Literary Quote of the Month

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies," said Jojen. "The man who never reads lives only one." - George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons

Sunday, December 31, 2017

First Book of The Year 2018... Still Me by Jojo Moyes!

How are you starting your reading year?! For the last 5 years, Sheila from Book Journey has hosted First Book Of The Year. Anyone can participate (with a blog or not), you just need to pick a book! A special book you've been waiting to read, a book maybe you received as a gift, any book you'd like to read... 
My choice this year is... Still Me by Jojo Moyes. Are you familiar with Jojo Moyes? She wrote Me Before You and had the whole reading world turning those pages faster than the speed of light (not only that, but the book was made into a great movie that honestly did the book justice) When I read Me Before You by Jojo Moyes I never cried so much! But it was all good. The book was wonderful and we all came to know Louisa Clark as a quirky, intelligent and determined young lady full of heart. I'm ready to catch up with Louisa Clark as she starts life over in New York in Still Me! I'm also ready to start a new chapter in MY life... it's called retirement! So, the title of Jojo Moyes book fits right into that plan as well... even though I'm not working a 9 - 5 anymore, it's Still Me! Here's the publishers blurb...

In STILL ME, Lou arrives in New York ready to start a new life, confident that she can embrace this new adventure, and keep her relationship with Ambulance Sam alive across several thousand miles. Taking a job as the personal assistant to a New York socialite, Lou mixes with high society where she meets a man who brings with him a whisper of her past. As Lou tries to keep the two sides of her world together, she finds herself carrying secrets—not all her own—that cause a catastrophic change in her circumstances. When matters come to a head, she has to ask herself, Who is Louisa Clark? And how do you reconcile a heart that lives in two places? STILL ME is Jojo Moyes’ quirky, touching, and empathetic writing voice at its best, reminding readers why they fell in love with Me Before You. 

I want to thank the publisher, Penguin Random House, for sending along an advanced copy of Still Me just in time for my first book of the year! On January 30th, you can find a copy of Still Me at your favorite bookstore! 

*Psst... later this month look for a special Q&A with Jojo Moyes AND possibly a giveaway!!

Monday, December 25, 2017

'Twas The Night Before Christmas...

A Visit from St. Nicholas

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Monday, December 18, 2017

Memoir Monday... Traveling With Ghosts by Shannon Leone Fowler

From grief to reckoning to reflection to solace, a marine biologist shares the solo journey she took— through war-ravaged Eastern Europe, Israel, and beyond—to find peace after her fiancé suffered a fatal attack by a box jellyfish in Thailand.

In the summer of 2002, Shannon Leone Fowler, a twenty-eight-year-old marine biologist, was backpacking with her fiancé and love of her life, Sean. Sean was a tall, blue-eyed, warmhearted Australian, and he and Shannon planned to return to Australia after their excursion to Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand. Their plans, however, were devastatingly derailed when a box jellyfish—the most venomous animal in the world—wrapped around Sean’s leg, stinging and killing him in a matter of minutes as Shannon helplessly watched. Rejecting the Thai authorities attempt to label Sean’s death a “drunk drowning,” Shannon ferried his body home to his stunned family—a family to which she suddenly no longer belonged.

Shattered and untethered, Shannon’s life paused indefinitely so that she could travel around the world to find healing. Travel had forged her relationship with Sean, and she hoped it could also aid in processing his death. Though Sean wasn’t with Shannon, he was everywhere she went—among the places she visited were Oświęcim, Poland (the site of Auschwitz); war-torn Israel; shelled-out Bosnia; poverty-stricken Romania; and finally to Barcelona, where she first met Sean years before. Ultimately, Shannon had to confront the ocean after her life’s first great love took her second great love away.

Cheryl Strayed’s Wild meets Helen Macdonald’s H Is for Hawk in this beautiful, profoundly moving memorial to those we have lost on our journeys and the unexpected ways their presence echoes in all places—and voyages—big and small.

Published by Simon & Schuster, February 2017.

For some reason the cover grabbed my attention. Maybe because it had the word "ghost" in the title and I love ghost stories. Then I read the inside jacket, which told me this was a "different" kind of ghost story and a kind of love story. The cover may have grabbed my attention, but Shannon Leone Fowler's writing hooked me. In my TBR pile... and it passed the "Joy" test. ( Not sure what the "Joy" test is? Look at Sunday's Moving Madness post!)

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Sunday Salon and Moving Madness... or what to do with ALL THOSE BOOKS!

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! And The Sunday Post (which is hosted by Kim at The Caffeinated Book Reviewer) It's been a while... So, why has it been a while? The simple answer that comes to mind is that I'm retiring from my day job... this is the simple answer. The not so simple answer is I'm retiring from my day job, moving 817 miles away and trying to pack all my worldly possessions! This simple act of retiring and moving has created utter havoc and chaos in what was a somewhat "normal" life.

