire.
Love is not a feeling, I say. And Michael says, Then what is it?

We're walking along West 16th Street — a clear unclouded night — and I hear my voice
repeating what I used to say to my husband: Love is action, I used to say
to him.

Simone Weil says that when you really love you are able to look at
someone you want to eat and not eat them.

Janis Joplin says, take another little piece of my heart now baby.

Meister Eckhart says that as long as we love images we are doomed to
live in purgatory.

Michael and I stand on the corner of 6th Avenue saying goodnight.
I can't drink enough of the tangerine spritzer I've just bought —

again and again I bring the cold can to my mouth and suck the stuff from
the hole the flip top made.

What are you doing tomorrow? Michael says.
But what I think he's saying is "You are too strict. You are
a nun."

Then I think, Do I love Michael enough to allow him to think these things
of me even if he's not thinking them?

Above Manhattan, the moon wanes, and the sky turns clearer and colder.
Although the days, after the solstice, have started to lengthen,

we both know the winter has only begun.

                                                                ... Marie Howe
From the book, The Kingdom Of Ordinary Time. Howe is the author of What the Living Do, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time and The Good Thief

Monday, April 11, 2016

Memoir Monday and Love, Loss and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi

A vivid memoir of food and family, survival and triumph, Love, Loss, and What We Ate traces the arc of Padma Lakshmi’s unlikely path from an immigrant childhood to a complicated life in front of the camera—a tantalizing blend of Ruth Reichl’s Tender at the Bone and Nora Ephron’s Heartburn

Long before Padma Lakshmi ever stepped onto a television set, she learned that how we eat is an extension of how we love, how we comfort, how we forge a sense of home—and how we taste the world as we navigate our way through it. Shuttling between continents as a child, she lived a life of dislocation that would become habit as an adult, never quite at home in the world. And yet, through all her travels, her favorite food remained the simple rice she first ate sitting on the cool floor of her grandmother’s kitchen in South India.

Poignant and surprising, Love, Loss, and What We Ate is Lakshmi’s extraordinary account of her journey from that humble kitchen, ruled by ferocious and unforgettable women, to the judges’ table of Top Chef and beyond. It chronicles the fierce devotion of the remarkable people who shaped her along the way, from her headstrong mother who flouted conservative Indian convention to make a life in New York, to her Brahmin grandfather—a brilliant engineer with an irrepressible sweet tooth—to the man seemingly wrong for her in every way who proved to be her truest ally. A memoir rich with sensual prose and punctuated with evocative recipes, it is alive with the scents, tastes, and textures of a life that spans complex geographies both internal and external.

Love, Loss, and What We Ate is an intimate and unexpected story of food and family—both the ones we are born to and the ones we create—and their enduring legacies.

I have never heard of Padma Lakshmi, but when I saw this book I was struck by the cover. I was struck by the beautiful photograph of her and the writing across it. I love food memoirs too, so I am up for reading another account of "humble kitchen to star chef". When I read some of the sample of Love, Loss and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi, I enjoyed every word and had to put it on my TBR list. Published by Ecco, it is available now at your local bookstore!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Sunday Salon and Dirty Books...

 Welcome to The Sunday Salon and The Sunday Post! It's that day of the week bloggers from all over the internet get together virtually in a large gathering place called The Sunday Salon and talk books!  And at The Sunday Post, which is a weekly meme hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer, in which more bloggers share their bookish news!

It's a sunny day in Connecticut this Sunday, and I am confident that Spring is coming! I say that as a dare more than a statement as we actually did have SNOW yesterday. But no matter the weather, my soul is stirring and I'm ready to awaken from my 4 month hybernation to enjoy the outdoors once again. Getting back to nature, that's what it's all about this week as we look at "dirty books" or books about nature. What are some of the things that you enjoy when the weather turns a little warmer and getting outside isn't a major ordeal? I enjoy getting back to nature... Look in the trees and bushes for our feathered friends, looking into the sky and night and seeing the stars, and watching the seeds I plant grow into what nature promised (and the seed pack packaging promised too!).  Here are some new books to help welcome the spring with and aim your reading in a different direction...

One Wild Bird at a Time by Bernd Heinrich... The acclaimed scientist/writer's captivating encounters with individual wild birds, yielding "marvelous, mind-altering" insights and discoveries.

