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

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi ... A Review

At the moment of finishing Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, all I could think was "Wow"! What a breathtaking, sweeping novel. All of the characters were so incredibly alive off of the pages. The story, the landscapes, were all so incredibly rich with details and substance. I read this leisurely, enjoying every minute. I was captivated from the very start. A multi-generation tale that spans 300 years and two continents, starting in Ghana. 2 girls of the same mother, but whose lives took different journeys, of which one suffers in the throws of slavery. How did Yaa Gyasi pack all of this in, in one book without faltering?! I am sad that I am done, but I don't think this story will fade from my thoughts for a long, long time. READ THIS!

Friday, December 14, 2018

First Lines Friday

"My story begins on a sweltering August night, in a place I will never set eyes upon. The room takes life only in my imaginings. It is large most days when I conjure it. The walls are white and clean, the bed linens crisp as a fallen leaf. The private suite has the very finest of everything. Outside, the breeze is weary, and the cicadas throb in the tall trees, their verdant hiding places just below the window frames. The screen sway inward as the attic fan rattles overhead, pulling at wet air that has no desire to be moved. "
                                            ... Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Sisters and secrets and a girl who loves reading makes me want to read this. I enjoy historical fiction and Lisa Wingate brings us together with a "tale based on the true story of Georgia Tann, a director of an adoption agency, who kidnapped and sold children to the wealthy."

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Dear Mrs. Bird... A Review

WWII London, a spunky little lady named Emmy, and a Dear Abby type advice column answered by a woman who doesn't like any "unpleasantness" make this lighthearted story, Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce a charmer...

Our heroine of the story, Emmeline, dreams of becoming a war correspondent someday, which leads her to answer a help wanted add for what she thinks is a major London newspaper. Not only answering the ad, but accepting the job without hearing one word about what it actually involved. What she finds out soon afterwards is that the job is not working for the newspaper, but for a subsidiary of the newspaper - Woman's Friend magazine and specifically for Henrietta Bird, the Ann Landers of Woman's Friend, who incidentally is not really a friend of any of the women who write in for help, because she doesn't like any letters with any "unpleasantness", which includes anything about Sex, War and Rock n' Roll (okay that last one didn't exactly exist back then, but you get my drift), and for which she orders Emmy to tear up and throw away any letters about "those topics". After reading so many letters, from so many women and girls looking for help and being categorically rejected by Mrs. Bird, Emmy decides to take matters in her own hand and starts answering them personally, under the guise of Mrs. Bird.

A nice cast of characters fill out the story and Emmy's life, including a BFF, a fiancé and quirky work mates, and paint a realistic picture of life in London during WWII with the tragedies, hopes & dreams, and the strength of the women left behind.

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this sweet charming read to historical fiction fans. Emmy is a great character, so are her friends, and the story does a good job of immersing the reader in London during WWII. I enjoyed the premise of the story, where Emily decides she can't ignore those crushing letters that Mrs. Bird rejected. And there was a steady build up to see if Emmy was going to get caught answering those letters herself.  My only wish for a little more would be in developing Emmy's love interest, but putting that aside I would say it was a good read.

Dear Mrs. Bird is the debut novel of AJ Pearce, who was inspired by reading advice columns from women's magazines from the 1930's. A strong 3 1/2 stars from this reader!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

7 Days of Favorite Books... Day 7

This is my "final" post for 7 Days of Favorite Books, and with that I decided I would step out of the box a little here. I know there are a lot of adult readers who would never forage into the Manga section of their bookstore, but there are some amazing stories there! This is one of them...

Ooku is a historical Manga about the Edo period of an alternate Japan which is ruled entirely by women due to a strange plague that has wiped out most of the men. It is an ongoing series that I just love! Not only is the artwork wonderful, but the storyline is great. The characters come alive off the page and we learn quite a bit about this period of time in Japanese history. Even though this is an "alternate" reality, this story presents the history of the period well. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

7 Days of Favorite Books... Day 6

This is an amazing story. So vivid, so beautifully written and one of my all time favorite reads! Read my review this week! Until then, just know I thought it was a "breathtaking, sweeping novel" and loved every minute I spent with these characters!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Sunday Salon (or Should I say The Snow Day Salon) and Surprise Boxes...

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! Or should I call it the Snow Day Salon, because here in South Carolina we got snow! Yes, moving from Connecticut did not help me avoid all that white stuff, but now that I'm retired, that white stuff looks awful pretty!

What doesn't look awful is South Carolina! We are still settling in in our new home. The people I've met are so friendly and I'm loving where we live!  I don't think we'll ever get through all these moving boxes though, but we've got dining room chairs now, so we can sit down and eat, and we've got most of our furniture in place so that we can relax. Of course I did manage to get some bookcases up and filled, and have more books I need to find places for. In the meantime, as the weather has cooled off and I feel more like lounging around the house than gardening in the cold and snow, I turn to reading and surprises (like snow in the South)...

Over the past few months, I decided that it might be fun to give BOTM a try. Yes, Book of The Month Club is still thriving and after a zillion questions to their customer service representative, I signed up to see how it went. Some of the questions I had were... Are your books "the same" as the books I would buy in the bookstore? Meaning are these edited in any way or abridged. The answer I received was no. I had always thought that they were indeed BOTM "versions", but was happy to find out differently. (Maybe I was thinking of the Readers Digest condensed versions) I was also told that the dust jackets were BOTM covers, thus a pretty little graphic indicating this was a Book of the Month selection. Okay, that bothered me a little because it kind of defaces the cover in my opinion. (stickers on books with "autographed by..." also are one of my pet peeves as well as "movie edition" jackets). So for 14.99, I signed up for BOTM, which entitled me to select from their 5 "books of the month" and/or some other customer favorites from past months. I also got credit for an additional selection for free.

