Haruki Murakami Quotecard Contest – Please Vote for Me!

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Murakami Postcard

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Oh my goodness. Yesterday on Facebook, Knopf posted a contest for a chance to win a signed copy of Murakami’s new book!! Oh my goodness! I would totally come unglued if I won a signed copy. Anyway, I designed the postcard you see above. If you’d vote for it, I’d be ever so grateful.

Here is the direct link to the card. Voting can take place once per day too!

Also, if you would like to submit your own design, the link above also includes the link for you to submit your own. If you do, let me know so I can return the vote. Thanks!

Review: The Goldfinch


The Goldfinch
The Goldfinch
By Donna Tartt
(Little, Brown and Company, Hardcover, 9780316055437,  October 2013, 784pp.)

The Short of It:

Memory, in and of itself, has the ability to restore and destroy.

The Rest of It:

While visiting a New York art museum, Theodore Decker, thirteen, is separated from his mother in an explosion that leaves him dazed and confused. In the immediate moments after the blast, Theo sees, and takes, a valuable painting for safekeeping. Not fully understanding what has happened or why, he stumbles out of the rubble but his life is forever frozen in time. When he realizes he has lost his dear mother, he finds himself floating through life, encountering many obstacles along the way and revisiting those final moments in the museum over and over again.

This is one hell of a book.

It’s long and I know some readers who won’t even touch it because of its length but they are really doing themselves a disservice because it is really a fine piece of work. I had planned to read it “someday” but when it was chosen for book club, I was pushed encouraged to read it a little bit sooner than I had planned and then it was awarded the Pulitzer which piqued my interest even more.

The Goldfinch  is an adventure. It meanders, there is action but not that much of it and it’s repetitive when it comes to behaviors like the excessive drinking and drug use that riddle its pages. But even with all of this going on, it’s incredibly heartbreaking and yes, beautiful. At first glance, Theo seems to be handling his loss quite well, but with each page, his pain and devastation become more real, more tangible and he becomes more reliant on the actions of others to save him. Not to mention the painting and the significance behind him taking it in the first place. Its purpose, so it seems, is to remind him of that fateful day but as it certainly does just that, it’s also a constant reminder of what he needs to do to keep it safe.

This is a book with some memorable characters too. Boris, the Ukrainian kid Theo hooks up with, is part hoodlum, part philosopher but more than anything, Theo’s best friend. Think “The Artful Dodger”. Popper, a mutt that Theo takes pity on, ends up being a loyal companion to Theo and one cannot forget Hobie, the lovable furniture maker who takes Theo in when he has nowhere else to go. These unlikely characters come together to essentially save Theo from himself, but it’s not always evident that that is what is happening. There are lots of pitfalls along the way and the journey can be tedious, but in the end, I found myself loving the story, wishing I had taken more time with the last few pages. It’s about love and trust and redemption and what’s not to like with its art world setting?

Talking about it here, I realize just how much I miss the characters. So, even though it’s long and intimidating to some, I urge you to pick it up because it’s really a book to experience first-hand.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

The Sunday Salon: Beach Weekend

Beach Reading

We finally hit the beach this weekend! Just a quick trip to our fave beach with plans to hangout, soak up some sun, read a little and then hit our fave Mexican restaurant on the way home.

We did all that, but it actually rained on us while at the beach. It was sunny and perfect and then the clouds blew in. It wasn’t a hard rain and man, we sure needed it but it got too cold for The Girl so we packed it up and headed out.

We are all trying to make the most of this weekend as this is the beginning of production week for Grease. All week long, The Girl has extended rehearsals and lots of last minute work to do before the show starts on Friday. We get to see the show Saturday night. We can’t wait.

I’d like to thank all of you for voting for me in that Murkami contest. The contest isn’t over but I can’t complete with click farms and cheaters so I’ve stopped promoting it. I really want that signed Murkami book but I am not going to resort to cheating to win it. I am all grouchy about it. I hate cheaters.

Sunday Salon

What am I reading?

I started The Martian this past week. Too many mathematical equations in the beginning almost turned me away from it for good. I am liking it more now, but still kind of wondering about all of the hype. 

I finished The Regulators. What a strange story. It’s King though so I shouldn’t be surprised. I liked it, but it surprised me a little with where it went. 

What am I cooking?

After all of the snacks and Mexican food we enjoyed yesterday, we are keeping it simple tonight with some grilled chicken and salad. 

