Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Really Random Tuesday #5: A Winner and a Wordle

Welcome to the fifth "edition" of Really Random Tuesday!

Really Random Tuesday is a way to post odds and ends--announcements, musings, quotes--any blogging and book-related things you can think of. If you're inspired by this idea, please feel free to copy the button, use it on your own blog, link back to me, and let me know.

Congratulations to JHS, who has won the memoir What We Have by Amy Boesky. JHS, your book will be mailed to you soon. If you didn't win this time, please don't despair, because I have other book giveaways posted on the right side of my blog, and more are on the way.

I noticed a "wordle" my daughter had printed out for her friend, so I went on wordle.net and had some fun creating. You can randomize--or customize--any set of words to your heart's content. In fact, there are almost too many choices, and it's easy to get carried away, and spend a lot of time on wordle. This is one I came up with.

I'm not posting a video today, but I do have a terrific quote (although of course women are readers as well):

“‘Tis the good reader that makes the good book; in every book he finds passages which seem confidences or asides hidden from all else and unmistakenly meant for his ear; the profit of books is according to the sensibility of the reader; the profoundest thought or passion sleeps as in a mine, until it is discovered by an equal mind and heart.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson (Society and Solitude, 1870)

Please be sure to visit the excellent Really Random Tuesday posts on Veen's blog, Giving Reading a Chance and Naida's blog, the bookworm. Veens actually posted before me--India is a day ahead!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Book Blogger Hop and a Giveaway

It's Friday! Ready or not, it's time for another Book Blogger Hop, August 27 - August 30, hosted by Jennifer from Crazy-for-Books. This weekly BOOK PARTY is an opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, support each other, and discover new book blogs. Most importantly, it's lots of fun!

This week's question from Books are a Girl's Best Friend is a good one: Do you use a rating system for your reviews and if so, what is it and why?

I do not use a rating system for several reasons. The main reason is because ratings seem too subjective. I know that ratings can help others decide about books, and I do rate books for my reviews on Amazon, because it's a requirement for submitting them, but I don't rate books on my blog because it seems like that would be a too subjective and arbitrary practice. Instead, I discuss books in my reviews, and ask readers to make up their own minds.

Just a few days ago, I learned that I won Free to a Good Home by Eve Marie Mont on Anna's blog, Diary of an Eccentric. Anna reviewed the book, which she calls "a great end-of-summer read", and also presents a guest post by the author, so stop by Diary of an Eccentric when you have a few moments to spare. Since Penguin sent me two copies of this newly released novel, I am giving the extra copy away!

  • To enter the giveaway for this book, 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, or that you subscribe in Google Reader.
  • For an additional chance, post about this contest on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

Enter by 5 PM PDT on Monday, September 13 (U.S./Canada only). One winner will be selected randomly and announced on Tuesday, September 14. Good luck, and thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Really Random Tuesday #4: Ansgar, Book Giveaways, and More

Welcome once again to another "edition" of Really Random Tuesday! Really Random Tuesday is a way to post odds and ends--announcements, musings, quotes--any blogging and book-related things you can think of. If you're inspired by this idea, feel free to copy the button at the end of the post, use it on your own blog, and link back to me.

Last Tuesday I didn't do this meme, even though I'm the host of Really Random Tuesday. I guess it makes sense that I post this meme randomly, on Tuesdays but not on each and every Tuesday. (This randomness comes in handy in numerous ways!) So I was especially pleased that some lovely book bloggers did this meme last Tuesday: Naida from the bookworm, Angela from Chapters, and Veens from Giving Reading a Chance. Thank you for participating in this meme!

Yesterday I found out that I won the book Free to a Good Home by Eve Marie Mont on Anna's blog, Diary of an Eccentric. Thank you, Anna! I love to win books, and I'm looking forward to reading this novel, which Anna calls a "a fast, enjoyable read". If you also enjoy winning books, please scroll down and "check out" the right side of my blog for some wonderful new book giveaways. To enter a giveaway, simply click on the book cover and follow the instructions. I'll be hosting and posting more giveaways in the future, so please stay tuned.

I hope you'll enjoy this random but book-related video as much as I do. I've seen it a few times, and it always makes me smile.

Monday, August 23, 2010

To Your Dog's Health!

