You Are What You Read

You Are What You Read...

Salutations Everyone! This week we feature: old money, angels and demons, a few unhappy matrimonies, a brilliant, quirky and fiercely independent fourteen year old, life in the Tudor court, and mystical chess pieces...

Abby shares, “A few weeks ago my neighbors were very excited to share a book pick with me. The title they came up with was The Eight by Katherine Neville. Published in 1982, The Eight is like an epic version of The Da Vinci Code covering extraordinary times and places but is actually well written. The book is set against the background of the chess service belonging to King Charlemagne and a hunt for the mystical pieces that crosses over centuries. The book is so well researched; the parts that take place in the court of Catherine The Great cover some of the same fascinating information found in Robert Massie’s recent award winning biography Catherine the Great. The author is actually ahead of her time as the main current day character in 1972 is a female computer expert. It's over 500 pages so there's a lot yet to unfold. It took 30 years, but Neville recently released a sequel The Fire. My audio of The Passage by Justin Cronin continues this week; disc 8 of 29. I guess I need to drive more to finish this up!”


Ann just finished Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger. “This is a book that I was truly looking forward to and unfortunately it did not live up to my expectations. It is the story of Amina, from Bangladesh, who answers a dating site and moves to Rochester, NY to marry George. There is a conflict of religion which is never truly developed and the conflicts of Amina and George not truly knowing one another. Amina attends school and works many jobs to get her parents to the United States so they can live with Amina and George. This is something George initially does not want. It turns out that both Amina and George have secrets from their pasts that will impact their present lives. I feel this story could have been better if the author developed her characters and story line more.”


Barbara states, "I’ve just started reading Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel and so far it’s less cerebral and easier to read than Wolf Hall (which I loved) but just as well written. As a continuation it still takes place in the mind of Thomas Cromwell and begins when Henry VIII is tiring of Anne Boleyn and turning his attentions to Jane Seymour. Although we know how it will end Mantel makes the intrigues and politics of the court infinitely interesting.


I just finished The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff. Daphne has a difficult life, she’s half angel, half demon, her father being Lucifer and her mother is the infamous Lilith. Then, to make matters even more fun, her brother Obie has gone missing. Her mother has sent her to Earth to find him. Only problem with that is, demons are not allowed to stay on Earth for too long, so she finds someone to her help; the heartbroken, self-destructive Truman,who just happens to be half angel, half human. Together, they try to find her brother while keeping a watch out for Azrael, the angel sent out to destroy demons who try to hide out on Earth. It was wonderfully written, and evenly paced.


Jeanne says: “I just finished Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. This is a surprising, bittersweet novel about first loves and losses. June is a 14 year old girl living in Westchester County with her mom, dad and 16 year old sister in the eighties. The story follows her conflicted relationships with everyone, especially the very close one she shares with her Uncle Finn living in New York City and very ill with AIDS. June believes he is the only one who understands and appreciates her. Brunt's beautiful language is inspired as she relates the angst of adolescence and illness with warmth and wit. This is one of the best books I have read this year!”

Meg is currently reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed, and she is thoroughly enjoying it. It is about Cheryl’s journey to find herself, while hiking alone along the Pacific Crest Trail across the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Cheryl is a great storyteller and this book is extremely easy to follow. She cannot wait to see how it ends.


Pat S. is reading Glitter and Gold: The Real Life of the Real American Duchess by Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan. This is a most interesting autobiography of the famed Vanderbilt heiress who was sold into a titled marriage at the age of nineteen to further her mother's aristocratic pretensions. Unfortunately, this was no fairytale. This misalliance produced nothing more than the required two children (the heir and the spare), and 20 odd years of emotional isolation for all parties involved. However, Vanderbilt Balsan writes movingly about trying to define herself and her own interests as she sets about making a life with some emotional fulfillment. After many years of success in supporting causes for underprivileged women and children, she found true love in late mid-life. It provides not only an interesting portrait of the lifestyle of late nineteenth century British aristocracy, but the more timeless tale of defining a life of personal authenticity.


Pat T. says: “I spent my vacation days reading The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan and I felt as sea sick as the passengers in lifeboat 14! The story is narrated by Grace who is on trial, along with two other women, for murder because of their actions while adrift in the ocean for 20 days after the ocean liner "Empress Alexander" exploded. Grace recalls the harrowing days in the overcrowded boat as the passengers deal with too little food and water and a power struggle of authority. The passengers in the lifeboat are at the mercy of the natural elements, as well as the manipulation of the shrewdest passengers who become the self-proclaimed leaders.”

