You Are What You Read

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.

Nice New Book Goodness!

Here is what you can find on the shelves that is new next week. Come in and visit us, or put your items on hold from home! We will let you know when they are ready for you to pick up!

You Are What You Read!

We all seem to be a little on the quiet side this week.  It could be we are just making preparations for the Impending Doom.  Or it could be that we are just feeling beat up by this winter in general.  Whatever it is, we are hopeful that the PA rodent’s prediction will come through for us and we will see an early Spring.  In the meantime, this week we have some unrequited love, gossip of the librarian kind, knife skills, computer science, some Rez, and another masterpiece.

Let us begin!

Here is Erin’s weekly film pick!  “This weekend I watched 10 Years, a movie about a group of friends reuniting for their 10-Year High School Reunion. Admittedly, I picked it up because it stars Channing Tatum. The film is sweet and will perhaps make you a bit nostalgic for your own hometown and high school friends. There are several storylines that deal with unrequited love, lost love, and people trying to appear as someone they are not. Ultimately, I thought the film dragged in the middle but I still enjoyed its saccharine ending.”

Elizabeth, who can sometimes be found on the Reference Desk, reports in with this, “Ok, I had to check out the book that just won the 2013 Printz Award: In Darkness by Nick Lake. This is historical fiction set in Haiti about a young boy trapped by the recent earthquake.  There is also a parallel story about the slave who liberated Haiti from France. This book beat out The Fault in Our Stars and there is lots of librarian gossip about that decision.”

Jeanne is distracted.  Look-out! “The narrator of Kathleen Flinn's, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks is keeping my mind off the road this week. The author has a lot to share with people who don't (yet) cook and people who already do. There's plenty to learn from Flinn's knife skills tips, simple soup ideas and meal planning. It made me feel virtuous about what I do know in the kitchen and humble about what I don't.”

Sweet Ann is reading Bend Not Break a Life in Two Worlds by Ping Fu. “Ping Fu wrote this memoir to bring to light her childhood during the Cultural Revolution in China during the 1960's and 70's, and her booming career in the United States.  As a young child she was taken from her family to be re-educated  by the communists.  People were cruelly murdered and tortured during this time period.  She was one of the lucky ones to survive.  When the universities opened years later she was able to attend.  She became part of a group that condemned the government.  She was arrested and forced to leave China.  She came to the United States where she struggled with language but enrolled in college and was able to eventually get her degree in computer science.  She is now the CEO of Geomagic, a 3D digital reality solution company.  This is a story of family, survival, determination and one woman's drive to succeed. “

Pat T. has just finished a book that is on everyone’s best of from last year; The Round House by Louise Erdrich. “The life of the Coutts’ family irrevocably changes for the worse when Geraldine Coutts is brutally attacked near the Round House on their reservation in North Dakota. Geraldine’s husband, Bazil, and her thirteen-year-old son Joe watch on helplessly, as Geraldine isolates herself from everyone.  Joe frustrated by the injustice of the laws of the land, tribal, federal and state, takes action into his own hands and seeks to find his mother’s attacker. There are many layers to dissect in this wonderful novel: Joe’s coming-of-age story when his secure family life is turned upside down and he is reluctantly thrust into an adult world; the racial tensions; land title laws; and moral and legal implications of justice.”

I am about half way through Transatlantic by Colum McCann.  Anyone who knows me knows what an evangelist I am for Let the Great World Spin.  Well, LTGWS as it is known in Jen-Land is going to have to learn to share the love.  Transatlantic which is out in June is another marvel from McCann.  These interconnected short stories span 150 years and two continents.  This is a novel worth waiting for and when you get it in your hands it is worth savoring.  I for one am looking forward to have weather excuse to do nothing but read this gem of a book.  For the rest of you it comes out in June.  Get excited.  You have more than sunshine and roses to get excited about.  You have Transatlantic.

Nice New Book Goodness!

Here is what you can find on the shelves that is new next week. Come in and visit us, or put your items on hold from home! We will let you know when they are ready for you to pick up!

You Are What You Read!

This week we have a tasty morsel, some fear, some bad weirdness, hope in the heart, some hockey, a crash landing, a dead rabbit and the legend of Zelda.

Let us begin!

