Literary Quote of the Month

“For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough)—they are experiences,” … Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Legend of Sleepy Hallow... a Halloween Classic

Beware of the Headless Horseman this Night,
as you Wonder the Streets in Halloween Delight...

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving is an american classic tale, set in the rural town of Sleepy Hollow near Tarrytown, New York. While Irving was living in England in 1819 he started writing The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. Written in installments, it included The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and was eventually published in 1820. The story itself is actually based on a German folktale, set in the Dutch culture of Post-Revolutionary War in New York State.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow tells the story of Ichabod Crane, a tall lanky superstitious schoolmaster from Connecticut, who competes with Abraham "Brom Bones" Van Brunt, the town bully, for the hand of 18-year-old Katrina Van Tassel, the daughter of a wealthy farmer. As Crane leaves a party at the Van Tassel home on an autumn night, he is pursued by the Headless Horseman, who is supposedly the ghost of a Hessian trooper who had his head shot off by a stray cannonball during "some nameless battle" of the American Revolutionary War, and who "rides forth to the scene of battle in nightly quest of his head"...

Here's an Excerpt...

It was the very witching time of night that Ichabod, heavy-hearted and crestfallen, pursued his travels homewards, along the sides of the lofty hills which rise above Tarry Town, and which he had traversed so cheerily in the afternoon. The hour was as dismal as himself. Far below him the Tappan Zee spread its dusky and indistinct waste of waters, with here and there the tall mast of a sloop, riding quietly at anchor under the land. In the dead hush of midnight, he could even hear the barking of the watchdog from the opposite shore of the Hudson; but it was so vague and faint as only to give an idea of his distance from this faithful companion of man. Now and then, too, the long-drawn crowing of a cock, accidentally awakened, would sound far, far off, from some farmhouse away among the hills--but it was like a dreaming sound in his ear. No signs of life occurred near him, but occasionally the melancholy chirp of a cricket, or perhaps the guttural twang of a bullfrog from a neighboring marsh, as if sleeping uncomfortably and turning suddenly in his bed.

All the stories of ghosts and goblins that he had heard in the afternoon now came crowding upon his recollection. The night grew darker and darker; the stars seemed to sink deeper in the sky, and driving clouds occasionally hid them from his sight. He had never felt so lonely and dismal. He was, moreover, approaching the very place where many of the scenes of the ghost stories had been laid. In the centre of the road stood an enormous tulip-tree, which towered like a giant above all the other trees of the neighborhood, and formed a kind of landmark. Its limbs were gnarled and fantastic, large enough to form trunks for ordinary trees, twisting down almost to the earth, and rising again into the air. It was connected with the tragical story of the unfortunate André, who had been taken prisoner hard by; and was universally known by the name of Major André's tree. The common people regarded it with a mixture of respect and superstition, partly out of sympathy for the fate of its ill- starred namesake, and partly from the tales of strange sights, and doleful lamentations, told concerning it.

As Ichabod approached this fearful tree, he began to whistle; he thought his whistle was answered; it was but a blast sweeping sharply through the dry branches. As he approached a little nearer, he thought he saw something white, hanging in the midst of the tree: he paused and ceased whistling but, on looking more narrowly, perceived that it was a place where the tree had been scathed by lightning, and the white wood laid bare. Suddenly he heard a groan--his teeth chattered, and his knees smote against the saddle: it was but the rubbing of one huge bough upon another, as they were swayed about by the breeze. He passed the tree in safety, but new perils lay before him.

About two hundred yards from the tree, a small brook crossed the road, and ran into a marshy and thickly-wooded glen, known by the name of Wiley's Swamp. A few rough logs, laid side by side, served for a bridge over this stream. On that side of the road where the brook entered the wood, a group of oaks and chestnuts, matted thick with wild grape-vines, threw a cavernous gloom over it. To pass this bridge was the severest trial. It was at this identical spot that the unfortunate André was captured, and under the covert of those chestnuts and vines were the sturdy yeomen concealed who surprised him. This has ever since been considered a haunted stream, and fearful are the feelings of the schoolboy who has to pass it alone after dark.

As he approached the stream, his heart began to thump; he summoned up, however, all his resolution, gave his horse half a score of kicks in the ribs, and attempted to dash briskly across the bridge; but instead of starting forward, the perverse old animal made a lateral movement, and ran broadside against the fence. Ichabod, whose fears increased with the delay, jerked the reins on the other side, and kicked lustily with the contrary foot: it was all in vain; his steed started, it is true, but it was only to plunge to the opposite side of the road into a thicket of brambles and alder bushes. The schoolmaster now bestowed both whip and heel upon the starveling ribs of old Gunpowder, who dashed forward, snuffling and snorting, but came to a stand just by the bridge, with a suddenness that had nearly sent his rider sprawling over his head. Just at this moment a plashy tramp by the side of the bridge caught the sensitive ear of Ichabod. In the dark shadow of the grove, on the margin of the brook, he beheld something huge, misshapen and towering. It stirred not, but seemed gathered up in the gloom, like some gigantic monster ready to spring upon the traveller.