 

You Are What You Read!!!

This week we have some Chanel (lucky us!), opiates, vampires, a plague, disintegration, an art mystery, a baby mystery and a most unlikely of Cougars.

Let us begin!

Barbara M. is in Paris again and is reading The Secret of Chanel No. 5: The Intimate History of the World's Most Famous Perfume by Tilar J. Mazzeo. “This is really a biography of the perfume; how it was conceived; how it was or wasn’t marketed; how it’s evolved and why it has lasted for so long. It’s fascinating. “


Abby is no surprise here delving into a Swedish mystery! What is surprising is her take on it. “I had been walking around with a copy of Strindberg's Star by Jan Wallentin just waiting for it to be the right time to dig in. At last the time came. Swedish thriller/mystery, some occult thrown in, conspiracies - sounded like a great summer read to me. It begins with the discovery of a perfectly preserved body in a mine shaft that leads to a psychiatrist/historian who totes around a shoulder bag so stuffed with tranquilizers and opiates he could sedate a medium sized village. About 20% in, I had to put it down never again to be touched. On a so far more positive note I'm listening to The Passage by Justin Cronin. This book was a big hit and there is a lot of buzz for the upcoming sequel, The Twelve. I had only heard it was a vampire book and wasn't terribly interested but a friend threatened to disown me if I didn't give it a try. I appreciate that kind of passion. It's a long recording so it will take some time to really unfold. “

Marianne is revisiting an old friend. “I'm reading for the second time Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. I'm doing it again so that I can discuss it with the Post Road Seniors, a new book group that formed this summer. While the book is fiction it is based on a true account of how in 1666 when the plague was rampant, one small town in England struck by the disease, isolated themselves from the rest of the area. The townspeople hoped to save their neighbors from coming down with the infection. The story is told through the eyes of a courageous young widow, Anna Frith, and I loved the way the author used the language of the times without making it sound stilted or unreal. Brooks also portrays the brutal day to day lives of the villagers dealing with this disease in a very believable way. The reader gets to see the gamut of human behavior when people are faced with a catastrophe over which they have no control. I can guarantee that this is a book that will stay with you for a long time.”

The Citizen Asha who will be taking over for me next week whilst I am off on vacation is enjoying a whole new level of dysfunction. “I am reading Burn Down the Ground by Kambri Crews. It is phenomenal, not only do you get an insight into the Deaf Community, but also you get to see how her family life starts to disintegrate, she realizes that her parents (with whom she has a close relationship) are fallible, her brother is probably not the best role model for her (and he needs to learn to keep his hands to himself) and that she now has to make hard decisions. I am a fan. “


Jeanne as usual has many things going on at once and weighs in with the following: “  I am in the very middle of the audio version of  Origin by Diana Abu-Jaber. This is a mystery that will have you wanting the mystery solved immediately but you'll be afraid to know the answer. Is it true that sometimes horrible things happen for no reason? Aren't we glad to know there are professionals that can figure out why and make it stop? Lena Dawson is a fingerprint expert in Syracuse, New York. But she is much more than that with an eerie intuition about the SIDS cases that have her crime lab and the Feds looking at baby imports and trying to contain public fear. I had to get the Kindle version so I could read on wheels and off.”

I am really enjoying The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields. Fields tells the story of Edith Wharton’s love affair when she was 45 with Morton Fullerton a much younger and not terribly reputable man who she met in Paris. Honestly? When I think Wharton the last thing I think is Cougar. Well, this book has totally changed my mind on that score. It also includes the story of her governess turned literary secretary who watches this all unfold with a rather disapproving eye. This one is due out in August and get ready for it. It’s going to be a big one!
 

You Are What You Read!!!

Welcome to summer! This week’s offerings include some Nazis (of course), a Japanese Prison Camp, a few more Nazis, a tragic heroine, more than a little polygamy, and a mysterious new friend.


Let us begin!