Heinrich returns to his great love: close, day-to-day observations of individual wild birds. There are countless books on bird behavior, but, writes Heinrich, “some of the most amazing bird behaviors fall below the radar of what most birds do in aggregate.” Heinrich's “passionate observations [that] superbly mix memoir and science” (New York Times) lead to fascinating questions — and sometimes startling discoveries. A great crested flycatcher bringing food to the young acts surreptitiously and is attacked by the mate. Why? A pair of Northern flickers hammering their nest-hole into the side of Heinrich's cabin deliver the opportunity to observe the feeding competition between siblings, and to make a related discovery about nest-cleaning. One of a clutch of redstart warbler babies fledges out of the nest from twenty feet above the ground, and lands on the grass below. It can't fly. What will happen next?   Heinrich “looks closely, with his trademark ‘hands-and-knees science' at its most engaging, [delivering] what can only be called psychological marvels of knowing” (Boston Globe). 

Bernd Heinrich is a wonderful writer. I have enjoyed other books he has written about birds and nature and am so looking forward to reading One Wild Bird at a Time. Even if you're not a "birder", I am confident that Bernd Heinrich's writing will draw you in! This is on my wishlist! Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, it will be available April 12th at your local bookstore!
Grandma Gatewood's Walk by Ben Montgomery... Emma Gatewood was the first woman to hike the entire Appalachian Trail alone, as well as the first person—man or woman—to walk it twice and three times and she did it all after the age of 65. This is the first and only biography of Grandma Gatewood, as the reporters called her, who became a hiking celebrity in the 1950s and ’60s.

 She appeared on TV with Groucho Marx and Art Linkletter, and on the pages of Sports Illustrated. The public attention she brought to the little-known footpath was unprecedented. Her vocal criticism of the lousy, difficult stretches led to bolstered maintenance, and very likely saved the trail from extinction. Author Ben Montgomery was given unprecedented access to Gatewood’s own diaries, trail journals, and correspondence. He also unearthed historic newspaper and magazine articles and interviewed surviving family members and hikers Gatewood met along the trail. The inspiring story of Emma Gatewood illustrates the full power of human spirit and determination.

Who can resist a story about a 65 year old grandmother hiking the entire Appalachian Trail! After reading other "walk" books (Wild by Cheryl Strayed!) I'm thinking this will be interesting in its own right. Not directly written by Grandma Gatewood. On my TBR list! Published April 1st by Chicago Review Press, Inc.
In recognition of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s long and lauded career as a master essayist, a landmark collection, including her most beloved pieces and some rarely seen work, rigorously curated by the author herself. “A writer who never seems tired, who has never plodded her way through a page or sentence, Dillard can only be enjoyed by a wide-awake reader,” warns Geoff Dyer in his introduction to this stellar collection. Carefully culled from her past work, The Abundance is quintessential Annie Dillard, delivered in her fierce and undeniably singular voice, filled with fascinating detail and metaphysical fact. The pieces within will exhilarate both admiring fans and a new generation of readers, having been “re-framed and re-hung,” with fresh editing and reordering by the author, to situate these now seminal works within her larger canon.

The Abundance reminds us that Dillard’s brand of “novelized nonfiction” pioneered the form long before it came to be widely appreciated. Intense, vivid, and fearless, her work endows the true and seemingly ordinary aspects of life—a commuter chases snowball-throwing children through neighborhood streets, a teenager memorizes Rimbaud’s poetry—with beauty and irony, inviting readers onto sweeping landscapes, to join her in exploring the complexities of time and death, with a sense of humor: on one page, an eagle falls from the sky with a weasel attached to its throat; on another, a man walks into a bar.

I'm not really a reader of essays, but when I pick up a book of essays or read something that is considered an essay in a journal or newspaper, by a good writer, I enjoy them. Why don't I read more essays?! Maybe for the same reason people shy away from poetry-- the unfamiliar territory. But in any case, Annie Dillard is a wonderful writer and she writes essays. I checked her book, The Abundance, out from the library this weekend and have enjoyed her writing. Not really a "nature" book per say, but her observations of the world around us. Among her body of work is Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, which won her a Pulitzer Prize and has been reissued...
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is the story of a dramatic year in Virginia's Roanoke Valley. Annie Dillard sets out to see what she can see. What she sees are astonishing incidents of "beauty tangled in a rapture with violence." 
Both of these Annie Dillard books published by Harper Collins and are available now.
The Cabaret of Plants by Richard Mabey... A prolific and talented British nature writer explores 40 plant species and how they have influenced the human imagination over the centuries.

