Monday, August 24, 2009

THANK YOU! BBAW Nominations

Well, thank you! A Sea of Books has been nominated for 2 Book Blogger Appreciation Week Awards! The categories are Best Blog Name and Best General Review Blog.

However, it looks as though I've disqualified myself from the Best General Review Blog category because I've been AWOL and did not submit the requisite 5 posts to the awards panel before the deadline last Friday. I apologize for that both to whomever nominated me as well as to the panel. I've been spread thin with several family obligations, extra work responsibilities, and car trouble! In fact, it will probably be a couple more days before I can publish a book post again.

I'm really tickled to have been nominated -- it was totally unexpected. The nomination for Best General Review Blog has really helped to focus my thoughts on what I want my blog to be and how to achieve that. I'll be spending the next year putting those thoughts into practice, so you can look forward to many improvements over the next few months.

And it's so nice and validating to be nominated in the Best Blog Name category. I've only been blogging since April, and I went through a long list of possible names before choosing A Sea of Books. I even briefly considered changing it a couple of months ago. Looks like I made the right choice!

I'd also like to congratulate all the other nominees and wish you all good luck!

Thank you, again, and please check back in a couple of days for my post on

Thursday, August 20, 2009

My Favorite Reads #7: CRY OF THE KALAHARI by Mark and Delia Owens

Alyce of At Home with Books hosts My Favorite Reads, a weekly feature spotlighting favorite reads from pre-blogging days. Because it's been a while since the books were read, these posts are not reviews per se, but rather impressionistic remembrances of a positive reading experience. I think of this feature as an opportunity to more deeply explore the range of my reading interests and those of other book bloggers and readers of book blogs outside of the current crop of new releases.
Do you have an old favorite that you'd like to share?

by Mark and Delia Owens
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Originally Published: 1984
Sales Rank: 69,875


Carrying little more than a change of clothes and a pair of binoculars, two young Americans, Mark and Delia Owens, caught a plane to Africa, bought a third-hand Land Rover, and drove deep into the Kalahari Desert. There they lived for seven years, in an unexplored area with no roads, no people, and no source of water for thousands of square miles. In this vast wilderness they met animals that had never seen humans before. They would wake in the morning to find lions sleeping beside them; leopards, giraffes, and brown hyenas were regular visitors to the camp. But the Kalahari isn't Eden, and Mark and Delia Owens were continually confronted with danger from drought, fire, violent storms, and even from the animals they loved.

Why I Chose This Book:

Recently, Alyce of At Home with Books reviewed WHATEVER YOU DO, DON'T RUN by Peter Allison. That memoir of a safari leader in Africa reminded me how much I enjoyed CRY OF THE KALAHARI. I read it when it first came out in the mid-eighties and was immediately swept up in the daring adventure of their undertaking. Fresh out of grad school in 1974, Mark and Delia Owens sold everything they owned and bought one-way tickets to Botswana to begin their careers as research zoologists. They didn't want to lose the time it would take to secure sponsorship approval and funding, so they did this completely on their own. After spending 7 years living in the bush, the couple had amassed voluminous amounts of cutting-edge research on the surrounding wilderness and particularly the lions and hyenas of the area. They returned to the United States long enough to publish their findings in their book as well as in several academic and scientific journals, and then returned to Africa not only to pursue their research but also to develop wilderness conservation plans.
If you like true-life adventure, I recommend CRY OF THE KALAHARI. I found the story of Mark and Delia Owens to be completely enthralling. They were so brave and determined. Mark and Delia each write separate chapters, and the reader benefits from this alternating perspective. It's a terrific read for the armchair adventurer, but if you want to get more involved, click the link below to learn more.
Click here to visit the Owens Foundation for Wildlife Conservation.

Just for fun, here are the covers of a couple of other editions. The one with giraffes was published in the UK. The one with the lions is the cover from my copy published in the U.S. in 1984.

A Wish Magically Fulfilled: A Surprise ARC Arrival

The Secret Cinderella Story
by Carolyn Turgeon

Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Pub. Date: March 2009
Sales Rank: 51,484

O.K. This is a little odd, but I'm not complaining -- I'm absolutely THRILLED!

Several times over the last few weeks I've thought about reading GODMOTHER by Carolyn Turgeon. It sounds like a fun, uplifting story that would be perfect for me right now. I don't have a copy, so I was debating whether to buy it or borrow it. I've even had it in my hands at the bookstore more than once only to put it aside to buy books for the kids. I told myself that I have plenty to read and to concentrate on what I have. Well, the Fates had other plans for me because, lo and behold, an ARC of GODMOTHER showed up in my mailbox the other day. I think it's funny to not only receive an ARC from a publisher 6 months after the book has been released but also right at the time I was wishing I could read it . . . and, the book is about a fairy godmother!

So, I'm thanking my lucky stars, my mysterious fairy godmother, and most especially Random House's Read It Forward Program for this perfectly timed delivery of my heart's desire!

Click here to visit the author's enchanting website.

Click here to visit the author's astonishing blog.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday: YOU WERE ALWAYS MOM'S FAVORITE by Deborah Tannen

is hosted by Jill from
Breaking the Spine.
Join in and tell us . . .

What are you waiting for?

