You Are What You Read

You Are What You Read!

Greetings!  I hope this week’s You Are What You Read finds everyone well and ready for the weekend.  The message from The SoNo Loft this week is ‘Build Your Bridge’.  For me, this week has seen some bridges and they are mostly bridges to the Past.  A friend alerted me to the following story about some dolls made by Thomas Edison 1890.  Now, we all know how I feel about an antique doll.  Imagine how I feel about an antique doll that not only has teeth but can, wait for it, speak. I have included the link to the story here, but I can in no way be responsible for your nightmares should you play the audio. These little charmers have been silent for many years because of the fragility of the wax cylinders that live in their tiny terrifying bodies.  With the advent of a new technology the voices of the dolls were able to be heard for the first time in decades.  This was not an Edison success apparently (they were expensive and people wanted their lips to move!) and he ended up calling them his ‘little monsters’.  Consider yourselves warned should you decide to investigate further.  I am relieved to report that the dolls themselves are back in a display cabinet in Wisconsin. Let’s hope it’s locked. The other story is the opposite of creepy and is in fact charming.  In a high school in Oklahoma City during some renovations a discovery was made.   Behind some chalkboards that were being removed so white boards could be installed in their place, were chalkboards that last saw the light of day in December 1917. Apparently they had been covered up during a December weekend when the ‘new’ boards were installed. This is not the cool part.  The cool part is that they had not been erased and were perfectly preserved with the day’s lessons. It would appear that the pressing concerns were pilgrims, cleanliness, Christmas countdowns and multiplication tables.  They are beautiful works of art and they make me ashamed of the scrawl that I call my handwriting. No one can be sure why the boards were covered up with new chalkboards but the janitors did take some time to sign their names before they did.  The school is trying to figure out the best way to preserve them so that they can be enjoyed by all. That story can be found here.  So enjoy these voices from a past that may seem long ago but still have something to say. This week we have a secret society, death, a hike, some dark secrets, a dog and some London.  The Playlist this week is our bridge to some ghostly fun.

Let us begin!

Virginia the Tall Cool Texan is letting you in on a little something about herself.  “I love a good conspiracy theory.  Add some American history, throw in a secret society or two, and you have the perfect book recipe for me. Brad Meltzer successfully created this winning combination in his first two books The Fifth Assassin and The Inner Circle which introduce readers to Beecher White, a young staffer working at the National Archives in Washington D.C., who along with a childhood friend, inadvertently discovers a long buried national secret. This knowledge brings Beecher to the attention of The Culper Ring, a secret society that was created by George Washington to protect the presidency that is still in existence. In the third book of the series, The President’s Shadow, Beecher has embraced his role as a member of The Culper Ring and is desperately trying to find the link between his own past and that of a dangerous fringe group. The book tries to tie up all of the loose ends from the previous two novels, and at times is enthralling, but overall it was missing the historical factoids that made the first two novels so interesting. I would definitely recommend this book especially for Brad Meltzer fans, but if you haven’t read the first two in the series then start there before picking up this one. “

Barbara M is here with a topic that while less than pleasant is one that must be addressed. “I am not quite finished with Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. This is a hard book to read because no one wants to think about dying; whether it be for themselves or a loved one. But, we all will die. That is the reality. It is how we face it and deal with it that can make a difference. It was easier when extended families lived together and when there weren’t as many medical ‘miracles’ available. Dr. Gawande writes about some solutions but more importantly he makes us think about what we want for ourselves and our loved ones at the end of life.  Death is certain but the time and circumstance is not. This is a thought provoking and well written book that should be read by all.”

The Ever Delightful Pat S is doing some head scratching. “How is it that no-one ever alerted me to the humor in Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods? Published in 1996, this is a travel book of the first order and I am so delighted that circumstances forced me to read it. Having returned to living in the United States after living overseas for a length of time, Bryson decides to walk the 2,100 mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. Neither athlete nor naturalist, Bryson recounts his preparation and execution of said plan with droll wit. Early on he realizes that perhaps hiking 2,100 miles in virtual solitude may not be the safest nor sanest undertaking, and invites his old friend Stan Katz to join him. Part sage, part buffoon, Katz provides some of the high points of hilarity throughout the book. Clearly Bryson did significant research for this book and intersperses the hike with the history of the Trail as well as the government groups responsible for its maintenance.  Additionally, he deftly describes various flora and fauna -and the deleterious effect of urbanization on the landscape. While I don’t believe I’ll be signing up for a similar adventure in the near future (or frankly, ever), I am certainly grateful that Bryson shared his experience.”

The Always Fabulous Babs B has just finished Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight.
“From the author of Reconstructing Amelia comes this psychological suspense tale about a journalist who uncovers her community's darkest secrets after a newborn's body is found in the woods. The story centers on three women, one of whom is a freelance journalist who is unexpectedly called upon to cover this horrible news.  Unfortunately, Molly has gone through a severe depression following the loss of her own baby which makes it extremely hard to accept this assignment.  Her investigation reveals a decades-old trail of dark secrets hiding behind the town's white picket fences. This is a great thriller and I didn't regret a minute.  There was a big twist at the end which I never saw coming!!

It’s no secret that Pat T loves dogs so this week’s book comes as no surprise. “Dog Crazy by Meg Donohue is the perfect summer read for dog and book lovers!  Maggie Brennan has relocated to San Francisco and has started a pet bereavement business where she spends a lot of time helping her patients cope with their loss. Unfortunately she hasn't confronted her own loss of her childhood pet dog, Toby, who passed away shortly after she arrived in San Francisco. She is also dealing with a case of agoraphobia which has made her a prisoner in her own home. Maggie's life is upended when a new client shows up, not for bereavement counseling, but needing help with the search and rescue of her stolen dog. While helping Anya search for her dog, Maggie faces her own fears and opens her life to new possibilities! This story speaks to the love and healing powers of pets in our lives.”

Steph is embracing the season this week and is still more than a little freaked by a chick with a brick. ”I am getting into the summer mood with a nice Victorian mystery this week. The Yard by Alex Grecian came up on hold for me this week. Why? I have no idea! Somebody must have recommended it to me, but I don’t remember who. If you’re out there, recommender, I thank you because I really enjoyed it! Set in London just after Jack the Ripper has stopped terrorizing the city; this book follows a few mysteries and the Scotland Yard detectives on the newly-created Murder Squad who tries to solve them. It has a great plot and a nice fast pace, though the characters are a little thin. It would be an excellent beach book for fans of Anne Perry’s Charlotte and Thomas Pitt (as well as folks like me, who were fans of Anne Perry but are now morally conflicted about reading her new books).”

Here’s DJ Jazzy Patty McC from that State Up North.  Not only does she have some final thoughts, but she’s got The Playlist too.  What’s good Pats?  I’ve been thinking a lot about the recently discovered 1917 chalkboards in Oklahoma, the Loft’s message of “Build Your Bridge” and graduations taking place everywhere. It’s a season of hope and endless possibility right on the cusp of summer. It’s also the season for quoting Robert Frosts’, “The Road Not Taken”.  This oft-quoted poem is read in bits and pieces for school graduations all across our fair land and is interpreted in different ways. Mostly folks interpret the poem with a core message of the traveler taking “the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.” In this interpretation, it suggests that we should strike out and live a non-conformist life, march to the music of our own playlist. Or it can be read as a romanticized look back, “What if I had chosen a different path… What if…” To me, it reads as a poem about endless possibilities, endless choices and every road in between. I wonder if those teachers of 1917 read the Frost poem to their students. I wonder if they wrote about that poem on their chalkboards. I wonder if these ghosts were encouraged to build their own bridge if one did not exist. I’d like to think so.


