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 24, 2016

I Am A Hero by Kengo Hanazawa... A Review

Zombies are here to stay and I Am A Hero Omnibus 1 by Kengo Hanazawa proves that. Think of The Walking Dead in Japan, but with a good helping of horror added in.

I picked up I Am A Hero Omnibus Volume 1 by Kengo Hanazawa because I had read all sorts of great reviews, and read that it won The Shogakukan Manga Award in 2013. It is about Hideo, a 35 year-old failed Manga artist, who is paranoid, afraid of everything and is just your run of the mill kind of guy. He has a girlfriend (sometimes), is obsessed about Manga and works as an assistant to a Manga artist. One day while walking home from work, he sees a car accident. A person was hit by a car, and should have been dead, but instead got up and lumbered away. Strange, huh? And then Hideo witnesses other strange things, until finally there's no question about it, people are acting really strange and attacking eachother... What's a guy to do?! I don't want to reveal too much of the story, but let's just say it ain't easy being the odd man out, but at least you are one of the living. And this manga is a combination of horror, zombie apocalypse and humor. Yes, there is some deadpan humor (no pun intended).

First of all the artwork is wonderful. Very detailed backgrounds and the characters are drawn really well. But, the story itself starts off really slow and it takes probably half the book to build up some speed. I was wondering what I was reading because there wasn't much to indicate any zombies. And there were some weird sexual references thrown in that I can only think is because our main character is a shy guy. But after getting through that slow beginning, and the weird sexual references, the story took off and I was totally on board. By the end of the Manga, I was rooting for Hideo, hoping he could survive... and I think he did.

Of course I Am A Hero Omnibus 1 ends with a cliff hanger. No surprise since this series started in Japan in 2009 and is up to 20 volumes already. Dark Horse Comics aquired the rights to the U.S. version and plans on releasing 2 Omnibus volumes in 2016 (1 & 2) and 1 Omnibus in 2017 (Volume 3). And hopefully they will continue the series until the finish or else we'll have to learn to read Japanese. But, all in all, I would recommend this manga to anyone who enjoys a great horror story, zombies, or just likes manga in general with a good story.

5 Zombies for I Am a Hero Omnibus Volume 1! Volume 2 comes out in October!

P.S. On the cover you see Hideo with his shotgun. It's a bit unusual for anyone to own a gun in Japan, and Hideo is a law abiding gun owner... meaning, he's not suppose to shoot people... living or "possibly" living. He's going to have some "issues" with that.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

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

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 another rainy Sunday morning in Connecticut. The birds are singing though and I'm hoping the sun with show its face later. One the reading front... I've been leisurely reading LaRose by Louise Erdrich and really enjoying it. Erdrich's writing is wonderful and the story is absorbing. I added LaRose to the "must read" mix this week for anyone not familiar with Louise Erdrich's latest emotional work.

I also squeezed in two other books this week and an AUDIOBOOK. One book was a science fiction novella titled  Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (I reviewed it Saturday) that won the Nebula award for best science fiction novella for 2015. I don't read very much science fiction, but the premise sounded interesting (girl runs away from home to experience world and attend the most prestigious university in the galaxy. Encounters alien cultures, finds friendship and must learn to survive in an apocalyptic war she just happened to accidentally fly into on the way to school) The writing was wonderful. The story really held my attention and all of those things made me wonder why I never read science fiction.

     The other book I read was a Manga titled I Am a Hero by Kengo Hanazawa. I do read Manga, and I picked this out because I was hearing all sorts of great things about this series that Dark Horse Comics just bought the rights for and was beginning to publish in the States in 2016. This book also won the Shogakukan Manga Award, which is Japanese literary award for Manga series. I Am A Hero is an Omnibus, collecting a couple of the original japanese books in this one big 464 page volume. I'll be reviewing this Manga this week, but my initial thoughts were "why is this the cat's meow" until over half way through the story started to pick up speed and I was wanting to read more, but it ended and the next book is due in October. Oh, what's it about? It's about a Zombie Apocalypse in Japan. Think Walking Dead in Japanese, but there's so much more to it, really. And the artwork is nice, very detailed which is one reason people are raving about it.

Now the audiobook I listened to was Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at The End of the Lane, and it was wonderful!! OMG, it was such a marvelous tale that I wish everyone would listen to it. Neil Gaiman actually read it, played all the characters and did a fantastic job on all counts. Basically a fairy tale in the vein of Grimm's Fairy Tales- you know those dark fairy tales that look innocent enough from the start, but start to turn into a thinly veiled horror story. I'll be reviewing this also this week.

I'm always on the lookout for the next read, though and this week I found 3 books that should really satisfy that need to read... not just anything, but something with a really good story...

