You Are What You Read

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.

You Are What You Read!

This week we have some back hair, the need for a restraining order, some quirk, hallucinations, horses, and a language I don’t even pretend to understand.

Let us begin!

Amanda is listening to Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson.  “The narrator awakes in an unfamiliar room. She discovers that next to her is a strange, older man with graying hair and back hair. She cringes and looking around realizes that she must have left the bar with a married man. Out into the hallway she creeps onward to the bathroom. Then she reaches for the bar of soap and notices that something is amiss – the skin on her hand is wrinkled. This can’t be! She’s only in her early twenties! Christine Lucas suffers amnesia brought on by an accident. Each day she wakes up with no recollection of the previous day or of the past 20 some years.   Christine’s life is seemingly straightforward with her mind erasing what she does each day. However, as Christine works with a doctor behind her devoted and doting husband’s back, she realizes that it is her husband she should be wary of. He’s lying to her – but to cover up what?”

Erin is listening to Tiny Beautiful Things as a book on CD. “If Cheryl Strayed knew how much I love her, she would issue me a restraining order. I have already read the paperback of this book but I picked up the audio because it’s read by the author. Audiobooks that are narrated by the author just can’t be beat in my opinion. It’s a collection of advice columns originally published on The Rumpus, a website for literary people. It’s different from your typical advice column though because it includes the author’s own experiences. Cheryl Strayed has had a messed up life! But she’ll make you feel good about yours. I think this would make a really nice gift for the holidays, especially for that person on your list who is going through a life transition. “

Gretchen who is somewhere in America in a car on an Interstate is, “listening to and LOVING Born Standing Up by Steve Martin. Read by the author, it has us laughing out loud in the car! This is a memoir recounting his life as a stand-up comic and is interwoven with personal stories of family and relationships. It is seriously quirky, seriously funny, seriously Steve Martin!”


Barbara M. is reading Oliver Sack’s latest book, Hallucinations.  “He explores different kinds of hallucinations both auditory and visual and not necessarily those caused by psychosis. As is usual in Sack’s books, the subject is fascinating and the scientific writing accessible. “ I am sure that Barbara wishes she could summon a Paris hallucination.


Stephanie has just wrapped up Blood Horses by John Jeremiah Sullivan.  “Here is a book that combines the quick pleasures of the magazine with the book-length that justifies a hardcover. Blood Horses reads like a very long magazine article, and I mean that as the highest compliment. It could have kept going for another 100 pages and I wouldn’t have complained, though I doubt Sullivan would have wanted that. Its pacing is about as perfect as I have ever experienced in non-fiction. It was actually relaxing!  It was like a savasana pose, but reading. Sullivan is focused on a few core ideas but keeps wandering away from them and circling back; the circles get bigger, and weirder, but are always on their way back to horses, or Sullivan’s father, or Kentucky, or a combination of the three. My admiration of his curiosity and research borders on idolatrous. It was just joyful to read this book, even though it is not necessarily a happy one. The last twenty pages or so left me stunned.”


John is about a quarter of the way into Alif the Unseen and his geek is showing. “This is an interesting debut novel about Alif (screen name "A1if") a young computer hacker in the Middle East whose true love is betrothed to someone else.  Using his uncanny skills as a programmer, he is able to make himself invisible to her on the internet by using some kind of baysian algorithm (they don't call it that, but that's essentially what's described).  In the process, he triggers a series of unusual events and brings down the harsh hand of censorship.  Wilson is an American author who converted to Islam and it's clear that her interest is in Islamic studies and not computer science.  The 'tech' in this novel doesn't pass muster, but I doubt that would interfere with most people's enjoyment of the story--incorrect usage of the term 'hypervisor' and flawed assumptions about how the TCP/IP protocol works aside, this is a very entertaining read.  It's clear from the beginning that this is an a commentary on Islamic fundamentalism and the story draws on some of the more mystic elements of the Quran.  Wilson blends technology, fantasy, history, current events, and political subversion together in this curried yarn.  The result is a novel that has shades of Snow Crash mixed together with mythologies that seem to come right out of Arabian Nights.  I'm looking forward to seeing where this story leads, but I first had to accept that it is not the best writing in the world--Wilson is better known for her work as a graphic novelist and her transition to prose still needs some work.  Regardless, pick up this book, it's worth it and if you don't believe me, it's also a New York Times 2012 Notable.”

