Literary Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Release Day for... Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim!

Today's the day! Roselle Lim's latest book, Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop is released today and on the shelves of your favorite book store! Do you like fun, fresh writing with a little romane sprinkled on top? Dive in to Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop then! Here's the blurb from the publisher...

From the critically acclaimed author of Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune comes a new delightful novel about exploring all the magical possibilities of life in the most extraordinary city of all: Paris.

Vanessa Yu never wanted to see people's fortunes—or misfortunes—in tealeaves.

Ever since she can remember, Vanessa has been able to see people's fortunes at the bottom of their teacups. To avoid blurting out their fortunes, she converts to coffee, but somehow fortunes escape and find a way to complicate her life and the ones of those around her. To add to this plight, her romance life is so nonexistent that her parents enlist the services of a matchmaking expert from Shanghai.

After her matchmaking appointment, Vanessa sees death for the first time. She decides that she can't truly live until she can find a way to get rid of her uncanny abilities. When her eccentric Aunt Evelyn shows up with a tempting offer to whisk her away, Vanessa says au revoir to California and bonjour to Paris. There, Vanessa learns more about herself and the root of her gifts and realizes one thing to be true: knowing one's destiny isn't a curse, but being unable to change it is.

About the Author...
Roselle Lim is a Filipino Chinese writer who came to Canada from the Philippines as a young teen and learned English by watching wrestling shows on television. She has a degree in humanities and history from York University.

She found her love of writing by listening to her lola (paternal grandmother's) stories about Filipino folktales. Growing up in a household where Chinese superstition mingled with Filipino Catholicism, she devoured books about mythology, which shaped the fantasies in her novels.

An artist by nature, she considers writing as "painting with words."

Want to learn more about Roselle Lim? Check out her website at

Want to read an excerpt?! Follow this link to! You can also listen to an excerpt of the audio book.

Watch for my review of Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop later in the week! I was fortunate to receive an advance digital copy from the publisher, Berkley Publishing, a division of Penguin Random House and I LOVED it!

Monday, July 27, 2020

The Answer is...Memoir Monday? No, it's the Memoir of Alex Trebek!

The Answer is... Reflections on My Life by Alex Trebek... Longtime Jeopardy! host and television icon Alex Trebek reflects on his life and career.

Since debuting as the host of Jeopardy! in 1984, Alex Trebek has been something like a family member to millions of television viewers, bringing entertainment and education into their homes five nights a week. Last year, he made the stunning announcement that he had been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. What followed was an incredible outpouring of love and kindness. Social media was flooded with messages of support, and the Jeopardy! studio received boxes of cards and letters offering guidance, encouragement, and prayers.

For over three decades, Trebek had resisted countless appeals to write a book about his life. Yet he was moved so much by all the goodwill, he felt compelled to finally share his story. “I want people to know a little more about the person they have been cheering on for the past year,” he writes in The Answer Is…: Reflections on My Life.

The book combines illuminating personal anecdotes with Trebek’s thoughts on a range of topics, including marriage, parenthood, education, success, spirituality, and philanthropy. Trebek also addresses the questions he gets asked most often by Jeopardy! fans, such as what prompted him to shave his signature mustache, his insights on legendary players like Ken Jennings and James Holzhauer, and his opinion of Will Ferrell’s Saturday Night Live impersonation. The book uses a novel structure inspired by Jeopardy!, with each chapter title in the form of a question, and features dozens of never-before-seen photos that candidly capture Trebek over the years.

Alex, I love you! And I'm not alone. I can't remember where I was at the start of Jeopardy, but I sure can tell you that I've been hanging around watching jeopardy for at least 30 of its 30 plus years on television. And so, what Alex Trebek fan wouldn't want to read a book by the master himself? Published by Simon & Schuster this past Tuesday, July 21st and available at your favorite bookstore. This is definitely on my wishlist!

P.S. If one Alex Trebek book wasn't enough, Thomas Dunne Books also published an Alex book released the same day as the other one! Who is Alex Trekek, a Biography was penned by Lisa Rogak, who has written many biographies, including one on Stephen King, Bill Gates and Rachel Maddow. I almost feel as though they jumped on the bandwagon to get out a book of the much loved Jeopardy host because of his diagnosis and serious battle with pancreatic cancer. My money is on the book actually written by Alex Trebek though. I don't have interest in reading a well researched biography. 

Friday, July 24, 2020

First Lines Friday...

"The deadly virus stole unnoticed through the crowded cobblestone streets of Philadelphia on a  sunny September day, unseen and unheard amidst the jubilant chaos of the Liberty Loan parade and the patriotic marhes of John Philip Sousa."
                                     ....The Orphan Collector by Ellen Marie Wiseman

It would seem timely that this book came out now. The story brings us to the end of WWI, in 1918, as the Spanish flu, and the last modern day pandemic, broke out. Courtesy of Kensington Publishing, our book club is reading this as our August pick. Keep an eye out for my review, and what my book club thought of it. If you want to learn more about it, and read an excerpt, visit Kensington publishing. The Orphan Collector by Ellen Marie Wiseman will be released on August 4th!

Monday, July 20, 2020

Memoir Monday...

Becoming Duchess Goldblatt, a Memoir by Anonymous... Part memoir and part joyful romp through the fields of imagination, the story behind a beloved pseudonymous Twitter account reveals how a writer deep in grief rebuilt a life worth living.

Becoming Duchess Goldblatt is two stories: that of the reclusive real-life writer who created a fictional character out of loneliness and thin air, and that of the magical Duchess Goldblatt herself, a bright light in the darkness of social media. Fans around the world are drawn to Her Grace’s voice, her wit, her life-affirming love for all humanity, and the fun and friendship of the community that’s sprung up around her.

