31 January 2011

Oh, my. Coffee and a Book Chick is on Facebook...

In an attempt to become more respectful of the gods of social media (or more accurately, at the risk of potentially bombarding the world with all things Coffee and a Book Chick), I wanted to let you know that I've created a Facebook page... I blame it all on good friends who peer pressured me into it.

My hope is to post bookish things that are too short to dedicate a full blog post on, yet too long to limit to 140 characters on Twitter. All just for fun. For giggles. For shock.

And I'd love it if you hopped on and became a fan!

Happy Reading, posting, and tweeting,
Coffee and a Book Chick


27 January 2011

Guess what happens next week?  Evenfall by Liz Michalski is finally in stores!

The cover alone is a beautiful work of art, right?  And if you even have the slightest inkling and interest in stories dealing with regret, love, loss, history, ghosts...then you should probably rush to your local bookstore and pick up debut author Liz Michalski's Evenfall, which is scheduled for release next week.  And you might not like the book, instead you might actually love it.  Like me.

I cannot gush enough about this story.  Can you sense it?

I was so fortunate to pick her book up at the SIBA Trade Show in Daytona Beach last year, and the cover alone compelled me to read it immediately. Then the characters, the setting, the story, regret, love...it resonated with me and I wanted more.  There was such a unique way the three characters were weaved into each of their own chapters told from their perspectives - including Frank, a ghost who has a deep regret still felt.  You can read my full review by clicking here.

Farm Lane Book Blogs wrote a recent post about why she loves debut authors, and I completely agree.  Visit her site by clicking here.

Please leave a comment with your email address.
You don't have to be a follower of the blog or Twitter...you don't even have to tweet about it or anything...
BUT...I love feeling the love.  So, leave an extra comment each time you do tweet or blog about it to up your chances...
Entries accepted through this Sunday, January 30, 2011.

Liz Michalski, debut author of Evenfall
Liz Michalski was kind enough to participate in an interview and I'm so excited to share with you this author - I cannot recommend this book highly enough, and implore you to pick up the book when you are next in the store, read the jacket, flip through the pages...it will pull you in.

And for those who attend her book signings or send an email to this address with a picture of themselves and their copy of the book?  She's giving out a url and code which, when you jump onto her haunting and whimsical website to find the "secret" pages, you'll get even more of the backstory of Evenfall!

Author Interview
1. Evenfall deals with several different themes such as love, regret, death, family - what specifically compelled you to craft a story about all of these elements?

The story evolved over an extended period of time, and really just kept growing. Looking back, I think part of my inspiration was that I knew I'd be leaving the small rural town I'd been living in for the past 10 years. It was the best move for my family, but at the same time there were a lot of things I knew I'd miss. I was able to draw on those emotions for my characters, who wind up missing a lot of the things I did.

2. I think Frank was my favorite character! In the story, Frank is a ghost and still living in his house - his regret is so apparent and thoughtful, and it was easy to see that these emotions were so incredibly strong that he still maintained an "existence" after his death. How did you decide that one of the primary characters would be a ghost?

The whole first line of the novel popped into my head one morning in the shower, but I had no idea what to do with it, or who Frank was. But a few weeks later, I was viewing a house -- one of my freelance jobs was as a real estate writer -- and it had the most amazing attic, dry and peaceful and resembling a ship. The agent I was touring with told me it was possible that shipwrights had built it. From there, Frank just kind of moved in and took up residence. 

3. The afterlife is always a debatable topic, but it's important to many people who have lost loved ones. Sometimes the knowledge that there is an afterlife is more reassuring to someone not for themselves, but it provides a comfort to know that their loved one has moved on to a better life. Are there specific books, films, or events that helped you through the process to write about the afterlife, and Frank's perspective?

It was important to me that Frank's actions as a ghost be logical -- that they fit into the rules of the natural world. I'm the least scientific person in the world, probably, but I tried to keep what he could do -- in the beginning, particularly -- within the realm of what I thought of as reasonable. He couldn't just wave an arm and have a door downstairs shut, and he had to deal with the frustration of that limitation. I also read The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier several times during the course of writing Evenfall -- it approaches the afterlife in such an original and interesting way, and it is just such a great book. 