The hair of the affrighted pedagogue rose upon his head with terror. What was to be done? To turn and fly was now too late; and besides, what chance was there of escaping ghost or goblin, if such it was, which could ride upon the wings of the wind? Summoning up, therefore, a show of courage, he demanded in stammering accents, "Who are you?" He received no reply. He repeated his demand in a still more agitated voice. Still there was no answer. Once more he cudgelled the sides of the inflexible Gunpowder, and, shutting his eyes, broke forth with involuntary fervor into a psalm tune. Just then the shadowy object of alarm put itself in motion, and with a scramble and a bound stood at once in the middle of the road. Though the night was dark and dismal, yet the form of the unknown might now in some degree be ascertained. He appeared to be a horseman of large dimensions, and mounted on a black horse of powerful frame. He made no offer of molestation or sociability, but kept aloof on one side of the road, jogging along on the blind side of old Gunpowder, who had now got over his fright and waywardness.

Ichabod, who had no relish for this strange midnight companion, and bethought himself of the adventure of Brom Bones with the Galloping Hessian, now quickened his steed in hopes of leaving him behind. The stranger, however, quickened his horse to an equal pace. Ichabod pulled up, and fell into a walk, thinking to lag behind,--the other did the same. His heart began to sink within him; he endeavored to resume his psalm tune, but his parched tongue clove to the roof of his mouth, and he could not utter a stave. There was something in the moody and dogged silence of this pertinacious companion that was mysterious and appalling. It was soon fearfully accounted for. On mounting a rising ground, which brought the figure of his fellow-traveller in relief against the sky, gigantic in height, and muffled in a cloak, Ichabod was horror-struck on perceiving that he was headless!--but his horror was still more increased on observing that the head, which should have rested on his shoulders, was carried before him on the pommel of his saddle! His terror rose to desperation; he rained a shower of kicks and blows upon Gunpowder, hoping by a sudden movement to give his companion the slip; but the spectre started full jump with him. Away, then, they dashed through thick and thin; stones flying and sparks flashing at every bound. Ichabod's flimsy garments fluttered in the air, as he stretched his long lank body away over his horse's head, in the eagerness of his flight.

They had now reached the road which turns off to Sleepy Hollow; but Gunpowder, who seemed possessed with a demon, instead of keeping up it, made an opposite turn, and plunged headlong downhill to the left. This road leads through a sandy hollow shaded by trees for about a quarter of a mile, where it crosses the bridge famous in goblin story; and just beyond swells the green knoll on which stands the whitewashed church.

As yet the panic of the steed had given his unskilful rider an apparent advantage in the chase, but just as he had got half way through the hollow, the girths of the saddle gave way, and he felt it slipping from under him. He seized it by the pommel, and endeavored to hold it firm, but in vain; and had just time to save himself by clasping old Gunpowder round the neck, when the saddle fell to the earth, and he heard it trampled under foot by his pursuer. For a moment the terror of Hans Van Ripper's wrath passed across his mind,--for it was his Sunday saddle; but this was no time for petty fears; the goblin was hard on his haunches; and (unskilful rider that he was!) he had much ado to maintain his seat; sometimes slipping on one side, sometimes on another, and sometimes jolted on the high ridge of his horse's backbone, with a violence that he verily feared would cleave him asunder.

An opening in the trees now cheered him with the hopes that the church bridge was at hand. The wavering reflection of a silver star in the bosom of the brook told him that he was not mistaken. He saw the walls of the church dimly glaring under the trees beyond. He recollected the place where Brom Bones's ghostly competitor had disappeared. "If I can but reach that bridge," thought Ichabod, "I am safe." Just then he heard the black steed panting and blowing close behind him; he even fancied that he felt his hot breath. Another convulsive kick in the ribs, and old Gunpowder sprang upon the bridge; he thundered over the resounding planks; he gained the opposite side; and now Ichabod cast a look behind to see if his pursuer should vanish, according to rule, in a flash of fire and brimstone. Just then he saw the goblin rising in his stirrups, and in the very act of hurling his head at him. Ichabod endeavored to dodge the horrible missile, but too late. It encountered his cranium with a tremendous crash,--he was tumbled headlong into the dust, and Gunpowder, the black steed, and the goblin rider, passed by like a whirlwind.

The next morning the old horse was found without his saddle, and with the bridle under his feet, soberly cropping the grass at his master's gate. Ichabod did not make his appearance at breakfast; dinner-hour came, but no Ichabod. The boys assembled at the schoolhouse, and strolled idly about the banks of the brook; but no schoolmaster. Hans Van Ripper now began to feel some uneasiness about the fate of poor Ichabod, and his saddle. An inquiry was set on foot, and after diligent investigation they came upon his traces. In one part of the road leading to the church was found the saddle trampled in the dirt; the tracks of horses' hoofs deeply dented in the road, and evidently at furious speed, were traced to the bridge, beyond which, on the bank of a broad part of the brook, where the water ran deep and black, was found the hat of the unfortunate Ichabod, and close beside it a shattered pumpkin.

You can read the full tale of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow at americanliterature.com. And if you'd like to download a FREE copy for your eReader, you can go to Feedbooks.com for either a Kindle version or a EPub version!

Happy Halloween.... Suzanne

Friday, October 30, 2009

Giveaway & Review: Simon's Cat by Simon Tofield...

Move Over Garfield, There's a New Cat in Town... Simon's Cat!

Congratulations to Jane, Anne & Michele!
They all won copies of Simon's Cat!
THANK YOU to EVERYone who joined in on the fun!

Simon Tofield's animations have taken YouTube by storm. Now, the feline Internet phenomenon makes his way onto the page in this first-ever book based on the popular animated series. SIMON'S CAT depicts and exaggerates the hilarious relationship between a man and his cat. The daily escapades of this adorable pet, which always involve demanding more food, and his exasperated but doting owner come to life through Tofield's charming and hilarious illustrations.

