Monthly Archives: June 2011

Literary Blog Hop WINNERS

Wow – there were 86 entries to win books for the Literary Giveaway here on my blog! Thank you all for entering. Although I said I was only going to give away five books to five winners, I was feeling particularly generous tonight when I drew the names…and instead, I decided to give away all seven books and drew not five, but seven winners using

Everyone who won got one of the three books they listed in their survey as the books they most wanted to read. So without further ado…here are the winners:

I have sent each winner an email. Please respond to that email within the next five days with your snail mail address so I can get your books mailed out to you.

Mailbox Monday – June 27, 2011

Welcome to this week’s edition of Mailbox Monday, hosted this month by The Bluestocking Guide. Make sure you visit Bluestocking today and add your link in the comments … you’ll also find links to other readers’ mailboxes there.

To see the schedule of this meme’s host, please visit the dedicated blog.

Here is what arrived at MY house this week:

Doubleday sent me a beautiful hard cover edition of The Things We Cherished by Pam Jenoff (due for release next month). This novel spans decades and continents and tells the story of Charlotte Gold and Jack Warrington – two attorneys who fall in love while working together to defend a man against WWII war crimes. The key to Roger Dykman’s defense seems to lie within an intricate timepiece last seen in Nazi Germany. Described as “intriguing and intelligent” by author Kate Furnivall, this looks like a compelling piece of literature.

Pam Jenoff was born in Maryland and raised outside Philadelphia. She attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Cambridge University in England. Upon receiving her master’s in history from Cambridge, she accepted an appointment as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. The position provided a unique opportunity to witness and participate in operations at the most senior levels of government, including helping the families of the Pan Am Flight 103 victims secure their memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, observing recovery efforts at the site of the Oklahoma City bombing and attending ceremonies to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of World War II at sites such as Bastogne and Corregidor. In 1996 she was assigned to the U.S. Consulate in Krakow, Poland. It was during this period that Jenoff developed her expertise in Polish-Jewish relations and the Holocaust. Jenoff attend law school in 1998 and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. She worked for several years as a labor and employment attorney both at a firm and in-house in Philadelphia and now teaches law school at Rutgers. Jenoff’s novel The Kommandant’s Girl was an international bestseller and nominated for a Quill award. She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and three children. Read more about Jenoff and her work by visiting the author’s website.

James Meader sent me an advance readers edition of The Tides Of War by Stella Tillyard (due for release through Henry Holt and Company in November 2011). This looks like a terrific historical novel. Set during the Peninsular War against Napoleon in 1812-15, the book moves between the battlefield in Spain (where the adulterous Duke of Wellington leads men into war) and Regency London. This novel is described as “a war novel as much about women as about men.

Stella Tillyard was born in Britain and educated at Oxford University, where she studied English Literature. She was a Knox Fellow at Harvard and subsequently taught English literature and art history there and at UCLA. She moved to Florence, Italy, in 1993. Aristocrats, her biography of four eighteenth century sisters was published in 1994, won the History Today Award, the Fawcett Prize and the Meilleur Livre Etranger and was made into a BBC/WGBH Masterpiece Theatre series in 2000. Her subsequent books include Citizen Lord, the life of Lord Edward Fitzgerald (1998, shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize) and A Royal Affair. In 2005 she became visiting scholar at the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters at Queen Mary, University of London, where she taught the history and practice of biography. She has written for many newspapers and magazines and sat on several prize juries, mostly recently the 2010 BBC Johnson prize for non-fiction. Tillyard divides her time between London and Florence. Tides of War is her first novel. Learn more about Tillyard and her work by visiting the author’s website.

An unsolicited copy of Goodie One Shoes by Roz Siegel arrived via Meryl Zegarek Public Relations (published by Hilliard and Harris). This mystery novel centers around Emily Place, a woman of “a certain age” who leaves her wealthy husband to live a life of her own. She opens a designer shoe store on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and everything seems to be going well until a staff member at the store is found murdered “with a red Jimmy Choo stiletto embedded in her head.” Called “fast-paced” and “full of sass and pizzazz,” this is the first book in a projected series.

Roslyn Siegel has been an editor and writer for more than 25 years, holding senior positions at Simon & Schuster, Random House, Consumer Reports, and The Literary Guild Book Club. She has written numerous articles and book reviews for The New York Times, New York Magazine, The Village Voice, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Publisher’s Weekly and other periodicals. Siegel has authored a nonfiction book, Country Floors Decorating With Tiles, and the children’s book Critters A To Z. She has lived with her husband on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for most of her adult life. Goodie One Shoes is her first novel. Read more about Siegel and her work by visiting the author’s website.