Along with all the normal things I am packing, (dishes, glassware, cookware, clothing, pottery...), I have an amazing number of books. Paperbacks, hardcovers, galleys, comic books... I love books... I love REAL books... But what am I going to do? Too many books. Really, I understand I'm a bit obsessive about books. 

I have always donated to the local library. One of my book club members moved and donated a bookcase where we work, so I donate books to our work library. I give books away to people I know will enjoy a particular book too... but it's hard sometimes to let go... What about those books on the TBR pile that you just know you'll read "one of those days"... How about now that I'm retiring, I can read ALL of those books someday?! Enough! I need to learn to let go and now! So, I bought a book. What?! You bought a book to help you get rid of books?! Sounds like I'm still feeding that obsession, doesn't it? But no, this book is different and actually helped me let go...

The life-changing manga of tidying up, a magical story, by Marie Kondo... Yes, a manga of that
popular book that taught everyone how to tidy up their lives. I actually bought the original cute little book and opened it up, but that was about it. I like Manga and when I went to see if there was any new Manga at my local bookstore, I saw Marie Kondo's Manga version of "Tidying Up" sitting on the shelf. And it was cute... and I bought it.

So, now that I have THAT book, where do I begin... In 3 easy steps, here's the gist of what Marie Kondo tells you to do...

1. Take all your books, ALL of them, and put them on the floor. 
2.  Standing in front of ALL your books, wake them up! Yes, clap your hands and wake those books up! 
3. Pick up each book and hold it close... does it spark joy?! If it sparks joy, keep it!

I did just that... I pulled all my books from all the bookshelves and layed them on the sofa. I picked each one up and held it close. And I actually felt joy with some and nothing with others. Marie Kondo points out that you may have missed the timing on some books... those books that you bought at the time to read that you really aren't interested in reading any more. Those books are the ones it's time to let go of. So, I did. They all went into a donate pile and I felt better for it. Of course, I still have a lot of books, but I've helped weed down my pile quite a bit. I also felt good letting those books go. In a way they were a burden because I felt "obligated" to read them because I bought them, even though I may not be interested in reading them anymore. Don't we have TBR books that have been collecting dust waiting for us to read them?!

I still need to get into our storage unit and go through books. It's going to warm up a bit next week so I might be able to tackle that. Otherwise,  I may be moving more books than I need to.

What do you think about Books sparking joy? Have you ever gone through your books to see if they still spark joy?

In a nutshell, that's what I've been doing... How about you?! What new bookish things have you been doing and what new books have you found that moved you? (okay, bad joke, but seriously, I'd love to hear about the great books y'all have been reading!) I'm still reading, although not as voraciously as usual, and I'm planning to get back to more reading after "the move". I'm also still blogging and will be back to "normal" after "the move"...

Until then... Happy Reading... Suzanne

Monday, September 18, 2017

Memoir Monday... The Sagrada Familia by Gijs Van Hensergen

The Sagrada Familia by Gijs Van Hensergen... An illuminating biography of one of the most famous--and most famously unfinished--buildings in the world, the Sagrada Familia of Barcelona.

The scaffolding-cloaked spires of Antoni Gaudí's masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia, dominate the Barcelona skyline and draw in millions of visitors every year. More than a century after the first stone was laid in 1882, the Sagrada Familia remains unfinished, a testament to Gaudí's quixotic ambition, his religious devotion, and the sensuous eccentricity of his design. It has defied the critics, the penny-pinching accountants, the conservative town-planners, and the devotees of sterile modernism. It has enchanted and frustrated the citizens of Barcelona. And it has passed through the landmark changes of twentieth-century Spain, surviving two World Wars, the ravages of the Spanish Civil War, and the "Hunger Years" of Franco's rule.

Gijs van Hensbergen's The Sagrada Familia explores the evolution of this remarkable building, working through the decades right up to the present day before looking beyond to the final stretch of its construction. Rich in detail and vast in scope, this is a revelatory chronicle of an iconic structure, its place in history, and the wild genius that created it.

This crazy beautiful Basilica in Barcelona has some history and this biography should be quite interesting. I love the idea of a biography of a piece of architecture too! What do you think?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Memoir Monday... The Day the World Came to Town 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim Defede

When 38 jetliners bound for the United States were forced to land at Gander International Airport in Canada by the closing of U.S. airspace on September 11, the population of this small town on Newfoundland Island swelled from 10,300 to nearly 17,000. The citizens of Gander met the stranded passengers with an overwhelming display of friendship and goodwill. As the passengers stepped from the airplanes, exhausted, hungry and distraught after being held on board for nearly 24 hours while security checked all of the baggage, they were greeted with a feast prepared by the townspeople. Local bus drivers who had been on strike came off the picket lines to transport the passengers to the various shelters set up in local schools and churches. Linens and toiletries were bought and donated. A middle school provided showers, as well as access to computers, email, and televisions, allowing the passengers to stay in touch with family and follow the news.