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."

 

 

You Are What You Read!

This week we have some dead men, some “issues”, some power and delight and, just in time for the Hellidays, an epic battle for kitchen dominance.

Let us begin!

John brings us something seemingly without women who are crazy.  I am a little worried here. “This week, I'm reading The Rook, a debut novel from Australian-by-way-of-Ireland author Daniel O'Malley, who creates a Welsh character who lives in London (but visits Scotland). The novel begins with the protagonist, Myfanwy Thomas, waking up in a London park, with no memory, surrounded by dead men--all wearing purple robes and latex gloves.  Then it gets weird.  This is definitely somewhat of a genre-bending book because on one hand, it pokes a little bit of fun at the supernatural literary tradition, but on the other hand, it's an incredibly compelling, well-paced and entertaining story.  It's also very amusing in the places where British restraint collides with the truly bizarre--how do you retain your dignity when you're covered in slime?  The ‘occurrences’ and ‘horrors’ are unique and far from overdone.  A fresh originality shines through.  So if a book on Her Majesty's Supernatural Secret Service piques your interest, then I highly recommend this and I look forward to reading more from O'Malley.”

Ann is reading Elsewhere A Memoir by Richard Russo which worryingly has the crazy woman that John is missing. “I am a big Richard Russo fan and so I looked forward to reading this memoir.  Richard was raised by his single mother in Gloversville, New York,  known for its tanneries and making gloves. Richard's mother whom he loved dearly had 'issues' which made her truly dependent on her son to be strong for her even as a young child.  He lived his life for his mother to truly help her cope with changing circumstances in her life and in his.  I thought it was well written, but I do have to admit that after a while I did feel he was whining a bit.  I also wish he would have given more insight into his wife, Barbara, who was certainly his strength as his mother aged and her condition worsened.”

Stephanie is sticking to her current election year theme.  “On the presidential biography front, I have moved on to Jon Meacham’s new Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power. It’s actually a pretty good complement to the Caro books, which are also focused on the acquiring and use of political power (and Jefferson and LBJ have a surprising number of things in common aside from both having been president). I also finally got to read, after hearing so many patrons and staff rave about it, Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, and thought it was great. So funny! This real delight of a book was perfect for my commute. It’s hard to find a truly satisfying funny book, so it’s great to have found this one.”

Those who know me, know about my Cookbook Crush and how dangerous I consider some food writers.  Take for example the late, terribly missed Laurie Colwin.  Opening her books Home Cooking and More Home Cooking which are essays on well, home cooking, to retrieve a recipe is an action fraught with danger.  Why?  Simply put,  the danger is that the food may not actually get cooked.  Because once you start reading her, you can’t stop to start cooking.  When she died I wept.  My then husband at the time thought I was insane.  Yes, well I am well rid of him.  My latest dangerous cookbook is Cook Fight: 2 Cooks, 12 Challenges, 125 Recipes:  An Epic Battle for Kitchen Dominance by Kim Severson and Julia Moskin.  This started as a New York Times article on entertaining during these uncertain economic times.  The gauntlet was thrown!  Would Kim or Julia be the winner of the $50 dinner party for 6?  Frank Bruni, then the restaurant critic called it a tie (wimp) but what started as a battle in the end became a lovely dialogue between two wonderful friends who happen to be fabulous cooks.  Good luck to my family next Thursday.  They may be reduced to looking longingly at pictures from The Thanksgiving Challenge.  Hint for them:  It’s on page 238.
 