No surprises from Barbara M. here! “I’m reading Crossing the Borders of Time: A True Story of War, Exile, and Love Reclaimed by Leslie Maitland. Maitland relates the story of her mother’s escape from the Nazis and by doing so leaves behind ‘the love of her life.’ This is a fascinating real-life Romeo and Juliet tale. “


Ann is reading something a little different from her usual fare in The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley. “This is a big romantic, generational story involving the inhabitants of the lovely English home, Wharton Park, during the early 1900's through the present day. In the opening of this novel, Wharton Park has fallen on hard times and the only heir has put it up for sale. Through chance meetings, intriguing love stories, and time in a Japanese prison camp in Malaysia the reader follows the story of Julia and the dashing Kit Crawford. I quite enjoyed following the lives of those who inhabited Wharton Park.”

Pat T. is reconsidering what she is working on. “I started listening to the new audio book Prague in Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948 by Madeleine Albright. What was interesting was that Madeleine Albright only learned of her family's Jewish ancestry and involvement in the holocaust decades after the war. After listening to the first disc I found the subject to be too dense because she goes way back into the history of Czechoslovakia, but I am going to make a second attempt to read this book at a future date.” 

Pat S. is working on The Gilded Age by Claire McMillan. “Lily Bart lives! The Gilded Age is an updated version of the House of Mirth complete with tragic heroine, eviscerating portraits of so-called 'society', and a cynical depiction of friendship. The heroine Ellie returns home to Shaker Heights after a failed first marriage. Yet Ellie's efforts to rebuild her life are thwarted by her inability to define herself-except by the men in her life. Need I even suggest the ultimate outcome? Yet it is her vulnerability which haunts the reader after the final page is read. A very respectable summer read.”

The Citizen Asha is repentant about her neglect of one of her obsessions. “I realized that I’ve been slacking in my Mormonism so, I had to change that. I finished up Becoming Sister Wives: The Story of An Unconventional Marriage by Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn Brown because in the end, who doesn’t want to be this man’s wife? His hair alone, makes me want to weep. The book goes in depth about raising their seventeen children and the epic trials and tribulations they face by having their polygamous lifestyle in the public eye. “

I am reading Tell the Wolves I am Home by Carla Rifka Brunt. June Elbus is 14 years old in 1987. Her beloved Uncle Finn, a very famous artist has just died of a disease that June’s mother can barely speak of so great is the shame. One day June receives a package in the mail. In it is the beautiful Russian teapot that belonged to Finn and a note from a stranger named Toby who says that he would like to meet Finn because she is the only other person who is missing Finn as much as he is. How much do I love this book? I am not only reading it in hardcover at home, but I am also reading it on my Kindle for my commute. Now that is love.

 

You Are What You Read!!!

This week the Desketeers are proving to be a group which one should keep an eye on. They are dabbling in some rather sketchy reads. This week we have some Killing Fields, historic misbehavior, the IRA, a bullet in the head, a quest for health, and lots of cake which is only fitting since we are a department of mostly Geminis and this is our time!

Let us begin!

Barbara M has left Armenia and is reading In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner. “In the form of a novel and with poetic language Ratner describes what life was like for her and her family in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. It's a beautifully written book and the story is mesmerizing.” We worry about Barbara. Have you noticed the themes of genocide and ethnic cleansing?

Citizen Asha is another one we need to be concerned about. “I’m listening to A Treasury of Great American Scandals: Tantalizing True Tales of Historic Misbehavior by the Founding Fathers and Others Who Let Freedom Swing by Michael Farquhar. I had no idea there was so much angst, sex, fights and just plain sketchiness floating around the Founding Fathers and Presidents. I had no idea that Benjamin Franklin disowned his son, and even had him arrested. There are samplings of Richard Nixon’s tapes from the Oval Office, as well George Washington’s strange relationship with his mother.”

While Sweet Ann is someone we rarely have to worry about that is not the case this week. “I am reading An Unexpected Guest by Anne Korkeakivi. This is story that takes place over the course of a couple of days that is impacted by past actions. Clare Moorehouse, an American, is married to Edward, a British citizen who is a diplomat in Paris. They are planning a dinner party that will hopefully lead to Edward getting the ambassadorship to Ireland. The only problem is that when Clare was younger she got involved with the IRA. As a reader you are kept guessing to see how this secret will be resolved. She is also the mother of two boys and the younger one has been suspended from school for a quite serious reason. She does not want to tell her husband prior to this important dinner. Oh how we mothers try to make everything all right. I enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it.”

