Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Review for Shanghai Girls-Book Club pick for March

In our last book club's meeting in March at Graziano's over breakfast, a group of nine of our 15 member club discussed Lisa See's Shanghai Girls. This recommendation was done by me to the book club because I thought it would be great to meet Lisa at an author event at Books and Books, Bal Harbour and also because it would be a great follow-up to the Hotel on Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Both books have similar themes but written in different viewpoints. One written through the eyes of Henry, a young, later adult, Chinese-American and the other told by Pearl, a Chinese, raised in Shanghai woman, who comes to live to America as a young adult. The part of selecting a book for a book club is not an easy process but I am happy to say that everyone was happy for the selection and felt that the book was perfect for a discussion. After reading several Lisa See books I can tell you that she understands women relationships very well. From the beginning we are introduced to Pearl and May, two sisters who seem to have Shanghai as their oyster and they are the queens of this glamouros city. After reading, you will be driving and asking yourself am I more of a May or a Pearl? But from one day to the next, things change completely and their lives go into a crazy whirlwind.  The core of the story is the relationship of these two sisters yes, and all that entails, the complexities and joys of that relationship. This book was so carefully researched, artfully written to the most single of details, not leaving anything to chance. There are many themes besides the relationship between the sisters, for example, secondary themes such as the Chinese Zodiac  and the role of women, just to name a few. I bought the book when Lisa See came to Books and Books, Coral Gables, hardcover release, where guests got to mingle with her while we ate delicious hummus, cookies and drank punch. My only regret is that I didn't read it sooner. Once I started, I couldn't stop. Ask my kids, my husband...my Facebook friends who read my post at 2 am when I finished it. Why, you may ask?  Because this book has the kind of characters that haunt you, you can't stop thinking about, even when you put the book down.
Because you live and suffer with them in their struggles (many) and joys (few along the way). You also learn about the strength of the human spirit. What were the book club results? Well, everyone was unanimous in that the book was worth their time and more. Now, not everyone was in love with the main characters, some of the members thought that one of the men, Sam, was their favourite and would have wanted to know a little bit more about him. I know this book has a lot "hype" around it and that may be a turn off for some readers but don't let that deter you from reading Shanghai Girls, it will move you in a way only Lisa See can.

Thoughts on A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban

A team of Miami-Dade County Public School teachers is organizing the Battle of the Books reading challenge for fifth grade students in seven different schools. All participating students will have to read from a list of seven books and one of them is A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban. Here’s what it says on the jacket flap:

Ten-year-old Zoe Elias has perfect piano dreams. She can practically feel the keys under her flying fingers; she can hear the audience's applause. All she needs is a baby grand so she can start her lessons, and then she'll be well on her way to Carnegie Hall. But when Dad ventures to the music store and ends up with a wheezy organ instead of a piano, Zoe's dreams hit a sour note. Learning the organ versions of old TV theme songs just isn't the same as mastering Beethoven on the piano. And the organ isn't the only part of Zoe's life that's off-kilter, what with Mom constantly at work, Dad afraid to leave the house, and that odd boy, Wheeler Diggs, following her home from school every day. Yet when Zoe enters the annual Perform-O-Rama organ competition, she finds that life is full of surprises—and that perfection may be even better when it's just a little off center.
I can't agree more with this last sentence! While I was reading this book, I couldn't stop thinking about how great it is to discover and sometimes even rediscover authors/books, that are meant for younger kids. When you read these books and you are way past this age (like me!), you enjoy them differently. The characters in this book may all be "imperfect" in the eyes of the reader: Zoey with her many insecurities; her dad's phobias and her mom is a workaholic. But as you read, you can't help to think that they are so right for each other, so perfect as a family. Thea characters and situations make you laugh and when Zoe gets an organ instead of a piano, you really don't feel sorry for her because she has a way to always find the perfect in the imperfect of a situation. The story is so wonderfully written, it grabs you from the first sentence. Also, the author divides the book into many chapters that weave the story even better. My daughter plays the piano and now every time I'll listen to her play, it won't be the same. I haven't read anything else by Lisa Urban and now can't wait to read another one of her books. Have you read anything by Linda Urban? Please let me know if you have, and if so, what book would you recommend?

Monday, March 29, 2010

It's Coming!!!! Dewey's Read-a-Thon

I came across it by mistake, a pure act of serendipity, loved it and I think, well, I know,! that you will too. It's the Spring event of the season for passionate book lovers like you and me. The place to be and the it thing to do. It's Dewey's Read-a-Thon! This event will take place on Saturday, April 10 and it starts at 5 am Pacific Time. Although you can start anytime during the day and read as much or as little as you can. If you want to read the whole 24 hours, it's OK too. If you want to sleep, or maybe you are a "hardcore" bookie and don't want to, it's OK too. You do need to have FUN! This nothing to get stressed about. First you must sing up as a reader to be able to participate and you do not need to have a blog either. Although, having a blog is a BIG plus and the reason I started this blog. You can also sign up for mini challenges, cheerleader, etc. I did the cheerleading last time and had a blast leaving encouraging comments in different blogs I discovered. I learned so much and "met" a lot of interesting peopl i now follow. It was more than I expected. So much more! I realized I found my "niche", people who like me enjoy books and reading as much as I do. And now that you are so excited and I know you are, you can visit the website at http://24hourreadathon.com/ and sign up. You won't regret it!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Book Giveaway Winner-Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

