Monday, June 27, 2011

Mailbox Monday and It's Monday! What are you reading ?

Mailbox Monday~ 
is hosted by Bluestocking Guide during the month of June
We share what books that we found in our mailboxes last week.

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. (Library books don’t count, but eBooks & audiobooks do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page, who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring meme (details here).

It's been a few months since I posted a Mailbox Monday. I plan for this to be a regular feature this summer and this is what arrived in my mailbox last week:

The Lantern: A Novel Season to Taste: How I Lost My Sense of Smell and Found My WayThe Woodcutter: A NovelThe Things We Cherished: A NovelA Cup of Friendship: A Novel

The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson from Harper Collins

Season to Taste by Molly Birnbaum from Harper Collins

The Woodcutter by Reginald Hill from Harper Collins

A Cup of Friendship by Deborah Rodriguez from Paperbackswap


Hosted by Sheila from  Bookjourney

Where we share what we read this past week, what we hope to read this week…. and anything in between.
Here is what I reviewed last week: 
Alice Bliss: A Novel The Peach Keeper: A Novel
Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington is a coming of age story that isfull of rich storytelling and characters that will touch your heart.  (Check out the author Q&A and giveaway for a chance to win your own copy of Alice Bliss, HERE)

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen is a peach of a novel that is haunting and full of charm and  mystery.

 For this week:
 The Last LetterThe Kitchen DaughterOnce Upon a Time, There Was You: A NovelThe Ninth Wife: A Novel
The Last Letter by Kathleen Shoop
The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry
Once Upon a Time There Was You by Elizabeth Berg 
The Ninth Wife by Amy Stolls (on my Kindle) 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday Salon: Summer Reading & Blog Changes

It's been awhile since I've written a Sunday Salon post and it's so nice to finally have some time off. I started a new job last fall, working in the schools part-time. I'm an Occupational Therapist and this was the first time I had worked in the schools as my work experience had been with adults primarily and I had taken many years off to stay at home raising my son. I had a lot to learn but I loved the work and I worked  in  a great school sysem with wonderful teachers and students. Part of my job was writing reports and evaluations which were done online, usually at home which was great to work from home. This amount of writing took away from my blogging and book review writing here on my blog. As many of my readers may have noticed, I haven't been writing as much these past months but that will change this summer. I am fortunate to have the summer off and I have more time to read and blog. I also have catching up to do on books that I've read and not written reviews for. Even my book club friends have noticed that I haven't been writing many book reviews here about our monthly discussions. I will do my best to catch up on our book club picks and discussions, we've read some great books and have had some interesting discussions. I also have stacks of books to read and books on my Kindle to indulge in. There is no shortage of reading material in our home.

There have been a lot of issues with Blogger these past few months and I've considered moving to Wordpress but don't know if I want to learn a whole new system. I've set up a site there for my blog and have been testing it but it's not as user friendly as Blogger is. I would love a new look but don't have the know how and skills to do it myself. So, my husband came up with a great idea to use the drawing that Rachel Renee Russell (Author of the Dork Diary series) created for my blog as my header picture. He created this mirror picture using the original drawing and I love how it looks. I had originally had a picture of a beautiful window and flower box that I took in Montmartre in Paris, France as my header picture here. You can see the picture to the left in my sidebar and click on the picture to read the background story. Rachel added Nikki Maxwell, the character in Dork Diaries to a drawing based on this photograph including the window and flower box. What do you think of the new look?

Review: The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

"Resonant with insight into the deep and lasting power of friendship, love, and tradition, The Peach Keeper is a portrait of the unshakable bonds that--in good times and bad, from one generation to the next--endure forever."

My Thoughts:

I have read every book by Sarah Addison Allen so you will know that I was anxiously awaiting this newest novel. I read Ms. Allen's first book, Garden Spells with my book club and fell in love with her lyrical and magical writing. (read my review here). I've read the rest of Ms.  Allen's books including The Sugar Queen (read my review here)   as well as The Girl Who Chased the Moon (read my review here) and I loved them all. The Peach Keeper is no exception, it was another winner for me.