What am I watching?

I watched the first episode of The Strain and boy, they weren’t kidding when they said it was graphic. I am liking it so far, much more than Under the Dome which bombed for me. 

I didn’t really get to see any movies this weekend besides Better Off Dead. Long live 80s movies. Remember that one? Silly, but fun. 

I had to rush through this post because my wireless access has crashed THREE times while writing it and I’ve lost about three versions of it already so if it seems a little abbreviated, that’s why.

What have YOU been up to this weekend?

Review: We Were Liars


We Were Liars
We Were Liars
By E. Lockhart
(Delacorte Press, Hardcover, 9780385741262, May 2014,  240pp.)

*No Spoilers*

The Short of It:

Sometimes, the rich have it all. Most times, they don’t.

The Rest of It:

The Sinclairs. They seem to have it all. Money, power, looks and even a private island off of Martha’s Vineyard. Every summer they head to Beachwood to do whatever the rich do but it’s not all pretty. The adult sisters can’t help but squabble over what one seems to have over the other. The patriarch of the group, their father, seems to have his favorites, and the children, most in their teen years, are the only ones that seem to get along at all.

The story centers around the Liars, Cady (Cadence) and her cousins Johnny & Mirren and Gat, a friend of the family. For these kids, the summers are golden. Even with all of the family strife going on in the background, the summers they spend there are meaningful and wonderful, the way all summers should be at that age. But then, tragedy strikes. One day, Cady finds herself washed up on the beach. She’s sustained a head injury and can remember nothing in regards to how she got it, or what took place before the accident.

Two years pass as Cady is forced to recuperate away from the island. Two years of missing Beachwood. Two years without her cousins. When she returns. Everyone is secretive about what really happened. As bits and pieces of the events leading up to that day float back into her memory, she realizes that she’s forgotten all of it for a reason.

This book grew on me. At first, it seemed to halt along in a young adult kind of way. In that I mean, it seemed a little superficial on the surface but after spending some time with the characters, I found myself completely absorbed by the story. There are secrets of course, which makes this a page turner but the big twist that everyone talks about? Not such a big twist in my opinion. But, there is a lot going on here as far as class and social status.

The Sinclairs are THE stereotypical rich family. Gat, the family friend serves at the voice of reason. He’s a constant reminder that not everyone owns an island, that some people DO have to work to make a living. Cady falls in love with Gat, which further complicates things since her grandfather does not approve of him. So while the adult sisters drink and fight over material possessions, these teens have deep, meaningful conversations about life.

There is a bittersweet quality to the novel even before you get to the twist. That sense of lost youth as you transition into adulthood. Summers on the beach as a kid, are quite different from summers on the beach as an adult. You have a whole set of new worries and concerns and being rich doesn’t shield you from them. Lost innocence and how it’s captured here is what made the book for me.

There is a lot of hype for this book with some reviewers calling the ending “shocking” but if you go into it with an open mind, and just go with the flow, I think you will enjoy it. Bit if you go into it expecting to be shocked, you might be disappointed. Plus, there’s the mystery behind the title of the book too. The meaning of the title is not spelled out in so many words, but as the events unfold, that title means many things. One item of interest is how Cady lapses into fantastical tales to tell the story. Think fables and fairy tales. I found it to be an interesting device.

Have you read it? What did you think?

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

The Sunday Salon: Book Club and a Concert

Concerts at the Park

It’s been a great weekend so far. Yesterday, my book club met to discuss The Goldfinch. I finished it in the nick of time. Seriously. I had a hard time reading that one steadily but I really, really enjoyed it and that last 5% on my Kindle was, well, amazing. It’s one of those books where you definitely feel as if you’ve been on a journey. I miss it a little bit.

Last night, we hit the first concert at the park. It was the largest crowd I’ve ever seen. You can see some of the crowd above. The band was a Journey tribute band and I must say, the lead singer sounded almost identical to Steve Perry. The music was awesome and the forty-somethings, holding each other and singing to Don’t Stop Believing was funny and cool at the same time. BOTH kids came with, which  made it extra nice. Yes, I am talking about The Teen!

Anyway, we snacked and lounged and hung out. It was the perfect way to end the day.

Today? No one feels like going to church except The Teen so he’ll go and I suspect we will end up at the bookstore or the market or both. You know how I hate the market. I really want the food to just appear but no matter how hard I wish, it never happens.

