I am pleased to report that this week we have some of our tried and true elements back. Also, please note that there will not be a YAWYR next week. We are gone all week at Book Expo America or as I like to call it, Christmas in May. This is Publishing’s big trade show for the year and it is where we learn all about what we need to be excited about for the year to come. So while we will be quiet next week, rest assured that we are still ferreting out Book Goodness for you. This week we have Crazy Cat Neighbor, boys and obits, WW II, some mental illness, England, and the myth of having it all.
Let us begin!
Erin is currently watching The Details with Tobey Maguire and Laura Linney. “I am almost at a loss for words when it comes to describing this film. Jeff and Nealy have what appears to be the perfect marriage. They have just celebrated their 10th anniversary and are busy caring for their blonde, curly-haired baby. All is not as it seems to be though as Nealy has lost all sexual desire for her husband. As Jeff (Tobey Maguire) channels his energy into caring for the perfect lawn by chasing away a family of raccoons, he sets off a chain reaction of infidelity, blackmail, and all-out craziness. Laura Linney plays their crazy cat lady neighbor and her performance is hilarious and totally out-of-this-universe. I have decided once and for all though that I just do not like Tobey Maguire. Sorry!”
Jeanne is being reassuringly normal. Two things at once. That’s our Jeanne. “In the car I am listening to The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout who won a Pulitzer Prize for Olive Kitteridge in 2009. So I have great hopes for this novel because I loved that short story collection. Both books are set in Maine, Strout's home state. I also want to discover why the author chose to title the book The Burgess Boys (Jim and Bob) and left out the sister (Susan) who, from the beginning seems to be integral to the story; besides being a twin. The boys, both lawyers now in New York City are called home to the small town in Maine where their sister has stayed. I am expecting some emotional sibling rivalry. I am reading The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood, mostly because I am fascinated by reading actual obituaries and I love the circa 1920 cover photograph. Once again, JFK's life provides material for a storyline, as the modern-day main character, Claire struggles with a life-changing decision on the day of his inauguration. The story alternates between two time periods with Claire in the sixties and back to Vivien, the obituary writer, in the twenties. I like how Vivien wants to write about who a person was, rather than what they did. This is my first read of this author, but so far it is easy to keep turning pages.”
Stephanie is working on her TBR (that’s To Be Read for the Uninitiated) pile.” Finally read Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein and really liked it. It was much more complex than I had expected (that’s what I get for underestimating YA!) and refreshingly original, a hard trick to pull off in a WWII book. It has great crossover potential, especially for readers who liked The Book Thief. I’d love to attend a book group discussion about it; we could talk about just the characters and their motives for hours, let alone the rest of it!”
Sweet Ann is reading The Illicit Happiness of Other People by Manu Joseph. This is an intriguing novel filled with strong characters that are very well developed. Ousep Chacko is searching once again, three years later, after his seventeen year old son, Unni, committed suicide. He sought out Unni's friends, teachers and acquaintances when Unni first died and never discovered the reason his son did what he did. He begins his search anew after a cartoon Unni had been working on is delivered to the house after it was lost in the mail for three years. Doggedly he begins harassing the people who knew Unni to see if they remember anything or know about this newly found cartoon. People dread his approach. This is a story of a mother's breakdown, a son's love, mental illness, secrets and a family struggling to remain a family. This novel sweeps you into Southern India and the Chacko family.
Miss Elisabeth is revisiting a favorite: “This week I re-read one of my favorite children’s books, Good Night, Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian. I was writing about the tv-movie adaptation for the ALSC Blog and decided to revisit an old favorite. This is a truly gorgeous read. It won the IRA Children’s Book Award in 1982, and if it didn’t have a heinously awful cover, I’m sure it would be read by many, many people. The story takes place in England at the beginning of WWII. Young William Beech is evacuated from London to the countryside with thousands of other children, and is taken in by an angry misanthrope named Thomas Oakley. Mr. Tom, as William calls him, is forced to take William as a part of the war effort, but he quickly realizes he needs William just as much as William needs him. William comes from an abusive home – his psychotically religious mother beats him with a heavy belt on a near-daily basis for his 'sins' Under the care of Mr. Tom, William slowly begins to heal. All is well for several months, until a letter arrives in the mail – William’s mother wants him to come home. This story spans the entirety of the war, and introduces you to a host of characters you want to meet again and again. I cannot recommend it highly enough. “
Pat T. is taking a look at some new feminist thought.” I have just finished reading Lean In: Women Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg and I would highly recommend this to every woman, young and old, as well as the men in their lives. The author writes about women in the workplace and how we have not made significant enough strides and changes in the workforce for women. Some of the reasons for this is women undermine their abilities, lack self-confidence and attempt unattainable goals of ‘having it all’. A woman's significant other needs to be a partner in all aspects of life- from child rearing to household tasks, as well as supporting each other's professional goals. One other interesting point the author makes is that woman should not focus on climbing the corporate ladder, but rather view their professional development as a jungle gym, sometimes making lateral moves to attain their ultimate goals.”