4. History is a significant piece of Evenfall as well - Aunt Gert certainly was an incredible woman in her life. Being a part of World War II as a nurse seems to truly develop the strength of her character as a strong woman who won't take any guff - what were your inspirations to develop Aunt Gert?

I read several biographies of women who served as nurses in World War II -- their tales were very inspiring. Also, my mom was a nurse in a very tough New England town in the 70s and 80s, and I drew a bit on what I remember of she and her friends during that time.

5. As a new author, what insights can you share for aspiring novelists?

There are so many blogs and websites and books out there with good advice -- take advantage of them! (I list my three favorite blogs on my website, and for books, I'm partial to Stephen King's On Writing.) I also tried to figure out how my favorite authors write so well -- how they break down a story in terms of pacing, why they use a certain point of view, how they handle aspects like backstory and flashbacks. When I'm stuck, I'll literally pick apart a scene by someone else to see why it works when my scene doesn't. 

6. What are your favorite books/authors?

I read pretty much everything, but I do have some favorites. Amy Bloom (especially A Blind Man Could See How Much I Love You), Lee Child, Alice Hoffman (Turtle Moon and Practical Magic), Diana Gabaldon, and Barbara Kingsolver are on my 'automatic buy' list. I also love Jane Austen, A.S. Byatt, J.K. Rowling, C.S. Lewis, and Tolkien. 

7. What's next for you?

I'm working on a story about a family where, in every generation, one daughter is born with the power to make things disappear. It's a little bit more magical realism in terms of genre than Evenfall. It's about love and siblings and how we decide who 'belongs' and who doesn't. I just sent the first 50 pages to my agent, and I'm really excited about it.

Liz Michalski
Author Bio
Liz Michalski's first novel, EVENFALL, will be published in February 2011 by Berkley Books (Penguin).  She's been a report, an editor, a freelance writer, and has written hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines, and private corporations.

In her previous life, she wrangled with ill-tempered horses and oversized show dogs.  These days she chases after small children and a medium-sized mutt.  She likes dark chocolate caramels, champagne, and licorice tea (preferably not all served at once).  In summer you'll find her visiting farmer's markets and trying to talk her family out of making her swim at the Connecticut shore.

The rest of the year she's home in Massachusetts with her husband, daughter, and son, hard at work on her next novel.

Note from Coffee and a Book Chick
Many thanks go to Liz Michalski for taking the time to interact with the book blogging community and her readers.  It goes a long way when someone who doesn't have to, but does, participate, and does it so genuinely and with such a good spirit.  I look forward to her next book!

Happy Reading,
Coffee and a Book Chick


25 January 2011

...Challenges and Readalongs...

Other than the Victorian Literature Challenge, hosted by words, words, words, I have been remiss in posting about all of the challenges that I'd like to partake in.  I don't want to overwhelm myself, but I just don't want to miss out, sooooo, here goes.....

Hosted by Books in the City, the Immigrant Stories 2011 Challenge drew me right in. The requirement is that the stories be about immigrants, the immigrant experience, and first generation children of immigrants. It is also not limited to the American immigrant experience.

Thanks to Beth Fish Reads for posting about all of the challenges that look interesting.  That's where she introduced me to Book After Book who is hosting the Italy in Books Challenge. Some of you may know that I have a teensy bit of an obsession with all things Italy and have visited twice, including my honeymoon a little over a year ago. I would have felt guilty had I not signed up for this one! January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011 - read at least 12 books set in Italy (yikes!). There are monthly prizes, though!

The Ladybug Reads is hosting the 2011 E-Book Challenge. Since I got the Nook Color for Christmas from my fabulous family, I didn't want to pass this one up.  January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011 - read a minimum of three, no maximum.

Here are some other challenges or read-a-longs that have really pulled me in. I am not sure if I am officially joining, but don't these look hard to resist?

After reading Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth and Ethan Frome, I decided I was in love with her haunting and depressing stories. And bookworm meets bookworm is hosting The Age of Innocence Read-A-Long.

I've been meaning to read Villette by Charlotte Bronte for ages. Then, when it seemed to be mentioned frequently in Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale, I knew it was some sort of sign that I should read it. Hosted by the amazing Unputdownables...

