Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Frangipani Hotel: Review and Giveaway

Ghosts!  The Frangipani Hotel: Stories by Violet Kupersmith is a collection of short fiction based on traditional Vietnamese tales, which features the presence of the supernatural in the form of ghosts.  I'm not terribly familiar with ghost stories as a genre, so I consulted Wikipedia, as usual, for more insight.

"A ghost story may be any piece of fiction, or drama, that includes a ghost, or simply takes as a premise the possibility of ghosts or characters' belief in them."

Simple enough to understand, this is an appropriate description for the short stories in the book The Frangipani Hotel, which will be available to the public on April 1, 2014.  The nine short stories in this collection take place in the United States as well as Vietnam, and deftly envelop subjects and themes which bring Vietnamese culture to life vividly, including family relationships, story-telling (within the stories), the post-Vietnam War experience, food, and also, as mentioned before, ghosts.

You may or may not believe in ghosts, but I imagine you do want to learn more about the ghosts in The Fragipani Hotel.  Most notably, these are not your average, garden-variety ghosts, who make a career of haunting and scaring people.  The  ghosts in these stories are beguiling, and appear to be regular folks--at least initially.  Somewhat unexpectedly, I loved to read about these ghosts.  Slowly and skillfully, the author makes them appear more strange, until you realize you're dealing with supernatural beings.  In the second story, Reception, which takes place in the Old Quarter of Hanoi at the dilapidated Frangipani Hotel ("the Frangi"), the main character, Phi, meets an attractive, extremely thirsty girl in room 205 with "dark, dark", "liquid eyes", who's been taking a very long bath.  He senses that the girl and the situation are rather odd, although he does not understand what's going on.  In the third story, Skin and Bones, Mrs. Tran sends her teenage daughters, Thuy and Kieu, from their home in Houston, TX, to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to visit Grandma Tran, because Mrs. Tran wants Thuy to lose some weight.  Instead, Thuy meets a vendor there, who wears a straw hat and a kerchief that covers her face, who makes her delicious Vietnamese sandwiches, bánh mì, which cause Thuy's stomach to "gurgle in anticipation".  (Usually I order my beloved phở at Vietnamese restaurants, but next time I may order bánh mì.)  In the seventh story, Turning Back (which is probably my favorite story in this collection), the main character, Phuong Nguyen, meets a naked septuagenarian outside in the early morning while at her job at Kwon's World Grocery in Houston, Vo Van Hiep, who explains his nakedness with a very unusual secret.

Violet Kupersmith
This entire collection of short fiction is bewitching and well written.  The first story, Boat Story, and the last story, Descending Dragon, are connected, and all of the stories are imaginative.  It was hard to stop reading The Frangipani Hotel once I settled down with the book, and it kept me up later than I'd planned on a few nights.  I enjoyed the way that the ghosts are introduced in the stories, and how it gradually becomes clear that they are otherworldly beings. The Frangipani Hotel is an exceptional and exquisite debut by Violet Kupersmith, and I look forward to reading future work by this author. 



Win a copy of this captivating book and be among the first to read it!  The publisher, Spiegel & Grau, is generously offering a giveaway for a copy of The Frangipani Hotel (U.S. only).

  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment. 
  • For another chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or let me know that you're already a follower.
  • For an additional chance, post about this contest on your blog, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. 
  • For one extra chance, mention ghost stories you've enjoyed reading. 

Enter by 5 PM PDT on Monday, April 7. One winner will be selected randomly and announced on Tuesday, April 8.

Special thanks to Lisa from TLC for sending me an advance reader's edition of this book.  For more reviews and features, please visit the other stops on TLC's book tour for The Frangipani Hotel.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Idea of Him: Cover Reveal


The Idea of Him, the new novel by the New York Times bestselling author of The Manny, Holly Peterson, will be released on April 1.  The Idea of Him is women's fiction about "the dangers of falling for the idea of a person, and why facing reality is more liberating than we ever dreamed it could be" (description from the author's website).   I'm featuring the cover of this book as part of the The Idea of Him Virtual Author book tour.  I think it's a pensive and fitting cover.  What do you think?  Next month, I'll present a guest post by Holly Peterson.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Really Random Tuesday #77: Jane, a Book Winner, and Motion-X GPS



Isn't she pretty in pink?  This fabulous Jane Austen action figure arrived recently from GoneReading.  She's a welcome addition to my home!  