Over the course of those four days, many of the passengers developed friendships with Gander residents that they expect to last a lifetime. As a show of thanks, scholarship funds for the children of Gander have been formed and donations have been made to provide new computers for the schools. This book recounts the inspiring story of the residents of Gander, Canada, whose acts of kindness have touched the lives of thousands of people and been an example of humanity and goodwill.

The world will never forget what happened on 9/11. This book written in 2011 reminds us of the compassion and strength people are capable of. I had never heard of what happened in Gander, Newfoundland before reading about this book, but I look forward to this uplifting story.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Happy Labor Day and Rosie the Riveter...

Labor Day is the first Monday in September. It was created by the labor movement and is meant to celebrate "the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country". One of the most enduring symbols of the American worker is Rosie the Riveter. Are you familiar with her? Her history may not be what you think. Here's her story straight from the Department of Labor...

Rosie: By Any Other Name - The Riveting True Story of the Labor Icon
Iconic image of Rosie the Riveter, but with the words 'Don't Call me Rosie. Or Else!' above her head.Certainly, one of the more readily recognizable icons of labor is "Rosie the Riveter," the indefatigable World War II-era woman who rolled up her sleeves, flexed her arm muscles and said, "We Can Do It!" But, this isn't the original Rosie.

In 1942, as World War II raged in Europe and the Pacific and the song "Rosie the Riveter" filled radio waves across the home front, manufacturing giant Westinghouse commissioned artist J. Howard Miller to make a series of posters to promote the war effort. One such poster featured the image of a woman with her hair wrapped up in a red polka-dot scarf, rolling up her sleeve and flexing her bicep. At the top of the poster, the words ‘We Can Do It!' are printed in a blue caption bubble. To many people, this image is "the" Rosie the Riveter. But it was never the intention to make this image "Rosie," nor did many Americans think of her as "Rosie." The connection of Miller's image and "Rosie" is a recent phenomenon.

The "Rosie" image popular during the war was created by illustrator Norman Rockwell (who had most certainly heard the "Rosie the Riveter" song) for the cover of the Saturday Evening Post on May 29, 1943 — the Memorial Day issue. The image depicts a muscular woman wearing overalls, goggles and pins of honor on her lapel. She sports a leather wrist band and rolled-up sleeves. She sits with a riveting tool in her lap, eating a sandwich, and "Rosie" is inscribed on her lunch pail. And, she's stepping on a copy of Adolph Hitler's book "Mein Kampf."

The magazine cover exemplified the American can-do spirit and illustrated the notion of women working in previously male-dominated manufacturing jobs, an ever-growing reality, to help the United States fight the war while the men fought over seas.

The cover was an enormous success and soon stories about real life "Rosies" began appearing in newspapers across the country. The government took advantage of the popularity of Rosie the Riveter and embarked on a recruiting campaign of the same name. The campaign brought millions of women out of the home and into the workforce. To this day, Rosie the Riveter is still considered the most successful government advertising campaign in history.

After the war, numerous requests were made for the Saturday Evening Post image of Rosie the Riveter, but Curtis Publishing, the owner of the Post, refused all requests. The publishing company was possibly concerned that the composers of the song "Rosie the Riveter" would hold them liable for copyright infringement.

Since then, the J. Howard Miller "We Can Do It!" image has replaced Norman Rockwell's illustration as "Rosie the Riveter" in the minds of many people. Miller's Rosie has been imprinted on coffee mugs, mouse pads, and countless other items, making her and not the original "Rosie" the most famous of all labor icons.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Sunday Salon is Outta This World... 3 Scifi Novels to Take You Away... from Earth

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! AND The Sunday Post (which is hosted by Kim at The Caffeinated Book Reviewer)! It is a gloomy, rainy day here in Connecticut. I can't complain because the amount of rain we're getting is NOTHING in comparison to the devastation that Hurricane Harvey left in Texas. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families affected... If you'd like to donate in any way, there are plenty of organizations, just remember to do your homework and make sure that most of your donation is going directly to the people you want to help. Charity Navigator is one site that is suppose to investigate charities and rate them accordingly, AND also shows you the percentage of your donation actually going towards help. Don't forget the animals in all this too! Animal rescue sites in the area are out in full force rescueing pets left behind.

In the book world, I rarely read scifi. It's not that I avoid it, it's just that it's not my genre of choice. BUT, every once in a while I'll come across something that really interests me and I'll become completely absorbed. What exactly is Science Fiction? In an article entitled, How America’s Leading Science Fiction Authors Are Shaping Your Future in Smithsonian magazine, Eileen Gunn says, "the task of science fiction is not to predict the future. Rather, it contemplates possible futures." Sometimes referred to as speculative fiction, science fiction gives us stories of possibilities. Worlds very different than ours and possible technology that seems bizzare to us. Maybe it's this "bizzarness" that turns people away from science fiction, but there are many people who love it and so you will never want for this genre.

