The Sunday Salon

Sunday has arrived!! Here’s hoping that you all have a relaxing day.

My week has been crazy and I haven’t been able to do much reading.  Oh, I have tried to wind down with a book at bedtime, but I find myself nodding off after 10 pages or so.  I did get a solid hour of reading in at my daughter’s gymnastics practice this week, but beyond that I haven’t had a good chunk of time to sit with a book and get lost in it.  Maybe today.

 I’m posting a couple pics from our vacation to Pennsylvania.  My kids have been bored and grumpy this week since we got back to our routine because they haven’t had a gaggle of kids around to traipse through the woods with, a thunderstorm to get caught in, or a lake to jump in.  My youngest daughter’s sad comment this week was, “There’s too much cement in California, Mom.”  She has a point.  

The books keep arriving at the door even if I haven’t had much time to read them.  This was my haul this week from UPS, FedEx, and the mailman:  

The Heartbreak Diet: A Story of Family, Fidelity, and Starting Over by Thorina Rose from Chronicle Books.  It’s a hardcover graphic novel (my first) that I requested from an ad in Shelf Awareness back in May.  I wanted to see what all the fuss was about with graphic novels.  I’ll let you know.

Netochka Nezvanova by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, a Penguin Classic that I requested months ago. This is a slim volume and apparently I have 6 weeks to read it or the Book Police will be after me.

Inglorious by Joanna Kavenna from Picador and LibraryThing’s early reviewers program.  This one came out a year ago but was just recently released in paperback.

The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer from Harper Perennial and Every Day I Write the Book Blog.  This is the July online book club selection over at EDIWTB.

Queen of the Road by Doreen Orion- two copies- one from the author and one from the publisher, Broadway Books- so I will be giving one away!  This book is everywhere right now-and since one of my favorite people loved it, I am really excited to read it!  Watch for the giveaway post later today or tomorrow.

The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner from Ballantine Books and Dorothy Thompson at Pump Up Your Book Promotion.  I will be doing a virtual book tour stop for this one in August.

The Safety of Secrets by DeLaune Michel from Over the River Publications- the 2nd copy I’ve received from them, so I’ll be giving it away!  Look for the giveaway post Tuesday.  We also may have a Q & A from the author if I could just finish the book and get a few questions to her!  That is my goal for today.

And finally- an unbound galley of The Forbidden Daughter by Shobhan Bantwal from the author (coming out in August) that arrived in a ripped and bent thin white envelope.  Apparently they ran out of ARCs but even though the envelope was a mess, the galley is in good shape (one munched corner, but beyond that it’s ok).  I don’t recall requesting this, but I guess I did.  I’ve never received a book this way and it will be a challenge to read it like this, but hopefully it will be worth it!

I just noticed that the two covers I added to this post show only half of the woman’s face.  Huh.  Weird.  I thought I was being all random with the covers but they are oddly one-eyed and similar.  Maybe the other eye is on the spine.  I’ll have to check.

Well, I guess I better go read now!!  The kids are still sleeping so I might be able to string two sentences together before being interrupted.

If you’re like me and need to find more time for reading, check out these tips from Books on the Nightstand.  Have a great week!  ~Lisa

Review: The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen is the magical follow up to 2007’s Garden Spells (reviewed HERE). It’s sweet but not sappy, nutty but not ‘chock full of nuts’. It’s like the perfect dessert.

Josey Cirrini, sheltered rich girl in a North Carolina resort town, lives alone with her overbearing mother and a housekeeper. At 27 she has no friends, no social life, and is busy doing her mother’s bidding in an effort to atone for the horrible way she behaved as a child. Everyone in town knows who she is because her late father built the ski resort that lifted the town out of poverty. She is secretly in love with the mailman and meets him on the porch each day but does nothing more than say hello. She’s living a small little life, driving her elderly mother to her various appointments and social events, and living for the moments alone when she can indulge her massive sweet tooth and gorge on mallomars or oatmeal pies from the secret stash in her closet.