What did I think? I loved Simon Tofield's book Simon's Cat! The feline creation is ingenious, such as outwitting his owner on a trip to the vet, and creative as in the many ways a cat can look like a birdhouse. Of course there's always the occasional indignity, such as when the birds use Simon's Cat's vet cone as a sitting area similar to the birdbath! But whatever you catch Simon's Cat doing it will bring a smile to your face! Adorable, affectionate, demanding as only a cat can be, Simon's Cat will have you laughing! And Simon Tofield's line drawings are simply wonderful! Simon's Cat is already a YouTube sensations, and now you can own a little piece of the wonderful antics of Simon's Cat in the new book just released called, Simon's Cat! Take a look at the most recent YouTube animation, called Hot Spot where "A demanding cat goes to great lengths in order to warm up and become the centre of attention." And you can also go to the Official Simon's Cat Website to see more videos, learn more about Simon Tofield and his real life cats, join Simon Cat's Facebook page or Follow Simon's Cat on Twitter! Would you like to see an excerpt from the book? You can go to Hachette Book Group and click on the link there to get a peek at some of the cute drawings in the book! This would make a great gift for any animal lover, or you can enter to win a copy for yourself right here!!! Courtesy of Anna of Hachette Book Group, I have 3 copies of Simon's Cat to giveaway!

To Enter This Giveaway...

*For one entry leave me a comment with your email address!

*Get an extra entry for following my blog! Just leave a comment letting me know you're a follower! ( Not a follower yet? No problem, sign up by clicking on the 'followers" button! Just let me know you became a new follower!)

*Blog or tweet about this giveaway and leave me the link for an extra entry too!

*For a bonus entry, tell me about your favorite pet at home!

This giveaway is open to U.S. & Canadian Residents only! Contest ends 11:59pm EST on Nov. 21st. I will randomly pick the winner the next day and email him or her! (please check your email.. winner must reply to me within 3 days! Thanks!) Good Luck!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Japan Took The J.A.P. Out of Me : A Memoir by Lisa Findberg Cook... A Review!

The True Story of a Domesticated Princess

Six days after an InStyle-worthy wedding in Los Angeles, Lisa Fineberg Cook left behind her little red Jetta, her manicurist of ten years, and her very best friend for the land of the rising sun. When her husband accepted a job teaching English in Nagoya, Japan, she imagined exotic weekend getaways, fine sushi dinners, and sake sojourns with glamorous expatriate friends. Instead, she's the only Jewish girl on public transportation, and everyone is staring. Lisa longs for regular mani/pedis, valet parking, and gimlets with her girlfriends, but for the next year, she learns to cook, clean, commute, and shop like the Japanese, all the while adjusting to another foreign concept -- marriage. Loneliness and frustration give way to new and unexpected friendships, the evolution of old ones, and a fresh understanding of what it means to feel different -- until finally a world she never thought she'd fit into begins to feel home-like, if not exactly like home.

JAPAN TOOK THE J.A.P. OUT OF ME a funny and insightful memoir from debut author Lisa Fineberg Cook that takes readers along on a journey to a new home and a new soul. From Beverly Hills to Nagoya Japan. Lisa, a self proclaimed J.A.P. (Jewish American Princess), cannot wait to start her new and exciting life, but Nagoya is a far cry from the big city Lisa imagines. Lisa struggles to find a place for herself. To deal with the culture shock and the turbulence of her new marriage, she decides to get out of the house and gets a job teaching in a girl’s school. What Lisa gains there will change her attitude and help her to understand and appreciate her new home.

Today, Lisa Fineberg Cook is on a Virtual Blog Tour with her new book Japan Took The J.A.P. Out of Me, otherwise I would have saved this for a Memoir Monday post, because it is a perfect book for that! Lisa is funny! Honest and fresh in her writing about trying to fit in when everything around her is so different from what she grew up with. Her Chapter titles are cute- Laundry, Cooking, Transportation, Shopping, Cleaning & Intermission and that's just a glimpse into what's in store when you open the pages. You wish you could be her BFF in Japan! In the meantime, read her take on culture shock and becoming a true Domesticated Princess!

Would you like to learn more about Lisa? Here is an interview with Lisa on Simon & Schuster, her publisher's website! There's also a Reading Group Guide for Japan Took The J.A.P. Out of Me HERE! Discussion questions such as adapting to cultural differences, and how this can affect the beginning of a marriage.

Thank you to Sarah of Pocket Books for sharing Lisa book with me! It was a fun and refreshing read!

International Giveaway & Review... The Sari Shop Widow by Shobhan Bantwal

A rare and insightful glimpse into the vibrant world of Indian-American fashions and immigrant culture. A young businesswoman rediscovers the magic of love, family, and tradition as she fights to save her failing sari boutique in New Jersey…

Congrats to Amanda who won the signed copy of The Sari Shop Widow! And Thank you to EVERYONE for joining in on the fun!