You Are What You Read!

Oscar Wilde!
Oscar Wilde!

This week we are all enjoying that crazy thing called civilized living.  Lights, heat, indoor plumbing that works!  Whacky!  Here is what we have to offer you this week.  We have some trolls, some Hamptons, a naked boy on a porch, LBJ, a sworn enemy, Biafra (for the first time ever!), London, Manhattan,  Nazis , a true Staff favorite, and some sins!

Let us begin!

John has left the bad girls behind it would seem but he is still involved in all kinds of sketchy. “I'm currently reading Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore and it is so totally my kind of yarn!  It has secret societies, computer programming, underground libraries, font design, copyright trolls, Google, boob simulation software, love, ebooks, books, and illicit book scanning.  It's sort of like Cory Doctorow meets The Night Circus meets The Magicians.  It's one of those novels that meets at the strangest intersection of disparate (and interesting) things, yet it all works together to create a dashingly fun book.  This is a must-read for all geeky bibliophiles.”

Erin the Programming Diva is poking around some bad behavior.” I am about four pages into Indiscretion, which is what seems to be a contemporary Great Gatsby. Claire, a young half-French Manhattanite is invited out to the Hamptons by Clive, the  new man she is dating. There is drinking. There is nudity. Claire is getting closer to Clive's married friends. I can't wait to find out what the indiscretion is!”

Amanda the Tech Goddess is listening to the audiobook of Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater.  The book starts by telling the story of a girl being mauled by starving wolves. Grace lies there on the ground, unmoving and helpless. Then she makes eye contact with a yellow eyed wolf. Years later, Grace does not remember how she survived the attack or how she arrived home. What she does have is an obsession with the yellow eyed wolf that stands behind her house every winter. Strangely though, the wolf disappears every summer. Enter Sam, a yellow eyed boy that Grace finds wounded and naked on her front porch. In the woods a wolf hunt is going on…Shiver is the epitome of adolescent romance and longing.  I have not read many werewolf novels, so I have no idea what is standard for the genre, but Stiefvater’s world is almost tangible as you buy into her explanations. The intensity of Grace and Sam’s relationship is only heightened by the fact that soon Sam will be a wolf forever.

Miss Stephanie of the RA feels that her reading material might be a bit dry this week. BUT, it was election week after all and why not carry that political theme right on to your reading? “ This week I finally finished Master of the Senate, the third volume in the LBJ biography series by Robert Caro. Yes, I am a nerd, and I love presidential biographies. And this series is just as good as they get. Actually, it’s not an exaggeration to call them some of the best books I’ve ever read. Caro is a master researcher and his writing verges on perfection sometimes. This series not only explains LBJ (who was possibly one of the most complex Americans of the 20th century, so that’s no small task) but also his times, making it the most interesting history lesson I’ve ever read. This volume, which focuses on his time in the Senate, where he was the youngest Majority Leader in history and, among other things, pushed through the first civil rights bill since Reconstruction, is fascinating. It’s like the West Wing, but better. Suffice to say that I watched the Senate election returns with more interest than the Presidential on Tuesday night, all because of this book, and what it taught me about the US Senate. If you are even slightly interested in US history or politics, you owe it to yourself to read these books at some point. Why not start now?”

Abby has put down the magazines and is back to books this week!  “Perhaps it's the election season that led me to literary jingoism but whatever the reason I dug into The Last Man by Vince Flynn.  It's the latest in the Mitch Rapp series and is coming out November 13th.  In this book Mitch is once again in Afghanistan and seems in a particularly impatient mood.  And you really don't want to be in the same room (or country) with Mitch when he believes you are not being Fully Cooperative.  When Mitch asks a question, just tell him what he wants to know.  You're going to tell him anyway. Mitch continues to work for CIA Director Irene Kennedy using his efficient style of eliminating problems and cutting to the chase.  Corrupt Afghan officials and a long-time sworn enemy are featured. This is a light post-Sandy, no more political phone calls please, Nor'easter Athena escape.”