Again this week we have some missing elements. I offer no excuses or explanations. I know it’s disconcerting, but yes, this is still You Are What You Read. This week we have some Chinese, action figures, a castle, a mash-up that has no business existing but we are not judging, anarchy, good books, a bad man, Everest, and a Southern Sojourn.
Let us begin.
Alan is reading pretty true to type here. “I’ve just read The Shanghai Factor by Charles McCarry. It’s very much in the same line as many of his other well-written, intelligent, good-with-the-little-details spy novels. In this one, a young agent is undercover in China, is targeted (or is he?) by the Chinese intelligence services, and soon finds himself with a very attractive girlfriend, an interesting job, and lots of enigmatic leads. He’s pulled back to the US and recruited for a deep cover assignment, mentored by a legendary spy. Soon he finds himself caught in the cross-currents, trying to keep his head (at least once, literally) above water. There’s some interesting tradecraft, wheels within wheels, and maybe things get settled up at the end a little too fast, but overall, a very satisfying book.”
Miss Kiera of the CL is reading Doll Bones by Holly Black. “This is one of the 2013 Booktalking Selections for fourth and fifth grade. Each year the children's librarians create lists of our very favorite new books for each grade. We visit every classroom in Darien to tell kids about the books and get them excited for Summer Reading. Doll Bones is one of my personal favorites this year. It's dark, creepy, and well-crafted. It's the story of three friends: Zach, Alice, and Poppy, who have been playing together since they were little. Using action figures and a rather scary-looking old porcelain doll, they have created an elaborate fantasy world in which they make-believe daring adventures. When Zach's dad tells him he's too old to play with dolls, things begin to unravel. Just as Zach decides to abandon their games forever, Poppy reveals that the doll is haunted by the spirit of a girl who was killed long ago and the three friends embark on a real-life quest to return the haunted doll to her grave. So much more than a terrific ghost story, Doll Bones is also a story about growing up, about friends drifting apart and finding each other again.”
The Amazing Amanda is back to finish the Graceling series by Kristin Cashore that she reviewed a few weeks ago. “Bitterblue is the sequel to Graceling. Set eight years later, we follow the adventures of the Princess Bitterblue who was rescued by the Gracelings Katsa and Prince Po from the previous book. At eighteen, Bitterblue has spent the last eight years in her tower signing off on land treaties and other boring paperwork. She hardly knows the layout of her own castle, let alone a thing about the daily lives of her people. Feeling restless, she begins sneaking out at night to explore her city. In the city’s underbelly, she discovers a group of people who want to bring to the light the atrocities committed under her father’s reign. These truth-seekers are being killed by others who want to keep their past crimes hidden. Bitterblue is suspected as the one behind the murders even though her new companions have no idea of her real identity. In a kingdom where everyone is determined to keep silent, can Bitterblue right the wrongs without losing everything? Other readers on Goodreads left negative reviews of this book as they were expecting a heroine like Katsa. Bitterblue is in a difficult situation and I find this book refreshing. While other authors may have left Bitterblue to sort out her country without looking into the process, I enjoy this behind-the-scenes look at her struggle. I skipped the second book in the series, Fire, on the recommendation that it had very little to do with the current story. “
John has a request this week. “I'm decompressing from my last read with A Discovery of Witches. It's sort of a Twilight-meets-Dan-Brown. To be honest, I have no idea why I'm reading it, but it's entertaining and I'm caught up in the story now. Don't judge me.” John, we don’t judge. At least not out loud.