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler... From Kirkus Review: An ingénue from the Midwest learns the ways of the world, and the flesh, during her year as a back waiter at a top Manhattan restaurant. 

A flurry of publicity surrounded the acquisition of this book, which was pitched by an MFA–grad waitress to an editor dining at one of her tables. Danler’s debut novel takes place behind the scenes of a restaurant in Union Square whose rigid hierarchy, arcane codes of behavior, and basis in servitude and manual labor makes it less like a modern workplace than the royal court of 18th-century France—but with tattoos and enough cocaine to rival Jay McInerney. There’s even a Dangerous Liaisons–type love triangle with the beautiful, naïve young narrator at its apex, batted between the mysterious, brilliant waitress who teaches her about wine and the dissolute, magnetic bartender who teaches her about oysters. The older woman says things like, “I know you. I remember you from my youth. You contain multitudes.” The older man “was bisexual, he slept with everyone, he slept with no one. He was an ex-heroin addict, he was sober, he was always a little drunk.” What 22-year-old could ever resist them? The writing is mostly incandescent, with visceral and gorgeous descriptions of flavors, pitch-perfect overheard dialogue, deep knowledge of food, wine, and the restaurant business, and only occasional lapses into unintentional pretentiousness. From her very first sentences—“You will develop a palate. A palate is a spot on your tongue where you remember. Where you assign words to the textures of taste. Eating becomes a discipline, language-obsessed. You will never simply eat food again”—Danler aims to mesmerize, to seduce, to fill you with sensual cravings. She also offers the rare impassioned defense of Britney Spears.

I've read so many great reviews on this book, that I have now put it on my TBR list. What tempts me is  the backdrop of New York and all the wonderful food that fills the pages. This is published by Knopf and will be released May 24th!

 The Children by Ann Leary... The captivating story of a wealthy, but unconventional New England family, told from the perspective of a reclusive 29-year-old who has a secret (and famous) life on the Internet. 

Charlotte Maynard rarely leaves her mother’s home, the sprawling Connecticut lake house that belonged to her late stepfather, Whit Whitman, and the generations of Whitmans before him. While Charlotte and her sister, Sally, grew up at “Lakeside,” their stepbrothers, Spin and Perry, were welcomed as weekend guests. Now the grown boys own the estate, which Joan occupies by their grace―and a provision in the family trust. When Spin, the youngest and favorite of all the children, brings his fiancé home for the summer, the entire family is intrigued. The beautiful and accomplished Laurel Atwood breathes new life into this often comically rarefied world. But as the wedding draws near, and flaws surface in the family’s polite veneer, an array of simmering resentments and unfortunate truths is exposed. With remarkable wit and insight, Ann Leary pulls back the curtain on one blended family, as they are forced to grapple with the assets and liabilities – both material and psychological – left behind by their wonderfully flawed patriarch.

Again, I've heard lots of great buzz about this book and have put it on my TBR list! Published by St. Martin's Press, The Children will also be released May 24th!

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub... A smart, highly entertaining novel about a tight-knit group of friends from college— and what it means to finally grow up, well after adulthood has set in.

Friends and former college bandmates Elizabeth and Andrew and Zoe have watched one another marry, buy real estate, and start businesses and families, all while trying to hold on to the identities of their youth. But nothing ages them like having to suddenly pass the torch (of sexuality, independence, and the ineffable alchemy of cool) to their own offspring. Back in the band's heyday, Elizabeth put on a snarl over her Midwestern smile, Andrew let his unwashed hair grow past his chin, and Zoe was the lesbian all the straight women wanted to sleep with. Now nearing fifty, they all live within shouting distance in the same neighborhood deep in gentrified Brooklyn, and the trappings of the adult world seem to have arrived with ease. But the summer that their children reach maturity (and start sleeping together), the fabric of the adult lives suddenly begins to unravel, and the secrets and revelations that are finally let loose—about themselves, and about the famous fourth band member who soared and fell without them—can never be reclaimed.

The highly anticipated next novel of Emma Straub has gotten some nice press and what I find appealing is to see how this group of friends navigates being grown up after surviving their youth together, and dealing with the fact that their children have become them. On my TBR list. Published by Riverhead Books and will be released May 31st!

Question... Do you like to look ahead to see what books are "Coming Soon"? 

Bonus Book... 
LaRose by Louise Erdrich... An emotionally haunting contemporary tale of a tragic accident, a demand for justice, and a profound act of atonement with ancient roots in Native American culture.