You Are What You Read!

Greetings and welcome to the Catch-Up Edition of You Are What You Read. It has been two weeks since we last checked in with each other and here is what has been going down.  Tuesday gave us the Full Strawberry Moon so called because this is when we are supposed to be gathering strawberries. If you are in Europe it is known as the Full Rose Moon because the strawberry is not a native plant there.  So gather your roses or your strawberries whilst you may. I am happy to report that we received our first Taffy gift of the summer from Diane H this week.  Diane!  Many thanks from us and our dentists!  The message from The SoNo Loft this week is Stop Saying Sorry. As I always heed the advice of The Loft,  I will not apologize for not being here last week.  Book Expo America was its usual blend of exhausting and exhilarating all at once.  There is a lot of Book Goodness coming your way this year, so get excited.  We will be talking about what we are excited about in the upcoming weeks.  But the really big news is that today is National Doughnut Day!  During World War I, the women volunteers of the Salvation Army handed out doughnuts to soldiers serving in Europe to help keep spirits high. The tradition of the Dough Lassies or Dollies (seriously, that’s what they were called!) was revived again during World War II by the Red Cross.  Originally begun as a fund raiser in 1938 it has become a good excuse to enjoy what my friend Priscilla S calls ‘pastry cooked in hot roiling fat.’ So it’s not too late!  There is still time to score a little something.  Maybe a beignet since it’s so late in the day.  Because isn’t a beignet just a fancy way of saying cruller?  This week we have Amy, Quebec, exercises in writing, and an exercise in living well.

Of course there is The Playlist. One cannot live well without a soundtrack, can one?

Let us begin!

Sweet Ann is in her car listening to Yes Please by Amy Poehler.  “I like Amy Poehler and consider myself to be a fan of hers although I have never seen the television program, Parks and Rec which is mentioned quite a bit in this audio book.   I mainly know her from Saturday Night Live and her award show hosting with Tina Fey. Her audio book had me laughing out loud on I-95 which generally does not happen on my morning commute.  She tells stories from her personal and professional life that range from laugh out loud to poignant.  She has guest readers including Carol Burnett, Seth Meyers and her parents who made me smile.  Her childhood stories were great and I could envision her as a child with her sly smile and scheming eyes.  There were times when I finished driving that I wrote down a quote or two of hers because she made a lot of sense in that special Amy way.”

Abby is reading another installment in one of her favorite mystery series The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny due out in August 2015. “While her previous book was a transitional piece with her main characters experiencing major changes in their lives, The Nature of the Beast has them back in stride and getting closer to discovering their own paths. Beloved Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec has retired to the healing village of Three Pines and not unexpectedly, a mystery finds him. When his team descends on Three Pines to help solve the murder of a young boy, all the pieces work together like a well-oiled machine.  But can he handle being involved with the case without assuming his old role as Chief? Is living in peace with his wife enough for the man who served so well for so long? This book has a more international tone than previous books in the series. I enjoyed it very much, and the fact that Armand's wife Reine-Marie gets to put her mad librarian skills to work is a nice bonus.”

Laura wants to fend off the tendency of Summer Slacking. “With summer on the horizon, some try their hand at writing; memoir, fiction, biography, poetry, whatever is the fancy.  And to aid in this endeavor I have four suggestions to help with this sometimes (often times) daunting desire.  Two books that I suggest to my writing students at the Library are actually memoirs about writing; On Writing -- A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.  Both books contain, of course, their methods/philosophies on character development, plot and pacing.  But the best thing about these two titles is the determined spirit and wisdom both authors reveal about their creative processes. These are not heavy or scholarly instead they are perfect beach reads for those who have ever thought they would like to try their hand at writing.  Now, for those who have begun their quest to write the next great blockbuster, I suggest On Writing Well by William Zinsser and, the bible, Elements of Style, by William Strunk and E.B. White because, undoubtedly, you will have questions about past participles, verb retention and genre.  They are so revered and necessary that writers, editors, journalists mostly likely have one or both on their shelves. Enjoy the summer, and enjoy your stories whether you are reading them or writing them.  And then, perhaps, in the fall, join the Writer’s Workshop that meets at the library where your work is reviewed by fellow writers in a friendly, supportive environment."

Frequent visitors to this spot know I have certain obsessions.  When something captures my interest I cannot get enough of it.  Falling into the obsessions category are The Mitford Sisters, Dorothy Parker, Tsar Nicholas II and Alexandra, Anne Perry’s shady past (chicks with bricks!), and Sarah and Gerald Murphy.  When I heard that Liza Klaussmann who wrote Tigers in Red Weather which was a big favorite of mine a few years ago had taken them on in her new novel, Villa America, I was very excited to get an Advanced Reader Copy and I dove right in.  Sarah and Gerald were a golden magical couple who left America for France in the 1920’s.  Their home in the South of France was a destination for Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Picasso, and Diaghilev.  They lived a charm life until it all came crashing down in the most tragic of ways. I think that Klaussmann did a great job with drawing us into a world that exists no more.  This one comes out in August. If you want to get a jump on it  and start the slow perc of your own Sara and Gerald obsession check out Living Well is the Best Revenge or Sara & Gerald Murphy:  Villa America and After

DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here from The State Which Shall Not Be Named with some final musings and of course, The Playlist.  What’s good, Pats?  “This fall my daughter will begin her first year of high school. She will be in a special humanities program called Flex. Her summer reading assignment is Plato’s Apology. This book will serve as a springboard for their year-long focus question: Where is knowledge taking humanity? After she received the assignment she turned to me and said, “If you were born back then you would have been Socrates or Plato.” I replied, ‘Wow! That’s a huge compliment. What makes you think that?’She said, ‘You’re really good at corrupting youth.’ I am really looking forward to rereading this classic and having a year-long discussion with this particular youth. Never regret saying sorry.”


You Are What You Read!

Greetings!  Welcome to the Memorial Day edition of You Are What You Read!  Don’t forget the Library will be closed on Monday.  But never fear!  Because of the magic of digital downloads we are never really closed.  There’s more info about that here.  Some of us will be marching in the parade on Monday.  Not me, that Underpass situation is so rough that even adding a marching band can’t sweeten it. It is nasty and I can’t.  But some of my co-workers are far better humans than I. So, if you show for the Parade, make sure that you give them a whole lot of love and a huge round of applause for all that they do.  Just make sure you don’t do it under the Underpass.  Trust me on that one. Some of you will be making the inaugural pilgrimage to wherever it is you Summer.  We wish you safe travels and a gentle reminder of our love of taffy and fudge.  Others will be staying home and getting those tender annuals in the garden.  The way the weather has been this week, you may want to have those old bed sheets at the ready for the night time temp drops.  As for me, I can be found playing in the kitchen making The Traveling Companion his Birthday Feast.  As he is a visitor here, the Feast shall not be revealed, but suffice it to say that it will be a Feast worthy of such a kind and gracious man.  And of course there will be a cake. Please never forget this weekend what we are honoring; the sacrifice that our Armed Forces have made so that we may live the lives that we do.  There will be no You Are What You Read next week.  I will be at Book Expo America in the charm- free Javits Center looking for books that you will love for the upcoming year and even though I have the super powers possessed by all single moms, I cannot be in two places at once.  We will catch up with each other in two weeks and I am sure there will be much to discuss.  This week we have dread, a whole lotta Scotland, a ridiculous book, a new favorite, some romance, some painting, and The Street.  Playlist? How about two this week?