Enter Della Lee, one of the eccentric townfolk who is a bit rough around the edges. She shows up one morning in Josey’s closet and won’t budge. Della Lee threatens to make Josey’s secret public, so Josey begrudgingly allows her to stay. Della Lee takes up residence in the closet and soon she is nudging Josey out into the world to make friends and have a life.

As in Garden Spells, magical things are happening all over town. One character, Chloe, Josey’s first real friend, has an interesting relationship with books. They appear out of nowhere and are the exact books she needs at the moment they appear. One rather persistent book, Finding Forgiveness, makes its first appearance on page 36 and continues to appear throughout the story.

“She accepted it from then on. Books liked her. Books wanted to look after her.

She slowly picked the book up from the apartment floor. It was titled Finding Forgiveness.

She stared at it a long time, a feeling bubbling inside her. It took a few moments for her to realize it was anger. Books were good for a story or to teach a card trick or two, but what were they really? Just paper and string and glue. They evoked emotions and that was why people felt a connection with them. But they had no emotions themselves. They didn’t know betrayal. They didn’t know hurt.

What in the hell did they know about forgiveness?”

The Sugar Queen is a bit predictable, but I can overlook that because it has something to say about relationships and forgiveness, and it says it in a rather beguiling way. Like the perfect dessert, the book has a satisfying ending. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys magical realism.

Sarah Addison Allen’s website can be found HERE. You can find discussion questions HERE.

I received The Sugar Queen through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program. I’ll be passing this one on to Softdrink at the newly named Fizzy Thoughts blog (formerly Blond Mementos) who originally turned me on to Garden Spells.

You can read Julie’s review from Girls Just Reading HERE.

The Sunday Salon: Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day weekend is here, but it seems strange to say Happy Memorial Day when it’s such a somber holiday. Still, for most people it’s 3 days off, enough time to get away, relax, recharge, and that is certainly something to be happy about.  But in between barbeques and whatever fun stuff you have planned, I hope you’ll take time to think about the brave men and women who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.  Patti from Displaced Beach Bums wrote a lovely Memorial Day post about remembering that speaks to the true meaning of the holiday. 

It’s been an exciting reading week for me.  One of the highlights was an email from Meg Waite Clayton, author of the new novel, The Wednesday Sisters.  Turns out she’s a fellow LibraryThing early reviewer, and graciously agreed to write a guest post for Books on the Brain about her very own book club.  I can’t wait to read her thoughts!  I haven’t read her book yet, but I’ve heard great things, and my bud Trish from Hey, Lady! offered to send it to me.  It’s good to have friends. 

I was also thrilled to discover I’d snagged another LT early reviewer book, The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen.  I loved her earlier novel Garden Spells, reviewed HERE, so I can’t wait to read this one to see how it compares. 

A box arrived on my doorstep Thursday from the Literary Ventures Fund.  I’d requested a book from them, and to my surprise they sent me not one but FIVE books!  I started one of them yesterday called The Fires by Alan Cheuse.  It’s actually two novellas in one book.  I’m flying through it and should have a review up by Tuesday.

I am going to have to take a speed reading class to keep up with all these books!!  Although skimming and reading superfast really isn’t my style, because I find I don’t retain as much when I try to read faster.  Slow and methodical, that’s me.  Anyone else like that?

What are you doing this weekend?  We saw Indiana Jones yesterday and went to eat at Red Robin with my parents. The kids had a friend sleep over, and my oldest has another sleepover party to attend tonight.  I pulled weeds and planted some green beans yesterday.  Thankfully it wasn’t too hot and I was able to get it all done.  My husband will continue painting his office today.  He’s been at it since Friday and is in his own little world.  Me?  I’m reading..

Have a great week!  

