Category Archives: book chat

Booking Through Thursday: Inspiration?

Booking Through Thursday asks this week:

Since “Inspiration” is (or should) the theme this week … what is your reading inspired by?

Great question!

I’m inspired to read books that fit my current interests. If a book claims to include magical realism, for example, I’ll usually check it out. I became truly  interested in the genre when I began traveling to Mexico once a year and exploring Latin American and Latino authors. I want to learn more about the saints held dear, the traditions, the culture.

Another inspiration is reading books that expand a new interest. When I read a fictional account of life under the Taliban (The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns), I was inspired to read a nonfictional account – Three Cups of Tea.

Reading reviews also motivates me.  I learn whose opinions to trust, and I look for clues within each review – keywords, if you will, that make me think:  This book’s for you.

 

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The Sunday Salon: My first challenges

The Sunday Salon.com

 

2009themedreading-278x3001My first new read of the New Year falls within the parameters of the Themed Reading challenge, which asks readers to pull books from their TBR stack that share a common theme. I chose Latino authors, as I have an ample supply of qualifiers.

So Far From God by Ana Castillo, written in 1993, has become required reading for some literature courses and is considered a breakthrough novel on Chicano life. Set in the small New Mexico town of Tome, the book tells the story of Dona Sofia and her four daughters, each with her own unique abilities – and tragedies. I’m loving the book, with all its Spanglish and references to both Mexican and Native American cuisine, healing arts, spiritual beliefs, and traditions.

The novel also explores the determination of women, as Sofia organizes her neighbors to preserve their heritage and improve their existence by building, bartering, and engaging in enterprises as a community. The long, descriptive chapter titles remind me of Jorge Amado, whose Gabriella, Clove and Cinnamon I will probably read next for this challenge.

well-seasoned-readerFor the Well-Seasoned Reader challenge, I am listening to Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Relin. I’ve had the book for some time, but decided to check out the audio version.

The book recounts the adventures of  Greg Mortenson, a trauma nurse by profession and mountaineer by choice. While descending from an unsuccessful climb up K2 in Pakistan’s Karakoram mountains, Mortenson wanders into the small village of Korphe. He promises to build a school and ends up building 51 of them, especially for girls, as a tribute to his sister. This is a story I’ve been looking forward to reading – or hearing, as it turns out – and so far it’s wonderful.

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Filed under audiobooks, award winners, book chat, Challenges, Latin American authors, magic realism, Nonfiction, Salon Sundays

Sunday Salon: A Slack Reader

The Sunday Salon.com

Between my boss’s retirement on Wednesday and going out of town for the first part of the holidays to help my parents with Thanksgiving – and playing with photos on my other blog – I didn’t read too much last week. I barely began reading The Heretic’s Daughter last weekend before deciding to save it for a time with fewer interruptions.

Instead, I’ve read about half of Haven Kimmel’s Something Rising (Light and Swift). The same day that Wendy posted a review of The Robber Bride by one of my favorite authors, Margaret Atwood, I went in search of it at the used bookstore I frequent during lunch. I scored – for $23 I picked up The Robber Bride and The Blind Assassin, along with Kimmel’s book and Zadie Smith’s On Beauty.

Last summer I listened to the audiobook of Kimmel’s memoir, A Girl Named Zippy, and loved it.  I decided to read Something Rising, figuring it wouldn’t be as demanding of my undivided attention. So far, the book is a pleasant enough coming-of-age story, and if you like to shoot pool, you’ll love it.  It’s not heavy on plot, but Kimmel is a lovely writer. Although Cassie lacks the personality of Zippy so far, I understand the book takes off in the second half, and I’ll be along for the ride.

Speaking of audiobooks, I finished listening to Jane Green’s The Beach House last week – a guilty pleasure indeed, because it’s truly chick-lit beach reading. But I enjoyed it and its multitude of characters in audio format, regardless of how shallow and contrived they (and their situations) were. The book reminds me of the Low Country writers – what I call the three-name southern writers: Dorothea Benton Frank, Mary Alice Monroe, Anne Rivers Siddon – in nearly every respect. If you enjoy any of them, you’ll probably like the Nantucket setting for the same themes – preserving the family home against rising coastal property values and predator developers, marital discord, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons. It’s all there, even a hint at the end of Monroe’s environmental overtones.

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!

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Filed under book chat, The Sunday Salon

Challenge Number 2: Well-Seasoned Reader

Beth was right. I’m entering another challenge, this one from Book Nut:

well-seasoned-readerHere’s how it works:

Rule #1: The challenge runs from January 1 to March 31. (No cheating and starting before!)