Marianne divulges what her escapist reading is. No surprise that it contains a corpse. “Whenever I need a break from my "must do" reading I pretty much always turn to a good mystery. The Ian Rutledge detective series written by the mother-son team, Charles Todd, offers a real change of pace. Ian Rutledge is a Scotland Yard Inspector who is trying to set his life straight after suffering severe battle fatigue from his time fighting on the French front during World War I. The Confession is one of the newer entries and begins when a man, dying of cancer, confesses to a murder he says he committed some time ago. When that man himself turns up murdered the wheels are set in motion for Inspector Rutledge to unravel a complicated mystery. With very few clues available Rutledge follows a thin trail to a tightlipped remote community outside of London, The Inspector discovers that the dead man was not who he claimed to be. What was his real name—and who put a bullet in his head? Were the “confession” and his own death related? Or was there something else in the victim’s past that led to his murder? I particularly like these books because I find the author makes sure the setting and time are as engaging as the mystery. “

Pat S. is working on Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection by A. J. Jacobs. “In a years-long pursuit of mental acuity (The Know It All), spiritual enlightenment (The Year of Living Biblically), our favorite experiential journalist has now set his sights on becoming the healthiest man in the world. This multi-faceted challenge involves certified medical expertise, exploration of the labyrinth of current trends in diet and exercise, and the purchase and testing of a broad array of equipment-all promising optimum health results in areas beginning with weight and extending to vision. Jacobs tells his tale with equal parts humor and chagrin  at the myriad conflicting theories on what constitutes 'good' health. This is a fun read and a perfect primer for anyone who wants to jumpstart their summer with a new diet/fitness regime!”

Pat T. is staying true to her sweet self. “Anna Quindlen's newest book Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake is a memoir of reflective essays about looking back, as well as forward as she celebrates 60 years of life. She writes with humor and candor about her strong marriage, the joys of parenting three young adults as they find their way in the world, bonds of friendships that sustain and strengthen her daily life and the anticipation of aging and what that all means. I think her poignant reflections will resonate with many of us baby boomers!”

 

You Are What You Read!!!

This week we have some questionable neighbors, poverty, taxidermy, terminal illness, super hero talents, and of course there is some Paris.   But it ain't pretty.

Let us begin!

Sweet Ann is working her way through The Stonecutter by Camilla Lackberg.  “This is a fast page turner concerning the murder of a little girl and the inhabitants of the small Swedish town where her drowned body is discovered.  The novel is set in the present day but does go back to the 1900's which will impact the present day residents.  This novel has many twists and turns which kept me interested and intrigued.  All I can ask is, do we really know our neighbors?”

Citizen Asha is revisiting some of her favorites and she reports “I started rereading books that I think should be considered 'Classics', right now I’m finishing up Darkest Child by Delores Phillips. It’s absolutely wonderful, brilliant and fantastic. The story revolves around Tangy Mae and her epically dysfunctional family, who live in the rural south in the late 1950s. All Tangy wants to do is go to school however, there are things hindering her; the color of her skin, her mother, having to take care of her siblings. The novel is filled with angst, poverty, abuse. It’s not a light read but it is absolutely amazing.”  


Pat S. is reading  Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson.  She says that “This is for all David Sedaris followers: There is a new girl in town and she is taking no prisoners! This book is flat-out hysterical-page after page. It is a loosely woven series of vignettes about growing up poor in a small Texas town with taxidermy playing a lead role. Lawson relates truly cringe-worthy events with irresistible quirky humor. A perfect summer read.”

Pat T. weighs in on a timely topic. ” If you read The Last Lecture by Randi Pausch you will most likely want to read his wife's new book Dream New Dreams : Reimagining My Life After Loss  by Jai Pausch.  She writes about her loss after her husband's illness and subsequent death, as well as her perspective as the caregiver and she gives voice to the challenges of anyone who has served in this role. Hopefully her advocacy will foster the medical community to initiate programs to support the caregiver of terminally ill patients.”