North Dakota, late summer, 1999. Landreaux Iron stalks a deer along the edge of the property bordering his own. He shoots with easy confidence—but when the buck springs away, Landreaux realizes he’s hit something else, a blur he saw as he squeezed the trigger. When he staggers closer, he realizes he has killed his neighbor’s five-year-old son, Dusty Ravich. The youngest child of his friend and neighbor, Peter Ravich, Dusty was best friends with Landreaux’s five-year-old son, LaRose. The two families have always been close, sharing food, clothing, and rides into town; their children played together despite going to different schools; and Landreaux’s wife, Emmaline, is half sister to Dusty’s mother, Nola. Horrified at what he’s done, the recovered alcoholic turns to an Ojibwe tribe tradition—the sweat lodge—for guidance, and finds a way forward. Following an ancient means of retribution, he and Emmaline will give LaRose to the grieving Peter and Nola. “Our son will be your son now,” they tell them. LaRose is quickly absorbed into his new family. Plagued by thoughts of suicide, Nola dotes on him, keeping her darkness at bay. His fierce, rebellious new “sister,” Maggie, welcomes him as a coconspirator who can ease her volatile mother’s terrifying moods. Gradually he’s allowed shared visits with his birth family, whose sorrow mirrors the Raviches’ own. As the years pass, LaRose becomes the linchpin linking the Irons and the Raviches, and eventually their mutual pain begins to heal. But when a vengeful man with a long-standing grudge against Landreaux begins raising trouble, hurling accusations of a cover-up the day Dusty died, he threatens the tenuous peace that has kept these two fragile families whole.

First, Louise Erdrich's writing is beautiful, I am enjoying reading the words that convey such strong emotions. The story is so devastating and yet inspiring. I'll be reviewing this soon, but for now, put this on your TBR list because I think it will be one of this years big hits. It has gotten a lot of positive press and a starred review from Kirkus. Published by Harper and released last week!

That about does it for this Sunday. What have you been reading (or listening to?!) Please share because I'd love to hear about it all!

Happy reading... Suzanne

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor... a Review

I'm not really a Sci-Fi kind of girl, but while reading about the 2015 Nebula awards which were recently handed out, I came across this title, Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, and it struck me as interesting. It is a novella and the kindle price practically gave it away, so why not? What I found was truly a gift! A space adventure, lead by a great female character named Binti, with fantastic "alien" cultures, with writing that made me feel I was right there in the thick of things.

Binti is about a young girl who risks everything, including her relationship with her family, to attend the most prestigious university in the galaxy, Oomza University. Binti will be the first of her people to  be accepted at the University... if she survives getting threre. You see, the part of the galaxy she'll be traveling to is at war, and no one is safe.  On top of that, Binti has never been outside her home and at home her people, although highly intelligent, have been looked down on by other cultures, so she braces herself for rejection. What Binti finds though, are easy friendships, interesting food and... terrifying danger.

The world Nnedi Okorafor has created is fantastic, mesmerizing, interesting. The characters are wonderful, beautifully different. The subplot of alien cultures needing to find common ground in order to survive is typical, but the way the author attains that is so interesting! The writing is soothing with each line seeming to be perfectly painted on the page. And the storyline is both terrifying and exhilerating at the same time. No wonder this won a Nebula!

Great characters, wonderfully imaginitive world and cultures, with a beautifully written story all bundled in about 100 pages, makes this a MUST read in my book. Like Science Fiction? Read this. Not so sure about science fiction, but like the idea of young girl adventurer? Give this a try! Five stars from this non-scifi girl. And I can't wait to read more about Binti as Nnedi Okorafor decided that Binti's story wasn't done!

Friday, May 20, 2016

First Lines Friday...

They have known each other for a long time. She has never quite been able to recall the moment when they met, the place, the precise day, whether she shook his hand or they kissed on the cheek. Nor has she ever thought to ask him. She does have a first memory, though. As she was climbing into her coat in the narrow hallway of an unkempt apartment, she had caught his look of distress.

                 ...Voice Over by Celine Curiol, Translated by Sam Richard

This book was recommended to me because of my enjoyment of Fire in The Blood by Irene Nemirovsky. It's sparse haunting prose should resonate with readers who enjoy Nemirovsky. 

From these "First Lines", would you want to continue reading?

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Sunday Salon and Why Do Birds Suddenly Appear... or 3 (Different) Literary "Love" Stories You Have to Read

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!

"Why do birds, suddenly appear? Every time you are near..." are the opening lines to a Carpenters love song from the 70's called Close to You, but not every love story is filled with such starry eyed lovers... sometimes love takes on a whole different form, as in these 3 just released novels that are getting all the buzz these days...

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett... When Margaret’s fiancé, John, is hospitalized for depression in 1960s London, she faces a choice: carry on with their plans despite what she now knows of his condition, or back away from the suffering it may bring her. She decides to marry him. Imagine Me Gone is the unforgettable story of what unfolds from this act of love and faith. At the heart of it is their eldest son, Michael, a brilliant, anxious music fanatic, who makes sense of the world through parody, and the story of how, over the span of decades, his younger siblings—the savvy and responsible Celia, and the ambitious and tightly controlled Alec—struggle with their mother to care for Michael’s increasingly troubled and precarious existence.