If you want to try some science fiction... 
Here are 3 books that I think will be Outta This World...

Artemis by Andy Weir... An irresistible new near-future thriller--a heist story set on the moon. Jazz Bashara is a criminal. Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you're not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you've got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she's stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.

I loved Martian by Andy Weir, because I loved Andy Weir's writing. I can't wait to sink my teeth into some more of his writing! This story sounds so interesting! And there is so much "thinking" going into even the title. (Artemis is the Greek Goddess of the Moon) There is a great post about the book, as well as a YouTube video of Andy Weir talking about his new book at Artemis will arrive on bookstore shelves November 14th thanks to Crown Publishing.

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon... Odd-mannered, obsessive, withdrawn, Aster has little to offer folks in the way of rebuttal when they call her ogre and freak. She's used to the names; she only wishes there was more truth to them. If she were truly a monster, as they accuse, she'd be powerful enough to tear down the walls around her until nothing remained of her world, save for stories told around the cookfire.

Aster lives in the low-deck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, the Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way, the ship's leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster, who they consider to be less than human.

When the autopsy of Matilda's sovereign reveals a surprising link between his death and her mother's suicide some quarter-century before, Aster retraces her mother's footsteps. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer and sowing the seeds of civil war, Aster learns there may be a way off the ship if she's willing to fight for it. 

Another book that seems to break what some may consider the "standard" scifi story, with what seems to be a kickass female protagonist (something I personally love in a story). A little mystery, some drama, and a girl that can think on her feet... From Akashic Books, publishing date of Oct. 3rd!

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson, Nicole Galland... When Melisande Stokes, an expert in linguistics and languages, accidently meets military intelligence operator Tristan Lyons in a hallway at Harvard University, it is the beginning of a chain of events that will alter their lives and human history itself. The young man from a shadowy government entity approaches Mel, a low-level faculty member, with an incredible offer. The only condition: she must sign a nondisclosure agreement in return for the rather large sum of money. Tristan needs Mel to translate some very old documents, which, if authentic, are earth-shattering. They prove that magic actually existed and was practiced for centuries. But the arrival of the scientific revolution and the Age of Enlightenment weakened its power and endangered its practitioners. Magic stopped working altogether in 1851, at the time of the Great Exhibition at London’s Crystal Palace—the world’s fair celebrating the rise of industrial technology and commerce. Something about the modern world "jams" the "frequencies" used by magic, and it’s up to Tristan to find out why. And so the Department of Diachronic Operations—D.O.D.O. —gets cracking on its real mission: to develop a device that can bring magic back, and send Diachronic Operatives back in time to keep it alive . . . and meddle with a little history at the same time. But while Tristan and his expanding operation master the science and build the technology, they overlook the mercurial—and treacherous—nature of the human heart.

As soon as I opened the book and read the first page, I was hooked. I love time travel stories and this is exactly that! And it seems that Melisand Stokes is a bit snarky, which I like. This is a long one though, coming in at over 750 pages. I've got my bookmark in this one now. Published by William Morrow this past June, so it's available at your local bookstore!

Question: Do You Read Science Fiction? If not, why not?

Weekly Recap...
Monday's post was Memoir Monday highlighting Witness Tree by Lynda V. Mapes
Friday's post was First Lines Friday highlighting one of today's recommended books! Go take a peek!

Look for my review of The Lying Game by Ruth Ware in the next week or so. Great book! One of those satisfying reads. I'm almost done with Love and Trouble by Claire Dederer, which is such a good book. It's a memoir and just brings back so many memories of growing up in the 60's and 70's. I also have a bookmark in The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō. I actually have the "normal" version of this book, but found this in the Manga section of the bookstore and had to get it. I like Manga anyway (even though I am a picky manga reader), but I just loved that the "lessons" of the book were "illustrated". And it's kinda funny that this was still in what I consider the "kids" section (even though Manga is not just for kids, I am usually the only adult looking through the stacks).

That about does it for today. Hope you found something interesting here! Remember to stop by during the week to catch Memoir Monday, which highlights Memoirs and nonfiction, and First Lines Friday, which opens to the first lines of a book and see's if the author can hook you right from the start.

Happy reading... Suzanne

Friday, September 1, 2017

First Lines Friday...

MY NAME IS MELISANDE STOKES and this is my story. I am writing in July 1851 (Common Era, or- let's face it-Anno Domini) in the guest chamber of a middle-class home in Kensington, London, England. But I am not a native of this place or time. In fact, I am quite f*cking desperate to get out of here.
                                                ...The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O
                                                by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland

I happen to pick this book up and read the inside jacket to see what it was all about. I had seen this title pop up in quite a few blurbs and I was curious. I was on the fence about it, until I read the first few lines above... and then I just HAD to read it! Melisande Stokes was my kind of girl!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Memoir Monday... Witness Tree by Lynda V. Mapes

Why is it that when fall approaches, the air seems a bit cleaner, the sky seems brighter and my thoughts turn to nature? It is in this vein that I offer Witness Tree by Lynda V. Mapes for today's Memoir Monday. I read a review in Kirkus Reviews that made me want to open this book up and indulge myself in a bit of nature. Maybe this book will strike a chord with you too... Here's the review...

