Thursday, February 25, 2010

Questions about Truth and Fiction

"The only obligation to which in advance we may hold a novel, without incurring the accusation of being arbitrary, is that it be interesting."
~Henry James (Photo from Wikipedia)

Novels should capture and hold our attention. They need to be interesting. By what other criteria could we judge novels, which are varied, unique, solitary beings? No one wants to read something uninteresting, dull, or boring.

The quote from American writer Henry James lead me to some general questions about writing.

Should writers embellish and exaggerate the truth in order to be more interesting to readers?

Do we make things up just for the sake of being interesting, or should we try to tell the truth, and nothing but the truth, at all times, including in our written words?

If truth is stranger than fiction, as it so often is, then why not stick to the truth? If we write exactly what happened or will happen, will that be enough?

What do you think, about any or all of these questions?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wondrous Words Wednesday

One of my favorite weekly memes is Wondrous Words Wednesday, hosted by Kathy from Bermudaonion's Weblog. Today's words are from Heaven to Betsy by Maud Hart Lovelace.

1. leadplant (Amorpha canescens): North American herbaceous flowering plant; other names: false indigo, prairie shoestring, wild tea
~Photo from WildOnes

Native Americans used the dried leaves of this bushy prairie shrub for pipe smoking and for tea.

2. butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa): species of milkweed native to eastern North America; other names: Canada root, Indian paintbrush, orange milkwood
~Photo from Wikipedia

Butterflies are attracted to the color and copious nectar produced by this plant. Native Americans used this plant as a remedy for wet coughs and other pulmonary ailments.

"The roadsides offered no shade, only thickets of purple spiked leadplant and gaudy butterfly weed."
~Heaven to Betsy, Maud Hart Lovelace

The next two words sound like Armenian last names.

3. Philomathian: lover of learning

This word began in ancient Greek as philomathia from philos "love of" and mathos "learning".

4. Zetamathian: investigator

Information about this word is scarce. Luckily, Bonnie--a character in Heaven to Betsy--defines the word in the book, because I didn't find it elsewhere.

"The students were divided between Philomathians and Zetamathians, societies which competed in athletics, in debate, and in essay writing as the three cups testified."
~Heaven to Betsy, Maud Hart Lovelace

I'm not sure I'd choose to be a Philo or a Zeta based on the meaning of the words; I enjoy both learning and investigating (which is often part of learning).

What wondrous new words have you encountered during recent reading?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mailbox Monday: What's Inside?

To many book bloggers, this is a familiar sight--the white padded envelope, which holds a book. When you're expecting books in the mail, it's fun to try to guess which book is inside the envelope.

To be honest, I wasn't sure what the contents would be this time, because I'm expecting several books in the mail (so much for the moratorium). But I was pleased to find Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World by Abigail Reynolds in the mailer. I won this book on Anna's engaging book blog, Diary of an Eccentric. Anna's review has made me eager to read it.

This is the only new book I have to report for Mailbox Monday, a terrific meme where readers share the books they've recently acquired, hosted by Marcia from The Printed Page. That's a good thing, though, as I already have plenty of books waiting to be read (and more headed my way).

What books arrived in your home recently, by mail or from elsewhere?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sundry Short Stories

While I don't think I'd enjoy reading a full-length novel online, I've enjoyed reading short stories online recently. Short fiction is perfect when you're pressed for time, or wish to sample the work of an author. Or, you may simply enjoy reading shorter works. Here is a list of links to short stories from various book blogs that I visit on a regular basis.


A Doctor's Visit (1898) by Anton Chekhov on Mel's blog, The Reading Life

A Golden Wedding (1909-1922) by Lucy Maud Montgomery on Veens' blog, Giving Reading a Chance!!!

A Perfect Day for Bananafish (1948) by J.D. Salinger on Amanda's Blog, The Zen Leaf, and Veens' blog, Giving Reading a Chance!!!

