Well the voice is back and so am I! A week of sitting on my Sad Little Couch has restored my voice and my health. My son, Thomas S, will be the first to tell you that the real relief is not that his mother is feeling better. Rather, it is a twofold relief. Relief one: real meals are back and there is not a drop of broth to be found. Relief two: I am no longer sitting on the Sad Little Couch plotting living room re-orgs. Because I had all that time praying for a swift end that refused to come, I had the time to finally deal with an awkward room arrangement that had never really been pleasing to me. Is there anything worse than opening your front door and being greeted by something you know isn’t quite right but you can’t quite figure it out? Well, this past week I finally figured it (after 3 years!) and now when I open the door I am greeted by a warm and cozy Nest of Tranquility. Thomas, I promise, we’re done with the moving of the furniture. For now. The message from The Loft is Kaizen Does Not Equal Perfection. What the what you say? Kaizen is a Japanese business philosophy that embraces positive change as a way of improvement which can apply to basically everything in your life from business to your personal life. So, to you, Thomas S, I say we Kaizened the Living Room! Who knows what other Kaizens the year will bring! This week we have some magic, Mennonites, Ohio (OH-IO!!!), a dress shop, a train, Jack Nicholson, New Canaan, shots (ouch!) and the need for a Revolution. And it’s a cold cruel world out there, People! But everything is easier with The Playlist!
Let us begin!
Virginia the Tall Cool Texan is giving us a cliff hanger this week. What’s the story VA? “Aaahhhh, my inner nerd is temporarily satisfied. Two weeks ago I was introduced to The Magicians series by Lev Grossman, and I am absolutely hooked. Think Harry Potter meets Narnia, but darker and grittier. The trilogy starts with The Magicians, where you are introduced to the brilliant, but awkward Quentin Coldwater, a high school student who finds reality dull and gray compared to the magical world of Fillory, the setting of his favorite childhood fantasy novels. All of that changes one day when he gets invited to attend Brakebills, the prestigious and very secretive college of magic. There, Quentin finally finds his footing with new friends and a newfound confidence with his skills in magic. But the real adventure begins after graduation when Quentin and his friends discover that Fillory, the fictional land of the beloved children’s novels, is indeed a real place and in need of their help. What should have been Quentin’s greatest dream to come true, has become his greatest nightmare, and even with the help of magic he might lose what he loves the most. This is not a children’s book. It has hints of hedonism, it can be violent and at times very dark but it is also very addicting. ”
Sweet Ann is here to tell us what she thinks of All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Towes. “This very well written and thought provoking novel follows the relationship of two sisters, Elfrieda,(Elf) and Yolandi(Yoli) from their childhood in a Mennonite community in Canada to adulthood. Although growing up in a very strict community where women were held down intellectually and artistically, Elf and Yoli are given a great deal of freedom to become who they want to be. Elf becomes a world class pianist and is happily married to Nic. Yoli's life has been more difficult in that she has had two children with two different fathers, her present marriage is failing and the new novel she is working on is not coming together as she would like. From afar it looks as if Elf has everything a person could want, but she is suicidal and wants to end her life. It is also the wonderful story of family love told with humor and touching family moments between the sisters and extended family. I highly recommend this book. “
Pat T is still listening. “I have just finished listening to the audiobook, Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng and I came away from it feeling that while it is very sad story, it is well worth listening to. James and Marilyn Lee live in a small Ohio town in the 1970's raising their three children. They have centered their attention and ambitions on their lovely middle daughter, Lydia. James wants Lydia to have friends and be popular in school: Marilyn wants her to be a doctor. The family is shattered when Lydia's body is discovered in the town lake. Was it murder or suicide? Family secrets, questions of how and why are unraveled in this moving debut novel.”
Sue is looking for love the way she usually does! Between the covers of a book! Here is her new favorite on the Romance front. “I read The Dress Shop of Dreams and just totally LOVED it. I highly recommend it for someone who is looking for a light romance mixed with a tad of magic and mystery! The story centers on Cora Sparks a scientist who is missing out on life by hiding in her lab and her grandmother Etta who runs a dress shop which has more to it than meets the eye. Throw in a lifelong friend who has loved Cora all his life, but who is seemingly invisible to Cora and two separate mysteries and you have a romance novel that is guaranteed to please!”
Babs B is here with a current favorite The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. “This debut psychological thriller has been compared to the very popular Gone Girl. The story centers on 3 women; Rachel, who is the narrator, is a lonely divorcee who gets caught up in the disappearance of a woman named Megan. Megan has problems of her own, namely cheating on her husband. Then we have Anna who is married to Rachel's ex-husband. Are you with me so far? In the twisted conclusion, all three women and the men with whom they share their lives, are forced to alter their delusions about others and themselves, their choices and their respective relationships. After finishing this novel, I thought about what a great Alfred Hitchcock movie it would have made of it.”