Since becoming a widow at age twenty-seven, Anjali Kapadia has devoted herself to transforming her parents' sari shop into a chic boutique, brimming with exquisite jewelry and clothing. Now, ten years later, it stands out like a proud maharani amid Edison’s bustling Little India. But when Anjali learns the shop is on the brink of bankruptcy, she feels her world unraveling…

To the rescue comes Anjali’s wealthy, dictatorial Uncle Jeevan and his business partner, Rishi Shah—a mysterious Londoner, complete with British accent, cool gray eyes, and skin so fair it makes it hard to believe he’s Indian. Rishi’s cool, foreign demeanor triggers distrust in Anjali and her mother. But for Anjali, he also stirs something else, a powerful attraction she hasn’t felt in a decade. And the feeling is mutual…

Love disappointed Anjali once before and she’s vowed to live without it—though Rishi is slowly melting her resolve and, as the shop regains its footing, gaining her trust. But when a secret from Rishi’s past is revealed, Anjali must turn to her family and her strong cultural upbringing to guide her in finding the truth…

"In my books, I try to weave social themes into stories of romance, intrigue, drama, and high emotion. My aim is to educate, inform, and entertain readers who may not ordinarily have an opportunity to learn about women's issues in India and other similar cultures." ...And in the Sari Shop Widow Shobhan Bantwal certainly does that! Shobhan's writing flows easily across the page as we enter the world of India. With the wonderful descriptions of Indian food and beautiful fabrics, we are taken into the sari shop of 27 year old widow Anjali Kapadia and can almost touch everything around us, but we are there to see how life can take some heartbreaking turns, and how the resolve of this one woman can overcome quite a lot while still holding on to the traditions of her upbringing.

Wonderful writing, characters that almost walk off the page and a great story, make The Sari Shop Widow a must read. And a great book club pick too! Here is a link to some great discussion questions. Would you like to read an excerpt? Here is a link to the first chapter. And if you missed Shobhan Bantwal's guest post earlier this month on Chick with Books, Here is the link to her insightful post on starting her writing career after age 50!

Would you like a chance to win an autographed copy of The Sari Shop Widow? And enter the world of Anjali Kapadia? Thanks to Jaime of Pump up Your Book, who is promoting Shobhan Bantwal's Book Tour this month, I have a extra copy of The Sari Shop Widow, signed by the author to give away!

To Enter This Giveaway...

*For one entry leave me a comment with your email address!

*Get an extra entry for following my blog! Just leave a comment letting me know you're a follower! ( Not a follower yet? No problem, sign up by clicking on the 'followers" button! Just let me know you became a new follower!)

*Blog or tweet about this giveaway and leave me the link.

This giveaway is open to U.S. Residents and Internationally! If I can mail a book to you thru the U.S. Postal Service you are eligible to enter! Contest ends 11:59pm EST on Nov. 14th. I will randomly pick the winner the next day and email him or her! (please check your email.. winner must reply to me within 3 days! Thanks!) Good Luck!

And Thanks Jaime for the review copy of The Sari Shop Widow! It was a wonderful read!

P.S. This Book is Kindle Ready!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Memoir Mondays... Everything Sucks by Hannah Friedman


"I wrote this book because it wasn't around for me to read it. It includes everything I wish I had known growing up but was too afraid to ask about."

Hannah Friedman is funny! Her tongue in cheek take on growing up female is simply wonderful. The chapters titles in her book, Everything SUCKS: Losing My Mind and Finding Myself in a High School Quest for Cool, tells us a little about what we're in for: Chapter One: Family Sucks, Chapter Two: Period Sucks, Chapter Five: Fitting In Sucks, Chapter Nine: Diets Suck, Chapter Eleven: Sex Sucks. It does seem like everything sucks, but I laughed too as I was reading because of Hannah's wry sense of humor sprinkled in heavy doses thru-out her story...

“By my senior year [in high school] I am the chair of the student body and disciplinary committee, coordinator of 3 community service programs, I have a 4.0 GPA, a millionaire boyfriend with a BMW, and finally, for the first time in my entire life, I am considered ‘cool.’ But when an article of mine about the college admissions process is published in Newsweek, everything I’ve worked so hard to achieve is pulled out from under me…and I resolve once and for all to stop allowing other people to define me.”

Hannah writes about it all... living on a tour bus, attending one of New York's most prestigious private schools, drug addiction and eating disorders, her first boyfriend, losing her virginity, and just trying to fit in... This is YA (Young Adult) fiction, but any of us girls can relate to Hannah's "adventures". You won't be able to help yourself from liking Hannah as you follow along... she's an insightful writer who knows how to put the pen to the paper, and you'll love her storytelling. Would you like to read a sample of Everything SUCKS? You can find an excerpt HERE. You can also find Hannah at her website hannahfriedman.com, where she plays a pretty mean guitar! And you can find a link there to that Newsweek article that put Hannah on the map.

There was an email from Hannah in my inbox, where she introduced herself and told me about her book, "Everything Sucks is a hilarious and brutally honest portrayal of teenage years- social angst, sexual identity, drug experimentation, eating disorders, depression, educational philosophies, Ivy League scandals, and love" It was all that and more! Thanks Hannah for sharing a little bit of yourself and the book with me! I thoroughly enjoyed it!

*P.S. Hannah also has a lot of cool YouTube videos, one of which is her book trailer, which you've got to watch! Here's the LINK! AND This Book is Kindle Ready!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Sunday Salon.. Pricing Wars, a new eReader, and an audio book gets made from 1000 Tweets! and Books with Buzz...

What is the Sunday Salon? Imagine some university library's vast reading room. It's filled with people--students and faculty and strangers who've wandered in. They're seated at great oaken desks, books piled all around them, and they're all feverishly reading and jotting notes in their leather-bound journals as they go. Later they'll mill around the open dictionaries and compare their thoughts on the afternoon's literary intake...