A Respectable Woman (1894) by Kate Chopin on Mel's blog, The Reading Life

Black Death (1928) by Zora Neale Hurston on Mel's blog, The Reading Life

Death by Scrabble (2005) by Charlie Fish on Priya's blog, uniquely priya

Ghosts (2008) by Edwidge Danticat on Mel's blog, The Reading Life

Harrison Bergeron (1961) by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. on Mel's blog, The Reading Life

Kew Gardens (1919) by Virginia Woolf from The Literature Network

Metropolis (2006) by Crystal Gail Shangkuan Koo on Mel's blog, The Reading Life

Monday or Tuesday (1921) by Virginia Woolf (for more short stories by Woolf, and the author's thoughts on short fiction, visit this post)
Visit The Reading Life Virginia Woolf Project for reviews and links to many other short stories by this author.

My Dear Miss Fairfax (early 1990's) by Nicola Slade on Veens' blog, Giving Reading a Chance!!!

On seeing the 100% perfect girl one beautiful April morning (1981) by Haruki Murakami on Mee's blog, Bookie Mee

Quail Seed (1911) by Saki on Mel's blog, The Reading Life

Snow, Glass, Apples (1994) by Neil Gaiman on Amanda's blog, The Zen Leaf

The Artist of the Beautiful (1844) by Nathaniel Hawthorne on Mel's blog, The Reading Life

The Bet (1889) by Anton Chekhov on Mel's blog, The Reading Life

The Confession (1887) by Guy de Maupassant on Mel's blog, The Reading Life

The Garden Party (1922) by Katherine Mansfield on Mel's blog, The Reading Life
Visit The Reading Life Katherine Mansfield Project for reviews and links to many other short stories by this author.

The Gift of the Magi (1906) by O. Henry on Mel's blog, The Reading Life

The Little Match Girl (1845) by Hans Christian Andersen on Veens' blog, Giving Reading a Chance!!!

The Metamorphosis (1915) by Franz Kafka on Mel's blog, The Reading Life

The Monkey's Paw (1902) by W. W. Jacobs on Mel's blog, The Reading Life

The Open Window (1870-1916) by Saki on Mel's blog, The Reading Life

The Philanthropist and the Happy Cat (1911) by Saki on Mel's blog, The Reading Life

The Shot (1831) by Alexander Pushkin on Mel's blog, The Reading Life

The Tell-Tale Heart (1843) by Edgar Allan Poe on Naida's blog, the bookworm

The Tower Room (early 1990's) by Nicola Slade on Veens' blog, Giving Reading a Chance!!!

The Withered Arm (1888) by Thomas Hardy on Mel's blog, The Reading Life, and Mrs. B's blog, The Literary Stew

Tony Takitani (2002) by Haruki Murakami on Michelle's blog, su(shu) a girl finds comfort in her books


Please feel free to add links to other short stories in the comments, which I'll add to this post. I may also add other short story links every so often. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wondrous Words Wednesday

Today's new words for Wondrous Words Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Kathy from Bermudaonion's Weblog, come from two different sources.

The first is from a wonderfully written blog I discovered a few months ago.

1. chary: very cautious, wary, careful

"I am very chary about saying this too loudly, but I think we may have the phone problem solved."
~Ann from Table Talk

Ann has a sophistication about her that shines through her writing. Table Talk is a blog I hope to frequent more often in the future.

2. grandiloquent
: full of fine words, flowery language, and fancy expressions (as found in much 19th century poetry); use of impressive-sounding but mostly meaningless words and phrases (political rhetoric)

"Sometimes Tacy enlivened the envelope by putting the stamp on upside down to signify love, or by addressing her with some grandiloquent string of names such as Miss Elizabetha Gwendolyn Madeline Angeline Rosemond Ray, or by adding BC for Best Chum or HHAS for Herbert Humphreys Admiration Society."
~Heaven to Betsy, Maud Hart Lovelace

I think this word sounds very much like its meaning. I won this very enjoyable book, which contains two Betsy-Tacy novels, Heaven to Betsy and Betsy in Spite of Herself, on Kate's Book Blog. I've finished reading Heaven to Betsy and am currently reading Betsy in Spite of Herself. Having never read these charming classics as a child, I am relishing them for the first time now. Harper Collins has recently republished books from the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace.