Birthday Girl Abby is not terribly happy this week. Let us hope she has some good presents and lots of cake.  “I haven't read a British crime novel in a while and based on strong reviews picked up Gone by Mo Hayder.  In doing so, I broke one of my cardinal rules and read a book from a mystery series out of sequence. Serves me right!  While Gone got off to a intriguing start, Hayder has done something I have found in a few recent mysteries and  that is to provide the lead character/detective with skills boarding on superhero/supernatural level talent.  When I read a mystery, I like to believe the reader has at least a sliver of a chance of not necessarily solving the case, but at least making sense of the puzzle.  In Gone, the lead detective makes connections so obscure and so unlikely it takes you out of the moment and makes you think 'really?' Similarly,  I'm a big fan of Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbo, but in his latest The Phantom, he has given detective Harry Hole deductive and physical powers so great he has started to feel like a strange comic book character.  I'll keep reading Nesbo, but hope he returns to a hero who presents as a bit more human.”

I am reading Pure by Andrew Miller.  In 1785 Jean-Baptiste Baratte  arrives in Paris with the order from the King to clean out the overflowing cemetery of Les Innocents. This is a  site so vile and unhygienic it is literally poisoning the air, water and food of all who live near it. This winner of the 2011 Costa Award for fiction is such an atmospheric read you feel you should be reading it with a kerchief tied around your nose and mouth.  Who knew that there really was such a thing as  “death breath?”







 

NPR Bestsellers: Non-Fiction

NPR Nonfiction Bestsellers for the week of  September 18th.

 

You Are What You Read!!!

This week we have bloody shoes, a massacre, a train wreck, plagiarism, and a family saga.  I know.  We sound a tad dark this week.  But trust me there is some great stuff in here!

Let us begin!

Ann is letting her ears do the reading this week. “In the Woods by Tana French is a very interesting and compelling story of little girl who is found murdered in the woods where years before two children went missing and one child returned with no memory of what happened and with blood filled shoes.  The surviving child now a grown man is actually one of the detectives on the case.  There are many twists and turns and it is quite a compelling read.  The reader was excellent and as a plus for me had a lovely accent.”

Barbara M. is back!  And she reports that, “I’m reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. The author finally is writing about his heritage and “The Genocide You Know Almost Nothing About” – the Armenian genocide. The gruesomeness of the massacres are sometime difficult to read about but the story is captivating and the characters feel very real although Bohjalian says they weren’t entirely based on anyone’s experiences. I’m thoroughly enjoying this book!”

Pat S. reports that In Sadie Jones newest novel, The Uninvited Guests nothing is as it appears to be.
“Taking place in a twenty-four hour period, the story opens on the afternoon of a birthday dinner in an Edwardian country house. Yet the house is rundown, understaffed, and, we are soon to learn, about to be lost to creditors.   Against this rather dire premise, a train wreck occurs nearby and the house is the closest outpost for the survivors. As the evening progresses, guests arrive and it is the uninvited group, who begin to dismantle this house of cards one at a time.   The reader is treated rather like the characters because what begins as an Edwardian comedy of manners turns into something altogether more sinister. If you like sleight of hand, you'll enjoy this one.”

Pat T. says, “I have been a "slug" of a reader this past week since I am still reading (and enjoying) Temptation by Douglas Kennedy. Anyway, David Armitage was enjoying his success as a writer of a popular sitcom until a reporter accused him of plagiarism, not just once but three times! Within days his whole life has fallen apart-the network fired him, the girlfriend dumped him, his ex-wife refused to let him see his daughter and he is on the brink of bankruptcy. With the help of his agent and friend, Alison, he escapes to a hideaway to take stock of his situation. Can his career as a writer be salvaged?  I am rooting for him!”

I loved The Undertow by Jo Baker.  This is the story of the Hastings family begins in 1914 as William is spending his last night home before leaving to join the Royal Navy on a ship bound for Gallipoli.  We then in turn meet his son Billy who will ride a bike on Omaha Beach on a June day in 1944.   Billy’s son Will has to fight a handicap all his life and ends up as an Oxford professor in the 60’s, and his daughter Billie is trying to make her way as a modern day London artist.  Honestly?  The problem with this book is that I could get nothing else done this weekend.  It is one of those great reads that draws you in and won’t release you even after you close the book.  



 

You Are What You Read!!!

This week we have a First Lady, Camelot, a scandal, an island wedding, some hobnobbing, quiet, a little history, a few First Mothers, and some feral young sisters who have no mother.

Let us begin!