Jenny has started to slow down a bit. While she's still eager for walks, it takes her longer to wake up, jump off the couch, or get into the car. As the owner of a twelve-year-old boxer, Jenny, I thought it would be a good idea to learn more about nutrition for dogs. Boxers who live to see "double digits" are apparently rare. While walking Jenny in the park I've been stopped by other boxer owners who marvel at her age and inquire about her diet. She has always had Pedigree Choice Cuts in sauce, which she laps up eagerly, and some kibble (which is mostly organic) that's delivered to the house as needed.

Jenny rarely gets any table scraps, and except for a few tomatoes and avocados that she manages to "steal", she sticks to this diet and is not overfed. Recently, I took her to the vet for a physical, and her blood panel showed that she is affected by hypothyroidism. For her age, though, she's quite healthy, except for her thyroid, which is a tad sluggish. Reluctantly, I give her a tiny pink pill (levothyroxine), twice a day with her meals. (I say reluctantly because I really don't like to give her any medication, especially one that she must take for the rest of her life, but if it makes her feel better, I will.) I haven't noticed a dramatic difference in her, but she seemed fine before ever taking this med. I picked up To Your Dog's Health!: Canine Nutrition and Recent Trends Within the Pet Food Industry by Mark Poveromo to find a possible "food cure" for hypothyroidism in dogs.

“Let food be your medicine.”
~Hippocrates, the father of medicine

This book is a joy to read. It has adorable photos of dogs, and includes some recipes to treat specific canine diseases, such as kidney disease, diabetes, and cancer. Before writing To Your Dog's Health!, Mark Poveromo raised thirteen labs and opened Thomaston Feed, a store which sells nutritionally sound, holistic pet food for dogs and cats. He was inspired to write this book and share with a larger audience his knowledge about the importance of animal nutrition. I enjoyed reading this book, which is a good guide book for dog owners with an interest in optimum canine nutrition. The one thing that I wish this book had was an index. It has a table of contents, but I think an index would have come in handy as well, even though the book is short (under 100 pages). I really wanted to find out about hypothyroidism, had to search this book with a fine-toothed comb to find mention of it, and didn't discover any foods that would specifically help Jenny's condition.

Special thanks to Lisa, The Online Publicist, for sending me this book.

Monday, August 16, 2010

What We Have: Review and Giveaway

Cancer is a disease we all dread. Although there have been numerous advances in treatments and cures over the past few decades, we still have a considerable way to go and need to improve our ability to prevent, treat, and cure cancer in the future. What We Have: One Family's Inspiring Story About Love, Loss, and Survival by Amy Boesky is a memoir, published in 2010, in which cancer plays a central role. Cancer is never far from Amy's thoughts, because for generations the women in her family died young from ovarian cancer, before the age of forty-five. As a result, Amy's biological clock (an overused term, but it truly fits here) ticks all the more rapidly and forcefully under the dreary shadow of cancer.

Often I beat around the bush a bit before I deliver my "verdict" about any particular book. In this case, though, I'll announce right away that I was immediately and thoroughly engaged by this book. It is very well written, and I finished it rather quickly, in just a few days. I found the author's story, told with candor and grace (and a welcome dose of humor), very absorbing. I enjoyed reading about her romance and marriage to Jacques, an easy-going optimist by nature. Cancer has a profound influence over the lives of Amy and her sisters, Julie and Sara, and their mother, Elaine. In this sensitive, highly-detailed memoir, which is heartbreaking at times, relationships are at the very core of the story, close and often complex relationships, and I felt privileged to read this personal account of her life. (I have three sisters, and this book made me think about my own relationships with them, and with my mother, and about our connections as family members.) As a writer, Amy Boesky is not afraid to expose her anxieties, not just about cancer but about other things, too, such as being a mother, especially in those miraculous yet daunting early days with an infant. Ultimately, I felt inspired by Amy's story, because she presents the glass as half-full, and her courage on a daily basis is remarkable. Instead of lamenting her possible fate, she lives life to the fullest, in spite of her fears, and appreciates the glorious details of everyday life.

"That’s how it is for me, thinking about the future. Two different shapes. One holding time, the other escaping it. One suggesting fragility, confinement; the other, something transcendent. Turn it one way, you see an hourglass. Turn it the other way, and you see wings."
~What We Have, Amy Boesky

I think many others would be equally interested in and inspired by Amy's story. Penguin Group is generously giving away a copy of What We Have (U.S./Canada only).
  • To enter the giveaway for this book, 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, or that you subscribe in Google Reader.
  • For an additional chance, post about this contest on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter.
Enter by 5 PM PDT on Monday, August 30. One winner will be selected randomly and announced on Tuesday, August 31. In October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, TLC will host a Book Club of the Month contest for this book, and one book club will win up to ten copies of this book, so if you're in a book club be sure to stop by TLC in October.