Love takes on depression and the meaning of family in this story. The key to this book is author Adam Haslett and the way he takes the fight in a direction that  MARK ATHITAKIS in a review in the Star Tribune has called "rare empathy, realism and insight". And Michael, the eldest son in the story, plays a big part in all of that. It's not all a downer either, there is suppose to be humor sprinkled in the mix. Lots of great buzz about this book! On my TBR list! Puiblished by Little, Brown and Company and available now from your favorite bookstore!

A man is walking down a country lane. A woman, cycling towards him, swerves to avoid a dog. On that moment, their future hinges. There are three possible outcomes, three small decisions that could determine the rest of their life. Eva and Jim are nineteen and students at Cambridge when their paths first cross in 1958. And then there is David, Eva's then-lover, an ambitious actor who loves Eva deeply. The Versions of Us follows the three different courses their lives could take following this first meeting. Lives filled with love, betrayal, ambition but through it all is a deep connection that endures whatever fate might throw at them. The Versions of Us explores the idea that there are moments when our lives might have turned out differently, the tiny factors or decisions that could determine our fate, and the precarious nature of the foundations upon which we build our lives. It is also a story about the nature of love and how it grows, changes and evolves as we go through the vagaries of life.

We all have those "what if" moments and this is exactly what we are offered in Versions of Us, which just simply intrigues me. Love is seen three different ways.  Lots of great buzz about this one too, and it is on my TBR list now! Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and available now from your favorite bookstore!

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick... Sixty-nine-year-old Arthur Pepper lives a simple life. He gets out of bed at precisely 7:30 a.m., just as he did when his wife, Miriam, was alive. He dresses in the same gray slacks and mustard sweater vest, waters his fern, Frederica, and heads out to his garden. But on the one-year anniversary of Miriam's death, something changes. Sorting through Miriam's possessions, Arthur finds an exquisite gold charm bracelet he's never seen before. What follows is a surprising and unforgettable odyssey that takes Arthur from London to Paris and as far as India in an epic quest to find out the truth about his wife's secret life before they met--a journey that leads him to find hope, healing and self-discovery in the most unexpected places.

What would a summer be without a "charmer", and this love story has all the elements of that. Love takes on grief and hope in this love story! Maybe Miriam left that bracelet to help Arthur step out of that daily routine and live again. Lots of great buzz here too. On my TBR list! Puiblished by MIRA and available now from your favorite bookstore!

Weekly Wrap-up...
Last week was a busy week for me, but I had to share Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris! Read my review from Saturday! It's a love story gone wrong and boy, did I devour it! I literally could not put it down and lost quite a bit of sleep reading it until the wee hours of the morning.

What am I reading Now?...
An amazing story of the choices we make in the face of tragedy... LaRose by Louise Erdrich. I am really enjoying the writing of Louise Erdrich! Stay tuned for a review in the near future on this one.

That about does it for this Sunday. Hope you found something new to put on your TBR list! And if you discovered some great reading, please share it! I would love to hear about it!

Happy Reading... Suzanne

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris... A Review

Terrifying, Chilling, and a true page turner! The publisher said I would be hooked by page 25... I was intrigued... by page 40 I was immersed in the story... and by page 100 I desperately needed to know what happened next... and I stayed up all night and into the wee hours reading to find out.

The story is about Grace and Jack. A perfect couple. A perfect wife. A perfect husband with movie star good looks, with a job as a lawyer defending abused women. What if the perfect husband turned out to be "not so perfect", and you knew that no one would believe you? What if you innocently married that perfect guy and discovered on your wedding night that things weren't quite what they appeared to be? What if he thought of... everything. The storyline was so plausible that it was terrifying.

The story is presented in an interesting way too. Told by Grace in alternating "Past" and "Present" chapters, the author unfurls the story in bite size pieces, just enough to get us hooked to go to the next chapter and definitely grabbing our attention. "Past" starts when Grace and Jack first meet, and "Present" starts 1 year after they are married, hosting a dinner party at their home. The timelines slowly move towards eachother and then it's OMG!

I don't want to give away any spoilers, but just lets say you never know what goes on behind closed doors, and Grace, the perfect wife, is in trouble. As the story unfolds, I kept trying to imagine what I would do in her situation. What I could do... I literally could not put this book down until I finished it.

OMG! You have to read this book! The storyline was great, and the writing was flawless.

Like psychological thrillers? Put Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris on your TBR list! You will not be disappointed. But you do have to wait until August 9th!