@DuchessGoldblat (81 year-old literary icon, author of An Axe to Grind) brought people together in her name: in bookstores, museums, concerts, and coffee shops, and along the way, brought real friends home—foremost among them, Lyle Lovett.
“The only way to be reliably sure that the hero gets the girl at the end of the story is to be both the hero and the girl yourself.” — Duchess Goldblatt

This book by a "real-life" writer sounds like a fun romp through the pages! I guess I have been living under a bus because it wasn't until I read about this book that I had hear about Duchess Goldblatt, the Twitter sensation for the literary crowd. There are book tours hosted by the Duchess's literary friends, aka famous writers who follow "her" on Twitter, and there are her fun tweets to be read, and now we can read about how Duchess Goldblatt came into being... I've just followed Duchess Goldblatt with my Twitter account and I look forward to reading Becoming Duchess Goldblatt published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt this past July 7th, and available at your local bookstore. (p.s. this book has gotten some great buzz, a starred review by Kirkus Review and made the Indie Next list for July 2020.)

Monday, February 17, 2020

Memoir Monday...

To Shake the Sleeping Self by Jedidiah Jenkins... On the eve of turning thirty, terrified of being funneled into a life he didn’t choose, Jedidiah Jenkins quit his dream job and spent sixteen months cycling from Oregon to Patagonia. He chronicled the trip on Instagram, where his photos and reflections drew hundreds of thousands of followers, all gathered around the question: What makes a life worth living? 

In this unflinchingly honest memoir, Jed narrates his adventure—the people and places he encountered on his way to the bottom of the world—as well as the internal journey that started it all. As he traverses cities, mountains, and inner boundaries, Jenkins grapples with the question of what it means to be an adult, his struggle to reconcile his sexual identity with his conservative Christian upbringing, and his belief in travel as a way to wake us up to life back home.

This has gotten great reviews and in particular a nice blurb by Cheryl Strayed, who wrote another book binge worthy book, Wild. Need a little adventure in your life? Want to delve into the adventure without leaving home? I picked up this book after reading some of the first chapter and was immediately taken by Jedidiah's writing. Published by Penguin RandomHouse in December. Read an Excerpt. On my nightstand...

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Sunday Salon and Books on my Nightstand...

Welcome to The Sunday Salon! It's been a cold and rainy week in South Carolina. Perfect weather to curl up with a good book... and other inside pursuits. I guess I have to accept that it is winter in the South. Besides running around with my normal chores, I spent some time reading, finding interesting books and sewing, some of which I would consider book related. 

My book related sewing was with this fun Valentine's Day fabric with hunky readers. I started making these infinity scarves with hidden pockets and was looking for some fun fabric. I immediately thought of my readers friends and reading group ladies when I spotted this fabric. The scarf is perfect when you're going somewhere and don't want to carry your pocketbook. The pocket is big enough for a small wallet, credit cards, money, passport, etc. What do you think?

I didn't spend all my time sewing though... I did some reading and had some interesting book finds. Here's what's on my nightstand right now...

When We Were Viking by Andrew David MacDonald... 
from MacDonald’s offbeat debut introduces 21-year-old Zelda, a Viking-obsessed young woman with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, who lives with her gruff, tattooed older brother and guardian, Gert. While he attends college on a hardship scholarship, Zelda enjoys spending time with Gert’s feisty ex-girlfriend AK47 and at the community center with her friends. She’s also determined to have sex with her boyfriend, Marxy, if only his overprotective mother would get out of the way. Money is tight, and when Zelda discovers that Gert has resorted to some possibly illegal money-making methods, she decides to help, because helping the tribe is what a Viking warrior does. What follows is by turns funny and tragic as Zelda navigates a new job at the library, explores intimacy with Marxy, and puts herself firmly in the crosshairs of some decidedly unsavory people.

I had seen this book everywhere and the publisher's blurb just left me scratching my head. It really didn't sound like anything that I'd like to read. And I wasn't really understanding the premise of the book either. And yet it was the Indie Next choice for February, LibraryReads book pick, and one of Book Riots best winter releases. So I looked for an actual review and not just a blurb and when I found Publishers Weekly's review it clicked. The main character made sense to me at that point and I decided to read it... and so, it is now on my nightstand. Along with...

Auntie Poldi and the Sicilain Lions by Mario Giordano... On her sixtieth birthday, Auntie Poldi retires to Sicily, intending to while away the rest of her days with good wine, a view of the sea, and few visitors. But Sicily isn’t quite the tranquil island she thought it would be. When her handsome young handyman goes missing—and is discovered murdered—she can’t help but ask questions. Soon there’s an investigation, a smoldering police inspector, a romantic entanglement, one false lead after another, a rooftop showdown, and finally, of course, Poldi herself, slightly tousled but still perfectly poised. This “masterly treat” (Times Literary Supplement) will transport you to the rocky shores of Torre Archirafi, to a Sicily full of quirky characters, scorching days, and velvety nights, alongside a protagonist who’s as fiery as the Sicilian sun. 

This is the first book in the Auntie Poldi detective series, which from my investigation seems to be 3 books so far. The series reminds me of cozy mysteries and has gotten great reviews. We all need a little mystery in our loves, right? It also will fulfill my Book Bingo square of "1st in a series"... Also on my nightstand...

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott... A thrilling tale of secretaries turned spies, of love and duty, and of sacrifice--inspired by the true story of the CIA plot to infiltrate the hearts and minds of Soviet Russia, not with propaganda, but with the greatest love story of the twentieth century: Doctor Zhivago.

