You Are What You Read

You Are What You Read!

Greetings and welcome to the Final Four Edition of You Are What You Read! I for one, no longer have a dog in this hunt.  The Traveling Companion however is positively giddy being the UNC grad that he is.  He’s on his way  down to Augusta to begin covering The Masters for Augusta National but he already knows where he will be rooting on his Tar Heels.  Steph who eats, lives and breathes basketball will be cheering on her  ‘Cuse Orangemen.  May the best team win and may my bracket be whole next year because this year was tragic.  Thanks Yale.  Thanks for nothing.

As many of you know, I spend some serious time in New York talking to publishers about what they are excited about for the coming year so that I can make sure that the library has the latest and greatest.  In fact, I was in New York yesterday having lunch with the totally delightful folks from Harper Collins, the author Sophie Hannah and some of the editors from Library Journal.  The buzz at the table was all about a manuscript that has been found by Harper Lee’s estate. It is a work of non-fiction where Lee writes  about December, 1959 when she accompanied Capote  to Kansas to help him with the preliminary research  on his book  In Cold Blood.  The current working title is  There is No Stork Club in Topeka:  Harper Lee, Truman Capote and the Making of a New American Classic.  It’s being edited as we speak and should be ready for a Fall 2017 release.  In it we learn about the zany train trip out to Kansas, the culture shock that only a trip to a fly--over state can induce, and of course, the whacky occasions interviewing Hickock and Smith in the state Penitentiary.  Apparently, there were some rollicking good times to be had by the two besties.  Think Thelma and Louise, only other people died . And without the red convertible. Or the bank robberies. And I think a cliff is hard to come by in Kansas. And I am fairly certain that Harper Lee and Truman Caopte never had sex with Brad Pitt.   Okay. Maybe it was more like a buddy picture with a body count. Anyway, you can read more about that here

This week we have some good nerdy fun, a two-year-old, Lithuania, Poland, First Ladies and Book Two of Three.

Playlist? Don’t be foolish!

Let us begin!

The Amazing James has just tackled the nerdiest thing ever.  It’s rather in keeping, actually.  “ In Thing Explainer, Randall Monroe, attempts to describe how complicated systems like, the International Space Station (“shared space house”), animal cells (“tiny bags of water you’re made of”), and dishwashers (“boxes that clean food holders”) work using diagrams, illustrated in the same style as his webcomic, XKCD, and labeled with only the 1,000 most common English words.  This book doesn’t feel like it is intended to be read from cover to cover, nor does it try to be some sort of authoritative reference resource. With silly—though admittedly pretty accurate—descriptions, this book is ultimately for fun, though I did find myself learning a thing or two on each page.”

The Fabulous Babs B has just finished one of our most wanted titles, Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben.  “Checking the nanny cam, Maya, an ex-special ops pilot, sees her two-year-old daughter playing with her husband.  The only problem with this scenario is that he was murdered two weeks ago in front of her very eyes!  So begins Coben's new thriller which is a twisted adventure as May tries to figure out what is real and isn't real.  The strains of being a single parent and suffering the effects of PTSD add to the mix.  I thought I had figured out the ending but it came as a complete surprise.  Despite that, I don't think this was of of Coben's best books and did not feel any sense of resolve or satisfaction.”

Steph is leading with her heart this week. ”This week my heart is with Dear Fang, With Love, by Rufi Thorpe, the latest book from the author of The Girls of Corona del Mar. It’s the heart-wrenching but also quite funny story of an absentee father and his teen daughter on a trip to, of all places, Lithuania. In alternating chapters, the book follows the hapless Lucas and effervescent Vera, who has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, on their journey. Thorpe so accurately probes at the many ways family binds us to other people without ever getting into mushy territory. I guffawed, I cried, I pouted, I sighed. This is excellent fiction for fans of Maria Semple, Jincy Willett, or Mary Gaitskill.”

One of my favorite books of the year is coming out next week. In Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly we meet three young women in the fall of 1939 who could not be more different. Caroline Halliday a bright young socialite working for the French Embassy in New York, Polish Kasia Kuzmerick a Catholic schoolgirl who's being drawn into the Polish Resistance Movement and Dr. Herta Oberheuser, a German, who has just accepted a position at Ravensbruck,  the female 're-education camp'. Based on the lives of real women, we learn about the horrible wrongs committed and the extraordinary lengths we go to as humans to allow humanity towards each other ultimately triumph. 