I've really enjoyed this author's previous books -- and now she tackles sisters! I've got four of them, so this is a must read for me!

Sisters in Conversation Throughout Their Lives
by Deborah Tannen

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Pub. Date: September 08, 2009
Sales Rank: 103,698


“I love her to death. I can’t imagine life without her,” a woman says about her sister. Another remarks, “I don’t want anyone to kill my sister because I want to have that privilege myself.” With these two comments, begins this eye-opening and entertaining new book.

New York Times bestselling author Deborah Tannen is renowned for illuminating the way we communicate–and revolutionizing relationships in the process. What she did for women and men in You Just Don’t Understand, and mothers and daughters in You’re Wearing THAT?, she now does for sisters in a groundbreaking book that explores one of the most powerful and perplexing relationships in our lives.

Conversations between sisters reveal a deep and constant tug between two dynamics–an impulse towards closeness and an impulse towards competition, as sisters are continually compared to each other. When you’re with her, you laugh your head off, and can giggle and be silly like when you were kids. But she also might be the one person who can send you into a tailspin with just one wrong word. For many women, a sister is both.

With a witty and wise voice, Tannen shares insights and anecdotes from well over a hundred women she interviewed, along with moving and funny recollections of her own two sisters. You’ll come away with a profound new understanding, as well as effective techniques to improve and accessible solutions for problems in this unique and precious relationship.

About the Author (from Barnes & Noble):

Ever since she published her breakthrough book, You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, Deborah Tannen has established herself as a foremost expert on the art of communication throughout the world. With the publication of You’re Wearing That?, Tannen takes on one of the most complex relationships in the family structure.

Click here to read the Barnes & Noble Feature Interview with Deborah Tannen.

Click here to visit the author's official website at Georgetown University.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Lookalikes: Last seen . . .

Heeeyyy. Does this little girl look familiar?
I've been unpacking some boxes of "the good stuff" which I had stored at my Mom's because I've moved so often the last couple of years. These are boxes of books that I absolutely didn't want to lose track of no matter what.
Anyway, if you think you recognize this barefoot miss, you're probably right. Not sure? Click here and check out this previous post of mine.

BTW: It's a great collection of stories - highly recommended!
Edited by Susie Mee
Publisher: Harcourt Books, Inc
Pub. Date: October 1995
Sales Rank: 742,048
Edition Number: 1

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Show Me 5 Saturday: SHOOT THE MOON by Billie Letts

Alison of That's A Novel Idea has just launched a fun new Saturday meme: Show Me 5 Saturday. (No wonder she's a multiple recipient of the Kreative Blogger Award!)

Here is Alison's description of Show Me 5 Saturday:
This meme will give each blogger an opportunity to give a brief description of a book they have read or reviewed during the week.

It will work like this:

Each Saturday you will post the answer to these questions. The number indicates the number of answers you will provide.

1 Book you read and/or reviewed this week
2 Words that describe the book
3 Settings where it took place or characters you met
4 Things you liked and/or disliked about it
5 Stars or less for your rating?

Here's my first installment:

1 Book read: SHOOT THE MOON by Billie Letts

2 Words to describe it: Inoffensive, Unprovocative

3 Setting or characters: DeClare, Oklahoma / Dr. Mark Albright a/k/a Nicky Jack Harjo, O Boy Daniels

4 Things I like or disliked: I liked the bit of mystery to the story and several characters were interesting and likable, but it took too long too for the story to get off the ground and overall it was pretty predictable.

5 Stars or less: I would rate this book 3 Stars

Description (from the publisher):

In 1972, the tiny windswept town of DeClare, Oklahoma, was consumed by the terrifying disappearance of Nicky Jack Harjo. When he was no more than a baby, his pajama bottoms were found on the banks of Willow Creek. Nearly 30 years later, Nicky mysteriously returns in this intriguing and delightfully hypnotic tale, full of the authentic heartland characters that Billie Letts writes about so beautifully.

Wonderful Win: THE WHITE QUEEN by Philippa Gregory

by Philippa Gregory

I'm so excited! I just found out I won a copy of THE WHITE QUEEN by Philippa Gregory from the giveaway hosted at A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore. Thanks, Katherine, for hosting this wonderful giveaway!

If this is a book you're salivating for, check out my sidebar for a list of other blogs which are hosting giveaways for THE WHITE QUEEN. Good luck!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Finds - August 14, 2009

Friday Finds is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.
This week's find is a new-to-me author, Rosy Thornton. I think her books sound delightfully fun. I've got to squeeze them into my reading schedule!
(Book descriptions are from the publisher.)

While it's not easy being a woman in a man's world, James Rycarte has decided that the reverse is also true. Taking on the job of principal at an all-female college at Cambridge has quickly become the biggest challenge of his career. He is breaking with tradition and the faculty is unhappy with the results. But amid the hostility of his fellows and the endless bureaucracy of university life, he finds an unexpected hand of friendship from Senior Tutor Dr. Martha Pearce.

