Stormy Cove by Bernadette Calonego

Stormy Cove by Bernadette Calonego

 

Stormy Cove by Bernadette Calonego
Source: Goodreads

Stormy Cove

Bernadette Calonego

Paperback, 412 pages
Published May 24th 2016 by AmazonCrossing (first published July 21st 2015)
 
As a globe-trotting freelance photographer based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Lori Finning has seen just about everything. But when she lands an assignment on the barren, snow-swept island of Newfoundland, she finds herself in harsh and unfamiliar territory.

During the long, dreary winters in the isolated fishing community of Stormy Cove, gossiping is the primary pastime. So Lori is surprised when she learns of a crime the locals have spent twenty years not talking about: the strange, unsolved murder of a teenage girl. As she delves deeper into the village’s past, she’ll discover dark family secrets, unexplained crimes, and an undeniable attraction to Noah, a taciturn local fisherman who just might hold all the answers.

..........................................................................................................................................

Carol's Rating: ★★★★

I enjoyed this book. It reads fast and the story progresses at a nice pace. Bernadette Colonego writes beautifully and her descriptions of the landscape, the town, and the townspeople made me feel like I was actually there. I loved the small town setting where everyone knows each other, no one locks their doors, their lifestyles mirror the harshness and beauty of their environment, they gossip about each other and yet for the most part, support and love each other, too. I enjoyed the bit of romance along with the suspense and mystery of the story where you could never be sure who the bad guy was. I did have trouble keeping the many characters straight even with the help of character list provided at the front of the book. But all in all, it was engaging and unpredictable. 

..........................................................................................................................................

Happy Reading!

Novel Gobblers Book Club icon

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

 

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
Source: Goodreads

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

Kelly Barhnhill

Hardcover, 388 pages
Published August 9th 2016 by Algonquin Young Readers
Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and delivers them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey. 

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule -- but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her -- even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known.

The acclaimed author of The Witch’s Boy has created another epic coming-of-age fairy tale destined to become a modern classic.

..........................................................................................................................................

Carol's Rating: ★★★★

I truly LOVED everything about this book - from cover to final page! I'm struggling to pull together the words to do justice to this brilliant work so I'll simply leave you with this:

If you enjoy stories with a wealth of characters, suspense, intrigue, and layers of meaning that will leave you feeling hopeful, satisfied, and in awe, this may be the book for you!

 

..........................................................................................................................................

Happy Reading!

Novel Gobblers Book Club icon

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

 

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce
Source: Goodreads

The Music Shop

Rachel Joyce

Hardcover, 306 pages
Published January 2nd 2018 (first published July 13th 2017)
 
It is 1988. On a dead-end street in a run-down suburb there is a music shop that stands small and brightly lit, jam-packed with records of every kind. Like a beacon, the shop attracts the lonely, the sleepless, and the adrift; Frank, the shop's owner, has a way of connecting his customers with just the piece of music they need. Then, one day, into his shop comes a beautiful young woman, Ilse Brauchmann, who asks Frank to teach her about music. Terrified of real closeness, Frank feels compelled to turn and run, yet he is drawn to this strangely still, mysterious woman with eyes as black as vinyl. But Ilse is not what she seems, and Frank has old wounds that threaten to reopen, as well as a past it seems he will never leave behind. Can a man who is so in tune with other people's needs be so incapable of connecting with the one person who might save him? The journey that these two quirky, wonderful characters make in order to overcome their emotional baggage speaks to the healing power of music--and love--in this poignant, ultimately joyful work of fiction.

..........................................................................................................................................

Carol's Rating: ★★★★

“Would you wait for the person you loved?”
“Yes,” he said. “Would you?”
“Yes,” she said. “I would.”
“And all the time they spoke, the rain fell, just like the Chopin prelude, hitting the window in beads that ran the length of the glass then disappeared.”

What a fun, heart-warming story filled with endearing characters and nostalgia of vinyl records and music. Rachel Joyce writes beautifully; the story smoothly flows along at just the right pace as you develop relationships with the imperfect, lovable characters that fit together like puzzle pieces in each other’s lives.

They characters are an unlikely bunch, but they care about each other and at times had me laughing out loud with their banter. Beginning in the 1988, their story carries us through the next 20+ years and many of the changes that occur in their lives, community, and trends in the music industry that leave vinyl behind. The story unfolds to show us how our past not only shapes who we, but also our perceptions, which at times can lead us to incorrect conclusions, fear, and lack of faith in ourselves, yet how love and faith in each other ultimately lifts us up in our most difficult times.

What I loved most about this story is the clever setting of the music shop and the owner, Frank, who staunchly sells only vinyl records. He helps people with his unique talent. Frank can sense the music inside people and knows the exact genre, artist, and piece of music they need. He knows music. He doesn’t just hear the music, he  it. As he helps his customers and internally reflects on his childhood memories with his mother, we learn about the music as he did - what to listen for, the background and experiences of the composer and musicians, and most of all how to feel the story in the music and allow it to become part of you.

If you like romantic comedies or dramadies, you’ll enjoy this book. And I’m willing to bet you’ll gain a greater appreciation of music to boot!

 

..........................................................................................................................................

Happy Reading!

Novel Gobblers Book Club icon

Alexis Carew #5, Privateer by J.A. Sutherland

Alexis Carew #5, Privateer by J.A. Sutherland

 

Privateer, Alexis Carew #5 by J.A. Sutherland
Source: Goodreads

Privateer

Alexis Carew  #5

J.A. Sutherland

Kindle Edition, 464 pages
Published November 1st 2017
 
Even with no war on, there are always battles to fight.

A cease-fire in the war with Hanover leaves Lieutenant Alexis Carew on half-pay, in-atmosphere, and with her ship laid up in ordinary until called upon once more for the “needs of the Service.” She was, at least, lucky enough to be in her home star system when Nightingale paid off, unlike much of her former crew.

She’s left to help manage her family lands, though still with no certainty she’ll be allowed to inherit them. It would be a tranquil, peaceful life, if not for the influx of asteroid miners seeking their fortunes, the uncertainties of her inheritance, and the nagging certainty that her current life is not what she really wants.

She’d give anything to command a ship again.

..........................................................................................................................................

Carol's Rating: ★★★★

With a new ship, a new ragtag crew, a new “uniform”, and the same old “vile creature”, we join Alexis in her next colorful adventure!

Back in-atmosphere and on half-pay from the Royal Navy, Alexis is bored. She realizes her true calling may not be that of managing her family lands after all. She yearns for the action of space and command. In this, the fourth book in the series, Alexis ventures into an all new role - Privateer.

I enjoyed Alexis’ new-found freedom from strict Naval rules. A natural leader, she builds a loyal crew from a bunch of misfits and takes on her new role with flair. With banter, scuffles with rival crews, duels, and shanties, Alexis and her lads take us on a lively, swashbuckling adventure that once again, captured my attention from start to finish - a cliff-hanging finish! The author apologizes to those who hate that sort of thing but explains it just had to be done because her story was too big for one volume. That suits me fine! I love knowing more is coming in this series!

 

..........................................................................................................................................

Happy Reading!

Novel Gobblers Book Club icon

Alexis Carew #4, HMS Nightingale by J.A. Sutherland

Alexis Carew #4, HMS Nightingale by J.A. Sutherland

 

HMS Nightingale, Alexis Carew #4 by J.A. Sutherland
Source: Goodreads

HMS Nightingale

Alexis Carew  #4

J.A. Sutherland

Paperback, 425 pages
Published November 6th 2016 by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
For Lieutenant Alexis Carew, it should be the perfect assignment - a command of her own and a chance to return to her home star system. What she finds is a surly crew, the dregs of every frigate and ship of the line to pass through on the way to the war's front, a first officer who thinks the command should have been his, and colonial worlds where they believe a girl's place is somewhere very different than command of a Queen's starship. Add to that the mysterious disappearances of ships vital to the war effort and an old enemy who seems intent on convincing her he's changed. Then there's the mongoose with an unnatural affinity for her boots.

..........................................................................................................................................

Carol's Rating: ★★★★

Swashbuckling Intetstellar Adventures

In this, the 4th volume, Alexis is promoted to lieutenant and given charge of her own ship only to discover her crew to be a ragtag group of misfits with questionable sailing skills. Facing many challenges in her new role, Alexis leads her crew through exciting encounters, many with pirates and some with - wait! Could it really be? Ghostly Flying Dutchmen???

Entertaining and intriguing as always, the story is brought to life by Elizabeth Klett's stellar audio narration. While I enjoyed this book, I enjoyed it less than the other volumes. This is mainly because there seemed to be less of an emotional connection developed between the characters and I felt certain phrases were overused. Still, this volume is important in the overall story and ends with fabulous news - more volumes are coming!

 

..........................................................................................................................................

Happy Reading!