Review: The Wishing Year by Noelle Oxenhandler

The Wishing Year by Noelle Oxenhandler is the non fictional account of an experiment in desire. Oxenhandler takes one year to explore the act of wishing- think birthday candles, genies in a bottle, a wishing well.  She focuses her desires on 3 very different  wishes- a house (after years of house rental), a man (after the end of a long marriage), and spiritual healing (after a painful separation from her spiritual community).  She decides to try “putting it out there” to see what happens. 

She doesn’t flee the country in pursuit of these things, a la Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love.   Instead she attempts, through the mysterious power of wishful thinking, to attract the things she desires into her life rather than actively seeking them out.  

In the introduction she defines what she means by “wish”- a desire that takes aim, or hope with a point- not unlike an arrow.  Her year of wishing begins on New Years Day, and her fairy godmother-like friend Carole is her mentor in this endeavor.  The book is laid out month by month, January to December. 

Does she really believe in getting what she wants through wishing?  From the beginning she has to perform “a willing suspension of disbelief” and asks herself, “If I acted as though this were true [that wishing can make things happen], would it bring about a positive change in my life?” 

A spiritual person, she is conflicted over what is ok to wish for- her Catholic upbringing and her study of Zen Buddhism as a young adult makes it difficult and somewhat guilt laden for her to ask for material things.  Through her research into the ancient human art of wishing, she soon tweaks her way of thinking and chooses to be open to the blessings of the universe.  When she wishes in the mode of the ancestors, she says, she adopts “an attitude that is both confident and humble.  I commit to doing everything within my human power to make something happen-while also recognizing that my human power is limited.”  Wishing, apparently, takes over when human knowledge and effort can carry you no further. 

Do wishes attract allies and abundance?  Or do wishes make us vulnerable to disappointment?  That is the experiment behind The Wishing Year, an experiment that surpassed Oxenhandler’s expectations.  I found it inspiring and would recommend it to anyone who has ever wished upon a star.  

I received this book through the early reviewers group at Library Thing.  It will be released on July 8, 2008.

Here is the author’s biography from Random House:  Noelle Oxenhandler is the author of two previous nonfiction books, A Grief Out of Season and The Eros of Parenthood. Her essays have appeared in many national and literary magazines, including The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, Vogue, Tricycle, Parabola, Utne Reader, and O: The Oprah Magazine. She has taught in the graduate writing program at Sarah Lawrence College and is a member of the creative writing faculty at Sonoma State University in California. A practicing Buddhist for more than thirty years, Oxenhandler is the mother of a grown daughter and lives in Northern California.

Tuesday Thingers

Library Thing’s Early Reviewers group has started a Tuesday meme called “Tuesday Thingers”.  Is it just me, or does that sound mildly pornographic?  No?  It’s just me then.  Clearly I need to get my mind out of the gutter!  So.  What’s a thinger?  It is a weekly meme, I guess, in which a question will be asked each Tuesday (hosted by Marie of The Boston Bibliophile) and then answered individually on the blogs of other Thingers from the Early Reviewers group.  I am relatively new to Library Thing, but I really like it, and I just snagged my first early review book (it was an April bonus selection and it arrived today.  Very exciting!)  So, without further ado,  here is this week’s topic:

Discussion groups. Do you belong to any (besides Early Reviewers)? Approximately how many? Are there any in particular that you participate in more avidly? How often do you check?  

I only belong to 3 groups including Early Reviewers, and I’m not that active on any of them.  I used to be involved in several discussion groups but I cut my participation WAY back when I started blogging.  There are only so many hours in the day, and I felt that I wasn’t getting that much out of them.  Maybe I just haven’t found the right groups.  

What about you?  Do you belong to any online discussion groups?  You don’t have to be a Thinger to answer that. 