Ann is working her way through What Would Michelle Do? A Modern Day Guide to Living to Living with Substance and Style by Allison Samuels. “I was intrigued by the cover of this book which features Michelle Obama and wanted to see what Michelle would do.  It is a clever little advice book covering friends, fashion, exercise, marriage, children and basic rules to live one's life.  Michelle, through the author, offers some insights that I feel would be good for young people, especially women, entering college or the work force. This book is a quick fun read and gave me a smile when she mentioned the importance of thank you notes. “

Pat S. as always, gives us her honest opinion on After Camelot:  A Personal Historyof the Kennedy Family from 1968 to the Present  by J. Randy Taraborrelli. The tome that is After Camelot provides a broad stroke history of the lives and newsworthy (?) times of the Kennedy clan since 1968. While I am not a follower of all things Kennedy, I don't imagine that I learned anything more than might have been found in a USA Today article. Essentially, it is a recitation of the natural and untimely deaths that have occurred in the family in the last forty plus years. Honestly, by the end, I felt as if I had just gotten a reprieve from a death march.  I would only recommend to a diehard fan of the family." 

Jeanne is plowing through two reads.  “This week I read two books set in the Bay State - one in the mostly Irish towns near Boston and the other on the shores of what appear to be Cape Cod. In the first, Faith by Jennifer Haigh the author portrays the tragic upheaval of families, especially Catholic, when the Archdiocese of Boston begins to make public the accusations that their priests may be guilty of abuse. Whether the truth is found or not, it is a terrible time when the church's faithful and Boston's devout families are rocked to their cores. The McGann family is forced to make choices as the scandal spreads and Sheila, the estranged daughter, seeks to discover the truth about her previously respected brother, Father Art.  In the second, Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead, the very New England Van Meter family is preparing an island wedding for one of their two daughters. They went to all the right schools, drive the right cars and belong to the right clubs. Mostly. What could appear to be a charmed life has its bumps and tears. Both daughters have unplanned pregnancies, membership into the exclusive Pequod Club maddeningly eludes Winn Van Meter and he questions his happiness. With the flurry of wedding preparations, boozy parties and hook-ups, Shipstead offers a clever look at family ties, greed and misguided desires.”


Pat T. is excited! “I know I am in for a treat because I just picked up Douglas Kennedy's latest book Temptation.  I have enjoyed every one of Kennedy's books because they have character driven plots with a historical fiction component. This story might be loosely autobiographical, since the character Dave is a writer who had the good fortune to get his book published and made into a TV series and now he is hobnobbing with the rich and famous and prone to all the downfalls of this social set. It's a good summer read!”

Abby is trying something old.  “I wanted to explore some books and authors I have been meaning to read for a long time and Graham Greene came up on my list.  The Quiet American was my choice to start.  Like the title, Greene's writing is quiet yet beautifully powerful.  An anti-war novel, it was written following Greene's time as a correspondent in Viet Nam prior to US involvement.  It follows the story of Fowler, a world weary British correspondent introducing the privileged young American envoy Alden Pyle into the culture of war.”  

The Citizen Asha has been reading something surprisingly normal. “I just finished reading: If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home by Lucy Worsley:  I saw this on the cart and figured I would give it a whirl. Worsley describes the four main areas of the house: the bedroom, the bathroom, the living room and the kitchen, from medieval times to the present day. I was fascinated! Learning what people ate, the hygiene practices, fashion style (epic!), sex (very surprising), and etiquette was amazing. This book would be excellent for those who enjoy The Tudors and Downton Abbey.”
Marianne fell under the spell of Bonnie Angelo's First Mothers.  “The author provides a fascinating glimpse into the early years and close mother-son relationships of eleven different presidents ranging from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Bill Clinton.  I was reading this book to prepare for a presentation at Atria, but I became so engrossed in it that I read it cover to cover.  Whether well-off or dirt poor, these mothers managed to raise their sons with an incredible degree of self confidence and sense of their own ability to accomplish great things.  Often the father-son relationships were problematic, but the bonds between mother and son were extraordinarily deep.”  

I am really enjoying The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin.  When an orchard owner named Talmadge allows two young feral and very pregnant women in to his life at the turn of the last century he has no idea what he is in for.  This first novel spans  the beginning of the last century and  feels as vast and open as the Pacific Northwest it is set in.  This one comes out in September.   

 

You Are What You Read!!!

This week we have a local boy in Paris, a whole load o’ Zombie, a Stump, more France, a murder, Freud, a bit of gossip, starving models, and an olive grove.

Let us begin!