Novel Gobblers Book Club icon

How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster

How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster

 

How To Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster - Cover
Source: Goodreads

How To Read Literature Like a Professor

Thomas C. Foster

Paperback, 314 pages
Published March 1st 2003 by Harper Perennial (first published February 18th 2003)
 
What does it mean when a fictional hero takes a journey? Shares a meal? Gets drenched in a sudden rain shower? Often, there is much more going on in a novel or poem than is readily visible on the surface -- a symbol, maybe, that remains elusive, or an unexpected twist on a character -- and there's that sneaking suspicion that the deeper meaning of a literary text keeps escaping you.

In this practical and amusing guide to literature, Thomas C. Foster shows how easy and gratifying it is to unlock those hidden truths, and to discover a world where a road leads to a quest; a shared meal may signify a communion; and rain, whether cleansing or destructive, is never just rain. Ranging from major themes to literary models, narrative devices, and form, How to Read Literature Like a Professor is the perfect companion for making your reading experience more enriching, satisfying, and fun.

..........................................................................................................................................

Carol's Rating: ★★★★

"An understanding of the story in terms of what literally happens...is a great starting point. From there, if you consider the pattern of images and allusions, you'll begin to see more going on...that will enrich and deepen your experience of the story."

To be honest, I thought this book would be bit elitist and snobbish but I was WRONG. This book is not only highly entertaining and readable, but it's bulging with valuable, doable steps to enrich your reading experiences. 

I'm sad to say that I never learned any of this in high school. Surprising, right? Oh, I was a great student - one with a 4.0 GPA that learned very little. I memorized everything for the exams and performed a brain dump the moment the exam was over. It was not until I attended college (on an academic scholarship no less) that the level of disservice I had inflicted upon myself became apparent. Suffice it to say, I am grateful for my changed attitude toward learning and for this book. 

Here, the author deftly guides you through the important components of writing: memory, symbol, and pattern. He gives you loads of interesting and fun literary examples to help you recognize these components, ponder them, and to draw conclusions of what they mean or represent to you. One of the most enlightening steps for me was Reader Perspective; How important it is to understand the author's background, the setting, environment, the general knowledge base for the time period, and to set aside my own views in order to more fully experience the story and relate to the characters. 

I especially appreciated his closing suggestions: to read things you like, read good writing, and have fun doing it! If I employ even one of the steps or suggestions in this book, I'll be a better reader for it. You might be, too. Give it a try.

 

..........................................................................................................................................

Happy Reading!

Novel Gobblers Book Club icon

The Turquoise Table by Kristin Schell

The Turquoise Table by Kristin Schell

 

The Turquoise Table by Kristin Schell, book cover
Source: Goodreads

The Turquoise Table

Kristin Schell

 
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published June 6th 2017 by Thomas Nelson
 
A simple way to connect your neighborhood, your community and build friendships.

Are you consumed with a busy life but unsure how to slow down? Do you desire connection within your community and think, “Absolutely, but I don’t have time for that” or “I can’t create that”? What if there was another way through it all, a way to find those moments of peace and to create a time for honest, comfortable connection? What if meeting neighbors and connecting with friends was as simple as showing up and being available?

Desperate for a way to slow down and connect, Kristin Schell put an ordinary picnic table in her front yard, painted it turquoise, and began inviting friends and neighbors to join her. Life changed in her community and it can change in yours, too. Alongside personal and heartwarming stories, Kristin gives you:

  • Stress-free ideas for kick-starting your own Turquoise Table
  • Simple recipes to take outside and share with others
  • Stories from people using Turquoise Tables in their neighborhoods
  • Encouragement to overcome barriers that keep you from connecting
  • New ways to view hospitality

Today, Turquoise Tables are inviting individuals to connect with each other in nearly all fifty states and seven countries. Ordinary people like you wanting to make a difference right where they live.

Community and friendship are waiting just outside your front door.

..........................................................................................................................................

Carol's Rating: ★★★★

"Life at the turquoise table is a multitude of tiny moments, mini-miracles really, strung together like radiant beams of light over the places we call home."

Beautiful inside and out, filled with simple brilliance -- wisdom, poignant real-life stories, recipes, thoughtful questions, activities and tips that remind us the importance of making deep connections with others. This is often difficult for me as I tend toward the introvert end of the social spectrum. Yet, Kristin's experiences, ideas, and suggestions are not only simple and doable, they are motivating and inspiring!

I devoured this book and was touched by the abundant wisdom in her relatable statements such as "We strive for independence - we fight for it. But we are not meant to live as lone rangers." and the clarification that hospitality should not be confused with entertainment. Instead, hospitality "is always about the people, not the presentation." What a great reminder of the joy that can be found in simplicity.

Open this book to any page and read. You'll come away feeling uplifted, empowered, and inspired. 

Turquoise tables multiplying like rabbits. ... "Whodda thunk?"!

 

..........................................................................................................................................

Happy Reading!

Novel Gobblers Book Club icon

What We Know Now by M.J. Parisian

What We Know Now by M.J. Parisian

 

Source: goodreads

What We Know Now

M.J. Parisian

 
Paperback, 346 pages
Published November 25th 2017 by MJ Parisian
 
According to her five-year plan, Grace Foster’s life is right on schedule. After marrying her college sweetheart, she has fought to earn her dream job of evening news producer at WKND. When a story breaks, and her husband is suddenly arrested, she flees for the last place she thought she’d ever find solace: Her mother’s home. The picturesque cottage on the shore of Lake Michigan appears to be the perfect hideout, or is it the battleground she left ten years ago?
 
Being the daughter of Julia Dunham, best-selling self-help author, has always made Grace cynical. But watching her mother go through her own personal crisis, Grace experiences compassion she’s never felt before. With support from her family and friends, Grace begins to follow the steps in her mom’s latest best-seller to rebuild her own life. Will what she learns give her the courage to let go of the past and move forward, or will Julia push Grace out of her life for good?

..........................................................................................................................................

Carol's Rating: ★★★★★

“Growing up, my primary goal had been to become as independent as possible. But here I was, wanting someone to save me.”

This is a captivating story of betrayal, loss, and ultimately finding love in the most unexpected places. From the first page I was hooked. I didn’t want to put it down because I HAD to know what happened next. The characters, both real and lovable, quickly became my friends and the compelling, unpredictable story held my attention to the last word, when I sadly sighed because it was over. But relief is easily found just by looking at that gorgeous cover, which draws you right back into the story and among friends in the quaint town and soothing, sandy beach.

The overall message of the story is lovely as well. Blindsided by her husband’s betrayal and arrest, Gracie flees for the safety of her mother’s home and surprisingly find more than the safety she was seeking. Here Gracie learns to trust again; to open her heart and take a deep look inside. What she discovers is far more than she ever imagined.

 
 

..........................................................................................................................................

Happy Reading!

Novel Gobblers Book Club icon

Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva

Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva

 

Source: Goodreads

Mr. Dickens and His Carol

Samantha Silva

 
Hardcover, 276 pages
Published October 31st 2017 by Flatiron Books
 
 
For Charles Dickens, each Christmas has been better than the last. His novels are literary blockbusters, and he is famous on the streets of London, where avid fans sneak up on him to snip off pieces of his hair. He and his wife have five happy children, a sixth on the way, and a home filled with every comfort they could imagine. But when Dickens’ newest book is a flop, the glorious life he has built for himself threatens to collapse around him. His publishers offer an ultimatum: either he writes a Christmas book in a month, or they will call in his debts, and he could lose everything. Grudgingly, he accepts, but with relatives hounding him for loans, his wife and children planning an excessively lavish holiday party, and jealous critics going in for the kill, he is hardly feeling the Christmas spirit. 

Increasingly frazzled and filled with self-doubt, Dickens seeks solace and inspiration in London itself, his great palace of thinking. And on one of his long walks, in a once-beloved square, he meets a young woman in a purple cloak, who might be just the muse he needs. Eleanor Lovejoy and her young son, Timothy, propel Dickens on a Scrooge-like journey through his Christmases past and present—but with time running out, will he find the perfect new story to save him? 

In prose laced with humor, sumptuous Victorian detail, and charming winks to A Christmas Carol, Samantha Silva breathes new life into an adored classic. Perfect for fans of Dickens, for readers of immersive historical fiction, and for anyone looking for a dose of Christmas cheer, Mr. Dickens and His Carol is destined to become a perennial holiday favorite.

 

..........................................................................................................................................

Carol's Rating: ★★★★

“Flee all you like,” she said, turning to face him. “Your past is quicker than you are and will catch you soon enough.”

Initially, I was drawn to this book by its lovely cover. Then I opened it and was instantly drawn in by its beautiful prose, witty lines, and heart-felt story.

If you, too, like these things, along with lovable, flawed, quirky characters (including ghosts!), surprising twists, and an uplifting story of hope and humanity, this book is for you. It’s a charming, entertaining new take on the inspiration and events leading to the deliverance of a Dicken’s classic.