Judy, for those not in the know, is the Wonderful Woman responsible for making sure the Book Goodness gets into your hands. Here is what she has going on, and boy is it a lot! “I am almost through reading Dearie about Julia Child and am about to start Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher about the life and  photography of Edward Curtis.  I have also just begun Chinua Achebe’s There  Was a Country about Biafra.”

Caroline has been using some spicy fiction to warm her!  “Wicked Pleasures, a new arrival by Penny Vincenzi, is not quite as risqué as the title suggests, but more than enough to get you through 6 days with no power.  This 639 page family saga centers around Virginia, Countess of Caterham, who is an American, and moves to London after marrying Alexander, Earl of Caterham.  Hidden scandals slowly emerge as the story spans between London aristocracy and the New York City banking world from the 1950’s-present.  It has great momentum, and many likeable characters and side stories.  However if you haven’t read Vincenzi’s “No Angel” trilogy, I would definitely start with those.”

Miss Elisabeth is reading The Diviners by Libba Bray.  “In her second foray into period drama, Printz-award winning Libba Bray goes dark – nightmarishly dark. Evie is a young flapper hiding a big secret. She lives with her uncle, the curator of New York City’s Museum of the Occult and Supernatural. When her uncle is called to assist police in investigating a series of gruesome occult murders that have plagued the city, Evie is lured in as well. The book draws together a wide array of bright young things in Jazz-era New York, and does an absolutely fantastic job placing you in the 20’s. Bray apparently spent 3 years researching this period in New York City history and it will shows. Additionally, the murder plot is spine-tingly scary. I had real nightmares while I was reading this book. Naughty John is a villain for the ages.”

Babs B! is reveling in having power back and is catching up on movies! “I just finished watching a foreign film Black Book.  It's the story of Jewish fugitives during WWII attempting to escape occupied Holland but they are ambushed by the Nazis.  One person survives the attack and joins the Dutch Resistance to avenge her family.  She then must infiltrate German headquarters by seducing a high ranking German officer, only to find out that a murderous traitor is within Resistance ranks.  There are so many twists and turns and it's based on true events.  This movie gets an A+ from me!”

Ann and Marianne are reading the same book which is turning out to be a huge favorite for us all; The End if Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe.  Ann says, “This wonderful book is the true story of a remarkable woman, Mary Anne Schwalbe, who is dying of pancreatic cancer and the time she spends with her son Will sharing books and stories through her cancer treatments.  This is a book of a loving family who you would want to know and invite to share Thanksgiving dinner with you.  Yes, the subject matter is sad but your heart will soar with the love of this family and just the strength of the human spirit.  It touched my heart as I am sure it would touch yours.”  Marianne’s take is this: “This is one of my favorite reads of the recent past few months.  The author's memoir of his family's last days with their dying mother was touching, uplifting, sad and beautiful.  I loved the fact that mother and son filled the hours of her chemo treatments reading and discussing books.  And there was not a bad book in the long list of those they read.  This mother was a truly remarkable woman who had spent a lot of her life working with refugees in third world countries.  The way she faced her illness with strength and courage was inspiring.  This book will stay with you long after you've finished reading it.’  Please read this.  It is truly a love letter not only to Will’s mom but to books as well. 

Jeanne is reading  Hostage by Elie Wiesel. “Shaltiel Feigenberg is an ordinary man; a good man who lives in Brooklyn in 1975. He makes his living through words. He is a storyteller. He is Jewish and his captors are Palestinian. Weisel, one of the greatest storytellers himself, tells a grimly honest, starkly beautiful tale where the victim is also the witness. Shaltiel is being forced against his will to represent the sins of others. Hostage reads like a holy book. I can't put it down.”

You Are What You Read!