Special thanks to Lisa from TLC for including me on this tour. For more reviews of this book, please visit the other stops on TLC's blog tour for What We Have.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Conversation with Sweta Srivastava Vikram

"A poem begins with a lump in the throat." ~Robert Frost

After reading Because All is Not Lost: Verse on Grief, I knew an interview with multi-genre writer Sweta Srivastava Vikram was in order.  Although these poems are about loss and grief, they are also about hope and overcoming loss, and I felt uplifted after reading them.  A spirit of optimism shines through, and as the author says in the book, "The night does not have to smell of burnt pork when there is honey".  With striking imagery and intense feeling, this is a marvelous collection of twenty poems.  In this interview Sweta discusses her background and it's effect on her poetry, and shares some beneficial advice for aspiring authors, especially women.

1) Welcome, Sweta!  Please tell us a bit about your background, and VONA.

SSV: I was born in a steel township in India (my Dad is a metallurgical engineer), but I grew up in India and North Africa. Given my dad's job, I changed schools a lot and spent my formative years in a boarding school in Mussoorie (British Indian author, Ruskin Bond lives in this hill station) India followed by hostels during my undergrad and post grad days. Despite all this mobility, my relationship with words strengthened at a young age. That was the one constant in my life. I would fill diaries with both poetry and sheer randomness. :-)

When I was a pre-teen, my dad had to pay tons of excess baggage for my used and unused diaries that travelled with me, twice a year, from Asia to Europe to Africa. Of course, my brother who is very popular with the ladies, owes his biceps to my luggage-handling. But I am sure he didn't see it that way.:-)

So, anyway, like most "good" Indian kids, I studied sciences (which I loathed) and wrote on the side. But as luck would have it, my first job was in the field of marketing with a multi-national company in Mumbai. Creating strategies, working on advertisement requirement with the ad agency, and promotions with the PR agency further unleashed the caged, creative animal inside of me.

Along with writing and marketing, collecting graduate school degrees is another passion of mine. Yup, I am one those people with three masters degrees. It was after I got my degree from Columbia (the debt hit me) that I realized that I couldn't earn a PhD by combining my three graduate school degrees, so I had to stop the madness.

Finally, after toying with the idea of becoming a full time writer for the longest time, at the beginning of 2010, I quit my marketing job to follow my lifelong dream. At first, I was apprehensive about giving up my stable paycheck, but my husband and a few close friends encouraged me to take the plunge. I saved up for artist residencies. And there has been no looking back!

In terms of writing, I write both prose and poetry though I was at VONA (Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation) for a poetry workshop in June of 2010. VONA is a workshop dedicated to enhancing writing skills of people of color. When I got accepted, I wondered what it would be like because my work is not race-centric. But when I received a part scholarship for it, I took it as a good sign and wrapped up my apprehension! And boy, I have never been more sure of my decision!

VONA was an amazingly unique experience. It's this family from the make-believe world where people are happy and everyone looks out for everyone. The quality of peers and the support of the instructors made for an invaluable experience. It was a week-long, excruciating, intensive program, but I wouldn't want it any other way. It was an extremely nurturing community where we spent most of the time with each other reviewing work, writing, or drinking wine. My instructor was legendary poet Lorna Dee Cervantes. VONA is one of those workshops with a rare philosophy; they don't expect you to follow a boilerplate form of writing. So, you never lose your voice; just learn to trim the unnecessary fluff from your work.

2) Your poems are designed to help others through the grieving process, toward healing. Please tell us about the inspiration behind this collection of poems, the loss of your Dada and Mausi.

SSV: The idea for this book literally came to me when I was at Millay Colony of the Arts in upstate New York. There was no cell phone signal, only beautiful landscape, rabid raccoons, crisp air, and minimal distraction. I would play either KTU or Pandora on my laptop before going to bed because I couldn't sleep in all that quietness. But it was a place where I could hear my thoughts. And I am glad I paid attention to them.