Rule #2: You must read three books. After that, it’s up to you how much you want to read.

Rule #3: The books must:

have a food name in the title
OR
be about cooking/eating
OR
have a place name in the title
OR
be about one (or more) person’s travel experience
OR
be about a specific culture
OR
be by an author whose ethnicity is other than your own (see, I squeezed it in!)

I’ll leave it up to you to choose how the three books you read fit the criteria.

Rule #4: They must be middle-grade on up, but can be either fiction or non-fiction.

The purpose, this winter, is to take yourself someplace out of the ordinary, to go on a literary trip, whether that be challenging your expectations, discovering a new place, or enjoying the experience of reading about good food, places, and people.

How can I resist? This challenge is way too tempting. My three books will most likely be:

Gabriella, Clove, and Cinnamon by Jorge Amado – This book has been in my TBR stack for a couple of years, ever since I read Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands by the same author. I included this book in my list of selections for the themed reading challenge. This one counts as having a food name in the title and is by a Brazilian author – far from my southern U.S. roots.

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister – I mentioned this book in my most recent Sunday Salon post. Due to be released January 22, this book fulfills the “be about cooking/eating” requirement. Not to mention that I can’t wait to read it.

Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time will likely be my third read. It’s already in my Top 10 TBR list, and reading it will give me my dose of non-fiction this winter. Oh, and it sort of has a food name in the title and definitely is about a specific culture.

Stay tuned – there’s one more challenge I plan to enter. That should be enough for my first full year of book blogging. Then again…

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Sunday Salon: A Few New Finds

brrrWe’ve been experiencing an exceptionally chilly November for our area over the past week. Usually I read for an hour at least before bedtime. But last week, after snuggling under the down comforter, I was unable to read more than a few pages before growing sleepy…verrryy sleepy. The fact that I’ve been so busy at work didn’t help.

I did finally finish The Gifted Gabaldon Sisters, and I think I’ll review it later this week. Now I’m digging into The Heretic’s Daughter, historical fiction about the Salem witch trials written by a direct descendent of one of the victims.

A couple of nonfiction titles drew my attention this week. The Flavor Bible, written by husband-and-wife team Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, promises to show readers how to intuitively combine flavors and creatively use herbs, spices, and other seasonings to enliven their cooking.

Alphabet Juice: The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Thereof; Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips, and Secret Parts, With Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory, by humorist Roy J. Blount, Jr. (of NPR’s Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me), sounds like a laugh-out-loud way to learn more about usage and the English language.

Another foodie book to be released in January, this one a novel, also sounds intriquing. The School of Essential Ingredients is described as “reminiscent of Chocolat and Like Water for Chocolate, a gorgeously written novel about life, love, and the magic of food.” Can’t wait to read this one.

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Filed under book chat, food, historical fiction, Latin American authors, Nonfiction, The Sunday Salon

Who do you love?

who-do-you-loveWho are your top three favorite authors, and what is your favorite book by each writer? I’ve already more than covered this topic in my author groupie post. Your turn.

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Yay! My First Reading Challenge

2009themedreading-278x300I’m entering my first reading challenge with Wendy‘s 2009 challenge:

The Themed Reading Challenge is a six month challenge designed to help readers clear books from their to-be-read stacks which center around a common theme or themes. Here are the “rules”:

  1. Books should be chosen from the reader’s TBR pile (this may be an actual physical pile or a virtual pile).
  2. The goal is to read 4 to 6 books linked by theme.
  3. Overlaps with other challenges are allowed.
  4. Readers may change their list of books at any time.
  5. Readers may choose three different levels of participation:
  • Read at least 4 books with the same theme.
  • Read at least 5 books that share at least TWO themes.
  • Read at least 6 books that share MORE than two themes.

My theme: Read at least 4 books written by Latino/Hispanic authors. This is the perfect opportunity for me to move some of my TBR stack, which includes these choices:

Gabriella, Clove and Cinnamon, Jorge Amado
Swift as Desire, Laura Esquivel
Esperanza’s Box of Saints, Maria Amparo Escandon
A Handbook to Luck, Christina Garcia
So Far From God, Ana Castillo
American Chica, Marie Arana
A Simple Habana Melody, Oscar Hijuelos
In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez
The Years with Laura Diaz, Carlos Fuentes
Bitter Grounds, Sandra Benitez

I’ve read other works by most of these authors, but some will be newly discovered voices. I may refine this list a bit and go for 5 books – two by men, three by women; two based on history, three purely fiction; two set in the author’s native country, three set in the U.S. – whatever. I have until February to decide. Thanks, Wendy!

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Filed under book chat, Latin American authors, magic realism