At the height of the Cold War, two secretaries are pulled out of the typing pool at the CIA and given the assignment of a lifetime. Their mission: to smuggle Doctor Zhivago out of the USSR, where no one dare publish it, and help Pasternak's magnum opus make its way into print around the world. Glamorous and sophisticated Sally Forrester is a seasoned spy who has honed her gift for deceit all over the world--using her magnetism and charm to pry secrets out of powerful men. Irina is a complete novice, and under Sally's tutelage quickly learns how to blend in, make drops, and invisibly ferry classified documents.

I do love historical fiction and this story just sounds so interesting! Spies, love, sacrifice, how can you go wrong. It's also a Reese Book Club pick, and I'm not thrilled that I have that icon as part of my book jacket cover, but when I opened the book to read a bit, I really enjoyed the way Lara Prescott wrote, so now it is on my nightstand...

Also on my nightstand, is Woof Woof Story by the author Inumajin. It's a fun humorous Manga of a man reincarnated as a legenday Wolf King...

Woof Woof Story by Inumajin... After being worked quite literally to death, corporate slave Routa Okami's dying wish is to be reborn as the well-loved pet of a rich family. When a compassionate goddess actually grants his wish, Routa commits himself to the lazy, carefree, all-you-can-nap lifestyle of a pampered pup-complete with a beautiful owner and all the delicious food he can eat! But as Routa grows...and grows...and grows...he realizes something is terribly wrong. With his enormous body, razor-sharp teeth, and fierce visage, it's painfully obvious that he was reincarnated not as a dog but as a giant wolf. And not just any wolf-the legendary wolf king Fenrir!

In Japan, Adults read these Manga as well as teenagers. This is the first in a series and I haven't decided if I'm going to continue reading the series. I'm enjoying it though and probably will. What's nice for American readers is that this Manga is a novel and reads like a normal book. No trying to figure out front to back and up and down.

Do You Like Bookish Gifts for Yourself or to Give Your Reading Friends?

Week in Review...
Monday was Memoir Monday and I highlighted a memoir by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, called Gift From the Sea.

First Lines Friday was about When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald

How was your week?! Any good books?! I'd love to hear about them! You can share them in the comments! As for me, it is still cold and rainy here today, so I will be curling up with a good book and waiting for Spring!

Happy Reading ... Suzanne

Thursday, February 13, 2020

First Lines Friday...

The Viking my brother got me for my birthday was tall and had muscles. Even if you were nt an expert on Vikings and had not read Kepple's Guide to the Vikings, you would say, that is a Viking. He lookee like he could defeat hordes of villains and commit acts of bravery, like Beowulf, the most famous Viking, who defeated Grendel, who was not only a regular villain but also a monster.
                                          ... When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald

Lots of great buzz about this book. It has been compared to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time this timewith a 21 year old heroine who has fetal alcohol syndrome and navigates her world thru her unique perspective. Published by Scout Press and available now.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Memoir Monday

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh...

In this inimitable, beloved classic—graceful, lucid and lyrical—Anne Morrow Lindbergh shares her meditations on youth and age; love and marriage; peace, solitude and contentment as she set them down during a brief vacation by the sea. Drawing inspiration from the shells on the shore, Lindbergh’s musings on the shape of a woman’s life bring new understanding to both men and women at any stage of life. A mother of five, an acclaimed writer and a pioneering aviator, Lindbergh casts an unsentimental eye on the trappings of modernity that threaten to overwhelm us: the time-saving gadgets that complicate rather than simplify, the multiple commitments that take us from our families. And by recording her thoughts during a brief escape from everyday demands, she helps readers find a space for contemplation and creativity within their own lives.

With great wisdom and insight Lindbergh describes the shifting shapes of relationships and marriage, presenting a vision of life as it is lived in an enduring and evolving partnership. A groundbreaking, best-selling work when it was originally published in 1955, Gift from the Sea continues to be discovered by new generations of readers.

When I hear the name Lindbergh, I immediately think of the kidnapping and tragic death of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh's baby, Charles Jr. in 1932. I think of Charles Lindbergh's solo flight across the Atlantic. But my thoughts don't travel to Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who I have since learned was an amazing woman in her own right. From her 2001 obituary in The New York Times, Eric Pace writes:

Anne Morrow Lindbergh scored an immense literary success in midlife with her 1955 book ''Gift From the Sea'' ( Pantheon), which was a philosophical meditation on women's lives in this century. It was on the nonfiction best-seller list of The New York Times for 80 weeks and was No. 1 for 47 of those weeks. In the book's first 20 years in print, more than five million copies were sold in hard-cover and paperback editions. Mrs. Lindbergh was the author of more than two dozen books of prose and poetry, including five volumes of diaries; her work was often acclaimed by critics and popular with readers.

Though I wonder if the writing in Gift from the Sea is dated, I still would love to read it! On my wishlist.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

The Sunday Salon and Snowbound with the Oscars

If the weather wasn't already crazy the past few weeks,  I would have said it was after a 70 degree day, a day of torrential rain that caused massive flooding, and then two days later a real winter snowfall in which I wish I had my Connecticut snow shovel!

It's been a great week to enjoy a good book. First on the front porch in the beautiful warm weather, and then the last half of the week inside and housebound. This is my second winter in South Carolina and I've had some great snow days! And today I've discovered a coveted Southern food called Snow cream! Have you ever heard of it or had it?? Here is the recipe...

8 cups snow, 1 cup milk, 1/3 cup sugar and teaspoon vanilla. Mix well and enjoy!!

