Monday, April 25, 2011

Paris Was Ours giveaway winner & Announcement

  Congratulations to Zibilee -- the randomly selected winner of my extra copy of Paris Was Ours.  She has been contacted by e-mail and I will send the book out as soon as I receive her address.
  I loved reading everyone's comments, most of which centered around the food.  Yes, the food is amazing -- I still have not been able to eat a croissant or French onion soup since I returned, after experiencing the "real thing" in Paris.

  I'll be on hiatus for a little while.  I have recently been given the gift of season allergies (sarcasm intended) and instead of the runny nose and itchy eyes you see in the commercials, I come down with asthma.  The last few days I've felt like I've been hit by a bus, a truck, and then another bus (I've not read anything for two days that's how bad I've felt).  So aside from work obligations I need to take it easy for the next week or so and let myself recover.  I have some great books to tell you about though, so I hope you stick around.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Paris Was Ours -- Review and Giveaway!

Published:  2011 by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Source:  Purchased a copy, won a copy

  I have only had the good fortune to visit Paris once, for a brief 5 day visit, and I loved it.  I did the tourist-y things -- The Louvre, The Eiffel Tower, etc., but one of the greatest pleasures was just walking along the streets and enjoying whatever unexpected experience I encountered. (I remember one Sunday afternoon spending an hour or so in The Place des Vosges - a park in the Marais district - and felt like I was in Heaven).

  So Paris Was Ours was an essential purchase for me when it was published.  This collection of 32 essays is not about tourist Paris but about living in Paris (at different periods in recent history); and while the essays reinforce in Francophiles like me the greatness of Paris, they also show the not-so-pretty aspects of the city.   And while Paris is by no means the perfect place, its flaws do not seem to prevent these writers from staying there for an extended period time - if not permanently - or visiting again and again.

  Very few of the contributors of this collection were familiar to me (David Sedaris and Diane Johnson were the only names I recognized), but despite this I read each essay with my limited experience of Paris in mind and after finishing the book it was all I could do to not book myself an immediate flight (I'm hoping to visit Paris at the end of the year, but it's still in the wishing stage).

  And I loved this book so much I found myself with two copies!  I purchased the book on my own, but a few weeks ago I also won a copy courtesy of Wonders and Marvels, a really interesting and entertaining history blog.  So I'd like to send my extra copy to an interested reader.  Simply comment below (with an e-mail address, please) and for my own curiosity, tell me something that you like about Paris.  The giveaway is open internationally, and I will randomly select the winner on Monday, April 25. 

Highly recommended.

Monday, April 18, 2011

It's Monday - What are you Reading?


  It's Monday - What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at bookjourney to allow us to share with others in the book-loving cyberworld what is on our reading plates.

  This week I finished the following books:

  Books in Progress:
  This is book club week for me:  Monday discussing Major Pettigrew's Last Stand and Wednesday discussing Don Quixote.  I'm still on a high from last weekend's readers' retreat, so the more I can talk about books the better!
  Also, check out my blog tomorrow for an exciting giveaway!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

5 Best Books ... with a female protagonist

  The 5 Best Books meme is hosted by Cassandra at Indie Reader Houston.

  This week's list:  the 5 Best Books with a Female Protagonist

  My choices are, in no particular order:

  1. The Millennium Trilogy (especially The Girl Who Played With Fire)  by Stieg Larsson.  Lisbeth Salander is one girl who you don't want to upset.
  2. The Book of Negroes (Someone Knows My Name) by Lawrence Hill.  I still cannot believe how well Hill created such a fabulous female character in Aminata Diallo
  3. The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny are three of the strongest women I've ever read about. 
  4. Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore.  Catherine Grace Cline is a young girl forced to be wise beyond her years.
  5. A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka.  The stories of Anielica and her granddaughter Beata are at times hard to read but exemplify their strength in the changing atmosphere of Krakow.

More books!

    My name is Suzanne and I'm a bookaholic.

    So in the last two days 13 new books have come into my house.

    On Friday my shipment of books arrived from the Northshire Bookstore, site of the Books on the Nightstand Readers' Retreat last weekend:

  Three of these (The Blasphemer, The Kitchen House, and A Soldier of the Great War) were books recommended by other readers at the retreat.  The other two, Gertruda's Oath and The World is a Ball, were impulse purchases found while browsing that amazing bookstore (I know, how I limited myself to only two impulse purchases is beyond my comprehension too).