3. triumvirate
: a government of three officers; any group or set of three

"What, Betsy wondered, was a Triumvirate?"
~Heaven to Betsy, Maud Hart Lovelace

Of course, tri means three, but I didn't remember reading or hearing this word before. A quadrumvirate means--you guessed it--a governing or managing group, coalition, or set of four people.

What wondrous new words have you encountered during recent reading?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Blogging Awards

As part of my current blog remodeling project, I've decided to feature only the very latest award on my blog (or newest awards from a single month if there are more than one), and house the others in this separate post. I saw something similar a while ago on Amanda's blog, The Zen Leaf, and it's time to follow suit. I never thought I'd say this, but I have so many awards now that I find this necessary. Please be assured that I appreciate each and every award I've received (unfortunately, I did not keep better track of a couple of duplicate awards and will not be able to mention the sources for them). These wonderful awards are playful reminders of the connections I've made in the book blogging world.

Here are my awards, from the earliest to the latest. Please feel free to download and distribute these to others. If you're interested, click on the links underneath awards for posts and "official rules" governing each; in some instances you'll need to scroll down a bit after clicking.

Honest Scrap Award
Awarded 12/08 by Kim from Writing Space

Premio Dardos Award
Awarded 3/09 by Kim from Writing Space
and 6/10 by Uniquely Priya

One Lovely Blog Award
Awarded 5/09 by Mervat from The Writing Instinct,
3/10 by Dr. Bill from Dr. Bill's Book Bazaar,
and 5/10 by Book Quoter from a thousand Books with Quotes

Humane Award
Awarded 7/09 by LuAnn from Reading Frenzy,
and 4/10 by Natalie from The Book Inn

Kreativ Blogger Award
Awarded 7/09 by Cathy from One eyed stuffed bunny and . . .

B-I-N-G-O Award
Awarded 8/09 by Cathy from One eyed stuffed bunny and . . .

Lemonade Award
Awarded 8/09 by Mel from The Reading Life

Super Comments Award
Awarded 9/09 by Laura from Laura's Reviews

Superior Scribbler Award
Awarded 9/09 by Laura from Laura's Reviews

Who Loves You Baby! Award
Awarded 9/09 by Cathy from One eyed stuffed bunny and . . .

Zombie Chicken Award
Awarded 9/09 by Laura from Laura's Reviews

Let's Be Friends Award
Awarded 9/09 (&10/09) by vvB32

Great Look Award
Awarded 10/09 by Laura from Laura's Reviews

Honest Scrap Award
Awarded 11/09 by Renee from Black 'N Gold Girls' Book Spot

Over the Top Award
Awarded 12/09 by Naida from the bookworm

The Circle of Friends Award
Awarded 12/09 by Renee from Black 'N Gold Girl's Book Spot

Happy 101 Award
Awarded 1/10 by Helen from Helen's Book Blog,
and 2/10 by Renee from Black 'N Gold Girl's Book Spot

Blogger Buddie Award
Awarded 1/10 by Renee from Black 'N Gold Girl's Book Spot

Prolific Blogger Award
Awarded 1/10 by Renee from Black 'N Gold Girl's Book Spot,
and 5/10 by Becki from Confessions of a Bibliophile

Sugar Doll Award
Awarded 2/10 by Yvonne from Socrates' Book Reviews

Picasso Award
Awarded 2/10 by LuAnn from Reading Frenzy

XXtraordinary Blogger Award
Awarded 5/10 by Freda from Freda's Voice

Bodacious Blogging Book Reviewers Award
Awarded 5/10 by Yvonne from Socrates' Book Reviews

Sunshine Award
Awarded 5/10 by Renee from Black 'N Gold Girl's Book Spot

The Versatile Blogger Award
Awarded 5/10 by Sarah from Loving Books
and 6/10 by Susan from Crazy Cat Lady's Library

Thank you all very much for these awards, and for your support and shared enthusiasm for blogging, writing, reading--and books!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Elena, Woman of Courage: Review and Giveaway

Ah, the good old days! Doctors made house calls, rode on horseback to remote areas, and stayed up all night with ailing patients if necessary, bringing patients and family members needed care, comfort, and relief. Although I know there have been tremendous medical advances since the 1920's, such as the discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928, sometimes I yearn for the days when doctors traveled to the homes of their patients, long before the days of health insurance and co-pays, crowded offices, congested hospitals, and confusing and costly medical bills.