In other news, I entered this design contest to win a signed copy of Murakami’s new book. I’ve posted everywhere about it and will continue to do so until it ends on 8/8. I apologize in advance if you tire of seeing the posts but seriously, it’s two clicks and you don’t need to like a thing in order to vote. Voting can take place daily. I’ve seen  many of you vote already and I can’t tell you how grateful I am . To vote, click here.

Sunday Salon

What am I reading?

Now that I am done with The Goldfinch I am back to my Summer of King with The Regulators. I also realized that I never finished The Three. Probably not a good sign. I mean, I really thought I HAD finished it but looking at my Kindle I left it at 69%. Oops.

What am I cooking?

It has been pretty hot here. The only thing that sounds good right now, is maybe a foo-foo salad with candied pecans and feta or something like that.

What am I watching?

I got Better Off Dead in the mail yesterday from Netflix. I am anxious to share that one with The Girl and Teen.

What are you up to today? Are you reading a must-read book? If so, do tell.

Review: We Are Called To Rise (audio)


We Are Called to Rise
We Are Called To Rise (audio)
By Laura McBride
(Simon & Schuster Audio, ISBN 9781442370791, June 2014.)

The Short of It:

Four, seemingly independent stories collide and the results are devastating for one immigrant family.

The Rest of It:

Vegas is a town that reeks of desperation. Spend a few days there and you’ll know what I mean. In We Are Called to Rise, the Vegas we see is not what you’d expect, but rather bleak and depressing all the same. This is the suburban side, where immigrant families struggle to make ends meet, where people go to basically start a new life. The story is told in four voices:

  • Bashkim – a second grader, living with his Albanian parents and his baby sister. Bashkim’s parents own an ice cream truck and want to live the American dream, but they struggle as there is never enough money to put anything aside, and when Bashkim’s sister falls ill, a trip to the doctor pushes the father over the edge.
  • Avis – a married woman in her 50′s who has just found out about her husband’s infidelity. In addition to her marital problems, she’s struggling to understand her son Nate, a war veteran, who hasn’t been right since returning from his third tour of duty.
  • Specialist Luis Rodriguez-Reyes – he wakes up in a hospital after losing his best friend in Afghanistan. He begins a pen pal relationship with Bashkim as a class project, not realizing how entwined their lives will become.
  • Roberta –  a social worker who becomes involved with Bashkim’s family.

As you can probably guess, something terrible happens to Bashkim and his family. This is a very sad story but it’s also one of hope and renewal. The audio production was very powerful to listen to. There were times where I just had to pause and think about what just happened. The title makes you think this is a book about religion, and maybe there is a little bit of that in there, but it’s not really centered around religion at all.

Overall, it’s a book about second chances. How one small act of kindness can mean so much to an individual and how it’s possible to pick up the pieces when all is lost. I enjoyed listening to it very much and had no problem following the different story lines.

As for discussion, this would make a great book club book. There’s so much to think about and yet it’s a very accessible read. I highly recommend it.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

The Sunday Salon: Weekends Are Made of This

Sunday Salon

Reading, relaxing, cooking, lots and lots of TV and movie watching and yes…some creeping crud that seems to have found me. It doesn’t seem fair to finally have a long weekend and half of it is spent battling some weird virus but I’d rather be home fighting it than at work. So, there’s that.

Despite the crud, the weekend has been nice. We barbecued and relaxed and between The Walking Dead marathon and the Twilight Zone marathon, there has been plenty of TV watching.

What am I reading?

I had visions of spending the entire weekend reading but of course that didn’t happen. However, I am home now and done with everything I need to do so I am hoping to hang out on the couch with The Regulators or The Goldfinch. I just cannot get through The Goldfinch. It is just so darn slow. I have been singing the same song on that one for two weeks now. I need to just suck it up and get it read.

What am I cooking?

Nothing. After grilling burgers and dogs on the fourth, we’ve been eating leftovers and snacks. That is probably what we’ll do tonight too. Sometimes, all you need is cold, crisp watermelon. Especially in this heat!

What am I watching?

At the moment, nothing. The Girl wants to continue with Lost but really, I just want to lie down. My throat is all swollen and although I don’t feel all that bad, the size of my lymph nodes is a little annoying.

The Way, Way Back

I did manage to watch The Way, Way Back. I really liked it. Quirky, good performances and a summertime setting.

Well, I am off to take a nap or something. Have a good one!

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