Pat T is, as usual, listening.  “The audio book, NPR American Chronicles First Ladies, is a fascinating look at the spouses of our Presidents. As Cokie Roberts says, the role of the First Lady is not for the faint of heart since they have not been elected to the position yet are scrutinized for what they say, do and wear! Martha Washington, our first First Lady, was widowed with four children when she married George Washington. Abigail and John Adams corresponded with one another, writing over 1200 letters, which is one of the main reasons there are so many published books about this couple. Florence Harding, like Eleanor Roosevelt was an activist. Pat Nixon was politically savvy and Bess Truman was her husband's confidante in all matters. From Nancy Reagan's "just say no" campaign, to Michelle Obama's campaign ‘to get moving’, each of these First Ladies have left their special mark. It was a great audio book for Women's History month!”

Pat S  has just finished The Man in the Wooden Hat by Jane Gardam.  “When last I left you, I was bemoaning the end of the best novel I had read in a couple of years entitled Old Filth by Jane Gardam. My only solace was the fact that it was the first book in a trilogy. The Man in the Wooden Hat is book two, and friends, I am happy to say it does not disappoint!  Betty, Old Filth's wife, is but a shadowy secondary character in the first volume. In TMITWH, we are told the story of their marriage through Betty's eyes. Like her husband, Betty too is born abroad in Tiensin and raised in a Japanese internment camp. We meet her as a young woman, on the brink of adulthood, where she gamely makes the decision to put away idealism for security in marriage to a rising advocate (lawyer). From their engagement through their fifty year plus marriage, we follow as Betty faces an inability to have a family, lack of passion, and the loneliness of being married to a workaholic. Yet as she makes the necessary adjustments to her dreams and hopes, she comes to find the strength in that which endures.
Much like Filth, Betty maintains an almost perfect veneer- attractive, well married matron, efficiently heading up a host of clubs and organizations, social leader, gardener extraordinaire. Yet gently scratch the surface, and we soon find that Betty is quite as enigmatic as her husband. It is the ultimate ‘humanness’ of Gardam’s characters that make them so hard to leave.
Don’t worry about me though, there is still book three, Last Friends, to read.

DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here from That State Up North with our final musings for the week.  What’s good Pats?  Is there anything better than a good April Fools’ Day joke? Every year NPR gets me because I forget to check the date. Their prank articles are classic. I completely believed this one  and had to forward it along to an education buddy and ask him if the world had gone mad. He told me to check the date. Gullible. Me. Nutshell. May all you tricksters out there enjoy a day made for foolery and to everyone else...don't believe everything you read. HAPPY APRIL FOOLS’ DAY!  


NPR Bestsellers: Non-Fiction

NPR Nonfiction Bestsellers for the week of March 24th.

You Are What You Read!

Yes, this is a real book.
Yes, this is a real book.

Hey y'all, Stephanie here, filling in for Jen as she cavorts on the beach. And I have two treats for you--yes, you! We did get some taffy this week--thanks, Abby!--but that's not the treat.

The most exciting thing to come into the Library this week was the book you see pictured here. We get many books sent early from publishers--it's a real perk of the job. But this is the first time I opened a book package and then looked around to see if I was on Candid Camera. So, treat number one: First person to claim this book, either by email or by commenting on the website, may have it. Please let me know what you plan to do with it.

Second, just in case you don't have enough books to read, let me tell you about a new service we are about to debut here at the Library. It's called Bookfix. All you do is fill out this super fun survey, and then every 6 or 12 weeks--your choice--we pick a book out for you based on your preferences and put it on hold for you. Couldn't be easier! We have not officially debuted this service yet, and wanted to give loyal readers of our You Are What You Read emails a chance to kick the tires and get their books hand-picked first. The first ten people to fill out the survey at this link will be the lucky ones! Give it a try and tell us what you think.

Okay, here we go!

The title of Laura's selection is a little on the nose, but it fits with our theme of summer books. "I am not a big history buff, but sometimes I enjoy catching up on interesting stories about our country, especially the expansion of the western frontier.  I recently picked up Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, The Most Powerful Indians by S. C. Gwynne out of curiosity. The book is an amazing account of the Comanche, legendary Native Americans of the Southern Plains, and their fierce determination to hold on to their lands. Before our own Revolution, the Comanche had fought and won against the invading Spanish who had conquered most of South and Central America, and they also successfully held back the French who tried to push west from Louisiana. They were formidable warriors, the likes veteran American generals had never seen before. Central to the book is Quanah, one of the most respected chiefs of the Comanche nation. Most intriguing was his mother Cynthia Ann Parker, the “White Squaw” who had been abducted when she was nine years old from her pioneer family’s Texas homestead. Over the years numerous attempts to rescue her were launched, but she refused their attempts, happily choosing to stay with her Comanche family and its culture. Her story, and the rise and fall of the most respected Indian Chief in history, her son, makes for a very moving epic saga worth reading. It's our country's history, we should know about this."