A textured story of a rapidly changing natural world and our relationship to it, told through the lens of one tree over four seasons. Seattle Times environmental reporter Mapes (Breaking Ground: The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and the Unearthing of Tse-whit-zen Village, 2015, etc.) first encountered the Harvard Forest as a Knight Science Journalism Fellow, returning soon afterward for a yearlong stay in the woods. Renting a room in a historic farmhouse, she sought out a majestic century-old oak to serve as her lens from which to explore the past, situate the present, and grapple with an uncertain future. Aided by a colorful team of interdisciplinary experts, Mapes tells a dynamic story from multiple perspectives, including from a hammock in the canopy of the tree. Understanding trees simultaneously as utility and commodity, as ritual and relic, as beings with agency and sustainers of life, the author illustrates how they have found their ways into our homes and memories, our economies and language, and she reveals their places in our entangled future. Seamlessly blending elements of physics, ecology, biology, phenology, sociology, and philosophy, Mapes skillfully employs her oak as a human-scaled entry point for probing larger questions. Readers bear witness to indigenous histories and colonialism, to deforestation and extraction, to industrialization and urbanization, and to the story of carbon and the indisputable realities of human-caused climate change. Understanding these phenomena to be intricately interconnected, the author probes lines falsely drawn between objectivity and emotion and between science and wonder, all while examining the nature of knowledge and the possibilities, tensions, and limitations of science. Passionately discrediting the notion that humans and nature are separate, she links this flawed belief to the root of our current ecological crisis and calls for a reimagining of the ways of being together in the world.

A meticulously, beautifully layered portrayal of vulnerability and loss, renewal and hope, this extensively researched yet deeply personal book is a timely call to bear witness and to act in an age of climate-change denial.

What do you think? Does this review make you want to climb a tree? Or maybe just read this book?

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Sunday Salon and Dial M for Murder... or 3 "Whodunnit's" of a Different Kind Worth Burning a Candle on Both Ends...

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! AND The Sunday Post (which is hosted by Kim at The Caffeinated Book Reviewer)! I've got so many great books in my TBR pile and on my library reserve list that I can't read them fast enough! I just finished The Lying Game by Ruth Ware and really enjoyed it! Look for my review this week, but just to let you know I would definitely give it 4 stars, almost 4 1/2. The last 50 pages or so I was holding my breath and feverishly turning the pages! After reading The Lying Game, which is a suspense thriller with a murder mystery at its' heart,  I was looking for more "murder mysteries" and found these three books. The first is a classic "Agatha Christie" type story, but the other two have elements of a whodunnit, but seem to have the whodunnit second to the story (and characters) surrounding the murders... Up for a good whodunnit with a twist? Read on...

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz... Here's the Kirkus Review, A preternaturally brainy novel within a novel that’s both a pastiche and a deconstruction of golden-age whodunits.

Magpie Murders, bestselling author Alan Conway’s ninth novel about Greek/German detective Atticus Pünd, kicks off with the funeral of Mary Elizabeth Blakiston, devoted housekeeper to Sir Magnus Pye, who’s been found at the bottom of a steep staircase she’d been vacuuming in Pye Hall, whose every external door was locked from the inside. Her demise has all the signs of an accident until Sir Magnus himself follows her in death, beheaded with a sword customarily displayed with a full suit of armor in Pye Hall. Conway's editor, Susan Ryeland, does her methodical best to figure out which of many guilty secrets Conway has provided the suspects in Saxby-on-Avon—Rev. Robin Osborne and his wife, Henrietta; Mary’s son, Robert, and his fiancee, Joy Sanderling; Joy’s boss, surgeon Emilia Redwing, and her elderly father; antiques dealers Johnny and Gemma Whitehead; Magnus’ twin sister, Clarissa; and Lady Frances Pye and her inevitable lover, investor Jack Dartford—is most likely to conceal a killer, but she’s still undecided when she comes to the end of the manuscript and realizes the last chapter is missing. Since Conway in inconveniently unavailable, Susan, in the second half of the book, attempts to solve the case herself, questioning Conway’s own associates—his sister, Claire; his ex-wife, Melissa; his ex-lover, James Taylor; his neighbor, hedge fund manager John White—and slowly comes to the realization that Conway has cast virtually all of them as fictional avatars in Magpie Murders and that the novel, and indeed Conway’s entire fictional oeuvre, is filled with a mind-boggling variety of games whose solutions cast new light on murders fictional and nonfictional.

Fans who still mourn the passing of Agatha Christie, the model who’s evoked here in dozens of telltale details, will welcome this wildly inventive homage/update/commentary as the most fiendishly clever puzzle—make that two puzzles—of the year. Stuffed with smarts and storytelling sorcery, this is a work of astonishing breadth and brilliance.