Sigh...how will I ever get this all done...  But, what a good problem to have, no?

Happy Reading,
Coffee and a Book Chick


24 January 2011

Monday, Monday! What Are You Reading?

(Updated with beautiful new image).  Thanks to all of our Mailbox Monday hosts!  Created by Marcia at The Printed Page and on tour this month with Rose City Reader.  A thank you as well to host Sheila at Book Journey!

It's been a while since I took part in this meme, and I will blame it all on work!  What a crazy start to 2011 already.

From top to bottom in the picture:
  • The Oracle of Stamboul, by Michael David Lukas (Publication Date February 2011 - HarperCollins Publishers) - it arrives in a wonderful self-contained dark purple covering.  So creative in how you have to open it and pull the book out!
  • Exit the Actress, by Priya Parmar (Publication Date February 2011 - Simon & Schuster) - soooo excited to read this one!
  • Devotion: A Memoir, by Dani Shapiro (Publication Date January 2010 - HarperCollins Publishers)
  • State of Mind, by Sven Michael Davison (Publication Date March 2011 - Bedouin Press)
  • One Day, by David Nicholls (Publication Date June 2010 - Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group) - Received by Paperbackswap
  • After Isaactown, by Ward Jones (Publication Date January 2011 - CreateSpace, publisher)
  • Habit of a Foreign Sky, by Xu Xi (Publication Date October 2010 - Haven Books)
  • The Fifth Servant, by Kenneth Wishnia (Publication Date February 2011 - HarperCollins Publishers)
  • Pearl: A Life Too Short, A Death Too Long, by Darlene Cox (Publication Date November 2010 - Outskirts Press)
  • The Other Life, by Ellen Meister (Publication Date February 2011 - Penguin Group)

What about you?  What wonderful selections came for you?  I'd love to hear about it - feel free to post the link to your blog post, and if you don't have a blog, drop me a comment below and tell me what books you picked up, or are dying to get your hands on!

    Happy Reading,
    Coffee and a Book Chick


    18 January 2011

    The Passage, by Justin Cronin

    I knew that downloading The Passage, by Justin Cronin would be the perfect selection to read on my Nook Color for the first time, especially as the size is daunting.  So many incredible events take place throughout this book, that I almost don't know where to start.

    The Passage is a sweeping dystopian story that starts out a few years after our current time in a society that is still "normal."  It is FBI Special Agent Wolgast's job to collect identified human test subjects for a secret Army project that has been developed after a virus was uncovered in the jungles of Bolivia that cures illnesses and slows aging - and it could potentially be turned into a weapon of unbelievable proportions.  Soldiers that heal themselves?  It would be a fighting force of unprecedented capabilities.

    Wolgast is post-divorce and going through a complete separation of a personal life he once knew.  He is knee-deep in his work with interviewing and convincing the test subjects to agree to be part of the project.  What other choice do they have?  They just happen to be death row inmates, so it's not like they have a better option for their lives.

    But one is different.  Amy is a six-year-old girl whose mother is a prostitute -- she is dropped off at the doorstep of a convent and initially the sisters aren't quite sure "what" Amy is.  Wolgast, though, has now been tasked to bring Amy in to be one of these test subjects, and it is appalling to him - after all, Amy is just a little girl.  He realizes that he must do everything he can to protect her.

    As Wolgast and Amy hide away in the mountains, as far away as they possibly can, the society that we now know is swiftly destroyed. The problem that no one expected is that the death row test subjects have become advanced super-human creatures, and they eventually break out from their prisons. Now predators roaming America, complete chaos sets in as they rip people apart or turn them into what the test subjects are - virals. A monster of unbelievable strength and quickness, who maintains the human form but is a wild animal in every sense - they communicate by making clicking sounds, they travel in pods of three, and they hide during the day, live at night, and kill. There is nothing human left that can be visibly seen. America is being destroyed from the inside out. The remaining society must survive, but how?

    This story isn't just about current life with Wolgast and Amy, though. There. Is. So. Much. More. And one hundred years later, the compound with the last remaining humans in America is protected by floodlights that the virals can't get past. But as time goes on, the batteries supporting the lights are getting weaker and will eventually go out, leaving the compound in darkness.