 

..........................................................................................................................................

Happy Reading!

Novel Gobblers Book Club icon

Thornhill by Pam Smy

Thornhill by Pam Smy

 

Thornhill by Pam Smy - cover
Source: Goodreads

Thornhill

Pam Smy

Pages: 539
Published August 29th 2017 by Roaring Brook Press

Parallel stories set in different times, one told in prose and one in pictures, converge as a girl unravels the mystery of the abandoned Thornhill Institute next door.

1982: Mary is a lonely orphan at the Thornhill Institute For Children at the very moment that it's shutting its doors. When her few friends are all adopted or re-homed and she’s left to face a volatile bully alone, her revenge will have a lasting effect on the bully, on Mary, and on Thornhill itself.

2017: Ella has just moved to a new town where she knows no one. From her room on the top floor of her new home, she has a perfect view of the dilapidated, abandoned Thornhill Institute across the way, where she glimpses a girl in the window. Determined to befriend the girl and solidify the link between them, Ella resolves to unravel Thornhill's shadowy past.

Told in alternating, interwoven plotlines—Mary’s through intimate diary entries and Ella’s in bold, striking art—Pam Smy’s Thornhill is a haunting exploration of human connection, filled with suspense.

Sources: Amazon

.............................................................................................

Carol's Rating: ★★

This was great, spooky read for a chilly evening in October. The story moves along at a good pace and held my interest to the end. It's an eerie tale about Ella, in 2017 and Mary, in 1982.

The chapters alternate between these two with Mary's story told from her diary entries and Ella's story told through intricate illustrations. The story builds in suspense to a surprising end, which in all honesty, disappointed me. It was much darker and abrupt than I expected it would be and Mary's last sentence was creepy and unsettling.

The author does a great job painting a vivid picture about the pain that results from bullying but her message on friendship and how Mary gained it gave me the chills. Otherwise, I'd have given it more than 2 stars. Having said that, I believe the author's goal was to create a spooky tale in which she is successful indeed!

About the Author

 

Pam Smy studied Illustration at Cambridge School of Art, part of Anglia Ruskin University, where she now lectures part-time. Pam has illustrated books by Conan Doyle (The Hound of the Baskervilles), Julia Donaldson (Follow the Swallow) and Kathy Henderson (Hush, Baby, Hush!), among others. She lives in Cambridge.

"I fell in love with drawing at the age of 19. That was a while ago. Since then hardly a day has gone by without drawing something I have seen or imagined. Drawing has given me the ability to capture stories and characters I see all around me, and I love that illustrating gives the opportunity to translate these everyday observations into recreating imagined worlds for authors.

I love stories with atmosphere, history or suspense, especially if those stories give me the opportunity to create strong characters and new spaces and places. I love short stories, books set in powerful landscapes, or rural and pastoral environments. I would love to illustrate classics such as Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Jamaica Inn, The Secret Garden or Tom's Midnight Garden. To be able to illustrate for Linda Newbery and Siobhan Dowd in books that deal with nature and landscape has been a gift in recent years and has reinvigorated my passion for the illustrated novel."

 

Sources: us.macmillan.com  and elizabethroy.co.uk 

Interviews and Sneak Peaks

I have a special place in my heart for illustrated novels. They can often provide a much more intimate experience than novel written strictly in prose, especially when the illustrations are alluring and thought provoking. When explored in depth, the detailed images can draw you into the story, the atmosphere, and the minds of the characters. I am reminded of Brian Selznic's lovely works such as The Invention of Hugo Cabret and The Marvels, and while Pam Smy's illustrations definitely express the story, they are heavier and more harsh than Selznic's. Perhaps that is a result of the medium being heavy ink, and is certainly fitting for the eerie story of Thornhill. In addition, I found it curious that each chapter is divided by several blank, black pages.

Listen in on this fascinating conversation with Pam Smy, wherein she describes her craft along with the origins, intent, and development of her first illustrated novel, including an explanation for those blank, black pages!

A Conversation with Pam Smy
Publishers Weekly PW KidsCast
Illustrator Pam Smy discusses ‘Thornhill,’ an eerie novel told in alternating written and visual narratives, about a girl named Ella who is mysteriously drawn to an abandoned building near her new home.
 
 

 
 

A Glimpse Inside

Discussion Questions

Source: Novel Gobblers Book Club

  1. Have you read other books by this author?
  2. Did this book remind you of any other books you've read?
  3. What do you think of the book cover? Does it represent the book well?
  4. Was the story what you expected it to be? Were you pleased or disappointed?
  5. If you listened to the audiobook, did you enjoy the narrator? Why or why not?
  6. Was the plot predictable? What were some of your predictions and were they correct?
  7. What did you find unique about this story?
  8. Were the characters believable and lovable?
  9. Were there any moments in the book surprised you? Did you feel suspense? Did the story hold your attention?
  10. Who were your favorite secondary characters?
  11. What did you like or dislike about this book?
  12. Is there a moral to this story?
  13. What do you imagine Prince Cakes taste like?
  14.  Do you have any favorite quotes from the book?
  15. Will you look to read other books by this author?

Happy Reading!

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal
Far Far Away by Tom McNeal - Book Cover
Source: Goodreads

Far Far Away

Tom McNeal

 
Pages: 384 | Audiobook: 10 hrs 58 min
Published June 11th 2013 by Knopf Books for Young Readers (first published 2013)
 
A National Book Award Finalist
An Edgar Award Finalist
Audie Award Finalist
A California Book Award Gold Medal Winner

A dark, contemporary fairy tale in the tradition of Neil Gaiman.

It says quite a lot about Jeremy Johnson Johnson that the strangest thing about him isn't even the fact his mother and father both had the same last name. Jeremy once admitted he's able to hear voices, and the townspeople of Never Better have treated him like an outsider since. After his mother left, his father became a recluse, and it's been up to Jeremy to support the family. But it hasn't been up to Jeremy alone. The truth is, Jeremy can hear voices. Or, specifically, one voice: the voice of the ghost of Jacob Grimm, one half of the infamous writing duo, The Brothers Grimm.

Jacob watches over Jeremy, protecting him from an unknown dark evil whispered about in the space between this world and the next. But when the provocative local girl Ginger Boultinghouse takes an interest in Jeremy (and his unique abilities), a grim chain of events is put into motion. And as anyone familiar with the Grimm Brothers know, not all fairy tales have happy endings...

Veteran writer Tom McNeal has crafted a young adult novel at once grim(m) and hopeful, full of twists, and perfect for fans of contemporary fairy tales like Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book and Holly Black's Doll Bones.

Sources: Goodreads and Amazon

 

.............................................................................................

Carol's Rating: ★★★★

This is not my standard genre but I must say, I was thoroughly captivated this book. Like a good Grimm's tale, there are children. Children at play. And a ghost. And a Baker. It is delightful. And then it isn't. It turns grim, of course! It is scary but not too scary. That's coming from me, an absolute lightweight when it comes to scary and dark.

I listened to the Audible version narrated by W. Morgan Sheppard, who delivers a fantastic performance. His voice is grandfatherly. It's light and fun then perfectly cautious, creating suspense yet, at the same time, a sense of safety.

I was completely taken aback by how entertaining I found this tale to be and was reminded that sometimes a good old, Grimm-type fairytale is just what's needed.

About the Author

Tom McNeal Author image
Source: Goodreads

Tom McNeal

Tom was born in Santa Ana, California. His father was a native Californian who raised oranges, and his mother grew up on a farm in northwest Nebraska, where Tom spent his childhood summers. After earning a BA and a teaching credential from UC Berkeley, Tom moved to Hay Springs, Nebraska, taught high school English, drove a school bus, substituted briefly in a one-room schoolhouse, and began work on the novel Goodnight, Nebraska. Tom holds an MA in creative writing from UC Irvine and was a Stegner Fellow and Jones Lecturer at Stanford University.

His short stories have been widely anthologized, and "What Happened to Tully" was made into a film. He is the author, with his wife, Laura, of four critically-acclaimed young adult novels published by Knopf—Crooked, Crushed, The Decoding of Lana Morris, and Zipped, and the solo author of FAR FAR AWAY (a finalist for the National Book Award in Young People's Literature). His adult titles include Goodbye, Nebraska, winner of the California Book Award, and To Be Sung Underwater, published by Little Brown in 2012 and named one of the best books of the year by the Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

He lives with his wife and two sons in Southern California.

Sources: Amazon and Nationalbook.org    

 

Book Trailer, Inspiration, Secret Passageways, and More

Book Trailer

Random House Kids | Published on Apr 17, 2013

Young adult veteran Tom McNeal (one half of the writing duo known as Laura & Tom McNeal) has crafted a novel at once warmhearted, compulsively readable, and altogether thrilling--and McNeal fans of their tautly told stories will not be disappointed.

