Monday, November 28, 2011

'The Readers Speak' Guest Recommends 2 Coming Soon!

I'm sure all of you have read the previous post and took some of the guest recommendations under consideration.  I also want to take this opportunity to thank all of those who sent me such glowing recommends!

But now is the time for more.  Yes...more!  I invite all of you to send me your recommends for Christmas gift giving.  Aside from the fact that we need some ideas, we might also find a book just for ourselves.  And who deserves a gift more than YOU!

So, warm up your keyboards, pull out your dictionaries, and wander through your bookshelves.  Be sure to include the title, author, a brief synopsis, and (most important), why you love that particular book(s).  You are welcome to send it in the comment section, or send me a message via Facebook if you are a 'friend'.  Don't be afraid to send me a recommend; I want your words to come from the heart.  Christmas will soon be upon us, and, in my opinion, nothing is better than receiving a book.

Besides, underwear and socks are so 'last year'.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Readers Speak: Great Recommends for Christmas Gift Giving

ThePassionatebookworm recommends:
'Divergent', by Veronica Roth

"OK. We all know Hunger Games is a huge hit. Therefore,  I don't mention this one because it's already on most wish lists or already bought.  Up next: I recommend 'Divergent', by Veronica Roth. With a passion I recommend this! Great Dystopian read, strong female lead.  Tons of action and ideas that will seriously make you think!  Perfect description @"

Dyan P. recommends:
'A Discovery of Witches', by Deborah Harkness.  

"A very grown-up supernatural story which differs from anything I have read.  It has romance (clean and PG 13), mystery, folklore & mythology, science & magic, and is the first in a trilogy, with more to come in the Spring.  For people who like paranormal without gore/violence/blood; it is all hinted at, but tasteful.  I could not put it down."


D'Arcy M. recommends:
'Little Women', by Louisa May Alcott

"Louisa May Alcott, a pioneer for all women; in a time when women were destined to be: Wife, Mother, or Old Maid, Louisa dreamed of something more. Encouraged by her brother to write she would come to write one of America's greatest classics and become one of the greatest writers of all time. 

'Little Women', set during the Civil War, tells the story of the March sisters: Josephine (Jo), Elizabeth (Beth), Margaret (Meg), and Amy; so different from each other, yet have an unbreakable bond as they lean upon each another for guidance, strength, and emotional support. 

Once a wealthy family, they too become victims of the war through poverty and death, after their father leaves home to be a Chaplain for the war. Never a family to let obstacles get in their way, the women always find a way to help the needy and neighbors battling illness, for they know there is always someone in more desperate need than they. Without help from their father's wealthy Aunt Josephine the young sisters are thrust into a premature adulthood. It is through these struggles through poverty, war and death that Jo gains her perspective and begins to write.  And she writes about what she knows best:  her sisters.  

It is believed that Jo's character was developed from Louisa May Alcott's own life. Smart, feisty, and full of life are just a few words that have described both author and character. 

I recommend this book for two reasons. As women, we too have a bit of Jo in us, some more than others; but we will do anything for our family, no matter what is going on around us. I also recommend this book for the reason of Women Rights, as it wasn't too long ago that our great-grandmothers were fighting for the right to vote and our grandmothers and mothers the right to work without fear of sexual harassment. I thank women like Louisa May Alcott for paving the way for me and my fellow women."


Lindsay T. recommends:
'The Dragonriders of Pern' series by Anne McCaffrey

"Anne McCaffrey is an author who truly brings her characters to life. She has also done an amazing job in passing this along to her son, Todd McCaffrey. In recent years, Todd has taken over the series and has done a remarkable job. Many readers have a difference of opinion on which books to read first.

My opinion is that you really should pick up Dragonsdawn first. In this book we meet the world of Pern. The book takes place as the settlers of the world first arrive. This book is divided into three sections. The first section is very much Sci-Fi as it takes place in space. The second section transitions to the world of Pern and eventually the introductions of dragons, as the title suggests. Some will find this book a slow read; however, I promise that the information provided will be crucial to the stories to come."

WritingGoddess recommends:

"Personal favorites on my list include Replay by Ken Grimwood, The Princess Bride by William Goldman, Life Expectations by Dean Koontz, and the entire Spellman File series by Lisa Lutz. For adventure, check out The Ark by Boyd Morrison, and for thought-provoking stories, you can't beat any title by Jodi Picoult." 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

'The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society'

As most of my friends know, I'm not a big fan of stories written in a personal letter format.  Sometimes the letters go on for so long that I get bored and set the book aside, never to finish it.  I realize that it's a tad unfair to the author, but some stories written as personal letters make reading more of a chore than a joy.

But I was pleasantly surprised when I picked up a copy of 'The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society', by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows.  While working at Borders, we were required to recommend this book to customers, and I've always felt that to be truly honest with any recommend, I should know the story.  I reluctantly opened the book and soon found myself totally involved in this thoroughly enchanting, funny, and, often, heartbreaking novel.