This is the story of Peter, a Cambridge geography don who crashes his car into a tree stump when swerving to avoid a cat, and Mina, the girl at the Sheffield call centre who deals with his insurance claim. It tracks their parallel lives, as well those of their families - because both Peter and Mina are single parents.
An old-fashioned fairy tale of love across the class divide, it is also a book about the small joys and tribulations of parenthood; about one-ness and two-ness; about symmetry and coincidence; about the things which separate us and the things which bring us together. It is a story, in fact, of the accidents of geography

When Richard Slater receives a letter of complaint from one of his constituents, a Margaret Hayton, he merely responds with his standard letter of empty promises. Clearly, this woman is insane and must be avoided at all costs. But she will not be dismissed so easily, and when Richard finally sets eyes on the "twenty-something vision in stone-washed denim," he risks losing his heart, his head, and quite possibly his political career.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

2nd Annual BBAW Nominations for Blog Awards

Now is the time to nominate your favorite blogs
for the 2nd Annual Book Bloggers Appreciation Week.

and nominate your favorite book blogs today.

Nominations close August 15, 2009.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

2nd Annual Book Blogger Appreciation Week (BBAW) and A MEME!

If you haven't already heard, Book Blogger Appreciation Week is coming up! The dates of BBAW are: September 14-18, 2009. This is the 2nd Annual BBAW, which is organized by Amy of My Friend Amy.

A separate blog has been set up which contains all the information to keep you up-to-date. Here's the basic info as it appears on that site:

WHO: Anyone who blogs about books is invited to participate. In fact, we want everyone who blogs about books and reading to be a part of this week!

WHAT: A week where we come together, celebrate the contribution and hard work of book bloggers in promoting a culture of literacy, connecting readers to books and authors, and recogonizing the best among us with the Second Annual BBAW Awards. There will be special guest posts, daily blogging themes, and giveaways.

WHEN: September 14-18, 2009

WHERE: Here at the new Book Blogger Appreciation Week Blog! (Please note that this year there are three separate blogs and feeds—one for the main event, one for giveaways, and one for awards.)

WHY: Because books matter. In a world full of options, the people talking about books pour hard work, time, energy, and money into creating a community around the written word.

Hop on over to the official site to get more details and to register, vote, and participate. Just click here: Book Blogger Appreciation Week.

I was not a blogger last year, but I connected with tons of bloggers for the first time that week, and had a lot of fun. I hope to be a more active participant this year. I'll begin right now by answering the questions in this BBAW Meme - the abbreviated version for us newbies! You can find the complete meme here: A Book Blogger Appreciation Week Meme.

" . . . We don’t want those of you who didn’t participate to feel left out, so if you didn’t participate last year, how about these questions?"

1) What has been one of the highlights of blogging for you?

One?! One highlight?! I have to pick just one?! Hmmmm. People or books? People or books? People or books? Aha! Definitely THE highlight has been connecting with people who love books as much as I do!

2) What blogger has helped you out with your blog by answering questions, linking to you, or inspiring you?

Oh, there have been so many! Everyone is extremely helpful and supportive. I'm afraid to name names because I'm sure I won't remember them all! I know I have specifically asked questions of the following bloggers, and there are probably others:

Alyce from At Home with Books

Kathy from Bermudaonion

Dar from Peeking Between the Pages

Shelly from Write for a Reader

Toni from A Circle of Books

Anna from Diary of an Eccentric

And a special mention of Jen from Devourer of Books who has been especially helpful to me and a bunch of 0thers on Library Thing.

3) What one question do you have about BBAW that someone who participated last year could answer?

JEEZ. That would have to be, how do you do it? Do you take the week off from work? Do you drink too much caffiene? That's all I want to know. Just how do you do it?


by Mark Millhone

Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Rodale Books (July 7, 2009)
ISBN-10: 1594868239
ISBN-13: 978-1594868238

Synopsis (from the publisher):

A man reconnects with his dad and finds his way back from a year filled with tragedy and loss in this touching memoir that puts a humorous cast on some of life’s darkest moments.

In the course of one nine-month period, filmmaker Mark Millhone’s youngest son nearly died from birth complications, his father was diagnosed with prostate cancer, his mother had a heart attack and passed away, a freak illness claimed the life of one of his friends, and his career imploded. As a result of his membership in what he calls the “tragedy of the month club,” his marriage also began to fray.

Millhone responded to the chaos as many men might: Late one night, he logged on to eBay and bid on a vintage BMW-his fantasy car, but not exactly what the doctor ordered when it came to his family’s finances. As if sharing the news that he’d won the auction with his already-peeved wife weren’t bad enough, it turned out that he had to travel from New York to Texas to collect the car. His estranged dad joined him, and together they embarked upon a dysfunctional road trip-a comedy of errors that would lend Millhone the perspective he needed to save his marriage and to understand what was really important in his life: his family.

Acerbic and hilarious but with heart, this memoir will appeal to readers of Chuck Klosterman, David Sedaris, and Nick Hornby, as well as readers of Millhone’s “Guy Wisdom” column in Men’s Health. His male perspective on a troubled marriage, raising children, coping with loss, and rejuvenating a relationship with a parent will appeal equally to both sexes.

MY RATING: 4/5 stars


PATRON SAINTS OF USED CARS AND SECOND CHANCES came to me at just the right time. I've read quite a few heavy, intense books lately, and I wanted something different. I found it in Mark Millhone's new memoir.