However, the good old days really weren't so good for female doctors in the 1920's.

In the fifth and final book of this series by Linda Weaver Clarke, Elena, Woman of Courage: A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho, the story focuses on the new doctor in town, Elena Yeates, who makes house calls, and also has an office for medical exams. She's seeking acceptance in the conservative western town of Paris, Idaho, in 1925. While Melinda Roberts wishes to switch from her old doctor to the new, female doctor, the menfolk are quite reluctant to. Elena is scoffed at and taunted, particularly by Mr. Anderson, who calls her a witch doctor and an old maid, because she's twenty-six, unmarried, and the wrong sex to be a doctor, and the other men are quite skeptical of her. That is, except for one. In the continuation of this historical fiction series, the Roberts' son, John, a "confirmed bachelor", is entranced by the new woman in town, who just happens to be the new doctor.

"As the men conversed, John watched Elena's every move and tried thinking of a way to get to know her. He had seldom been interested in a woman beyond the dance floor. He claimed to love the life of a bachelor and was too busy to court a woman, but for some reason, this woman fascinated him. There was only one problem; she did not seem to be interested in him."
~Elena, Woman of Courage, Linda Weaver Clarke

John feigns an illness and goes to see this lovely, half-Mexican, woman doctor with bobbed hair (a hairstyle some called disgraceful at the time) because of his interest in her. This story features members of the Roberts family and has many of the same elements I enjoyed in the author's previous books; it introduces a strong, independent protagonist, Dr. Elena Yeates, and includes an ardent romance between John and Elena. These books are enjoyable to read, and although they're wholesome, they're never boring. Linda Weaver Clarke is outstanding at presenting the characters' thoughts, especially when it comes to romance, and she captures the highs and lows of romantic life rather adeptly. The author also pays close attention to historical accuracy, enabling readers to learn about U.S. history in her novels. This book discusses the first female doctor in the U.S., Elizabeth Blackwell, who graduated at the top of her class in 1849, and set up her own clinic in NY because hospitals didn't hire women until years later. I enjoyed this story of adventure and romance set in the wild west, but I'm a bit saddened because this is the last book in the series, although the Author's Notes at the back of the book mentions that there's another series in the works.

And there's more good news! Linda Weaver Clarke is again generously offering an autographed copy of the first book in the series, Melinda and the Wild West, as a giveaway (US/Canada). To find out more about this book, here's my review.

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

Enter by 5 PM PST on Sunday, March 7. The winner will be selected randomly, and announced on Monday, March 8. Good luck!

Special thanks to Linda Weaver Clarke for sending me this book. Without a doubt, Elena, Woman of Courage counts toward the Women Unbound Reading Challenge hosted by Aarti, Care, and Eva.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

An Interview with Jamie Ford

Having recently read and reviewed Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, I am thrilled to present this interview with the book's author, Jamie Ford.

1) Welcome, Jamie! Let's talk about the inspiration behind Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. I learned from the interview at the back of the book that this novel started out as a short story about the "I am Chinese" button that Henry Lee, the protagonist, wears, which was actually worn by your own father, who was 100% Chinese. This became the third chapter in your book. Is that your favorite chapter? You also have a chapter called, I Am Japanese. Did you plan that in advance? What or who else inspired you to write this novel?

JF: Hmmm . . . I probably don't have a favorite chapter in particular, but that one certainly feels like an old friend. As far as the chapter entitled, I Am Japanese, I was probably channeling a lifetime of people asking me if I was Korean, or Japanese, or Native American, or . . . Russian. Not sure how I'd be mistaken for Russian, but it's happened. Not a big deal really. I'm sure there are plenty of Finns mistaken for Swedes, and Scots mistaken for Irishman.

As far as inspiration, one taproot that I rarely talk about is my adoptive grandfather, James Eng--one of the finest people I've ever known. His relationship to my grandmother was very similar to Henry's relationship with his own wife--loyal and devoted, despite a lot of history that wasn't always perfect. Which is probably why I named Henry's wife Ethel, after my grandmother.

2) Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is told in the split narrative: past (1942, 1945) and present (1986). In the first chapter, it's 1986 and there's a large crowd at the Panama Hotel (a real hotel in Seattle and surviving landmark of Nihonmachi, Japantown) as the discovery of the belongings of thirty-seven Japanese families is announced. This really happened, and the belongings provide a time capsule of the war years. This discovery makes Henry remember his long lost love, and we remember how cruel this episode in American history was, when Japanese families in America were evacuated to internment camps. Do you think people today have forgotten about the Japanese internment, and has America made enough reparations?

JF: As far as reparations, I think so. But I wasn't personally affected so it's not really for me to say. But from a distance, and having done a lot of research, I think the redress--the apology itself--was worth more than any monetary payment. It allowed families that had avoided discussing these events to begin a dialog, with their children, with their friends and neighbors, which allowed for healing and closure.

But the other question, do I think people have forgotten? Sadly, yes. I've had scores of readers write in telling me that they never really knew much about the internment. I've had reviewers doubt the veracity of the internment experience as depicted. I even checked my daughter's 8th grade history book--which has two short paragraphs about the internment, in a book of 600+ pages.

But then again, I went to Marcus Whitman Junior High, and I have no recollection of who Marcus Whitman was or what he did, so America's forgetting their history is not limited to aspects of social justice.

3) In the book, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a pretty Japanese girl with chestnut-brown eyes, at the all-white Rainier Elementary School. As the only Asians at Rainier, they are teased and taunted. Henry and Keiko forge a special friendship which turns into young love (they are only 12 when they meet). Was it difficult to write about such a young, "Romeo and Juliet" type of relationship? Does the fact that their association is forbidden by Henry's father make it more intense and appealing to Henry?

JF: Funny you should ask. I had one agent offer representation but only if I agreed to make Henry and Keiko eighteen, so they could, "Fully explore their relationship", as this agent put it. I just didn't want to go there. I wanted to retain a very simple innocence, it was easier and less complicated. It's not that I couldn't write a sweatier version of HOTEL, I just didn't think that approach was warranted. I wanted the love story to be all-consuming, not all consummating. Regarding the second question--for the reader, a cross-cultural love story is more intense and appealing, but for poor Henry, it was probably his worst nightmare. He fell in love with a girl, she just happened to be Japanese. I don't think he went out of his way to ruin his father's expectations, it was just a byproduct of assimilating into western society.

(It's a sweet love story precisely because of their innocence. And it's clear in your book that Henry doesn't set out to fall for a girl of the "wrong" nationality--it just happens.)

4) Music plays a prominent role in your book. Henry is obsessed with jazz music. He covers his school books with old jazz-club fliers, befriends a street musician, Sheldon Thomas, and loves the music of Oscar Holden, who's considered to be the patriarch of Seattle jazz. Is this part of the story autobiographical? If this novel were made into a movie, what songs would need to be included on the soundtrack?

JF: I always get asked if I'm a jazz aficionado, and I have to confess that I'm more of a blues-man--I love Taj Mahal and Buddy Guy. But for me, the jazz in HOTEL is emblematic of the passage of time. Of gentrification and loss. At one time South Jackson boasted 38 jazz clubs. There were orchestras, which shrunk into combos and quartets, then trios, and finally piano bars. Now, when most people think about Seattle jazz, they think about Kenny G, and that breaks my heart. If there were a movie soundtrack it'd need to be a Duke Ellington kind of arrangement, but sung by Erykah Badu, who I love and whose voice is a dead-ringer for Billie Holiday. And of course a few numbers sung by Oscar Holden's daughter, Grace, who still performs in Seattle.

(Shorter questions now!)

5) Obviously you did a lot of research for this book. How did you go about researching?

JF: The first thing I did was to buy a map of Seattle, circa 1939, off of eBay. I just needed to see what the place looked like, before the district was bumped south and before I-5 bisected the neighborhood Then I dove into all kinds of non-fiction books, spent time at the Wing Luke Asian Museum in Seattle, met with Doug Chin, a local historian. I got my feet dirty walking in the streets and alleys. I also spent hours in the basement of the Panama Hotel itself, which was a fascinating and humbling experience.

