Hosted by Jen Dayton
Hosted by Jen Dayton

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.”

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