Jeanne is immersed in the fictional future, rather than summer. "I am listening to The Circle by Dave Eggers; narrated with brilliant versatility by Dion Graham. Mae Holland thinks she has landed a dream job at the fabulously successful and powerful internet company The Circle. She suspects that her good friend Annie pulled some strings, but Mae doesn’t care. She starts out in Customer Experience (CE) and is soon inundated with responding to constant!!! inquiries and comments from customers, her boss, Annie, her boss’ boss and pretty much the wide world. Mae is paid well, has all kinds of benefits and social opportunities and she seems over the moon happy. Meanwhile, Eggers takes opportunities to point out to the reader that while Mae is working in the midst of cutting-edge innovation and connectivity, she is also part of a company that continually scans individuals’ online account preferences for monetization opps, constantly asks for (junior-highish) 'likes,' and has a helicopter-style way of treating its employees and the world. She is even required to have bi-weekly physical exams; one in which she unwittingly drinks a sensor that can monitor her sweat level! It’s fascinating stuff."

As you know, if you want a beach read, Susie is your gal. "I am reading Ever After by Jude Deveraux--am about halfway through it and find it to be a very good light easy beach read, with a few unexpected plot twists thrown in the middle that I did not see coming."

Abby's choice is on vacation, too! "Once again, Paul Doiran has come through for me with the latest in his Mike Bowditch series, The Precipice. Set in Maine, Bowditch is a Maine State Game warden, a position similar to a state police officer but with bears and moose. In this book, Mike may actually be having some luck in the romance department when he is called in to help locate to missing young sisters who have been hiking the Appalachian Trail. During the search, Mike meets members of the search and rescue force, civilians with a wide range of backgrounds toting various types of emotional baggage around as they assist in the effort. Mike is trying to approach his work and life with a new found maturity that seems to serve him well. The mystery of the hikers leads to increasingly complicated webs and again dives in to the lesser-seen parts of Maine culture you don't see on tourist brochures. I continue to enjoys Doiron's writing and traveling with Mike Bowditch as he matures into a better man and warden."

Ann, can you share just one more summer pick with us? "I read The Daylight Marriage by Heidi Pitlor. This is a quick summer read that will have you turning the pages to see what is going to happen next. Hannah and Lovell have been married for years, and to Hannah their life has become predictable and a bit boring. Lovell, on the other hand, is content, although he gets annoyed that Hannah does not run the household as he would like it done. They have a son and a teenage daughter, who is quite lippy and swears like a sailor (oh wait, that was a judgement on my part!). One night, Hannah and Lovell have a very heated argument that the daughter witnesses. Lovell feels guilty about it, and in the morning before he leaves for work, he fixes Hannah's favorite flavored coffee as a peace offering.  Hannah is upset about the fight in the morning, but feels she and Lovell will work it out and everything will be fine. But as the day progresses, there is no sign of Hannah. At first, Lovell feels she is still angry and has gone to see a girlfriend of hers. This is not the case, and as the story progresses the reader alone will be privy to what happens to Hannah. This is a book that reminds us all how life can change in an instant."

As for myself, I'm somehow already thinking of winter, reading an excellent book coming out in February. I know nobody is looking forward to the February weather, but you should be looking forward to The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee, a book that will satisfy fans of The Crimson Petal and the White and other sweeping historical novels. A grand book about a fascinating woman, a legend of the Paris Opera, who manages to survive the American frontier, serving the French Empress, and the terrors of the Paris Commune, but finds all her secrets unravelling just as she prepares to take her rightful place in opera history. Exquisite historical fiction. I've been savoring every page.

You Are What You Read!

Hosted by Jen Dayton
Hosted by Jen Dayton

I don’t know about you all but I am exhausted.  This new load of frozen from the sky has just about done me in.  Native Americans called tonight’s full moon The Full Hunger Moon.  Could it have been better named? I know I am not alone in being starved for some sun, the chance to show off a newly polished toe and a brisk stroll along a clean sidewalk.  The Traveling Companion who is home now assured me that the warmer climes would not have made me happy because, “it was a little humid.”  I was kindness personified and  let him live.  As if this week weren’t hard enough, we also have Valentine’s Day to deal with; a day fraught with ridiculous expectations, overpriced half dead plant material and bad restaurant meals.  Erin, Stephanie and I curate a collection all year long to counterbalance this.  It’s a little something we like to call 4-Ever Alone. This is a list of books and DVDs that we feel are full of cautionary material.  So please, enjoy and in the true spirit of the day do a kindness, give someone a hug, make a child happy and consume some worthy chocolate.  I am confident that Sweet Ann would totally endorse this message.  This week we have some romance, a major victory, tragedy, a cross roads, some serious sadness, a hijacking, and a brain tumor.   And we can’t forget The Playlist!