Did any wonderful books arrive at YOUR house this week?

Orange July – So Many Wonderful Choices

Orange July will be here very, very soon (if you don’t know what this is, then go check out the details over on Jill’s blog), and I need to make some tough decisions.

In going through my stacks of unread books, I have found more Orange books than I could possibly read in one month. So, I’m being a bit selective and looking at more recent books that have won or been nominated.

Here is what I am thinking about reading in July (starred items are MUST reads which may be the only ones I manage to read…but, we’ll see):

  • The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna (2011 Short List)
  • Annabel by Kathleen Winter (2011 Short List)
  • The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey (2009 Short List)
  • *Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch (2011 Long List)
  • *The Long Song by Andrea Levy (2010 Long List)
  • *The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin (2011 Long List)
  • *The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht (2011 Winner)
  • The Personal History of Rachel Dupree by Ann Weisgarber (2009 Long List AND 2009 Winner of Orange Award for New Writers)
  • The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (2010 Winner)
  • *Swamplandia by Karen Russell (2011 Long List)
  • The Monsters of Templeton, by Lauren Groff (2008 Short List for New Writers Award)
  • The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer (2011 Long List)
  • This Is How by M. J. Hyland (2010 Long List)
  • Scottsboro by Ellen Feldman (2009 Short List)

Are you joining Orange July? If so, what is on YOUR must read list?

Sunday Salon – June 26, 2011

June 26, 2011

8:30 AM

Good morning to you and welcome to this week’s edition of Sunday Salon. Grab a cup of coffee or your beverage of choice, put up your feet and grab your nearest book – its time to talk literature!

But wait, before I talk about the books I’ve been reading lately, I thought I would share a little of what I’ve been doing which is non-book related. It is finally summer here, and I’ve been re-painting my porch furniture and potting the plants on the porch. I was really excited to get a great retro-style chair which my mother-in-law snagged at a yard sale. It looked pretty beat up until I gave it a coat of white paint and found some bright, mod cushions for it. Now it is the star of the porch and the perfect place to read:

Of course, I had a helper. Raven loves hanging out on the porch with me, and even if she sometimes dips her ears into the paint, she is great company. It is hard to believe she is nearly 2.5 years old now!

So now, let’s talk books a bit, shall we?

Since my last Sunday Salon post, I posted my review of The Boy in the Moon by Ian Brown. I was so moved by this book which is Brown’s memoir of raising his severely disabled son, Walker. I don’t know how many of you are aware that I have worked with adults with severe developmental delay for many years now. I actually started a consulting business quite some time ago where I provide evaluations, recommendations and training at group homes which service the developmentally delayed. I often get asked if my work is “depressing” or if I really like to work with people who have such profound disability. The Boy in the Moon perfectly captures why I love the time I spend with my patients in the group homes. I think from now on when I get those questions, I will press this book into the questioner’s hands and demand they read it.

Next up on my reading list was The Blossoming of the World by Brian Peterson (read my review). This collection of amazing photography and personal essays got a mixed review from me. But I think there will be many people who will absolutely love this book on all levels. It just wasn’t a 100% hit of the park for me. On the one hand, I loved the photography; on the other hand, the essays did not always resonate with me.

After two serious books with deep messages, I was ready for a light read…and The Wedding Writer by Susan Schneider perfectly fit the bill. This funny novel is a great summer read. It centers around four women who work in the bridal business at a fictional wedding magazine. Schneider pokes fun at love, marriage and the aging process, and I loved her tongue-in-cheek humor. I have a giveaway of this one which is open to US and Canada mailing addresses until June 30th at 5:00 pm PST. Just visit the review post, scroll to the bottom and fill out the form to enter.

Speaking of giveaways, there are a slew of great books being given away through the Literary Blog Hop Giveaway over at Leeswamme’s Blog. You can find links to all the giveaways here through June 29th (many are international opportunities). I’m offering up five books to US mailing addresses only (sorry, my budget is just not going to allow an international give this time around). You can see what I’m offering and enter to win by visiting this post and filling out the form no later than June 29th at 5:00 pm. I also have a link in my sidebar.

My current read is Anthropology of an American Girl by Hilary Thayer Hamann. I don’t want to say too much about it because I will be touring this book on July 6th for TLC Book Tours – you can see other reviews of the book by visiting the tour page and following the links. This is a book which is getting mixed reviews – some people quit reading it, others loved it. It is too early in the book to tell you which camp I am in (this is a 600+ page book and I’m on page 120)…so you’ll just have to wait!