Miss Elisabeth of the CL is taking suggestions! “This week I'm reading a dystopian science-fiction novel our own Alan Gray recommended, S.M. Stirling's Dies the Fire. At the start of the book, something awful happens. There is a flash of white in the sky, and all mechanical and electrical things on earth stop working. Planes fall out of the sky. Cars run off the road. Submarines sink to the bottom of the ocean. And humanity is instantly plunged back to a lifestyle not seen for a thousand years. With no cars, no electricity, no guns, and no way to ship food anywhere in the world, society quickly devolves into anarchy. Government collapses, and in its place, loose groups of like-minded citizens try to make their way in this strange new world. Juniper Mackenzie and her coven quickly retreat to her grandfather's farm in the Oregon Mountains where they hope to farm peacefully, while Mike Havel, a former Ranger, tries to lead his growing clan to safe land. With a medieval history professor bent on setting up a violent fiefdom in Portland and citizens all over resorting to cannibalism, Dies the Fire asks an uncomfortable question: What would you do if the lights went out for good?”
Erin is listening to The End of Your Life Book Club on audio. “When Will Schwalbe’s mother is diagnosed with an advanced stage of pancreatic cancer, he spendst a lot of time accompanying her to chemo visits. Because they are both huge readers, they start to informally discuss the books they’re reading which leads to some overlap. This memoir is an ode to good books, family, and to use a cliché: the ties that bind. Will Schwalbe will be here June 5!” I for one am most excited about Will’s visit. I loved this book.
Stephanie is showing her dark side. Again. “I treasure books like The Good Nurse, by Charles Graeber, and the way they are invested in finding answers to human depravity without melodrama, because while I love me some Law & Order, it’s always over the top. This is true crime so gruesome I don’t think Law & Order has even attempted an inspired-by episode: about Charles Cullen, known as ‘The Angel of Death.’ It would need to be a multi-part episode. Cullen was a nurse who skipped from hospital to hospital in the tri-state area for years, killing vulnerable patients with drug cocktails so haphazardly that he doesn’t even remember all of them, for reasons he can’t really define. On Law & Order, this could go one of two ways: a twisted mercy killer, or a sadistic sociopath. The truth is much more complicated. And Graeber, with the help of many previously unknown resources, including interviews with the informant who was the linchpin of Cullen’s trial, does an amazing job of unraveling the truth of the matter, as well as anybody can in this circumstance. Cullen is clearly a bad man, but Graeber is not interested in the morality play of scolding him. He is interested in understanding him. He gets pretty close to doing so. And that’s why this book is completely chilling and great.”
Lois has just finished Above All Things by Tanis Rideout. “This is a historical fiction novel of 3-time Everest climber George Mallory during his last and fatal attempt to reach the summit in 1924. After 2 dangerous and unsuccessful attempts, George has promised his wife, Ruth that he will not leave her and their 3 small children again. But he is haunted by those failures, as well as his perceived failures during his service in WWI, and when the opportunity presents itself to try again, George accepts without consulting Ruth. The book beautifully blends Ruth’s world, her unconditional love for George, and her anger and fear with George’s unrelenting need for glory and redemption. It pulled me into both realties and I couldn’t put it down. “
I am preparing for an upcoming trip to North Carolina by reading Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Bernhardt. Although, I am pretty sure that my traveling companion would not want this to be my initial impression. Yeah. Actually I am positive that this is the case. The chapter on pledging Greek at Chapel Hill pretty much cinches that. Anyway, Jerene Jarvis Johnston is the matriarch of a proud upper class family and despite her best efforts her carefully constructed world is beginning to unravel. Bernhardt’s writing style reminds me a lot of Tom Wolfe (think Bonfire of the Vanities). This one is due out in August.
This week we have some Northern Mexico, Maine, Tennessee, Chicago, LA and New York.
There is no Paris, there is no WWII, and there are no Nazis. There are no home repair updates, nor are there any egg trees.
Yes, you are reading You Are What You Read.
No. I don’t know how this happened. But I am oddly comforted by the two references to substance abuse issues.
Let us begin!
John is dedicated this week! “I’m reading a rather strange and interesting book: 2666 by Roberto Bolaño. It was the last novel he wrote before his death in 2003 and it is a tale of four critics in search of a missing novelist in northern Mexico. They cross paths with some very memorable characters and soon come to realize that something dark and sinister is going on. This is an epic tome and it has taken me about 200 pages to get into it, but now that I am, there will be no stopping until the end. It is brilliantly written and utterly absorbing. This novel is considered to be a masterpiece and Bolaño's magnum opus by critics.”