From Kirkus Review: Comprised of equal portions of knowledge, delight, and surprise, Mabey’s botanical history advocates for elevating the status of plants within the natural world. Rather than being taken for granted as passive vegetation and viewed as merely “the furniture of the planet,” the author recounts “a story about plants as authors of their own lives and an argument that ignoring their vitality impoverishes our imaginations and our well-being.” Each section opens with a brief essay presenting a theme—e.g., “How To See A Plant,” “The Shock of The Real: Scientists and Romantics,” “The Victorian Plant Theatre”—followed by an exploration of specific plants. For those unschooled in botany, these preliminary excursions are nifty gateways into the unknown. Mabey artfully combines historical and contemporary scientific writings, literary musings, and his personal recollections concerning his plant subjects. The author ranges across time from the interest showed by Paleolithic cave artists and the vegetation in their environment to how both Neolithic farmers and 18th-century scientists attempted to understand the mysteries of agriculture and plant cultivation. Though many of the individuals and a handful of the plants Mabey discusses may be unfamiliar to some American readers, the author skillfully melds together this bounty of insights, opinions, and scientific facts into a coherent and intelligent narrative, overcoming any initial unfamiliarity readers may experience. Numerous drawings and photographs enhance the book. What Mabey does best is invite readers to think about plants in a radical new way, even posing the question as to whether a plant’s sensory abilities—electrostatic charges, chemical communication through pheromones and bio-acoustic sound waves—actually constitute intelligence.

Richard Mabey is a well known British nature writer that I was not familiar with, but while at the library this weekend I happened to pick his book (this book) up and found it so interesting. This book got a star review from Kirkus, and I checked it out to read it more in depth. Published by W.W. Norton & Co., it is available now.

Weekly Wrap-up... 
*Wednesday I reviewed Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift, you can find my review HERE if you missed it. Loved the book!

*It's still National Poetry Month! Read all about it HERE!

*Friday I posted a video of poet Rachel Zucker reading her poem "Please Alice Notley..." Click on the poem to hear Rachel read it.


Question... Do you read "Nature Books" or "Essay" Books?

So, that wraps up our "dirty books" for this week! I'm looking forward to getting outside and enjoying the sun and the abundance of nature! Reading about nature is not my main type of reading, but when the urge strikes I do enjoy it. Hope you find something to spark your inner "nature girl" or boy. And if you do read these types of books, please share your favorites! I'd love to have more books to explore!

Happy reading... Suzanne

Friday, April 8, 2016

Rachel Zucker: "Please Alice Notley..."



Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift... A Review

Can I even do justice to this book? Mothering Sunday: a Romance by Graham Swift is beautiful, quiet, passionate, sensual. Filled with heartache, longing, books and secrets. Oh yes, the secrets... Jane, the maid, the orphan, the clever girl, the lover of Paul, the boy who's won her heart, owns her body and is the son of the wealthy family in the estate next to her employers estate and has been having secret trysts for years, since she was 17 and he was 18, until the one day, Mothering Sunday, where Jane will have her last day with him, because he will be getting married to a girl of his own "station" in two weeks time.

This book is a romance, but it is so much more than that. It is a play on words, a fairy tale, a look at a wonderful character who by 1920's convention is a lowly maid,  but who after a brilliantly wonderful morning turns into the darkest day of her life, will open herself up to be the person she really is meant to be.

The book flows wonderfully from present day 1924 England to flashbacks of Jane's childhood, her beginnings as a maid, and her coming into her present situation. We also meet Jane as an old woman, reflecting back on her life and what her life has ultimately become... a life of secrets.

I don't really want to give away any spoilers here, but let me say that Graham Swift's storytelling is simple wonderful. And his prose is beautiful. He brings to life the period of time in England, where maids were the keeper of the house (and their secrets) and their station in life well defined. But Swift plays with convention here, as Jane is an equal in her relationship with the wealthy boy, and we see how she is so much more than the clothes she wears. Though she knows the part she is to play. And Swift plays with the reader too, because he hints at things and quietly tells us things so important we could miss them if we weren't hanging on every word that is painted effortlessly across the page. There is a subtleness in the way he reveals the earth shattering news that Mother Sunday brings, like being shot with a silencer. I am still recovering. But at a mere 177 pages, Mothering Sunday is a powerful, sensual read. A story so tightly woven that no more pages are needed to feel its impact. I loved this book. And have already gone back and reread passages that I wanted to hear again. 5 stars from this reader! An enjoyable read for anyone who enjoys literary fiction. A book not to rush through, but to leisurely enjoy.

