We have lots of smallish things to discuss this week starting with the words from the SoNo Loft which are: “I must reveal my deepest thought: I love you train. I am ready to take this to the next level.” I have no idea what is meant by this. But rest assured I will be keeping my eyes open and when I know, so will you. We are in the beginning days of Darien: The Left Behind. This is a spot we find ourselves in every August when you all decamp to places where one Summers as a verb leaving us behind to tend the home fires. Things are so quiet that there were only 4 police reports in the paper this week. If you are reading this on a beach/lake/mountaintop we hope you are having fun and we would like to remind you that fudge and taffy are always appreciated and it is possible to buy our love with food. Finally this weekend we have the second Super Full Moon of the summer. Some of the things we have seen this week confirms that the Full Moon is indeed on its way and it will indeed be Super. I will let you all use your imaginations on that and suffice it to say that your imaginations cannot begin to match our reality. I think the only reason it is not making us run for the Hills and building a Bunker stocked with canned goods and alcohol is that the heat and humidity that usually accompany an August full moon just aren’t there. To say we are grateful is an understatement. This week we have DC and New York, Nigeria and Hollywood, disappointment, Chicago, Mississippi, youthful optimism, France and of course there will always be an England. And of course we have The Playlist.
Let us begin!
Welcome back Barbara M! Barbara was away for a while but now she’s back and we could not be more pleased. You were missed! “This week I will digress from my usual format. Uncharacteristically I have watched two incredible series. When I finished the second season of House of Cards I was distraught. It was so well scripted, and so well-acted, that I didn’t think I could watch another series. Kevin Spacey plays a Washington, D.C. hotshot with enough ambition and chutzpa to take on the world. He is married to Robin Wright, with the same demonic drives. Together they are determined to climb to the top. I was hooked by the first episode and was seriously suffering at the end of the second season with withdrawal until I decided to try Orange is the New Black. Orange is the New Black is both a very dark comedy and a drama. Piper Chapman, played by Taylor Schilling, is a rich, privileged New Yorker who gets involved in a drug smuggling ring, gets arrested and then sent to prison. Again the Netflix writers have done an incredible job at developing the characters. It is funny (in a perverse way), poignant and absolutely, engrossing.”
Steph! What’s doing this week? “This week I have two totally different books to recommend. The first is Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I have wanted to read this book for months, so much so that I bought my own copy to take on vacation with me. Given all the great reviews and best-of lists, I was certain it would be great, and it exceeded even my high expectations. Adichie is a genius. The story alternates between two teenage sweethearts: we watch them fall in love and then lose each other as Ifemelu leaves Nigeria for America and becomes an academic, and Obinze tries his luck as an undocumented immigrant in London and then makes his fortune back in Nigeria. Both of them experience the pains and triumphs of adulthood apart, but never stop thinking of each other even as years of silence pass. The story slowly circles towards the first time they’ll both be in Nigeria in years, and by the end I wasn’t sure what would happen or even what I wanted to happen! Adichie’s writing is so funny but it it also cutting. I read the first 100 pages in a blur, completely losing track of time. Though Adichie is Nigerian, I’d nominate this book for Great American Novel any day of the week. And then for something completely opposite, we have The Actress by Amy Sohn. Yes, that’s the one that’s based on the TomKat story. A minor actress is catapulted to fame through her marriage to a high-profile actor. But is the whole marriage just a cover for his gay relationships? Who can she trust in the depths of Hollywood? And who has she become? Great American Novel it is not but it’s the perfect page-turning smart beach read. This is a book custom-made for the dog days of August.”
Alison F is our numbers person but occasionally she’ll grab something with letters in it. Sadly this was not her week for a happy result. “I just finished reading The Three by Susan Lotz and I was very disappointed. Thrillers should build and keep building and keep your attention until you get the answers. While I will say that the author was able to build his characters in the end the plot crashed and burned. So disappointed.”
The Fabulous Babs B is here with The Good Girl by Mary Kubica. What did you think Babs? “This is the story of a kidnapping gone wrong. Mia, the black sheep daughter of a prominent Chicago judge is the target and the plot unfolds in four different perspectives: Mia, Mia's mother Eve, Gabe, the detective assigned to the case and Colin, the kidnapper. I must admit I was confused in the beginning reading the before and after segments of each character. My advice is to just be patient, it all comes together I'm happy to report and there is a big twist at the end. Fans of Gone Girl will enjoy this one!”