In my first order of BOTM club selections, I received...

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty (which was nominated for this years best fiction category for the Goodreads Choice Awards) and Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks. Both books I wanted to read. And a short time later, my books arrived in the mail. It was a treat to open up the BOTM and fish out the books. But these weren't "surprises", I had picked them out, although it felt like it was a "surprise" box. It was fun getting these books in the mail. It was more fun than ordering from Amazon, but I really don't know why. And I decided that I would check out the next months selections. If I don't care for any of the choices, I can simply pass on that month and wait to see what next month will bring. Some of these choices will be before they are in the stores, which I thought would be fun too. I did make a selection for next month, which is One Day in December by Josie Silvers, which seemed a cute romance. But as much as I love getting surprises in the mail, and how fun it seemed to get this BOTM club selection box, I should have checked the Big "A" for it
first. This book was published in October in paperback and the current price is $10.60. A substantial savings from my hardcover BOTM club edition, which I would cancel had it not been shipped a few days ago. Oh well, live and learn. I would feel better if I had paid that at an Indie bookstore.

So NOW let's talk about REAL surprise boxes... There is a trend these days for "boxes". Boxes that people fill up for you and send you. Surprise boxes also known as "Subscription Boxes".And don't we all love a surprise!? Sometimes that is... There are subscription boxes for almost anything you can think of... beauty, food, socks, dog toys, cookware, clothes, crafts, sewing. You name it, there is more than likely some kind of subscription box.

I have tried The Quarterly Book Box, now defunct, by Book Riot, which was filled with a few books and swag. At the time I opened that first box, Here's my review from 2014, I liked the two books I received and the mug, and on a whole I liked all the little things that came in the box, but I didn't feel like it was worth $50, which was the cost. And that's the problem with some of these subscription boxes... would you have better spent the money picking out books yourself? BOTM club seems to be the most reasonable of the subscription boxes I found recently. You basically get a book delivered to your house for about what it would cost at the bookstore on sale. And you can add another book from their choices for $9.99. And finally, if you don't see anything from their selections of the month, you can pass.

If you're curious as to what "Book Subscription Boxes" are out there, here are two great resources...

My Subscription Addiction, founded by Liz Cadman, who was searching for subscription boxes and reviews herself. When she came up short, she decided she'd create a place for just that, and My Subscription Addiction was born. Here is a list of Best Book Subscriptions of 2018 from that site.

Cratejoy, is another great "Box Subscription Warehouse", where search for the type of subscription box you are looking for and actually subscribe through the website. When I checked out the Book Subscriptions, there were over 150 of them! Here's the link to those listings! And included in some of those listings were boxes with used books, bringing the price of those subscription boxes quite a bit lower. I have no idea where they get their used books or what kind of condition they would be in, but it's an interesting choice. Used Books Monthly is one of those used book boxes and for $9.99 a month you get two books in a genre that you choose. The reviews have been good and I don't see any complaints about the condition of the books.

Would you try a Book Subscription Box? 
And if you have already, what did you like/dislike?

Weekly Recap...
I added to my 7 Days of Favorite Books this week with Wild by Cheryl Strayed and Eternal on The Water by Joseph Monninger.   Days 1, 2 & 3 included Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, Dracula in Love by Karen Essex. Next week we'll wrap it up with the last two "Favorite" books. But remember these are NOT my ONLY favorite books! (Ain't that the truth!)

Friday began with First Lines Friday! Follow the link to see what great first lines we shared and what book it was! All I can say it was purrfect!

And one final thought for today... First Book of the Year! 
Every year I start off by reading a book. Of course the first book we read for the year would be the first book of the year, BUT I try and choose a really great book to start the reading year right. My 2018 choice was Still Me by Jojo Moyes, and what a great read that was (here's my review)! It actually won the Goodreads Readers Choice Award for best fiction book of the year.

You have 23 days to figure out your book if you'd like to join in on the fun! I'll remind you when we get to that last week in December, but I've chosen my book and you'll have to stop by Dec. 31st to find out what it is!

Do You Pick a Special Book for Your First Book of the Year?

Until next week... Happy reading, Suzanne

Saturday, December 8, 2018

7 Days of Favorite books... Day 5

All I can say is, READ this! Beautiful story, wonderfully written, it touched my heart and everyone 's heart that I've shared this with!

Friday, December 7, 2018

First Lines Friday...

"  I am a cat. As yet, I have no name. There's a famous cat in our country who once made this very statement.

    I have no clue how great that cat was, but at least when it comes to having a name I got there first. Whether I like my name is another matter, since it glaringly doesn't fit my gender, me being male and all. I was given it about five years ago--- around the time I came of age."
                       ... The Traveling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

As I was walking through a bookstore, I came across this book on a table with many others, but I was initially attracted to it because of the cover and its size. It's one of those cute little gift size books, about the size of a 5 x 7 photograph. As I opened the book, I realized that it was indeed a tale as told through the cat's perspective and that it was an international best seller. As I opened that cover and read some of the story, I was enamored. I look forward to reading this soon!

7 Days of Favorite Books... Day 4

Cheryl Strayed definitely held my attention and had me turning those pages to keep reading. One of my favorite books, nonfiction, memoir and definitely better than the movie, which only touched on all the emotional, thought provoking writing.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

7 Days of Favorite Books... Day 3

When thinking about this book, I can still feel that tingle I got when I read it! I still love this book! I received a copy of it before publication, here's my review from 8 years ago...