Barbara M. is back to normal. And frankly I am quite relieved.  “I’m reading Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Downby Rosecrans Baldwin. This is a delightful memoir of an expat adjusting to life in Paris. His writing style is colloquial and very funny. What makes this book especially interesting for me (besides being about Paris) is that I knew Crans when he was in school in Darien.”

The Citizen is also acting true to form.  “I just finished Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry. A lovely tale of sibling hate (and maybe love?), teen angst and Zombies! What more could a girl ask for? Benny is convinced that his older brother Tom is a coward because he did not save their mother from a Zombie attack, and he is not impressed with him being a bounty hunter. However, this is all about to change. A few life lessons are learnt, relationships strengthened, epic fight scenes and of course, Zombies. I just got the sequel Death & Decay. I'll keep you posted.”

Ann reports that she is reading A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash.  “This is an engrossing story of fathers and sons, religious beliefs and family strife.  Stump, real name Christopher, is born mute.  His family loves him but his mother wants him to speak and will let her religious beliefs change the family's life forever.”

Candace says, “When I saw Simon Mawer's new book, Trapeze, I grabbed it!  I loved his historical fiction novel, The Glass House, and couldn't wait to read him again.  At the three quarter mark, I'm totally engrossed in his rich buildup of underground action to stop Hitler in France and England in WWII.  It's sure to have a very exciting ending which I'm in no hurry to discover since I'm really enjoying his style and story.”

The Lovely Priscilla is reading Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann.  “Coming in July this is a captivating first novel. Told from the perspective of 5 people it set on Martha's Vineyard after WWll. In this unsettling story you will find marriage, secrecy, murder and the unexpected. Close cousins Nick and Helena are beginning the next stage of their lives as newlyweds with great expectations. The family estate on Martha’s Vineyard holds many memories for these women and is the setting for most of this book. Get your name on the hold list.  Lisa is the great, great, great granddaughter of Herman Melville.”  I read this one this week also and I am here to tell you it is terrific!

Pat S. has not one but two books going!  ” Hello Goodbye Hello by Craig Brown and Gossip by Joseph Epstein! Hello Goodbye Hello by Craig Brown is a truly witty and informative recounting of 101 meetings between two various stars of art, literature, politics and entertainment in the last 100 plus years. Brown has constructed the format in an equally clever manner by making each of the 101 meetings described exactly 1001 words long. The subjects span a field as broad as Sigmund Freud and Gustav Mahler to Cecil Beaton and Mick Jagger. The marvel of the undertaking is that all of the stories are fresh-with none of the hackneyed variants of tales that have passed into urban myth. This is a genuinely informative and fun read. It comes out in August.  In Gossip by Joseph Epstein we have an exploration of the age old issue-Gossip. What motivates it? Is it good? Is it bad? Why do we castigate it yet pursue it so relentlessly? What effect has the internet and globalization of communication had upon it? I am only half way through but enjoying every moment. It is an interesting historical investigation including some brief biographies of world renowned gossips. As well, a thoughtful discussion of the effect of modern technology upon gossip and how it may have taken what was once benign and turned it into potentially destructive phenomena. This is very provocative.

Jeannie is reading So Pretty it Hurts by Kate White, the Editor of Cosmopolitan. “This is the newest in her Bailey Weggins Mysteries. Others I have liked are A Body To Die For, If Looks Could Kill...there is a theme here. Bailey is a crime writer for the celebrity rag Buzz.  She investigates murders, but there is a lot more glamour, affairs and backstabbing than forensics and lawyers in her detective work.  In a very contemporary New York setting of starving models, ruthless journalists and misguided liaisons, Bailey is determined to find the truth. From the runway to the bar scene; from the office to the bedroom,  White keeps the reader turning the pages with her tales of deceit as Bailey tries to discover whodunit.”

I just began The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller Santos.  There are five generations of Keller women living on their olive farm in Northern California.  Matriarch Anna is 112 years old and a geneticist is coming to examine her to see if he can discover the secret of their longevity.    What sort of secrets will he uncover?  This one is due out in August.



 

You Are What You Read!!!

This week we have some murder, insidiousness, more than a little Singapore but oddly no Paris (I am more than a little worried about that),  two detectives on two contents, a phenom,  more murder, (must be all this rain!), juicy tidbits,  a couch and an exploding whale.

Let us begin!