My Dada (my father’s father) and my Mausi (my mother’s sister) died of cancer over two decades apart. I am bewildered by how much their passing away has impacted me. It's not like we lived together. I grew up across three continents. Yet, I felt a different bond with them. See, I grew up in a society where "good career" meant one that offered financial stability. Most of my peers studied medicine, engineering, or MBA. As we all know, the creative field doesn't always promise high remuneration. But my Dada and Mausi encouraged the artist in me to explore myself. Be it music, dance, or words, they listened to my internal voice and expressed interest in my aspirations.

3) One of my favorite poems is "Mommy, we need to have this chat", because it offers comfort to women who have had miscarriages (so many of us have!).  Do you have a favorite poem?

SSV: I am a raging optimist. Maybe it’s the survival instinct. I don't know. But I believe however bad the situation, you have ways of dealing with it. Every scenario offers at least two perspectives. I am not saying it's easy to forget tragedy or any loss, but it's not impossible to move on either. At least for those who are still around you. For that reason, I have to say that my favorite poem in this collection is the last one, a Haiku, "Making the choice." It's the kind of poem that doesn't mince its words, kind of like my personality. It strongly reiterates that life goes on. How you see it or choose to live it, the option is in your hands.

4) I admire poets because poetry seems like such a difficult art form to master. How did you "learn" to write poetry?  Did you take special classes, or is this something that came naturally to you, a talent?

SSV: You know, my dad is a poet by night and engineer by day, so I have to say I am blessed with his writing genes. I believe that you can't teach someone to write; you can guide them but the basic talent and discipline have to be there.

I consciously started writing poetry when I was a pre-teen. And since I did most of my schooling in India, I was used to a different style of writing compared to the US. It was mostly rhymes and somewhat formally structured poetry. We all read Yeats and Frost and subconsciously emulated the old-school style. It was only after I moved to NYC did I realize that there is an ocean of alternate forms of writing, especially contemporary poetry. I was intrigued by free verse and the ability to inscribe non-rhyming structured poems. So, I started reading and writing different forms, voices, and styles. I appreciated the freedom this new world of poetry brought me. I almost felt that I could tell a better story if I didn't limit myself to rhymes. It brought an unmatched openness in my ability to express. With rhymes, often times, the poet isn't left with many choices. The intent and the outcome of the final product aren't always in sync.

I have to be honest, my journey from "I like wine because the beverage is fine" (Hear the rhyme?) to "I like wine because it quenches my poetic thirst," didn't just happen overnight. As the wise ones say--"Old habits die hard." I enrolled in poetry workshops, primarily at Gotham's. And I was fortunate to take a class taught by Erica Wright. That changed my world, literally. At Gotham's, I made some wonderful poet friends. Five of us started our post-Gotham workshop where we decided to meet once every 3-4 weeks and critique each other's work over pie. Yes, food is integral to poetry. :-)

5) I grew up in NYC, and hope you enjoy the city. How does NYC compare to the large cities in India?  In what ways does living in NY affect your poetry?

SSV: Wow! What a small world! Did I say I like you?

I love NYC! Pune, India (I went to college there) and NYC are my absolute favorite cities in the world!

From day one (which was over a decade ago), I felt at home in NYC. Maybe it was because I'd moved from Mumbai, India. And Mumbai, like NYC, is populated with high-strung, ambitious, hardworking dream-chasers with a go-getter and no-nonsense attitude. If you can't already tell, I am a classic prototype. :-)

I would have to say that NYC is most comparable to Mumbai (yup, the city from "Slumdog Millionaire."). Like NYC, people come to Mumbai from all over India to pursue their dreams. Both the cities are cultural melting pots and never sleep. Life is hard; most residents take public transport to their destination and the concept of space finds a home under angry-poetry. But it's the same dirt, distance, and defiance that make Mumbai and NYC special.

It could be my bias (my husband and a lot of people close to me are hardcore Mumbaites), but I don't think there is any other city in India quite like Mumbai. I think the same holds true for NYC and America.

But, for me, NYC isn't the most conducive place for creating poetry. Concrete skyscrapers pour cement on my brain (I believe that's a line from one of my poems). The noise and distractions swallow all metaphors and symbolism gets stuck in the cavities of my poetic voice. That's the reason I go away on artist residencies to secluded places close to nature. That is where I find my inspiration.