Right after WW2, London writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from one of the founding members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  Soon intrigued, Juliet smells a story, and begins a correspondence.  She learns that the island had been occupied by German soldiers during the war, and decides to visit in order to find out just what happened to the islanders during such a horrific time.  Along the way, she establishes a close bond with many of the people.  Her visit exposes lies and reveals secrets.

'Guernsey' is a quick read, and I hated to see it end.  I found myself really caring for the well-developed characters.  I laughed and cried, then laughed some more.  

This a great book to put under someone's tree...and they'll thank you, again and again.  

And they might even forget to eat their Christmas dinner. 

Available in trade paperback at any bookstore 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Christmas Book Recommendations...From YOU!

The holiday season is almost upon us.  Stores will be open earlier than usual, and stay open longer.  Craft stores are doing great business, and electronics continue to lead the pack in most requested gifts.  For those of us in retail, it's a very busy season, and we don't always have the time to shop for just the right gift.

But books are always number one on my list.  And that's 'real' books.

So, this time, I'm asking you to send me your recommends*. What book moved you?  Or inspired you?  What mystery novel kept you up late at night?  What book made you stay in the bathtub until the water turned cold?

Send me your recommends in the comments section.  If you are a Facebook friend, please feel free to send it in a message.  You may recommend any book, as long as you are an advocate for it.  

I will place all of your recommends in a later post to Book Hog. Some comments may be edited, due to space.

This is your time to tell the world why you love a particular book.  It can even be an e-book.  I have to make room for everything, it seems.

So, let's help make our loved one's Christmas a little merrier.  

Everyone Reads.  And so should our loved ones. 

*Note:  Please include the author's name! 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

'Da Vinci's Ghost: The Untold Story of the World's Most Famous Drawing'

All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.  -Leonardo da Vinci

Who has never wondered about our place in the Universe?  And who has ever wanted to explore the lives of those who tried to answer that question?

'Da Vinci's Ghost' by Toby Lester, artfully explores such questions through the research he undertook in uncovering the origins of da Vinci's most famous drawing, 'Vitruvian Man'.  The iconic drawing has been featured in commercials, as corporate logos, even on food packages.  But just what inspired da Vinci to draw it?  Our place in the Universe?  Medical purposes?  Or mathematical musings?

The Renaissance was a ray of sunshine compared to the dark, oppressive Middle Ages.  It was a time made for 'curious minds'; of searching and discovery, of the creation of some of the most famous pieces of art ever produced.  Thanks to the encouragement (and open wallets) of wealthy patrons, such as Lorenzo Medici, art flourished, science advanced, and philosophy enjoyed it's own renaissance.   Religion was still at the forefront, and celebrated in brilliant architecture throughout Italy.  

Leonardo da Vinci was one of those 'curious minds', yet undoubtedly the most famous.  He excelled in almost everything he attempted; painting, sculpture, music, engineering, architecture.  You name it, he attempted it.  But more than an iconic figure, he was a human being, filled with doubt and, at the same time, overconfidence.  

Author Toby Lester has brought 'Vitruvian Man' to life, and at the same time, lifted the curtain on da Vinci's life.  A man of insatiable curiosity, he kept notebooks filled with questions, concerns, and sketches.  He drove people crazy with all his questions.  But, as the book shows, such questions shaped da Vinci's personna and exposed the 'method to the madness'.  Lester even brings back the theory that the face of Vitruvian Man is a self-portrait of da Vinci.

'Da Vinci's Ghost' is a phenomenal story filled with great insight, fantastic research creatively displayed, and a huge cast of the era's most brilliant minds, some of which are Hildegard of Bingen, the religious visionary; Brunelleschi, he of the famous dome; even Augustus Caesar.  The illustrations and plates enhanced the whole reading experience.    

Mr. Lester's prose is extremely easy to process; even entertaining; and because of that, I hated to see it end.  Such tremendous insight and curiosity color this book, and I'm sure that you will learn something new about one of the greatest minds the world has ever known.

And I liked Leonardo even more after learning that he was famous for procrastinating.

That's something to which all we geniuses can relate.

(Release date February 2012)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

'The Crown'

Now that we are into 'reading season', most people can find me sitting around with a book practically glued to my hands.  Not only have I been re-reading some beloved classics, but new titles beckon me with their tempting cover art and saucy one-line blurbs.  

But beyond the cover art, the book has to be good.  It has to really deliver, keeping me firmly in place on the sofa or hot bath. It has to make me forget to make dinner, or fold the laundry.   Sometimes, it has to make me late for work.  Those are the stories that make us feel sad when we finally get to the last page.

'The Crown', written by Nancy Bilyeau, is such a book.  Not only is it interesting and jam-packed with information, but is written with great skill.  Not a mere 'knock off' of the genre.  
It reminded me of Ellis Peters' wonderful 'Brother Cadfael' series.