6) Any "secrets" or advice for aspiring writers?

JF: Brandon Sanderson said it best: Allow yourself to suck. You wouldn't sit down at the piano and expect to play Mozart, would you? Of course not, you sit down and plink away at Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star and work your way up. The same rules and expectations apply to writing. So many aspiring writers try to play Mozart right away and when they can't they throw up their hands and say, "I can't do it, I don't have any talent, I'm not a writer". Writing is a craft that needs to be learned and practiced. There are no wasted words. Keep writing.

7) Is there another book in the works? (Fingers crossed!)

JF: Nope, I'm done--nothing but ghostwriters for me from here on out. Okay, I might have another book in the works, and it might be called Whispers of a Thunder God, and it might be about a student conscript who becomes a kamikaze pilot, and it might be another love story, and it might happen to hit shelves in early 2011. Just sayin'.

And I might need to read it! Thank you so much for doing this interview, Jamie.

Special thanks to Lisa from TLC for helping to arrange this interview.  For more interviews with Jamie, as well as reviews and giveaways of his book, visit the other stops on TLC's Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet book tour.  To enter my giveaway for this novel, please visit my review.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: Review and Giveaway

I have an admission to make. When I first got this book, I looked at the cover and liked what I saw. To me, there is something inherently romantic about rain and umbrellas, and a sense of innocence and possibility is also captured in this golden-hued cover. I am drawn to books that are pleasing to the eye, and this cover is lovely. I wanted to read it right away, and I did. But does this book live up to its cover?

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, published in 2009, is a New York Times bestseller, the debut novel of Jamie Ford. It's the story of Henry Lee, the protagonist, a 12-year-old Chinese American boy, who meets a pretty, 12-year-old Japanese American girl, Keiko Okabe, at Rainier Elementary School in Seattle. They're the only Asians at school, and are taunted by the other kids. Henry and Keiko work together in the school cafeteria at lunchtime, share canned fruit, and develop a special friendship, which turns into young love. (I've heard this criticized by other reviewers, saying they are too young, but I have friends from my own childhood who had first-loves at the young age of 12 or 13, so I know it's entirely possible.) From the start, though, there is a problem with their relationship.

"His father hated the Japanese. Not because they they sank the USS Arizona--he hated them because they'd been bombing Chongqing, nonstop, for the last four years. Henry's father had never even been there, but he knew that the provisional capital of Chiang Kai-shek had already become the most-bombed city in history."
~Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford

Henry's father, a Chinese nationalist, forbids his son to see Keiko, but Henry follows his own heart, which leads him to Nihonmachi, or Japantown, Keiko's home. The novel begins in 1986, outside of the Panama Hotel, with the discovery of the belongings of thirty-seven Japanese American families who were banished to internment camps during World War II. The Panama Hotel divides Seattle's Chinatown from Japantown, and is also significant as a meeting place in the story. This discovery at the hotel, and a painted parasol in particular, brings back Henry's memories of Keiko, who was evacuated with her family to the internment camps more than forty years earlier. Henry, now a widower (his wife, Ethel, has recently died of cancer), is in the midst of trying to mend his relationship with his son, Marty, and he also thinks about his past and Keiko. The book is told in the split-narrative, and is easy to follow because each chapter is dated as 1986 or 1942 (or 1945).

I don't want to say too much about the plot of this tender tale, because I hope you'll read it for yourself. Words cannot adequately express how I experienced this novel, how this book touched me, or how this story will remain with me. But I will say that I enjoyed it greatly, and learned about the Japanese internment during World War II, the racial tensions of the 1940's, as well as Oscar Holden and Seattle's flourishing jazz scene. Jamie Ford is quite a talented writer, and this book does live up to its cover.

Exciting news! The publisher is offering one copy of the book (the trade paperback version) as a giveaway (US/Canada only).
  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
  • For an extra 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, or Twitter.
Enter by 5 PM PST on Sunday, February 28. The winner will be selected randomly, and announced on Monday, March 1. Good luck!