In The Peach Keeper, we are taken to Water Falls, North Carolina  and meet a great cast of characters with a history of secrets that are unfolded as the story is told. The story is set around "The Blue Ridge Madam" a mansion that was built by Willa Jackson's  family who were once well-to-do but they lost the mansion in hard times and amongst deep secrets.  The house is being restored and some of the deep secrets are unearthed that have been hidden away for years.  Of course, there is  added romance, great characters, magic and charm along with food and this makes for a successful blend of ingredients in a novel. There is delicious sounding food and recipes (go here for Rachel's coffee snacks) and Rachel's interesting ability to determine what your choice of coffee says about you.  The Peach Keeper doesn't have as much magic as Ms. Allen's previous novels but there is much magical charm sifting through the pages. The Peach Keeper is haunting and  full of charm and mystery. Ms. Allen is gifted with that magical formula in her novels that will pull you in and you will be anxiously awaiting her next am I.

You can read an excerpt from The Peach Keeper, here.

Check out Sarah Addison Allen's Website, here.

I won a copy of this book through LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Giveaway and Q & A with Laura Harrington Author of Alice Bliss

Yesterday, I reviewed a wonderful debut novel by Laura Harrington called Alice Bliss. Check out my review, here. I'm thrilled to share a fascinating list of Questions & Answers Laura Harrington has answered about Alice Bliss and a  giveaway for a chance to win your own copy of Alice Bliss.

Q&A with Laura Harrington, author of  ALICE BLISS

Who is Alice Bliss?

Alice Bliss is a 15-year-old girl in 10th grade, living in upstate New York, deeply connected to her dad who is serving in Iraq with his Reserve unit.

ALICE BLISS the book grew out of Alice Unwrapped, a musical. What was the inspiration for the musical and how did it evolve into a book?

The musical was a commission, actually, and the creation of a new form in music theatre: the one-act, one-woman musical. Paulette Haupt, our commissioner and producer, was inspired by Alan Bennett's play: Talking Heads. Bennett wrote a series of searing, touching, funny monologues for BBC television. They were subsequently broadcast on BBC Radio and then performed live in theatres.

It was an extreme challenge to tell a story in 30 minutes with one singer. I actually wrote 3 stories for this commission, but found I loved the character of Alice best.

And, oddly enough, the very first germ of the character of Alice came from another musical that I wrote with Jenny Giering, Crossing Brooklyn. In that show, Alice was a teenage runaway, living in Prospect Park, sleeping in the carrousel at night. That character was cut from the final version.

With Alice Unwrapped, at 30 minutes, almost entirely sung, we could really only dramatize one key moment in Alice's life. And I realized that there was a much larger story to be told. Which is when decided I wanted to write a book.

ALICE BLISS is a profoundly moving uplifting novel about those who are left at home during wartime and a teenage girl bravely facing the future. It chronicles the impact of the war on those left at home: children, partners, family members, the community. With the US in a war the story is quite timely. Do you have a connection to the world in which you write?

My father was a navigator/ bombardier in WWII, flying missions into Germany from his air base just north of Paris. Both my brothers enlisted in the Air Force in 1966. So, while I don't have a family member serving in this war, my family has been deeply impacted by war.

My father suffered from PTSD following the war, a time he would never talk about directly. Nor would he talk about the experiences during the war that had so devastated him. The silence surrounding my father's war experiences has probably been the single greatest mystery and inspiration in my life. I believe that my fascination with war grows out of my need to understand these experiences and to bear witness to this silent suffering.

What do you hope families experiencing a similar scenario take away from reading your book?

I hope they will feel that I am telling their story and doing justice to it.

While writing the book I was simply immersed in the story, but now that I'm done I can step back and look at the larger picture. It strikes me that you can live in many parts of the US completely untouched and unaware of the wars we've been engaged in for the last 8 years. And there's something about that fact that is terribly unsettling. I think there is an enormous amount of unexpressed grief surrounding these wars and that ALICE BLISS, like good theatre, creates an emotional catalyst that allows us to feel that grief.