Friday, November 2, 2018

7 Days of Favorite Books... Day 2...

This is one of my all time favorite books... AND, it was the first book I ever blogged about on Chick with Books! February 18th, 2009 was the start of Chick with Books, here's the first post...

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Favorite Books...

We all have favorite books. As book bloggers we have A LOT of favorite books. When you sit down and think about all the books you've read, what books pop up time and time again? On Facebook, my Aunt Sharon, nominated me to share a favorite book a day for seven days. No reviews, no reasons, just post the cover and that's it. So, I thought I would share those 7 days worth of books here. Now I have more than 7 favorite books, I probably could do a whole months worth of great books, but let's see about the first 7... My first book...

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Sunday Dinner... or The Sunday Salon and 3 "Dinner" Books to wet your appetite.

Welcome to The Sunday Salon and Chick with Books! It's been beautiful weather here in South Carolina. The evenings are starting to be a little cooler and we've been able to enjoy dinner outside after a long day of doing "stuff". "Stuff" still includes unpacking moving boxes, but it also includes finishing up planting a butterfly and bird garden that I started a few months ago when we first landed here. Slowly I'm getting back to having some time to read, which got put on the back burner during all this moving chaos. My Mom came for a visit a few weeks ago and we lounged around a few days reading the books we picked up while on a shopping trip. Mom's book was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, which she really enjoyed, and mine was The Stand by Stephen King, which at over 1000 pages I have not finished, but am enjoying quite a bit. This is the expanded edition, or what you may call the "unedited" version, where King expands some of the storylines he "abbreviated" in the original book because the publishers thought it was too long...

A few weeks ago I also read about The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle, which made me think of another book I read called Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent, which made me hungry for more "Dinner books", and so for this weeks Sunday Salon I thought I would share some "Dinner" with you...

First course... 
The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle... "When Sabrina arrives at her thirtieth birthday dinner she finds at the table not just her best friend, but also three significant people from her past, and well, Audrey Hepburn. As the appetizers are served, wine poured, and dinner table conversation begins, it becomes clear that there’s a reason these six people have been gathered together..At one point or another, we’ve all been asked to name five people, living or dead, with whom we’d like to have dinner. Why do we choose the people we do? And what if that dinner was to actually happen? These are the questions Rebecca Serle contends with in her utterly captivating novel, THE DINNER LIST."

What a fun premise for a book! Protagonist Sabrina has 5 people at her dinner, who would your 5 people be? This is one my nightstand waiting for a spare moment to dive in for dinner. (I might have to put Stephen K. down to read this now!) I gave you a teaser friday with the first lines, but from what I've read about The Dinner List, this is worth a full reading! Rave reviews!

Second course...
Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent... "When Isabel meets Edward, both are at a crossroads: he wants to follow his late wife to the grave, and she is ready to give up on love. Thinking she is merely helping Edward’s daughter--who lives far away and has asked her to check in on her nonagenarian dad in New York--Isabel has no idea that the man in the kitchen baking the sublime roast chicken and light-as-air apricot soufflé will end up changing her life."

I happen to pick this up at the library as I was looking through the new book shelves one day. This was a while back because it is now in paperback and I read the hardcover. I have to tell you I was absolutely charmed by this book and loved it! The friendship and love that grow between Edward and Isabel is wonderful, the dinners Edward cooks are amazing to read about, and the story is just perfect. I read this in a few sittings because I wanted to savor it. It's a mere 240 pages, but I would definitely tell you to pick up a copy if you love "foodie" books and romances. This is not fiction though, it's 100% the real deal!

Final course...
Dinner with Georgia O'Keeffe by Robyn Lea... "chronicles the artist’s lifestyle and work through food. That it coincides with the “Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern” exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum is happenstance. While the show links Ms. O’Keeffe’s strong fashion sense to her art, the book goes further, adding the aesthetic of her homes and dinner table to the equation. Early on, the artist was a devotee of health foods. At a time, about 60 years ago, when the trend was hardly on the radar, she insisted on whole grains, some of which she ground herself; yogurt, which she could make; and organic ingredients. “She is quite a cook,” her husband, the photographer Alfred Stieglitz, once wrote."

Who would not want to have dinner with Georgia O'Keeffe?! An amazing bold artist who made a statement with every painting she did, who had an incredible sense of fashion and who we now learn was ahead of her time in the kitchen. The book contains 50 of her favorite recipes, with notes and quotes. Love the idea of her handwritten notes about the recipes are included. And from what I can tell, the photography is beautiful. This is on my wish list!

Do You Like to Read "Foodie" books... 
Books that have stories that include recipes or talk about food?

That about does it for this week...

Happy reading... Suzanne

Friday, September 28, 2018

First Lines Friday...

We’ve been waiting for an hour.” That’s what Audrey says. She states it with a little bit of an edge, her words just bordering on cursive. That’s the thing I think first. Not Audrey Hepburn is at my birthday dinner but Audrey Hepburn is annoyed.”
                                                       ...The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle

Think of 5 people, dead or alive, you'd like to invite to dinner... Then read Rebecca Serle's book and find out the 5 people her protagonist Sabrina writes down on a list to have at her dinner... and show up! I've got this one on my nightstand waiting to crack the spine. Sounds like a fun read and has gotten rave reviews!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Sunday Salon and "Southern Living"...

Welcome back to The Sunday Salon and Chick with Books! It's been a little bit since I've posted, but as most of you know it's because of "the move". AND NOW, the move is just about finished! We are settling in, unboxing as aposed to boxing, and loving our new home in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains!

The photo you see next to the beginning of the post is the view from our deck in the front of the house. It's very relaxing and quiet. Sitting on the front deck you can hear the water flowing down the creek that's across the street and the occasional chiming from my wind chimes. Life is good...