Special thanks to Lisa from TLC and Random House for sending me this book. For more reviews of this book, visit the other stops on the Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet book tour. Please stop by again on February 10 for an exclusive interview with the author, Jamie Ford.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet counts toward Jennie's China Challenge.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wondrous Words Wednesday: What's for Dinner?

Is there a language more beautiful than Italian? Or a cuisine that appeals more to the senses? This week, I'm focusing on a few of the Italian foods mentioned in Keeping the Feast: One Couple's Story of Love, Food, and Healing in Italy by Paula Buttrini for Wondrous Words Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Kathy from Bermudaonion's Weblog. Because I have an uncorrected proof of this book I'm not supposed to quote from it, so I've written my own sentences to help convey the meanings of the words.

spaghetti alle vongole: Italian dish of spaghetti with baby clams in the shell, with olive oil, white wine, garlic, chopped parsley, and a dash of red pepper

Mama Lita's spaghetti alle vongole was a favorite at the Lombardi's house.

pizza bianca: "white" pizza; in Rome, the term refers to a flat bread topped with olive oil, salt, and sometimes rosemary sprigs (may also have thin slices of sausage or cold cuts), but without tomato sauce; In the U.S., the toppings also often include mozzarella and other cheeses, drizzled with olive oil, and fresh spices such as basil and garlic.

pizza con patate: pizza dough baked with thin slices of potato and sprinkled with rosemary

pizza rossa: pizza with various toppings, slathered with tomato sauce

At Medina's, we ordered a large garden salad and three kinds of pizza, pizza bianca, pizza rosa, and pizza con patate, to share at the table.

. frutti di bosco: "Fruit of the Forest (or Woods)"; mixed berries, blueberries, raspberries, wild strawberries, and red and black currants, served in season; also refers to desserts such as gelato, flavored by berries

We sat out on the balcony savoring the balmy evening and the fresh frutti di bosco served for dessert.

Buon compleanno! I've just learned on Margot's blog, Joyfully Retired, that Kathy started Wondrous Words Wednesday a year ago, so this educational weekly meme celebrates its one-year anniversary today.

What wondrous words have you encountered during recent reading?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Mailbox Monday Moratorium Monday

Admittedly, I have a problem.

In Friday's post, I mentioned seven books I've recently won, all of which arrived in the mail, and I just found out this morning that I've won another book, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Last Man in the World by Abigail Reynolds, from Anna's book blog, Diary of an Eccentric. I've also been receiving other books in the mail, from authors and publishers, as well as a few that I've ordered.

On Sunday my daughters and I ventured to Barnes & Noble, armed with a couple of gift cards and my membership card. (Whenever I go to a bookstore or the book section of a store, I can't help but smile as I see many of the books I've posted about or read about on other blogs. I want to tell everyone around that I'm a book blogger, but at most I tell a salesperson or two.) As far as purchases go, my daughter bought a joke book for her teacher's birthday, and I bought one book, Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin, because I've decided that I must read a book by this author.

But, enough is enough! While I love getting new books, I already have so many books waiting to be read, and my gargantuan to-be-read pile is growing every day. It's getting to be ridiculous! Maybe I should impose a moratorium on getting any additional books.

Sometimes, I wish I were more like the protagonist, Liesel Meminger, in The Book Thief. She has only a few books, reads them one-at-a-time, lingers with each book, gets to know each one deeply, and greatly appreciates each book. Too often I feel as if I am racing through my books, not savoring them enough. The sight of so many books waiting to be read causes me to feel a bit anxious and guilty at times. How will I ever be able read them all? And yet, I keep entering book giveaways, I keep finding more books which interest me, I keep purchasing books, and lo and behold! I keep finding more books in the mailbox.

This is my fourth official Mailbox Monday, a terrific meme where readers share the books they've recently acquired, hosted by Marcia from The Printed Page. I'd ask what new books you've gotten lately, but I'm afraid that I'd discover intriguing new titles to add to my to-be-read pile!

Some of the books featured here were given to me free of charge by authors, publishers, and agents. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.


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