Some of my snowbound reading has been Oscar related. I started reading I Heard You Paint Housed by Charles Brandt, which my husband already had on his Kindle. The Irishman is based on this book. I'm always interested in the books that movies are based on if there is one. I like to read the book first if at all possible. First, to read the story as the author has written it, and secondly because I like to imagine my own characters in my head and not necessarily the actors that play the parts. 

Here are a few of the Oscar 2020 contenders that started as books...

The movie is The Irishman, The book is: I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt...  "I heard you paint houses" are the first words Jimmy Hoffa ever spoke to Frank "the Irishman" Sheeran. To paint a house is to kill a man. The paint is the blood that splatters on the walls and floors. In the course of nearly five years of recorded interviews, Frank Sheeran confessed to Charles Brandt that he handled more than twenty-five hits for the mob, and for his friend Hoffa. Sheeran learned to kill in the U.S. Army, where he saw an astonishing 411 days of active combat duty in Italy during World War II. After returning home he became a hustler and hit man, working for legendary crime boss Russell Bufalino. Eventually Sheeran would rise to a position of such prominence that in a RICO suit the US government would name him as one of only two non-Italians in conspiracy with the Commission of La Cosa Nostra, alongside the likes of Anthony "Tony Pro" Provenzano and Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno. When Bufalino ordered Sheeran to kill Hoffa, the Irishman did the deed, knowing that if he had refused he would have been killed himself. Charles Brandt's page-turner has become a true crime classic.

I thought the movie was really good, although a bit long. It is a Martin Scorsese movie, which automatically means LONG, but I wasn't falling asleep because of it either. Although I think 1917 will win the Oscar for the best film this year, I really think that the Irishman (and Parasite, which I absolutely loved and thought was the best film) didn't get much Oscar love for best film. I'm enjoying the book. It's well written. I would recommend it for people who enjoy true crime novels. Originally published by Steerforth in 2004.

The movie is JoJo Rabbit, the book is: Caging Skies by Chistine Leumens... An extraordinary, strikingly original novel that reveals a world of truth and lies both personal and political, Caging Skies is told through the eyes of Johannes Betzler, avid member of the Hitler Youth during World War II. Filled with admiration for the F├╝hrer and Nazi ideals, he is shocked to discover his parents are hiding a Jewish girl named Elsa behind a false wall in their home in Vienna. After he’s disfigured in a raid, Johannes focuses more and more on his connection with the girl behind the wall. His initial horror and revulsion turn to interest—and then obsession. After his parents disappear, Johannes is the only one aware of Elsa’s existence in the house, and he alone is responsible for her fate. Drawing strength from his daydreams about Hitler, Johannes plans for the end of the war and what it might mean for him and Elsa.
I had absolutely no interest in seeing the movie Jojo Rabbit until I read about the book it was based on. From the trailers of the movie, it looked like a farse on Hitler and the Hitler youth, which I really don't think is a very funny subject. BUT, when I read about the book and how it was about a couple hiding a Jewish girl, while living under the pretense of being "loyal" citizens, it brought a whole new perspective to the movie for me. This book is on my wish list. Published by Overlook Press, an imprint of Abrams in 2019.

The movie is Ford V. Ferrari, the book is: Go Like Hell by A.J. Baime... The epic story also told in the film FORD V. FERRARI: By the early 1960s, the Ford Motor Company, built to bring automobile transportation to the masses, was falling behind. Young Henry Ford II, who had taken the reins of his grandfather’s company with little business experience to speak of, knew he had to do something to shake things up. Baby boomers were taking to the road in droves, looking for speed not safety, style not comfort. Meanwhile, Enzo Ferrari, whose cars epitomized style, lorded it over the European racing scene. He crafted beautiful sports cars, "science fiction on wheels," but was also called "the Assassin" because so many drivers perished while racing them.
Go Like Hell tells the remarkable story of how Henry Ford II, with the help of a young visionary named Lee Iacocca and a former racing champion turned engineer, Carroll Shelby, concocted a scheme to reinvent the Ford company. They would enter the high-stakes world of European car racing, where an adventurous few threw safety and sanity to the wind. They would design, build, and race a car that could beat Ferrari at his own game at the most prestigious and brutal race in the world, something no American car had ever done.

When I was very young, my parents took me to see Le Mans in the movies. Actually they didn't take me to see it as much as taking me along so they could see it, since they didn't believe in leaving me with a baby sitter. I vaguely rememeber the excitement of the cars racing around the streets. But that excitement and this book is what the movie Ford v Ferrari is based on and sounds so interesting. On my wishlist. Published by Mariner in 2010.

No Oscar knods for this movie, but the movie is The Good Liar and the book is: The Good Liar by Nicholas Searle... When Roy meets a wealthy widow online, he can hardly believe his luck. Just like Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley, Roy is a man who lives to deceive—and everything about Betty suggests she’s an easy mark. He’s confident that his scheme to swindle her will be a success. After all, he’s done this before. Sure enough, Betty soon lets Roy move into her beautiful home, seemingly blind to the web of lies he’s woven around her. But who is Roy, really? Spanning almost a century, this stunning and suspenseful feat of storytelling interweaves the present with the past. As the clock turns back and the years fall away, long-hidden secrets are forced into the light. Some things can never be forgotten. Or forgiven.

One of the movies I recently got to see was The Good Liar starring Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen. The trailer just piqued my interest and I had to see it. I can't believe it did not get one Oscar nomination! It was a really good movie! The cat and mouse game between Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen was just so well done, and both actors did a great job. And even though I was guessing through out the movie what the catch was, because there just had to be a little something else besides Ian McKellen fleecing Helen Mirren out of all her money, I could never have guessed the twist at the end. I definitely want to read the book, even though I think I would have enjoyed reading the twist ending more if I hadn't seen the movie. The Good Liar is on my wish list. Published by Harper originally in 2016.