It's been an interesting week in the reading world this week. Between book pricing wars, new eReaders, and the BBC Audiobooks America, Neil Gaiman & Twitter get together to create an audio book!

In the news this week, The American Booksellers Association, which represents independent bookstores, sent a letter to the Justice Department asking it to investigate "predatory pricing" by Amazon, Walmart and Target. And what a price war it was! 10 hardcover books coming out soon by authors such as Stephen King, John Grisham and Barbara Kingsolver were available for pre-order on Walmart's website for $10! Then Amazon matched the prices! Then Walmart lowered their prices to $9... Then Amazon followed... then Walmart lowered their prices to $8.99... Target decides their going to get in on the fun and offer 6 out of the 10 books for the same $8.99. And finally Walmart ends the price cutting to $8.98! Is your head still spinning from all that? The ABA (American Booksellers Associations) claimed that the discounting is "damaging to the book industry and harmful to consumers" and that this "devalued the very concept of the book". Retailers typically pay publishers a wholesale price of half the list price of a hardcover book- so if the hardcover is $25, the retailer will pay $12.50... and if they are selling that book for $9 they are losing money on the deal. This of course hurts the independent booksellers, who can't afford to discount the books at that price. David Young, chief executive of Hachette Book Group is quoted in a New York Times article this week, "I don't think it's a good thing for books to be perceived to be low-value items. A hell of a lot goes into the creation of a book or a career of a writer, and to have our top products savagely discounted is not good for the long-term health of our business." And was Amazon, Target and Walmart thinking about the future? Probably just the future of their book sales. What do you think? Do you think it hurts the book industry to offer these 10 books at a loss? I admit that I couldn't resist pre-ordering Stephen Kings new book Under the Dome, but then again I wouldn't have bought the hardcover otherwise, I would have waited for the paperback. Some of the other books up for bid were The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver, Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton, and I, Alex Cross by James Patterson. Maybe this could also be a stepping stone for future purchases by the consumer if they are reading one of these authors for the first time...

The Nook has emerged this week to entice people that were on the fence about eReaders AND us Kindle owners who love our Kindles, but like some of those new features on The Nook! Just in case you haven't heard, The Nook is Barnes & Nobles new eReader, that looks kind of like a Kindle, but uses the ePub format, which is emerging as the standard for eBooks, and which means you can download books from a lot of places besides just Barnes & Noble, has WiFi and 3G so you can download wirelessly too! AND has a beautiful color touch screen on the bottom where you can look thru your book covers and shop for books. The lending feature was a plus, but further chatter on the internet has put a bit of a damper on that feature as it seems you can only lend your eBook once to someone for a total of 14 days, and there may be restrictions by the publishers in doing even that.. Have you decided to take the eReader plunge because of The Nook?

If you were following BBC Audiobooks America on Twitter, you would have seen a "Tweet" (that's what the 140 character message is affectionately called) to help write an original audio story with Neil Gaiman on Twitter. Neil Gaiman wrote the first line...Do you Twitter? Twitter of course is a social network where you have 140 characters to get your thoughts across. Twitter originally was thought up by John Dorsey who wanted to know what his friends were doing. And that is the basic question Twitter asks you... What are you doing? And in 140 characters you tell everyone who is connected to you, what's going on. And in real time you see what other people you are connected to are doing too! It's fun, it's a great way to stay connected, and it's become more that just a "What are you doing" network... it's become a place to create and read Twitterfiction! And that's what the BBCAA, Neil Gaiman and Twitter did last week...

Sam was brushing her hair when the girl in the mirror put down the hairbrush, smiled & said, “We don't love you anymore.”

And then the Twitterverse ( the Twitter Universe) joined in to create the rest of the story... Of course the BBCAA had to clean up the entries to create the flow to the story, but here's the complete story. And you can check that same link for information on the release of the audio story that was the whole point of the feverish tweeting. It will be a free download! Want to learn more about Twitter? Go to twitter.com to learn all about Twitter and to join in on the fun! If you'd like to follow me on Twitter ( if you don't already) I'm @ChickwithBooks or here's my Twitter link, Chick with Books . Do you Twitter? What do you use Twitter for? Social? Info? Networking? Share what Twitter means to you!

Now for some Books with Buzz...

I just started reading The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist, which is an adult Dystopian fiction novel. It has sucked me in... the short description of the story is that any woman who turns 50 and who does not have children and is not considered contributing significantly to society is taken to The Unit. The Unit is where you are used for experiments and your body parts. It's a beautiful spa like facility, but you give the ultimate gift. People have lived in the facility for years, giving up parts of themselves a little at a time. Men get a reprieve- they are taken to The Unit at age 60. The protagonist of the story is Dorrit Weger, who you just feel so much empathy for. She was always taught to be independent and self sufficient by her mother, but when society changed and motherhood became your saving grace, Dorrit was out of time. It's one of the National Reading Group Month picks for the month of October and I can see where it would make for a lively conversation! What makes a person dispensable? The moral issues... the importance of sacrifice... Friendships, love and sorrow are all part of The Unit. This Book is Kindle Ready!