Sweet Ann is reading Lifesaving Lessons: Notes from an Accidental Mother by Linda Greenlaw. “I loved this memoir and the writing style of Ms. Greenlaw. Linda Greenlaw, an avid fisherman, on the Isle au Haut off the coast of Maine, becomes the legal guardian of 15-year-old Mariah. She has never been a mother and assumed that was not in the cards for her. Mariah has come to the island with her ‘uncle’ after fleeing a difficult life in Tennessee. It turns out that her uncle is not a good guy and is doing inappropriate things with his ‘niece’. Mariah needs a place to go and ends up with Linda. Linda's experience with Mariah’s angst is quite humorous but there is tremendous heart in this book. Although Linda is not sure this is the life she wants, she will fight for Mariah and teach her the life lessons she needs. Mariah is unsure about accepting Linda's love and help but eventually she lets her guard down. This book will truly have you cheering for the love of ‘family’. I plan on reading other books written by Ms. Greenlaw.”
Jeanne, of course, two things at once. No need to discuss. It is what it is. “In the car I am listening to Sum It Up by Pat Head Summitt with Sally Jenkins, also the excellent narrator. Pat, the legendary head coach of the University of Tennessee's Lady Vols has recently retired because of the onset of Alzheimer's. Her 38-year coaching career won thousands of victories, a Silver Olympic medal and made an immeasurable difference in the evolution of womens sports. As I write this, we are on our way to Knoxville to join our son, Justin as he graduated from UT! Go Vols! Everywhere else I am reading Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America's Greatest Tragedy by David Sheff who first wrote Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction. In the first book he searches for answers to how his charming, fun- loving child become a trembling meth addict. In Clean, Sheff offers counsel to parents and loved ones experiencing the tragedy of addiction. This makes for very interesting reading. “
Stephanie is enjoying the offering from our most recent author visit. “After Visiting Friends by Michael Hainey looks like a book, but it is so fast and absorbing that you will swear it is a magazine feature. (As Hainey is the deputy editor of GQ, this makes sense.) Hainey’s father, a newspaperman’s newspaperman in Chicago, died when he was 6; the circumstances were vague, bothering Hainey more and more as he grew up. In this book, he sets out on a quest for clarity, starting with an unlikely line in an obituary and spiraling out into the past and present. Think Mike Royko meets John Jeremiah Sullivan, with a truly satisfying ending.”
Pat S. is channeling some California Dreaming and is working on Life at the Marmont by Raymond Sarlot and Fred E. Basten. “ Life at the Marmont, written by two men who owned the iconic Hollywood landmark from 1975-1991, is nothing short of a love letter to a revered idol.
Raymond Sarlot and Fred Basten bought the Chateau Marmont after becoming seduced by its' fabled history. Built in 1929, the Chateau Marmont started life above Sunset Boulevard. as a luxury apartment building. Yet the depression soon made that a losing prospect, and it soon became a hotel, which it has remained ever since. In the 90 years plus since opening, it has housed every 'name' actor, writer, director and producer involved in the movie industry. Charlie Chaplin, Robert Benchley, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Laurence Olivier, Errol Flynn, Bea Lillie, Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, Buck Henry . . .the list goes on. But Sarlot and Basten have also followed the lives of the long-time employees who knew where all the bodies were buried-literally and figuratively! In addition to presenting a snapshot of cinema history at any given point in the last century, the life of the hotel also mirrors the socio/political times of 20th c. America-all in all, a most interesting read-and just in time for the Aaron Sorkin mini-series by the same title.”
At the urging of an ardent patron I have started James Salter’s All that Is. This has been touted as his masterpiece and at first I was less than charmed by his writing style but now that I am about 60 pages in I am finding myself sinking into it. Phillip Bowman has just returned from serving our country in World War II and finds himself navigating what was once the WASPish world of publishing in New York. What sold me on this? Salter really knows what he is writing about. These characters are your friends and neighbors if this is your world. So far not a false note has sounded. Even down to the faded beauty that has to repair herself to Silver Hill every couple of years. And you all know how I love institutions like Silver Hill, McClean and Frank Campbell in my books.
Could this week have been more glorious? This is why we live here People! Our Sweet Ann update? It would appear she is just about done! Also please check out our really cool new service that is available to Darien residents! Zinio is a service that will deliver magazines to the device of your choosing. We are wild for it and I think you will be too. This week we have The Lord of Death, more Chicks with Bricks (Yes. Again. Get on it or get over it!), falling hard, bribery, combat, Swan Lake and fluttering hearts.
Let us begin!