I use to love reading Agatha Christie when I was young! This sounds like it has all the elements of an Agatha Christie yarn and it is in my TBR pile now. Published by Harper Collins and available now!
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan... Here's the Kirkus Review, A woman must revisit a 20-year-old tragedy after a young man commits suicide in the bookstore where she works.

Lydia Smith loves her job at the Bright Ideas bookstore in Denver, puttering among the shelves and hovering over her gentle BookFrogs, the wanderers and dreamers who spend their days among the stacks. When one of her BookFrogs, Joey Molina, hangs himself in the store, she’s devastated and then shocked when she learns he’s bequeathed his meager possessions to her. When she discovers that he’s left messages to her in the pages of his books, she’s puzzled and begins trying to piece together his last days with the help of his friend Lyle. The reappearance of her childhood friend Raj Patel soon puts Joey on the back burner, however, as questions about her estranged father come to light. It all points back to the Hammerman, who, while Lydia was on a sleepover as a child, brutally killed her friend and her friend’s family with a hammer, leaving Lydia alive, hiding under the sink. The Hammerman was never caught, and Lydia seeks answers from the now-retired detective who handled the case, but she may not want to hear what he has to say. Turns out he always suspected her father was the killer but was stopped from pursuing that path, even in the face of some compelling evidence, and he’s never let go of his suspicion. After all, why did the killer let Lydia live after killing a 10-year-old girl and her parents, and could Joey somehow be connected? Debut author Sullivan presents a nicely paced tale about a horrifying incident with a woman at its core who must put aside her ordered life to find out what really happened all those years ago, where the truth, in the end, may be stranger than fiction.

An intriguingly dark, twisty story and eccentric characters make this book a standout.
Lots of buzz about this book. And how can you not like a story involving a bookstore?! But this looks to be more than a whodunnit, where the story of Lydia is in the forefront and the "murders" in question help create a worthwhile character. Published by Simon & Schuster and available now!

Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry... Here's the Kirkus Review, The unlikely friendship between a canny widow and a scholarly vicar sets the stage for this sweeping 19th-century saga of competing belief systems.

Widow Cora Seaborne knows she should mourn the death of her husband; instead, she finally feels free. Eschewing the advice of her friends, Cora retreats from London with her lady’s maid, Martha, and strange, prescient son, Francis. The curious party decamps to muddy Essex, where Cora dons an ugly men’s coat and goes tramping in the mud, looking for fossils. Soon she becomes captivated by the local rumor of a menacing presence that haunts the Blackwater estuary, a threat that locks children in their houses after dark and puts farmers on watch as the tide creeps in. Cora’s fascination with the fabled Essex Serpent leads her to the Rev. William Ransome, desperate to keep his flock from descending into outright hysteria. An unlikely pair, the two develop a fast intellectual friendship, curious to many but accepted by all, including Ransome’s ailing wife, Stella. Perry (After Me Comes the Flood, 2015) pulls out all the stops in her richly detailed Victorian yarn, weaving myth and local flavor with 19th-century debates about theology and evolution, medical science and social justice for the poor. Each of Perry’s characters receives his or her due, from the smallest Essex urchin to the devastating Stella, who suffers from tuberculosis and obsesses over the color blue throughout her decline. There are Katherine and Charles Ambrose, a good-natured but shallow society couple; the ambitious and radical Dr. Luke Garrett and his wealthier but less-talented friend George Spencer, who longs for Martha; Martha herself, who rattles off Marx with the best of them and longs to win Cora’s affection; not to mention a host of sailors, superstitious tenant farmers, and bewitched schoolgirls. The sumptuous twists and turns of Perry’s prose invite close reading, as deep and strange and full of narrative magic as the Blackwater itself. Fans of Sarah Waters, A.S. Byatt, and Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things should prepare to fall under Perry’s spell and into her very capable hands.

This book has gotten glowing reviews, and a "starred" review from Kirkus Review, but a few reviewers say that it's more a character driven victorian yarn that a murder mystery. Annalisa Quinn of NPR in her review of the book called the writing "so painfully lovely", that I just have to read it even if it's not such a "whodunnit" after all. She characterizes it as  a "historical novel". Published by Custom House, a division of Harper Collins, and available now.
And I Just Have to Mention...
The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss... Based on some of literature’s horror and science fiction classics, this is the story of a remarkable group of women who come together to solve the mystery of a series of gruesome murders—and the bigger mystery of their own origins.

Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents’ death, is curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is a reward for information leading to his capture…a reward that would solve all of her immediate financial woes.

But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a feral child left to be raised by nuns. With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde, and soon befriends more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.

When their investigations lead them to the discovery of a secret society of immoral and power-crazed scientists, the horrors of their past return. Now it is up to the monsters to finally triumph over the monstrous.