  Then yesterday I returned to the closing Borders store near my home.  I totally blame my husband for these purchases:

We were out running errands and were going into a store near the Borders, when my husband noticed the sign saying everything was now 80% off and would I like to have a look.  DUH.  So I ventured in and after I got over the shock of seeing the store so empty (it looks like this was the last weekend for them) I browsed through what was left and picked up these gems.  Total purchase:  $19.40  (the cover price of To The End of The Land alone was $26.95).

  I am now running out of shelf space and hope that someday soon my request for a reading sabbatical will be approved.....

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Molly Fox's Birthday

Molly Fox's Birthday by Deirdre Madden
Published:  2008 by Picador
Source:  Purchased

  This novel is similar to James Joyce's Ulysses because:
  • It is set in Dublin (though there are some scenes in London)
  • It takes place over the course of one day
  • Something else that if I mention it, it would be a mild spoiler for this novel (I don't think there are opportunities for spoilers in Ulysses!).  It's not a spoiler in the truest sense, but if I knew about it I think I would have had a different experience reading the book.
  This novel is different from Ulysses because:
  • It's readable (yes, I have slogged through Ulysses so I know of what I speak)
  • It's about 500 pages shorter (probably contributing to the readable point)
  • The main character is female
  It's funny how the first thing I thought about after finishing Molly Fox's Birthday is the similarities to Ulysses.  And a bit weird, I know.
  So it's Molly Fox's birthday (specific date unmentioned -- another departure from Ulysses), but the main character is actually one of her oldest and closest friends:  A playwright who is staying in Molly's Dublin home (and who frankly I can't remember being named at all in the book) while Molly, an actress, is in New York.  As she goes about her day, the friend thinks back on her relationship with Molly and with others that have walked through her life, as well as encountering people who call at the house to wish Molly well (her birthday has been announced in the newspapers).

  The inside flap describes the novel as "... about a turning point - a moment when past and future suddenly appear in a new light."  I didn't get this, but apart from that I found it to be an enjoyable book.  I didn't love it, but I'm glad I read it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Books on the Nightstand Readers' Retreat

  I just spent the greatest weekend in Manchester, VT at The Books on the Nightstand Readers' Retreat.  I don't quite know how to put my experience into words but I will do my best.
  After a Friday ice-breaking discussion and cocktail party, which gave everyone the opportunity to meet each other, Saturday was devoted to smaller group discussions with the authors who graciously attended the retreat.  I attended these discussions:
  • With Matthew Dicks on the decisions he made on the road to becoming a writer and to get his work published
  • With Susan Gregg Gilmore on the significance of place in fiction
  • With Chris Bohjalian on general topics
  I also took part in a tour of the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, where several of the retreat events were held, and I was in awe.  It is an amazing place and I could easily spend hours and hours there. 

  Saturday evening was the Celebration of Authors, where each of the authors attending the event spoke for a few minutes.  This event was recorded and will likely be posted as this week's Books on the Nightstand podcast (available on their site or through iTunes) and I encourage you to check it out because it was extremely interesting.  Those participating were:

Jon Clinch (Finn and Kings of the Earth)

Elizabeth Stuckey-French (The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady)

Ellen Meeropol (House Arrest)

John Milliken Thompson (The Reservoir, coming in June)

Wendy Clinch (Double Black and Fade to White)

Chris Bohjalian (most recently Secrets of Eden)

Steve Himmer (The Bee-Loud Glade)

  I learned so much from all of the discussions and from all of the other attendees and my to-read list has expanded exponentially.  I also made many new friends - some of whom I already knew "virtually", and it was great to put faces to names.

  Oh yeah, and I purchased some books:
 (plus a few more that I had to have shipped home -- don't tell my husband!)

  The weekend was a tremendous success and it sounds like it will be repeated; if it is I cannot recommend it enough. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

It's Monday -- What are you Reading?

  It's Monday - What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at bookjourney to allow us to share with others in the book-loving cyberworld what is on our reading plates.