Secret Passages

Q & A with Tom McNeal
By Kate Pavao | May 29, 2013

In an article in the New York Times, you (Tom McNeal) talked about having secret doors in your house – which seems a bit like a fairy tale. Do you think this has any influence on your work or your creative process?

That inclination for the secret passages must align in some way. I don’t exactly know why. I know the history of it. The house in which I was raised had walk-in closets with incomplete walls – the walls went up like 6 or 7 feet, but didn’t go to the ceiling. My brother, sister and I would climb over those walls all the time to get into the next room.

I always knew I wanted to build a house and I always knew when I built a house I wanted a secret passage in it. When Laura and I married we finally did that. I think it all goes back to the fun of not leaving your room to go into the hallway, but sneaking into your brother or sister’s room.

We’re building a house right now and the boys are finally going to get their own rooms – and just like the other house, this will have a not-so-secret passage. They will have bookshelves that roll away or swing out. That will lead to a ladder that leads to a trap door to the attic. They are very keen on this, of course. So now they are going to get the bug too.

Source: Publisher's Weekly

 

More Q & A with Tom McNeal

Source: Kidsreads.com

In FAR FAR AWAY, a boy named Jeremy Johnson Johnson finds himself to be the outcast in a small town. Not only does he have double the same last name, he also claims to hear voices. But he can hear a voice --- the voice of Jacob Grimm, one half of the famous Brothers Grimm. With his help, Jeremy tries to save the family bookshop, survive an unsavory adventure and find his place in the world.

In this interview, Tom McNeal shares his inspiration for this unique ghost story, what he likes most about fairy tales and what he's working on next!

1. What inspired you to write FAR FAR AWAY?

I’d fallen into reading about the Grimm Brothers, and the circumstances of their story was fascinating to me --- Jacob and Wilhelm united throughout their lives, working together, Jacob living with Wilhelm even after Wilhelm became a husband and father, the awful death of Jacob’s young nephew (and namesake). Jacob outlived his younger brother and was the more somber and rigid of the two. The more I read about him, the more curmudgeonly yet sympathetic he seemed, and I began to think of him as the right conduit for the story. And so, before very long, Jacob Grimm became my ghost, and FAR FAR AWAY became his story.

2. What kind of research did you do on fairy tales, since you bring so much of Jacob Grimm's life into the story?

I read a lot of biographical and critical material about the Grimm Brothers and their tales. I took notes, marked up the tales and could’ve kept at it even longer, but, you know, sooner or later you have to start writing. The most famous Grimm scholars are Jack Zipes and Maria Tatar. She’s a professor of Germanic Languages at Harvard and her ANNOTATED BROTHERS GRIMM provides all sorts of really interesting context and biographical references in the margins of each of the tales.  Tatar's writing is also beautifully lucid and engaging.  I'd think that anyone at all interested in the Grimms would have a lot of fun with that book.

3. What is your favorite aspect of fairy tales?

I like the way fairy tales let you peer into your darkest fears (dark forests, wicked stepmothers) or fondest dreams (complete a quest, win the princess). In FAR FAR AWAY, there are twin quests.  Jacob is trying to figure out The Thing Undone and Jeremy is trying to find his place in the real world.  Though their aims are different, as the book evolves, their paths converge. What allows Jacob finally to escape the Zwischenraum --- his mentorship and affection for Jeremy --- is also what allows Jeremy to move forward in the world with a fuller idea of who he is.

4. Which fairy tale story is your favorite? Do you have a favorite fairy tale storyteller?

I think I answer this differently every time I’m asked. This time I’ll say, “Rapunzel,” because it’s not only strange and romantic and evocative, but also because the first Grimm version was basically R-rated, and then the brothers cleaned it up. This funny evolution comes up in the book, by the way.

I was attracted more to the Grimms’ collection because of the darkness in so many of their tales.  And, too, because of their rough justice. In the end of a Grimm tale, goodness and generosity is generously rewarded and cruelty is cruelly punished. Very satisfying.

5. In FAR FAR AWAY, fairy tales and reality seem to blur for Jeremy Johnson Johnson: he does hear Jacob Grimm's voice, but it's not certain if there is magic in the prince cakes. Do you believe there's a certain amount of blur in real life, too?

Oh, sure. I think one reason I've always liked a good ghost story is because I don't find it completely impossible that spirits can linger. And this is probably because my own mother told me some stories about telepathic visits from the dead that she didn't believe were fictional. So you can see how it could begin to take root.

6. Jacob Grimm tries to pull Jeremy towards his studies and Ginger tries to pull him toward fun throughout the story. Which direction would you try to pull Jeremy? Which way do you usually turn towards in your life?

Toward the end of the book, Jeremy promises that he will study hard in Jacob’s absence. Jacob responds, Study, yes, but also enjoy. Of course the complement of this is, Enjoy, yes, but also study. Even for me as an adult, I find the balance between the two a difficult thing

7. What you like readers to take away after reading this book?

In the last years of their lives, Wilhelm & Jacob Grimm undertook the compilation of an authoritative German dictionary, a massive project that they could not complete. The last word that Jacob worked on before his death was frucht, or fruit, which, as Jacob points out in the book, derives from the Latin fructus: to enjoy.

8. What should readers expect to see from you next? Are you working on anything right now?

At the moment I’m working on an adult book told from the p.o.v. of a caretaker of an avocado grove.  With any luck, it will be less boring than that sounds. As for another YA book, I’d love to do something more with a ghost, and have a couple of things in mind.

Book Club Chat with the Author

VLCPhotoProductions
Streamed live on May 20, 2013Published on Apr 26, 2009

In this fun conversation with Tom McNeal, he jovially answers question from book club members and gives a glimpse into his personal and writing lives. The sound quality is a bit lacking but the interview is well worth the listen.

Discussion Questions

Source: Novel Gobblers Book Club

  1. Have you read other books by this author?
  2. Did this book remind you of any other books you've read?
  3. What do you think of the book cover? Does it represent the book well?
  4. Was the story what you expected it to be? Were you pleased or disappointed?
  5. If you listened to the audiobook, did you enjoy the narrator? Why or why not?
  6. Was the plot predictable? What were some of your predictions and were they correct?
  7. What did you find unique about this story?
  8. Were the characters believable and lovable?
  9. Were there any moments in the book surprised you? Did you feel suspense? Did the story hold your attention?
  10. Who were your favorite secondary characters?
  11. What did you like or dislike about this book?
  12. Is there a moral to this story?
  13. What do you imagine Prince Cakes taste like?
  14.  Do you have any favorite quotes from the book?
  15. Will you look to read other books by this author?

Happy Reading!

You Better Not Cry by Augusten Burroughs

You Better Not Cry by Augusten Burroughs

 

You Better Not Cry by Augusten Burroughs cover

You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas

Augusten Burroughs

 
Hardcover, 206 pages | Audio: 5 hrs 59 min
Published October 27th 2009 by St. Martin's Press (first published October 1st 2009)
 
You’ve eaten too much candy at Christmas…but have you ever eaten the face off a six-foot stuffed Santa? You’ve seen gingerbread houses…but have you ever made your own gingerbread tenement? You’ve woken up with a hangover…but have you ever woken up next to Kris Kringle himself?

Augusten Burroughs has, and in this caustically funny, nostalgic, poignant, and moving collection he recounts Christmases past and present—as only he could. With gimleteyed wit and illuminated prose, Augusten shows how the holidays bring out the worst in us and sometimes, just sometimes, the very, very best.

 

..........................................................................................................................................

Carol's Rating: ★★

My book club chose this for our November read, getting us into the holiday spirit early. I mean, how festive is that cover? And the opening line: "It's not that I was an outright nitwit of a child." Nitwit? No. Bizarre? Definitely. I'm glad his frontal lobe took so long to develop or we may have missed out on these zany stories surrounding Christmas, the author's FAVORITE holiday and yet, a day that always turned out horribly for him. 

Aside from a disturbing chapter involving a French Santa, I enjoyed most of his stories. Burroughs writes beautifully; his descriptions paint vivid images and I often felt as though I was sitting with him as he recounted these stories directly to me. I found myself responding, "Why on earth would you do that???" and "Good grief! Turn the water off already!".

There are some great lines in this book, many that made me laugh and many that were heartfelt and insightful. For example, "Therapists, I felt, were like poodles; there were simply too many of them for all to be good." And this one: "There were people who had so much strength that you could borrow some, just being in the same room with them." 

It reads quickly, too. Had I focused myself I could have easily finished this book in one or two sittings even being the slow reader that I am. Overall, I thought it was an okay book but not something I'd rave about. Even so, I'm glad I read it and if you enjoy short stories about a non-nitwit kid making comical mixups between Santa and Jesus, along with stories of love, sacrifice, and loss, you might give this one a try.