Let us begin!

You Are What You Read!

Hosted by Jen Dayton
Hosted by Jen Dayton

With the snow and ice and cold it seems that we are truly in the midst of the Hellidays.  We have noticed that we are a lot less busy and we are chalking it up to the fact that you all are out there shopping, baking a cookie and decorating your hearts out.  The message from the SoNo Loft remains the same: Santa ♥’s U!  I am wondering if it is going to stick for the season.  I do love the touch of whimsy that it brings to my commute.  So if you are out there, I thank you for it! Sweet Ann is too busy getting festive to impart any profound words of wisdom it would seem, but she would like to remind us to smile and enjoy the season. But I think you will see from what we are consuming this week that there is not a whole lot that is Merry and Bright going on.  For those of you who are fans of the wonderful 3M Cloud Library please be aware that Simon and Schuster, the last publishing hold out for selling digital content to libraries has become available!  Speaking of digital content keep your eyes open for more digital excitement to be announced on Monday. This week we have prison, horror, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, New York, ephemera, the New Deal, and London.

Let us begin!

You Are What You Read!


Welcome to the Halloween version of You Are What You Read.  Frequent Visitors know that nothing and we do mean nothing, creeps us out quite like a doll, with the possible exception of clowns.   So in the spirit of the upcoming Holiday,  our theme for this week’s playlist is just that Creepy Dolls. The accompanying visual is actually of two creepy dolls that paid a visit to my desk earlier in the week.  In a version of “pay it forward” the dolls proceeded to migrate all over the library.  No one was happy to see them despite the fact that they are Creepy Dolls without Teeth.  Frequent Visitors know that this is the worst type of doll that we know.  Just the same, they were sort of our version of Riders of the Apocalypse.  If they appeared in your work space you just knew no good was going to follow. On a happier note Sweet Ann’s Words of Wisdom for the week are these:  “Let it go with a smile.”  She is concerned that we may all be carrying too heavy of a load.  Part of the load that Sweet Ann is carrying is the fear of my mood for the next week.  I will do my utmost to maintain my cheery self.  This week we have water, tea, more water,  gridiron and a little heartbreak !

Let us begin!

Barbara M. is not one to let anything stand in the way of her WW II obsession.  Carry on Barbara M!  “I’m reading The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown in preparation for a book discussion I’m doing with Sweet Ann on Wednesday, November 20th. It’s a compelling story about the American rowing team which won a gold medal in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. The book focuses on one crew member, Joe Rantz, a young man who endured many hardships growing up. It’s easy to compare this book to Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand as they are both about underdogs succeeding against insurmountable odds. The one thing that disturbs me is the author’s use of quotes without citations in a work of non-fiction. The author not only puts words in the mouth of the characters but also interprets their thoughts and describes their actions in detail. I’ve been told that this makes it a much more readable book, but, I’m not sure. Nonetheless, I am thoroughly captivated by the story and am learning how much team work and strength it takes to be a part of a crew.”

Jeanne is just doing one thing this week.  I am concerned. “I am reading and enjoying Mission in A Bottle: The Honest Guide to Doing Business Differently and Succeeding by Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff. The wonderful graphics are illustrated by Sungyoon Choi. Goldman and Nalebuff are two very smart guys, the first a student; the second his professor. Back in the nineties, Seth was frustrated at not being able to find a bottled drink that was healthful, tasty and not over-sweetened. He approached Barry, a tea aficionado, with his ideas. This book tells the story of their thinking and creative processes and their foray into the beverage industry that led to the manufacturing of Honest Tea. You can now find it in a store near you. Honestly.”

Sweet Ann is happily ensconced in A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. “ I am not finished this book yet but it is wonderful and I can't recommend it enough.  The novel alternates chapters told by sixteen year old Nao who lives in Japan and Ruth a middle aged woman who lives with her husband on a remote island in the Pacific Northwest.  Ruth has discovered Nao's diary which was carefully packaged and protected when it washes up on the beach.  She doesn't realize the content of the bag until it is opened.  From the opening line of the diary, to the other contents of the container, Ruth as well as the reader is mesmerized. Nao is a very unhappy person and Ruth is drawn to her and wants to find out if she survived the 2011 tsunami.  As a reader you learn much about Nao's life, her torturous school days, her love of her father and her wonderful great grandmother who is a Buddist nun.  With Ruth you learn about a woman who has made sacrifices and compromises in her life and is questioning her decisions.  It's a wonderful read and I will be sad when I finish their story.”