Miss Elisabeth of the CL took advantage of this glorious weather stretch to get some reading done! “After reading nothing all week last week, I took advantage of the beautiful weather and Central Park, and finished three books this weekend! I was in the mood for something dark and dense, and Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers perfectly fit the bill! Ismae's mother used poison to try and expel her from the womb. The poison permanently scarred her body but left her alive and otherwise intact, causing the midwife to declare that she must have been sired by Death himself. Many years later, betrothed to a pig man and beaten near daily by her father, Ismae learns that the midwife wasn't speaking lightly - she is the daughter of St. Mortain, the Lord of Death, and has been chosen to serve her father's will by the convent of St. Mortain. At the convent, Ismae learns the deadly art of the assassin and prepares to do her true father's bidding, but as she is sent out on her first assignments, she realizes that nothing the convent has taught her can prepare her for the intrigue and villainy of the royal court of Brittany in the 1500's. Ismae will need to use all her father's gifts to save her country, her Duchess, and her heart. "
Barbara M. is joining our legion of obsessives! “I am totally absorbed and fascinated by the book everyone else on staff has already read, Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham. This true story of how two teenage girls murder one of their mothers is made even more remarkable by the fact that one of the girls is the world renowned author, Anne Perry. Absolutely amazing!”
Stephanie is sort of a mess this week. In the best possible way. “I don’t always love quiet books, but Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi is so beautifully written that I fell for it, hard. When people talk about writing as a craft, they’re talking about writing like Selasi’s. I finished this book on the train and then worked on some writing of my own; this ended up mirroring an experience I usually have during the Olympics while watching ice skating, because they make it look simple to skate backwards in a circle and then launch their body into a triple whateverthehell, and then I stand up to go get more tea and skate myself down the hall in my socks, humming, and then trip on the floor and bruise a knee. She makes it look easy because the prose is basically perfect, so there’s no comparison, until you crash back to reality in your own journal. This is a beautiful family saga of sorts that brings not just her characters, but also contemporary Africa and the United States, to pulsing, vibrant life.”
Sweet Ann is reading The Edge of the Earth by Christina Schwarz. “This novel is quite the page turner. The story begins in Milwaukee in 1898 and introduces us to Trudy who is engaged to be married. She wants more to life than just becoming a housewife and living in the city of her birth. She meets her fiance's cousin, Oskar, who is a free spirit and offers Trudy the adventure she is yearning for. She marries Oskar and they are off to his job as a worker at a remote lighthouse in California. There they meet the Crawley family including the wife's strange brother. The adventures soon begin centered on the mysterious woman on the island who the children refer to as a mermaid. This book will keep you guessing about what is actually happening on the island. This novel also makes you think about the choices one makes and the consequences that follow. This is a quick enthralling read.”
Patty fills us in! “Let me start by saying that nowadays I rarely read fiction. Much of my time is spent perusing the stacks of non-fiction, looking for something to add to my own knowledge and propensity to noodle thoughts or ideas. I was reminded this week about a book that is as much a book about parenting as it is about managing staff or teaching. My choice this week was mentioned at a recent YWCA Parent Awareness talk about positive parenting and was acknowledged by the presenting speaker, Dr. Julia Trebing, as a major influence on her as a psychologist. It was a book that was a major influence on me as well. Alfie Kohn’s book, Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s Praise and Other Bribes is a must read. As a parent and through years of experience working with young children, I’ve always had a problem with the notion of extrinsic motivation. The idea of dangling an incentive in front of a child, or anyone for that matter, never sat well with me. Highly regarded books on education and best practices will point out that in order to encourage lifelong learners, students need to be intrinsically motivated. Mr. Kohn points out through extensive research and psychology just how extrinsic rewards undermine intrinsic motivation. “
Jeanne as usual is doing two things at once. It is nice to be able to count on some stability in this uncertain world! “ In the car I am listening to The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers. I think audio (especially with Holter Graham narrating!) is a good way to experience this emotional book about looking out for your fellow soldiers in war. The combat scenes, the guilt, the sense of returning to civilian life as a misfit are made more poignant in the listening. Using his own experiences in Iraq in 2004 and 2005, Powers writes a "fictional" account of the ugliness of war through language that is at once horrible, beautiful and riveting. Very powerful. Everywhere else I am reading The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield. I love this book! I love the way it is so deeply human in plain-spoken words; with knowable characters. There is sad and funny; warm and tragic as most close-knit families can be. The setting is rural Arkansas and it is the coming-of-age story of Swan Lake (really), a precocious 11-year old who lights up the pages with her undaunted fearlessness and unquenchable curiosity through Wingfield's clever, well-paced narrative. I am looking forward to following Swan through the pages on her mission.”