Abby is, well, for lack of a better word, excited. “A new book on Scientology?  BRING IT.  I am now about 1/3 of the way into Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & the Prison of Belief and enjoying every morsel.  The author Lawrence Wright has produced some new information that digs deep into L. Ron Hubbard's past and the roots of Scientology.  Perhaps the only thing more fun that reading this book will be the responses and lawsuits cooked up by Scientology. I can't wait to get to the Tom Cruise stuff.  But like all books on this subject no matter how well researched and written, I suspect I'll be left wondering how the group has managed to assemble such passionate followers based upon (in my opinion) the delusions and pronouncements of a mediocre sci-fi writer. The Church of Abbytology, anyone?”

Pat T. is branching out!” New Year, new genre!! I just finished reading my first graphic novel, Stitches, by David Small and I surprised myself by liking this memoir a lot! This is the author's story of growing up with a troubled mother and father, who as a doctor, treated David with radiation as an infant that eventually caused cancer as a teenager. This graphic novel has more pictures than words, but these pictures accurately convey the character's emotions of fear, anger and resilience. “

Double Secret Agent Erin has a new gig writing reviews for Library Journal so she will no longer be shooting us book reviews as her time is being taken up with Serious Reading.  HOWEVER do not despair!  She will be supplying us with what she has been viewing.  In this week’s offering, Erin takes a bullet for us.  Thanks Erin! “This week I watched Your Sister’s Sister, and I am horrified to see that it received an 83% rating on Rotten Tomatoes because it was such a far-fetched, insanely bad movie. There is Emily Blunt, who is secretly in love with her dead ex-boyfriend’s brother. There is Iris, a lesbian who sleeps with the guy her sister is in love with, unbeknownst to her. There is a possible pregnancy. There are tears. It was all very bad and weird. What I thought was going to be a low budget sleeper indie set in a beautiful location was just a script that could have been written by Dawson’s Creek’s own Dawson Leery.”

Ann seems happier this week.  This is a good thing. She has just finished The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam.  “This novel follows the life of Percival Chen, a Chinese immigrant, living in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.  He is running a popular English academy and has learned to work the system to get the things he needs.  That is until his son makes the mistake of angering the South Vietnamese government and is arrested.  Percival will do anything to get his son back.  This book has many twists and turns and people will not be what they seem.  It will make you cheer and cry and create hope in your heart.  It's a tough story but it is quite well written.”

Stephanie is enraptured! “The first I heard of The Antagonist by Lynn Coady was the Briefly Noted section in last week’s New Yorker. It sounded like it was about a hockey player, and I will read pretty much any fiction that circles around athletes, so I gave it a shot. This is a pretty great book, though it’s only tangentially athletic. Think Andre Dubus III by way of Where’d You Go, Bernadette, but in Canada. The same blends of macho/thoughtful, sardonic/compassionate, memory/false memory, but the geography was more confusing. I have no idea whether Coady has adequately captured the inner voice of a college male or adult male, as so many of the Canadian reviews of this book make a point of noting, but that seems beside the point to me. It’s vivid and funny and raw, and I loved immersing myself in it.”

Miss Elisabeth has found a new favorite. “I just finished Code Name Verity, the much-buzzed about YA historical fiction book. Librarians are abuzz at its Printz potential. This is the tale of two best friends in the British Service during WWII - Maddie is an excellent pilot in the ATA (the civilian airforce) and Queenie, aka Eva aka Julie, is a Special Operative. Told from one character's point of view for the first half and anotherfor the second half, the book begins after a crash landing. Only one of the friends has a chance of making it out alive. The story is gripping, and my mind was blown by some of the later twists and reveals. With an unreliable narrator, intense tales of heroism and courage, a detailed historical afterword by the author, and frank depictions of enhanced interrogations and the atrocities of war, this is the most adult YA book I've read in a long time. In fact, as the characters are all adults, I'm surprised it wasn't published as adult fiction. Nevertheless, I can wholeheartedly recommend it as the first book I have read in a few weeks that I couldn't put down.”

Where’s Jeanne?  She’s in her car! “I am listening to Whiteout by Ken Follett. The thriller is set in Scotland and I am enjoying listening to Josephine Bailey's clear, lilting voice. The story begins with a lab technician stealing a canister from the top-secret research laboratory where scientists work at finding cures to deadly viruses. Now he's dead and so is the poor rabbit he stole, wanting to cure it. Who was this guy? Were there others involved? Will there be an international crisis? Follett writes greed, deception and unlikely liaisons in such a way that the reader is gripped before they know how creepy some of it is. I never knew I had a penchant for this type of sensationalism!”