While Millhone certainly experiences more than his share of trials and tribulations, his wry and ironic sense of humor about the absurd workings of the world keep his story from being just another run-of-the-mill tearjerker with a happy ending. Mark Millhone is FUNNY! He likens his troubles to holding a membership in the "tragedy-of-the-month club." When you consider that he has coped with a critically ill newborn son, the death of his mother, his father's cancer diagnosis, and the disintegration of his marriage, all in a short span of time, humor might seem like an inappropriate or even immature response. But Millhone doesn't use humor to avoid dealing with the demands and complexities of these issues; rather it allows him to cope with them, eventually leading him through and setting him on the path of healing himself, repairing and strenghtening his marriage, and forging a new kind of relationship with his father.

What I particularly liked about PATRON SAINTS OF USED CARS AND SECOND CHANCES is Millhone's "guyitude." (I think I've made that word up.) Men and women don't always use the same coping mechanisms, and this book isn't written for women, though some women might enjoy it. It's written for men. Guys. Unfortunately, I didn't have one handy to test it out on, but I think Millhone's background as a writer for Men's Health Magazine gives him "street cred."

While it would be interesting to compare the perspective of Millhone's wife, Rose, that would be another story, another book. This one is Mark Millhone's. I enjoyed it and I'd recommend this book to anyone who is a guy -- or knows one!

About the Author (from the publisher):
Mark Millhone is an award-winning writer, filmmaker, columnist and teacher.

After graduating from Columbia University with an MFA in Film Direction and winning the Academy Award for Best Student Film, Mark spent more than five years wandering the vast desert of Hollywood development hell before resurfacing as a screenwriting professor at NYU Film School and the Dysfunctional-Male-in-Residence at Men’s Health Magazine. His humorous columns for that magazine (and his need to deal with a very un-humorous year from hell for his family) are what begat his memoir, The Patron Saint of Used Cars & Second Chances (coming out in hardcover on July 7th).

But, of course, like every other moron who went to film school, what Mark really wants to do is direct and has several projects in development: The Other Jennifer (a romantic-comedy based on one of his magazine columns) and Serenity Falls (his Sisyphusian attempt to re-make Chinatown set in present-day Dallas, Texas). Cameras roll on his feature film directorial debut Minuteman, this summer.

Mark lives in New York and has two lovely children and two rather strange-looking dogs.

Click here to visit the author's website for links to his articles and videos of him reading from his book.

Thank you to Lisa of TLC Book Tours for organizing this tour
and to the publisher for supplying me with a review copy of the book.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Not MY Giveaways! But this is one way I get my books!

I spent quite a bit of time entering giveaways today. It was way hot outside and cool inside - but I really didn't want to think too hard. So I traveled around the blogs and here are some of the contests I entered - you might be interested in these, too! A lot of these bloggers have more than one giveaway going on, and some great reviews and discussions, so spend a little time visiting!

At Home with Books is giving away a copy THE WHITE QUEEN by Philippa Gregory. Ends 08/17/09.

Book Giveaways is giving away a copy of SUBWAY RIDE by Heather Miller. Ends 08/11/09.

Murder Mystery & Mayhem is giving away a copy of THE LOVERS by John Connolly. Ends 08/31/09.

Women of Mystery is giving away SAND SHARKS by Margaret Maron. Ends 08/13/09/

A Circle of Books is giving away two (2) copies of THE WHITE QUEEN by Philippa Gregory. Ends 08/18/09.

Royal Reviews is also giving away THE WHITE QUEEN by Philippa Gregory. Ends 08/18/09.

Lori's Reading Corner is giving away an ARC of I'M SO HAPPY FOR YOU by Lucinda Rosenfeld. Ends 08/13/09.

Lori's Reading Corner is giving away a copy of FEAR THE WORST by Linwood Barclay. Ends 08/21/09.

Bookin' with Bingo is giving away both THE LOST DOG and THE BLUE STAR. Ends 08/31/09.

Falling Off the Shelf is giving away 5 copies of THE LOST DOG by Michelle de Kreser. Ends 08/25/09.

Bookin' with Bingo is giving away 5 copies of Karen Rose's book, SCREAM FOR ME. Ends 08/20/09.

A Journey of Books is giving away 5 copies of THE LOST DOG by Michelle de Kreser. Ends 08/17/09.

Mailbox Monday - August 10, 2009

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.
If you'd like to join in, stop by Marcia's and leave a link -
or just browse through the comments to see what new books have been showing up.
Well, this is embarrassing . . . I was going to start this post off by saying how empty my mailbox has been lately but, obviously, that just isn't the case! Now, it has been several weeks since I posted a Mailbox Monday, and the last two weeks have been kind of slow but, I think you'll agree, I've go more than enough to keep me busy.

