Archive for June, 2012

June 22nd, 2012

Weekend Craziness – The Zombie Tarot

by Gwen

Zombie Tarot




Don’t know if you have heard the rumor that the Mayans are spreading around. You know, that the world is coming to an end and all that hogwash?

Seriously, who believes the Mayans? And while we are talking about the Mayans, have you ever played basketball with them? Talk about talking the game seriously.  That Mesoamerican Ball will teach you the real meaning of sacrifice.



When it comes to predicting the future, you need to go to more modern technology. No, not the talking toddler in the E*Trade commercials, I mean tarot cards. If you can’t trust the cards, you might want to just go ahead and throw in the towel with the Mayans.

Tarot cards have been around since the mid-fifteenth century, but they have never looked this good. Whoever came up with the idea of mixing fortune telling with the undead was a seriously confused individual, also a very talented one.


Zombie Tarot thelovers


The cards are beautiful and completely creepy at the same time. The colors are softened like vintage ephemera and made from sturdy card stock that can standup to any brain spill you throw at it.


If the Tarot is new to you, don’t fret. Included is a wonderful tiny manual with all of the directions. In no time at all you’ll be predicting who Susie is going to lose her brain, I mean heart,  and just when you and that star-crossed Zombie are going to meet.



okay putting semi-serious hat on now.

I have ZERO experience with tarot cards, but I do love great vintage inspired graphics and some of my best friends are zombies.  (that last part may not be true) I whipped these puppies out and well, let’s just say that either I need glasses or the future looks murky.

No matter, these are going to be great additions to the next party and if you’re not careful there will be brains on the menu.


The Zombie Tarot An Oracle of the Undead—with Deck and Instructions

by Paul Kepple and Stacey Graham

  • Cards: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Books; Crds/Bklt edition (June 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594745692
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594745690


Big thanks to Quirk Books for letting me take control of my future. 



June 17th, 2012

The Floor of Heaven: A True Tale of the Last Frontier and the Yukon Gold Rush by Howard Blum

by Gwen

The Floor of Heaven

Three men collide in the Yukon.
*A cowboy, still grieving the loss of his wife, searching for new frontiers now that the west has been won joins the Pinkerton Agency.
*An orphaned Navy deserter, hoping to do what his father couldn’t do, becomes an Indian in the process.
*The King of Con Men, looking for a town big enough for it to be worth his while, fleeces everyone and anyone on his way there.

There is a story in my family that no one still living has really ever bothered to investigate. Supposedly, my great-great-grandmother, a widow, drug my very young great-grandmother up to the Klondike to run a laundry during the gold rush. Part of me thinks, That’s so cool and the other part of me wonders…. did any women go to a gold rush town and remain, um, just a laundress? You tell me, if you heard this story about one of your grandmothers, would you want to do the research and possibly air some dirty laundry?

Never the less, I have always been curious about what it was like to be searching for gold in such a forbidding place, so I snatched this one up. I didn’t find any family members. What I did find was a compelling story of three vastly different men and how their vastly different lives intersected in Alaska.

Told in a narrative style, The Floor of Heaven kept me turning pages and staying up until the wee hours. The Klondike was filled with hopes, dreams, heartbreak, horrible winters, and unique characters.

Here’s part of the blurb that hooked me….

In a true-life tale that rivets from the first page, we meet Charlie Siringo, a top-hand sharp-shooting cowboy who, after futilely trying to settle down with his new bride, becomes one of the Pinkerton Detective Agency’s shrewdest; George Carmack, a California-born American Marine who’s adopted by an Indian tribe, raises a family with a Taglish squaw, makes the discovery that starts off the Yukon Gold Rush – and becomes fabulously rich; and Soapy Smith, a sly and inventive predator-conman who rules a vast criminal empire.

As we follow this trio’s lives, we’re led inexorably into a perplexing mystery. A fortune in gold bars has somehow been stolen from the fortress-like Treadwell Mine in Juneau, Alaska, with no clues as to how the thieves made off with such an immensely heavy cargo.  To many it appears that the crime will never be solved.  But the Pinkerton Agency has a reputation for finding the answers that elude others.  Charged with getting the job done is Charlie Siringo who discovers that, to run the thieves to ground, he must embark on a rugged cross-territory odyssey that will lead him across frigid waters and through a frozen wilderness.  Ultimately, he’ll have his quarry in his sights. But then an additional challenge will present itself.  He must face down Soapy Smith and his gang of 300 cutthroats.  Hanging in the balance: George Carmack’s fortune in gold.

If you are a fan of narrative non-fiction and want to learn a bit more about the Yukon Gold Rush, this just might be your book. The tension that Blum builds reminded me watching a train wreck; you know it’s coming, but you can’t take your eyes off of the spectacle. I promise, you won’t find any dirty laundry in this one.


The Floor of Heaven: A True Tale of the Last Frontier and the Yukon Gold Rush by Howard Blum

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway; Reprint edition (March 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307461734
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307461735


June 16th, 2012

The Lady in Gold by Anne-Marie O’Connor

by Gwen


Lady in Gold

The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer

Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer is a painting that stays with you. What will haunt you is the story behind the painting and the Bloch-Bauer family, from its creation in Belle Epoque Vienna to how it landed in New York’s Neue Galerie in 2006.

“Repentance was scarce. Austria was awash in self-pity. Vienna was a ruin.”

Vienna was blooming with culture and mainstream acceptance of Jewish citizens in 1907 when the painting was completed. Artists catered to the emerging upper class Jews and broke the accepted boundaries with their styles, as well. The Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer was seen by many as the pinnacle of fashion and modernism.