Steph who was also visited by The Dolls this week is confident about what she is reading!  “This week I have been reading Collision Low Crossers by Nicholas Dawidoff, after hearing Pat S. rave about it. I have been just as taken in as she was! Though I grew up rooting for the Eagles, I have no feelings one way or the other about the Jets, but Dawidoff’s story of his year with them is fascinating. If football is, as many say, the soap opera for men, then this book is the juicy behind-the-scenes look at how the soap opera gets written and produced. I haven’t quite finished it yet but suffice it to say, I spent an extra hour on the train today and barely noticed we were running late—that’s how engrossed I was. This one will be big when it’s released in November.”

Now that the weather is cooler I am back to the Blow Dry and this means that I am back to having a Blow Dry Book (henceforth known as BDB).   For those who are Not Frequent Visitors a BDB is literally a book I read while I blow dry my hair; a chore that I find to be such a bore that there needs to be a book to help it along.  There are rules for the BDB:  It must have shortish break points (the Blow Dry is not a forever activity letters are normally perfect in this regard), it has to be well written (who wants to waste time with drivel), and the story has to be compelling (so that you remember the story line from day to day).  Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float before He Stole My Ma by Kerry Hudson has been my Blow-Dry companion and it fits all the perfect Blow Dry Requirements.  Janie Ryan is the narrator of what a story that is equal parts funny, and heartbreaking.  From the moment Janie is born to her teen mom in 1980’s Great Britian, there is nothing but trouble.  The pair is homeless practically from the start and when you throw in drug use, depression and alcoholism you are in for some pretty bleak times.  But Hudson’s writing and humor also allow you to feel the love and unbreakable bonds between mother and daughter.  This one comes out in February.

DJ Jazzy Patty McC. spins a tale dark, creepy and toothless. “This week I have no words to share.  I only have music and two very creepy dolls.”

Jen List of Wonderful for 2013

Here is the list thus far for 2013.  They are not in any particular order.  That would feel like asking me to name my favorite child!

You Are What You Read!

Hello, Darien readers--Stephanie here, filling in for Jen this week. Lots of great books for you this week as it seems the long weekend gave our librarians an excuse to read widely, and they snapped that excuse right up!

Amanda had a Vampire Weekend (no, not the band!) by watching “The Vampire Diaries” and reading Beth Fantaskey’s book, Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side. "I read Fantaskey’s book with the mindset that it was lightly mocking the Twilight books which made this book laugh out loud funny. I am unsure if that was the author’s intention, but it helped set the pace as I read this 384-page novel in one sitting. Jessica is a farm girl who finds out that her birth parents betrothed her to a Romanian vampire prince, Lucius, to stop a war. Moreover, she is also a vampire princess. Unlike other heroines who would be swept away, Jessica stonewalls Lucius. She’s determined to live a normal life. The great thing about this book is that both Jessica and Lucius develop and grow as characters. Lucius goes from overbearing pampered royalty to a fighting for what’s right. Jessica faces up to her difficult destiny and demonstrates maturity. The book concludes with a heart pounding confrontation between herself and Lucius.  I loved this book because it does some real world building with relatable characters."

Elizabeth really liked The Movement of Stars by Amy Brill, a novel about Hannah Gardner Price, who has lived all twenty-four years of her life according to the principles of the Nantucket Quaker community in which she was raised, where simplicity and restraint are valued above all, and a woman's path is expected to lead to marriage and motherhood. But up on the rooftop each night, Hannah pursues a very different— and elusive—goal: discovering a comet and thereby winning a gold medal awarded by the King of Denmark, something unheard of for a woman. "I really liked it, and I think it should really appeal to our Darien female audience because of the Nantucket connection. It was really enjoyable to read about Nantucket in the mid-1800's even if it wasn't the greatest time to be a woman there...the landscape is almost a character....Good story, and lovely writing style...."

Barbara M. is balancing two dark books. "I’ve just started reading The Island by Victoria Hislop because I liked her most recent novel, The Thread. What attracted me to this book was its subject, a leper colony on an island, Spinalonga, off the coast of Crete. The story’s premise is good and revolves around a young woman’s search for her family’s roots.  The writing is prosaic and the characters are sometimes one dimensional but what may redeem this book for me is the author’s description of Crete (she is a travel writer) and its history. I’ve also started The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon which describes his battle with the disease. It’s beautifully written but Solomon’s pain is so raw that it’s difficult to read too much of the book at one time."

Miss Amy read a book that she warns is not a new one, but it is a good one: Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman. Fine by us, they don't all need to be new! There's a reason we keep these books in the stacks for nice long lives.