The Amazing Amanda has a confession to make. “Confession (this is not a surprise): I love Japanese graphic novels (manga) and anime (Japanese animation). The art style and the cultural differences paint the illustrated landscape of Japan as a magical place that makes your heart flutter. In the Ouran High School Host Club, you have six different beautiful boys who woo their classmates with the princess treatment. The girls respond with avid devotion to their male ‘type’ of perfect boy. Enter Haruhi, a female scholarship student that is just looking for a place to study. When she accidentally enters the Host Club’s paradise, she accidentally breaks an extremely expensive vase. The boys put her to work to pay off her debt. However, the Club’s president has made a mistake in assuming Haruhi is a boy thanks to her looks. So she is drafted into serving as one of the male hosts. When the president discovers her “secret”, enter a mad-cap romantic comedy as the Club works to obscure Haruhi’s gender. There are lots of laugh-out-loud worthy plots and schemes for the Host Club to gets themselves into. Haruhi is a heroine who stands on her own two feet and stays true to herself despite being surrounded by the extremely affluent. The graphic novels are heartwarming, funny, and each character is revealed – to themselves and to the reader – to be capable of much kindness. I discovered the anime before the novels and watched it in one long marathon. This is one of my favorite light-hearted ways to while away an afternoon or a lunch!
Back in the pre-internet, pre-cell phone days, the largest national communications network was the telephone. Using a rotary dial and some patience, you could reach someone on the other side of the country in just a few minutes, which was a revelation. The system worked amazingly well but it had a major security flaw, and this flaw made the network the personal playground of an underground band of "phone phreaks."
The phreaks discovered that they could re-route calls and bypass the system, using whistles, taps, and brazen ingenuity. College students, blind teenage prodigies, and various outlaw characters (including Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs) created "blue boxes" for their underground operations, which, according to Jobs, presaged the creation of Apple Computers.
Eventually, Ma Bell and the FBI caught up with them and everything unraveled...but not before the phreaks left their mark on the industry. Phil Lapsley's history of that era reads like the very best of espionage fiction except that it's true. Modern technology makes such a David and Goliath story unlikely to ever happen again -- and Exploding the Phone uncovers the whole fascinating secret history.
This week we have nothing but joyful proclamations. Ann has left Appalachia in the dust and reports that she is now the proud owner of a home with running water and electricity. I think we can safely declare the arrival of spring. Also, don’t forget that our current favorite book Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century aka Chicks with Bricks will be released this week! Keep watching this space for a cool new service we will be offering you. I know you all are going to love it. See? Nothing but good this week! This week we have a shock, a skilled fighter, A Library Legend Speaks! smart yet light,3 Danish, some gypsies, sweetness, a crisis, a Charlotte sighting, and some Chicago!
Let us begin!
John is moving on to the next book on the stack. I finished Old School and really enjoyed it. It would be a great way for anyone to be introduced to great (and not so great) writing. If you've ever wanted to meet Robert Frost, or see what Ayn Rand is like in person (apparently she had nice legs), then this is your ticket. As for my next book, I just started Jojo Moyes' Me before You. An abrupt and shocking first chapter has left me wondering where it goes next.
The Amazing Amanda continues her love affair with fantasy fiction. “I have a weak spot for strong female characters. This week was no exception when I listened to Graceling by Kristin Cashore. Katsa is a lady killer in the service of her uncle the king. He gives her orders of who to maim or kill and she does his bidding. However, she feels disgusted by the self-serving greedy kings who harm ordinary people. So she starts a Council that carries out separate missions to help people. While doing Council work, she runs into a highly skilled fighter. He recognizes her and to her own astonishment, she decides to let him live. This one moment of hesitation on Katsa’s part completely changes her life. As the story continues, Katsa grows from a cold, no-nonsense character into to a compassionate woman. She defies two treacherous kings and uncovers a 35 year old deception that has harmed thousands. The man she spared becomes her true companion. The full-cast audio production was a bit jarring as each spoken part was read by a different voice actor. When I read a book, I usually ‘hear’ the voices inside my head which are really just variations of my own thought ‘voice’ if that makes any sense! So to listen to a book with multiple voices was a strange experience. After a while, I settled into the story which I loved. This is possibly the best book I’ve read in a while – even beating out Seraphina for recent female-driven fantasy novels. The world building is realistic, detailed, and the struggles of Katsa and the people she encounters feel real. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants action, adventure, and a dash of romance.”