Do You Like to Read the Book Before You See the Movie?

The movie, It's a beautiful Day in the Neighborhood starring Tom Hanks is based on an Esquire Article...

The Joker was based on the graphic novel, Batman: The Killing Joke written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Brian Bolland. I read this and really enjoyed it. The movie changed a few key things, but I still think the movie worked really well to show the human side of The Joker. Here is the link to my review of Batman: The Killing Joke.

Watching the Oscars tonight? I'm not really a TV kind of girl, but I do love movies and since I've seen quite a few of these Oscar nominees, I'm going to watch to see who wins and root my favorites on! 

Week in Review...
Memoir Monday highlighted a memoir written by our new United Stated poet Laureate, Joy Harjo called Crazy Brave. Written back in 2012, she shares her beginnings and how she blossomed into a poet. 

First Lines Friday highlighted a bit of time traveling fiction called Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore

Well that about does it for this week. The snow is melting now, but it's still good reading in front of the fire weather. That's what I'll be doing today. What are your plans? What good books are you reading now?! Share them right here so we can all read them!

Happy reading... Suzanne

Friday, February 7, 2020

First Lines Friday

Oona stopped trusting the mirror years ago. After all, it told only a sliver of the story.

This isn’t me. I am not this woman.

The mirror exposed time’s passage, yes, but eclipsed her heart’s true mileage. The lined face, the extra pounds, the hair chemically treated to hide its gray. Each year the body was hers, but her mind was out of sync with her reflection. Always playing catch-up, trying to rearrange the scrambled pieces of her life.

                                          ...Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore

I love time travel stories. When I spotted this soon to be published book, I read things like light, fun, quirky when talking about it. I'm curious about it and have put it on my wishlist. Though I know it will be nothing like The Time Travelers Wife, one of my all time favorite books, I think quirky may work. Coming February 20th from Flatiron Books.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Memoir Monday

Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo... A “raw and honest” (Los Angeles Review of Books) memoir from the first Native American Poet Laureate of the United States.

In this transcendent memoir, grounded in tribal myth and ancestry, music and poetry, Joy Harjo details her journey to becoming a poet. Born in Oklahoma, the end place of the Trail of Tears, Harjo grew up learning to dodge an abusive stepfather by finding shelter in her imagination, a deep spiritual life, and connection with the natural world. Narrating the complexities of betrayal and love, Crazy Brave is a haunting, visionary memoir about family and the breaking apart necessary in finding a voice.

After Joy Harjo became the American Poet Laureate of the United States in 2019, I wanted to learn a little more about her. I bought one of her books of poetry, An American Sunrise, and am slowly making my way thru it, enjoying it thoroughly. And then Crazy Brave pops up, a memoir Joy Harjo wrote way back in 2012. Did I even notice it when it was first published? Would there be a reason for me to notice it? It is a slim book, but from the reviews I have read (stirring, moving, exquisite, gritty, mystical) I am more than curious about Joy Harjo's life as well as how she can put all that in 176 pages. If only we didn't have to leave the trail in 2012 and follow her journey all the way to her being named Poet Laureate. And I hesitate to say the first Native American Poet Laureate only because I feel her merit for the honor should be based on her writing and not on her heritage. Published by W.W. Norton & Company. On my wishlist!

Sunday, February 2, 2020

The Sunday Salon and the Winner is... Oscars in the World of Reading...

This week I rented Parasite by Bong Joon Hon. It's up for the Best Picture Oscar and Best International Feature Film. It is a Korean movie with English Subtitles. I enjoy movies, I'm not obsessed, but I do think it's fun to see if any of the movies I've seen win any of the Oscars. I do love foreign films though! And Parasite really intrigued me. The trailers for it just didn't help me understand what the movie was about, but it had won a few Golden Globes, so I wanted to see it. I have to say, I was blown away by it. It was not what I was expecting and the ending was so twisted. The story subtley paints and builds up a picture of the division of the wealthy to the poor, and it does it in an amazing way. I can't see it winning the Best Picture, just because I think 1917 will be doing that and I'm not sure a English Subtitled movie would actually win the "Big One", but I can see it definitely winning Best International Feature Film. I haven't seen the other Best International Feature Films though, and I can't compare it, but I do think it really deserves recognition. Not all the nominated movies are out on Dvd, so I'll be waiting on some of them, but all this Award talk and emails about books winning awards this week got me thinking about what books have gotten awards for 2020...

So, for todays Sunday Salon let's talk about a few "Oscar" winning books... (oh, and BTW, I think I would love to read the book that the movie Parasite was based on, but there is no book. BUT in June sometime, there is suppose to be a graphic novel published using the storyboards that Bong Joon Hon used to make the movie! I think that might be an interesting read.)

One of the divisions of the American Library Association is RUSA. The RUSA, The Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), a division of the American Library Association serves all types of libraries in reference, user services, adult readers advisory and collection development as well as resource sharing, genealogy and archives, business reference and reference technology." The RUSA also creates an annual best-of list comprised of eight different fiction genres for adult readers, and called The Reading List. Those 8 genres are Adrenaline, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Horror, Mystery, Relationship, Romance, and Science Fiction. Here are a few of the winners. You can find the list of all winners and runners up at  2020 RUSA Book and Media Awards.