Yes, it has been a rough week for us all.  Here is what we did in the dark.  This week we offer up to you some hilarious widows, shattered illusions, Sterno, facial deformities, a very happy family, Saigon, and what has to be one of the most twisted collection of photography ever assembled!

Let us begin!

Erin the Programming Diva spent her time learning more about a new friend. “You may remember Bob Spitz’s visit to the Library in September to discuss Dearie, his biography of Julia Child. It was on this evening that I met his wife, Becky Aikman, author of a forthcoming memoir, Saturday Night Widows . The book opens with a hilarious scene at a widows’ support group. (Yes, hilarious). One of the widows in the group questions Becky’s necessity in being there since she is a young widow with her “whole life ahead of her.” Becky gets understandably angry about this and the group leader recommends she not return to the group. Becky decides to form her own widow support group made up of a bunch of ladies who don’t want to be sad anymore but instead want to smile and hang out with other ladies who understand. I took comfort in this book during my powerless Sandy days and am still trying to decide which of the widows is my favorite.”  This one is on order and will be in the catalog soon!

John spent time with an old friend who apparently has some new tricks! “I'm reading The Casual Vacancy and enjoying it very much.  If you're thinking about reading it in order to rekindle some of that Harry Potter magic, however, you'll be disappointed.  It's definitely an adult novel with adult themes and content.  I'm sure there are some Potter fans out there who have typecast J. K. Rowling as a naive, mild-mannered, proper Englishwoman who would be shocked by things like drugs and sex.  If that's you, and you don't want that illusion shattered, then don't read this book.  If you want an uncensored look at small-town English politics and what happens when class boundaries are blurred, what rural poverty looks like and its very real effects on children, teenagers, and adults, then this is an excellent book.  Rowling really has achieved something remarkable in the Casual Vacancy--she has redefined herself as a novelist and I will gladly read anything else she writes.  The Potter series will always stand alone as one of the greatest fantasy series of all time and I'm thrilled that Rowling has more to say.”

Abby I am sure is not alone in her summation of this week! “Sandy hasn't made it easy to focus on reading since she has kept my children home from school and reduced me to reading the label on a can of Sterno, but I was happy to devote some time to the latest issue of Vanity Fair.  Daniel Craig is on the cover and per Dame Judy Dench, he has ‘Wonderful blue eyes.  Sensational blue eyes.’  There were articles about other stuff too.”

Barbara M. has stepped away from Paris and Nazis!  It would seem that Sandy did more than rearrange the coastline! “I am actually reading a children’s book called Wonder by R. J. Palacio about a ten year old boy, Auggie Pullman, with severe facial deformities, who after being home schooled is entering middle school for the first time. The first part of the book is from Auggie’s perspective, how he deals with rejection and various reactions to his appearance, and then continues from the perspective of family and friends. The author writes with such authority that you can feel Auggie’s pain and acceptance of who he is. It is a powerful book for everyone, especially middle schoolers, to read – for everyone is a little different and everyone has an anomaly whether seen or not.” 

Ann who can still stay positive in spite of the fact she has no power, a tree through her roof, and a lung condition that is totally overstaying its welcome enjoyed a read we are all pretty excited about!  And please remember. Ann just can’t help herself. That is just how she is.  “I read the very well written first novel Indiscretion by Charles Dubow.  It is the story of a ‘very happy’ family, Harry, Maddy and their young son Johnny.  They are the couple that other couples aspire to be like until Harry makes a huge mistake.  A close friend of the family, Walter, tells the story of the unraveling of this family. The characters are well developed and you will not want to put this novel down until you discover what happened to these people.”