Babs B. is a tad cranky this week about Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton. “ I had a real tough time with this story...I'm not crazy about "out of body" experiences and forced myself to finish this book just to see who was responsible for setting the school on fire and attempting to murder someone not once but 3 times!!  I would not recommend this one.”

Citizen Asha has more daisies and sunshine for us this week. “ I am currently reading What They Do in the Dark by Amanda Coe.  Gemma, spoiled but neglected by her parents, and Pauline who is impoverished form a friendship. Pauline is envious of Gemma’s easy life while Gemma has to deal with the aftermath of her parents’ divorce. When Gemma’s favorite star Lallie comes to town to shoot a movie, the girls are ecstatic, however I have a feeling that something insidious is afoot. I’ll keep you posted. “

Barbara M. reports in with the following:  “I'm still reading Girl Reading : A Novel  by Katie Ward. I was about to abandon it after the first story because I wasn’t sure I understood the ending. I decided to give it another try and am now up to the sixth story. The stories are all a bit strange but very compelling. I'm not sure I understand how the stories fit into one another but I've read it this far and so will continue until the end. I'm also reading Fodor's Singapore, Lonely Planet Singapore and The Rough Guide to Singapore in preparation for my trip. I like to know the background of a country and the layout of the land before I go. “


Abby comes to us with a tribe this week and says, “The trio of me, my husband, and mother-in-law must all recommend the newest entry in the #1 Ladies Detective Agency series.  In The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection, Alexander McCall-Smith has managed to once again produced a book filled with the warmth and good humor found in previous books from the series.  On the more gruesome side, I am reading the true crime book Midnight in Peking by Paul French. The time: 1937 Peking, China.  Japan is attempting to take over China. China is also dealing with a major influx of immigrants from the Soviet Union and Europe. With this as a backdrop, a nineteen year old English woman, the daughter of a prominent and connected scholar is brutally murdered.  French is doing a tremendous job of setting the mood and explaining the physical layout of Peking. His website also provides good background and visuals to accompany the story.  I look forward to finding out how and if the murder was solved.”

Marianne says,” I just finished The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach and I loved it.  One of the people who attended our discussion the other night said ‘It was an all-inclusive book and everyone was treated fairly.’  Maybe the main story line, young baseball phenom surely headed for the major leagues loses his ability to throw straight, isn't totally new.  But the way the author developed the characters and interweaved the other story lines of college life, coming of age, and old age made for a wonderful read.”

Pat S. brings the following  to the table.   The autopsy table perhaps!  “The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomis is about two young women on the verge of adulthood are involved in the brutal murder of a shared boyfriend. While only one of the girls goes to prison, they are both excoriated in the press as the victim is exalted to sainthood. The story is the gradual unraveling of the facts to the truth of what actually happened-and the truth is haunting. While the writing is only competent, as a psychological thriller it is at the top of the genre.”

Pat T. says “ I am about to begin reading The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan. Harvard University publishes a book titled "The Red Book" every five years with the latest updates on its alumni. In this fictional story, we meet four friends, Clover, Addison, Mia and Jane who graduated from Harvard in 1989 and are joining one another at their twenty year college reunion. What will these friends reveal about their lives, aspirations and disappointments, families and careers since leaving the Ivy Leagued campus as young adults? I hope to enjoy all the juicy tidbits!”

Jeannie who is in the throes of exams brings us this:   I finished Sense of an Ending this week by Julian Barnes. Not a new story, coming of age - badly - in England with boy and girl issues.  Moving through the years fairly peaceably, but then Tony, the protagonist, gets a letter from a solicitor about a surprise legacy and he realizes there are a lot more questions in his life than he has answers to. Barnes has an interesting way of moving the mystery along with Tony's compelling introspection, although he is so obsessed he can't seem to get up off the figurative analyst's couch long enough to get on with his life. While short on pages (only 163) it is a good read.

I am having great fun with Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead.  What more can possibly be done with a Nantucket (though called something else, but trust me on this one, it’s Nantucket) WASP Wedding at the height of the season?  In Shipstead’s hands? Plenty!  For starters the bride is more than a little pregnant, her sister has been jilted by the son of her father’s oldest rival, and their aunt is looking for husband number 5 and a little something to sip on while she does.  There is an exploding whale, a lobster that seems to have some Rasputin –like qualities and the requisite bad behavior by the wedding party.  This is brilliant social satire that would be the perfect book for that trip from Wood’s Hole and it is due out in July.




 

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