I want to love this book because I love the idea of characters from other books making a story together. BUT, I have read mixed reviews. Some love it, one in particular not so much, in which the  reviewer thought that the author did not develop the characters enough. But that's the strange thing about reviews- we like to read what other people think of a book when considering to read it, but it is just the opinion of a particular person. So for my money, I'm giving it a chance and have it on my TBR list. I think if nothing else it will be a fun romp!
Are Book Reviews Important to You When Choosing a Book?
⭐The one book you don't want to miss this week...
The Burning Girl by Claire Messud... Trying to console her heartbroken daughter, Julia Robinson’s mother muses, “Everyone loses a best friend at some point.” Julia is the narrator of Messud’s beautiful novel about two young girls, inseparable since nursery school in a small Massachusetts town, who feel they’re “joined by an invisible thread,” but who drift apart as they come of age. For years, Julia and Cassie Burnes have shared adventures and dreams, but as they cross the pivotal threshold into seventh grade, Julia feels betrayed when Cassie is drawn to boys, alcohol, and drugs. To the reader, the split seems inevitable. Julia is the product of a stable household, but Cassie’s blowsy, unreliable mother transfers her affection to a brutally controlling lover who destroys Cassie’s sense of security. Desperately unhappy, Cassie sets out to find the father she has never known and begins a spiral of self-destruction that Julia, now no longer Cassie’s intimate friend, must hear about from the boy they both love. Messud shines a tender gaze on her protagonists and sustains an elegiac tone as she conveys the volatile emotions of adolescent behavior and the dawning of female vulnerability (“being a girl is about learning to be afraid”). Julia voices the novel’s leitmotif: that everyone’s life is essentially a mysterious story, distorted by myths. Although it reverberates with astute insights, in some ways this simple tale is less ambitious but more heartfelt than Messud’s previous work. The Emperor’s Children was a many-charactered, satiric study of Ivy League–educated, entitled young people making it in New York. The Woman Upstairs was a clever, audacious portrayal of an untrustworthy protagonist. Informed by the same sophisticated intelligence and elegant prose, but gaining new poignant depths, this novel is haunting and emotionally gripping.

Lot's of buzz about this book! I love these friendship stories. Published by Norton and arriving Tuesday, Aug. 29th at your favorite book seller. On my wish list!
What am I reading this week? I'm finishing up a memoir by Claire Dederer titled Love and Trouble. If you are a girl of "a certain age", growing up in the 70's or 80's, you too might enjoy this! It's about Claire's midlife crisis and reflecting upon "that girl" she'd hidden away 30 years before. Some of these reflections are just too true and too funny. After I put down Claire's book, I'll be picking up my library copy of The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland, a kind of time traveling scifi romp with a great female protagonist.

That's about it for books this week. Hope you were able to find something interesting here!

Happy reading... Suzanne

Friday, August 25, 2017

First Lines Friday...

"The Reach is wide and quiet this morning, the pale blue sky streaked with pink mackerel-belly clouds, the shallow sea barely rippling in the slight breeze, and so the sound of the dog barking breaks into the calm like gunshots, setting flocks of gulls crying and wheeling in the air..."
                                                                                                ...The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

Don't you just love the words rolling off your tongue as you say the pale blue sky streaked with pink mackerel-belly clouds? I do. And I love Ruth Ware's writing because I feel like I am sitting in a big comfy chair admiring all that's going on.

Hmmm... I wonder why that dog is barking... You are going to want to read this book and find out!

Does the first lines tempt you into reading more?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Memoir Monday... Dying: A Memoir by Cory Taylor

I don't remember how I came across this memoir, but I remember that I felt it was important. In what seems to be a rash of memoirs devoted to the art of dying, this one seemed different. Maybe it's because the author, Cory Taylor, is a writer. Maybe it was the interview of Cory I read that just made me to learn more about this interesting, brave, funny woman. Here's the Kirkus Review of Dying: A Memoir by Cory Taylor. Tell me what you think...

At the age of sixty, Cory Taylor is dying of melanoma-related brain cancer. Her illness is no longer treatable: she now weighs less than her neighbor’s retriever. As her body weakens, she describes the experience―the vulnerability and strength, the courage and humility, the anger and acceptance―of knowing she will soon die.

Written in the space of a few weeks, in a tremendous creative surge, this powerful and beautiful memoir is a clear-eyed account of what dying teaches: Taylor describes the tangle of her feelings, remembers the lives and deaths of her parents, and examines why she would like to be able to choose the circumstances of her death.

Taylor’s last words offer a vocabulary for readers to speak about the most difficult thing any of us will face. And while Dying: A Memoir is a deeply affecting meditation on death, it is also a funny and wise tribute to life.
Does the review make you want to read it?

Here's the link to the Cory Taylor interview with Richard Fidler, Dying for beginners: Cory Taylor on facing death with honesty

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Sunday Salon and 3 Thrilling Books to Read While You Wait for the Next Solar Eclipse...