 

..........................................................................................................................................

Happy Reading!

Novel Gobblers Book Club icon

City of Thieves by David Benioff

City of Thieves by David Benioff
The City of Thieves David Benioff Cover
Source: Goodreads

City of Thieves

David Benioff 

 
Pages: 258 / Audio: 8 Hrs 34 mins
Published May 15th 2008 by Viking Adult (first published 2008)
 
From the critically acclaimed author of The 25th Hour, a captivating novel about war, courage, survival — and a remarkable friendship that ripples across a lifetime.

During the Nazis’ brutal siege of Leningrad, Lev Beniov is arrested for looting and thrown into the same cell as a handsome deserter named Kolya. Instead of being executed, Lev and Kolya are given a shot at saving their own lives by complying with an outrageous directive: secure a dozen eggs for a powerful Soviet colonel to use in his daughter’s wedding cake. In a city cut off from all supplies and suffering unbelievable deprivation, Lev and Kolya embark on a hunt through the dire lawlessness of Leningrad and behind enemy lines to find the impossible.

By turns insightful and funny, thrilling and terrifying, City of Thieves is a gripping, cinematic World War II adventure and an intimate coming-of-age story with an utterly contemporary feel for how boys become men.

..........................................................................................................................................

Carol's Rating: ★★★★★

"Calm yourself, my morbid little Israelite. I won't let the bad men get you."

There was nothing about this book that I couldn't love; the main characters, the plot, the pace, the writing -- it was all fantastic. I was hooked from the first sentence. I think what stands out most to me is the writing. The words flow effortlessly. They are smooth and descriptive. I was not reading so much as I was mentally seeing the story play out like a movie. I could see, hear, and feel the emotions, events, environment, and the characters. David Benioff is an amazing writer and storyteller. This is a book I could read over and over and enjoy it more each time. 

About the Author

David_Benioff_Author
Source: Goodreads

David Benioff

David Benioff (born David Friedman but changed his name to take his mother's maiden name) was born and raised in New York City and attended Dartmouth College and the University of California at Irvine. His father, Stephen Friedman, is a former chairman of Goldman Sachs and current Chairman of the United States President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. 

Before the publication of his first novel The 25th Hour, Benioff worked as a club bouncer and high school English teacher, until his adaptation of The 25th Hour into a feature film directed by Spike Lee led to a new new career as a screenwriter, including the screenplays for "The Kite Runner". 

Stories from his critically acclaimed collection When the Nines Roll Over appeared in Best New American Voices and The Best Nonrequired American Reading. His latest novel is City of Thieves. He is also a co-creater of the award winning HBO series, "Game of Thrones". He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Amanda Peet, and daughter.   Source: Bookbrowse.com

Revealing Interviews

City of Thieves was my first exposure to David Benioff. I don't follow Game of Thrones -- I know, I know. Oh, the shame! However, after reading City of Thieves and loving it as much as I did, I was fascinated with this author and had to learn more about him. Below are some wonderful interviews discussing his books, his writing process, fears, other authors, X-Men, Game of Thrones, and more.  Such a genuine, talented man.

David Benioff on Writing:
Game of Thrones, City of Thieves & Telling Lies for Grown Ups

Published on Jul 8, 2013

In this interview with Rich Fahle of Bibliostar.TV, writer, screenwriter, and Producer David Benioff explains how the Game of Thrones books helped him rediscover his fantasy roots, his love of the New York filmmakers of his 1970s youth, the story behind his own successful novels, and the challenges of adapting beloved stories for the big screen.

 
Writers' Confessions

Published on Jul 18, 2010

David Benioff discusses screenwriting and other aspects of the writing process. Shot during the 2008 International Festival of Authors at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto.

 
A Conversation with David Benioff

Source: Penguin Random House

Q. City of Thieves begs the question: Did all this really happen to your grandfather?

No. My grandfather was born on a farm in Delaware. He became a furrier and died in Allentown, Pennsylvania. My grandmother (unlike the non-cooking grandmother in the book) made the best chopped chicken liver in the state. Neither one, as far as I know, ever visited Russia.

Q. David notes, “Truth might be stranger than fiction, but it needs a better editor.” (p. 4) How much “editing” did you do?

See answer to number one. A whole lot.

Q. How much additional research did you do to write this novel?

I had a wonderful teacher once, the novelist Ann Patchett. I asked her about the research she did for The Magician’s Assistant, and she told me to choose the single best book on the given subject and study it obsessively. Writers are always tempted to track down dozens of books to help give our make-believe stories that tang of authenticity, but often the problem with too much research is a writing style that seems too researched, dry and musty, and eager for a history teacher’s gold star of approval.

Unfortunately, my will was not strong enough for me to follow Ann’s advice. I did end up reading dozens

 
Words & Wine: David Benioff - City of Thieves

Published on Apr 26, 2009

David Benioff joins Warren for another evening of Words & Wine where they measure the importance of talent, place a friendly wager, and stress the importance of bowel movements.

 

The City of Thieves David Benioff Cover

Visit our City of Thieves board on Pinterest

Discussion Questions

Source: Penguin Random House

  • David wants to hear about his grandfather’s experiences firsthand. Why is it important for us to cultivate and preserve our oral histories? Do you have a relative or friend whose story you believe should be captured for posterity?
  • Lev’s father is taken—and almost certainly killed—by the NKVD, yet Lev himself stays behind to defend Leningrad. How do you think he reconciled his patriotism to his love for his father?
  • In the midst of a major historical moment, Lev is preoccupied with thoughts of food and sex. What does this tell us about experiencing history as it unfolds?
  • From the cannibals in the market to the sex slaves in the farmhouse, there are numerous illustrations of the way in which war robs us of our humanity. In your opinion, what was the most poignant example of this and why?
  • Kolya tells Lev that the government should “put the famous on the front lines” (p. 67) rather than use them as the spokespeople for patriotic propaganda. Do you agree or disagree? Can you think of any contemporary instances of this practice?
  • Aside from the sly pride that Lev notices, are there any other clues that give Kolya away as the true author of The Courtyard Hound?
  • Do you think Markov’s denouncer should have remained silent about the partisan’s presence? Did either of them deserve to die?
  • Even moments before Lev pulls his knife on the Sturmbannführer, he thinks: “I had wanted him dead since I’d heard Zoya’s story. . . . [But] I didn’t believe I was capable of murdering him” (p. 228). Do you think everyone—given the right motivation—is capable of killing another human being? Could you?
  • Lev takes an instinctive dislike to Kolya yet comes to consider him his best friend. What was the turning point in their relationship?
  • Lev says that Vika “was no man’s idea of a pinup girl,” (p.149) but he is instantly infatuated. Would he have been drawn to her had they met in different—safer—circumstances?

Happy Reading!

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

 

Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris, Cover
Source: Goodreads

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls

David Sedaris

Hardcover, 275 pages
Published April 23rd 2013 by Little, Brown and Company
 
Sedaris's latest essay collection possesses all of the wit, charm, and poignancy his readers have come to expect.

His usual cast of delightful characters returns; including a flashback of his father in his underpants berating a schoolboy or, more recently, hounding David into getting a colonoscopy. Many pieces involve travel, animals, or both: his sister Gretchen totes around an insect "kill jar"; in a Denver airport, David engages with a judgmental fellow passenger; and visiting the Australian bush, he has encounters with a kookaburra and a dead wallaby. Seeking a stuffed owl for a Valentine's Day gift leads him to a taxidermist shop where he is shown gruesome oddities and confronts difficult questions about his curiosity. Another essay explores the evolution of David's 35 years-and-counting of keeping a diary and provides some great insight into his writing process.

In addition to the personal essays, there are six satirical monologues in which he assumes the role of a character with a ridiculous message. One in particular involves a man's ludicrous response to the legalization of gay marriage in New York, believing his own marriage is now "meaningless".

This is a must-read for fans of smart, well-crafted writing with a sense of humor.

Agent: Steven Barclay Agency. (May)  Publishers Weekly via Barnes & Noble

 

..........................................................................................................................................

 

Carol's Rating: ★★

This collection of essays was my introduction to David Sedaris. These essays range from humorous observations of quirky behaviors to downright snarky attitudes to utterly dark, disturbing thoughts and actions. 

What did I like? I liked that I could finish the short essays quickly and start with a fresh one the next time I picked up the book. I liked that some of the lighter essays had me busting out with laughter. And I liked his writing style; It's clear that he is a witty, talented writer.

What didn't I like? The majority of these essays were far too dark for my taste. 

Our reading group was split on this one; some loved it while others felt as did. It's possible that I might like his other works more, but it's unlikely that I'll eagerly seek them out anytime soon.

 

..........................................................................................................................................

Happy Reading!