The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk... It is 1975, a perfect spring in Istanbul. Kemal, scion of one of the city’s wealthiest families, is about to become engaged to Sibel, daughter of another prominent family, when he encounters Füsun, a beautiful shopgirl and a distant relation. Kemal becomes so obsessed with the shop girl he meets while buying his fiancée a purse that he ends up throwing away his entire life. Füsan is in fact a distant relative Kemal hasn't seen for some time, and they launch a passionate affair on the very eve of Kemal's engagement party. This is 1970s Turkey, and new ideas from the West would seem to bless the affair. But of course Kemal never considers breaking his engagement. Kemal's descent into love's hell takes him through every level of the social order, past countless neighborhoods of sprawling Istanbul, in a story that spans 30 years. And the Museum is reference to all the objects Kemal collects as remembrances of his shopgirl. This book interested me because it is so much more than a simple love story. And the descriptions of Instanbul are suppose to be wonderful. This Book is Kindle Ready!

Under the Dome by Stephen King... Supernatural Horror returns to Maine. On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester's Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener's hand is severed as "the dome" comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when--or if--it will go away. Sounds like a great story... and there is quite a bit of chatter about the cover and how it was created with the help of CGI, which is what they use in the movies to create some of those wonderful animated characters. Read about the making of The Cover of Under the Dome.and due out in November!

Have a great reading week! Stop by during the week for some great reviews and a new giveaway!

Happy reading... Suzanne

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Kindle Korner and The Nook... plus a new Kindle application!

Barnes & Noble throws the gauntlet down to Amazon!
"The Nook" challenges The Kindle
And Amazon fights back with lower pricing and a new application!

The Nook by Barnes & Noble is an eReader that offers real competition to The Kindle... especially if you love your Kindle. Although I haven't actually seen one yet, only the photos all over the internet, it looks very similar to the Kindle... A slim ergonomically designed eReader that will be comfortable to hold in your hand, with page turning buttons right where you want them - where your thumb is resting already.

There are a few BIG differences between The Nook and The Kindle though such as,

*The Nook can display texts in PDF and ePub format. ePub is a new standard format supported by numerous publishers who make e-books. That means you aren't limited to just what Barnes & Noble sells.

*The Nook will have both 3G and WiFi built in.

*The Nook will have a 3.5 inch color touchscreen LCD on the bottom of the reader. You can see your eBooks that you own in full color covers, and can browse thru them at the touch of your finger. (similar to Apple's cover flow). And you can shop for eBooks the same way.

*There already will be 2GB storage for 1500 books, but if that isn't enough for you there is a expandable microSD slot for more storage.

*You can lend your eBooks to your family & friends. Whoever you lend the book to must have the Barnes & Noble eReader software installed on their device, but the software is free. I actually have this installed on my iPhone. ** Thanks to J.T. Oldfield of Bibliofreak, we have a little more info on The Nook's lending "restrictions". Seems that it's a one time lend to someone for 2 weeks. No renewals. When you lend your eBook, you can't read it at the same time- kind of like a real book. Here's the link J.T. shared about The Nook and lending practices.

Standard on both Kindle and The Nook is the ability to look up words in a dictionary, highlight passages on the page, and make notations. You can easily personalize your screensaver with your photos on The Nook too. You can load your photos for screensavers on The Kindle too, although it's not a direct download. You can get samples of books before purchase from both, but Barnes and Noble is promising exclusive content if you are in their store and sampling books via your Nook. (of course my comment to my husband was why not just open the book...)

Would you like to compare The Kindle to The Nook? Here's the comparison chart from Barnes & Noble. And here's The Nook page at Barnes & Noble, where you can watch a 3 minute video about The Nook. And the price? The Nook is retailing for $259, which is the new lower price of The Kindle2.

Book sales have been falling for Barnes & Noble and they are hoping that this device will boost sales. Barnes & Noble says that they will have The Nook is stores to try before you purchase. And if you order one now, shipping is scheduled to begin end of November.... I love my Kindle, but The Nook looks like it combines the nicest features of The Kindle with the features I wished it had (great PDF display & ePub! AND that beautiful full color touch screen.) What do you think? Kindle or Nook? Are you in the market for an eReader, and are you going to wait now to take a real look at The Nook? I can't wait to actually see one! And competition is always good, it can only spur on innovations in the new eReader market.

And speaking of competition, Amazon has lowered the Kindle International/US version to $259! And has eliminated its US only version! You can still get a US version as a refurbished model selling for $219! PLUS Amazon has just announced Kindle for PC! "Kindle for PC," the free application that lets readers around the world enjoy Kindle books on their personal computers (PC). Kindle books can now be read on the Kindle, Kindle DX, iPhone, iPod touch, and PC. Read more about Kindle for PC HERE. And go to Amazon.com's Kindle for PC page HERE to sign up to be notified when "Kindle for PC" actually becomes available for download!

Monday, October 19, 2009

How to Roast a Lamb by Michael Psilakis... A Memoir & a Cookbook for Memoir Mondays!

A Memoir and a Cookbook all rolled up in one!

Sit down to eat with Michael Psilakis & his Family! You won't be sorry!

A rising star in the food world, Michael Psilakis is co-owner of a growing empire of modern Mediterranean restaurants, and one of the most exciting young chefs in America today. In How to Roast a Lamb, the self-taught chef offers recipes from his restaurants and his home in this, his much-anticipated first cookbook.

Ten chapters provide colorful and heartfelt personal essays that lead into thematically related recipes. Gorgeous color photography accompanies many of the recipes throughout. Psilakis's cooking utilizes the fresh, naturally healthful ingredients of the Mediterranean augmented by techniques that define New American cuisine. Home cooks who have gravitated toward Italian cookbooks for the simple, user-friendly dishes, satisfying flavors, and comfortable, family-oriented meals, will welcome Psilakis's approach to Greek food, which is similarly healthful, affordable, and satisfying to share any night of the week.