Let us begin!

Barbara M turned a feeling of dread into one of reading joy.  “In an article in the New York Times Oliver Sacks revealed that he has terminal cancer, so it was with dread that I began reading his autobiography, On the Move: A Life, knowing that it might be his last book. What an incredible life he has led. He is a world renowned neurologist and author of many books including Awakenings, which was made into a wonderful movie starring Robin Williams. He was also at one time a weight lifter and a biker. This is a work of deep introspection and Sacks is more forthright and vulnerable than he has been in any of his other books. This powerful book gives insight into Oliver Sacks’ own mind while he was busy studying others. I don’t want the book to end but I will continue reading hoping that perhaps he’s leaving behind enough notes to fill many books.”

Melissa who works in Materials Management reports that she has begun the 18 disc set of Written in My Heart’s Own Blood by Diana Gabaldon. While that is a whole lotta Scotland she says she has been a fan of the Outlander series for a long time now. This is the  eighth book in the series and it  is mostly set in the US during the revolution.

The Always Fabulous Babs B is not a Happy Fabulous this week.  Here’s what she thought of The Liar by Nora Roberts. And for you Nora fans, and I am sure you are out there somewhere, this review contains a spoiler alert!  So just skip to Pat S.  “This was just a ridiculous book I'm sorry to say.  This story had some real potential but was ruined with cartoonish characters, overdone plot and way too much setting description.  Shelby’s, husband dies and leaves her with a five year old daughter and massive debt.  So off she goes to live with her family to start a new life and quickly meets a man and falls in love and lives happily ever after.   Spoiler alert- Shelby's husband really is alive and attempts to kill her at the end of the book.  I saw this coming right from the beginning.  Sorry, but I think Nora should take a rest for awhile!”

The Ever Delightful Pat S has just finished The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows and she seems way happier than Babs B.  “For all the fans of The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, Annie Barrows is back, and in a big way. The Truth According to Us is set in Depression era West Virginia, in a small town called Macedonia. Layla Beck, daughter of a U.S. senator, has been recently disinherited. Her comedown includes the odious task of working for the WPA Writers Project which sends her to Macedonia, West Virginia to write the history for their upcoming sesquicentennial celebration. Upon arriving, Layla finds a rooming situation with the Romeyn family and here the real intrigue begin. We are introduced to Willa, Jottie, Bird, Felix and Emmett,and the ghost of the long dead Vause Hamilton. As Layla delves into the history of the town, she discovers it is inexorably wrapped up with the secret history of her unconventional landlords. The entire tale is told through the eyes of Willa, a twelve year old who will remind readers of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. Ultimately, each of these characters will have to re-examine their own sense of loyalty as they are forced to confront the twisted truths from an old tragedy. Barrows characters are so charming, so quirky and so colorful that I hated to come to the last page of this book-and so will you.”

Sue is staying true to form with a romance. “ I am reading Beyond the Sunrise by Mary Balogh and it is captivating regency piece that mixes romance, war and espionage into a delightful story that those who are fans of romance should enjoy!”

Pat T is done with one of my favorites for the summer. I’ll let her tell you. “Girl in the Moonlight by Charles Dubow is a good romantic summer read, much like his previous novel, Indiscretion! While taking on the task of cleaning out his father's home in East Hampton, Wylie Rose reflects back on his childhood when he was introduced to the wealthy, free spirited Bonet children. Over time, a friendship develops between Wylie and Aurelio Bonet, as well as an infatuation with his beguiling and beautiful older sister, Cesca.  Aurelio struggles to become a respected painterin Spain, while Wylie explores the craft of writing in New York and Cesca moves aimlessly between school and work. Wylie finds himself caught in a  Cesca web of manipulation and seduction. Will Cesca forever hold Wylie in her spell or will he free himself to discover true love?”

What’s Steph doing?  “This week I’ve been reading Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo! by Nicholas Carlson. It’s an excellent piece of business reporting that looks at how Yahoo! went from being an early Internet star to perennial bridesmaid. I’m about halfway through, and so far Mayer has only showed up in the introduction—I suspect she was forced into the title to sell more books, since she’s a hot property in business writing right now. It’s a shame, because the book is more interesting than the title implies! There’s a lot to be learned about the last two decades in tech, Wall Street, and management from studying Yahoo!’s successes and failures. I’m really looking forward to discussing the book in our Business Book Group meeting on June 3rd. (Register here if you’d like to join us!)”

DJ Jazzy Patty McC is in da house with the final musings and this week’s play list.  What’s good Pats? “I t’s that time of year when it seems as though everyone is being pulled in a million directions. Parents are juggling work schedules with student concerts, field days, graduations, spring sports and end of the school year parties. Teachers are readying students for final exams and beginning student evaluations. Administrators are busy with end of year staff evaluations and preparations for balancing next year’s classes have begun. Librarians, publishing houses, authors, booksellers and educators are gearing up for BEA, Book Expo America. It’s always an exciting, good time filled with author breakfasts, book signings and tote bags overflowing with new book goodness. I will miss going this year. You might notice that next week the staff is a little light so please be kind and patient. They’re juggling just as much as the rest of us and sometimes more. If I were there I’d be bringing baked goods to help them get through the week. So, remember folks, we’re all in this together and we’re all a little exhausted. A little bit of kindness goes a long way.



You Are What You Read!

Greetings!  And welcome to a pollen coated You Are What You Read.  I don’t know about you all but I am actually hopeful that we get that promised rain this weekend so that we can begin to wash some of this Yellow Menace off every conceivable surface that it has settled on  (but not on Saturday!  I am looking at you Cathy!).  It’s a Blizzard of Pollen out there, People!  My blue car, which The Traveling Companion derisively and with a sneer refers to as Duke blue and which I refer to as recycling bin blue is actually a rather lurid and shocking shade of green these days.  On Wednesday, I was in the City with some of my Fairfield Library Friends and we were all bemoaning our allergy reddened eyes, slow and sleepy minds and sandpapery throats.  My long desired runs to the water have turned into exercises in wheezing, coughing and just generally trying to catch my breath after a few steps.  I just keep telling myself that this is the price we pay for that blissful scent of lilacs and viburnum in the air.  And really isn’t that what we have been wishing/hoping/praying for?   The Always Delightful Pat S received the following advice from her doctor on how to deal with this.  This doctor recommended that, in addition to the usual doses of insert your favorite allergy meds here, your hair be washed every night prior to bed.  Apparently hair is a pollen magnet and while we sleep, it leaves the hair and migrates to the pillow case which ensures a night of breathing in more of the Menace than you should.  The good doctor also recommended that we not sleep with windows open but with the a/c on to filter the air.   Pat S is happy to report that both of these things have helped loads.  So Soldier on People!  This is the Price We Must Pay!  And no worries, this is a temporary condition much like Spring itself. This week we have a runaway, a stranger, a cult and a coroner, and a very timely Issue.  Of course we have The Playlist!  Even if it does have an oddly yellow cast this week.

Let us begin!

Sweet Ann has just finished The Dynamite Room by Jason Hewitt.  “I thought this was a well written thought provoking book about WWII.  Eleven year old Lydia has run away from where she was evacuated to earlier in the war.  She makes it back to her English village which is deserted.  When she arrives at her home it is closed up and there is no sign of her mother. She is able to gain entrance to the house and thinks she will just wait for her mother to come home and her father to return from the war. While in her room that first night she hears someone entering the house and that someone turns out to be Heider, a German soldier.  This novel explores Heider's life before the war when he was a musician in love with a beautiful fellow musician.  His life was so happy and then he was drafted in to the war. When you read his war stories, it explains the reason for the title of the book and the fate of an integral character in the story.  I highly recommend this book; it is quite a page turner.