Adrenaline Winner... The Passengers by John Marrs, published by Berkley and imprint of You’re riding in your self-driving car when suddenly the doors lock, the route changes and you have lost all control. Then, a mysterious voice tells you, “You are going to die.” Just as self-driving cars become the trusted, safer norm, eight people find themselves in this terrifying situation, including a faded TV star, a pregnant young woman, an abused wife fleeing her husband, an illegal immigrant, a husband and wife, and a suicidal man. From cameras hidden in their cars, their panic is broadcast to millions of people around the world. But the public will show their true colors when they are asked, "Which of these people should we save?...And who should we kill first? Published by Berkley and imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Historical Fiction Winner... The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott, a Borzoi Book published by A thrilling tale of secretaries turned spies, of love and duty, and of sacrifice--inspired by the true story of the CIA plot to infiltrate the hearts and minds of Soviet Russia, not with propaganda, but with the greatest love story of the twentieth century: Doctor Zhivago. At the height of the Cold War, two secretaries are pulled out of the typing pool at the CIA and given the assignment of a lifetime. Their mission: to smuggle Doctor Zhivago out of the USSR, where no one dare publish it, and help Pasternak's magnum opus make its way into print around the world. Glamorous and sophisticated Sally Forrester is a seasoned spy who has honed her gift for deceit all over the world--using her magnetism and charm to pry secrets out of powerful men. Irina is a complete novice, and under Sally's tutelage quickly learns how to blend in, make drops, and invisibly ferry classified documents. The Secrets We Kept combines a legendary literary love story--the decades-long affair between Pasternak and his mistress and muse, Olga Ivinskaya, who was sent to the Gulag and inspired Zhivago's heroine, Lara--with a narrative about two women empowered to lead lives of extraordinary intrigue and risk. Published by 
Alfred A. Knopf.

Science Fiction Winner... Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia : In Jazz Age Mexico Cassiopeia’s dull life takes an adventurous and life-changing turn when she must help a Mayan death god vanquish his brother and regain his throne in the underworld.  Published by Del Rey an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.

Horror Winner... “The Twisted Ones” by T. KingfisherBrimming with spookiness, paranoia, and a single-minded bloodhound, this devilishly wicked tale of folkloric horror set in the woods of North Carolina is inspired by Arthur Machen’s “The White People.” Published by Saga Press an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Mystery Winner... The Right Sort of Man by Allison Montclair: In post-World War II London, Iris Sparks (perhaps a wartime spy) and Gwendolyn Bainbridge (a society widow) have teamed up to matchmake singles with The Right Sort Marriage Bureau. When one client is accused of murdering another, Iris and Gwendolyn decide the police have the wrong man and start investigating. Published by Minotaur Books.

Another Book Award by RUSA is The Sophie Brody Medal is given to encourage, recognize and commend outstanding achievement in Jewish literature. Works for adults published in the United States in the preceding year are eligible for the award. Another award I had never heard of, but the winner and an Honorable Mention book both sound like interesting reads...

Winner of The Sophie Brody Medal... The Nightingale’s Sonata: The Musical Odyssey of Lea Luboshutz by Thomas Wolf, published by Pegasus Books:
This meticulously researched and highly readable biography/family memoir spans continents and generations in telling the story of a once-celebrated violinist whose life was a microcosm for the experiences of many Jewish immigrants from the Pale of Settlement to America. Written by the subject’s grandson, it illuminates the life of a remarkable Jewish woman while weaving together such disparate elements as the Russian Revolution, fear of pogroms, immigrant life, and twentieth-century women’s issues, with lovely music as the backdrop.

Honorable mention goes to The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman, published by Simon & Schuster:
In Berlin, at the time when the world changed, Hanni Kohn knows she must send her twelve-year-old daughter away to save her from the Nazi regime. She finds her way to a renowned rabbi, but it’s his daughter, Ettie, who offers hope of salvation when she creates a mystical Jewish creature, a rare and unusual golem, who is sworn to protect Lea. Once Ava is brought to life, she and Lea and Ettie become eternally entwined, their paths fated to cross, their fortunes linked. Lea and Ava travel from Paris, where Lea meets her soulmate, to a convent in western France known for its silver roses; from a school in a mountaintop village where three thousand Jews were saved. Meanwhile, Ettie is in hiding, waiting to become the fighter she’s destined to be.

Let's not Leave Out the Kids...

2020 Newbery Medal Winner is awarded to the book with the most outstanding contribution to children's literature. This years winner is New Kid written by Jerry Craft, and Hey, it's a graphic novel! The book is illustrated by the author. New Kid is a timely, honest graphic novel about starting over at a new school where diversity is low and the struggle to fit in is real, from award-winning author-illustrator Jerry Craft. Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade. As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds―and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself. Published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers. 

Other Awards announced by the ALA, American Library Association... 

Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children: The Undefeated written by Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Published by Versify, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults... Dig written by A.S. King. The book is published by Dutton Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers, a division of Penguin Random House.

Will You Read a Book Because it Won an Award?

Last week's Sunday Salon was about reading American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, a book about a Mexican family fleeing Mexico and heading for the border. So much controversy over it because Jeanine is not a Mexican writing this story, which also drove the conversation of inequality of money paid to minority writers after the money Jeanine received for American Dirt was revealed. The controversy still continues and has escalated to threats of violence towards Myriam Gurba and the person who originally wrote a scathing review of the book. All of Jeanine's book tours dates have been canceled and town halls are planned now to fascilitate an open discussion about the book. 

As a result of all this controversy, there have been countless alternative recommendations that are suppose to be more "authentic". One of those books recommended was Children of the Land by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo. It is a true story based on the authors life. I started reading it this week and am finding it a well written book that pulls you in from the beginning. I highlighted the book this past week in Memoir Monday. Follow the link for Memoir Monday to read more about that book.

That's about it from cold but sunny South Carolina! What interesting books have you found this week? Share them here because I just love to hear about great books! And in meantime, have a great week!

