Check out my interview with the lovely Wallace from Unputdownables!

I’ve discovered quite a few “new to me” blogs over the past six months and one of those blogs is Coconut Library. Well, Coconut Library is now Unputdownables (great name, huh?) and there you’ll find reviews of books that you just cannot put down. Let’s face it, those are the ones we want to read anyway.

Wallace is taking a break from reviewing today and has posted an interview with me. She asked some really good questions too. If you get a chance, stop by and check it out. Feel free to post your opinions too because some of those topics have come up quite a bit in recent conversation.

Happy reading :)

Joshua Henkin On Reading Groups

Each month novelist and creative writing professor Joshua Henkin shares behind-the-scenes stories about his visits with book clubs — in person, over the phone and online with Reading Group Guides, an online resource for reading groups.

Click here for his December post.

Click here for his January post.

Be sure to check back each month to read the rest of the series! I think it’s wonderful that Mr. Henkin makes himself available to book clubs like this. No matter how good the writer, a reader always has questions so having him available is a definite plus!

Mr. Henkin’s latest book is Matrimony which I really enjoyed. You can read more about Mr. Henkin and Matrimony here.

Wanna Be Scared?

Right now I am in the middle of reading two books so what do I do in between reviews? Well, I look for more to read! Don’t you? I was catching-up on Book Group Buzz and came across a review for Darling Jim by Christian Moerk. It sounds really good. Click here for the review. It comes out on March 31st. I may have to add this one to my list!

And The Band Plays On…

…you know, like when you watch the Oscars and so and so goes on and on and thanks everyone, their dog and God. Eventually the music cuts them off. That is what would happen to me if I said my thanks in person so I will keep it brief here.

Jill, over at Fizzy Thoughts was kind enough to award me with this bloggy award. Thank you!

I have been told that it comes with rules though so here they are:

1) Add the logo of the award to your blog

2) Add a link to the person who awarded it to you (Jill – Fizzy Thoughts)

3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs (done)

4) Add links to those blogs on your blog (see below)

5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs! (sending them now)

Since BBAW (Book Blogger Appreciation Week) I have been visiting several new blogs and I am loving the diversity. Some have me rolling on the floor laughing…others just make me think and thinking is always a good thing.

I would send this award right back to Jill as I am loving her blog too but I guess I am supposed to choose someone other than the person that sent it to me. If you have already gotten this award, just bask in the glory of it and forget the silly rules. I give you permission.

Here are my picks:

The Book Lady’s Blog

She Is Too Fond Of Books

Planet Books

Literarily

Devourer Of Books

Books And Cooks

Thank you for providing me with great book selections and daily entertainment! You make my workday so much more enjoyable.

Book Blogger Appreciation Week – My Favorite Blogs

Let me just say that this has been a week of discovery. In honor of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, I have been visiting a lot of new blogs and I am so impressed with what is out there. There are just so many wonderful blogs and not enough time in the day for me to read them all. Trust me, I try!

However, I have some favorites that I visit regularly and here they are (in no particular order):

Fizzy Thoughts
– Jill is a hoot. She has a wonderful sense of humor and she always makes me laugh. She provides her readers with honest, yet thoughtful reviews and she keeps it fresh by mixing it up a bit. There is never a dull moment!

Book Club Girl
– Jennifer’s site is a wealth of information for book clubs everywhere. Her radio blog is a lot of fun and I enjoy participating in her discussions. She is probably sick of all my comments but I just keep coming back.

Books on the Brain – I just love the way Lisa’s site is structured. It’s so easy to read and she too writes reviews that are honest, yet respectful to the author. Her “In Praise of Book Groups” series was a lot of fun to be a part of.

Everyday I Write The Book Blog
– I think Gayle’s site is one of the first book blogs I visited. I LOVE her online book club and participate as much as a I can. She too, is probably tired of hearing from me but as long as her site is up…I will be around to read it.

Age 30+ A Lifetime of Books
– Heather was one of the first people to post comments on my blog. I was new at blogging and when you are new, you get so excited about those first comments! I love her site. I love the idea behind it and I love hearing stories about Kiddo.

She Is Too Fond Of Books – I am thoroughly enjoying Dawn’s site. Her “Spotlight on Bookstores” is a great series. If you have not heard of it, then be sure to check her site out. I also enjoy her reviews quite a bit.

I could go on and on but I will force myself to stop here. Since starting my blog in Feb ’08, I have made so many new blogger friends and my TBR list is completely out of control but I am enjoying every minute of it.