Novel Gobblers Book Club icon

The Waves by Virginia Woolf

The Waves by Virginia Woolf

 

The Waves

Virginia Woolf

Club Selection for September 2017

Pages: 297
Published June 1st 1978 by Harvest Books (first published October 1931)
 
The Waves is often regarded as Virginia Woolf's masterpiece, standing with those few works of twentieth-century literature that have created unique forms of their own. In deeply poetic prose, Woolf traces the lives of six children from infancy to death who fleetingly unite around the unseen figure of a seventh child, Percival. Allusive and mysterious, The Waves yields new treasures upon each reading.

..........................................................................................................................................

Carol's Rating: ★★★

This was my first Virginia Woolf novel. By definition, it really isn't even a novel. It was an experiment with writing the streams of consciousness of the characters at specific moments in time rather than the traditional writing of plot and dialogue between the characters.

I was intrigued by the concept and idea of following the characters from childhood to death and found it interesting to see the character's thoughts evolve from distracted observations of childhood to deeper contemplation as adults, but from the first sentence it was clear that this would not be an easy read. I had to work hard at placing myself in the mind of each character and the language was difficult for me interpret; It is more like poetry than prose. 

If you like poetry and content that requires deliberate effort on the part of the reader, this may be a great choice for you. For me, it required more effort than I wanted to put into it and finishing it became more of a personal challenge than it was for the enjoyment. This is one I'd like to come back to in the future and see if I can do better with it.

About the Author

Virginia Woolf author image

Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf, original name in full Adeline Virginia Stephen (born January 25, 1882, London, England—died March 28, 1941, near Rodmell, Sussex), English writer whose novels, through their nonlinear approaches to narrative, exerted a major influence on the genre.

While she is best known for her novels, especially Mrs. Dalloway (1925) and To the Lighthouse (1927), Woolf also wrote pioneering essays on artistic theory, literary history, women’s writing, and the politics of power. A fine stylist, she experimented with several forms of biographical writing, composed painterly short fictions, and sent to her friends and family a lifetime of brilliant letters.

Her works are considered unique as they go deep into the psychology of a character, and show the way of their thinking. She published novels and essays as a public intellectual, and received both critical and popular success. She used to self-publish most of her works through the Hogarth Press which she had co-founded.

Throughout her life, she suffered from mental illnesses, probably including bipolar disorder, and she took her own life in 1941. She was 59. Her posthumous reputation suffered after the Second World War, but it was re-established with the growth of feminist criticism during the 1970s. Woolf’s novels can be described as highly experimental: a narrative, frequently uneventful, and commonplace, is seen to be refracted, or dissolved, in the receptive consciousness of the character.

Source: britannica.com and famouspeople.com

About Virginia Woolf's Writing

Had I watched either of the videos below before I attempted reading this or any Virginia Woolf novel, I would have had much greater appreciation for her words. The 4 minute video below is loaded with powerful insight into her writing and what she was trying to accomplish. The narrator, Sue Asbee, Senior Lecturer in English, offers profound, thoughtful descriptions of her experiences with Virginia Woolf's writing and begins the narration with a completely relatable statement:

I first discovered Virginia Woolf as a student. I found the text completely baffling. I think I'd opened Mrs. Dalloway expecting a story and what I got was a flow of ideas. Memories."

I, too, found the text completely baffling. The difference is that I stayed in that mindset for the entire book. In contrast, Sue Asbee looked beyond the text and discovered something I wish I would have discovered:

When I began to understand what Woolf was trying to achieve in her writing, it made me rethink how memories from childhood, inconsequential moments, have actually come to be the basis of my own identity. There is always a desire to make the fleeting moments something permanent. And that's what she does in her patterning, the structure of her work, in her repetition of images. And the writing, once you stop looking for a story, is stunning."

 

Virginia Woolf Video Image
A discussion of Virginia Woolf’s writing. © Open University (A Britannica Publishing Partner)

 

 

 Literature, by The School of Life

 

This video, too, provides us with brilliant descriptions about Virginia Woolf's thinking and writing.

 

Here's a few quotations from this video that I feel truly expresses the spirit, vision, and intent of Virginia Woolf's writing.

"In her novels and essays, Virginia Woolf captured the intimate moments of the 20th century like no one else. She opens our eyes to the neglected value of daily experiences."
 
"In order to stand on the same intellectual footing with men, women needed not only dignity but also equal rights to education, an income of 500 pounds a year, and a room of one's own."
 
"Woolf was probably the best writer in the English language for describing our minds without the jargon of clinical psychology."
"Books like Woolf's, which aren't overly sarcastic, aren't caught up in adventure plots, or cradled in convention are a contract. She's expecting us to turn down the outside volume, to try on her perspective, and to spend energy with subtle sentences. And in turn, she offers us the opportunity to notice the tremors we normally miss and to better appreciate moths, our own headaches, and our fascinating, fluid sexuality."

 

A Tour of Virginia Woolf's Enchanting Home

A country retreat, gardens, inviting spaces, readings from passages of Virginia Woolf's writings...

This 4 minute video of a visit to Monk's House by readingbukowsi beautifully captures the essence of Virginia and Leonard Woolf and their humble home in Sussex.

What a lovely place and a tender, charming visit!
 
 

Book Club Mojo

Prior to our book club meeting a friend and I briefly discussed The Waves over coffee one day. We were talking about how the text was written as a stream of consciousness rather than a story with a plot. She mentioned that the thoughts of the characters jumped around so much that it was difficult to follow and that she was sure her own stream of consciousness did not jump around like that.

This sounded like a the perfect fixings for an experiment to me and hence, the birth of the following book club activity.

Stream of Consciousness Hip-Hop
  1. Set a timer to go off at a random time during the meeting. Be sure it's after everyone has settled in and conversation is flowing.
  2. Hand each member a blank slip of paper and a pen and announce to the group that when the timer goes off, they are to quickly write down what they were thinking about at that very moment. Fold and place slips of paper into a bowl.
  3. Mix them up then pass the bowl for each member to select one slip, preferably not their own, and read it aloud.
  4. Were they as random and jumpy as the thoughts of the characters in the book seemed to be?

Our Results

The Waves by Virginia Woolf Stream Of Consciouness Hip-Hop

I have to say, this made us laugh - Virginia Woolf sure knew her stuff!

 🙂   🙂   🙂

Discussion Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

Source: Schmoop.com

  1. What is the significance of the book's structure? Why does Woolf begin each chapter of with an italicized introduction describing an ocean landscape at a particular point in the course of a day?
  2. The Waves presents six very different narrators (and describes a seventh main character, Percival, in great detail) but then suggests that their perspectives are somehow related or part of a larger whole. What do you think Woolf is trying to say about individuality?
  3. Bernard gets a lot more "air time" than the other characters; indeed, the entire last chapter is written from his perspective. What makes him so special?
  4. Percival is clearly central to the narrative, but he never serves as narrator. Why?
  5. The Waves uses a lot of natural imagery, but it also highlights technology (e.g., the repeated references to trains) and other aspects of modernity. How does the book make use of images of the natural and the modern? Are the references to each balanced? Is one more valorized or demonized than the other?
  6. The novel makes frequent references to language and art, alternately highlighting its power and emphasizing its impotence. Ultimately, does one of those perspectives take precedence? Is "making phrases" powerful and meaningful, or ultimately futile? Why or why not?
  7. What's with the frequent references to death? Why is this an obsession for the novel's characters, even before Percival's death?
  8. The book is one of Woolf's most experimental, breaking a lot of the conventions of traditional plotting, narrative, and characterization. Do you think it counts as a novel? Why or why not?

Happy Reading!

Down the Garden Path by Beverly Nichols

Down the Garden Path by Beverly Nichols

 

Down the Garden Path by Beverly Nichols
Source: Goodreads.com

Down the Garden Path

Beverly Nichols

Hardcover, 290 pages
Published December 13th 2004 by Timber Press (first published 1931)
 
Down the Garden Path has stood the test of time as one of the world's best-loved and most-quoted gardening books. Ostensibly an account of the creation of a garden in Huntingdonshire in the 1930s, it is really about the underlying emotions and obsessions for which gardening is just a cover story.
 
The secret of this book's success---and its timelessness---is that it does not seek to impress the reader with a wealth of expert knowledge or advice. Beverley Nichols proudly declares his status as a newcomer to gardening: "The best gardening books should be written by those who still have to search their brains for the honeysuckle's languid Latin name..."
 
As unforgettable as the plants in the garden is the cast of visitors and neighbors who invariably turn up at inopportune moments. For every angelic Miss Hazlitt there is an insufferable Miss Wilkins waiting in the wings. For every thought-provoking Professor, there is an intrusive Miss M, whose chief offense may be that she is a 'damnably efficient' gardener. From a disaster building a rock garden, to further adventures with greenhouses, woodland gardens, not to mention cats and treacle, Nichols has left us a true gardening classic.
 
 

..........................................................................................................................................