I have a huge stack of books for my July reading – many will be Orange Prize books as I will be participating in Orange July. Do you know about this fun event? Check out this post to learn more about what is happening in July and the great prizes that Jill is offering. If you are interested in participating (and I highly recommend it), be sure to join the Orange January/July Facebook group…and I would love it if you would consider joining the group blog for the Orange Prize Project too!

Whew, this was a longer post than I meant it to be. If you are still with me, thank you! I hope to find some long stretches of time today to sit on my porch and read. What about you? What is on your agenda for today? Whatever you are doing, I hope that (at some point) it involves a GREAT book!

Literary Blog Hop: Giveaways Galore!

Today marks the first day of the Literary Giveaway Blog Hop sponsored by Leeswamme’s Blog. For the next few days (through June 29th) readers can hop around the blog-o-sphere and enter giveaways for book related items.

Check out the links here.

I am trying really hard these days to give away books which I either have doubles of, or those which I will probably not read.

Today I am offering FIVE lucky people the chance to win books…and the rules are pretty simple:

  • US postal addresses only please – I wish I could offer an international give…but because I am giving away five books, I cannot afford the postage to do so.
  • Check out the books below, then fill out the giveaway form, indicating your top three choices. If you win, I will do my best to make sure you get one of your top three.
  • Make sure to fill out ALL parts of the form which are starred (*) or your entry will not count.
  • ONE entry per person.
  • The contest is open through June 29th at 5:00 pm PST at which time I will randomly select five winners using
  • I’ll announce the winners no later than July 1st and will also send them an email.

Here are the books (follow links to learn more about each book):

Collection of THREE brand new books edited by Simon Van Booy (nonfiction)

Across the Endless River by Thad Carhart (brand new, trade paperback, historical fiction)

Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel (unread Advance Readers Edition, literary fiction)

A Woman in Jerusalem by A. B. Yehoshua (brand new, hardcover, literary fiction)

The Convert by Deborah Baker (like new, excellent condition, hardcover, nonfiction)

The Last Time I Saw Paris by Lynn Sheene (brand new, trade paperback, historical fiction)

Conversation in the Cathedral by Mario Vargas Llosa (like new, excellent condition, trade paperback, literary fiction in translation)


WINNER: Down From Cascom Mountain

Many thanks to those readers who stopped by and entered to win a copy of Down From Cascom Mountain by Ann Joslin Williams. There were some wonderful responses to the question: Tell me one thing about the natural world which deeply resonates with you.

People talked about the Ozarks, the Florida wildlife, the sound of the ocean, simply being around water, the mountains, Lake Huron, trees, being in a kayak at daybreak, the infinite variety of nature, everything feline, the power of mother nature, the Cascade mountains, the plants of Texas, the Rio Grande in the fall, and the Palouse of Eastern Washington. I would have loved to send you all a book just based on your lovely images of nature! But, there can only be one winner…and I used to choose that person.

Congratulations to nfmgirl from Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World who wrote:

I love windy days, watching the wind blow and bend the trees and tall grass. The sounds of the breeze moving through the leaves. Seeing the storm clouds moving in. Love it!

I’ve sent you an email which you should respond to with your snail mail address.

To those of you who did not win a copy of this lovely book, I hope you will considering purchasing it!

The Wedding Writer – Book Review & Giveaway

Jeff had called her hungry. And she is, for many things – for a place in the world, a home. And for happiness. – from The Wedding Writer, page 130 –

Lucky Quinn has worked hard to move up the ranks of the bridal business. She considers herself very lucky when she manages to snag the coveted position as wedding writer for Your Wedding magazine. Under the tutelage of Grace Ralston, editor-in-chief, Lucky quietly positions herself for a coup.

Grace Ralston is the queen of the bridal business. Now in her mid-50s she lives and breathes her work and mourns the strained relationship between she and her lesbian daughter, Isla. The last thing she expects is to be ousted from her editor-in-chief position by a young woman she has come to adore. With only her two cats for company, and her hair falling out from stress, Grace begins to wonder if it is too late to find love.

Sara is also edging into middle-life and loves her job as fashion director at Your Wedding. She has immersed herself so deeply in work that her personal life is nearly non-existent and her one chance at love is many years in the past.

Felice is married to a struggling artist and becoming increasingly worried about her teenage son, Charles. Working as the Arts director at the magazine, she has appreciated that Grace understands the demands of parenthood, but now that Lucky is in the position of power, nothing is certain.

All four women vie for power and glamour, while fantasizing about love and weddings in Susan Schneider’s sardonic and hilarious look at the bridal industry and magazine publishing in New York City. Schneider, a bridal industry editor and writer herself, entertains the reader with the back-stabbing, competitive world of weddings played out between women who are not afraid to go after their dreams.