Sandy slowed Jeanne down a bit and she only has one offering for us this week. “I am reading The Headmaster’s Wager, a novel by Vincent Lam. Headmaster Percival Chen or Chen Pie Sou runs a highly respected English language academy in Saigon in the 60s. Even though Chen has run his academy for many years in Vietnam, he is very proud of his Chinese heritage and expects obedience from his son, Dai Jai, who has his own modern ideas and defies his father. When Dai Jai’s classroom antics are discovered by the ‘quiet police,’ he is arrested. Headmaster Chen fears for his son’s life and begins a frantic search by bribing crooked officials and seeking help from his ex-wife’s American contacts. Lam’s account combines historical fiction, political intrigue and family drama to create a gripping novel during a war-torn era.”

I was reduced to looking at pictures.  Literally. Talking Pictures:  Images and Messages Rescued From the Past by Ransom Riggs was my Sandy companion.  In the introduction, Riggs states flat out, “I have an unusual hobby:  I collect pictures of people I don’t know.”  This rather demented collection of photos with handwritten captions is divided into seven sections:  Clowning Around, Love and Marriage, Times of Trouble, Life During Wartime, Janet Lee, Hide This Please, and Unsolved Mysteries.   Of course I felt a special kinship to the Times of Trouble section.  A personal favorite was a picture probably circa 1920 of a mother with her two young daughters.  What was written on the back? “Not much good.  Just to show we’re alive.”  Yeah.  I think that about sums up this week. Oh and by the way?  They are way better groomed than the majority of us are so while things may not have been great for those three at least they had clean running water.

You Are What You Read!

This week we have a hamster (tasty!), a Queen, some death, deceit and teenagers, Venice (no Paris this week sorry!), and some fun in the kitchen (sans hamsters).

Let us begin!

John has just finished a current staff favorite, Breed by Chase Novak. “I'm not sure if I've been punked, or if I should be scared of my co-workers, or if they just have a sick sense of humor.  When Sally plopped a copy of Breed on my desk and told me I had to read it, followed soon afterwards by Jen pointing at it, exclaiming, ‘Yes! Let me know when you are one-hamster-in!’ Well, I had to make it my next book.  I mentioned the other day, after reading The Last Werewolf that I thought the horror genre had been pretty well strip-mined.  Well, Novak has somehow hit upon a new kind of high-grade ore.  This book stands alone as an example of what happens to authors who were not properly nurtured as children, but somehow grow up to produce something wickedly twisted, yet humorous in its absurdity.  The reason this novel works is because it walks the fine line between gruesome and sublimely entertaining, and it walks that line like it owns it--with a twinkle in its eye and a spring in its step.”

Ann, who I am sure you remember has been under the weather is back!  She has crawled out of her sick bed to report on Dangerous Inheritance: A Novel of Tudor Rivals and the Secret of the Tower by Alison Weir. “I am not finished this book yet but I am thoroughly enjoying it.  Ms. Weir is telling the story of Katherine Grey whose sister Jane is executed under Queen Mary and Kate Plantagenet who was the daughter of King Richard, the last Plantagenet King. She loves her father but must come to terms with the imprisonment of her cousins, the two young princes in the tower. Her father had his young nephews brought there so there would not be a challenge to him being king.  This book is very well written as it goes between both women and their respective time periods. They both had to face many challenges.  I am so looking forward to finishing this book, but I think I will miss these two women very much.”  We can’t begin to tell you how nice it is to have a little Ann back in our day. 

Jeannie is as always doing two things at once!  “I just started J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy. I am anxious to see what the very talented creator of Harry Potter can give the reading public in Adult Fiction. Rather than dragons and wizards, Rowling is telling a story about a small town with big problems, including death, deceit and teenagers with their problematic behaviors and angst. Cue the social worker with her own problems! So far, about one fifth of the way through a 500 page book, there are a lot of characters to keep track of, but at least their connections are clear. The tone of the book is what I think of as that clever, irreverent, rather blunt English style portraying dysfunctional people.  I am listening to Willful Behavior by Donna Leon. Being fairly new to the Detective Mystery genre, I especially like Leon's style for short trips in the car. Leon has featured Commissario Guido Brunetti of Venice, Italy in almost two dozen murder mysteries. Her characters are believable, her plot is compelling, and the language is plain enough to follow while driving. I am having a bit of trouble getting used to the very English (sometimes Cockney) narrator, but the story is so engaging that this is mostly forgotten in the search for the killer. Add to this the discovery that the dead girl's grandfather may have collaborated with the wrong side during the war and secreted away millions of lire worth of artwork  and I am hooked!”