So, what's a girl going to do in a new town that she calls home now? Find books of course! And I'm not talking about the zillion books that I moved with me ( I figure by the end of the year I'll find them all, along with some desperately needed kitchen equipement), I'm talking about other sources of reading material... my local library and indie bookstores.

My new library is really a "library system". What that means is that I have access to all the libraries that are in the county I live in! So, I have 4 "local" libraries in Pickens County, SC! I have visited 2 of those libraries, but the Village Library in Pickens, SC is the closest and the branch I have been patronizing. Such friendly staff and a very nice library. I am also able to search for available books online and then reserve them. And a plus for having "4" libraries is that I get to search for a book from 4 branches and being able to check out the book at my local branch! More on my "libraries" in future posts...

Now for independent bookstores...

There are quite a few Indie bookstores "near me" (and "near me" is a relative term)... The first one I visited was Poor Richards Booksellers and is about 10 miles away in Easley, SC. Poor Richards can feed my addiction with all the latest plus they have a nice collection of used books in the back of the store. The next Indie I visited was Fiction Addiction, which is about 24 miles away in Greenville, SC and is not only a great source of books, but has some great author book signings, which once I'm settled in I'll be taking advantage of. There are 6 more Indies within a 25 mile radius that I'll be planning to visit too!

And the books...

I did pick up some "Southern" reading as I walked thru Fiction Addiction (of course!), and here what's I picked up...

Low Country Boil by Susan M. Boyer who is a local author, having a home in Greenville, SC. The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy, another wonderful South Carolina author. Under a Cloudless Sky by Chris Fabry, and Daisy Cakes Bakes by Kim Nelson, a cookbook (bakebook?!) from the famed Southern mail order bakery, which I can't wait to try because I now have a new convection oven!

So as I settle in, get the books put away and the boxes unpacked 900 miles or so from where I started life, I'll be getting back to posting regularly on Chick with Books. Thanks for sticking around for the transition because we have so many more books to talk about...

Happy reading... Suzanne

Monday, July 9, 2018

Kidnapped By a Rogue by Margaret Mallory... A Review

I recently had the good fortune of receiving an eGalley of Kidnapped by a Rogue from author, Margaret Mallory.  Margaret posted on her Facebook page that she was looking for a handful of reviewers and I immediately volunteered! I love her writing and she has never, and I mean never, disappointed me! Her newest novel, out today (Monday, July 9th), is no exception.

Immersing the reader into a story rich in Scottish history and adding a hunky Highlander with a spunky independent lady is only the beginning... you'll find within the pages of Kidnapped by a Rogue, romance, sex, jealousy, deceit, intrigue, secrets, hope, humor and adventure. I loved this book! When I started reading it, I literally could not put it down! It is the 3rd book in a series, but the story stands on its own, so no need to have to read the previous 2 (but after reading this one, you're going to want more!)

Briefly (and without giving too much away) Finn is our hunk, who is a second son, meaning he will not inherit his father's lands. He's an amazing warrior who not only can wield a weapon, but can also wield a pretty good smile and has all the ladies aflutter. (Yes, he's very charming!) In his heart, he just wants a plot of land he can call his own, and it is this desire that causes him to accept a request to kidnap, Lady Margaret...

Well, Margaret is actually in need of kidnapping. Her husband has thrown her out and annulled the marriage (you'll have to read the book to discover why!) and now her older brothers want to marry her off to forge an alliance with anyone that they think will make their clan stronger, but she wants no part of that. So when Margaret finally "meets" Finn, sparks fly for a lot of reasons and Margaret willingly goes... and that's when the real fun begins...

If you enjoy romance, and if find Highlanders sexy as hell, READ THIS! Margaret Mallory's writing is wonderful, her stories are rich in details and are just fun to read. You will fall for Finn and be rooting for Lady Margaret and him to conquer all the obstacles to be together. You'll also be turning those pages as fast as you can! 

Friday, February 2, 2018

Great Book Club Selection...

Great book club get together last night! Great friends, great food... AND a GREAT BOOK! It's not very often that we all love a book so much that we all give it a 5 out of 5, but that's what we gave The Secret Wife by Gill Paul last night! Historical fiction at its best! Here's the Goodreads blurb:

A Russian grand duchess and an English journalist. Linked by one of the world’s greatest mysteries... 
Love. Guilt. Heartbreak. 
1914: Russia is on the brink of collapse, and the Romanov family faces a terrifyingly uncertain future. Grand Duchess Tatiana has fallen in love with cavalry officer Dmitri, but events take a catastrophic turn, placing their romance—and their lives—in danger...
2016: Kitty Fisher escapes to her great-grandfather’s remote cabin in America, after a devastating revelation makes her flee London. There, on the shores of Lake Akanabee, she discovers the spectacular jewelled pendant that will lead her to a long-buried family secret... 
Haunting, moving and beautifully written, The Secret Wife effortlessly crosses centuries, as past merges with present in an unforgettable story of love, loss and resilience.

Thanks author Gill Paul, for a great read! Look for my review coming soon... and in the meantime, check out what Gill Paul shares with her readers about The Secret Wife on Harper Reach.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Still Me by Jojo Moyes... A Review

I laughed, I cried, and I became totally enamored. Jojo Moyes weaves a story filled with love, humor, compassion and the need to be true to oneself. She does this by creating full of life characters that we grow to love and allowing us to still love the characters we've grown close to. I loved this book! Author Jojo Moyes amazes me. How you may ask? Let me tell you...