I have just started a very promising work of historic fiction;  Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler.  Zelda is one of my obsessions and has been ever since I read Zelda by Nancy Milford.  So for me to really begin to love it just by reading the prologue is really quite something.   Zelda was the wife and muse of F. Scott Fitzgerald and some say the face of the Jazz Age.  It will be interesting to see how Fowler handles one of the most fascinating and legendary  women of the 20th century.

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!

It would appear that we are deep into the winter blues this week.  Maybe the expected warmth coming our way this weekend will cheer us.  If not, someone please send some mood elevators or perhaps one of those special sun lamps.  This week we have a puppet master in plain sight, lots of sad, some more sad and tragic, and a rather tragic reading rut.


Amanda is reading For the Win by Cory Doctorow. “I am reading this because several of my techie coworkers have a love for all things written by Mr. Doctorow. The story is set across multiple characters living in various locations around the world. All of them are players of massive multiplay online games (MMOGs). Some of the players are playing for the fun of belonging and others because they need to make a living. For those forced to play, they endure rough conditions, beatings, and worse if they speak out about the way they are treated. However, an online revolution is coming as players began to form online unions to demand better conditions.   Doctorow lacks the narrative spark that makes you emphasize with his characters, though you cringe away at the harshness of their lives in the slums. He's also a bit on the preach-y side as he suddenly stops the story to go on a tangent about how money is made in these games. My fault with the work is that I can see the puppet master. On the other hand, it's a fascinating look at the serious world of MMOGs. I am not a gamer, so I had very little background knowledge about the topic. “

I want it noted that Ann aka Little Miss Unicorns and Rainbows has used the word ‘sad’ three times in her offering this week.  Let us discover what is bringing our girl down, shall we? “I have just finished The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis.  I would like to begin by saying I like sad books but this book although beautifully written was one of the saddest books I have ever read.  The story follows Hattie who has come North to Philadelphia with her mother and sister during the migration of many Black people from the South. Hattie gets pregnant and marries August a young man she loves.  Their life, although a struggle, seems happy until tragedy occurs when their twins die of pneumonia.  Hattie becomes very disenchanted with her life.  After the initial chapter of the death of the twin babies, the novel jumps in time to tell the story of some of Hattie's other children as adults.  Their lives have been impacted greatly by poverty, prejudice, and their mother's bitterness.  The writing is wonderful but this story is extremely sad.”  Please.  Won’t someone send some sunshine Ann’s way?  I think she could use it.


Jeanne also weighs in.  She is not much happier. “I read The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis because I wanted to learn what the title meant. I am still not sure about the title but I have some biblical ideas. For instance, the choice of the number twelve and the choice of Hattie's last name as Shepherd.  Is it perhaps possible ultimate salvation? What I do know is that there are twelve children involved and what happens to them is mostly sad and often tragic. Hattie Shepherd, a teenage wife and mother, and her husband August have ten of these children; Hattie has one by another man and the last is a grandchild. They are a struggling black couple who have left the Jim Crow south of the 1920s to live in Philadelphia. After her adored first twins die in infancy of a disease that could have been prevented with pennies, Hattie and August have several more children that she "shepherds" fiercely through life with food and shelter and education, but not demonstrative love. As they grow, each of the children develops some debilitating issue, illness or obsession into adulthood. It is always sad and tragic to read a portrayal of people struggling against racial bias and this is dramatically apparent in this family's raw story of dysfunction. The book actually reads more like short stories than a novel as Mathis writes about Hattie and each child's struggles by chapter. Still, it is a mournfully beautiful first book and I would anticipate more by this author.”  As I said, please someone send us some chocolate or something.  We could use it.


I am in a totally tragic reading rut.  I finished a few weeks ago something that I am sure is going to be a favorite for 2013.  I have long been a fan of Kate Atkinson and her new offering Life After Life is going to be her masterpiece.  The book begins with the main character Ursula in a café in Berlin in the mid 30’s.  Who should walk in but her good friend Eva Braun and Eva’s beau Adolph Hitler.   Urusla pulls out a pistol and kills him thus altering the future. The next chapter has Ursula being born in the English countryside.  Sadly Baby Ursula dies.  Chapter three has Ursula being born in the English countryside and she lives.  You see, Ursula gets to have do overs.  She can change small details and literally alter the course of her life.  Atkinson’s writing is genius and you will totally fall for Ursula.  Some of her fates are ugly and it kills you when you read them until you realize that this may not be her fate after all.  This one comes out in April.