    This is one of the most incredibly engaging stories I've read in quite a while - I was pulled into each character's story and event. The structure is interesting - in one section, it's in third person, and then in the next, the story unfolds through a chain of emails. In other chapters, a full report of what occurred while patrolling the compound wall on watch is detailed, and then later, a diary entry is included, or a newspaper article. It's an absolutely fascinating way to keep the reader engaged in every aspect. There were a few minor issues here and there that I could quibble with, such as pivotal moments that I wish had been revealed to the reader as they actually happened, instead of jumping to the next chapter and reviewing how the characters dealt with these major moments. It happened often enough that I noticed it and was wishing that we instead got a chance to experience these incredible events with the characters as it happened.

    Please - don't write this off as a vampire book. Although capturing similar elements to the popularity of vampire culture, it is so not a book about that. In fact, don't even use that word with this book. Instead, it is a post-apocalyptic story, the dystopian culture setting it far apart from anything you've probably ever read. It is a story about religion, survival, and love. Justin Cronin has successfully created an unbelievable journey into an alternate future, one that still encompasses the very basics of humanity and decency, but is also consumed by an ungodly force and power that cripples the existence of the most important thing of all: hope.

    What about the audio?  I had a Twitter conversation with the fabulous Posey Sessions regarding her audio experience of the book - I absolutely enjoyed reading each word so I can completely see why the audio book experience may be much tougher to like, simply based on how the book is formatted.  I would personally recommend the printed version versus audio for this book.

    When's the next book coming out?  Thank goodness it's going to be part of a trilogy because when that last page hits you, you might freak out that it ended. What a cliffhanger!  My only complaint is that the next book won't come out until 2012.  The Entomology of a Bookworm blog had a fantastic post on how horrible it is to wait for a sequel.

    What about a movie?  Rumor has it that Ridley Scott has purchased the rights to turn it into a movie...

    About the Author
    Born in New England, Justin Cronin is the author of Mary and O'Neil, which won the Pen/Hemingway Award and the Stephen Crane Prize, and The Summer Guest.  Having earned his MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop, Cronin is now a professor of English at Rice University and lives with his family in Houston, Texas.

    - Visit The Passage site by clicking here.
    - Follow the author on Twitter by clicking here.
    - Oh, yeah - there's even an iPhone app for this.  I downloaded it here because I have to be able to keep up with when the next book is coming out.

    Happy Reading,
    Coffee and a Book Chick


    11 January 2011

    Deep Storm, by Lincoln Child - Audiobook Review

    Dr. Peter Crane is a former Navy doctor who has been requested to come to an oil rig to uncover the source of a mysterious medical condition that seems to be affecting the workers.  However, when he gets there, he is then informed that he needs to actually head down to Deep Storm, the most extensive and technologically advanced science research center - which also happens to be located miles beneath the water's surface and sits directly on the ocean floor.  The team at Deep Storm is trying to dig below the ocean's floor to unearth what could potentially be the city of Atlantis.

    While there, Dr. Crane begins to investigate the patients that have come down with a wide range of random illnesses, even heart attacks in perfectly healthy people. Although blocked by Marine guards to gain access to secure levels, he continues to research the random symptoms and abrupt hysteria and he soon learns that there is much more to this potential Atlantis dig then he expected.  Once he finds out the true details, it becomes a race to do everything that he can in his power - to stop the dig.

    Without divulging in spoilers, suffice it to say that I much preferred the beginning of the story more than the latter.  Once the real reason is uncovered, the story unfortunately is disappointing.  I found it belabored with its finality and I cringed when I then heard the narrator say the word "epilogue."

    Quite an unfortunate turn of events for this reader (or listener), considering the storyline seemed engaging and exciting for me.  I enjoy a good adventure and thrill ride, and when it's combined with an ultra-unique setting such as a deep sea research site, and a highly confidential archaeological dig that could potentially reveal the fascinating legend of Atlantis, I was ready.  I thought that this was just the right story to hook me into the world of audiobooks.  Sadly, this was not the result I was hoping for.

    I've been struggling to find the right audiobook, but this one was not the right one for my ten hour car ride over the holidays.

    What about you?  Have you read/listened to this one and enjoyed it?  Or, what are your favorite audiobooks that you feel would be just the ticket for me to listen to?