First, What is the storyline? Still Me is about how beloved character Lousia Clark leaves everything behind, England, her close family, her hunky new paramedic boyfriend Sam and moves across the pond to New York City. She's still trying to live in the moment and experience all life has to offer as her precious deceased love, Will Traynor, Me Before You, has inspired her to do. She accepts a job working for a very wealthy family, who is as dysfunctional as you can imagine and along the way she meets so many wonderful people, all of whom we really get to know because Jojo Moyes knows how to delve deep into the souls of her characters. The pulse of the story centers around the quirky people in the building Louisa works in and New York City itself (and let me tell you, Jojo really captures the sights and sounds of The City! You really feel like you are right beside Louisa as she is walking those streets!) There are a few twists and turns in the juggling act Louisa must do in order to keep her job, her boyfriend and her sanity, but you'll have to read Still Me to find out how that all works out. *Hint... have tissues ready, it's a bumpy, emotional fun-filled ride!

Now how is this story amazing? Well, revisiting a well loved character in a new book can be risky business. We loved Louisa Clark in England and the previous 2 books, Me Before You & After You, we loved character Will Traynor, we even loved Louisa's new love interest Sam, but would we love her moving across the pond? Would this new story pull us in or would we be missing everything Louisa and Jojo Moyes leaves behind in the last two books including those characters? The answer is that author Jojo Moyes does a fantastic job on all counts and Still Me is a wonderful read!

If you love the character Louisa Clark, if you've read the previous 2 books, or just Me Before You, you will love Still Me! If you haven't read the previous adventures of Louisa Clark, you still can enjoy Still Me and will fall in love with quirky, full of heart character Louisa Clark for the first time. In any case, pick up a copy of Still Me by Jojo Moyes and be prepared to be swept up in Louisa's newest adventure! A little romance, a little heartbreak, a lot of fashion and a great story! Coming to your bookstore of choice January 30th! Published by Penguin Random House.

I want to thank Penguin Random House for sending along a review copy of Still Me for an honest review! I loved it!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Interview with Author Jojo Moyes...

Today I'd like to welcome author Jojo Moyes to Chick with Books! She's the wonderful author that pulled at our heartstrings with Me Before You, where we originally fell in love with her character Louisa Clark and a romance that seemed eternal. Jojo has written quite a few books, and a follow-up to Me Before You called After You, but today we wanted to get some insight into her new book coming out the end of January, Still Me, where she brings back the character Louisa Clark in a whole new adventure "across the pond" and ask her a bit about her writing...

In STILL ME, you bring Louisa Clark, the beloved character you created in Me Before You, to New York City. Why the transatlantic journey? 

I really wanted to stretch Louisa in a place where she would be out of her depth. What’s one of the wildest, most metropolitan places you could land a small-town girl? The heart of Manhattan. I have spent a lot of time in the US over the past five years and most trips begin with some time in New York so I have long been viewing the city through alien eyes myself. It’s tough, exciting, challenging, and unforgiving and enormous fun. The perfect backdrop for Lou’s adventure.

NYC is far from Lou’s home in Stotfold, England—what was your research process for finding the places and experiences that Lou enjoys in the Big Apple?

As well as the time I spend on work trips, I came out in October and did a week’s solid research.  I tried to do all the things that I put Lou through—except sleep in a horrible hotel with bedbugs! A friend got me into one of the really exclusive apartment buildings overlooking Central Park, which was invaluable, and the owner then put me in touch with a very experienced realtor who gave me chapter and verse on the realities of living in one of these places. It’s VERY specific, in the same way that it would be if you were a North or South Londoner, and it was important to me that I didn’t get things horribly off-key.

Reading STILL ME is like catching up with an old friend. How did it feel to revisit the story of Lou Clark and some of the other familiar characters, such as Treena and Ambulance Sam?

I absolutely love writing Louisa. By now she does feel like an old friend. It’s really hard sometimes to find your way into a character, and with her it’s like slipping on your favorite clothes. I know her. I know how she would react to any given circumstance. She’s genuine and funny and a bit daft. But what was fun in this book was to really push her forward a bit. She grows up a lot, especially in the last third of the book. I think like many of us she is really still working out who she is.

One character remarks that New York suits Lou. What is it about Lou that makes you want to take her on new experiences? Why do you think she resonates with readers?

I think Lou is very identifiable for a whole raft of people. In Me Before You, it was about being aware that life had somehow slipped away from you and reaching an age and finding yourself leading a very small life—and not being entirely sure how you got there or whether you even wanted to be somewhere else. But in After You a lot of readers seemed to identify with her grieving process—the difficulty of everybody else expecting you to move on and be cheerful and outgoing when you really don’t feel like that at all. Most importantly, Lou is someone who really tries to do the right thing—but often does the wrong thing—which I think makes her like an awful lot of us...

Class divide is a major theme in your books—Lou often finds herself in circles far different from her working-class upbringing, with employment to the Traynors in Me Before You and the Gopniks in STILL ME. Why is this dichotomy important to you and in your writing?

I think in this book it’s much less class than money. All good narratives thrive on tension, and if you push together rich and poor or upper and working class then you have an inbuilt tension in your story. It’s a growing issue in society—the polarization of money and opportunity—and for most people we will only ever have our noses pressed against the window.

At the same time, I think a lot of us now have the lives of very rich people broadcast to us daily—whether they be Kardashians or movie stars, on Instagram or via other social media, which makes that difference more obvious. With Lou, I wanted to ask how it would feel to step into one of those lives.

There is a thread in STILL ME about a public library on the brink of closing in Washington Heights. What significance does the library play in your life and why is it important in the story?