The Ever Delightful Pat S had finished one of my favorites and here is her take on Flying Shoes by Lisa Howorth. “A debut novel, Flying Shoes is nothing short of being an unpolished jewel. Set in a small, insular university town in Mississippi, the story revolves around the unsolved murder of the nine- year -old brother of the main character Mary Byrd Thornton. Thirty five years later, new information comes to light requiring Mary Byrd to find her way to Richmond to meet with her remaining family and the detectives re-opening this cold case-in the midst of a devastating winter ice storm-and we’re off to the races! In true Southern literary tradition, Howorth richly describes small town university life in the south with a cast of memorable characters reinforcing the unpredictability and sheer absurdity of living. It was hard to close the last page on Mary Byrd, Teever, Ernest and Foote-and I am missing them still. Cannot wait to see what this author does next!”
Pat T recently listened to the audio version of The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan. “I found her collection of fiction and non-fiction essays to be full of youthful energy, optimism, profound and yet lighthearted. Her essays are a testament to her talent, as well as being her legacy, since she tragically passed away shortly after her college graduation. I enjoyed reading this book because it gives voice to the ideas, hopes and dreams and concerns of the twenty-something generation.”
This week one of our patrons Shirley O has submitted a review for us. She has just finished Robert Harris's An Officer and A Spy and here is what she thought of it. Welcome Shirley! “As always, Harris writes so well that you are immersed in the true story of Alfred Dreyfus. The way he tells about this episode of French bigotry and how it was it is solved is so exciting that you will think you are in 1890’s France. I think everyone should read this book because a lot of people have never heard of the Dreyfus Affair and this is a wonderful way of learning about it.”
I am very excited about my newest Blow Dry Book. Those who are frequent visitors know that I read while I blow dry my hair. Because it’s a boring chore and I come from a people who believe that any time you are bored it is your own fault and you are not being resourceful enough to entertain yourself. There are requirements to Blow Dry Books. The chapters need to be short and engaging, and you need to be able to easily pick up where you left off. Books of letters are the perfect Blow Dry Books. In Darling Monster: The Letters of Lady Diana Cooper to Son John Julius Norwich, 1939-1952 by Lady Diana Cooper we have what is one of the most engaging Blow Dry Books I have come across in a long time. This lovely collection spans some of the most tumultuous years in British history and Lady Diana and her husband Duff Cooper were right in the middle of it all. In these letters we see a doting mother explaining a trip to the states to help sway American opinion away from Isolationism along with a plea to remember to say your prayers. It’s simply charming.
And here’s DJ Jazzy Patty McC . Still in the State Which Shall Not Be Named. What’s good Pats? "This summer has kept me busy. Very, very busy keeping secret surprises and catering things like my cousins’ 25th wedding anniversary, a top-secret cousin engagement (that also involved cooking) now throw in a visit from lovely CT friends and Maker Faire Detroit. This was all in the last two weeks! Frankly, I’m feeling slightly exhausted. This week marks my 21st wedding anniversary to my wonderful partner and our annual extended family trek Up North. If you know anything about Michigan, you know that folks go Up North during the summertime. Ernest Hemingway spent summers of his youth here and wrote a powerful short story, Up in Michigan. We will not be vacationing in Petoskey but will go further north around Little Traverse Bay to Harbor Springs; the place where Ernest arrived by train then traveled to Petoskey. Our own Up North is a sweet little town with artesian spring water fountains, a fantastic farmers market and a great independent bookstore, Between the Covers. My favorite find in town is the library over Howse’s Fudge shop. Up North 25 of us will share our lives for a week. We will bike in gangs, drink from those artesian fountains, shop locally, play Euchre, cook for the clan and most importantly tell and share stories. Memories will be made and my camera will be documenting non-stop much to the protest of my loving father-in-law. I’ve been blessed to belong to a family of makers, tinkers and educators. This is our vacation. Hope you enjoy yours. Don’t forget to send us a postcard. I’ve got the fudge covered."