Carol's Rating: ★★★★

A Gem of a Story and a Book to Treasure

In this entertaining story, the first volume of the Allways Trilogy, Beverly Nichols leads you down the path of his own gardening journey. He doesn't claim to know everything. In fact, he does just the opposite. He flat out tells you he's a gardening novice and to our pleasure, that doesn't hold him back at all. He has the desire and motivation to jump in with both feet and see what happens. You're the lucky one that get's to ride along as he puts plans into action that often leaving you scratching your head in dismay yet always smiling at the outcome.

He loves puttering in his gardens and walking the paths, which he insists on traveling start to finish because that is when you discover miracles. His determination in finding tiny, blossoming treasures in the winter snow is a delight as is his dry humor regarding neighbors that range from the nosy to the flirtatious to the gardening nemeses. He's the friend that keeps you in stitches because he's bold enough to say exactly what you're thinking but didn't dare say out loud! 

The book has some wonderful special touches that I loved such as the sketched map of his gardens and the touching illustrations that divide the book into the four seasons. There is also something very curious on every 16th page of this book; Just below the last line of text and along the left margin is a single uppercase letter in small print. They appear in alphabetical order. Any ideas why this was done?

If you don't have an appreciation for gardening or flowers or persnickety personalities now, you will by the time you finish this story. It's easy to understand why this book, first published in 1932, has never been out of print!

..........................................................................................................................................

Happy Reading!

Novel Gobblers Book Club icon

Yes, Zachary, There is a Werewolf Grave

Yes, Zachary, There is a Werewolf Grave

Yes, Zachary, There is a Werewolf Grave

"But shouldn't we wait and go see it tomorrow?", nervously queried 8-year old Zach as the late afternoon sun cast long shadows across the fallen October leaves on the cemetery grounds.

I reassured him that I would keep him safe and that this was something he would really enjoy seeing. Suddenly, we were upon it. The Werewolf Grave. And then it came in all it's glory, the moment I was waiting for - the anxious expression on Zach's face gave way to confusion, then comprehension. The light went on. He got it. With a big sigh he rolled his eyes at me and said, "Mom, you are so weird!" Haha! My mission was accomplished! That was nearly 20 years ago and it remains to be one of my favorite Halloween memories.

The Werewolf Grave has long been a landmark in our town and never fails to bring amused smiles to the faces of the curious. But what I love most is that it resides within the grounds of one of the oldest, most beautiful of cemeteries in our region and incorporates centuries of history.

It's difficult to see it clearly but the names read "WARE" and "WULF"

Last weekend Vi, my trusty bicycle, and I took a leisurely ride through the cemetery. We rode along every path, occasionally stopping to ponder about the lives whose names are engraved on the headstones. In the older sections of the cemetery there are groups of headstones engraved in Chinese and there are many headstones for babies that died in the 1800's. In addition to the Werewolf Grave, there are numerous others that we always stop at, namely those of my grandparents and other relatives, the Tautphaus family graves that overlook the adjacent park (originally built by the family as an "oasis in the desert" during the late 1800's and shared with the public), and a large heart-shaped headstone of a ten year old girl with her name, "Sadie", engraved in her own hand writing.

It may seem odd to you that I visit this place and ponder the minute clues given about those that lie here. But the beauty and history of this place always brings peace to my soul. Life is temporary. Yet lives endure time and influence the shape of all that comes after them.

rosehill2-oct2016

 

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

 

War-of-Art Audio Cover Steven Pressfield
Source: Audible.com

The War of Art

Steven Pressfield

Pages: 168 / Audio: 2 Hrs 56 mins
Published July 13th 2011 by Recorded Books (first published 2002)
 
Winning the Creative Battle
 
Internationally best-selling author of Last of the Amazons, Gates of Fire and Tides of War, Steven Pressfield delivers a guide to inspire and support those who struggle to express their creativity. Pressfield believes that “resistance” is the greatest enemy, and he offers many unique and helpful ways to overcome it.
 
 

..........................................................................................................................................

Carol's Rating: ★★★★★

Perfection.

This book was recommended to me by my friend, writer Mo Parisian, whose first novel, What We Know Now, will be released on Amazon November 25, 2017.  Yes, a shameless plug, yet I don't care because I am so excited about it! Back to the War of Art - Mo succinctly described this book as "Perfection".  I completely agree!

It's short and powerful. It's life-changing. No matter who you are, you'll feel the author is speaking directly to YOU. We all have talents and creative abilities and yet we minimize them, deny them, procrastinate, sabotage, and make ourselves miserable -- why??? Steven Pressfield frankly and humorously addresses these issues and exposes all of our excuses. He can. He's waded through the muck and come out clean on the other side.

I listened to the audio book, which was fantastic. I've also ordered the hardcopy so I can reference it often. It's always a good time to read and re-read this one. What are you waiting for?

..........................................................................................................................................

About the Author

steve-pressfield-author
Source: stevenpressfield.com

Steven Pressfield

 

Steven Pressfield is the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance, Gates of Fire, Tides of War, Last of the Amazons, Virtues of War, The Afghan Campaign, Killing Rommel, The Profession, The Lion's Gate, The War of Art, Turning Pro, Do the Work, The Warrior Ethos, The Authentic Swing, An American Jew, Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t, and The Knowledge.

His debut novel, The Legend of Bagger Vance, was adapted for screen. A film of the same title was released in 2000, directed by Robert Redford and starring Matt Damon, Will Smith and Charlize Theron.

His father was in the Navy, and he was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in 1943. Since graduating from Duke University in 1965, he has been a U.S. Marine, an advertising copywriter, schoolteacher, tractor-trailer driver, bartender, oilfield roustabout, attendant in a mental hospital and screenwriter. 

His struggles to earn a living as a writer (it took seventeen years to get the first paycheck) are detailed in The War of Art, Turning Pro, The Authentic Swing, Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t, and The Knowledge.

There's a recurring character in his books, named Telamon, a mercenary of ancient days. Telamon doesn't say much. He rarely gets hurt or wounded. And he never seems to age. His view of the profession of arms is a lot like Pressfield's conception of art and the artist:

"It is one thing to study war, and another to live the warrior's life."

 
Source: Amazon.com
 
Happy Reading!

Novel Gobblers Book Club icon

Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen

Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen
Still LIfe With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen
Source: Goodreads

Still Life With Bread Crumbs

Anna Quindlen

Club Selection for August 2017

Pages: 252 / Audio: 6 Hrs 50 mins
First Published January 28th 2014 by Random House
 
New York Times Bestseller

A superb love story from Anna Quindlen, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Rise and Shine, Blessings, and A Short Guide to a Happy Life

Still Life with Bread Crumbs begins with an imagined gunshot and ends with a new tin roof. Between the two is a wry and knowing portrait of Rebecca Winter, a photographer whose work made her an unlikely heroine for many women. Her career is now descendent, her bank balance shaky, and she has fled the city for the middle of nowhere. There she discovers, in a tree stand with a roofer named Jim Bates, that what she sees through a camera lens is not all there is to life.

Brilliantly written, powerfully observed, Still Life with Bread Crumbs is a deeply moving and often very funny story of unexpected love, and a stunningly crafted journey into the life of a woman, her heart, her mind, her days, as she discovers that life is a story with many levels, a story that is longer and more exciting than she ever imagined. 

 

“[Anna] Quindlen’s seventh novel offers the literary equivalent of comfort food. . . . She still has her finger firmly planted on the pulse of her generation.”—NPR

..........................................................................................................................................

Carol's Rating: ★★★

Anna Quindlen writes beautifully and this story flows along smoothly like a lazy river; It feels uneventful for the most part, even when important events happened. The characters were likable and the story interesting enough to keep me turning pages.

There was good deal of internal dialogue, which I loved but at the same time found hard to follow because the narrator's thoughts jumped around so much. It made me realize how it confusing it must be for others to carry on a conversation with me at times -- we'll be talking about a subject and suddenly I think of something else (squirrel!) so I jump to that topic for a bit. Thankfully, the narrator of this story always came back to complete the original thought.

This was a nice, easy read with moments of intrigue. I wanted to love it as much as I do the cover art (Oh,that beautiful cover!) but all in all, it was better than ok but not fantastic.

 

About the Author

Anna Quindlen Official Author Photo for Still Life with Bread Crumbs
Photo Credit: Maria Krovatin

Anna Quindlen

Anna Quindlen is the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and bestselling novelist who wrote the books One True Thing and Object Lessons.

Synopsis
Anna Quindlen was born on July 8, 1952, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At age 18, she worked as a copy girl at The New York Times. After college, Quindlen became a reporter for The New York Post before returning to the Times in 1977. She was promoted to deputy metropolitan editor at the Times and wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning op-ed column from 1981-1994. After leaving the Times in 1995, Quindlen has written several bestselling novels, including One True Thing.