Published by St. Martin's Press, Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris will be released and available at your local bookstore Tuesday, August 9th, 2016! I want to thank St Martin's Press for sending along a review copy! I LOVED it!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Sunday Salon and Happy Mother's Day!

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!

Happy Mother's Day to all the women in my life! Some of you are Mother's, some of you should have been Mother's. You are wives, aunties, cousins, and sisters. But, you are all my friends, whether we virtually chat or chat in real life and I appreciate you all! Enjoy the day! And even though National Poetry Month is over, we can still share a poem or two, right?! Here is a poem I think is perfect for Mother's Day, whether your mother gave you "piano lessons" or gave you other lessons to teach you how to navigate... life.

Thanking My Mother for Piano Lessons
by Diane Wakoski

The relief of putting your fingers on the keyboard, 
as if you were walking on the beach 
and found a diamond 
as big as a shoe; 

as if 
you had just built a wooden table 
and the smell of sawdust was in the air, 
your hands dry and woody; 

as if 
you had eluded 
the man in the dark hat who had been following you 
all week; 

the relief 
of putting your fingers on the keyboard, 
playing the chords of 
         in an afternoon when I had no one to talk to, 
         when the magazine advertisement forms of soft sweaters 
         and clean shining Republican middle-class hair 
         walked into carpeted houses 
         and left me alone 
         with bare floors and a few books 

I want to thank my mother 
for working every day 
in a drab office 
in garages and water companies 
cutting the cream out of her coffee at 40 
to lose weight, her heavy body 
writing its delicate bookkeeper’s ledgers 
alone, with no man to look at her face, 
her body, her prematurely white hair 
in love 
         I want to thank 
my mother for working and always paying for 
my piano lessons 
before she paid the Bank of America loan 
or bought the groceries 
or had our old rattling Ford repaired. 

I was a quiet child, 
afraid of walking into a store alone, 
afraid of the water, 
the sun, 
the dirty weeds in back yards, 
afraid of my mother’s bad breath, 
and afraid of my father’s occasional visits home, 
knowing he would leave again; 
afraid of not having any money, 
afraid of my clumsy body, 
that I knew 
         no one would ever love 

But I played my way 
on the old upright piano 
obtained for $10, 
played my way through fear, 
through ugliness, 
through growing up in a world of dime-store purchases, 
and a desire to love 
a loveless world. 

I played my way through an ugly face 
and lonely afternoons, days, evenings, nights, 
mornings even, empty 
as a rusty coffee can, 
played my way through the rustles of spring 
and wanted everything around me to shimmer like the narrow tide 
on a flat beach at sunset in Southern California, 
I played my way through 
an empty father’s hat in my mother’s closet 
and a bed she slept on only one side of, 
never wrinkling an inch of 
the other side, 

I played my way through honors in school, 
the only place I could 
       the classroom, 
       or at my piano lessons, Mrs. Hillhouse’s canary always 
       singing the most for my talents, 
       as if I had thrown some part of my body away upon entering 
       her house 
       and was now searching every ivory case 
       of the keyboard, slipping my fingers over black 
       ridges and around smooth rocks, 
       wondering where I had lost my bloody organs, 
       or my mouth which sometimes opened 
       like a California poppy, 
       wide and with contrasts 
       beautiful in sweeping fields, 
       entirely closed morning and night, 

I played my way from age to age, 
but they all seemed ageless 
or perhaps always 
old and lonely, 
wanting only one thing, surrounded by the dusty bitter-smelling 
leaves of orange trees, 
wanting only to be touched by a man who loved me, 
who would be there every night 
to put his large strong hand over my shoulder, 
whose hips I would wake up against in the morning, 
whose mustaches might brush a face asleep, 
dreaming of pianos that made the sound of Mozart 
and Schubert without demanding 
that life suck everything 
out of you each day, 
without demanding the emptiness 
of a timid little life. 

I want to thank my mother 
for letting me wake her up sometimes at 6 in the morning 
when I practiced my lessons 
and for making sure I had a piano 
to lay my school books down on, every afternoon. 
I haven’t touched the piano in 10 years, 
perhaps in fear that what little love I’ve been able to 
pick, like lint, out of the corners of pockets, 
will get lost, 
slide away, 
into the terribly empty cavern of me 
if I ever open it all the way up again. 
Love is a man 
with a mustache 
gently holding me every night, 
always being there when I need to touch him; 
he could not know the painfully loud 
music from the past that 
his loving stops from pounding, banging, 
battering through my brain, 
which does its best to destroy the precarious gray matter when I 
am alone; 
he does not hear Mrs. Hillhouse’s canary singing for me, 
liking the sound of my lesson this week, 
telling me, 
confirming what my teacher says, 
that I have a gift for the piano 
few of her other pupils had. 
When I touch the man 
I love, 
I want to thank my mother for giving me 
piano lessons 
all those years, 
keeping the memory of Beethoven, 
a deaf tortured man, 
in mind; 
            of the beauty that can come 
from even an ugly 

Diane Wakoski, “Thanking My Mother for Piano Lessons” from Emerald Ice: Selected Poems 1962-1987.