NYC is great for writing fiction and nonfiction. The subway ride is a pond of creative material. People on the streets make for interesting nonfiction and fiction characters.

6) What advice can you offer aspiring authors, especially women?

SSV: Oh, Susan, you just opened a can of didactic worms! I can write a thesis on this question. :-)

First: Believe in yourself. If you don't, nobody will.

Second: Always remember, not everybody will like your work. And that is absolutely fine. Every writer has his or her own audience, so learn to make peace with hate emails and certain reviews early on in your career.

Third: Persistence and discipline are the keys to success! Waiting for the muse to show up and help you write is all a myth. Like Pavlov trained the dog with a bell, get your brain and creativity to function everyday at the same time of the day with the tick of an alarm clock. It takes practice, but believe me, it works.

Fourth: Be selective in who you show your work to when it comes to receiving feedback. Too many opinions ruin projects. I have seen that happen to a very dear friend's manuscript. I am not saying everyone intentionally wants to jeopardize your work, but it is inevitable when a bunch of people share their viewpoints.

Fifth: I cannot emphasize enough how important (I understand it's difficult) it is to not take every rejection personally. Sometimes things don't work out. It stinks, but you can choose to deal with it by either mourning the loss or putting the same energy into something positive. You be the judge of how you'd like to utilize your time.

Sixth: Don't let success ever un-ground you. Remember, nothing is permanent in this world. I have met writers who completely lost any semblance of reality after their first book came out. Writing might be a big part of your life, but it's not above humanity or your friends and family. The people who believed in your dreams when you were nothing are the real deal.

Seventh: Most importantly, write, write, and write every day. Everywhere you turn your head, data shows that there are a lot more male writers than female writers. Let's believe that we can change that equation.

7) This is advice to take to heart, Sweta!  What's your next writing project?

SSV: I signed a contract for my first fiction novel just last week (yay!), so at this time, I am actually working on my second fiction novel and a full-length book of poems. Aside from that, just making sure all is taken care of, at my end, with my two upcoming poetry collections: "Kaleidoscope: An Asian Journey of Colors" and "Whispering Woes of Ganges & Zambezi" (collaborative work with a poet from Zimbabwe). Please get yourself a copy when it's out.

8) Because I like to include a lighter question or two, what are some of your favorite ways of "wasting time"?

SSV: Day dreaming. Oh My God, if Dr. John Dorian from the TV show Scrubs ever needed a protege to carry on his "reverie-legacy," I would send in my application. I wish I were kidding!

9) Sweta came up this next and final question--a really good one--because I asked her to think of a question she wanted to answer.

Do you write differently knowing it will be published versus writing in your journal?

SSV: Yes and no. I originally started writing for myself and not with the intention of “selling books.” But even as a child I knew that some day I’d like to see my name on the cover of a book.

When it comes to poetry and personal essays, I write about issues or topics that possess me at a given time. But I am rather pragmatic, so if a publication (that I respect and would like to see my work published in) wants something on a specific theme, I will create a piece that works. What can I say, an artist too has bills to pay!

I think that women should be paid for their hard work (whether or not it's art). Thank you very much, Sweta, for sharing a bit of yourself in this interview. Your work is exciting, and I look forward to reading more of your work.

Comments welcomed.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Really Random Tuesday #3: Blogging Woes, Thanks, and The Book of Love

Welcome to the third "edition" of this new meme. Really Random Tuesday is a way to post odds and ends--announcements, musings, quotes--any blogging and book-related things you can think of. If you're inspired by this idea, please feel free to copy the button, use it on your own blog, link back to me, and let me know. Last week, Avisannschild from she reads and reads did this meme on her book blog, which focuses on fiction written by women. I hope more of you will join the fun and "be random" this Tuesday!

I've been with Blogger for about two years, and there are a couple of things that I'd really like to see changed. First of all, I think an expandable rectangle for typing (and editing) posts would be an improvement. Presently, when you type a post you can only view a couple of inches of text. However, if you create a page, the rectangle is expandable, so hopefully this feature will be available soon for regular posts as well (please hurry, Blogger!). The second thing I'd like changed is that I'd like to be able to list my blogs in my Blogger profile. Because I changed the graphics of my title header, it eliminated the name of my primary blog in my profile, so had to I list this blog as my Webpage. (Update: I've changed my blog header again to include blogger text because I wanted to be able to list my blogs in my profile.) There really should be another way to be able to add your blog(s) to your Blogger profile. And wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to underline text without having to use HTML tags? There's an option to italicize text while composing posts, but not yet one to underline text.

