Hosted by Jen Dayton
Hosted by Jen Dayton

Sweet Ann hopes that we are smiling this week and beginning our Spring countdown. The message from the SoNo Loft remains the same because I think that it is just too cold for them to change the banner.  I am hoping like mad that the ridiculous PA Rodent does the decent thing on Sunday and casts no shadow.  According to Wikipedia, the Rodent’s prediction is correct 75% to 90% of the time.  Which, when you think of it, for weather odds is not too shabby?  I cannot believe that I am alone in feeling over this entire winter thing and that the Polar Vortex can retreat to back to wherever it came from any time now.  It was actually joyous this morning to be able to walk to my train station and not feel like I was destined to end up in some Emergency Room in warming blankets.  What makes this especially sad is when you realize that it was maybe 20 degrees this morning.  And I was carrying on like it was 70 and sunny.  Yes.   Hatless and almost skipping my way on my way to the station. This is what I have been reduced to feeling grateful for.   On a happier note, I wish everyone a very Happy Super Bowl weekend and I hope it turns out the way you want it to.  As for me, I could care less but I do love the yearly excuse to eat foods I turn my nose up at the other 364 days for the year.   I did hear somewhere this week that Monday will be the busiest gym day of the year.  Do with that what you will.  This week we have some Scotland, Poland, a party (!), time travel, Iraq, dystopia, a tall drink of Texan water, and New Guinea.

Let us begin!

Abby is reading one of her favorite series this week. “When Ian Rankin retired his John Rebus character, I was not convinced he would remain retired. Happily, I was correct. When we first met Rebus in Knots & Crosses, he was a forty-something Detective on the Edinburgh homicide squad. Rebus was a man driven for answers and not above interacting with the dark underbelly of his city to get them. In Saints of the Shadow Bible, he must confront his own past and alliances. This was a really strong entry into the Rebus series I thoroughly enjoyed.  I wonder if Rankin simply missed Rebus, or did he always plan to bring him back. Either way, I say welcome back John Rebus.

Sweet Ann it seems is taking advantage of the arctic cold by sticking close to the hearth with some good company.  Books!  Take it away Ann!  “This week I have two books, Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson and Lydia's Party by Margaret Hawkins.  Once We Were Brothers is a fast paced engrossing novel which begins in 2004 and time travels back in time  to Poland during the Second World War.  Seventy year old Ben Solomon believes the well-respected philanthropist Elliot Rosenzweig, is actually a childhood friend and former Nazi who actually lived with Bens’ family prior to the War.   At first, he and  Ben were closer than brothers, but now Ben wants to bring Elliot to justice for his war crimes.   Yes, it is another novel about WWII but it is a good one.   After the previous novel, I decided to read a lighter story.  The party referenced in the title of Lydia’s Party by Margaret Hawkins began as an annual party that Lydia gives every year for her six girlfriends.  The novel opens on the day of the party with Lydia getting ready.  She has something important and difficult she wants to share with her friends.  As the novel unfolds you learn about the women, how they became friends, the tension through the years and other secrets they are keeping.  This is a quick read that makes you think about the choices people make and, perhaps, even some of your own life choices.

Miss Elisabeth of the CL is positively giddy.  “I was all a-flutter this weekend because Starz premiered the first-look trailer for their television adaptation of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. The first season of the show will run for 16 episodes starting in June and will cover the events of the first book. A publishing phenomenon when it was published almost 25 years ago, Outlander tells the story of Claire Randall, a WWII combat nurse. Claire is vacationing with her husband in Scotland in 1945 when she accidentally falls through time. She finds herself stranded without her husband or modern conveniences in Scotland, 1730, a land of kilts, clans, violence, and drama. This is an epic, sweeping love story and a historical drama, with a sprinkle of time-travel to jazz the tale up. I have a love/hate relationship with Outlander. I love the period drama and the romance; I hate how sexual violence is consistently wielded against the female characters. However, the adaptation looks AMAZING!

Babs B. is reading some pretty heavy stuff this week.  She is way more than a pretty face. “The Unremarried Widow; A Memoir  by Artis Henderson is the deeply moving story that takes you into the life of a young military wife who is widowed when her husband of 7 months dies in a helicopter crash in 2006 Iraq.  Eight years later, Artis is still classified as an unremarried widow, the official Army term for a woman who has not remarried after the death of her military spouse.  The story goes into detail of the agony of Artis's life after her husband's death which is a personal journey of loss and love.  Military life is not easy, especially for wives, with frequent moves and trying to fit in with all the other wives.   But this beautifully written memoir takes readers into the seldom seen world of the war widow and the strength it takes to fall in love, to let it go and move on with life.”

Steph is declaring a favorite for 2014.  “This week I read one of my first favorites of 2014: On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee. I’ve never read anything by Lee before, but if his previous books are all half as good as this one, I’ll be going back to read them soon.  On Such a Full Sea presents to us a United States in the future. B-Mor, a once grand city is now a settlement for the working class.  Fan, is a young woman who leaves B-Mor after her boyfriend disappears. As she weaves across a dystopian America, the book echoes with the chorus of those she’s left behind, telling her story and their own as the true nature of their lives becomes clear. Lee has built a possible future for the US that is all too realistic, but he rarely goes for the cheap shot.  Instead, he stuns us with his beautiful prose and a thrilling tale that reads like a ghost story from the future. Think Margaret Atwood meets Colum McCann.

Have you met Virginia?  She is the tall, cool drink of Texan water that can be found behind the Welcome Desk these days.  This week she is letting us in on what she thinks about The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.  “All it took was a four-hour flight and I was utterly engrossed in Sue Monk Kidd’s book, The Invention of Wings, a historical fiction novel inspired by the real life of Sarah Grimke, a Southern woman who was born into an elite Charleston family during the early 19th century.  Grimke was born with a fiery intelligence and a sense she was supposed to be more than just a society wife.   Kidd begins Grimke’s story when, as a young girl, she was given ownership of ten-year-old Hetty “Handful” Grimke as a present for her 11th birthday.  Even at such a young age, Grimke knew that slavery was grossly wrong, and thus begins the tale of two women, living very different lives but both seeking independence and freedom.  The book details a lifetime of experiences written from the perspective of both Sarah Grimke and Handful.  Kidd does a masterful job of recreating life in 19th Century Charleston and what reality must have been like for these two women.  While the book chronicles their complex relationship and gives the reader a view of love, betrayal, abuse and quiet triumphs, it is most of all, the story of the strength of women.  I highly recommend Invention of Wings and I promise you if you didn’t know who Sarah Grimke was when you begin this novel, you will want to learn more about this forgotten hero.” 

I finished Lily King’s latest Euphoria and I have to say that I think this is her best one yet. Set in the 1930’s New Guinea King gives us three anthropologists who are each haunted in their lives.   Andrew Banson is haunted by the deaths of his older brothers and the lives he feels they should have lived.  Fen is haunted by his wife Nell’s phenomenal success with her first book, and Nell is haunted by memories of her lover whom she abandoned to be with Fen.  When Banson finds them a new tribe to study, the female centric Tam, all three lives collide in ways that prove to be dangerous to all involved.  King’s language is as lush as the landscape and she makes you feel the passion, the yearning and the tropical heat.  This one comes out in June.

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