None of the characters in this book are immediately likable. Grace initially comes off as a gritty snob who is not above using her assistants to make herself look good. Lucky at first appears willing to sell her soul (and possibly her body) for prestige and power. And Sarah and Felice are so wedded to their jobs (pun intended) that their personal lives and families suffer. But, eventually Schneider redeems these four women, by exposing their weaknesses, fears, and finally their hearts.

The strength of the novel is its tongue-in-cheek humor. I especially loved the Human Resources character Nadia Milosovici and her crew of security assistants who are always happy to escort fired employees from the building.

Following Desmarie is Nadia Milosovici’s underling from Guillotine Central, the Harpy – no one know her real name – a walking nightmare with a receding hairline and an indefinably bad smell and prominent moles on her chin upon which a garden of curling coarse hairs flourish. – from The Wedding Writer, page 11 –

Schneider pokes fun at love, marriage and the aging process, keeping her novel light and entertaining while touching on more serious issues like emotional abandonment, and loneliness. The superficial world of money and prestige is characterized as a place of betrayal, pitfalls, and dissatisfaction – and yet beneath it all, friendships still flourish.

Despite the fact that Schneider wraps up all the story lines a little too neatly at the end, I enjoyed this juicy novel about love and power. Satiric, sharp-witted, and highly entertaining, The Wedding Writer will appeal to those who enjoy women’s fiction and are looking for a fun, summer read.

  • Quality of Writing:
  • Characters:
  • Plot:

Overall Rating:

Don’t take my word for it – read other reviews:

Have YOU read this book? Leave me a comment with a link to your review and I’ll add it above.

FTC Disclosure: I received this novel from Diane Saarinen of the Saima Agency for review on my blog.


Susan Schneider has over 10 years of experience as a bridal magazine editor; formerly she was executive editor at Bridal Guide Magazine, a national consumer magazine for engaged women, and she was also executive editor at Conde Nast’s Modern Bride and at Elegant Bride. She covers everything wedding, from fashion to flowers to food to stationery, etiquette, registry and honeymoons. She especially enjoys writing true-life wedding stories. Her first novel, The Wedding Writer, draws on her expertise as a wedding writer and from her day-to-day contribution to the business of bridal. Learn more about Schneider by visiting the author’s website.

Want to Win a Copy of this Book?

Thanks to Diane Saarinen, I’m offering one copy of The Wedding Writer to one lucky winner.

  • Contest open to US and Canada addresses only.
  • Complete the survey (below) by June 30th, 5:00 pm (PST) – starred (*) questions must be answered for your entry to be counted.
  • I’ll randomly choose a winner and announce their name on my blog by July 1st (as well as email the winner)


Literary Blog Hop Giveaway

June 25 – 29, 2011

Leeswammes’ Blog is hosting a literary blog hop giveaway in June…and I am planning on participating. Here is some information on the event:

This event is an opportunity to give away prizes and get more traffic to your blog. You will run your own giveaway, but it will be linked up to all other participants via a links list (which I will give you just before the event). That way, not just your readers, but also the readers from the other participating blogs will stop by your blog.

You can offer one or more books, a gift voucher (for instance, to amazon or bookdepository), or anything else related to books and reading. There is no minimum or maximum value that your prize should have.

The only restriction is that if you’re giving away a book, is that it should have some literary merit. It does not have to be the most difficult classic ever, but please no romance, supernatural or urban fiction or YA.

I am gathering up the books I want to give away…what I can tell you right now is they will be NEW – either finished copies or ARCS. Unfortunately, because I am planning to give away at least five books, I will have to limit myself geographically to the United States. Make sure you check back on June 25th to see the final list. Also, don’t forget to stop by the hosting blog during the event to get links to even more give aways! Should be fun!

The Blossoming of the World – Book Review

I imagine you, my present reader, as an anteater in an endless prairie, a prairie with a thousand anthills just visible through the grass, each anthill ebbing and flowing with thousands of succulent ants. I imagine you as an astronomer climbing into the observation chair of the 200-inch Mount Palomar telescope and wondering which star you’re going to gaze at tonight. I imagine you as a surfer floating on an ocean with perfectly formed waves stretching all the way to the horizon, a surfer contemplating which lovely wave would be the best one to carry you back to solid ground. – from The Blossoming of the World, page 1 –

Brian Peterson opens his book of essays and photographs with an open letter to his readers. He acknowledges the choices that readers have – the endless smorgasbord of literature – and thanks them for spending time with him. He lets his readers know that his book is different – it is a book about contradictions: beauty and violence, love and grief. What Peterson does right up front is tell his readers that this book will be a personal reflection of his life. And it is.