    Happy Reading,
    Coffee and a Book Chick


    05 January 2011

    A long post, but something different today for you. Tomorrow comes my review on the very first completed audio book. I admit, I am not looking forward to writing it. Instead, I thought I'd share with you a few pictures of Roma the Dog, as well as introduce you to my sister's new photoblog - and both are MUCH more interesting than the review I am trying to put together.

    So. I, for one, do not like to drive anywhere if I have to be in a car more than six hours. It becomes confining, food eaten an hour ago is stuffed in the fast food bag and crumpled somewhere in the car. But this holiday, Roma the Dog was coming along to visit family, so driving was our only option. I'm so happy that we did drive because my sister got some of my favorite shots of Roma!

    Introducing Two New Bloggers
    Yes, my sister is one of the new bloggers - she is a professional photographer and after almost twenty years in the Navy, retiring a couple of years ago as a Commander, she is starting her business. She specializes in children's portraiture, and also focuses on stock photography and does the occasional wedding as well. Her artistic photos are some of my favorites! So, here are the sites:
    If you are a newbie to photography, or just want some extra tips on picture-taking, and other items, stop on by to any of these sites!

    Also, please visit Erika at The Black Dog Gang blog - she chronicles her adventures in fostering dogs in Missouri - it's an absolutely wonderful site as she does her part locally to help socialize and raise dogs into an adoptable environment for their forever home!
    Courtesy of Grace Protzman Photography

    About Roma the Dog
    My niece put the headband on in this picture, and I... I admit that I did put Roma into the Santa outfit in the second one...

    Roma is a mix Vizsla (pronounced Vee-shla), which is a Hungarian hunting dog. She, quite possibly, could be the sweetest dog I've ever been lucky enough to have in my life. Over the years, my husband and I have done our fair share of picking up stray dogs running in traffic, tracking down the owner, or finding a new home for them. We love dogs and were planning to get one soon, but we wanted to make sure we were ready to have a dog.

    One rainy day in Florida about three years ago, my husband asked me to come out to the backyard.  I work from home and was in between conference calls, so I traipsed out from my office, and lo and behold, he had this very thin dog standing there with him.  She wagged her tail at me, and I immediately fell in love with her sweet eyes and face.

    It turns out that my husband found her on an incredibly busy street, randomly walking around from one trash pile to another. Had she stepped four feet to the left, she would have found herself in the middle of two-way traffic traveling at 45 miles an hour at least.  My husband picked her up and put her into the car. She either must have been neglected or she was a stray for quite some time - the flea collar with no tags on it had grown into her skin and she had absolutely no hair on her chest. She was underweight by about twenty pounds.  I had to cut her collar off of her in order to get it off.

    We chose to think that she had been a stray for quite some time, instead of thinking that she was neglected to give the previous owners the benefit of the doubt. We did everything we could to find them:
    1. We took her to the vet to see if there was a chip in her
    2. We posted flyers.
    3. We posted online.
    No response. She also got along with the cat from the very first day (who normally hates all dogs), to the point where Puppy the Cat (yes, his name is Puppy), would cuddle and sleep with her. We had a decision to make. We both knew what we wanted, we just had to say it out loud.

    So we did. We decided to keep her and were lucky to have her as part of our lives. We named her Roma since my husband and I both love Italy, and it turns out that the name sweetly suits her wonderful personality.

    During this cold winter, please remember that you can help the strays that you see. If you see a dog, take the time to call the local authorities that help in getting the animal so it's not hurt. And when you're ready for a dog, visit your local shelter first - they have an abundant availability of amazing dogs and cats so you don't have to pay the hundreds (or thousands) of dollars to buy a dog. And most importantly, analyze whether or not you have the time and resources to have a pet depend on you - can you spend the time to take them to the vet, get food for them, and just pay attention to them? Remember, a dog isn't supposed to be outside all day long - they are part of your family.

    Your local animal shelters need your help to make sure that dogs like Roma are cared for and saved before they are hurt by a car, or just neglected. Dogs become what we teach them to be. In this case below, Santa's little helper.

    Courtesy of Grace Protzman Photography
    Happy Reading,
    Coffee and a Book Chick