On Monday I went to Barnes & Noble to get a book for my daughter, Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard. Visiting the bookstore is always fun, but I felt a sense of guilt when I left. At Barnes & Noble, I saw many of the books I've been meaning to read, staring me in the face. I spend too much time not reading. I feel disloyal to some of the authors I blogged about when I first started this blog, such as Alexander McCall Smith. It's hard for me to keep up with series of books now, or read sequels. I have the same problem as many other book bloggers: I keep acquiring new books--but not more time to read them! Ah, the plight of the book blogger!

Thanks to all of you who visited my daughter's new book blog for young adults, Chapters. She's off to a great start! On Friday, during the Book Blogger Hop, she beat me traffic-wise, surpassing triple digits! She also received awards from Gramma Ann from My Reading Corner and from Alissa from The Grammarian's Reviews. Thank you all for giving her such a warm welcome. I think her book blog will help her keep track of her reading and motivate her to read (and develop her writing skills).

Now's as good a time as any to post this beautiful song:

And a favorite quote from Dr. Seuss:
"The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go."

Friday, August 6, 2010

Book Blogger Hop, A New Look, and More

Happy Friday! It's time for another Book Blogger Hop, from August 6 - August 9, hosted by Jennifer from Crazy-for-Books.

This week's question is from Chelle from The Prairie Library: Do you listen to music when you read? If so, what are your favorite reading tunes?

I prefer quiet while I'm reading and don't play music, even though I love music. The same holds true when I'm writing--I don't want any distractions, even beautiful music. I don't mind a few sounds, a plane passing by, a bird chirping outdoors, but for the most part I concentrate better without too much noise from the outside world.

If you're new to my blog, welcome! If you've visited before, you may notice that I've made some changes. I've upgraded to Blogger Template Designer. It was a bit scary making the changes, but I think this new template will help solve some of the space issues I had before.

My daughter just started a young adult book blog called Chapters. I hope some of you will take a moment to hop by and welcome her.

Thanks very much for stopping by. If you'd like me to hop over to your blog, simply leave a comment.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Rembrandt Affair: A Questionnaire

Often I am privileged to interview authors. Now I am in a sense the one being interviewed in this non-traditional review of The Rembrandt Affair, the new thriller by NY Times bestselling author Daniel Silva. The publisher presented ten questions pertaining to the book, which I've answered below.

If you were to write a blurb in fewer than three sentences for The Rembrandt Affair, what would it be?

If you seek excitement, don't leave the house--instead, turn off your computer and cell phone, set out the "Do Not Disturb" sign, and open up the latest thriller by Daniel Silva. Furnished with mystery, art, and intrigue, your requirement for excitement will not only be met but exceeded as you join Gabriel Allon on his new adventures around the world.

Gabriel Allon is a talented spy and assassin, but also a master art restorer. If you could have two careers that seem to be complete opposites, what would they be?

That's a great question. I tried to come up with professions that are diametrically opposed. I'm not sure if I completely succeed (in fact, I know I haven't), but I'll choose an artist, a sculptress to be more precise, and a novelist. The first is tactile and communicates in such a different way than the fiction writer. (I studied art and English in college, so I actually have a background in both areas.

What three words would you use to describe the character of Gabriel Allon?

Professional, unflappable, and perspicacious--that's how I'd describe Gabriel Allon.

The Rembrandt Affair
takes the reader all over the world. Of all the locations mentioned, which would be your ideal vacation spot?

Many of the cities mentioned in the book appeal to me--Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, Paris, Tel Aviv, etc.--but if I had to choose only one, it would be London. I am a bit of an Anglophile, am thoroughly charmed by English accents, and "favour" the ambiance of London. It simply seems so established and civilized and sophisticated. I visited London many years ago, armed with an old Nikon and a sense of awe, and would love to return.

Art theft plays a major role in the novel. If no crime were involved, what piece of art would you like to have in your home?

Since I don't think my husband would appreciate discovering a beautiful, giant, naked man in the living room, I won't choose David by Michelangelo. I love the work of the Impressionists, and would probably choose a painting from Claude Monet's Water Lilies series, such as Nymphéas, which is absolutely spectacular. The colors and play of light define glorious!