Thank you to everyone who sent me reading material!

by William Kamkwamba, co-written with Bryan Mealer
for review from Harper Collins

by Rebecca Stead
a win from Books on the Nightstand

by Linda Castillo

from Library Thing Early Reviewer program

by Deanna Cameron

a win from Marcia's Read-It-Forward Giveaways
at The Printed Page

by Jeanne Kalogridis

for review from

by Emma Darwin

a win from Fyrefly's Book Blog

by Heather Gudenkauf

for review through Shelf Awareness

by Cathy Marie Buchanan

for review through Shelf Awareness

by Mark Millhone

for an upcoming blog tour through TLC Book Tours

by Sang Pak

for review from the author

by Michael Connelly
Read by Peter Giles

a win from Just Another New Book Blog

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Giveaway: THE BLUE STAR by Tony Earley

Hachette Book Group is at it again!
They have authorized me to give away five (5!) copies of
THE BLUE STAR by Tony Earley.

Rules for entering this giveaway are at the bottom of this post.

by Tony Earley

Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Pub. Date: March 2008
Sales Rank: 30,001


Seven years ago, readers everywhere fell in love with Jim Glass, the precocious ten-year-old at the heart of Tony Earley's bestseller Jim the Boy. Now a teenager, Jim returns in another tender and wise story of young love on the eve of World War Two. Jim Glass has fallen in love, as only a teenage boy can fall in love, with his classmate Chrissie Steppe. Unfortunately, Chrissie is Bucky Bucklaw's girlfriend, and Bucky has joined the Navy on the eve of war. Jim vows to win Chrissie's heart in his absence, but the war makes high school less than a safe haven, and gives a young man's emotions a grown man's gravity. With the uncanny insight into the well-intentioned heart that made Jim the Boy a favorite novel for thousands of readers, Tony Earley has fashioned another nuanced and unforgettable portrait of America in another time--making it again even realer than our own day. This is a timeless and moving story of discovery, loss and growing up, proving why Tony Earley's writing "radiates with a largeness of heart" (Esquire).

Tony Earley

Tony Earley is the author of four books: Here We Are in Paradise, a collection of stories; the novel, Jim the Boy; the personal essay collection, Somehow Form a Family; and The Blue Star, a novel released in Spring, 2008. A winner of a National Magazine Award for fiction, he was named one of the twenty best writers of his generation by both Granta, in 1996, and The New Yorker in 1999. His fiction and/or nonfiction have appeared in Harper's, Esquire, The New Yorker, The Oxford American, The New York Times Book Review, Tin House, Best American Short Stories, New Stories from the South and many other magazines and anthologies. He is a native of western North Carolina and a graduate of Warren Wilson College and The University of Alabama. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife and daughter, where he is the Samuel Milton Fleming Associate Professor of English at Vanderbilt University.

Interview with Tony Earley

Read a
Chapter Excerpt


• Leave a comment on this post telling me you would like to win. Include an email address with your comment so that I can contact you if you do win. Use a spam-thwarting format such as geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com or geebee.reads [at] gmail [dot] com

You must leave an email address in order to qualify. If I can't contact you, you can't win!

• You can earn an extra entry by being or becoming a Follower or Subscriber of this blog and telling me about it in a separate comment.

• Blog about this contest and provide me with the link to the post in a separate comment, and I'll give you yet another entry.

• Tweeting about this contest and providing me the link in a separate comment will get you one more entry. I've added a Retweet button at the bottom of every post.

• Stumble this blog, Digg it, or Technorati Fave it, whatever, and leave a separate comment for another entry.

• Winners must provide a U.S. or Canadian street address. Hachette is unable to deliver to P.O. Boxes.

Deadline for entry is 11:59 p.m. Saturday, August 29, 2009 EST.

• Winners will have 48 hours to respond to my email announcing that they have won; if I don't hear from a winner, I will draw another name.

Thank you to Valerie
at Hachette Book Group
for making this giveaway possible.



Thursday, August 6, 2009

My Favorite Reads #6: PRODIGAL SUMMER by Barbara Kingsolver

Alyce of At Home with Books hosts My Favorite Reads, a weekly feature spotlighting favorite reads from pre-blogging days. Because it's been a while since the books were read, these posts are not reviews per se, but rather impressionistic remembrances of a positive reading experience. I think of this feature as an opportunity to more deeply explore the range of my reading interests and those of other book bloggers and readers of book blogs outside of the current crop of new releases.

Do you have an old favorite that you'd like to share?

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Pub. Date: October 2001
Sales Rank: 5,072

Description (from the publisher):
Prodigal Summer weaves together three stories of human love within a larger tapestry of lives inhabiting the forested mountains and struggling small farms of southern Appalachia. From her outpost in an isolated mountain cabin, Deanna Wolfe, a reclusive wildlife biologist, watches a den of coyotes that have recently migrated into the region. She is caught off-guard by a young hunter who invades her most private spaces and confounds her self-assured, solitary life. On a farm several miles down the mountain, Lusa Maluf Landowski, a bookish city girl turned farmer's wife, finds herself unexpectedly marooned in a strange place where she must declare or lose her attachment to the land that has become her own. And a few more miles down the road, a pair of elderly, feuding neighbors tend their respective farms and wrangle about God, pesticides, and the possibilities of a future neither of them expected.

Over the course of one humid summer, as the urge to procreate overtakes the countryside, these characters find their connections to one another and to the flora and fauna with whom they share a place. With the complexity that characterizes Barbara Kingsolver's finest work, Prodigal Summer embraces pure thematic originality and demonstrates a balance of narrative, drama, and ideas that render it an inspiring work of fiction.