Monday, May 2, 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...

This Must Be The Place by Maggie O'Farrell... A smart, sophisticated, spellbinding summer read that captures the collapse--and reawakening--of an extraordinary marriage.

Daniel Sullivan, a young American professor reeling from a failed marriage and a brutal custody battle, is on holiday in Ireland when he falls in love with Claudette, a world-famous sexual icon and actress who fled fame for a reclusive life in a rural village. Together, they make an idyllic life in the country, raising two more children in blissful seclusion--until a secret from Daniel's past threatens to destroy their meticulously constructed and fiercely protected home. What follows is a journey through Daniel's many lives told in his voice and the voices of those who have made him the man he is: the American son and daughter he has not seen for many years; the family he has made with Claudette; and irrepressible, irreverent Claudette herself. Shot through with humor and wisdom, This Must Be the Place is a powerful rumination on the nature of identity, and the complexities of loyalty and devotion--a gripping story of an extraordinary family and an extraordinary love.

Arc courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf, with a publishing date of July 19, 2016!

The A to Z of You and Me by James Hannah... A striking literary debut of love and mortality, The A to Z of You and Me is is the story of a man who doesn’t have much time, his love for a girl who isn’t there, and the game he plays while waiting that illuminates the devastating and beautiful turns of life.

The A-Z game. For Ivo, it’s a way to pass the time, a way to avoid the pain, and a way to think about what really got him here. His hospice nurse suggested it – think of a body part for each letter, and think of memories connected to each one. And so begins the revealing of his misspent life: the terrible teenage choices, friendships made and cracked, love he’ll never get back. He remembers the girl who tried to help him, the friend who wouldn’t let her, and the sickness that chases him even now.

eGalley courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark, with a publishing date of May 3, 2016!

There Will Be Stars by Billy Coffey... Only in death could Bobby Barnes begin to understand the true nature of love. No one in Mattingly ever believed Bobby Barnes would live to see old age. Drink would either rot Bobby from the inside out or dull his senses just enough to send his truck off the mountain on one of his nightly rides. Although Bobby believes such an end possible and even likely, it doesn't stop him from taking his twin sons Matthew and Mark into the mountains one Saturday night. A sharp curve, blinding headlights, metal on metal, his sons' screams. Bobby's final thought as he sinks into blackness is a curious one—There will be stars.

Yet it is not death that greets him beyond the veil. Instead, he returns to the day he has just lived and soon finds he is not alone in this strange new world. Six others are trapped there with him. Bobby soon discovers that rather than the place of peace he had been led to believe he was in, it's actually a place of secrets and hidden dangers. Along with three others, he seeks to escape even as the world around him begins to crumble. The escape will lead some to greater life, others to endless death . . . and Bobby Barnes to understand the deepest nature of love.

eGalley courtesy of Thomas Nelson, with a publishing date of May 3, 2016!

The Last One by Alexandra Oliva... A dazzling and unsettling novel of psychological suspense. In Alexandra Oliva's thrilling fiction debut, survival is the name of the game, as the line blurs between reality TV and reality itself—and one woman's mind and body are pushed to the limit.

She wanted an adventure. She never imagined it would go this far. It begins with a reality TV show. Twelve contestants are sent into the woods to face challenges that will test the limits of endurance. While they are out there, something terrible happens—but how widespread is the destruction, and has it occurred naturally or is it man-made? Cut off from society, the contestants know nothing of it. When one of them—a young woman the show's producers call Zoo—stumbles across the devastation, she can imagine only that it is part of the game. Alone and disoriented, Zoo is heavy with doubt regarding the life—and husband—she left behind, but she refuses to quit. Staggering countless miles across unfamiliar territory, Zoo must summon all of her survival skills—and learn new ones as she goes. But as her emotional and physical reserves dwindle, she grasps that the real world might have been altered in terrifying ways—and her ability to parse the charade will either be her triumph or her undoing.

eGalley courtesy of Random House Publishing Ballantine , with a publishing date of July 12, 2016!

All The President's Gardens by Marta McDowell... The fascinating story of America's first garden!