Pat Sheary just finished a book that I loved as well but was scared to recommend to people, so I'm glad to have a partner in crime: The Love Song of Jonny Valentine by Teddy Wayne. "Based loosely on the Justin Bieber story, this is a coming-of-age tale set within the framework of celebrity and stardom. Jonny Valentine is an 11 year old musical genius whose looks and talents have captured the fickle American public-in a big way. As told in first person narration by Jonny, we watch as he navigates a cross-country tour, endless label marketing meetings to extend his 'brand' (HIMSELF), and a mother/manager archetype occasionally showing flashes of genuine love and concern . Attempting to please these factions, in addition to the ever-present  fanbase, Jonny is trying to  figure out friendship, sexual exploration, and a missing dad. Jonny is funny, ironic and heartbreakingly touching at every turn. I thoroughly and unexpectedly enjoyed this read."

Pat Tone is gearing up for our next First Look Darien event. "I am in the middle of Indiscretion by Charles Dubow and enjoying this page-turner. Claire, a pretty, ambitious young lady is introduced to an attractive couple, Harry and Maddy Winslow, who enjoy entertaining guests in their East Hampton home. Claire is drawn into the orbit of the Winslow's happy family life and soon seduces Harry and betrays Maddy's trust. This is a debut novel of love and deception and the author will be visiting Darien Library on March 7th!"

Ann has been lurking in Paris with The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan. "As a fan of historical fiction I was drawn to this book by the story and quite honestly the by cover.  The story starts a little slowly but once it got going I felt it became a page turner.  This novel is a fictionalized account of the Van Goethem sisters in 1878 Paris.  Their father dies and the family becomes desperate for money. Antoinette the oldest sister used to dance at the Paris Opera but was dismissed when she did not cooperate.  She then becomes a laundress and also gets a job acting.  Marie and Charlotte are sent to the Paris Opera where they will dance and earn salaries.  The girl's mother works as a laundress but has a severe drinking problem.  This novel is told in the voice of Antoinette and the voice of Marie.  Antoinette will get involved with a murderer who will have devastating effects on her and those she loves.  Marie will become a model for Degas, and in real life immortalized in the statue of Little Dancer Aged fourteen.  Marie has a very difficult childhood and must grow up quickly.  This novel brings to life the culture of poverty and what people will endure to survive.  As a reader you will be caring and cheering for the Van Goethem sisters."

Jeanne is listening to Defending Jacob by William Landay. "It's read by Grover Gardner and I can understand why he has been the narrator for so many books and won so many awards. He reads like he is the character; not just a narrator. Gardner's voice is at once confessional, personal and engaging. I have read and heard many favorable reviews of Defending Jacob and am anxious to find out the mystery behind the book's title."

Abby is having one of those no-good weeks when the books are being difficult. "I've been having a hard time finding a book to really dig into. So, for my latest read I looked on the shelf and saw the name Brad Meltzer. I thought, oh, they say he's a nice guy, so I grabbed it. I don't recommend selecting books based on the author's niceness quotient. It's not a very good book. The Fifth Assassin follows Beecher White. Beech is an archivist who works in the National Archives and is revealed early on as a member of a centuries old secret society dedicated to protecting POTUS. My dislike for the book extends beyond my usual obsession with having to read books in sequence. Had I read book one, I still would not like this book. It's basically a conspiracy theory book ala Dan Brown. Meltzer's character development may be better than Brown's, but that's not saying much. What saves it are the interesting snippets about presidential assassinations and the men who committed them."

As for myself, I finished Daddy Love by Joyce Carol Oates. I read everything she writes, for some unknowable reason. This one was a quick read, revolving around a man, Daddy Love, who kidnaps young boys to keep to abuse and call his sons. Not uplifting at all, but very well-written and well-paced. I didn't like it as much as her other 2013 book, which comes out next month (The Accursed), but it is perfect as a novel with that creepy true-crime feel.

You Are What You Read!

The sun is out and we seem to not nearly be so sad this week.  Of course this does not mean things are “normal”.  Not by a long shot. This week we have some vicious depression, unhappiness, some harrowing experiences, an obituary, gauche behavior, Nazis (of course), tearing up, and a surprising cup of tea.

Let us begin.

Erin is almost done with Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. “It is told from the perspective of a 26-year-old woman living with her parents who takes a job as a companion to a 35-year-old quadriplegic. She is told her services will only be needed for a six-month span but she isn’t quite sure why. The quadriplegic, Will, is viciously depressed at how his life has changed so drastically. Over time, the two start to form a friendship. At this point in my reading I am pretty sure the book can end in 1 of 2 ways and I am eager to know which way it’s going to go. Regardless, the novel brings up interesting questions about euthanasia, living your best life, and overcoming scars from the past.”