  This week I finished the following books:
  1. Heart of Lies:  A Novel, by M.L. Malcolm
  2. Paris was Ours:  Thirty-Two Writers Reflect on the City of Light, edited by Penelope Rowlands
  Books in Progress:
  1. Don Quixote,  by Miguel de Cervantes, translated by Edith Grossman
  2. How to Live:  A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer, by Sarah Bakewell
  3. No Regrets:  The Life of Edith Piaf, by Carolyn Burke
  4. The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady, by Elizabeth Stuckey-French
  So I've just returned from the most amazing weekend at the Books on the Nightstand Readers' Retreat.  Watch for my post about it later in the week, but suffice to say that it was an absolute delight to spend time with so many like-minded people.  My reading list has expanded exponentially talking to these fellow readers. 
  What are you reading this week?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

What to Bring, What to Bring

  I may have mentioned (several times) that this weekend I will be attending the Books on the Nightstand Readers' Retreat in Manchester, VT.  After the crazy week I've had at the office I'm looking forward to this even more. 

  Anyways, it's just a weekend and it's casual, so I don't have to pack very much -- some clothes, pajamas, toothbrush, etc. -- but I'm stuck:

What do I bring to read?

  It's a given that I will be purchasing a few books (ahem, I may have already pre-ordered some written by the authors attending the retreat) so I'm not worried about the trip home, but on the flight there I need something.

  I suppose I should bring my copy of Don Quixote because my classics group meets in less than two weeks and I have about 2/3 of the book to finish yet; but it's such a huge thing and I get jittery (again, I have issues) when I don't have a choice in front of me.  So I'm probably going to bring one more book to cleanse my reading palate, as it were.  But which book?  I'm overwhelmed with choice.

  Better get back to perusing the bookshelves ....

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Tortilla Curtain

The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle
Published:  1995 by Penguin Books
Source:  Purchased

  I am at a loss to explain this book.  It is well-written, but difficult and disturbing; and despite being published in 1995, the story feels like it could have been written right now.

  The story follows two couples:  Delaney and Kyra Mossbacher, living in an exclusive community in the Los Angeles area; and Candido and America Rincon, Mexican immigrants who live (camp out, really) in the surrounding canyons, surviving day to day with whatever they can scrounge.  Both couples are ultimately working toward the same thing - the "American Dream", whatever that may be - but the author dramatically describes how different the paths are.

  Illegal immigration is the underlying theme in this novel, and it was frankly difficult for me to read both the passages of what the Rincons endured to try to make a better life for themselves and of the narrow-mindedness of the middle-class represented in this novel.  Sadly, I believe that what was described is closer to truth than to fiction and T.C. Boyle does not provide any answers to the problems encountered (rather, he does not provide lasting solutions)  At the same time, the descriptions of the Southern California landscape are quite beautiful, even for me who is not a nature-type person and frankly not a fan of life in Los Angeles (based on my few business trips to the area)

  With the right group (i.e. one that can promote civilized discussion) I think this would be a wonderful book to talk about with others. 


Monday, April 4, 2011

It's Monday -- What are You Reading?

  It's Monday - What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at bookjourney to allow us to share with others in the book-loving cyberworld what is on our reading plates.

  This week I finished the following books:
  Books in Progress:
  So a shorter work week this week because on Friday I am off to the Books on the Nightstand Readers' Retreat in Manchester, Vermont!  I am a broken record about this but I am SO looking forward to this weekend.  The dilemma is what suitcase to bring -- it has to be small enough to carry on the plane to avoid the baggage fees, but big enough (and strong enough!) to handle the load of books I will be coming home with .....

  What are you reading this week?

Friday, April 1, 2011

April's Reading List

  Ok, April is going to be a great reading month.  Why?  Because I'm going to the Books on the Nightstand Readers' Retreat April 8-10  in Manchester, Vermont.   I cannot tell you how excited I am about this -- not only for the time away from the office (yay!) but also for the opportunity to meet like-minded bibliophiles and learn about some new-to-me authors.  Full report to follow upon my return (that is, if I return -- The Northshire Bookstore is a place I may not want to leave!).

  Anyways, before I load up on books at the retreat, here is what my reading plans are for April:

  For book groups:
  •  Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, translated by Edith Grossman
  • Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson (I've read this already -- and loved it -- but I might try to re-read it before my group meets)
  For reading challenges:
 For those who celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful Easter celebration and/or a joyous Passover this month.