You Are What You Read!

This week we have a teen spy, eminent defeat, prison, a whirlwind, some Carolina, lie changers, some unraveling, two halves making a whole, heartfelt confessions and a Red Rooster.

Let us begin!

Gretchen reports that she is reading Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein and LOVING it.  “This story is told through a teen spy’s confession during a Nazi interrogation. Although it is a dark war story it is getting lots of buzz in Young Adult book circles.”

From Marianne we get City of Women by David Gillham.  “The place is Berlin and the year is 1943.  Signs of Germany's eminent defeat are beginning to appear, but the Reich is still in control, propaganda is rampant and the citizens, most of whom are women, live in fear of the government and the nightly bombing raids from the Allies.  This story follows the everyday lives of German women whose husbands are away at war.  We learn about their strengths and weaknesses and how they handled subjects like infidelity, infertility, injustice, and how they fought back. This is a great look from an insider's point of view and  I found it to be a compelling read.”

Stephanie is crying out for someone to please join her. “This week I took a chance on a book because it had a bright yellow cover: Mountains of the Moon by I. J. Kay. I am pretty sure that I liked it and I definitely loved a lot of the prose, but I would like to talk it out with somebody before deciding. In part this is because the narrator spends much of the book out of contact with reality, so it’s hard to think about it rationally. It’s the story of a young British girl who retreats into imagination to avoid the horrid realities that she faces at home, going back and forth between her as a child and the present day, where she is an adult who has just been released from prison, full of hallucinatory and indistinct memories and experiences. I keep wanting to say it reminds me of Room, but it’s possible that all UK child narrators sound the same to me, so that is perhaps an unfair comparison. I’d recommend it for a book group, both because it obviously leads a reader to want to have a chat, and also because I’m not entirely sure I know what happened in it, which is always a good place to start with discussion.”

Miss Kiera is doing some heavy lifting! “This week I’m reading The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood by James Gleick. It is a fascinating whirlwind in which Gleick looks at how information and communication have evolved from the dawn of history up to right now. From African drumming to the development of Morse Code to the very first attempts at the creation of an English dictionary and onwards through the digital revolution, this is a hugely ambitious and highly entertaining book. If you enjoy pop-science/sociology/psychology books in the tradition of Freakonomics and Blink, you won’t mind that The Information is a good 500+ pages. I recommend borrowing it as an ebook!

KLS’s own Elizabeth has you covered on two fronts: “For anyone with Carolina on their mind (North Carolina, of course), I highly recommend Wiley Cash's new novel A Land More Kind than Home. Published in September 2012 and inspired by Thomas Wolfe's You Can't Go Home Again. We have it in print and e book.

Hmm.  Isn’t this week 3 of no France, no Nazis for Barbara M?  Just seems wrong somehow.  “I’m reading A Possible Life: A Novel in Five Parts by Sebastian Faulks, a loosely woven novel about life changing choices, those taken and those not taken. The five stories take place in different places and in different times but the theme is the same : there is a time when a choice has to be made that will impact the future. As usual Faulks’ writing is beautiful and full of vivid imagery. “

The Delightful Ann is working on Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan. “I enjoy Mr. McEwan’s writing because he always gives the reader something to ponder. His novels include stories of deception, newlyweds who struggle to find their rhythm (literally and figuratively), and what happens to a family on a normal Saturday that becomes far from normal. Sweet Tooth is the story of Serena Frome who upon graduation from Oxford goes to work for the M15, Britain's equivalent to our CIA.  Her journey there is interesting and involves one of her loves in this novel. She is assigned the case "Sweet Tooth" and becomes entrenched in the world of literature which she has always enjoyed.  She becomes involved with an author who will be her unraveling.  I found this book to be an acceptable read, not his best work in my opinion but still intriguing.”