¡Hola! Hello! I'm back. I have been under the weather lately and also having problems with my computer. But I'm back now and happy to report that the drawing was held on Friday. The drawing was held by the old-fashioned yet reliable method - little folded, papers in a shoebox... Figarito was a witness to this drawing, so you know I couldn't go wrong. I am happy to say that the first winner of Kiki's Bookcation's Giveaway of Lisa See's Shanghai Girls - autographed by the author at Books and Books, Bal Harbour Shops- is Helen at Helen's Book Blog .What makes this amazing is that Helen became the FIRST follower of this blog and now she is the winner of my FIRST book giveaway. I know Helen only by following her blogs, and have learned a lot about different Young Adult Genre authors thanks to her. She is a Teacher Librarian and by her entries, you can tell she must be an amazing one. So, Helen, I already sent you a message and congrats! And to all my other followers, please keep posted. I continue with my addiction to author events. As a mattter of fact, I had just had one at school last Friday and it was with the author of the just released book, Falling In...I'll tell you all about her, the new book and maybe just maybe, another giveaway...Keep reading...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bookmark Day!

The Bibliophilic Book Blog is hosting today a Bookmark Day and it couldn't have come in a better time. Just last week, I realized that without even thinking about it, I had started an unexpected bookmark collection. Each one of them came from a special person or moment in my life. There's only one missing in the photo. My father's bookmark which he used as a student in the University of Florida. Let's go down memory lane... The oldest one I bought is the bookworm; a Hallmark bookmark that I used to mark the pages of my Enid Blyton books when I was in Elementary School. The other ones are from trips and gifts...My friend Niurka brought me the red tassel one from Hong Kong; Patty gave me an elegant, classic black and white from Germany; Baldi brought a rug-like one from to Turkey; Kirrin brought me a beaded one from her native South Africa; Bonnie one from Ecuador, which I insist is a bookmark and my daughter says it's a bracelet; Ileana brought me one from Egypt and then there are two from school field trips with my daughter; one from Seville, Spain and the other one from Philadelphia. Then I have (maybe too many!)bookmarks from my favorite independent bookstore, Books and Books in Coral Gables, Fl. Yeah, they are free and don't have to travel very far to get one, but they too have a place in my collection. If you see my Books and Books bookmark, you can read the quote "I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books", by Jorge Luis Borges and that my dear blog friends, in a nutshell, describes my Reading Life and me.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Lisa See Book Giveaway!!!

Dear Bloggers: I want to make this easier for you. I am copying my book-friend Helen over at http://helensbookblog.blogspot.com/ and will do something similar to what she is doing. You do not have to leave a "comment-post". Carla, you will be included! What I will do is that I will include all followers (even if they don't leave a post) as well as others who want to join, just for this give-away and do not want "to follow", those will have to leave a post/comment, so I know who you are, and if you win I can contact you. In other words, I want everyone to have an opportunity to win an autographed copy of Shanghai Girls. Good Luck! Buena Suerte!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Lisa See's Shanghai Girls Book Giveaway!!!

In Lisa See's presentation of Shanghai Girls at Books and Books, Lisa signed a copy of the book for ONE lucky subscriber of Kiki's Bookation. If you would like to participate you must be 18 years or older, live in the United States and be a subscriber of Kiki's Bookcation. Are you excited? Ok! So, please post a comment that answers one of these questions: What is your favourite independent book store? or/and what has been your favourite author book signing and presentation? I am really excited by this! This is my first time doing something like it and I hope it turns out just as great as all the other blogs I like to follow. The drawing will be held on Friday, March 26 2010. Good Luck!

An evening with author Lisa See at Books and Books, Bal Harbour

All day yesterday we had unpredictable weather in Miami...But, something happened. Everything cleared up by evening and the drive to the new Books and Books in Bal Harbour was a breeze. I say a "breeze" because it's really nice when someone else -in this case my sister- is driving. Let's start by saying that I have attended three or four book release-presentations with Lisa See. She doesn't cease to amaze me. Every time, it feels like the first time. Every time I listen to her, I learn something new or think about something I had not thought about before. When I listened to her talk the first time it was about Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. I had a hard time listening to some things. It was hard to hear facts about foot binding and not feel the pain those women suffered. When I realized that See was coming to South Florida, I just knew our book club had to read her new book, Shanghai Girls and that it would be a great follow up to our previous one, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.That's why I insisted (with emails and texts) that our book club go. I knew Lisa See would not disappoint them. And boy did she deliver! She was insightful and gave us a visual picture of Shanghai in the 1930's. She also spoke about family stories, relationships and trips to China. Her mother is her mentor and a writer as well. Her writing work-style is inspired by her her and says that she has to write "a 1,000 words a day". This book she told us was about sisters -by blood- and also sisters of the heart. The turn out was good and the questions from the audience kept the presentation lively and fast paced. I have not read her latest book yet, but three of our members have, and they say they just couldn't put it down. They don't want to ruin it for me, I know, but you should see the look on their faces. I feel like their part of a secret society and they know something I have to know too! See understands emotions and relationships. I have seen it in her previous books and in this one is no different. You can tell she has a unique intuition -and psychology- about families rarely seen in other authors. I was surprised to learn that she has also written mystery books. And, yes...now I want to read those too! But to be totally honest, I do not know when because at the turtle pace I am reading, plus everything I want to read,I will have to stop working, and probably just dedicate my life to reading (LOL)! Not that I haven't thought about it...