Those who know me know how much I really love playing in my kitchen.  So after Pat T. pressed this Book on CD into my hands I can now be found driving around town listening to The Kitchen Counter Cooking School How A Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices Into Fearless Home Cooks by Kathleen Flynn.   After graduating from The Cordon Bleu in Paris, Flynn was at rather a loss.  What would she do next?  While shopping in her local grocery, she came upon a woman filling her cart with what I like to call crap: nothing but processed boxed “food” items.  When Flynn asked this woman about it, she confessed she did not know what to do with fresh food.  Here comes the light bulb moment!  Flynn opens a “school” of a kind with 9 volunteers and teaches them one lesson at a time about how to care for yourself and your family through food.

You Are What You Read!

Hosted by Jen Dayton
Hosted by Jen Dayton

This week we have NaNoWriMo, an always interesting question, purgatory, a sick bed, a drug and alcohol fueled frenzy, some flowers, some more drugs, and Indiscretion.

The Amazing Amanda is reading, Book In A Month: The Foolproof System for Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Victoria Schmidt in anticipation of our program on the 21st!  “Dr. Schmidt gives you a through overview of the mindset to get ready to produce a novel in such a short amount of time. She then gives you very detailed worksheets to help you get through the month. I'm more of a fan of the Plot, What Plot? drive of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) where the idea is to leave behind all of your insecurities and just write!, but I believe this book has a place for someone who is ready to get beyond NaNo.”  Intrigued?  Details here!

Pat T. had finished a book I adore and has the following observations!  “I have just finished reading The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe and found it to be a delightful read   because of the relationship between mother and son, as well as the books they discussed. I laughed when the author wrote "the first question they would ask after greeting one another would be what are you reading?" They would fit right into our Readers' Advisory Department since we are always asking one another the same interesting question!”

John the Master of Minecraft is in a purgatory of a sort. “I just finished Age of Miracles and I would say that it is interesting enough to give it a read.  The premise of the novel is that all of a sudden, the earth's rotation suddenly begins to slow.  As the days and nights get longer, the narrator--a sixth grade girl--struggles with all the usual sixth grade issues in addition to a world that is slowly falling apart.  I picked up this book because it is ostensibly science fiction, but its problem is that it's not quite sure what it wants to be and the result is that it just kind of sits in limbo.  This really ought to be classified as a young adult book, yet there is some strong language (not that young adults don't use strong language).  It also wants to be a science fiction novel, but the core premise--the slowing of the earth--is unexplained and not based on physics, however its effects are.  That breaks the cardinal rule of science fiction, nudging this story into fantasy territory.  Finally, Walker, at times, writes with a sophomoric flourish that seems to indicate that she wants this book to be literary.  There are several stand-out passages, but ultimately, if you want to read this book, it will hold your attention; it just won't blow you away.”

It seems that Ann is RA’s Little Nell and is checking in from her sick bed.  She has developed pneumonia, bronchitis and God knows what else.  Here is wishing her a speedy recovery and hopefully there will be an Ann in Boots sighting very soon! “ I am reading Love Anthony by Lisa Genova.  I am a fan of Miss Genova and truly thought her book Still Alice was a wonderfully written novel that gave "life" to a person suffering from Alzheimer’s.  Her second book, Left Neglected, was also an interesting novel about a woman who could not see her left side. It was a good book but not as good as Still Alice.
Love Anthony is about two women living on Nantucket.  Beth lives there with her husband and three daughters. She is a writer who has let her writing go to the wayside until her marriage falls apart.  She then starts to write a novel about a boy, Anthony, who suffers from autism told from his point of view.  Olivia has retreated to Nantucket after losing her eight year old autistic son, Anthony.  You have to suspend belief to see how these women will connect and how the novel about Anthony becomes for his mother his true life story.  It's an okay book.  I think with Miss Genova's background as a neuroscientist she could have written a more interesting novel about Anthony and his struggles with autism. 