The Always Delightful Pat S is here and she’s not very happy. “Watch Me is the second of two memoirs Huston has published in the last 18 months. A Story Lately Told covered a childhood spent in Ireland, far from the land of fame and celebrity inhabited by her father, the famed director John Huston. The first volume was beautifully written, with sharp observations of people and situations that ended in the late sixties, just as Angelica had embarked on an international modeling career and a potentially unhealthy relationship with a much older photographer. Watch Me opens in the early seventies in California, when Huston fled the bad relationship and a stalled career. However, almost before taking a second breath, she meets Jack Nicholson and proceeds to follow him around the world for the next almost twenty years. Yes, she decides to follow acting seriously, but in a rather desultory way. The next few decades are described in a series of Hollywood vignettes which feature the rich and the fabulous attending parties the rest of us only read about. The acting continues, even garnering a coveted Oscar award. Finally, in her forties, she meets the artist Robert Graham and embarks on marriage. At the end of this second volume, I felt sad for an obviously talented woman who seemed to have lived life mainly as an adjunct to the men in her life, beginning with her father. There is something strangely removed in the telling of the events she shares which makes this second volume superficial, with nothing much under a beautiful veneer. Disappointing.”
Steph! Here with directives! “Over the weekend, I devoured The Invasion of the Tearling, the sequel to last year’s Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen which was one of my favorites of last year. In Queen, Kelsea was elevated to rule a kingdom she barely knew after a childhood full of preparation. As queen, she replaced a cruel system put in place by her mother which sold Tearling subjects as slaves to a neighboring kingdom to appease the feared Red Queen. With this abrogation, she won the hearts of almost everybody in her kingdom, and all looked forward to a new era. In this book, the realities of ruling have set in, and Weary Kelsea has little time to develop her kingdom or mature as a ruler. Under the stress of her position, she has started to go into fugue states and travel back in time, seeing her world’s past which is our world’s future, through the eyes of Lily, a young woman living in the gated community of New Canaan (yes, that New Canaan) which is a semi-Atwoodian dystopia. Lily’s story starts out as an interesting side plot, but quickly becomes more important to Kelsea as a crucial moment of decision grows nearer. The conclusion is as satisfying as the second book in a trilogy can be which is to say that I wasn’t left hanging, but I’m desperate for the final installment. As with the first book, Johansen’s writing is exciting, evoking both Kelsea and Lily’s rapid emotional changes well, and the pacing is perfect. This book is being released in May. Those who haven’t read the first book yet should start there, and then join everyone else in anticipation!”
Laura is looking toward the news for her recommendation this week: “Given the recent measles outbreak in Southern California, it is worth reading Eula Biss's On Immunity: An Inoculation. Determined to make the right choices for her baby's safety and well-being, Biss leaves no stone unturned as she delves into the arguments that surround the fears and benefits of inoculations. Her essays are wide ranging and include history, environmental concerns, big drugs dual role in making something effective and profitable and the emotional weight of parents who want to do what is best for their child, no matter what. I will tell you, she's in favor of vaccinations. But when her father, who is a doctor, calls the non-vaccinators idiots, she rises to their defense heralding their argument that much more should be done in our world to safeguard all of us. She is relentless in her writing to create fair judgment of all issues. I think this would be a very helpful book to parents and anyone interested in the well-being of our society.”
I spent my time on Sad Little Couch (Sick Bed just sounds too tragic and while the illness was tragic it wasn’t capital T tragic) watching and reading about a time-gone-by. In the documentary Manor House, which was first broadcast in 2002 on PBS, 21 people are brought together in a real Manor House on the border of Scotland for 3 months; 6 are Upstairs, 15 are Downstairs. Think Reality TV for your inner nerd. There is actually a position below stairs for a Hall Boy. This is a dude who literally lives in a hallway below stairs on a sort of Murphy bed arrangement. The message basically is that he so lowly that he is not deserving of a room of his own. If after watching this you are still puzzled about why the Russian Revolution happened I can’t help you. This will be especially true after hearing the “Poor are always with us speech” by the Lord of the Manor. The gist of this ghastly pontification is that they are always going to be with us and aren’t they lucky to be serving him. Another bit of Good, Nerdy Fun is How to be Victorian: A Dawn to Dusk Guide to Victorian Life by Ruth Goodman. It is exactly what the title says, beginning with your wake-up ablutions and ending with the things that go on in the dark. You will be thanking the Good Lord for indoor plumbing, electricity, pharmaceuticals and no need for corsets. I promise.
Here’s DJ Jazzy Patty McC from The State Up North. She’s got it way worse weather wise than we do so how about a bit of tea and sympathy for her please? What’s good Pats? “This week I think all the smart animals are hibernating during this dreadful season. Seriously, I’ve had enough of the Polar Vortex, single digits and a wind chill that forces the temperature into the negative. Lake effect? Yeah, we’ve got that too. I imagine it says, ‘We’re dumping snow all over the western part of the state and giving you cloud cover so you’ll never see the sun again. Send fudge and we’ll consider giving you partial sunlight on some days. AND It depends on how good the fudge is.’ My daughter has been home with some sort of virus for the past week with a fever. My neighbor, aka the surgeon across the hall and owner of Dax the dog, told me that all the staff at the hospital have been or are currently ill with the exception of himself. Then he included me in the healthy stats and promptly knocked on all surrounding wood to ward off any ill in a superstitious kind of way. What am I doing to stay healthy? I’m cooking and reading right from the Soup chapter of Marcus Off Duty this week. Why? Because he’s a great chef and every chapter comes with his own playlist to listen to while cooking. AND you know I love that!”