Virginia the Tall Cool Texan is here this week with this: The Stranger, Harlan Coben.  “Some skeletons are best left in the closet. That is what Adam Price discovers after he is approached by a stranger one night with evidence of his wife’s deepest secret. But what is the cost of the truth?  In Harlan Coben’s newest thriller, The Stranger, Adam’s world is upended in one single moment and everything he is always taken for granted is turned upside down.  His wife won’t confirm or deny the secret so Adam starts his own investigation. What he uncovers, is a larger and for more dangerous conspiracy at play that puts his family at risk. How far will he go to know the truth?  Overall, I enjoyed this book.  It is a light thriller and a fairly quick read with an unexpected ending which I really didn’t see coming.”

Laura is taking a page form Jeanne’s playbook and is here with two things this week. “The Witness Wore Red:  The 19th Wife Who Brought Polygamous Cult Leaders to Justice is a memoir by Rebecca Musser about her escape from her family’s polygamous lifestyle.  She was married in her early 20’s to 85-year old elder, and her people’s supreme prophet Rulon Jeffs.  She took the witness stand to save her sisters and the other girls who would be subject, at very young ages, to early marriages.  Her testimony in 2007 brought about the raid by Texas Rangers of the  Yearning for Zion Ranch and the arrests of its leader.  Some  received  life sentences behind bars once the abusive and manipulative atrocities were learned.  It is a gripping read as she relays how she was taught to believe the outside world was ‘dangerous’ and that the houses and communities they lived in had secret hiding rooms, and walls, where the children and wives could hide if someone from the outside entered their realm.   Book number two, The Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill is a murder mystery set in Laos, in 1976, after America pulled out of Vietnam. New socialist government systems are being put in place and Siri, the 72 year-old doctor of medicine, who was hoping for retirement after many years of good service, is unwillingly pressed into service as a coroner in a post-war, underfunded and poorly equipped morgue.   A prominent politician’s wife dies suddenly while dining with friends and Siri is suspicious of her demise, especially when her husband retains her body quickly for cremation.  Three mysterious murders coincide and Siri is further embroiled in cross border politics, spying neighbors, victim hauntings, etc.  I consider this my first beach read of the season.”

Julia Rae is back with us fresh from her first year in college!  Stop by the desk and say hi why don’t you?  Here’s her take on a book about a timely issues. “I found some time at school to read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, and I’m so glad I did. Alexander provides her readers with a thorough, yet gripping, history of the racial Caste System in the U.S. She then gets right into the thick of how past Caste systems play a role in today’s society. The main thread throughout the book is the problem of Mass Incarceration and how the prison population is made up disproportionately by minorities. Alexander meticulously connects the dots to show readers how detrimental Mass Incarceration is, and how it indicates rampant racism in the government today. It was extremely interesting to read this book with the backdrop of everything that is happening in Baltimore.  I think everyone, especially college age people, should read this book. Everything I thought I knew about racism in the U.S. has changed since reading.” Welcome back Julia!  We missed you!

DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here from that State Which Shall Not Be Named with The Playlist and some musings of the etymological kind.  What’s good Pats?  “Happy Palindrome Week! What’s that, you ask? Well, a palindrome is a phrase, word, number or a sequence of characters that reads the same forwards and backwards. If you’re a massively talented writer, filmmaker and essayist like Georges Perec you write a Grand Palindrome in French that’s 5,556 letters in length. The Oxford English Dictionary lists the longest palindromic word as the onomatopoeic word tattarrattat coined by James Joyce in Ulysses for a knock on the door. I’m a huge fan of the Oulipo, short for the French “Ouvrior de litterature potentielle” or workshop of potential literature. The Oulipo was founded in 1960 by a group of mainly French-speaking writers and mathematicians who created works through a series of severe writing constraints. Some of the more famous members are Raymond Queneau, Francois Le Lionnais, Georges Perec, Italo Calvino and Jacques Roubaud.  Every day this week, the dates align themselves to a natural palindrome. No forced constraints are needed. I think we should all celebrate it by reading Life, A User's Manual: A Novel or Numbers In The Dark : And Other Stories. Need something to read to the kids? Yep, we’ve got that too! Mom And Dad Are Palindromes: A Dilemma For Words...And Backwards.  The playlist is not a palindrome this week but now I want to create one. Until then enjoy some fresh new tunes to put a little spring in your step and exercise those brain muscles.”


You Are What You Read!

Hello!  And welcome to the Mother’s Day edition of You Are What You Read.  This past weekend should have been my Aunt’s birthday, but she died of cancer at the ridiculous age of 62.  The Cousins, whose mom this was, and I have been discussing how much we still miss her.  Next month is the 10th anniversary of my own mother’s death at the also ridiculously young age of 66, and also from cancer.  We don’t know that this is something you ever fully recover from. This Wednesday while I was picking up some dinner things at the Whole Foods, a salesperson who was stocking shelves looked at me and asked me if I wanted to look at some scarves for my mother for the upcoming ‘special day’.  The grief came flooding back in waves as if she had left the planet yesterday.  So my thought for this week is if you are blessed enough to have your mom with you, take the time to thank her for ALL of it. This includes the nagging about standing up straight, making your bed and cleaning up after yourself, as well as the good stuff.  Because really isn’t it a mother’s job to civilize you and make sure you don’t embarrass yourself?  Sorry, sometimes nagging is necessary.  A few flowers, a delightfully tiny package, maybe a lovely meal and a card would also not be remiss.  Really just a drop when you consider all that she did for you. What if your mom is not with you? Honor her in some way that would please her. As for me, I try to honor my mother and aunt by giving blood every 56 days. I like to think I may be buying someone else’s mom a little more time on the planet.  For your information, the Red Cross Donor Center in Norwalk will be open tomorrow from 8:00 to 1:30.  I am sure they would love to see you.  I have no idea what my Mother’s Day will look like but I am sure both boys will rise to the occasion.  Won’t you, Boys? Boys?  Boys?  Whatever, this week we have New Jersey, some magic, the whole wide world, beach reading trifecta, a memory, some letters, Tudor TV Time and Lila!   And of course we have a Mom Worthy Playlist!

Let us begin!

Abby is reading a real staff favorite that should come with a box of Kleenex. “I have almost finished The Short & Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs. I’ve stopped short because the foreshadowing in the title and narrative is so heartbreaking, I need more time before I’m ready for it to end.  The author, Jeff Hobbs, was Rob’s college roommate and witness to some of the pivotal decisions Rob made. He clearly has an emotional stake in the story and does a beautiful job sharing Rob’s story.  This biography introduces us to Robert Peace, known as Rob. Rob was born and raised in urban northern New Jersey to a mom devoted to his success and a dad with a keen, inquisitive mind and an illegal way of paying the bills. By all accounts, Rob was a sponge for knowledge.  It’s not just that he was intellectually gifted; his diligence in quenching his enormous curiosity set him apart and what he achieved educationally is beyond what most of us could imagine. Exposed to violence, drugs, and a culture unsure of how to deal with his gifts, Rob created a mental and physical shield to protect himself from his friends, neighbors, and even family. It’s painful to think about the end of this book as I creep forward. In moving slowly, I want to believe I can delay what I already know.”