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Félicitations!  The winner of  I See London I See France by Paulita Kincer is Vicki from I'd Rather Be At The Beach.  Congratulations, Vicki!  I think you'll really enjoy reading this book.  When I visited Vicki's blog, I noticed that Vicki participates in numerous reading challenges (unlike me), and that she's hosting one called Foodies Read 2014, which sounds like it would be a lot of fun.  She also talks about fitness, and has a feature called Get Fit Tuesday 2014, which led me to my next topic.




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I've been using the app Motion-X GPS on my iPhone to track my walks and runs and I love it.  It helps me to stay motivated.  Does anyone know if you can print out tracks directly from the site?  I could print them from my email, but I'm hoping there's an easier way to print them out.  I would like to put them in a fitness binder for 2014.  That, too, would help me to stay motivated.

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Appearing on random Tuesdays, Really Random Tuesday is a way to post odds and ends--announcements, musings, quotes, photos--any blogging and book-related things you can think of. I often announce book winners in these posts. If you have miscellaneous book news to gather up and are inspired by this idea, "grab" the button for use on your own blog, then add your link to the "master" Mister Linky on the Really Random Tuesday page.

Your comments are welcomed. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Pilot Light of Hope

"This is not a journey I was planning to embark on, but I quickly realized that a hopeful heart and open mind are some of the best traveling companions.  And I believe so even now."

"I've dealt with cancer since December 2006; almost 7 years now.  I've had 3 cancers, 4 surgeries, 5 chemos, and 3 radiation treatments so far."

"Fucking cancer.  That is my mantra to this day."
~ Pilot Light of Hope, Mary P. M. Siller


I understand the last sentiment.  I lost my own mother to cancer in 2011.  Cancer SUCKS.  It seems so prevalent, and is taking far too many lives. 

Published in 2013, Pilot Light of Hope: Life with Cancer from an Eternal Optimist is the second book by Mary P. M. Siller.  Previously on this blog, I presented her earlier book, Out of the Ashes: A Story of Common People Transitioning Through Uncommon Events, which is a personal account about losing her home in the 2007 wildfires.  Like her first book, this one reflects Mary's strong spirit, which has helped her fight cancer since 2006, when she found out that she had thyroid cancer.  Today, Mary is living with Stage 4 metastatic colorectal cancer. 

As with Out of the Ashes, this is a more personal post for me, because I am friends with the author.  Mary's newer book, Pilot Light of Hope, is honest and touching and inspirational.  The title describes Mary to a T.  Mary is remarkable.  I first met her when our kids were in elementary school.  She loves art and was an art docent at school, like me.  Mary is friendly, intelligent, and easygoing, and as I got to know her over the years, I discovered that she was a very giving mother, friend, and person.

Mary dedicates Pilot Light of Hope to her family, oncologist and oncology nurses, and to cancer survivors.  Her sister and her mother wrote the book's foreword, and throughout the book are photos of Mary's beautiful family, and some of her many friends.  In spite of what she was going through, Mary is smiling in most of the photos. The back cover of the book is a reproduction of an inspirational painting by a lovely, mutual friend; it's the perfect back cover for this book.  

Although this is Mary's personal story, there's a lot in the book that would help others who are going through the ordeal of cancer.  She offers terrific advice for those battling cancer, which is presented in a clear and concise manner.  In the book, Mary discusses her various treatments, "the terrible time", medical marijuana, and her thoughts and feelings about many things.  I really don't know how Mary summoned up the energy to write this articulate and moving book, but then again, Mary seems to have been blessed with tremendous energy and optimism.  Pilot Light of Hope will bring inspiration and hope to readers.  What really shines throughout the book are the extraordinary qualities that she has always shared generously with others, especially her joyfulness and her loving nature. 