Adele herself passed away in 1925, leaving the painting to her husband until his death, when she wished that it would be displayed in the Austrian National Gallery. Then the Nazis came and threw Vienna into a tailspin that would take decades to recover from. Anti-Semitism meant that everything was stripped from the Jews: their art, their homes, often their lives. Great works of art were bounced from hiding place to castles to shows, where they often had their original titles “Arayanized.” The people fled into hiding or death camps. The Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer became the Lady in Gold, losing the Jewish name and celebrating the Austrian painter, Klimt.

The war ended, but the governments kept the paintings. The heirs were left to battle in multiple courts to prove ownership and in the case of The Portrait, didn’t get it back until 2006. The lives lost and the stories that flow from this one painting will haunt, sadden, anger, and stick with you indefinitely.

The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer by Anne-Marie O’Connor


  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (February 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307265641
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307265647


This books was provided to me by the San Francisco Book Review.



June 7th, 2012

Beyond the Blog- The Blog Inspires One to Write About a Convicted Murderer.

by Gwen


Today’s topic asks what we are doing beyond the blog, whether it be monitizing, writing articles for pay, going to events or whatever crazy places you blog has led you to reach out.

Chew & Digest Books and my other blog have given me so many opportunities. There have been blogging conferences, wonderful books, sponsored posts, relationships with people I never would have met in real life, new career paths, etc.

What I never thought a book blog would do was bring me face-to-face with a man sitting on death row for the murder of his brother and parents.

Let’s back up a minute.  I love non-fiction, especially historical crime like the work of Erik Larson.  The idea of writing history as riveting as he does seems so daunting. The guy not only has writing talent, but amazing research skills. Still, there is one story that has stuck out in my mind for years. It was a story that I had a tangential connection to and no one has written about it.

You see, I grew up across the street from a boy that later went on to brutally murder his family. It is easy to look back now and say he was a bully as a boy and something about him wasn’t right, but none of us would have thought he would go that far. Most of us had moved away, grown up, been long gone by the time it happened.

Still, when I read the story in the news over a decade ago it hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew him. I grew up with him. My dad almost throttled him when he knocked me off my powder blue banana-seat bike.

Over the years, there has been this tug to learn more about this story. Earlier this year, that tug turned into something stronger, a sort of this is the story that you need to write yank. That yank has led to research and talks with lawyers, clerks, other neighbors, an editor, an agent, and one day soon, it will lead me into a maximum security prison to meet the boy that used to call me runt that grew into the man that did horrible things.

This is where your blog can lead you. It can lead you to the story that you were meant to tell.


June 4th, 2012

Blogaversary and Welcome to Armchair BEA

by Gwen


While many are in New York at Book Expo America, some of us are having our own conventions from the comfort of our armchairs. Check out more on Armchair BEA or settle back and let me answer a few questions that the we have been asked so that everyone can get to know each other a wee bit better.

murphy n me2

Howdy my name is Gwen. That’s me, the one above the dog. (The dog’s name is Murphy Grace if you are interested) Four years ago yesterday, I decided that my book reviews were too scattered all over the internet and I really wanted to be able to find them in one place. A bit later I realized that I wasn’t the only book blogger out there and haven’t really looked back since.

Chew & Digest Books was chosen as the name in tribute to my high school English teacher, Sister Anne, who always started the class with, “Chew and digest the following…”

Insert awkward segue to something you might not know about me here Smile

Lately, blogging has sort of taken a back seat to a new craze with gardening. You may have read about it with my review of Mini Farming. The thing that you may not know about me unless you really get to know me….I get a little crazy about animals. Growing up in Southern California, I just didn’t get to be in tune with nature. Once I moved out of the area and got to see so many wonderful creatures with my own eyes…well, I have never gotten over it. I squee with every squirrel, Elk, goat, and woodpecker.

Lately, this fine family has taken up residence in my yard.

3 owls


I have been glued to the bedroom window for over a week now and the excitement hasn’t worn off. The only time I really take a break is when ordering Owl books to try and confirm which kind they actually are. We still don’t know for sure, but if you ever need books on Owls, I am your source.

Let’s see, I am meant to be answering questions, not going on about the owls again. Which I can see out the window as I type this, just saying.

Next question- What literary location would you most like to visit?

That is an easy one. I have always wanted to go to Ireland, never was specific, just Ireland. Earlier this year, I read On an Irish Island by Robert Kanigel and he focused on the cultural and literary history of the Great Blasket, an island off the west coast of Ireland. Ever since I have dreamed of going there. The writers that came out of that tiny island were amazing and the story of the Great Blasket itself is enchanting and sad. (note: I would have loved to post my review here, but since it hasn’t been published in the paper yet, I can’t)

I’ve blabbed on enough, one last question- Where do you see your Blog in five years?

I love reading, so that won’t change. Love talking about books with others, so that won’t change. Hope to get more consistent with reviewing, that would be nice. However, the big change will be location. We are plotting, planning, and attempting to get ducks in a row in order to move to Italy or Spain. I want the Abruzzo region of Italy and he is still open to Spain. I am more vociferous than he is, so let’s just go with Abruzzo.

Neither of us have ever been there and don’t speak Italian. Still it’s like one of those why not sort of things. We do speak Spanish. Well, he is fluent and I can understand it…most of it.

So I predict, that for the Armchair BEA in 2017, I will be reading books that most likely aren’t in Italian in Abruzzo, Italy. Where will you be?