Have you all met James?  He can be found running around the building making all our technology behave.  Here’s his take on A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab. “I never found myself relating to the characters. In as much time as it takes to explain the legal moves of the pieces on a chess board (maybe excluding the pawn’s en passant), you develop a solid understanding of the proclivities of the main characters. That said, what kept me turning pages in bed rather than going to the gym was learning more about the world in which they live and how that world and the actions the characters take within it put the characters in positions that produce genuinely interesting interactions. Despite their  archetypical nature, the story progresses quite rapidly with plenty of intrigue and surprise.  I can’t seem to remember what first prompted me to add A Darker Shade of Magic to my ‘to read’ shelf but I’m glad I did.”

Barbara M  All over the globe. “I started reading Sasha Martin’s book Life from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family and Forgiveness because it was about food but it turned out to be more than just about food. It’s about a highly unusual family, some might call it dysfunctional, who suffered through trying times and yet who somehow stayed together. At a certain point in her life Martin decided to ‘cook the world‘ to reconcile the randomness of her childhood and connect it to the cultures of the world through food. She started a blog  in which she cooked a representative food from every country starting with “A” for Afghanistan and ending with “Z” for Zambia. Her blog is filled with wonderful stories and recipes just waiting to be tried.  This is a story that begins sadly but which ends happily.”

Steph is beach ready this week. “Based on Virginia’s recommendation last week, I read The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza. Great fun read! Despite being one of those crazy tech-loving millennials, I still loved the commentary on how technology might be taking over our lives and our jobs just a wee bit too much, as well as all the crazy fashion anecdotes. Whether you look at Instagram a million times a day or have no idea what Instagram is—and whether you wait anxiously for the September issue each year or don’t know why September is so important—it’s the perfect beach book. This brings my 2015 beach book trifecta to The Knockoff, China Rich Girlfriend, and The Royal We. Happy Summer!” As an aside, when you see Steph make sure you congratulate her on getting her MLS this weekend.  Great job Steph!

The Always Fabulous Babs B has finished Memory Man by David Baldacci.  “In his latest thriller, Baldacci introduces Amos Decker, who is unlike anyone you've read before.  He is an ex-football player and a highly decorated ex-cop.  While playing football, Amos suffered a horrendous blow to his head and almost died.  The injury resulted in a condition of having a memory where he forgets nothing.  When his wife and daughter are brutally murdered, he becomes a shattered man.  Amos is called in by the police department to help solve the murder of some students and teachers at the town's high school. Baldacci does a great job of keeping the reader guessing as to who the actual person is behind these horrendous murders.  I have to say the plot was one of the most bizarre I have ever read, but I couldn't put the book down.  Great job Mr. Baldacci!”

Pat T is reading with the weekend in mind.  I’ll let her explain. “Last week I was fortunate to come upon the book, A Letter to My Mom, by Lisa Erspamer which is perfect for Mother's Day! This book is filled with the personal reflections from sons and daughters about their love, gratitude and admiration for their mothers. A few of the lessons learned and poignantly written about in these epistles are; believe in yourself, be brave and responsible, communicate, value hard work, the importance of forgiveness and independence, selflessness, how to deal with loss, sickness and be happy. In one letter a son elegantly writes ‘A good parent curates reality for their children. They gather up all of the good stuff; all of the knowledge, opportunity, existential wonderfulness and more and they say, here's what the world has to offer - go enjoy it!’ This book captures the joy, heartache, fun, sacrifice and most of all the loving connection between mother and child. A true tribute to mothers!”

The Always Delightful Pat S is having some good old fashioned Tudor TV Time with Wolf Hall. “Have you been watching the PBS series Wolf Hall? If you have missed it, make sure to catch it on DVD because it is stunning!  Based on Hilary Mantel's award winning books Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, Wolf hall is an amalgam of both books. Taking place in the early part of the reign of Henry VIII, the story line is Henry's quest for divorce from his wife Catherine of Aragon, and attempt to marry again with a woman who can deliver him a healthy son. When Rome proves implacable to divorce, Henry is moved to separate from the church, and establish his own; the Church of England. But who helped Henry arrange these monumental changes? In comes Thomas Cromwell, the ‘Fixer’. Historically Cromwell has been portrayed as a Machiavellian creature, moving people and situations around like pieces on a chessboard. However, in this production the whole tale is told through Cromwell’s eyes and this is a thoughtful, careful and more sensitive man. Mark Rylance as Cromwell is simply brilliant in his performance, imbuing a raised eyebrow with a world of intent. Damien Lewis, of recent Homeland fame, creates a Henry VIII whose ego is more fragile and beset with anxiety than previous depictions. And Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn is quite simply hateful, marvelously heartless and self-serving to the bitter end! The entire production is physically exquisiteand each week I find myself drawn back into the sixteenth century. This is a surefire hit for a history buff, or anyone who enjoys very fine acting.”

Laura is done with Lila by Marilyn Robinson.  “The story begins as Lila, at 4 years old, is purposely locked out of her family's shack in rural Iowa and has to spend the night, all alone, in the crawl space under the front steps.  At that young age she innocently reasons and accepts her fate though she knows for certain that she is scared of the woman and man in that shack and also frightened of being inside the shack itself.  Providence occurs when Doll, a vagrant that travels town to town in search of work kidnaps Lila from under the porch and raises her as best she  can given her very limited means.  The story's narrative shifts to Lila as a grown young woman who is wandering alone.  Lila meets and marries the local pastor after a brief courtship. While pregnant with the his child, Lila’s past churns into her conscience and haunts the story.  What happened to Doll, what happened to Lila and why were those memories suppressed?  Lila is a wonderful story about human existence and the acceptance of its many forms.  Robinson's narrative is challenging.  But, if you take the time to absorb her phrasing, and her use of flashbacks that pop seamlessly in and out of Lila's daily thoughts, you will be rewarded. Give yourself a break and do not read it quickly.  This story is to be savored."

DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here from The State Which Shall Not Be Named. I know you join me in wishing her a Happy Mother’s Day!  What’s good this week Pats? “This week we celebrate Mother’s Day. It should come as no surprise that my own mother played a whole lot of music when I was growing up. She would let us play her albums on the giant beast we called an entertainment system. It was the kind of stereo system that measured about five feet across and weighed no less than a thousand pounds. It included a stackable turntable so five or more albums could play consecutively. Automatic record changing was pretty high tech back in the day and I played that thing all the time.  So in honor of all those mothers who let their children play with their music, I thought I’d bust out the vinyl and the 8-tracks and pull together a little playlist that my own mom would enjoy. Now, say hi to your mother for me.”


New eBooks from 3M

Here are the new books from 3M.

You Are What You Read!

Hello!  We made it to MAY!  I don’t know about you but my relief is palpable on this score.  Even if my walk to the train this morning felt more like March than May, we have made it to MAY!  Saturday we have the Kentucky Derby which is a favorite harbinger of spring.   People! Polish the Julep cups, crush that ice, muddle the mint, and dig the bourbon out from the back of the liquor cabinet. Although truth be told, these days I use my Julep cup as my toothbrush holder mostly because it has my married initials on it. We all know how I feel about that.  The bathroom feels like a good place for that to reside. This Sunday we will see this month’s Full Moon. Here is the 411 from the Farmer’s Almanac on the Full Flower Moon: “May's Full Flower Moon, also called Mother's Moon, Milk Moon, and Corn Planting Moon, marks a time of increasing fertility with temperatures warm enough for safely bearing young, a near end to late frosts, and plants in bloom.” So there you go. It would appear that our time on the Tundra has, happily, come to an end.  In related, albeit disturbing, news tomorrow is World Naked Gardening Day.  Yes this is a ‘thing’.  Please don’t.  There is not enough Julep in the world for that. One last thing you have one week and 2 days to get it together for the mothers in your lives.  Make it good People. They deserve it.  This week we have a cult, a widow, triplets, a glossy, and Quebec.  The Playlist?  But of course!