The eighteen acres that surround the White House have been an unwitting witness to history--a backdrop for soldiers, suffragettes, protestors, and activists. Kings and queens have dined there; bills and treaties have been signed; and presidents have landed and retreated. The front and back yard for the first family, it is by extension the nation's first garden. All the Presidents' Gardens tells the untold history of the White House Grounds. Starting with the seed-collecting, plant-obsessed George Washington and ending with Michelle Obama's focus on edibles, this rich and compelling narrative reveals how the story of the garden is also the story of America. Readers learn about Lincoln's goats, Ike's putting green, Jackie's iconic roses, Amy Carter's tree house, and much more. They also learn the plants whose favor has come and gone over the years and the gardeners who have been responsible for it all.

Fully illustrated with new and historical photographs and art, refreshingly nonpartisan, and releasing just in time for election year, this is a must-read for anyone interested in the red, white, and green!

I originally reviewed this as an eGalley, gave it 4 stars!, and made the comment that I thought it would be nicer to read as a physical book, so you could bookmark pages to refer back to, and that I wasn't sure the size I saw Amazon listed for the published book was large enough for a book with such a wealth of info. Well, the author, Marta McDowell emailed me and asked me if I'd like a copy of the finished product, and of course I said YES! And once I got the actual physical book in my hand, I was even more in love with the book! Yes, the actual size of the physical book is perfect and it is a beautiful book! And look, she even signed it! Thank you so much Marta! That's an author going out of her way!

All The Presidents' Garden by Marta McDowell is published by Timber Press, and is available right now from your local bookstore!

And that is what was happening in my mailbox! Hope you found these interesting! Check out these books and what the other book bloggers received in their mailboxes at Mailbox Monday!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Sunday Salon and Listen it's May! or How about Listen it's an Audiobook...( Because this month is the Audio book awards!)

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!

The weather is dreary in Connecticut today. It's rainy and gray. The kind of day to wrap yourself up in a quilt and read. But I just finished a wonderful book, a book I want to linger with a little more before cracking open the spine of a new one, so I'm thinking that relaxing with an audiobook might be the answer. Listening to audiobooks are a different "reading" experience. I'm not a big audiobook listener, but I have reviewed a few in the past that I absolutely loved. One of which is The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova.  There are actually 5 readers, one for each major character, which is a nice treat. And the story has a lot of the elements I like- a love story than spans time, it's a mystery and it's about art. (You can read my review by clicking on the link above). I reviewed Love & War by James Carville and Mary Matalin, a story about these two political powerhouses that fell in love an raised a family. It was alternately read by them both, and it was so good. (And I'm not one to read books on politics, but that was a very minor part of this story).

3 Things that make a good audiobook?
  1. A Great Narrator... A narrator that sounds great, reads well, emphasizes the right words, and has a sense of feeling for what's being told. And that includes whether or not the narrator is using an accent. There is nothing worse than a narrator whose voice is unpleasant to listen to and/or they are trying to read in an accent that does not sound authentic. And a pleasant voice is subjective, so listen to a sample of someone reading what you are considering, because you will probably be listening to that voice for hours!   
  2. An Interesting Story... A good narrator can make or break a good story, but choosing a genre that interests you or a story that sounds interesting will keep your attention.
  3. The Length of the Audiobook... Yes, there are audiobooks that are 30 minutes and then there are some that are 40 hours. Choose something that is appropriate for what your doing. Such as commuting or a roadtrip. If you choose that 40 hour book and you are commuting to work 30 minutes a day you'll be listening to that book for a long time and hopefully won't get lose your interest. 
In May, the Audio Publisher's Association awards the Audies, which are the awards for outstanding audiobook in about 30 catagories, ranging from Audio drama to Best female/male Narrator, all the way to Best Audiobook of the year. The catagories also include all the different genres, so that Fantasy isn't competing against, say Humor. The finalists have been chosen and you can see and listen to samples of all of them at Audiofile Magazine. Checking these out that may be a great way to dip your toe into the audiobook waters.

I have some problems with audiobooks...
  1. I Get Distracted... If I try doing something else besides listening, I more times than not, get distracted by what I'm doing and not hear part of the story. So, for me, it's relax while listening to the audiobook and enjoy just listening. I have enjoyed audiobooks while driving and on long roadtrips, though.
  2. I Get Bored... If an audiobook is too long, I can get bored. Especially if I'm not doing anything else. Taking breaks from listening can help this. 
What's the answer? Just like books, picking out an audiobook is trial & error. Getting recommendations from others is always a plus. And today, I'm going to share 3 of the audiobooks from the Audie finalists that sound pretty good. 

BTW, the first 2 of these audiobooks has already won an Earphone Award, which is the award given by AudioFile to truly exceptional titles that excel in narrative voice and style, characterizations, suitability to audio, and enhancement of the text.