And because the book is not “about” the war, but about a family and a town and growing up, the emotional impact sneaks up on you.

What is your writing regimen?

When I'm writing--whether it's a book or a play or a musical or an opera--I write every day. When I'm between projects, or researching and imagining a new story, I can spend weeks and months reading and walking and taking notes and asking questions and developing characters and a storyline. I find the in-between times very, very uncomfortable. Living with uncertainty, wandering around in the middle of mental chaos is very challenging. I'm happiest when I'm writing.

When you write do you have a story in mind and then the characters evolve to tell that story or do you create characters and the story comes from them?

I begin with the characters, with a strong sense of “voice.” I really hear my characters and learn a great deal about them by getting them talking. However, the story is evolving at the same time the characters are beginning to jell. Because what's a character without a story? To me, story is paramount.

ALICE BLISS is not a book about war. When you were writing did you find it challenging to focus on the personal story of the family rather than the politics?

I made a strong choice early on not to go to Iraq in the book. I knew that the emotional impact would come from keeping the story focused on Alice and her family at home. At the same time, Matt, Alice's father, is such a key character and we have so little time with him before he ships out. How do we keep him and his story present? Finding that balance was challenging and an interesting puzzle to solve.

What inspired you to write this book now?

I think that making the war personal is important. Telling the stories of those left behind, illuminating the lives of spouses and partners and children who have a loved one deployed is important. Do we know their stories, their struggles? Do we hear their voices? I hope we can begin to see this war one child at a time, one soldier at a time, one missing father at a time.

You capture the main character Alice wonderfully; her strength, vulnerability and awkwardness of being a teenage girl. Were you anything like Alice growing up?

I think we are all like Alice. That combination of strength, vulnerability, awkwardness and intensity is universal to those years.

I was the youngest of four children, and my siblings were quite a bit older, so I had a much more solitary childhood than Alice did. But there's something about those years that I can still see, hear, taste, and feel. For whatever reason, I have intense empathy for teens.

What type of books do you like to read?

All kinds. If I'm researching a project, like Napoleon or Joan of Arc, or the American Civil war, I can get lost in my reading lists.

I love novels. I'd rather read a book than eat. I love history, I love great non-fiction, I love good writing.

What are you reading now?

Anne Fadiman's Ex Libris, Confessions of a Common Reader, a beautiful series of essays about books and reading and words. It turns out that Anne Fadiman was also a collector of big words, like Ellie.

Jane Smiley's new book: Private Life, and Graham Robb's, Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris.”

My wish list is lengthy and always growing. I am a big fan of my local library.

Which aspect of your work do you most enjoy?

The freedom to think my own thoughts, pursue my own passions, indulge my own obsessions. The necessity of reading. Being able to think of reading as part of my job. How lucky is that? And the opportunity to learn a great deal, even to become a mini expert about all kinds of things, like Napoleon in exile on St Helena's, Joan of Arc's last 3 days in prison, Sherman's march to the sea, the ratification of the nineteenth amendment, marathon dancing, etc, etc. It's fun, and it's never, ever boring.

Who are your heroes?

My parents. I'm inspired by them and guided by them every single day of my life.

The peacemakers. Whoever and wherever they are.

What would your colleagues be surprised to learn about you?

I'm constantly looking for ways to be a kid again, to play.

What is your most treasured possession?

My wedding ring.

What inspires you?

The world around me. Every day.



I have one copy of Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington to give away to one lucky reader. 
For 1 Entry: All you have to do is leave a comment about this review and what you found interesting about Alice Bliss or the Q&A with author Laura Harrington. Make sure to include your email address (no email, no entry)

For a 2nd Entry (Separate Comment):  Follow my blog, you can follow through Google Friend Connect to the left in my side column. If you already do, thank you, and please  make sure to let me know in your comment so I can pass the entry on to you as well. Make sure to include your email address (no email, no entry).

For a 3rd Entry (Separate Comment): Spread the word about this giveaway and Retweet, retweet button below my name at the end of this post. Make sure to include your email address (no email, no entry).

*Open to US (No PO Boxes) only.
Enter by July 15 , 2011