Here is Ann’s take on Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. She seems a little happier over last week.  But not by much. “This is the heartfelt story of Louisa Clark and Will Traynor.  Lou Clark is twenty- six and stuck in her life by an event that happened to her when she was younger.  She is content to work at a cafe and live in her small girlhood bedroom with her parents.  When her job ends abruptly she becomes the paid companion to Will Traynor, a quadriplegic, who was injured in an accident at the height of his  fast- paced career and life.  Will is trapped in his life, wheelchair bound and unhappy.  After some initial difficulty, Will and Lou begin to enjoy their time together and their lives become larger.  Decisions will impact their lives in ways they can't predict.   This is a wonderful book with beautifully written characters that will remain with you long after their story is finished.”

Caroline is in a soothsayer kind of mood. “I just finished Above All Things, by debut novelist Tanis Rideout. It is coming out February 12, so place your holds now!  Set in 1924, England, this novel is based on a true story in which George Mallory departs for his third attempt to summit Mount Everest.  His wife, Ruth, is left home in Cambridge with his children, and the page turner switches back and forth between George's harrowing experiences on the mountain, and Ruth's ordeals at home, where she receives very sporadic updates on his progress.  Not as technical as a book like Into Thin Air, this story is about mountain climbing in the way that The Art of Fielding is about baseball, and much like The Art of Fielding.  I predict it will be enjoyed by both men and women. “

Abby has just finished the engrossing memoir After Visiting Friends by Michael Hainey.” Growing up in Chicago, Hainey had just turned six when his uncle knocked on the door and informed the family their father Bob, a well-respected newspaperman, had died.  The sentence of the obituary that stuck with Michael was he died ‘after visiting friends. ‘Fast forward 30 years or so, and we meet Michael as a grown man, also a journalist, determined to learn what really happened to his father that night. The obituaries seemed to offer a hint that things were not as they were written. Michael's mom, not a big talker on even the lightest of subjects cannot help Michael on his quest for the truth, and Bob's journalist friends from the newspaper fraternity all clam up when questioned.  Maybe the truth isn't always as healing as we'd like to believe. “

Barbara M. still no Nazis, still no Paris.  Yes.  I am concerned and you should be too.” I’m reading Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson the absorbing story of the implements we use for both cooking and eating. For example, the reason it's considered gauche to cut lettuce in a salad is because the carbon steel blades of earlier knives interacted unfavorably with vinegar turning the blades black and giving an unpleasant taste to the salad.”

John however has Nazis and he says, “Having just finished Winter of the World, which is a wholly respectable sequel to Fall of Giants, I decided to stay with WWII for a bit longer and delved into HHhH, which says it's a novel, but it's not really. Not quite.  The book is about the two Czech parachutists who assassinated Reinhard Heydrich, the head of the Nazi SS, and chief architect of the Holocaust. Also known as "The Butcher of Prague", Heydrich, after Hitler himself, is probably the most evil man who has ever been born.  Much of this book is dedicated to filling in details of his life and his ascent to power.  HHhH, incidentally, stands for "Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich" or "Himmler's brain is called Heydrich".  This is "not quite" a novel because it's really almost non-fiction.  Large portions of the book are given over to simply relaying the facts, and as the author, Laurent Binet, does this, he slips into fictional narrative--perhaps crafting some dialogue or setting the scene.  He does this with characteristic French angst, hating himself for having to resort into "imagining".  It's quite amusing, actually, and the effect is that he crafts a work that is unlike anything I've read before--a fiction/non-fiction hybrid that brings to life one of World War II's more obscure episodes.  Binet's obsessive dedication to accuracy ensures that anyone reading this work will experience a version of the events that is as close to the truth as one can possibly get.’

Jeanne is loving her current read.  So she is happier this week than she was last.  I am happy for her!  “ Louise Erdrich is a master storyteller. She is of German and Native American descent and many of her books are set on and around a Midwestern reservation, as is this one. The Round House, winner of the 2012 National Book Award for fiction, is part mystery, part Native American legend, and part testimony slash confession. Antone Bazil Coutts, aka Joe, is a precocious 13-year old living on this North Dakota reservation in 1988. His mother is brutally raped and the family is changed forever. Joe wants his family’s life back and he goes to great lengths to seek revenge. Erdrich’s writing, as always, is beautifully heart-felt and personal and makes me tear up, smile and shake my head. Just the way I like my books!”

Marianne is driving around town listening to Falling Man by Don Delillo. “I’ve never read anything by this author before and even though he's highly regarded, I didn't think his subject matter was my cup of tea.  Surprise of surprises I really liked this book.  The main part of the story follows the lives of one family on the day of and immediately following the 911 attack.  It's a true urban tale, disturbing in that it brings back the horror of those days.  I found it very provocative, made me think about the decisions made by these people and what my own reactions would be in such a difficult set of circumstances.”