Thanks to all that read my blog. If you have not checked out the blogs above, please do so and thanks to Amy over at My Friend Amy for organizing BBAW. What an undertaking! Bravo!

BBAW! The Time Has Come!

Whenever there is a big awards show, I always make plans to see the pre-awards show too. I love to watch the celebs as they arrive. So in honor of Book Blogger Appreciation Week..this is my version of a pre-awards show!

Take a look at what My Friend Amy has put together.

If you follow along for the festivities of BBAW at My Friend Amy, you will find many chances to win LOTS of goodies! Like what? Well have a look below. All of these things will be given away between September 15-19. There will be a huge variety of ways to win them and giveaways will be announced constantly throughout the week. So be sure to check in often!

A HUGE thank you to Hachette Book Group, Penguin Group USA, Harlequin, The B&B Media Group, Shera of SNS Blog Design, WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, Catherine Delors, Pamela Binnings Ewen, Andromeda Romano-Lax, Ceceilia Dowdy, Sormag, Book Club Girl, Savvy Verse and Wit, Cafe of Dreams, Fashionista Piranha, and Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?.

Daily Raffles:
Monday–Books and Chocolate sponsored by My Friend Amy and Hey Lady! Whatcha’ Readin?
Tuesday–Books and Going Green sponsored by My Friend Amy
Wednesday–Books and Coffee sponsored by My Friend Amy
Thursday–Books and Charity sponsored by My Friend Amy and Fashionista Piranha
Friday–Books and Movies sponsored by My Friend Amy

Win a Book Club Girl Hostess Survival Kit!
Do you find it’s your turn to host book club and not only do you not know what to serve but you don’t know what books to offer up for the next month’s selection?! Let Book Club Girl come to your rescue with the Book Club Girl Hostess Survival Kit.

One lucky winner of the kit will receive:

* A basket of cheese, crackers, cookies and wine for up to 12 people
* 5 great book group books to vote on for your group’s next pick. And Book Club Girl will then donate 12 copies whichever book is chosen for your entire group to read.
* 12 Book Club Girl mousepads to give out as party favors that night
* 12 Book Club Girl bookmarks to mark everyone’s favorite passages
* 12 Book Club Girl coasters to protect your coffee table from all those wine glasses!

TWO SORMAG Goody Bags containing books and more!

A Special Pamper Me Basket from Cafe of Dreams!
From Avon Foot Works
~ Inflatable watermelon shaped foot tub
~ 3.4 FL oz Watermelon Cooling Foot Lotion
~ 3.4 FL oz Watermelon Exfoliating Foot Scrub
~ 12 count Watermelon Effervescent Foot Tablets
~ An ARC of So Long At The Fair by Christina Schwarz
~ A variety of Hot Chocolate and Tea mixes

A pre-made blog template from SNSDesign!

A Subscription to Poetry Magazine from Savvy Verse and Wit!

BOOKS
Mistress of the Revolution by Catherine Delors
The Moon in the Mango Tree by Pamela Binnings Ewen
The Spanish Bow by Andromeda Romano-Lax
John’s Quest by Cecelia Dowdy
Confessions of a Contractor by Richard Murphy
Acedia & Me by Kathleen Norris
The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell
The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks
The Book of Lies by Brad Meltzer
Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley
A Tale Out of Luck by Willie Nelson with Mike Blakely
The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent
When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken
Exit Music by Ian Rankin
The Smart One and the Pretty One by Claire LaZebnik
Gunmetal Black by Daniel Serrano
Isolation by Travis Thrasher
The Miracle Girls by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt
Every Freaking! Day With Rachell Ray by Elizabeth Hilts
Dewey by Vicki Myron
The Shiniest Jewel by Marian Henley
Keep the Faith by Faith Evans
The Book of Calamities by Peter Trachtenberg
A is for Atticus by Lorilee Craker
After the Fire by Robin Gaby Fisher
Mike’s Election Guide by Michael Moore
War as They Knew It by Michael Rosenberg
Fixing Hell By Col. (ret.) Larry C. James
Wild Boy: My Life with Duran Duran by Andy Taylor
The Last Under-Cover: The True Story of an FBI Agent’s Dangerous Dance with Evil By Bob Hamer
Border Lass by Amanda Scott
Insatiable Desire by Rita Heron
Hungry for More by Diana Holquist
Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee
Trespassers Will Be Baptized by Elizabeth Emerson Hancock
He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not by Trish Ryan
Never Surrender by General Jerry Boykin
Dream in Color by Congresswoman Linda Sánchez, Congresswoman Loretta Sánchez
Beyond Belief by Josh Hamilton
Cobain Unseen by Charles R. Cross
Doing Business in 21st Century India by Gunjan Bagla
Branding Only Works on Cattle by Jonathan Salem Baskin
Launching a Leadership Revolution by Chris Brady, Orrin Woodward
How to Hear from God by Joyce Meyer
Knowing Right from Wrong by Thomas D. Williams
Pope John Paul II: An Intimate Life by Caroline Pigozzi
Pure by Rebecca St. James
He Loves Me! by Wayne Jacobson
So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore by Wayne Jacobson and Dave Coleman
Move On, Move Up by Paula White
The Rosary by Gary Jansen
Shoot the Moon by Billie Letts
The Choice by Nicholas Sparks
Right Livelihoods by Rick Moody
by George by Wesley Stace
The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold
Trunk Music by Michael Connelly
Hollywood Crows by Joseph Wambaugh
Dead Boys by Richard Lange
The Gifted Gabaldon Sisters by Lorraine Lopez
Sisterchicks Go Brit! by Robin Jones Gunn
Beyond the Night by Marlo Schalesky
With Endless Sight by Allison Pittman
Harlequin Titles: To Be Announced