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! Or instead of the SUNday Salon, maybe we should be talking about the SOLAR Eclipse Salon, because as everyone probably knows, tomorrow we will be experiencing a Solar Eclipse. Where are you going to be? Will you be able to see the full eclipse? Here's a link to see exactly what you'll be able to see...

When you get to the link, just enter YOUR city & state. The duration of the Solar Eclipse, from start to finish will be 2 hours and 36 minutes. And remember if you do want to "see" it, you'll need protective eyewear and/or protective filters for your cameras (you could ruin your camera by pointing it directly too). Want more Solar Eclipse knowledge? Click the link for NASA and learn about the Solar Eclipse and how to view it safetly.

In the blink of an eye, the  2017 Solar Eclipse will be over and the next North American total solar eclipse won't be here until 2024... So while you're waiting for that, let's talk great books! (Okay, that may have been a cheap seque to today's books

For the last few months, I've been reading, but haven't found "that book". You know that book that you don't want to end, and that you feverishly are glued to 24/7. I've also been busy with a lot of personal stuff, like planning to retire from "the day job" and starting "the great purge" to move. But I spent some time at my great local indie bookstore recently (Byrd's Books) and the great reading fire was lite once again! Yay! So here's what I picked up for that last hurrah of summer reading...

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware... On a cool June morning, a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic coastal village of Salten along a tidal estuary known as the Reach. Before she can stop him, the dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick, but to her horror, turns out to be something much more sinister... The next morning, three women in and around London—Fatima, Thea, and Isabel—receive the text they had always hoped would NEVER come, from the fourth in their formerly inseparable clique, Kate, that says only, “I need you.” The four girls were best friends at Salten, a second rate boarding school set near the cliffs of the English Channel. Each different in their own way, the four became inseparable and were notorious for playing the Lying Game, telling lies at every turn to both fellow boarders and faculty, with varying states of serious and flippant nature that were disturbing enough to ensure that everyone steered clear of them. The myriad and complicated rules of the game are strict: no lying to each other—ever. Bail on the lie when it becomes clear it is about to be found out. But their little game had consequences, and the girls were all expelled in their final year of school under mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the school’s eccentric art teacher, Ambrose (who also happens to be Kate’s father). 

This is what I'm addicted to now. I walked into the bookstore originally intending to buy the Lizzie Borden story reimagined (See What I Have Done) and did, but this book caught my eye, and after reading a little bit, the writing just hooked me. Ruth Ware is laying the foundation for something OMG, and I can't wait to find out what it is! BTW, Ruth Ware has two other books that have hit home runs in the literary department (In A Dark Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10) and I'll be putting them on my reading list if this is keeps up the literary feast that I'm enjoying now. 
See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt...  Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love.

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell―of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence. As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling.

In the hands of a great writer, a historical event (or well known story) can be reimagined and be just wonderful. You know all the players and yet a different take can electrify the story once again. A GREAT example, and still one of my favorite reads, is Dracula in Love by Karen Essex. OMG, this story is told thru Mina's (Dracula's love interest) point of view and it is simply delicious! This seemed to start out a little slow, but interestingly, so I chose to read The Lying Game first, but will definitely be reading this next. This book has gotten rave reviews and I hope it lives up to the hype.
Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka ... When a beloved high schooler named Lucinda Hayes is found murdered, no one in her sleepy Colorado suburb is untouched—not the boy who loved her too much; not the girl who wanted her perfect life; not the officer assigned to investigate her murder. In the aftermath of the tragedy, these three indelible characters—Cameron, Jade, and Russ—must each confront their darkest secrets in an effort to find solace, the truth, or both. In crystalline prose, Danya Kukafka offers a brilliant exploration of identity and of the razor-sharp line between love and obsession, between watching and seeing, between truth and memory.

This is characterized as "Suspense", but my first impressions as I was reading a bit of it were more like literary fiction with a sprinkling of suspense. I suppose when I hear suspense, I think of "thriller", which is not always the case. BUT, I really enjoyed the sample writing of Danya Kukafka and had to put the book down before I became totally absorbed. 
AND Coming Soon to a Bookstore near you... There are a few books that are on my radar... The Burning Girl by Claire Messud, "A bracing, hypnotic coming-of-age story about the bond of best friends" and a book by none other than Nancy Pearl, "America's Librarian, who can recommend a good book in a heartbeat, but now has written one herself. It's called George & Lizzie, "an intimate story of new and past loves, the scars of childhood, and an imperfect marriage at its defining moments". Will Nancy Pearl's novel writing live up to her review fame? I'm willing to give it a try, just because I'm a Nancy Pearl fan. May be more practical to borrow this one though, I've heard some mixed reviews. 

That about wraps up this weeks book finds... We'll be back with more great books next week, because there were definitely more books I could have talked about! I think this fall is going to be a great book reading season!

Happy reading... Suzanne
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