Sunday Salon: This and That

My, my, my, what a week! Books on the Brain had it’s best day ever stat-wise on Friday (it totally blew away the last best day ever!) When my numbers had reached their all-time high by 10am, I knew something was up. Turns out Matrimony author Joshua Henkin had been interviewed about his efforts to market his novel to book clubs by Shelf Awareness, an extremely popular site in the publishing world, and included a link to his guest post on my site (Thanks, Josh!!). Not only did I see a big bump in hits, I got flooded with offers of books for review by publishers and authors. How cool is that???  I actually had to turn down a few that were not the kind of books I normally read.  Me, turning down books!!  That just never happens!  But any book with the word “pussy” in the title isn’t one I’m going to feature at my little PG rated book blog.  And I’m not much into self help stuff or mysteries, so better to have someone who IS into that sort of thing review those books, right?

We’re having another heat wave here so it’s a good day to stay inside with a fan blowing on my sweaty skin and read. Oh, I’ll probably have to take the kids down to swim at the neighbors’ house for an hour, and we have a Girl Scout meeting this afternoon too, but then I’ll hurry back into the air conditioning and get back to my book.  Currently I’m reading Songs for the Missing by Stewart O’Nan, the Barnes and Noble First Look book for June.  Just a couple weeks ago I read O’Nan’s Last Night at the Lobster in preparation for this book (loved it!), but I must say that was kind of pointless- the two books are nothing alike in style, tone, rhythm, subject, themes, etc.  If I didn’t know I would never have guessed they were by the same author.  Not that I’m not enjoying Songs for the Missing- I am- a lot.  It’s just completely different.

I’m not the type of reader who can have 4 different books going at once.  I. just. can’t.  I’m a monogamous reader with very few exceptions (I am soooo not a book slut!)  And, unlike Booking Mama, I can’t spend 4 hours a day reading.  So when I received Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe by Jennie Shortridge this week, I passed it to a friend in my book club who was all too happy to read it before me.  She said so far she really likes it, and I’m not at all surprised.  Jennie Shortridge was the first author our book club ever did an author chat with, when we discussed her novel Eating Heaven last year (an excellent choice for a book club, by the way!) She is so warm and fun and we had a great time with her.  I’m excited to read Love and Biology after my book club bud finishes it.

With my TBR pile teetering and listing to one side, and commitments to review books piling up, I decided to pass along a few other books to another member of my book club, who agreed to review them for Books on the Brain .  They include Freestyle by Linda Nieves-Powell, A Curious Earth by Gerard Woodward, and The Space Between Before and After by Jean Reynolds-Page.  I look forward to reading them when she’s done.

I’ve been getting slightly more sucked in to Library Thing’s Early Reviewers message boards. They have a Tuesday Thingers group that I may start participating in which, if I understand it correctly, is just an excuse to post book blather on Tuesdays and then go visit all the other Thingers and read their book blather.  At least I think that’s how it works.

What else?  Hmmm.  Well my daughter finished a big 5th grade project yesterday that’s due on Wednesday. For once I convinced her she didn’t have to wait until the VERY LAST MINUTE to get her homework done (shock!)  Her written report and display on “Richard Nixon: A Man of Many Firsts” turned out great and we she better get an A on it!  I’m kidding.  She did it all by herself, which is completely apparent.  I resisted my perfectionist tendencies to “fix” things that were glued on slightly crooked.  I bit my critical tongue when I saw that she wanted to use the picture of Nixon and Elvis as the largest picture and the centerpiece of her display.  It’s her work and she did a great job.  The kids’ school has their Open House on Thursday so there’s been a big push to do projects and artsy stuff in the last couple of weeks.  They do very few projects and very little art during the year (damn budget cuts!) and then BAM it hits us all at once.  It’s not my thing but I do my best to help my kids.  It’s just sad when you go to Open House and it’s obvious there’s no way in HELL the 10 year old with the beaming engineer dad made the to-scale model of the White House and the Pentagon out of sugar cubes and toothpicks, or the 9 year old whose mom is a scientist was able to make a working model of a geothermal power plant with real steam all by his wittle self.  Well, L.’s project is nowhere near professionally done, but it’s her work.  She’s proud of it and I hope her teacher will see the effort that was put into it.

So.. what are you reading today?  Leave a note and let me know!

Happy Sunday!