Why I Chose This Book:

This is absolutely one of my all-time favorite books, and high summer is the perfect time to read it. PRODIGAL SUMMER is bursting with love, life, hope, and redemption. And if I didn't already love it enough on its own merits, it's special to me because I actually met Barbara Kingsolver around the time she might have been working on this novel.

As I drive along the highway every day and drink up the sight of dreamy wild chicory and vibrant orange tiger lilies along the roadside, I think of the summer of 1998 which I spent in Abingdon, Virginia. Abingdon, for those of you who don't know, is located in the southwestern corner of Virginia, close to both North Carolina and Kentucky, high in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and surely one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

One day, my sister took me to a nursery just over the line in Kentucky. Being at least the middle of July and between summer and fall plantings, the huge greenhouse was deserted except for my sister and me, a couple of employees, and one other lady with a young girl in tow. At some point, I realised the woman looked a lot like Barbara Kingsolver but, of course, I wasn't sure. I remembered that she had grown up in Kentucky and often visited. Then I saw her southwestern beaded belt -- it said "Arizona" or "Tucson" -- I can't remember which. I knew Barbara Kingsolver lived in Tucson -- for a long time, so had I. It had to be her! I screwed up my courage and introduced myself. No, I didn't get a photo of us together or even her autograph. The little girl looked about 6 years old, and I didn't want to intrude on what was most likely their mother-daughter time. Besides, I'm embarrassed to say I was way too intimidated (and incredibly hot in that greenhouse!) and my mind went blank, and I'm lucky if I didn't say something incredibly silly. A couple of years later, when the book came out, I realized the coincidence of the timing, and if she wasn't actually working on the book when we met, surely it was gestating.

So that was my brush with celebrity. When it comes to the the book itself, PRODIGAL SUMMER, I think you should hop on over to Fyrefly's Book Blog and read her beautifully written "love letter to Prodigal Summer" which she wrote last October. She says everything I could hope to say much better than I could hope to say it. And then if you haven't read PRODIGAL SUMMER, go read it, or read it again!

About the author(from the publisher):

Equally at home with poetry, novels, and nonfiction narratives, Barbara Kingsolver credits her careers in scientific writing and journalism with instilling in her a love of nature, a writer's discipline, and a strong sense of social justice.

Click here to visit the author's website.
Click here to read an excerpt from Chapter One.
Visit Reading in Appalachia where Icedream has spotlighted the Barbara Kingsolver's November release in her Waiting on Wednesday post.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday: THE GIRL WHO CHASED THE MOON by Sarah Addison Allen

I just recently finished reading THE SUGAR QUEEN by Sarah Addison Allen, otherwise, I wouldn't be torturing you or myself by showcasing this week's Waiting on Wednesday choice -- which won't be published until sometime next spring! But don't think of it as torture -- think of it as reassurance that our most favorite and beloved authors are hard at work producing next year's favorite reads!

by Sarah Addison Allen

Publisher: Random House
Fiction - Contemporary Women
Format: eBook, 304 pages
On Sale: March 16, 2010
Price: $25.00
ISBN: 978-0-553-90654-7 (0-553-90654-2)

About this book (from the publisher):
In her latest enchanting novel, New York Times bestelling author Sarah Addison Allen invites you to a quirky little Southern town with more magic than a full Carolina moon. Here two very different women discover how to find their place in the world…no matter how out of place they feel. Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. For instance, why did Dulcie Shelby leave her hometown so suddenly? Why did she vow never to return? But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew—a reclusive, real-life gentle giant—she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life. Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor bakes hope in the form of cakes. Everyone in Mullaby adores Julia Winterson’s cakes. She offers them to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth and in the hope of bringing back the love she fears she’s lost forever. In Julia, Emily may have found a link to her mother’s past. But why is everyone trying to discourage Emily’s growing relationship with the handsome and mysterious son of Mullaby’s most prominent family? Emily came to Mullaby to get answers, but all she’s found so far are more questions.Is there really a ghost dancing in her backyard? Can a cake really bring back a lost love? In this town of lovable misfits, maybe the right answer is the one that just feels…different.

is hosted byJill from
Breaking the Spine.
Join in and tell us . . .

What are you waiting for?

Today I am pleased to present to you an excerpt from Barbara Bonfigli new fictional memoir, CAFE TEMPEST: Adventures on a Small Greek Island, as well as a short video of the very personable Barbara introducing her book and her beloved island.

Café Tempest: Adventures on a Small Greek Island
by Barbara Bonfigli

About the book (from the publisher):

What is it about Greece that makes it so exotic, so romantic, so tantalizing that it's right at the top of everybody's bucket list - the one foreign land they're longing to visit? Our dreams are made on Never on Sunday, Zorba the Greek, and more recently My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Mama Mia.

Café Tempest: Adventures on a Small Greek Island is a witty, evocative, beautifully written novel that puts you right in the heart of Greek island life. It's so alive with the sights and smells and tastes and characters of Greece that you can pick it up and start your Mediterranean vacation on page one. On a deeper level, the book is filled with the kinds of observations, reflections, and arc of self-discovery that make Eat, Pray, Love so compelling.