Let us begin!

Miss Claire of the CL is back and here’s what she did while she was adrift in the world. “After a recent trip to LA, my friend's boss said we had to pick up Last Night at the Viper Room for our girls' weekend. The book is a partial bio of River Phoenix, the childhood actor who was destined for greatness, but it's also interspersed with pieces of 90s cultural references. The book tells of Phoenix's early beginnings as the oldest sibling of a vagabond family whose parents moved their kids from state to state, and then to South America. The family became increasingly involved the Children of God, a cult which encouraged sexual experiences among its young members. The Phoenix clan eventually ended up in Los Angeles where the singing brothers and sisters performed on the Hollywood streets.   The book was compelling, although sad as River dies as a result of a drug overdose on Halloween morning. I vividly remember my friends and I finding out the news after trick-or- treating in 8th grade. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed being an insider to young Hollywood in the early nineties and also discovering that the director Gus Van Sant graduated from Darien High!”

Sweet Ann has just finished  Bettyville by George Hodgman.  “When I read the review of this book, I knew I had to read it.  I love family stories and this is a terrific one.  George Hodgman leaves Manhattan to return home to Paris, Missouri to take care of his ninety year old mother Betty.  Betty is getting forgetful and frightened of being alone now that she is a widow and her health is failing.  She and her son have a witty and caring relationship but one where George's homosexuality was never discussed.  Bettyville also addresses George's childhood of feeling that he was not normal and the torment he felt.  He loved his mother and this book is a love song to her and the people who were there for him as a child and a young man. I highly recommend this memoir.”

Jeanne is only doing one thing this week.  Feel free to discuss. “Liane Moriarty has a way of working the bad things that happen to good people into slapstick episodes. In the case of this novel, Three Wishes, she does this in triplicate. Yes, the Kettle sisters, Gemma, Lyn and Cat are beautiful, long-legged, 30 something triplets.  Life is never perfect; no one is exempt from the bad stuff. Not even these headstrong Australian women are above wrongdoing, mishaps and mayhem. There is a lot going on with the Kettle sisters;  from marital discord, unplanned pregnancies, slashed tires and plenty of champagne. If you enjoyed Big Little Lies, as I did, you will also enjoy Three Wishes, narrated via hoopla by the talented Heather Wilds.”

Virginia the Tall Cool Texan is very happy this week.  Here’s why. “Tickled pink, on cloud nine, in seventh heaven. You get the gist. I am happy, happy, happy.  You know why?  Because, my dear friends, it is my favorite time of the year! Prime Patio Time, or in my part of the world known as PPT. To celebrate this beautiful weather, I bring you the perfect PPT book, The Knockoff: A Novel by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza, a deliciously fun read full of wit, drama and fashion with a little bit of soul thrown in. Imogene Tate, editor-in-chief of Glossy Magazine, one of the top fashion books in the world, finds herself at a crossroads when she returns to work after a six-month medical leave, only to discover her former assistant, Eve, has manipulated her way into a position of power and is trying to convert the magazine into a digital version and app. Many of Imogene’s peers ‘the gray hairs’ have been let go or moved into the supply closet and been replaced with ‘a bevy of manicured and questionably attired underlings who text and tweet their way through meetings.’ If Imogene wants to save her beloved Glossy then she will have to evolve and learn the necessary digital tools to compete in this new landscape, which she does with grace, integrity, creativity and a whole lot of moxie. I know this book seems to be your typical chick-lit novel, but it also is a good commentary on how technology has impacted the business world today. Thoroughly charming, laugh out loud funny and surprisingly relevant, The Knockoff is the perfect read while enjoying your Prime Patio Time.”

Steph.  Also happy this week. In fact, she is downright evangelical in her delight.  “Rejoice! For Louise Penny has a new book on the way, and it is a true return to form for her. I know some readers, me included, were a bit disappointed in the last Inspector Gamache book, The Long Way Home, it was good, just not as good as previous books in the series, in my humble opinion. I feared that Gamache’s retirement would spell doom for the series. But fear not! Nothing less than a serial killer, the death of a child, and the discovery of a massive weapon hidden in the Quebec forest have brought Penny’s best back to us. The Nature of the Beast comes out in August. Go on hold now and get excited!

DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here from That State Up North with some final musings on this week’s lunar event.  What’s good Pats? “It finally feels like spring might stick around. This weekend marks the opening of our Farmers Market here in town and I am ready. I have been waiting to plant my own patio garden. I’ve been living in fear that I’ll be inviting the rodents’ wrath and they’ll throw some frost or snow my way. They’re spiteful like that. So around here while we juggle baseball games, a third grade concert, a middle school musical and art award ceremonies, I’m going to sneak in a little full moon gardening. The full moon isn’t until the 4th but I’m getting a head start.  The Full Moon Playlist is my only listening requirement. Now go out and get your garden on!

DL The Fullest Moon or Just Another Day in the Life of Neil deGrasse Tyson 2013 

You Are What You Read!

This week we saw Earth Day come and go and I have been thinking a lot about the nature of Nature.  It seems to me that it’s been sort of creeping into places it should not be but in all fairness to Nature, it was here first.  Lately we have heard of Nature appearing in of all places, the Upper West Side in the form of a coyote who was seen hanging around Lincoln Center and Grant’s Tomb of all places. Here in town there was a black bear sighting. Of course, this is really nothing new. No matter how hard we try to beat it back and tame it, Nature seems to come back with a vengeance.  Does anyone else remember when the sighting of deer in your yard was the stuff of wonderment and not an occasion to despair over some really expensive landscaping becoming a Sizzler Endless Salad Bar for Bambi? In my neighborhood, the landscape is a mix of hard-core city and tightly packed suburbs with a few old estates high on a hill facing the Long Island Sound.  For years, it has been host to not only the usual urban suspects like skunks, and raccoons, but also to parrots which build these giant nests and actually live in them year round, no escaping to warmer climes for them. Now we have 3 foxes that can be seen cavorting in yards and trotting down the streets like they own it.  There were 4 but one came to an untimely end via a careless driver which was reported with great sorrow on our community Facebook page. I have even seen wild turkeys marching down the middle of the 4 lane avenue that bisects the neighborhood. And of course, last week we had the story of Kasper the Wolverine Who Would Not Be Caged trying to make his new home in Newark not an Alaskan nature preserve for which he was destined. Perhaps the nature of Nature is that you as a human think that you can impose your ways upon the world but Nature is always going to reclaim what you stake.  So be on the lookout People!  Nature is on the march!
This week we have Boston, Royals, Scotland, police, and Montana.  It is not in our Nature to deny you a playlist, so yes, there is The Playlist.

Let us begin!

Pat T was a big fan of Lisa Genova's book, Still Alice, and so she decided to read her latest novel, Inside The O'Briens. Did it stack up? “The O'Brien's are an Irish Catholic family living in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Joe is a Boston Police Officer, Rosie, a homemaker and they have 4 grown children who live with them. Joe begins to experiences mood swings, and falls which he shrugs off to being tired, until one day his behavior can no longer be ignored. With much urging by Rosie, Joe goes for a medical evaluation and shockingly discovers he has Huntington's Disease which an inherited neurodegenerative disease that causes you to lose control over your ability to move. All the O'Brien children have a fifty percent chance of inheriting this disease and they each must make their own decision about genetic testing. Their faith is tested as they struggle through all the stages of denial, anger, depression.  Eventually they come to peace with the fate that has been handed down to them because of the support and love of their family. I don't know if I have done justice with my review of this book, but I strongly suggest you read it because the subject is so enlightening and the characters are so real that they could be your own family!”