How to Roast a Lamb by Michael Psilakis is GORGEOUS! It's a big wonderful oversize cookbook with beautiful colorful photos, a large selection of recipes that are well detailed for even a beginning cook, and interspersed among the recipes are anecdotes, suggestions & tips, with a wonderful story of his family at the beginning of each "chapter". And it's a memoir, a book filled with stories of Michael Psilakis' family and how his recipes are related! A cookbook is a bit unusual to characterize as a memoir, but I enjoyed reading the stories in between the recipes so much! As Michael writes in the beginning of the book,

"This cookbook is at once a collection of recipes and a collection of reminiscences. They illuminate the years that would stand as the building blocks for my growth from boy to man and ultimately to chef... Without this foundation, I would be unable to experience the bliss of standing behind a stove and creating dishes that express my emotions in much the same way as a poet, painter, or musician might."

And Michael Psilakis is hot... what I mean is he's a new and upcoming chef that is all over the internet and was even invited to cook at the White House. Here's a LINK to a video of Michael making a simple garden Grecian Salad at his restaurant Anthos.

And now onto my Greek experience...

As I opened How to Roast a Lamb and started reading I didn't feel intimidated, but invited. Michael says a little something about the recipe before giving you the ingredients and the "how to's". I have never cooked Greek food before, but I love to cook and am up for trying new foods. I am far from a professional cook, so I like recipes that aren't necessarily easy, but I need good directions. All this I found in Michael Psilakis' cookbook How to Roast a Lamb. Michael's childhood is a big part of his cooking. The family stories drift into the recipes as we turn the pages and not only read about the wonderful food, but the close Psilakis family. The recipes are arranged by his stories, so that you are reading through the cookbook to discover tasty recipes. The back of the book is arranged more conventionally, so you can easily look for a chicken recipe, soup recipe, etc. The beginning of the book describes some of the common ingredients in Greek cooking , such as Greek oregano, which has a "very different flavor from the usual oregano", or whenever yogurt is called for in a recipe it is for Greek yogurt, which is a thick yogurt. And then we are introduced to Michael's family. Wonderful family photographs pepper the pages as we read along and are welcomed into the Psilakis kitchen. And while I learned about Michael Psilakis family I also learned about Greek cooking...

"When my father was a boy growing up in Crete, hunting wasn't about sport. It was the difference between meat on the table and going without."

That quote made me realize about the variety of foods in Greek cooking... you hunted what was available... and so in How to Roast a Lamb there are recipes for chicken, and pork, and Tuna, but also Quail, Rabbit and Pheasant.

To try out the recipes, I chose Souvlaki: Chicken Shish Kebab (Kotopoulo Souvlaki) with Ladolemono sauce, and a side of Spinach Rice (Spanakorizo)...

*First I learned how to Brine the Chicken... very easy, just cut up the chicken, make the brine, which is 4 ingredients, and put it all together overnight in the refrigerator.

*Next day I rinsed off the Brine from the chicken and made an incredibly wonderful smelling marinade with fresh herbs, garlic and shallots. I laced the brine free chicken pieces onto skewers and rested it in the marinade. The chicken needed to be in the marinade a minimum of 4 hours, but I did it for the full 12 hours (overnight)...

Next afternoon, I took the chicken out of the marinade, let it get to room temp before grilling. (my DH's job). In the meantime I made a long grain rice in one pot and the spinach with garlic, shallots and seasonings in a large skillet... Within 20 minutes, I combined the rice and spinach, I made the Ladolemono sauce, which is like a salad dressing, and when the grilling was done I poured the sauce over the chicken before serving with the spinach rice. The results were incredibly delish! It was easy and it made the whole kitchen smell great! Now I took a couple of days to brine and marinade the chicken, but really this could have been done overnight and 4 hours the next morning. Brining the chicken the night before, taking it out in the morning, rinsing it off and putting in the marinade before going to work and grilling it that night would have been just as good. I had the luxury of a few days off and worked it around my schedule. This would also make a great meal for the book club... (it is National Reading Group Month!)

If you love to cook, if you'd like to give Greek cooking a try, and you love a good story, give How to Roast a Lamb by Michael Psilakis a try! You won't be disappointed! It's a wonderful memoir along with wonderful easy recipes! Beef stew, rabbit stew, stuffed peppers, Eggplant dishes, Egg-Lemon soup, Shrimp dishes, sauces, spreads and a whole book full of other wonderful dishes to explore! Would you like to take a peek at the inside of the book? Here's a LINK to Hachette Book Groups site where you can read an excerpt, and learn more about the author Michael Psilakis.

Have you made any Greek food? Or what kind of Greek foods do you like? Share your favorites here! I'm learning there's more to Greek food that Feta Cheese & Baklava!

I want to Thank Anna of Hachette Book Group for sending me the review copy! Thank you Anna! (My husband thanks you too!) It was a wonderful (and delicious!) treat!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Spooky Sunday Salon... "Books with Buzz" that will have you sleep with the lights on!

What is the Sunday Salon? Imagine some university library's vast reading room. It's filled with people--students and faculty and strangers who've wandered in. They're seated at great oaken desks, books piled all around them, and they're all feverishly reading and jotting notes in their leather-bound journals as they go. Later they'll mill around the open dictionaries and compare their thoughts on the afternoon's literary intake...