The Blossoming of the World is a collection of Peterson’s photographs, essays and journal entries. The photographs are often in stark black and white or sepia toned. Some of them are startling, some are profound and spiritual, others are beautiful, all are thought-provoking. The photography in this book was wonderful. Some of Peterson’s most moving photographs are those in the Earth and Sky collection, and the Forest Light collection. They capture the essence of nature and the contrast between light and dark which I find so soothing. I also appreciated his photographs of people which somehow allow the viewer to glimpse the personality of the subject.

Whether the captured photons come from a flower, a mountain, a city street, or an old woman’s smile, a photograph takes that very evanescence and examines it, knows it, the way lovers come to know every sacred contour and curve of their beloved’s body. – from The Blossoming of the World, page 11 –

Brian Peterson’s essays and journal entries are incredibly personal – almost uncomfortably so. Peterson is living with Parkinson’s Disease – an illness which robs the individual gradually of movement – and his struggles with the diagnosis are a common theme in Peterson’s essays. He also talks a lot about faith, God, love, and despair. In the early pages of his book, Peterson seems to be questioning God and his purpose.

Looking up at all those stars, the word “God” seemed as useful as a lead weight on a ballet dancer. In the vastness of the galaxies and atoms, where is this God who pulls the strings and counts the hairs on our heads? A God who does all that has to be somewhere. But where? – from The Blossoming of the World, page 28 –

When I hear someone spouting cliches about God to avoid another person’s suffering, I know I’m among Christians. “Everything happens for a reason” is another way of saying “I do not, cannot, and will not feel your pain.” – from The Blossoming of the World, page 39 –

But in the latter parts of the book, Peterson’s essays indicate he is more sure of his faith, and he begins to sermonize a bit.

I have the good fortune to be the conscious witness of my own gradual destruction. Each crumbling minaret, each tower that turns to dust, is a crucifixion. Every part of me that’s lost is a call – not to run away, but to be attentive, to listen – to die so something new can be born – to live out, in the realest, most unrelentingly honest, most terrifyingly creative way imaginable, the truth of the Gospels. Christ on the cross. – from The Blossoming of the World, page 99 –

The Blossoming of the World is an interesting book on many levels. It is painfully honest, and at times uncomfortable. When Peterson veers into his journal entries, I felt like a voyeur into his private life. Some of the religious elements in the book grew wearisome for me. I think of myself as a spiritual person, but at times Peterson became so esoteric that he lost me. It is hard to be critical of Peterson’s writings because it makes me feel as though I am criticizing someone’s diary…and yet, I think that both the power and the weakness of the book lie in the personal nature of the writings.

Reflective, personal, and at times profound, The Blossoming of the World gets a mixed review from me. Readers who appreciate art (especially exceptional photography) will love Peterson’s selected photographs. Those who are traditionally religious will probably enjoy many of Peterson’s essays which delve deeply into Christian belief. This is a philosophical book which gives insight into one man’s journey through illness, and his quest for meaning in the life he is living.

  • Photography:
  • Essays:

Overall Rating:

FTC Disclosure: Many thanks to JKS Communications who sent me this book for review on my blog.


Brian H. Peterson, the Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest Chief Curator at the James A. Michener Art Museum in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, has more than thirty years’ experience as an artist, curator, critic, and arts administrator in the Philadelphia area. His scholarly publications include Pennsylvania Impressionism (2002), The Cities, the Towns, the Crowds: The Paintings of Robert Spencer (2004), and Form Radiating Life: The Paintings of Charles Rosen (2006), all copublished by the Michener Art Museum and the University of Pennsylvania Press. His recent memoir, The Smile at the Heart of Things: Essays and Life Stories (2010), was co-published by the Michener Art Museum and Tell Me Press.

Also a practicing photographer, Peterson has had more than thirty solo exhibitions at galleries and museums throughout the country since 1980. His work is in the collections of the Amon Carter Museum, the Denver Art Museum, the Library of Congress, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the State Museum of Pennsylvania, and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

4th of July Challenge Block

My local quilt shop has offered up a challenge to customers. They provided us with a 14″ square of either red, white or blue fabric (I chose the gorgeous batik red) and our job was to stitch a block (using our own stash for the other fabrics) which measured 12.5″ X 12.5″.

Everyone who turns in a block by July 5th gets 20% off of one item in the store…and is entered into the block contest. A winner will be chosen at the end of the contest period and will get ALL the blocks to make their own 4th of July quilt. Fun, right?

So here is the block that I made – it is a modification of a star burst block which I thought fit the theme perfectly.

Wish me luck!!