I am passionate about libraries—they are one of the few cost-free resources that offer people not just shelter but the chance to entertain or improve themselves. I spent some time at a library in a very mixed area of Washington Heights where I saw quite how many different functions the public library performed—from a learning opportunity to a safe place, to somewhere people could make job applications, or just escape from their lives for a while. It really worries me how hard libraries are being squeezed in both the UK and the US. There are so few places that don’t require a financial transaction, that really are just about the joy of learning. Once they are gone we won’t get that resource back again.

Another prominent theme in STILL ME is the struggle for women to “have it all.” Louisa finds herself between the pull of New York high society and her life in England; Mrs. De Witt was torn between her fashion career and family life; Agnes struggled to maintain her old friendships after marrying into wealth. Why is a woman’s unique balance to play many roles in life while staying true to herself important to discuss?

When I was a girl I assumed I was the equal to any boy and that I would be treated the same as an adult. For the most part that was the case—until I had children, at which point I discovered that there is always a choice to be made, always a compromise, and that in most cases that belongs to the woman. I’m lucky enough to have a husband who supports my work and does his best to be an equal partner in all ways—but I am a rarity. I know elderly women who had to give up their careers to follow their husbands, and I know younger women who gave up their jobs because their partners couldn’t be home for the children. I hope that one day we can find a way to make this a little more equitable. It’s good for men, too!

Fashion is a significant element in Lou’s story, notably the red dress and bumblebee tights in Me Before You. In STILL ME, Louisa becomes involved with an East Village vintage emporium, and Mrs. De Witt is revealed as a former fashion magazine editor. What is your interest in this world?

Well, most of my friends would laugh at the idea that I was massively interested in fashion. My default uniform is shirt, jumper, jeans, boots. I rarely wear anything else. But it feels like such an integral part of Louisa’s character, and over the past few years I have discovered a love of vintage clothes. I have a number of vintage outfits—and suppliers—and I find them so much more enjoyable, both to buy and wear, than just a chain boutique. It’s partly textural—the work that goes into some of these older clothes—beading, cutting, stitching—is just beautiful. Even I can appreciate it!

In a couple of your books, including STILL ME, you created dogs that, much like your human characters, have distinct personalities and quirks. Why do your animal characters receive such prominent roles?

I guess because animals are such a fundamental part of my own family. We joke that if we didn’t have our animals we’d have nothing to talk about. All our animals have distinct voices that we use for them (for some reason Eric, our shorthair cat, has a Spanish accent, whereas BigDog, our rescue Pyrenean, has a more lugubrious tone). I think anybody who has close contact with an animal knows that they have just as much personality and just as many expressions as humans do. If I’m writing one into a story, I can’t see why it shouldn’t have a fully formed character in the way that a human does.

Your books always evoke a wide range of human emotion—on one page, you leave readers laughing out loud and on the next, reduce them to tears. Is it a difficult process to combine such an accurate portrayal of the comedies and tragedies of life? How do you create such deep characters and storylines?

Thank you! I consider that an enormous compliment. I guess it comes from the fact that I try to write the books I like to read—and if a book can make me laugh or cry then that author earns my undying loyalty. The key to writing them, I think, is that both laughter and tears have to come from a place that is honest—something that feels true to the character. If I know the character then as I write their experiences I feel what they are feeling—it then becomes easier to translate that emotion onto the page.

What was the Me Before You movie experience like? If you were to cast STILL ME, who do you see playing some of the new main characters?

Writing and being part of the filming of Me Before You was, without doubt, the best—and most challenging—experience of my professional life. I was on the steepest learning curve and I worked flat out for months. But I loved the cast and crew and the director, producers and I are still good friends, so it never really felt like work.

If I were to cast STILL ME I would obviously want Emilia Clarke to return as Lou. And having Sam Claflin as Josh would be a lovely way of bringing him back in! I have no idea who would play Margot—but I always saw her as looking a little like Iris Apfel, the famous NY society fashion icon.

What's next? More adventures for Lou?

I’ve been saying no, as I would hate to be seen flogging her to death. But when I think about never writing her again I feel ridiculously sad. Maybe a short story?

About the Author... 
Jojo Moyes was born in 1969 and grew up in London. After a varied career including stints as a minicab controller, typer of braille statements for blind people for NatWest, and brochure writer for Club 18-30, she did a degree at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, London University. In 1992, she won a bursary financed by The Independent newspaper to attend the postgraduate newspaper journalism course at City University.

Jojo worked as a journalist for ten years, including a year at South China Morning Post in Hong Kong, and nine at The Independent where she worked variously as News Reporter, Assistant News Editor and Arts and Media Correspondent.

Jojo has been a full time novelist since 2002, when her first book, Sheltering Rain was published. Since then she has written a further eleven novels, all of which have been widely critically acclaimed. Jojo has won the Romantic Novelist’s Award twice, and Me Before You has been nominated for Book of the Year at the UK Galaxy Book Awards. Me Before You has since gone on to sell over 8 million copies worldwide.

Presently, Jojo lives (and writes!) on a farm in Essex, England with her husband, journalist Charles Arthur, and their three children.

Look for Jojo Moyes newest book, Still Me, out on January 30th! In the meantime, for more information about Jojo and her books, please visit the webpage here.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Memoir Monday...

Molly's Game by Molly Bloom... From the back cover: When Molly Bloom was a little girl growing up in a small Colorado town, she watched her brothers win medals, ace tests, and receive high praise from everyone they met. Molly wanted nothing more than to bask in that glow a little herself, so she pushed herself too—as a student, as an athlete. She was successful but felt like she was always coming from behind. She wanted to break free, to find a life without rules and limits, a life where she didn't have to measure up to anyone or anything—where she could become whatever she wanted.

Molly wanted more, and she got more than she could have ever bargained for.