Happy Reading... Suzanne

Monday, January 27, 2020

Memoir Monday...

Children of the Land by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo... When Marcelo Hernandez Castillo was five years old and his family was preparing to cross the border between Mexico and the United States, he suffered temporary, stress-induced blindness. Castillo regained his vision, but quickly understood that he had to move into a threshold of invisibility before settling in California with his parents and siblings. Thus began a new life of hiding in plain sight and of paying extraordinarily careful attention at all times for fear of being truly seen. Before Castillo was one of the most celebrated poets of a generation, he was a boy who perfected his English in the hopes that he might never seem extraordinary.

With beauty, grace, and honesty, Castillo recounts his and his family’s encounters with a system that treats them as criminals for seeking safe, ordinary lives. He writes of the Sunday afternoon when he opened the door to an ICE officer who had one hand on his holster, of the hours he spent making a fake social security card so that he could work to support his family, of his father’s deportation and the decade that he spent waiting to return to his wife and children only to be denied reentry, and of his mother’s heartbreaking decision to leave her children and grandchildren so that she could be reunited with her estranged husband and retire from a life of hard labor.

Children of the Land distills the trauma of displacement, illuminates the human lives behind the headlines and serves as a stunning meditation on what it means to be a man and a citizen.

When I started to read all the controversy surrounding American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, I found "alternative" books that were recommended to read instead of that book in order to understand the real experiences of undocumented people entering the US. Children of the Land by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo is one of those books. Unlike American Dirt, which is a book of fiction, Children of the Land is a memoir.

Marcelo Hernandez is an awarding winning poet, writer and teacher. He received a B.A. from Sacramento State University and was the first undocumented student to earn an MFA from the University of Michigan. His book Children of the Land, published by Harper, will be available tomorrow at your local bookstore. On my Wishlist.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

The Sunday Salon... and Should we Read American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Good morning! It's a beautiful sunny day in the Upstate. Upstate is how where I live is refered to in South Carolina. Not to be confused with the Low Country, which is the lower part of the state and I would say the more "popular" vacation destinations of Myrtle Beach and Charleston. It took me a while to really grasp  why the distinction, but it is a lot easier to tell people I live in the Upstate when talking to someone from South Carolina, because they just understand. In any case, today is a beautiful, but cold day in the Upstate. Winter is popping its head in and out and now that I'm retired, when it's really cold outside I tend to stay inside... and either play with some yarn and/or read!

This week I received a pre-order of American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins in the mail. I had read a lot of great press about the book and decided to pre-order and have it arrive at the house the day it came out... so I could avoid having to go out in that cold. It came! Yay! I opened the package and then I was struck by a little yellow circle blazing on my front cover like a beam of light from a freight train... and one of my pet peeves in book jacket designs. I HATE, let me repeat, I HATE those little "advertisements" on the front covers of books."Now made into a major motion picture", "So and so says blah, blah, blah", and this week, "Oprah's Book Club 2020". And that little Oprah blurb I can't even remove because it's actually part of the design. Something I didn't realize was happening when I ordered the book. I had no idea it was an Oprah pick. So, this week I was going to talk about that... Bookish Pet Peeves, but after getting American Dirt in the mail and starting to read it, the internet exploded with so much controversy over this book, I thought we'd touch on that this week... 

Do you care who writes your book?

The controversy surrounding American Dirt is simply this, Jeannine Cummins, who herself has said, is a White, Priviledged person. Because of this can she write this book? The book is about a Mexican Mother and her son who must flee Mexico after her whole family is murdered by a drug kingpin's gang. This story is about the migrant experience, the horrors of the journey to a better life. Can extensive research, and 7 years of research in Jeannine Cummins' case, trump the actual experience? 

So, now there is a raging argument that American Dirt is full of stereotypes and incorrect information on Mexican culture. In an online article for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jane Henderson writes: 

Latinx writers argue that their more authentic depictions in fiction and nonfiction have not gotten as much support from American publishers as books by white authors, and they pointed to elements in "American Dirt" they felt were stereotypes or errors regarding Mexican culture. Much of the criticism on social media was based on a review by Myriam Gurba.

There is also controversy over the LARGE amount of money for the author received for the book from the publisher, and how if it was a Latinx writer the amount would not have been as significant. 

On the flip side of the controversy, with publishers and reviewers who have praised the book, but now feel as though they need to take a step back, there is the thought that even if there are things "wrong" with the depictions and the story, this book will open the eyes of many to the horrors of these migrants who travel the dangerous road to a better life. 

What do you think? Personally I rarely discount an author's work just based on what I hear, although it does happen. Recently after I purchased The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes I discoverd a whole slew of controversy over plagerism and publisher favoritism. Supposedly the publisher helped the book along by pulling ideas from another book that they were publishing, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson. At that point I did a bit of research on the latter book and decided after reading how much book clubs loved Kim's book to choose that one for my book club's January read. I still have the Jojo Moyes book, but it really irks me that the publisher might have done that. When I do read it, I will judge for myself if there are too many similarities in the story. 

I'm still going to read American Dirt. The beginning of the book was absolutely terrifying and just sucked me in. And no matter what the critisism's are, I was really enjoying her writing. Maybe we can all enjoy it as a story of a Mother's love for her son and be happy with that? Or maybe I can treat it as a book of FICTION and keep that in the back of my head as I read the story for what it is. It's not as though Jeannine Cummins stole the idea from another author either. And if you do a google search for American Dirt controversy, you'll have pages of links, some of which give you alternative reads. Why can't I just read this one? I think I will...