The Effervescent and Ever Delightful Pat S has been raving to me about The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan all week long.  Let’s just let her end the week on that same not shall we? ” From the authors of the extremely clever, sneakily snarky authors of the blog Go Fug Yourself, The Royal We is for everyone who can’t resist a fairytale, and one you will want to place at the top of your list of beach/vacation reads! Heavily based on the courtship and marriage of Kate Middleton and Prince William, The Royal We follows Bex, an American (oh, MY!) student on a year abroad program where she lands living on the same floor as Prince Nick. When they meet they become friends first, and then comes the romantic slide into passionate love. What begins as students almost playing a game as they conform to the Palace requirements of complete discretion becomes stultifying as the years pass. Once the cat is out of the bag, the glitz (fabulous parties, glamorous skiing trips, etc) is accompanied by the very real emotional morass of the dysfunction of the Royal family. As the story develops, it does stay fairly close to the tabloid-suggested characterizations of family members but with just enough twists to make it continually entertaining. While, as in any good fairytale, the ending is happily-ever-after, The Royal We certainly makes you think about what the very real price of what that fairytale might be.”

The Fabulous Babs B has just finished At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen.  Here’s what she thought. “This is the story of Madeline Hyde, a young Philadelphia socialite who reluctantly follows her husband to a remote town in Scotland in search of the Loch Ness Monster.  The reader slowly watches Maddie, who really is a stranger to herself, snap to reality after a series of events involving her husband's spiral into conceit and self-deception.  This also is a story of adventure, friendship and love in the shadow WWII.  I wasn't crazy about the author's previous book, Like Water for Elephants, but thought this one was a winner!”

Sue is taking a break from her usual Romance Reading and diving into a Police Procedural instead. “At the moment I am reading and enjoying a steamy police crime book titled  Risking it All by Tessa Bailey  it features NYPD detective Seraphia Newsom who is seeking to avenge her brother’s death at any cost. To do that it means she has to insinuating herself into a rough, Brooklyn street gang and go so far undercover, she’s not sure she’ll be able to get out. Every minute she spends in their midst means the clock is ticking down on her life.”

Steph is crazy busy finishing up her time at Library School so that she is able to do any 'pleasure' reading is either a Christmas Miracle or it’s something she really feels passionate about.  “Not much time for non-academic reading this week (and believe me, no one wants to hear about that), but I did start Missoula by Jon Krakauer on my lunch break yesterday. Missoula is the town in Montana which was briefly labeled the ‘rape capital’ of the United States after a string of rape cases related to the University of Montana’s football team. The book uses these cases, as well as the town and the media’s reaction, to examine the larger issues of rape in the United States, most  especially on college campuses. So far, the book is even-handed and devastating. Hard to recommend because it’s such a tough issue and he is pretty unflinching with the details, but I’d say anyone in college or with a kid in college should take a look.”

DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here from the State Which Shall Not Be Named with some musings on the Arts.  Arts with a capital A!  What’s good Pats? “I’ve been immersed in art lately. Last week I went to the Detroit Institute of Arts for the Diego Rivera and Frieda Kahlo exhibit and for the past couple of weeks I have been following Nick Cave around the city as he embarks on his latest, most ambitious Soundsuit project to date.   I’ve been doing my part to support the arts at my son’s elementary school through the PTA Reflections Program and  I am incredibly proud of the students here. This year’s theme was ‘The World Would Be A Better Place If…’ We had nine students from our elementary school win at the District Level in the categories of Visual Arts, Film Production, Music Composition, Dance Choreography and Photography. Four of our students went on to win at the State Level and one of our students has gone forward to the National Level for his Music Composition. He’s a first grader who keeps a mean beat on the drums.  This week I’ve curated a playlist of new music goodness. I encourage you to explore your own artistic side. Take in a museum, paint, draw, write, photograph something or listen to some music. Whatever you choose make sure you get out and support your local arts.


You Are What You Read!

This week I would like to address a breach of civility that I call Yucking the Yum.  Many people have asked me by what I mean by this.  Well it’s just this:  When you say “Yuck” to something that someone finds Yummy , or makes them happy, you are calling them out on their taste.  It’s probably one of my biggest pet peeves.  Let’s say someone says, “I can’t wait for dinner tonight!  It’s going to be a lovely piece of roasted salmon on a bed of arugula. “ This Someone will inevitably shudder with horror, do an eye roll and make that person feel like a circus freak for the joyful anticipation of that meal.  I have seen this lately in discussions with books, films, just about anything under the sun that could make a person happy.  You know what?  If something is not your cup of tea, please just nod politely and either change the subject or formulate this week’s grocery list in your head.   Thanks.  Phew.  I feel so much better now.  Many of you may have missed this news story.  There was a wolverine named Kasper who was on his way to Alaska from Norwegian zoo.  There needed to be a plane change at Newark National airport where he would go through Customs.   He was in a metal cage that proved no match for his sharp little teeth and he had managed to chew a hole in the cage to try to escape!  Now this just goes to prove my point about Wolverines in general.  Only a Wolverine would think that Newark Airport was a place to escape to.  Really?  You are given a choice between Newark and a 170 acre unspoiled Alaskan landscape and you choose Newark?  Point proved.  This week we have tenderness and compassion, Vichy France, North Korea, Korean Americans, and a Bake Off. 

Of course we have The Playlist!  Of course!

Sweet Ann is here this week after reading The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessey by Rachel Joyce. What did you think Ann? “This is almost a companion book to Ms. joyce's earlier novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.  In that novel, Harold Fry was walking across England to visit his friend Queenie who is dying in a hospice.  In this new novel Queenie is writing to Harold as he walks across England.  It is difficult for her to write and one of the sisters at the hospice helps her along with the story she is writing to Harold.  Queenie wants Harold to know her real reason for leaving her job, where he also worked, and why she never contacted him again until she was very sick.  This is a wonderful story filled with tenderness that at times will make your heart ache but it will also have your heart soar with the love and compassion of these characters.  While it sounds like a sad book and it is in some ways, it is also a wonderful reflection on friendship and love.” 

Barbara M is back in France and I know that makes me feel like all is right with the world.  “I recently watched Claude Chabrol’s documentary film The Eye of Vichy made in 1993. It is a compilation of propaganda newsreels and films made by the Nazis and their French collaborators during the occupation of France in World War II. The aim of these films was to convince the people of France that working with the Germans would benefit France as a nation and that their real enemies were the Jews, the Allied Forces and the Communists.  Field Marshall Petain's energetic speeches are filmed followed by children bringing him gifts and flowers in an attempt to endear him to the people. There are clips of young men happily leaving France to work in German factories. Propaganda is powerful and we’ll never know how many people embraced Petain’s vision. After the war most people claimed to be on the side of The Resistance but we’ll never know. This is a fascinating film about the power of the media. “

The Delightful Pat S is here and she’s back to her old ways too.  Perhaps this sun and warmth is working its’ magic?  “After a few recent forays into fiction, I have fallen back to an old favorite in this riveting memoir Without You, There Is No Us by Suki Kim. Set in the fall of 2011, Kim, a Korean-American writer infiltrates the only privately funded university in Pyongyang. Using her cover as a teacher to the sons of the North Korean elite in order to gather information about living under this totalitarian regime, Kim renders a portrayal which is almost visceral in its' intensity. There are the repressive day to day procedures-complete news blackouts, censoring of all communications, being constantly monitored 24/7. The students have no idea that the 'intranet' they are allowed to surf is only downloaded, pre-approved files, and not the World Wide Web. There is no contact with the world outside of campus unless it has been pre-approved. One such outing included a 98 mile ride on a government road-during which they saw not a single other car-coming or going. As for the students-Kim finds them age appropriately  naive and charming-yet tragically stunted in their thinking. Their speech is constantly marked with references to the Great One, and the superiority of North Korea in all things-technology, farming, sports. Kim feels herself choking from the claustrophobia of this lifestyle after only a short while. But she can leave. This book will stay with you long after the last page.”