In Molly's Game, Molly Bloom takes the reader through her adventures running an exclusive high-stakes private poker game. Her clients ranged from iconic stars like Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Affleck to politicians and financial titans so powerful they moved markets and changed the course of history. With rich detail, Molly describes a world that until now has been shrouded in glamour, privilege, and secrecy, one where she fearlessly took on the Russian and Italian mobs—until she met the one adversary she could not outsmart, even though she had justice on her side: the United States government.

Molly's Game is an incredible coming-of-age story about a young girl who rejected convention in pursuit of her version of the American dream. It's the story of how she gained—and then lost—her place at the table, and of everything she learned about poker, love, and life in the process.

I'm not really sure where I saw this originally. The cover struck me and I had to read what it was about. I thought it was some piece of literary fiction with a central character that had some cat and mouse game going on. But wow, it looks like this definitely is not what I was expecting! Molly Bloom was an olympic class skier, who got involved with high stakes poker that lead her to be arrested by 17 automatic rifle wielding FBI agents in the middle of the night. I'm thinking Orange Is The New Black meets poker. I read an excerpt and really liked the writing! It's now a major motion picture... read the book before the movie! On my TBR list NOW!

Friday, January 12, 2018

First Lines Friday...

“I remember the gunshots made a wet sort of sound, phssh phssh phssh, and each time he hit her she screamed. Do the math and the whole thing probably went on for as long as 10 minutes. I just stood there and watched.”
                                             ...Grist Mill Road by Christopher J. Yates

A Thriller published by Picador and published January 9th!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Bargain alert! Have you read...

This classic has been on my TBR list for forever. Have you read The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck yet? It's actually part of a trilogy with the first book being The Good Earth, the 2nd book is Sons, and the 3rd book is A House Divided, and if you are quick today, it's at a bargain eBook price of $3.99 at Amazon and B&N!

The Good Earth won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932, and follows the story of Wang Lung, a Chinese peasan farmer, and his wife, O-lan, a former slave...
"With luck and hard work, the couple’s fortunes improve over the years: They are blessed with sons, and save steadily until one day they can afford to buy property in the House of Wang—the very house in which O-lan used to work. But success brings with it a new set of problems. Wang soon finds himself the target of jealousy, and as good harvests come and go, so does the social order. Will Wang’s family cherish the estate after he’s gone? nThe family’s story continues in Sons and A House Divided, when the Revolution sweeping through China further unsettles Wang Lung’s family in this rich and unforgettable portrait of a family and a country in the throes of widespread national change."
There was a bit of controversy surrounding as to the authenticity of an American author writing about Chinese culture and the struggles of this Chinese family. But the parents of Pearl S. Buck were missionaries in China and Pearl had spent her childhood growing up there and remained there until she was seventeen. She then went off to college, but soon returned to China, married John Lossing Buck, who was in China teaching American farming techniques. Because of all of this, Pearl had an intimate and sympathetic view of the Chinese and wrote from the heart.

I can't resist a bargain, so I downloaded the trilogy! Use the links above to get your Kindle or Nook eBooks! But act fast, who knows when the bargain prices expire, AND always check the price before you hit the "buy" button!

*Update... The Bargain Sale is officially over as of 1/10, just one day later, and the price is now $23.99! 

Happy reading... Suzanne

Monday, January 8, 2018

In My Mailbox... Great Books Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near You!

In My Mailbox... Getting back into the swing of things this week, with lots of packing to go, but needing to sit down and relax with some great reading! I'm a little over half way thru Still Me by Jojo Moyes, which is such a good read, but I wanted to share some great books I've received in my mailbox (or actually in my eReader because all of the books this week are eGalleys!). 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...

The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin... It is 1914, and twenty-five-year-old Frances Marion has left her (second) husband and her Northern California home for the lure of Los Angeles, where she is determined to live independently as an artist. But the word on everyone’s lips these days is “flickers”—the silent moving pictures enthralling theatergoers. Turn any corner in this burgeoning town and you’ll find made-up actors running around, as a movie camera captures it all.

In this fledgling industry, Frances finds her true calling: writing stories for this wondrous new medium. She also makes the acquaintance of actress Mary Pickford, whose signature golden curls and lively spirit have earned her the title “America’s Sweetheart.” The two ambitious young women hit it off instantly, their kinship fomented by their mutual fever to create, to move audiences to a frenzy, to start a revolution.

But their ambitions are challenged by both the men around them and the limitations imposed on their gender—and their astronomical success could come at a price. As Mary, the world’s highest paid and most beloved actress, struggles to live her life under the spotlight, she also wonders if it is possible to find love, even with the dashing actor Douglas Fairbanks. Frances, too, longs to share her life with someone. As in any good Hollywood story, dramas will play out, personalities will clash, and even the deepest friendships might be shattered.

With cameos from such notables as Charlie Chaplin, Louis B. Mayer, Rudolph Valentino, and Lillian Gish, The Girls in the Picture is, at its heart, a story of friendship and forgiveness. Melanie Benjamin perfectly captures the dawn of a glittering new era—its myths and icons, its possibilities and potential, and its seduction and heartbreak.

Melanie Benjamin knows how to weave historical fiction into a story we become totally absorbed in! Looking forward to starting this book soon. Coming out January 16th and published by Random House Publishing Group- Ballantine, Delacorte Press.