Abby can be found this week smashing a perfectly good guitar to paraphrase the Amazing John Hiatt.  “Since I heard Pete Townshend of The Who fame was publishing a biography, I’ve been eagerly awaiting its release.  I’d heard about Who I Am even before Keith Richards (Rolling Stones fame) came out with his highly-praised and award-winning bio which I loved.  While both rockers come from the same g-g-g-generation, each book has a different purpose and voice.  While Keith’s bio was warm and written almost as a dialogue, Pete’s uses his book to explain his music and work through his demons which stem from a childhood filled with abandonment and sexual abuse.  One of The Who’s better known gimmicks was to smash up their instruments at the end of a show.  I had always figured it was some drug and alcohol fueled frenzy.  And it was.  But it was also based in the auto-destructive artistic movement Pete was exposed to in Art School.  The end of the night destruction was really part of a bigger artistic vision.  So committed is he to art, he actually finds Yoko Ono’s famous screeching music to be “brilliant.”  Pete does a good job describing the times and adds insight into other well-known musicians as they emerge onto the music scene.  It’s good to hear Pete’s version of how the rock-opera Tommy developed among other important moments in music history.  Also interesting is his competitiveness regarding wanting to be the loudest band and working to invent new and innovative sound systems.  I still have half the book to go, but so far it is a disciplined, soft-spoken, and thoughtful book lacking the playfulness I associate with rock & roll.”

Jeanne has just read The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. “The book tells the story of a foster child, Victoria, who has lived in more temporary places (not homes!) than I could keep track of. There aren’t a lot of the sad details of her being shuffled around, but it is clear that she has been lastingly damaged by the absence of love. The constants in her life are her social worker, Meredith, her love of flowers and plants and her stubborn, aggressive personality. I did like that the author was able to draw on her own experience as a foster mother. The ending was a little soft, but it did give me a certain appreciation for the author’s view of helping others once you have been helped. This  rags to riches story is about much more than money.”

Miss Claire of the Children’s Library is reading some decidedly adult material! “I like Jacqueline Woodson's work because she is not afraid to tackle edgy topics in both her children's and young adult novels. Her newest, Beneath a Meth Moon is no exception as the narrator is a fifteen year-old methamphetamine addict. Laurel is attempting to cope with the deaths of her mother and grandmother during Hurricane Katrina. Laurel and her father and brother try to escape the tragedy by moving from place to place, finally settling in a small town. After making friends and joining the cheerleading squad, Laurel meets T-Boom, the star basketball player who woos her into a world of addiction. She eventually leaves home and after attempted bouts of rehab, Laurel eventually escapes to the streets. The novel floats between Laurel’s current predicaments and her recollections from childhood, making the story a compelling journey for both the main character and the reader. It has also recently been announced that the book is slated to be made into a movie.”

Last weekend I went to Florida to visit the fam.  My brother Peter met me there.  His seatmate was Karl Rove.  Mine was Indiscretion by Charles Dubow.  I so got the better end of that deal.  Indiscretion is a debut novel, due out in February about a couple with a seemingly charmed life.   Maddy and Harry divide their time between the Hampton’s cottage on the shore, and their Manhattan brownstone.  Harry writes novels which are not only critical successes but financial ones as well.  Maddy makes sure that Harry and their son are well cared for and that their glittering world is always sparkiling with a Martha Stewart like flair.  But then one evening, young, beautiful and intelligent Claire wanders into one of their summer parties and nothing is ever the same again.  This one reminded me a lot of Rules of Civility and I truly adored it.

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