You Are What You Read

We hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Here we go: 

Abby is currently reading Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Calahan. "This book is an interesting memoir about Cahalan's battle with a mysterious and rare deadly neurological illness that was mistaken for an acute psychiatric breakdown. Susannah was a successful and ambitious reporter for the NY Post when she began to experience paranoia and a loss of contact with reality. The traumatic journey that follows demonstrates the importance of self-advocacy and diligence when pursuing medical treatment. When after a horrifying month Susannah's diagnosis is finally explained as "her brain is on fire", there is hope. While Susannah's illness certainly appeared to be psychiatric in nature, the truth creates a frightening possibility that there are many young women improperly diagnosed who have either passed away from improper treatment, or who may be living in psychiatric hospitals with no chance of potentially lifesaving treatment."

Alison is currently reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn but declares, "it took me halfway through to really get into it."

Ann is presently in the middle of Barbara Kingsolver's new book, Flight Behavior.  She is enjoying the journey of the main character, Dellarobia Turnbow, the family and people in her home town, the scientists who arrive, and the Monarch butterflies. This is a book about global warming that will impact all the inhabitants of her world and ours.

Barbara is reading  The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin, a somewhat irreverent imagining of the end of Jesus’ life as seen through the eyes of his mother. It begins with the gospel writers interrogating Mary for information about her son and then goes back to the events leading up to the crucifixion. The writing is rich and the emphasis is not on religion but on a mother’s love and guilt.

Gretchen is reading Caring for Infants with Respect by Magda Gerber.  "Magda Gerber is an infant educator who created REI (Resources for Infant Educarers) which is dedicated to teaching, supporting and mentoring parents and professions who work with young children. Their approach is one that aims to honor the young child as an individual, an equal and to respect the natural integrity of infants. They believe when allowed to discover, struggle, explore on their own, infants can astound us with what they can learn naturally and that with patience and work, we can improve the way we communicate with these pre-verbal children. She recommends simple gestures that show your child that his feelings are important to you starting with something as simple as telling your baby what you are going to do before you do it. The goal is to connect with your infant as a person, not as an object. The methods are all about trust, respect and “do less; observe more; enjoy most.” She is also reading The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate and Christina Castelao.Told from the point of view of the silverback, Ivan, living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, it is a sweet story about change. Ivan is content with his life, hardly misses the jungle at all, until a baby elephant Ruby joins him and it is up to Ivan to make it a change for the better. I want to read all the books that are getting buzz as contenders for the Newbery Award (issued in January) and this is a much discussed book in my online community of librarians and parents!"

Jeanne is reading The Marseille Caper by Peter Mayle. "I am a fan of Mayle and have read several of his books and enjoyed A Year in Provence with John Thaw (also Inspector Morse) on DVD. Very funny, as are his books. In fact,  I think The Marseille Caper is too funny to be in the D-M genre. It follows the characters from The Vintage Caper, though you don't have to read them in order. In both books, Sam Levitt is a former corporate lawyer, crime expert, and wine connoisseur from Los Angeles who finds himself in demand for all of these skills. He locates millions of dollars worth of wine in the first book and acts as a "front" for wealthy developers in this recent novel. Sam does this cleverly and with style, all while enjoying the food and wine of the south of France along with his beautiful "accomplice," Elena Morales, the luxury insurance investigator he met while recovering said stolen wine. The books are light and amusing and the reader is treated to a free "tour" of Marseille and Bordeaux as Sam and his friends and enemies sample the region's glorious foods and wines. I also just started Robin Sloan's Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. I decided to read it because I like the title and the cover and the author's bio says, he "grew up in Michigan and now splits his time between San Francisco and the internet." I am looking forward to delving into this unusual bookstore in San Francisco with Clay Jannon, the twenty-something guy who works there on the night shift, 10 - 6. He serves very few, very particular patrons who are looking for very unusual books that can only be found at this 24-hour bookstore.

John states, "I forgot where I saw someone write that a book hangover is time you spend thinking about a book after you've finished it, before you can start another. The Dog Stars has left me with a killer book hangover. I fall in love with a book maybe once every two or three years--the last one was Thread of Grace--and now I have fallen in love with The Dog Stars. That's not something I thought I'd ever say about a book of post-apocalyptic fiction: The Dog Stars takes place nine years after a killer flu wipes out 99.9% of humanity. I won't go in to the plot at all, except to say that it keeps you riveted to the page. It's the writing and the characters that makes this novel great. It's the kindness, compassion, and raw humanity of Hig's inner landscape that takes your breath away. Heller writes with a unique style of stream-of-consciousness that slowly blends in and out of traditional narrative. A lot of people (including myself) have a hard time with stream-of-consciousness, but I had no trouble with this book because of the way it's integrated into the flow of the story. You may know Heller from his time as an NPR contributor, but this is his debut novel and it is a rare gem, something truly special."



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