The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian... Cassandra Bowden is no stranger to hungover mornings. She's a binge drinker, her job with the airline making it easy to find adventure, and the occasional blackouts seem to be inevitable. She lives with them, and the accompanying self-loathing. When she awakes in a Dubai hotel room, she tries to piece the previous night back together, counting the minutes until she has to catch her crew shuttle to the airport. She quietly slides out of bed, careful not to aggravate her already pounding head, and looks at the man she spent the night with. She sees his dark hair. His utter stillness. And blood, a slick, still wet pool on the crisp white sheets. Afraid to call the police - she's a single woman alone in a hotel room far from home - Cassie begins to lie. She lies as she joins the other flight attendants and pilots in the van. She lies on the way to Paris as she works the first class cabin. She lies to the FBI agents in New York who meet her at the gate. Soon it's too late to come clean-or face the truth about what really happened back in Dubai. Could she have killed him? If not, who did? 

I Love Chris Bohjalian and this sounds like a thriller I can sink my teeth in! Coming out March 13th and published by Doubleday Books!

The Night Child by Anna Quinn... Nora Brown teaches high school English and lives a quiet life in Seattle with her husband and six-year-old daughter. But one November day, moments after dismissing her class, a girl’s face appears above the students’ desks—“a wild numinous face with startling blue eyes, a face floating on top of shapeless drapes of purples and blues where arms and legs should have been. Terror rushes through Nora’s body—the kind of raw terror you feel when there’s no way out, when every cell in your body, your entire body, is on fire—when you think you might die.”

Twenty-four hours later, while on Thanksgiving vacation, the face appears again. Shaken and unsteady, Nora meets with neurologists and eventually, a psychiatrist. As the story progresses, a terrible secret is discovered—a secret that pushes Nora toward an even deeper psychological breakdown.

This sounds so crazy good! It's gotten some great reviews too! And this is Anna Quinn's debut. Coming out January 30th and published by Blackstone Publishing.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The 3 Hottest Books for the Coldest Winter Days...

Welcome to The Sunday Salon and The Sunday Post! It is damn cold here in Connecticut! Right now as I write this it's 7 degrees. Tonight it's predicted to get to 20 below zero! It started this past Thursday when it started to snow furiously all day, the wind whipping it all about in tall and beautiful snowdrifts. The temperatures then started to drop. I don't ever remember it being this cold and the only thing I want to do is stay snuggled up inside the house. BUT, I do have some books to keep me company until the spring thaw...

My First Book of The Year for 2018 is Still Me by Jojo Moyes, and I am enjoying it so much! I have 60 pages to go and I'm trying to slow down because I don't want it to end! But I know it will and I'll have to find other pages to read. And I do have some great reads in my eReader (come by tomorrow and I'll share them with you!). But today let me share with you some books coming out next week that are lighting the publishing world on fire (and don't we need a little fire with all this cold!)...

The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani... She has the keys to their apartment. She knows everything. She has embedded herself so deeply in their lives that it now seems impossible to remove her.

When Myriam, a French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect nanny for their two young children. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite, devoted woman who sings to the children, cleans the family’s chic apartment in Paris’s upscale tenth arrondissement, stays late without complaint, and hosts enviable kiddie parties. But as the couple and the nanny become more dependent on one another, jealousy, resentment, and suspicions mount, shattering the idyllic tableau. Building tension with every page, The Perfect Nanny is a compulsive, riveting, bravely observed exploration of power, class, race, domesticity, and motherhood—and the American debut of an immensely talented writer.

This is the first "Hot" book of 2018! This book won The Prix Goncourt (The Goncourt Prize) in 2016, which is a prize in French literature given by the académie Goncourt to the author of "the best and most imaginative prose work of the year". Originally published in France as Chanson Douce, or "lullaby" (Sweet Song),  It has sold over 600,000 copies since then. Available Jan. 9th and published by Penguin. On my TBR list!

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn... 
Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

Lots of buzz about this book. Even movie rights have been sold for it. It's suppose to be a taunt psychological thriller and I'm so hoping that it lives up to all the hype! Lots of positive reviews pre-publication! Coming out on January 2nd and published by Harper Collins! P.S. A.J. Finn is not the authors real name... On my TBR list!

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen... 
When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.
You will assume you are reading about a jealous ex-wife.
You will assume she is obsessed with her replacement – a beautiful, younger woman who is about to marry the man they both love. 
You will assume you know the anatomy of this tangled love triangle.
Assume nothing.

Twisted and deliciously chilling, Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen's The Wife Between Us exposes the secret complexities of an enviable marriage - and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love.

Another twist and turn book that's gotten quite a bit of buzz. It's made the Indie Next List this month, as did all of these book I'm talking about today, and it has gotten a lot of great pre-publishing reviews. Coming out January 9th and published by St. Martin's Press. Definitely on my TBR list!

And one more honorable mention in the hot books of the month club... 

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin... 
If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?

It's 1969 in New York City's Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.

The prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in '80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.

This is the #1 Indie Next choice for January, but I've seen a mixed bag of pre-publication reviews. Not so much of a thriller as literary fiction, I don't think this is going to get your heart beating fast and your palm sweating, but sounds like an interesting read. I'm reserving my judgement for this one, but it is on my TBR list. Coming out on January 9th and published by Putnam.

Week in Review...

*Sunday was New Years Eve and my reveal for my First Book Of The Year... Still Me by Jojo Moyes!

*First Lines Friday revealed the beginning of Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor!

*Sadly on Dec. 28th, 2017 the reading world had to bid farewell to Sue Grafton, who passed away at the age of 77 from cancer. The posted her obituary January 3rd. Unfortunately for fans of Grafton's alphabet series, the alphabet will be ending with Y.

How Are You Keeping Warm on These Cold Winter Days?

That about does it for this week. Next week we'll have some more great books coming out. And tomorrow I reveal 3 great eGalley's I just received from publishers for some great books coming out in the near future! Stop back and see what they are! 

Happy reading... Suzanne
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