Steph?   Yup she’s already anticipating even better days ahead.  I’ll let her explain. “Something about this weather had me in the mood for a beach read, so I tried China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan. This sequel to last year’s Crazy Rich Asians is exactly what you want in a fluffy, smart vacation book. If you read the first book, you’ll be delighted to hear that this one follows Rachel Chu and Nicholas Young after their wedding, as she discovers who her father is and gets to see another side of Asia. But if you didn’t read the first book, you will love this just the same. Lots of family scheming, social feuds, elaborate clothing and jewelry, houses and hotels and clubs you couldn’t imagine in your wildest dreams, and strata of Asian society you didn’t even know existed. Because these characters aren’t just rich—they’re China-rich. I definitely don’t have what it takes to succeed in Hong Kong or Singapore high society, so it was delightful to experience a version of it vicariously!”

I have to tell you all about an amazing debut novel that I spent last week savoring like the best meal you’ve ever eaten.  Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal introduces us to Eva Thorvald who ends up becoming one of the all-time most influential chefs of her generation.  Each chapter tells about a dish and the character attached to it that made Eva the famous amongst the food intelligentsia.  I like to think of it as what Art of Fielding did for baseball, this book will do for the food traditions of the Midwest such as lutefisk and Bake-Offs.  It comes out at the end of July and it has already earned a spot on my Top Ten List for 2015.

DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here from The State Which Shall Not Be Named which is rich with Wolverines.  That’s all I am going to say about that.  What’s good Pats? “Holy Cow by David Duchovny has been amusing me nightly. Sure I’ve read the reviews that pan this book as a hot mess and maybe it is but it has been making me laugh out loud on a regular basis and that’s never a bad thing. It’s a coming of age story of Elsie Bovary, a cow living the life on a milking farm in upstate New York. Elsie leaves her paddock one night with a friend with the intention of visiting the bulls. She wanders off and ends up viewing snippets of a television program at the Farmer’s house about industrial meat farming. This sets her on a journey to the holy land for cows, India. I’m still reading it and have been enjoying this delightfully bizarre tale.”


You Are What You Read!

It’s just all too much sometimes isn’t it?  The unrelenting bleak, the cold chill, a steel grey sky without a whisper of blue?  It’s beginning to feel like winter is never going to loosen its grip that the rain and cold will never end.  Will a warm sunny day remain a phantom limb for us?  Something dimly remembered from a previous lifetime?  Well, this week’s message fromThe SoNo Loft is “Hang in there Baby.”  I say we all need to heed this one.  Sure it feels like the rain and cold are never going to end, that a warm sunny day is an itch never to be satisfied, but look around People!  The pansies are out at Nielson’s and the Gardener's Center, and in my neck of the woods I have spotted daffodils and they are blooming.  Granted, these daffodils were planted near a dryer vent so they had a lot of help. But maybe, just maybe, there is a nugget of truth about April showers and all that.  Stay strong!  I have heard from The Weather People who supposedly know these things that Sunday we will finally see a temperature that begins with the number 6.  This is normal for this time of year and as it should be.  I say that if this turns out to be a lie, everyone should just turn on the TV on Sunday afternoon and watch The Masters. We can look at green grass and blooming azaleas and remind ourselves that our turn is coming.  This week we have the Dump, the Shroud of Turin and some crack.  Of course we have The Playlist!  It’s a little soggy but it won’t melt.

Let us begin!

Laura is back from her vacation with Hades by Cynthia Fox. “This is an ultimate page turner.  This Aussie's debut novel is a gripping and chilling read. Readers know who the killer is, but not who will be the next victim.  The hunt to find the killer is narrated by Detective Frank Bennett, who is partnered with the lovely and mysterious Eden Archer.  She, and her brother Eric, are the adopted daughter and son of Hades, who is the patriarch/owner of a strange underworld located at the city dump.  All three have a secretive back story that is riveting, page by page.  I read this during a vacation and didn't want to put it down.”  

Virginia the Tall Cool Texan has just finished The Fifth Gospel, Ian Caldwell. What are you thinking VA? ”Ten years in the making, The Fifth Gospel, by Ian Caldwell is first and foremost an intellectual literary suspense novel that explores theology, scriptural interpretations and the political machinations that happen inside the Vatican walls.  At the root of the plot, is a newly discovered Gospel text that has the potential to prove the Shroud of Turin, the controversial religious icon, is indeed a true relic holding the image of Jesus after he was crucified.  A week before an exhibit is to open announcing the discovery, the lead curator is found murdered and two brothers are drawn into the investigation. One as the lead suspect, and the other is fighting to discover the truth before his brother is stripped of being a Priest.  This book is a fascinating read about the history of religion, but ultimately the book is about humanity, relationships, and how one priest struggles with maintaining the delicate balance of family and faith.”

Steph Is a mess.  I’ll let her explain. “I’ve been wrecked by a book again—Delicious Foods by James Hannaham. It’s a compulsively readable and intense novel. Darlene is a young widow and mother whose depression after her husband’s death leads her to crack addiction. When a nice woman in a minibus downtown offers her a good job if she gets in, sure, she can call her son when she gets there, and hey, want to smoke with us on the way? It seems too good to be true, and it is. Immediately, Darlene finds that she’s contracted to perform hard labor on a farm and is being billed for the old mattress and terrible food they provide. The farm is so distant that no one is even sure which state it’s in and workers are kept pliant with alcohol and crack. (Think this is too crazy to be true? Here’s just one story about such an occurrence and it has happened multiple times.) The story unfolds with alternating chapters from Eddie, Darlene’s son, as he looks for her, and then finds and stays with her on the farm, and Scotty, who is the voice of the crack cocaine she can’t quit. Both voices are, as you’d imagine, heartbreaking.” and the story is brutal. But Hannaham’s writing is fantastic and unflinching even as the story gets darker and darker. If you’re mentally prepared for it, I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

DJ Jazzy Patty McC is in da house with the doings from The State Which Shall Not Be Named.  What’s good Pats? “Falling asleep to the sound of the rain is one of my favorite things. I have always loved the smell and sound of the rain. Now it turns out there’s a name for that wonderful smell, petrichor. We’ve had plenty of it this week.  Ok, it’s rained ALL week and while this is a verdant, fecund time for emerging plants and flowers waking from winter, it’s been a bit of a drag for my kiddos during their Spring Break Staycation. Ever resourceful and without direction the kids have built a tent city in their room, rode bikes in the rain and spent hours Minecrafting together. There is now an entire wall covered in freshly drawn anime characters.Me? I have been itching to get out, plant something and dig my hands into the dirt but maybe it just isn’t time, yet. There are times when we need to wait, watch the rain, reflect and, like the plants, absorb things. So for now I’m just going to hang in there, watch my kids create things and smell the rain. I can always garden next week.


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