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins was published by Flatiron books and released january 21st. It is an Oprah Book Club pick, The #1 Indie Next Choice, and Editors Choice of the New York Times Book Review. It has been praised by many, many authors. Share your thoughts on this in the comments below! I would love to hear what you think!

Happy Reading... Suzanne

Friday, January 24, 2020

First Lines Friday...

The girl is forbidden from making a sound, so the yellow bird sings. He sings whatever the girl composes in her head: high-pitched trills of piccolo; low-throated growls of contrabassoon. The bird chirps all the musical parts save the percussion, because the barn rabbits obligingly thump their back feet like bass drums, like snares. The lines for violin and cello are the most elaborately composed. Rich and liquid smooth, except when fear turns the notes gruff and choppy. 
                                                  ...The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner

I was lucky enough to receive a digital copy of The Yellow Bird Sings this month and just finished it. How can you say you enjoyed reading about a Mother and her young daughter desperately hiding in a barn from German soldiers? But the story is sensitive and I became so emotionally involved in this WWII story of persecution and survival that I was actually having nightmares. I'll be posting a review next week, but in the meantime I give it 4 stars!  Definitely for WWII readers. This will be released March 3, 2020 by Flatiron Books.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Batman: The Killing Joke written by Alan Moore, illustrated by Brian Bolland.... A Review

Batman: The Killing Joke, written by Allan Moore and illustrated by Brian Bolland Deluxe (New Edition) 2019...

Let me first say, I am not a superhero kind of girl. I Use to watch Batman and Superman on TV when I was very young, but I never read any of the comic books. I do like graphic novels and comic books though, so I will sit down and read one every now and then. But this one is different...

I kept hearing about Jaoquim Phoenix's awards for his outstanding performance of Joker in the movie by the same name. So I rented it to see what all the fuss was about. Let me tell you, it was depressing. Really depressing. BUT, what a performance by Jaoquin Phoenix! He was amazing as Joker. And the film was amazing too. Remember, I'm not really a superhero kind of girl, so what I was expecting was not what I got. The movie is not a superhero movie, but a human look at the man behind the Joker. Who was he? How did his circumstances make him into the Joker? All so very fascinating, which made me wonder about the comic it was based on.

Way back in 1988, DC comics ran a one-shot, basically a story that begins and ends with one comic book. It was about the origin of Joker written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Brian Bolland. Because of the release of the movie, based on this comic, DC reprinted a deluxe hardcover version with beautiful new coloring and some backstory of how the comic was created... and it is wonderful! There have been so many improvements on how these comics are produced that Brian Bolland went back and colored the story the way he always wanted to (along with a few fixes here and there in the illustrations that he always wanted to do too). And the coloring is beautiful.

Now the story was changed a little for the movie. In the comic, the Joker has a Fiance and he wants a better life for them and their future children. He left his job in the local chemical plant, is a failure as a comic, and is convinced to do something by some thugs to earn a little money. Things go terribly wrong though and the rest as they say, is history. This is a great story! The other thing the movie changed was the way the Joker looks. In the movie it's all grease paint, but in the comic it is something entirely different. (you need to read this to find out!) The comic has some aspects of violence, but humourous in other spots. The interaction between Batman and Joker is great too. And the end of the story puts a human side to the "relationship" between Batman and Joker. The book doesn't stop there though, because there are a few bonus stories and a section on how the story is put together with the first drawings and how the artist shows the writer the intent of the scenes. The back of the book is filled with Brian Bolland drawings, who is an award winning artist, some in full color, of Joker and Batman in various other projects that he's done. The original story is 53 pages, the book itself is 96 pages total. There is a 30th anniversary edition that has more of the original comic book included at twice the price as the Deluxe edition I read, but I am very satisfied with the edition I read.

Final Course... Great story! I thoroughtly enjoyed it and found it entertaining. The artwork is beautiful! Brian Bolland did an amazing job coloring it as well. I would recommend this to any comic book fan, movie fan, and for someone who really hasn't gotten into comic books, but would like to give comics a try. Now this is considered a graphic novel, but when I think of graphic novels I think of much longer and thicker works. Published by DC Comics in September of 2019.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Memoir Monday

Know My Name by Chanel Miller... "She was known to the world as Emily Doe when she stunned millions with a letter. Brock Turner had been sentenced to just six months in county jail after he was found sexually assaulting her on Stanford's campus. Her victim impact statement was posted on BuzzFeed, where it instantly went viral--viewed by eleven million people within four days, it was translated globally and read on the floor of Congress; it inspired changes in California law and the recall of the judge in the case. Thousands wrote to say that she had given them the courage to share their own experiences of assault for the first time.

Now she reclaims her identity to tell her story of trauma, transcendence, and the power of words. It was the perfect case, in many ways--there were eyewitnesses, Turner ran away, physical evidence was immediately secured. But her struggles with isolation and shame during the aftermath and the trial reveal the oppression victims face in even the best-case scenarios. Her story illuminates a culture biased to protect perpetrators, indicts a criminal justice system designed to fail the most vulnerable, and, ultimately, shines with the courage required to move through suffering and live a full and beautiful life.

Know My Name will forever transform the way we think about sexual assault, challenging our beliefs about what is acceptable and speaking truth to the tumultuous reality of healing. It also introduces readers to an extraordinary writer, one whose words have already changed our world. Entwining pain, resilience, and humor, this memoir will stand as a modern classic."

Published by Viking in September 2019. Chosen as Best Book of the Year by The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, TIME, Elle, Glamour, Parade, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, and BookRiot. A book that gives voice to the victim and has made quite an impact. And Chanel Miller's writing has been praised. On my wishlist.
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