Pat T. is ringing in the the New Year rather philosophically. “I have just started reading Falling Upward : A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr. The author has an interesting take on life as being divided into two segments- the first half is when you are discovering your identity (building the container) and the second half is when you are searching for meaning in your life (filling the container). The challenges, struggles and failures we face in the second half of life can be the impetus to find our way up again into a richer more fulfilling existence, thus the paradox title It is quite philosophical and something to ponder as we begin a new year! “

Jeanne is loving herself some memoirs! “I read Elsewhere by Richard Russo and I loved it! I loved the pace and the heartfelt confessions of the young boy trying to live with and care for a mother who was unstable and continuing as a man to the end of her life. It was beautiful to read Russo's remembrances of his small, mill town upbringing and connect it to his brilliant literature of the same, like Empire Falls. This is also a wonderful DVD with Paul Newman and Ed Harris. I am now reading Yes, Chef: A Memoir. It's about the life of Marcus Samuelsson. After his mother died in Ethiopia, he and his sister (both very young) were adopted by a loving family in Sweden. His story, also well-paced, is of his early love of food: the smells, tastes, textures and his culinary education beginning in his grandmother's kitchen. There is a great story between there and opening his acclaimed restaurant in Harlem, The Red Rooster. You don't have to be a foodie to enjoy the show, but there are lots of mouth-watering performances!”

 

You Are What You Read!

Welcome to YAWYRYE also known as You Are What You Read Year End.  And as such, we will be looking back and telling you, our loyal YAWYR fans what really stood out for us this year.  What makes this list different from any other list?   We made it.  So it rocks.

This year we had a roadside attraction, an obsession, a love story, an opportunity for conversation, a three way tie, a ditto, witches, end of days and an amazing love story.

Miss Kiera says that “this year I've had so many favorites and certainly too many picture books to count. But one work of children's fiction that sticks out in my memory and has really stayed with me is The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. It's the fictionalized version of a true story. Ivan was a gorilla kept as a neglected roadside attraction for years until finally being brought to a sanctuary. In Applegate's story we learn about Ivan and his fellow animal captives through a first-Gorilla perspective. It's the kind of book that you cannot read in public. It's a four-tissue minimum.”

Erin has all year long spoken quite openly of her obsession with Cheryl Strayed.  She went to another library to hear her speak, she not only read Wild in print but she then drove the back roads of Fairfield County listening to it on her CD player. She is an evangelist for her writing.  So what she has to say is really no surprise at all. “My favorite book this year which will be a surprise to absolutely no one was Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.”  Yes, if I were Ms. Strayed I would be on the lookout for a certain tall blonde. 

Ann says that her favorite read is The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Phi Sendker. She says that it was very hard to choose.   This sweet love story set in Burma is the one that won the heart of our Sweet Ann so you are sure to know it is as wonderful as she is.

Pat. T’s choice is very telling about Pat T. And without saying a word! “My best book of 2012 is Quiet by Susan Cain because it is informative and the book provides the reader with the opportunity to engage in conversation about the subject of introvert and extrovert personalities.”

Barbara M. cannot pick just one and yet again, week three, you will notice no France and no Nazis.  Discuss amongst yourselves. “My best book of the year is often the one I am reading now and Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity would certainly qualify but I would also have to add Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel and In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner.”

Stephanie says ditto to Barbara about Far from the Tree.

Miss Elisabeth is in a tussle.  With herself. “I’m really struggling with my favorite book of 2012, but I think I'd have to say Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness. The sequel to her bestselling A Discovery of Witches, this book was not quite perfect, but I was so excited to delve into history with these characters that it's hard for me to think about the book with anything other than glowing praise. I can't wait for the final book in the trilogy!”

John does love his end of days fiction! “My favorite book of the year would have to be The Dog Stars. So good.” 

This year I loved The End of Your Life Book Club, Will Schwalbe’s amazing love letter to not only books but the remarkable woman who was his mother.  She not only raised a lovely family but also worked tirelessly for the International Rescue Committee in dangerous situations.  In what has to be one of my favorite literary thoughts of the year Will’s mother explains to him that she has no time for silly in her reading.  She narrows this down by saying, “I’m talking about those novels where the characters aren’t really interesting and you don’t care about them or anything they care about.  It’s those I won’t read anymore.  There’s too much else to read-books about people and things that matter, books about life and death.”  I hope that this year we brought to you options that saved you from this fate and we wish for you many great reads in 2013.

You Are What You Read!

This week we have a Jinxy McDeath sighting, some war, some predicions, an island, the Queen(!), an adventure, a geeky mom in a hurry and some families!

Let us begin!