* Earphones Award Winner
by Paula Hawkins | Read by Clare Corbett, Louise Brealey, India Fisher
Fiction • 11 hrs. • Unabridged • © 2014
Three talented narrators handle Hawkins’s debut psychological thriller, giving identifiable voices and personalities to the characters Rachel, Megan, and Anna. Rachel’s life is spinning out of control. She imagines the perfect life of “Jess and Jason,” people she sees from a train window on her daily commute. She actively believes in the fantasy, and when she observes something shocking, she determines to intervene. The three narrators alternate chapters, offering differing interpretations of events as seen by Rachel, who drinks excessively and is subject to alcoholic blackouts; Megan, who is having an extramarital affair; and Anna, who is married to Rachel’s ex-husband. When Megan disappears and the police investigate, listeners must decide how much of what the women report is reliable. Top-notch narration makes this perfect for audio.

Read by Jenny Lawson
*Earphones Award Winner
Biography & Memoir • 8.5 hrs. • Unabridged • © 2014
In her second memoir, Jenny Lawson wears the hats of both author and narrator. While her reading isn't as polished as a professional performer's, her conviction makes this deeply personal content sound powerful and meaningful. Lawson's energy, passion, and furiously happy demeanor invite the listener into her atypical world of mental disorder, taxidermy, and family. Her ability to laugh at herself puts listeners at ease with her weighty issues, which she delivers with grace, insight, sometimes profanity, and the authenticity of a person who faces personal challenges daily. At turns funny and deeply moving, Lawson's accounts and genuine emotion will connect with listeners, whether they struggle with similar problems or not.

I started reading this book a while back and really enjoyed it. I had never heard of Jenny Lawson before, but she is funny and this book is funny. It seems that her humor towards mental illness has helped a lot of people deal with their own issues. I enjoyed the sample of Jenny reading her book too. I liked her voice and I liked that fact that she was reading her own story. This audiobook is up for Best Humor Audiobook 2016. And it also is a Earphone Award Winner. 

Mystery & Suspense • 12.5 hrs. • Unabridged • © 2014
There's a reason Joe Barrett succeeds as narrator in so many audiobooks. He has a particularly dynamic and intriguing style. Freeman's second Cab Bolton mystery is a soaring, complex thriller of political corruption and human failing. Set in Florida, it involves Cab with a campaign for governor and old crimes. Barrett voices just enough to give his characters definition. Where he excels is in imbuing all of them with feeling, passion, and temperament in sync with the storyline. It doesn't matter that his male and female voices differ little in pitch and intensity; the essential differences exist in timbre, intonation, and pacing. His delivery is complex, but Barrett never loses the thread of the story.

This Audiobook is up for Best Mystery Audiobook. I'm not a big "political mystery" reader, but I really loved Joe Barrett's voice as he read it. And, even though this is book 2 of the character Cab Bolton, I'm not sure these days you need to read book 1 to enjoy a book 2. 

Question... Do you listen to audiobooks? and if you do, What do YOU think makes a good audiobook?

Now that we've talked about how to pick out an audiobook, let's talk about where to buy them... and remember, these audiobooks are not generally physical CD's so you have to have a device that you can download them to... is an Amazon subsidiary now and you can join a monthly audiobook subscription through to get credits for 1 or more "Digital" books a month, starting at $14.95 for 1 audiobook a month. OR, check out's Daily Deals! Every day they have a new deal on an audiobook. Usually anywhere from $1.99 to $4.95. The other day I downloaded Woof by Spencer Quinn for $3.95. It sounded cute and of course I like dog stories. It's the teenage version of Spencer Quinn's adult "Talking Dog and partner" series. 

Downpour is a something I've gotten emails from about audiobooks. It appears that is an audiobook rental site. To join and get one audiobook rental a month is $12.95, but if this sounds like something you're interested in you should investigate a bit further because I'm not sure. The site was a bit mysterious in all it's details.

AudiobookStand... They sell audiobooks on CD's and MP3's starting at $6.

Audio Editions... Audiobooks on CD's and Tapes, prices vary.

YOUR Librairy! Most libraries have audiobook downloads AND audiobooks on CD's for you to borrow!

*Kim at The Caffeinated Book Reviewer, just reminded me with her Sunday post about a great audiobook program from SYNC (part of Audible). It's is a free summer audiobook program for teens 13+. The 2016 season is May 5th - August 17th 2016. SYNC 2016 will give away 30 titles - two paired audiobook downloads a week! Go to Audiobooksync to sign up!

Hope you have found something tempting here, or at least some good audiobook information! June is Audiobook Month, and maybe we'll check out some audiobooks then too. If you've listened to a great audiobook, please share it! I'd love to hear about it!

Happy reading... (or listening)... Suzanne

P.S. That wonderful book I just read that the memory of won't let me immediately open another book is Fire in the Blood by Irene Nemirovsky! It is only 129 pages with each sentence speaking volumes! It is a love story, it is a story of the passions of our youth, it is a beautifully written novel. READ IT! 

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