“Welcome to Pharos. Laugh and dance in the hammock--not the cradle--of Western civilization,” says author, lyricist, and theatrical producer Barbara Bonfigli. “I've been falling in love with Greece since I was old enough to drink retsina. But if Sarah hadn't captured my imagination you'd never know how I feel about friendship, feta, and the abundance of grace that turns friends into lovers and fishermen into kings.”

Excerpt from Chapter Three:

From Rhodes we catch a small caique to our destination. The island of Pharos is a cluster of arid volcanic rocks off the Turkish coast, with about two thousand inhabitants not counting cats and goats. I discovered it four years ago in the Classical manner (viz. The Odyssey above) when the boat I'd chartered with friends pitched up there by mistake. It was me on the dog watch, steering by a star, and it set. Just a slight navigational error; slight! We didn't end up in another language.

It doesn't matter that I'll never live it down; I've found my native land. The days are mild, the water warm, the sky an unfiltered blue. Pharians are by nature generous and embracing. Any visitor who makes the slightest attempt to speak their impossible language is practically adopted. Life here is intoxicating in its simplicity. No airport, it's too remote to attract many tour boats, and you'd have to be lost to just drop by. Though its face changes in August. Then the old men desert the tavernas--their backgammon boxes mold under the bar; farmers stop coming to town for an ouzaki; no goat herds trot through the village churning the streets to dust clouds; the fishermen stow their nets and turn their caiques into beach ferries. But this is May. Take a deep breath.

The boat docks just after midnight. Stavros, bent like the new moon, older than Charon, is there to meet us. In these narrow lanes his wooden pushcart is the only means of transporting our stuff, the donkeys having bedded down at sunset. He's happy to see us, his only customers tonight.

“Harika na se dho,” I tell him, a phrase learned over the winter. Until then what I'd thought meant “Happy to see you” was actually “I'm so thrilled to see you I could jump into bed with you right now.” Which may explain my popularity on Pharos.

Stavros hugs me and smiles at Alex. He's not too old to notice the waist-length chestnut hair, dark eyes under darker lashes, the sculpted angles and curves of a workout maven. He steps back, surveys our pile of bags, shakes his head--a Turkish rug dealer agreeing to a ridiculous price.

“It's no more than last year,” I tell him.

“But me, I'm a year older.” His crow-bright laughter echoes across the shuttered port.

A boy appears from the moonshadow of the street lamp and picks up a suitcase.

“Costas, my nephew.” He's twelve or thirteen, lean and wiry with dark hair and darker eyes, stooping to be invisible. I'm looking at Stavros, how many years before, waiting for his life to begin. Will he leave as Stavros never did, as eager to be gone from here as we are to arrive?

“Welcome,” he whispers, eyes down.

We set off under a black sky pricked with stars. The streets are narrow, lit by a half-moon falling on high whitewashed walls. As we climb out of the port to Kastro they taper to twisting passages no wider than Stavros's cart. We fall in behind, silent, listening to the dogs calling, the night birds, the tinny carillon of goat bells in the valley. I'm thrilled by the stillness, the sharp nightlines, the soft jasmine air. Below us the sea suddenly appears, a skein of rough silk.

“Look,” says Alex, her voice husky with amazement. Far below now, our ferry is rounding the tip of the harbor, its wake a fan of diminishing pleats scattering the moonlight.

To learn about Barbara Bonfigli and Café Tempest, feel free to visit any of these sites.

Order Café Tempest directly from the publisher -
or from Amazoné-Tempest-Adventures-Small-Island/dp/0981645313

To see the complete tour schedule visit

Barbara Bonfigli's website -

Thank you to Nikki Leigh and Promo 101 Virtual Blog Tours
for organizing this tour
and for providing me with my review copy of CAFE TEMPEST.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Blog Tour and Book Review #15: CAFE TEMPEST: Adventures on a Small Greek Island by Barbara Bonfigli

Adventures on a Small Greek Island
A Fictional Memoir


When Sarah, a thirty-something American theatrical producer, is asked to direct the locals in their summer show, she picks Shakespeare's play The Tempest. What follows is a hilarious adventure in casting, rehearsing, and consuming. Her neighbors are excited about acting but delirious about eating. Their rehearsals in a deconsecrated church become a feast in four acts.

Armed with a sizzling wit, a dangerously limited Greek vocabulary, and a pitch-perfect ear for drama, Sarah navigates the major egos and minor storms of a cab driver Caliban, a postmaster Prospero, and a host of fishermen dukes and knaves.

When she falls in love, there are even trickier seas to navigate. Her own offstage romance provides an exhilarating, unpredictable counterpoint to Shakespeare's story of magic, intrigue, and the power of love.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

My Thoughts:
CAFE TEMPEST is an ambitious novel that covers a lot of territory. True, the setting is a small Greek island, but you will be exploring Sarah's heart, soul, sexuality, and spirituality.
As she sets to work on an article for Yoga Journal, Sarah examines various mantras, such as "The jewel is in the lotus" and "I am That," and how to invoke them for coping with daily life. When she agrees to direct the locals in a production of "The Tempest," she begins to see correlations between the mantras and Shakespeare. Needless to say, there are a lot of Shakespearean quotes tossed about, and a familiarity with "The Tempest" will enhance your enjoyment of this novel.
There is also a liberal sprinkling of Greek terminology and phrases which are translated as you read along. A small glossary at the back of the book helps for a quick reference.
Tossed into the pot of Eastern philosophy, Shakepearean and theater references, and Greek vocabulary is Sarah's bisexuality. All this is a lot for the reader to take on, and I sometimes felt more like an outsider looking in rather than having that sensation of stepping into the story. I think another reader with more of a background in theater and travel might not feel the same way.