Many other blogs are giving away books and prizes for BBAW as well! You can see the links to all of these giveaways here.

The Madonnas of Leningrad, by Debra Dean

I just finished The Madonnas of Leningrad, by Debra Dean. Book Club Girl is hosting a radio show with Debra Dean today, 8/21 at 7pm EST. She was kind enough to send me a copy of the book. If you’d like to listen to the show, click here for more information.

Now for the book.. simply said, I loved it.

The story takes place in present day America, but is interspersed with flashbacks of the Siege of Leningrad where Nazi Germany attempted to capture Leningrad during World War II. The story centers around Marina, a young tour guide for the Hermitage Museum. She, and countless others, decide to remove the priceless masterpieces for safekeeping. They leave the empty frames up with the hope that one day, the masterpieces will be returned to their frames.

During this time, Marina is forced endure the harshness of living in a war torn country. Living with others, in the basement of the museum, she is exposed to freezing temperatures, forced to live on very little food and has no choice but to watch those around her perish from starvation. Her one glimmer of hope, is thinking about her lover, Dimitri and who has left to work the front lines.

Flash forward to present day. Marina is now 80 years old and battling Alzheimer’s. She is preparing to attend her granddaughter’s wedding with her husband, Dimitri. Her daughter Helen, is not aware of the Alzheimer’s until she sees her mother at the wedding. Her son, Andrei, is aware of the situation, but has not fully grasped the severity of her condition. Dimitri, who loves her dearly, continues to care for her as her condition declines. As the festivities of the wedding surround them, Marina escapes to the corners of her mind and revisits her childhood and her time in Leningrad.

I’ve never known anyone that has battled with Alzheimer’s, but the thought of not even recognizing your own husband or child… just the mere thought, fills me with fear. For Marina, the memories that are most intact, are the ones that she created for her “memory palace”. During her time at the museum, her friend taught her how to envision each masterpiece within her mind, without it being present in the room. This created a “memory palace” of sorts. These are the memories that she can readily recall, but the more recent memories, such as her daughter’s divorce, are non-existent.

As the novel unfolds, we follow Marina to those gallery halls as the author describes, in painstaking detail, what used to hang within the Hermitage. The writing here is so vivid. I could “see” those paintings as the author described them. I even went back and Googled them at one point to see if what I had envisioned was close to what the author described.

This novel was bittersweet for me. It was beautifully written, well developed and a treat for the eyes. The appreciation of beauty and life, contrasted with the darkness of the city and the bleak winter that followed… I really felt for these characters and their personal hardships. Although we are given a glimpse of Marina’s current state (sad as it is), we are also given hope during the last few pages of the book. Not hope really, but closure. I felt completely satisfied when I finished and I don’t feel that way too often after finishing a book.

The copy that I had, had some interesting information on the author as far as her background. I was surprised to see that she did not have a background in Art History. I am looking forward to hearing more about her background in today’s radio show with the author.

If you have read the book..weigh-in and post a comment. What did you think of it? If you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend it. Add it to your TBR list today!

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