The story takes place in London in 1537.  Henry VIII is on the throne and eagerly awaiting the birth of his third child, hoping it will be the male heir that he has been expecting.  But Henry has been busy elsewhere, too.  After his divorce from Katherine of Aragon, he begins to plunder and then destroy the bastions of Catholic faith, the monasteries and priories of England.  With the aid of Cromwell, many of those serving the Church are thrown out onto the streets to fend for themselves.   Many are tortured and killed for defending their faith.

Joanna Stafford, a high-born young woman and now a Dominican novice serving in Dartford Priory, has run away to London to comfort a beloved cousin who is to be burned at the stake for treason.  But Joanna and her father are soon arrested and held in the Tower of London, where he is tortured.  In order to rescue her father, Joanna agrees to search for a sacred relic, a crown which came from the time of one of the first English kings,  but is now hidden somewhere in the Priory.  Stephen Gardiner, the Bishop of Winchester and the leader of the faction trying to save the monasteries, believes that the crown has the power to halt the Reformation. 

With Brother Edmund and Brother Richard by her side, Joanna searches high and low,  finding clues in the unlikeliest places. But her greatest discovery is that no one can be trusted.

Written with great care, Ms. Bilyeau has composed a story that not only kept me turning pages, but also enlightened me.  The characters are beautifully realized, but it was Joanna, the savvy heroine, who made me hope that the author will write another book about her.

Due to be published January 12, 2012

Thursday, November 3, 2011

'Bright and Distant Shores'

Take me to a bookstore and two of the first sections I'll explore will be Fiction and History.  Fiction, because, well...I enjoy creative minds and what comes out of them.  Creating whole worlds and characters is a huge challenge and I appreciate the fact that authors have the courage to release their work to the world.  And History...  History, if written with a new perspective and impeccable research, will turn you into a glutton.  Seriously.  If I hadn't read Robert Graves' 'I, Claudius' series, I would probably be lacking in knowledge about the Roman Empire.  It takes a good author to satisfy not only a craving for historical non-fiction, but also gives us the impetus to explore our world even more.  History is more than famous leaders.  It's more than world-shaking events.  It is about the people who went about their daily lives, touched by what was happening around them.  We are descended from those people, and it their memories and experiences that even now touch our own lives, prompting us to explore the past.  Who wouldn't want to find out if our great-great-great grandparents were cattle rustlers?  Or feminists?  Or queens and kings?  To take these facts and create a good novel can be a daunting task.

'Bright and Distant Shores' by Dominic Smith is a well-told piece of historical fiction.  Taking place in 1897, it begins in Chicago, where an insurance magnate has just completed the construction of the world's tallest skyscraper.  To commemorate the building, he sends to the South Sea Islands a young adventurer who is entrusted to purchase artifacts which will be exhibited in the skyscraper.  But not only is he to bring back weapons and art, but he must also return with several natives.

The love story contained within isn't the usual romance.  It is highly intelligent and very real.  While visiting an exhibition, the young, poor adventurer meets a woman of high social standing and the resulting relationship is at once tender and rare.  The woman is a force to be reckoned with; as most wealthy women in that era had not much to do, they poured their ambition into charity work, but Adelaide's endeavors are genuine.  She deeply cares about helping others who are less fortunate.  

While I enjoyed reading about Chicago in the late 1800's, it was the South Sea adventure that thoroughly grabbed my interest.  The Chicago chapters made me want to break away from its stifling atmosphere and sail off to a part of the world that was still somewhat fierce and exciting.  In that, my heart was with Owen, the young adventurer.

During his search, Owen meets Argus Niu, a houseboy serving a minister who is the head of a Christian mission.  When Argus is reunited with his sister, who had joined another tribe, the clash between his Christian faith and her superstition is beautifully realized.  Civilization was creeping in, and the end of exploration of the South Sea islands was nearing its end.

Many early reviewers have compared this novel to works by Herman Melville and Robert Louis Stevenson, and I thoroughly agree.  

But I'm adding a dash of H. Rider Haggard, without the metaphysical element.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

'The Last Testament: A Memoir by God'

Everyone needs a reason to laugh, especially during these rough times.  'Occupy: (pick your city)', the 'revving up' of political campaigns, and the loss of homes, jobs, and health care are our most major concerns.

So now it's time for some laughter.  Something light.  Something controversial.  Something that could only be 'co-written' by a former executive producer and head writer of 'The Daily Show'.  If you're a fan of the show (as I surely am), then you know that anyone associated with it is not afraid to take great leaps into controversy.  Or should I say, plunge.  David Javerbaum, the author of the hilarious, 'What to Expect When You're Expected', has given us yet another book that will keep you laughing late into the night and into the morning.

God, of course, is the main author, and why He would need a co-writer is beyond me.  But let's just accept it and move on.

God lives in Heaven with his wife, Ruth and their children Zach, Jesus, and Kathy.  That alone should make milk spurt out of your nose.  His opinions are varied and hilarious, such as his take on smiting.  And His plan to make the 2012 Olympics truly memorable is worth the price of the book alone.  And when you near the end of the book, don't pass on reading His new Revelation for the year.

It's a doozy.

(Coming soon in November 2011)