CAFE TEMPEST often reads like a play -- the bulk of it is dialogue. I found this distacting at times as I tried to keep up with who said what. It made me realize how much I like descriptive prose. However, so much of the story is witty and flirtatious conversation, or scenes centering around misinterpretations due to inaccurate translations, that the abundance of dialogue is a necessary device.

Several recipes are included at the back of the book to tempt the culinarily inclined. For the truly adventuresome, the recipe for the Tempestini, the only retsina based cocktail, can be found on the author's website.

CAFE TEMPEST is illustrated throughout with beautifully evocotive line drawings and sketches by Gaia Franchetti - a special treat in themselves.

I would recommend CAFE TEMPEST to anyone who enjoys travel books, humor, Shakespeare and the theater, or is specifically interested in Greek culture and food.

About the author:

Barbara Bonfigli is an author, lyricist and theatrical producer. When she isn't writing songs or travel articles, or producing shows, she packs some French roast and catches a plane to Athens. Then a ferry or a hydrofoil to . . . but that's classified.

She hitchhiked to Greece in her first nomadic summer, and discovered her native land. She's been exploring it ever since -- hiking in the Pelion, kayaking in the Dodecanese, sailing the Aegean. In a tiny seaside taverna, over fried kalamari and a pitcher of homemade red, a few Greek families and she watched Obama conquer Berlin.
Maps are her recreational drug of choice. After wearing out five passports and four continents she uncorked her memories and imagination -- and a bottle or two of retsina -- to write her first novel, "Café Tempest: Adventures on a Small Greek Island". It's a kind of "A Year in Provence" meets "Zorba the Greek". You are invited to the mythical island of Pharos, to laugh and dance in the hammock, not the cradle of Western civilization.

To learn about Barbara Bonfigli and CAFE TEMPEST, please visit any of these sites.

Order Café Tempest directly from the publisher -

or from Amazoné-Tempest-Adventures-Small-Island/dp/0981645313

To see the complete tour schedule visit

Visit Barbara Bonfigli's website -
Thank you to Nikki Leigh and Promo 101 Virtual Blog Tours
for organizing this tour
and for providing me with my review copy of CAFE TEMPEST.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Book Review #14: FIRST DAY JITTERS by Julie Danneberg; illustrated by Judy Love

by Julie Danneberg
illustrated by Judy Love

Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc.
Pub. Date: March 2000
Sales Rank: 810
Age Range: 5 to 9

Synopsis (from the publisher):

Everyone knows that sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach just before diving into a new situation. Sarah Jane Hartwell is scared and doesn't want to start over at a new school. She doesn't know anybody, and nobody knows her. It will be awful. She just knows it. With much prodding from Mr. Hartwell, Sarah Jane reluctantly pulls herself together and goes to school. She is quickly befriended by Mrs. Burton, who helps smooth her jittery transition. This charming and familiar story will delight readers with its surprise ending. Fun, energetic illustrations brighten page after page with the busy antics surrounding Sarah Jane. First Day Jitters is an enchanting story that is sure to be treasured by anyone who has every anticipated a first day of school.

My Rating: 5/5

My Thoughts:

The kids in my house are starting at a new school in September, one in 1st grade and the other in 4th. Of course, there's some nervousness, so I was really glad to come across FIRST DAY JITTERS on a recent trip to our local bookstore. I rushed home to read it to my soon-to-be 6 y.o. niece. She insisted we read it three more times immediately, and we've read it several times since. Even with it's "surprise" ending, this story doesn't wear thin on multiple readings. Tonight it was my nephew's turn. He'll soon be 9 but still enjoys a good picture book now and then, and I thought he would appreciate knowing that other people are also nervous about starting in a new school. He laughed out loud and ran off with it to read to his father. So it's safe to say that FIRST DAY JITTERS is a big hit at our house.

Judy Love's illustrations are bright, colorful, and full of action and humor. My niece and I spent some extra time looking at several of them, discussing what was happening in the picture and putting events into chronological order. (I understand that's a good exercise for early readers.)

I would recommend this book for any young child starting school for the first time, but particularly for those who will be transferring to a new school.

A CAVEAT: I'm not going to spoil the surprise, but some descriptions of the story do reveal the ending, so use caution if you go looking for this book online.

Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc. publishes books for children up to around 12 years of age. They have a great website, and books are cross-listed by reading level, subject, and category. There are several books in Spanish as well as many reflecting American and global diversity. The site also has quite a few downloadables and activities. There's also a feature where they recommend a children's title to complement a recent release that a parent might be reading. If you're not already familiar with Charlesbridge, it's a great site for educators and parents looking for educational resources as well as being chock full of interesting fiction and nonfiction for kids.