Career Highlights
Writer Anna Marie Quindlen was born on July 8, 1952, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Anna Quindlen joined The New York Times at age 18 as a copy girl. After graduating from Barnard College in 1974, she was hired as a reporter for The New York Post. She returned to the Times in 1977 and was named deputy metropolitan editor in 1983.

As a columnist for The Times from 1981 to 1994, Quindlen was only the third woman in the paper's history to write a regular column for the prestigious Op-Ed page. Her column, "Public and Private," won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1992. Other columns included "About New York" and "Life in the 30s." In 1995, she left the paper to devote herself to becoming a novelist.

Quindlen's body of work includes fiction, non-fiction, self-help and children's books. She has written five best-selling novels, three of which were made into movies, One True Thing, Black and Blue and Blessings. Thinking Out Loud, a collection of her "Public and Private" columns, was also a best-seller. She currently writes the Last Word column for Newsweek magazine.

Anna Quindlen and her husband, attorney Gerald Krovatin, live in New York City with their three children.

Source: biography.com

Revealing Interviews

With each book you read, aren't you curious to know the inspiration behind it or to understand more about the research,  creative, and editing processes?

Well, we're in luck! Anna Quindlen gives us the inside scoop to these questions and more in these revealing interviews.
 

A Q&A with Anna Quindlen, author of Still Life With Bread Crumbs

Random House: Reader's Guide
November 21, 2013

Anna Quindlen author - Still Life With Bread CrumbsPeople love to know where the inspiration for a novel comes from. Would you say something about Still Life with Bread Crumbs in this regard?

It’s not one thing. It’s never one thing. I’ve thought a lot about the nature of art, and why women’s art, particularly if it arises from domestic life, is minimized, or denigrated—why, for instance, we pay less attention to the work of Alice McDermott, a genius miniaturist whose novels reflect the quiet everyday, then we do to the more sprawling, outward-facing work of Philip Roth. Some of my thinking on that is embodied in Rebecca’s photography and public reaction to it. I’m 61 years old, and I’ve thought a lot about aging, and the stages of a woman’s life, and that’s in there, too. From a purely mechanical point of view, I try to do some essential thing in each novel that I haven’t done before. In this book it was twofold: I’ve never written a love story, and I haven’t written a book with a happy ending, and this material lent itself to both. ...[Read the full interview]
 

 

Anna Quindlen Spins A Tale Of Middle-Aged Reinvention

NPR Author Interview
February 2, 2014,  6:05 AM ET
Heard on Weekly Edition Sunday | Listen 6:32

Rebecca Winter is at a crossroads. The famous photographer had been living off of sales of one particular photograph for years. When the money stream starts to dry up, she reluctantly decides to rent out her Manhattan apartment and move to a small, rural town far from her seemingly fabulous New York life. It is here that she tries to map out her next chapter. No longer married, no longer needed as much by her grown son, no longer as successful as she used to be.

That's where we meet the main character in Anna Quindlen's newest novel, Still Life with Bread Crumbs.

Quindlen tells NPR's Rachel Martin, "I'm really intrigued by the idea that we now live long enough to get to reinvent, rediscover ourselves over and over again, and that's definitely what's happening to Rebecca."

Interview highlights include details on why Rebecca leaves New York for the country, on the love story at the heart of the book, on taste and art, and staying down to earth.

Listen to the interview below or read the transcript.

Book Club Mojo

Inspired by Sarah, one of the characters in the book who runs the English-themed Tea for Two cafe, DeeAnn prepared a beautiful tea party for us!

She treated us with tea (Winter Chocolate Spice and Dancing Sugar Plum), wine, appetizers of meat, cheese, and shrimp, an entree of cucumber sandwiches and scones, and a dessert of sherbet and cookies.  

Loads of laughs, delicious food, and interesting conversation made for an evening of sheer delight!

Pin Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen - Mojo 6

Discussion Questions

Novel Gobblers Original Questions

1.Rebecca's story reminds us that it's important to leave behind people who destroy our dreams and hopes and to find the right people in life. Who were these people in her life? Why did she leave them or embrace them?

2. At one point in the story, Rebecca says to her son, Ben, that she used to be Rebecca Winter. What do you think Ben meant when he replied, "You'll always be the Rebecca Winter."?

3. How might this story be a coming-of-age story for Rebecca Winter, a 60 year old woman?

4. Which of the five W.H. Auden verdicts fits this story for you? Why?

1. I can see this is good and I like it.

2. I can see this is good but I don’t like it.

3. I can see this is good and, though at present I don’t like it, I believe that with perseverance I shall come to like it.

4. I can see that this is trash but I like it.

5. I can see that this is trash and I don’t like it.

5. Did you make any predictions as you read this story? What were they? Were you right?

6. Anna Quindlen has stated that she wanted to write a love story. Do you think she succeeded?

7. How did this story make you feel? Who would you recommend it to and why?

 

Questions Issued by the Publisher

Source: Litlovers.com

1. What part of Rebecca Winter’s life do you relate to the most? How did the way Rebecca handled her hardships compare to decisions you’ve made in your own life?

2. One of the themes of Still Life with Bread Crumbs is discovering how to age gracefully. What has been one of your biggest struggles when entering a different stage of life? What is something you’ve enjoyed?

3. Rebecca finds herself living far outside the comfort zone of her former New York City life. What do you think is the most difficult part of moving somewhere new? Have you ever been in a similar situation? How did you handle it?

4. At one point in the book, Jim says that he believes that people live in houses that look like them. How does your own house or apartment reflect your personality?

5. "Language had always failed her when it came to describing her photographs…There was nothing she could say about the cross photographs that could come close to actually seeing them." Rebecca realizes this after speaking at the Women’s Art League event. Do you ever find it difficult to describe the effect that art --- photographs, paintings, writing --- has had on you? What might that say about the power of artwork?

6. Throughout the book, Sarah is often the perfect antidote for Rebecca’s unhappiness. Do you have a person like this in your life? Think about one of the times that you were most grateful for him or her.

7. One of the turning points for Rebecca is when Ben tells her, "You will always be Rebecca Winter." How has Rebecca’s personal identity become entangled with her identity as an iconic artist? What helps her to ground herself?

8. The dog gradually becomes a bigger part of Rebecca’s life as she moves further away from her past self—the "not a dog person" city girl. The dog pictures are even the catalyst for Rebecca’s break with TG. What do you think the presence of the dog means in Rebecca’s life, especially after she discovers his name is Jack? How might the constant company of an animal have a different effect from that of the company of people?

9. When Rebecca finally learns the meaning of the crosses, she wonders if the great artists had ever considered "the terrible eternity of immortality" for their subjects. We live in a culture of camera phones and constant photography. Was there ever a moment when you were particularly grateful to have a certain photograph? Do you ever wish that our lives were less documented?

10. O. Henry’s short story and the story of Rebecca’s mother’s Mary Cassatt both have a bittersweet quality to them. Think about a moment in your life that might have been upsetting or sad. Was there someone who helped you see beauty or happiness in that moment instead?

Happy Reading!

Books of the Month – June 2017

Books of the Month – June 2017

Books of the Month - June 2017

Books of the Month - June 2017

June 2017 Books of the Month

June was another banner month in my reading life.

I polished off four top-rated books and haven't been able to stop talking about any of them!

Which of these books have you read? Did you learn anything new?

Was it impossible not to talk to everyone about them? Do tell!

 

Note:  My adorable owl calendar is by Debbie Mumm. I absolutely love it and decided early on that it would be the backdrop to each "Books of the Month" post for 2017. 

...........................................................

 

Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman book cover

 

The Dovekeepers

by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really wanted to love this book as much as I loved its cover, but alas, I did not. Sigh... Nonetheless, I'm glad I read it because it stirred my curiosity about the Masada Massacre and motivated me to learn more. Click HERE for my book review, some great intel about the author, Masada, fun book club mojo, and more!  🙂

 

...........................................................

 

 
 

Winds of War , War and Remembrance book covers

The Winds of War  & War and Remembrance

The Henry Family Series Vol 1 & Vol 2 

by Herman Wouk
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a fantastic series! Granted, it took me a while to work my way through its nearly 2000 pages, but I was completely absorbed and I loved every moment of it. Plus, the author is 102 years old this year and is still sharp as a tack!

Click HERE to Discover 5 Reasons This is the Best History Book Ever. Period.

 

...........................................................

 

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery

 

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery

by Ian Morgan Cron & Suzanne Stabile
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Who knew that learning how not to be a jerk could be so entertaining and enlightening?

This is for YOU. Yes, YOU.

Click HERE to read my review and discover loads of interesting facts about the authors, the Enneagram personality typing system, and why you should care.

 

...........................................................

 

 

Hungry for more? Check out  The Book and Beyond and The Books We've Read. 

Follow me on Goodreads, Instagram, Pinterest, and now on Facebook!

Happy Reading!