At this point in time, Mary is not having any more treatment.  She is at home with her loving family and a wonderful friend from her childhood who is helping to take care of her.  Friends stop by daily to spend time with her.  Please keep Mary and her family in your thoughts and prayers.  Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

I See London I See France: Review and Giveaway

"I hadn't made the wrong choice in deciding to stay home with the kids.  Somewhere, though, I had lost myself."

' "It's as if I put on this mom costume nine years ago, and I don't know the person underneath anymore.  What is my passion?  Do I have a passion anymore?  I think I'm lost." '
~ I See London I See France, Paulita Kincer 






After Caroline Sommer's husband of fifteen years, Scott, announces that he's "had enough", he methodically packs a suitcase and leaves her alone at home in Columbus, Ohio, with their three young children, Henry, 5, Maggie, 7, and Jack, 9, and Caroline is understandably distraught and confused.  While Scott is away, Caroline visits her friend, Fiona, and because she's enjoyed traveling abroad before, soon decides to take her children to Europe, and sells the family's minivan in order to have money for the trip.  I See London I See France by Paulita Kincer is set in 2012 (with an epilogue set in 2013) in Ohio and Michigan, as well as in parts of England, Scotland, and France, and it also goes back in time to 1996, to Corisca and Aix en Provence, France, where Caroline worked as an au pair for the children of a French couple, Lisette and Robert.  And it was in 1996 when she first met the couple's friend, Jean-Marc, a handsome Frenchman, who she wishes to see again on her current trip, while she contemplates her marriage and her future.

“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”
~ Henry David Thoreau

I'm not exactly sure why I liked this book so much more than the first one I read by Paulita Kincer, The Summer of France.  I enjoyed that book, but I See London I See France, published in 2013, was a much better read for me.  Ouah!  This book immediately grasped my interest, in the first chapter, and my interest never waned.  Written in the first person, Caroline, 38, is the main character and narrator, and I think that women, and particularly those married with children, will easily relate to her frustrations and joys as a wife and mother.  I See London I See France depicts the very real struggles that many married women face, and those that mothers of young children contend with, and the book seemed emotionally honest to me.  It's also quite sexy and funny at times!  The visit to the nude beach where Caroline feels discomfited is very funny (I would've felt the same way as the modest protagonist).  The main character shares her private thoughts about sex and ruminations about romance in a way that's bound to resonate with many women, and I appreciated her candor.  During her trip with the kids to London, Scotland, Paris, and Provence, she takes them on special excursions to Loch Ness and Monet's Garden (belles descriptions!), and Caroline realizes that she must tend to her own needs as well as those of her children, and that it's up to her to discover a passion, her passion, outside of her children, which will bring her personal fulfillment and happiness.  I read this book quickly--not because I was on a deadline to post my review, but because I was eager to know how things turned out for Caroline.  I cared about this character.  Although she's not perfect, she loves her children, fiercely, and she does think about what's best for them.  Caroline seemed like someone I'd want to be friends with in real life.  Paulita Kincer's writing brought Caroline and her story to life.  C'est un livre extraordinaire!

Nouvelles dieu!  France Book Tours is offering a giveaway for a paperback copy of  I See London I See France (U.S./Canada only).

  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
  • For an extra chance, leave a comment en français. 
  • For another chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or let me know that you're already a follower.
  • For an additional chance, post about this giveaway on your blog, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.

Enter by 5 PM PDT on Monday, March 17.  One winner will be selected randomly and announced on Tuesday, March 18.


Please be sure to visit the others stops on the I See London I See France book tour.  Thanks to Emma from France Book Tours for inviting me to be a part of this tour, and to author Paulita Kincer for sending me a copy of her book.

Merci pour la lecture!

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