Zoe Reed is a powerful female character in the novel. Tell us about an influential woman in your life.

My mother is a very strong woman. Along with careers in the medical field and real estate, she raised four daughters without ever complaining. I marvel at the strength and optimism she's shown over the years, which continue now, as she faces health problems with great courage.

Who was your favorite “good guy” in
The Rembrandt Affair and why?

This was my first book by Daniel Silva, and my introduction to Gabriel Allon, who impressed me with his intelligence and compassion. He is a "good guy", a hero without being a stereotypical hero. He never gives up and doesn't compromise his ideals throughout the book, whether he's dealing with art or with people.

All of the technology discussed in the novel is real. Does any of it surprise you?

I know that there's far more technology than I could ever imagine, so it didn't really surprise me. That being said though, what's currently out there is nothing short of amazing. I'm not supposed to quote from my copy of the book, because it's not the final version, so I'll paraphrase a bit. The book says that mobile technology has enabled governments to monitor the words of their citizens, their e-mails, and even their thoughts in ways that
were previously just science fiction. The brave new world has definitely arrived!

What celebrity would play Gabriel Allon if The Rembrandt Affair were on the big screen?

There is only one person I can see in this role. Please don't accuse me of "brown-nosing", but the whole time I read
The Rembrandt Affair I pictured the author as protagonist Gabriel Allon. Once I saw the photo below, that's who I imagined as the character. Or maybe there's an actor who resembles Daniel Silva?

Which fellow book-loving, blogging friend do you think would enjoy The Rembrandt Affair? Tag them here and we will mail a finished copy of the novel!

Thank you for your generosity!
I would like to tag my fellow blogger and writer Kim Smith from Writing Space. As the author of a few mysteries herself, I'm sure she'll appreciate and enjoy this riveting book.

Special thanks to Lisa from TLC and Putnam for including me on this tour. For other such reviews of this book, please visit the other stops on TLC's The Rembrandt Affair blog tour.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Really Random Tuesday #2: A Meme of My Own, Book Winners, and a Video

Welcome to the second "edition" of Really Random Tuesday. I've always wanted to create a meme of my own, and although the alliteration could be improved, I've decided that a meme which allows me to post random yet book-related things is worth repeating. If you're inspired by this idea, feel free to copy the button at the end of the post, use it on your own blog, and link back to me--I would be so grateful. Tuesday might even become my favorite day of the week. :)

Congratulations to the latest winners of my book giveaways! Nancye won a copy of Boys Lie: How Not to Get Played by Belisa Vranich and Holly Eagleson, and Erika from Moonlight Book Reviews won a copy of 1001 Life Changing Quotes 4 Teens by Laura Lyseight. Thanks to all who entered these book giveaways. Please stay tuned for more giveaways in the future.

While I'm driving in the afternoons I often listen to Fresh Air on NPR, a radio show hosted by Terry Gross. I absolutely love listening to these in-depth interviews. Yesterday I heard a terrifically engaging interview with author Gary Shteyngart about his new book, Super Sad True Love Story, a futuristic, dystopian novel, and I learned about the farcical book trailer I present here. If you're a fan of the absurd, you'll enjoy watching this video, which features some well-known authors including Jeffrey Eugenides and Mary Gaitskill.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Marvelous Mailbox Monday

When I first started blogging about books in May of 2008, I only dreamed of the day when I'd be sent books in the mail. I really never expected anyone to mail me books, unless I paid for them. It took about a year of blogging before anyone contacted me and asked me to review a book. I always keep this in mind when I feel a bit overwhelmed by requests, and I appreciate each and every book that has been mailed to me.

Last week, I received three books in the mail. To Your Dog's Health!: Canine Nutrition and Recent Trends Within the Pet Food Industryby Mark Poveromo arrived from Lisa, the Online Publicist. I have a 12-year-old boxer, so I hope this book will have some useful advice about meeting the nutritional needs of an older dog. Additionally, two authors sent me their books. Jeannette Katzir mailed me Broken Birds, The Story of My Momila, a true story about the lasting effects of World War II and the Holocaust, and Sweta Srivastava Vikram sent me Because All is Not Lost, a collection of her poetry. I'm looking forward to reading each of these.

Mailbox Monday, one of my favorite memes, is being hosted by Shanyn from Chick Loves Lit this month. What new books have you gotten recently in the mail or from elsewhere?

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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