October is the month for things that go bump in the night... when we walk quickly late at night wary of the shadows that seem to follow us as we hurry along our way... October is the month of Halloween...

Halloween had its beginnings in an ancient, pre-Christian Celtic festival of the dead. The festival observed at this time was called Samhain (pronounced Sah-ween). It was the biggest and most significant holiday of the Celtic year. The Celts believed that at the time of Samhain, more so than any other time of the year, the ghosts of the dead were able to mingle with the living, because at Samhain the souls of those who had died during the year traveled into the otherworld. People gathered to sacrifice animals, fruits, and vegetables. They also lit bonfires in honor of the dead, to aid them on their journey, and to keep them away from the living. On that day all manner of beings were abroad: ghosts, fairies, and demons--all part of the dark and dread. Samhain became the Halloween we are all familiar with when Christian missionaries attempted to change the religious practices of the Celtic people. Now when children go out trick or treating, they dress up not as the ghosts and fairies that were originally thought to roam the night, but as pirates and princesses... maybe a zombie here and there too.

What a perfect time of year to open up a good scary book... something I use to really enjoy as a teenager! There are a few new notable books published just for the occassion...


Dracula TheUn-Dead by Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt... is a bone-chilling sequel based on Bram Stoker's own handwritten notes for characters and plot threads excised from the original edition. Written with the blessing and cooperation of Stoker family members, Dracula The Un-Dead begins in 1912, twenty-five years after Dracula "crumbled into dust." Van Helsing's protégé, Dr. Jack Seward, is now a disgraced morphine addict obsessed with stamping out evil across Europe. Meanwhile, an unknowing Quincey Harker, the grown son of Jonathan and Mina, leaves law school for the London stage, only to stumble upon the troubled production of "Dracula," directed and produced by Bram Stoker himself. The play plunges Quincey into the world of his parents' terrible secrets, but before he can confront them he experiences evil in a way he had never imagined. One by one, the band of heroes that defeated Dracula a quarter-century ago is being hunted down. Could it be that Dracula somehow survived their attack and is seeking revenge? Or is their another force at work whose relentless purpose is to destroy anything and anyone associated with Dracula? Interestingly co-author Ian Holt was a Dracula fan since his childhood, doing extensive research, lecturing on and writing scholarly papers on the historic Prince Dracula. When he decided he wanted to write this book, he "wanted a Stoker involved" and approached Dacre Stoker, the great-grandnephew of Bram Stoker, who wrote the original Dracula. Even though this was Dacre's first novel, he did take part in writing the novel, not just a figurehead to sell the book. Just published this past week, it is now available at your bookstore and is Kindle Ready!

House of Reckoning by John Saul... For more than three decades John Saul has haunted and readers'imaginations with his chilling tales of psychological suspense and supernatural horror. His instinct for striking the deepest chords of fear in the hearts and minds of readers is unerring. In House of Reckoning after the untimely death of her mother while she is still in her early teens, Sarah Crane is forced to grow up quickly-in order to help tend her family's Vermont farm and look after her grieving father, who's drowning his sorrow in alcohol. But their quiet life together is shattered when her father is jailed for killing another man in a barroom brawl, and injuring Sarah in a drunken car crash. Left in the cold care of a loveless foster family and alienated at school, Sarah finds a kindred spirit in classmate Nick Dunnigan, a former mental patient still plagued by voices and visions. And in eccentric art instructor Bettina Phillips, she finds a mentor eager to nurture her talent for painting. But within the walls of Bettina's ancestral home, the mansion called Shutters, Sarah finds something altogether different and disturbing. Monstrous images from the house's dark history seem to flow unbidden from her paintbrush-images echoed by Nick's chilling hallucinations. Trapped for ages in the shadowy rooms of Shutters, the violence and fury of long-dead generations has finally found a gateway from the grave into the world of the living. And Sarah and Nick have found a power they never had: to take control, and take revenge. This book was also just released this past week and it is also Kindle Ready!

Now a couple oldies, but goodies... books that will have you keep the lights long into the night...

Salem's Lot by Stephen King... Salem's Lot is a small New England town with white clapboard houses, tree-lined streets, and solid church steeples. That summer in 'salem's Lot was a summer of homecoming and return; spring burned out and the land lying dry, crackling underfoot. Late that summer, Ben Mears returned to 'salem's Lot hoping to cast out his own devils and found instead a new, unspeakable horror. A stranger had also come to the Lot, a stranger with a secret as old as evil, a secret that would wreak irreparable harm on those he touched and in turn on those they loved. All would be changed forever: Susan, whose love for Ben could not protect her; Father Callahan, the bad priest who put his eroded faith to one last test; and Mark, a young boy who sees his fantasy world become reality and ironically proves the best equipped to handle the relentless nightmare of 'Salem's Lot. A novel, almost hypnotic in its unyielding suspense, which builds to a climax of classic terror... A classic vampire novel... And Kindle Ready!

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson... The classic supernatural thriller by an author who helped define the genre. First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a "haunting"; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own. I have yet to read the book, but I love both of the movies based on this book! And look forward to reading the book to see if I'm just as scared! Unfortunately, this book is not available for either the Kindle or Sony eReader! (yet!?)

Some other books that come to mind that I read many years ago are The Shining by Stephen King and The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty (which I read on the beach one summer and was scared!)... What's the scariest book you ever read? What authors do you enjoy in this genre? Share some of your favorites and we'll keep the lights on for you..

Happy reading... Suzanne

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