I want to thank Knopf Doubleday Publishing for the opportunity to read Mothering Sunday prior to publication, and allowing me to share this with my Chick with Books readers!

P.S. Mothering Sunday refers to the Sunday in which all maids go to see their Mothers.  

Monday, April 4, 2016

In My Mailbox...

In My Mailbox... I've received some great books in my mailbox! And I decided I would join in on the fun sharing them with you and the other bloggers participating in Mailbox Monday!

Mailbox Monday is 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.

So, here are the books...

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift... From the Booker Award winner: a luminous, profoundly moving work of fiction that begins with an afternoon tryst in 1924 between a servant girl and the young man of the neighboring house, but then opens to reveal the whole life of a remarkable woman.

Twenty-two year old Jane Fairchild, orphaned at birth, has worked as a maid at one English country estate since she was sixteen. And for almost all of those years she has been the secret lover to Paul Sheringham, the scion of the estate next door. On an unseasonably warm March afternoon, Jane and Paul will make love for the last time--though not, as Jane believes, because Paul is about to be married--and the events of the day will alter Jane's life forever. As the narrative moves back and forth from 1924 to the end of the century, what we know and understand about Jane--about the way she loves, thinks, feels, sees, remembers--deepens with every beautifully wrought moment. Her story is one of profound self-discovery and through her, Graham Swift has created an emotionally soaring and deeply affecting work of fiction.

A small, wonderful book! I started reading this and immediately fell in love with Graham Swift's prose and felt such empathy for the protagonist, Jane Fairchild. Two words that come to mind are beautiful and quiet. Look for my review this week. Thank you to Knopf for sending a review copy my way! Mothering Sunday will be on the shelves of your local bookstore April 19th!

This Too Shall Pass by Milena Busquets...  A “literary tsunami”* that is taking the world by storm—already sold in over 30 countries—about one unforgettable woman’s search for a meaningful life

Blanca is forty years old and motherless. Shaken by the unexpected death of the most important person in her life, she suddenly realizes that she has no idea what her future will look like.

To ease her dizzying grief and confusion, Blanca turns to her dearest friends, her closest family, and a change of scenery. Leaving Barcelona behind, she returns to CadaquĆ©s on the coast, accompanied by her two sons, two ex-husbands, and two best friends, and makes a plan to meet her married lover for a few stolen moments as well. Surrounded by those she loves most, she spends the summer in an impossibly beautiful place, finding ways to reconnect and understand what it means to truly, happily live on her own terms, just as her mother would have wanted. 

A fresh, honest, and ruefully funny story about love, sex, marriage, grief, friendship and parenthood, THIS TOO SHALL PASS is an irresistible novel that is fast becoming an international phenomenon.

Oh, I love Spanish writers. The stories are usually rich and without fear. This book has been a major European hit, and was gobbled up for six figures to be published in the United States. It is only 169 pages, but has made quite an impact on early reviewers... of which I am now one! So I'll be opening this up this week too and I can't wait! From my brief samples, I am loving the writing! And I LOVE the cover! Look for my review beginning of next week! Thank you to Hogarth (which is an imprint of Crown Publishing and a division of Penguin Random House) for sending along a review copy! This Too Shall Pass by Milena Busquets will be at your local bookstore on May 24th!

Something New by Lucy Knisley... In 2010, Lucy and her long-term boyfriend John broke up. Three long, lonely years later, John returned to New York, walked into Lucy's apartment, and proposed. This is not that story. It is the story of what came after: The Wedding.

DIY maven Lucy Knisley was fascinated by American wedding culture . . . but also sort of horrified by it. So she set out to plan and execute the adorable DIY wedding to end all adorable DIY weddings. And she succeeded. This graphic novel--clocking in at almost 300 pages of humor, despair, and eternal love--is the story of how Lucy built a barn, invented a whole new kind of photo booth, and managed to turn an outdoor wedding on a rainy day into a joyous (though muddy) triumph.

Happy endings do happen, and that includes me getting an advanced reading copy of Lucy's new book in the mail! Fun, wonderfully illustrated (Yes, this IS a Graphic Novel!), and a great story are all benchmarks of a Lucy Knisley book, and are found in Something New. Thanks goes to First Second Press for an advanced copy of Something New, which goes on sale May 3rd! Review will be coming soon!

I am so excited about these books! So, that's what was in my mailbox, how about you!? What do you think about these books? You can check out what everyone else received in their mailbox, by going to Mailbox Monday! Enjoy!

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