Library Legend Blanche joins us for the first time this week! Welcome Blanche! She is reading The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh. “This novel is set in South Africa in the 18th century and it deals with the inhuman conditions of diamond mining, the exploitation of a land and its people. There is also an emotional love story that will capture you from the moment the character leaves her home in England to live in Africa.”
Stephanie asks a question for the Ages! “Everybody wants a smart, light book for summer (or, as people usually ask at the desk: “Do you have anything that’s easy to read but won’t make me feel like I’m losing brain cells?”), and I have already found one for 2013: The Smart One by Jennifer Close. I loved her first book, Girls in White Dresses, and I think this one is even better. So funny and compassionate, and a brilliant look at that new strange not-a-teen-not-quite-a-grownup experience so many people are having (from both the perspective of the twenty-somethings and that of the mom whose kids are all moving back home). Close has a great eye for subtle details, especially in dialogue. My only complaint is that I can’t figure out what the heck is going on with that lady’s dress on the cover?” I think I can answer that one. It looks like a Von Furstenberg wrap dress to me. Any other thoughts on this one?
Abby is back but what she is reading is really not a surprise if you know her. “I splurged on Danish during my vacation. Yes, I read all 3 of Sara Blaedel's Danish crime novels. Dubbed the Queen of Danish mysteries, her lead character Detective Louise Rick works major crimes in Copenhagen. Her cases all happen to intersect with her best pal Camilla Lind, the city's top crime reporter. The three books in order are: Call me Princess, Only One Life, and Farewell to Freedom. I enjoyed the books which definitely had the Scandinavian touch I enjoy. It will be interesting to see how the Rick character develops, and if the constant intersecting of Rick's detective work and Camilla's intrepid reporting continues to be an effective narrative.”
Barbara M. is not reading Paris or World War II. But this week I am cool with it because she is exploring another one of her obsessions: Gypsies! “I just started Gypsy Boy on the Run: My Escape from a Life Among the Romany Gypsies by Mikey Walsh. I enjoyed and learned so much from his first book, Gypsy Boy that I expect to like this one too.”
Sweet Ann is reading something, well, for lack of a better word, sweet; As Sweet as Honey by Indira Ganesan. “Yes I know the word "sweet" is in the title of this book and yes it is a sweet story of a family living on the fictional island of Pi in the Indian Ocean. The novel is told by ten year old Mina who is the niece of the main character, Meterling. Meterling is twenty eight when the story begins and soon it will be her wedding day. She is marrying Archer, a British national, who works his family's gin business on the island. She loves him very much and as they share their first dance together as husband and wife, Archer drops dead. Meterling is devastated, as is her family who will be shocked to learn she is pregnant because they thought she was waiting to be with Archer on their wedding night. Meterling's family suppports her totally and she thinks she will live the rest of her life with them on Pi. She then meets Simon, Archer's cousin, who can offer her a new life. This is a lovely story about love, family and moving on with one's life. “
Pat T. has just started reading The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout. “This is a novel about a family whose lives have been affected by a tragedy from their childhood, their adult relationships with each other and how they individually handle the latest family crisis that brings them together again in their hometown of Shirley Falls, Maine. As with Olive Kitteridge Elizabeth Strout, draws you into her characters who are not easily likable, but redeemable.”
Jeanne, as usual, 2 things at once. Discuss: “There are so many good memoirs about so many different kinds of people. I was reading With or Without You: a Memoir by Domenica Ruta and I really wanted to like her story of self-made success about growing up Italian American with a drug-addled single mother on welfare in Danvers, MA. But, as I tell my dog when she picks up something she shouldn't, "That's yucky, Charlotte. Leave it!" So I did and I moved on to another memoir, After Visiting Friends: a Son's Story by Michael Hainey. In a way, both authors have experienced the loss of a parent, one to drugs, but still living; and one to death when the son was young. Hainey believes there is a mystery to be solved about the sudden death of his dad, a rising star at the Chicago Sun-Times. He wants to dig into the past without upsetting his mother and family members by uncovering secrets. The difference is in the writing. Hainey's writing, for me, is just more readable, more compelling and definitely more page-turning.”