Miss Elisabeth of the CL is reading a most decidedly un-childlike book and one of my personal favorites! “I’m re-reading Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell. I picked it up again after I saw Lincoln, the movie. The book is hysterically funny but also a really in-depth look at the people who murdered (and tried to murder) presidents of the United States. I loved this book the first time I read it and gave it as presents to everyone I knew for several years. The author goes on a series of road-trip pilgrimages to the museums, former homes, and sites of Presidents and their assassins and would-be assassins. She calls Robert Todd Lincoln “Jinxy McDeath” because he was present at the assassinations of 3 out of our 4 slain presidents.

John has just started The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers.  “This book has been heralded as the Iraq War's The Things They Carried.  My first impression is that the writing is superb and I already care deeply about the two main characters--and I'm only 30 or 40 pages in. I formed very high expectations for this short novel as soon as I read the exquisite opening paragraph: ‘While we slept, the war rubbed its thousand ribs against the ground in prayer. When we pressed onward through exhaustion, its eyes were white and open in the dark. While we ate, the war fasted, fed by its own deprivation. It made love and gave birth and spread through fire.’"

Stephanie is working her way through The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver. “I’ve been curious about this book since I heard about it, but had to put it on hold after his predictions for the 2012 elections were almost perfect. And what I’ve found is that rarest of birds in the non-fiction arena: an expert who is willing to admit what he doesn’t know. In fact, as he amply demonstrates, one of the biggest problems the world of predictions has is experts who think they know too much. From baseball to weather to the economy, Silver is precise and thoughtful in his examinations of what we know, what we think we know, and what we still have to learn. He’s good not only at discussing the practical, on-the-ground application of predictions, and how they are used in our daily lives, but also at explaining the hard math in a way that makes sense to this sad mathphobic librarian who had to take a class on Excel to escape her math class requirement in college. Those familiar with Silver’s blog will find this to be a great extension of the thorough, complex work he does regularly already. Those new to his work will be delighted to find at least one person in the media world who is more interested what the facts really say rather than what he wants them to. “

Pat T. just finished reading Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. “I enjoyed this good, but sad book. A couple living on a remote island off the coast of Australia made a moral decision that had life altering consequences for all involved.”

Miss Marion lets us all in on one of her obsessions!  “A book for Anglophiles (like me), Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn imagines what happens if Queen Elizabeth took a day off.  The Queen is starting to feel her age.  Times are changing, the Prime Minister is taking away the royal train, and although Prince Edward set her up with a Twitter account, its way over Lillibet’s (the nickname she calls herself) head and she’s feeling nostalgic for the simpler times of her childhood.  Her spontaneous decision to take a quick trip to the cheese shop for a treat for one of her horses turns into a bigger adventure for her, and potential disaster for her personal staff.  Told from multiple points of view, the Queen, her dresser, a lady-in-waiting, the cheese shop worker, this story is both fantastical and very plausible.  The characters are so well-written, they could be real people.  It’s a great holiday read.”

Ann steps out of her comfort zone this week with Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. “I am just in the middle of this fun quirky book.  It is definitely a different type of book for me and I am thoroughly enjoying it.  Bernadette is a married mom of a fifteen year old girl, Bee.  She was a world famous architect who has moved to Seattle and left her career to become a full time mom.  She has great difficulty handling her day to day life and has an assistant who lives in India who keeps her life in order.   Life will get too stressful for Bernadette and she will disappear.  This story is told from Bee's point of view, e-mails of her mom's she discovers and some other creative writing techniques by the author.  So far  this is an adventure to take.”

Gretchen is like working moms everywhere!  She is in a hurry so step aside! “I have something but no time to write big description. Read Geek Mom  which is filled with cool activities and support for moms like me with geek tendencies. Easy read, authors are bloggers for Wired magazine.  I also just picked up Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker. I'm a HUGE fan of her Clementine books and based on recommendation of other children's librarians can't wait to read this as well.”

Abby is devouring Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon.  “The book explores families that include children who are not copies of their parents. So far I have read the chapters dealing with deaf children of both hearing parents and deaf parents, dwarfism, Down Syndrome, and am mid-chapter on autism.  Some of the topics have taken me back to my days as a manager of group homes for developmentally disabled adults so it has been interesting to re-visit some of the clients and families I experienced back when I worked in that field. I must say, I found the chapter on Deaf culture especially fascinating. I have the highlight feature on my e-reader working overtime on this one.  This is a really staggering, fantastic book.

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