You Are What You Read

You Are What You Read!

Hosted by Jen Dayton
Hosted by Jen Dayton

This week was quiet for me.  Perhaps we are all still listening instead of talking?  Sweet Ann was quiet this week because she was under the weather but she is now on the mend and is grateful for it.  Her words of wisdom is really just one word.   Ann says Gratitude.  So reflect on that if you will.  Even the SoNo Loft is quiet this week as there are no messages hanging from the deck (Sorry Susan of Fairfield Cheese Company!).  Even though the weather was truly dismal for everyone this week (didn’t seem to matter where in the country you were: too wet, too dry, just meh), there were two things that went down that I considered Glad Tidings.  I love that the most eligible bachelor in Hollywood picked Brains over Bimbo in the selection of his fiancé.   There was a great piece on this in, of all places, the New York Post.  You can read it here.  I also loved that a certain franchise owner’s nasty mouth/attitude/beliefs got him in a whole lot of trouble and we won’t have to hear it anymore.  Ugly is as Ugly does and sometimes it is just reassuring that the Universe is indeed on top of this stuff, that good things can happen and justice is served.  It’s also nice to be around to see it.  This week we have Great Britain and Germany, emotional casualties, dog, tribes, Preps, more dog, Galveston, a Chief Resident, and a parade of historic figures!  Playlist?  Got that!

Let us begin!

Laura is doing lots of reading for her book group.  “Life After Life is my favorite book group pick of 2014, so far.  I enjoyed it more than Goldfinch but not by much.  Both authors, Atkinson and Tartt, drew me into the hearts of their protagonists but Atkinson's Ursula felt like a very close friend telling me all her travails of WWII, in all her reincarnations.   Ursula was engaging, giving a close perspective of someone personally enduring WWII from both the British and German sides. “

Jeanne is still doing one thing.  I think there is something very wrong with this and I am beyond concerned. “I watched Jayne Mansfield's Car, written, directed by and starring Billy Bob Thornton, Robert Duvall, John Hurt, Kevin Bacon and others. The cover says "Torn Apart. Driven Together." And they are. In 1969, in a small southern town, war has left its emotional casualties but ultimately human need creates some overdue and unusual family ties.”

The Ever Delightful Kim: Owner of Shiny Boat Shoes is reading Uganda Be Kidding Me by Chelsea Handler.   “Chelsea Handler has no filter when it comes to talking about her trip to another continent with her friends.  One of the most ridiculous conversations is when Chelsea is deciding whether or not to fly her dog on a private plane to another country because she believes he must miss her.  In all, this book is a page turner!”

Barbara M agrees with me about her pick this week. We cannot endorse this one highly enough.  One thing Barbara forgot to say is how much she loves the cover.  I do too!  It's amazing. “Lily King’s new novel, Euphoria, is very loosely based on the life of anthropologist Margaret Mead. Nell Stone and her husband Fen are studying tribes in New Guinea when they are befriended by a fellow anthropologist, Andrew Bankson, who becomes intimately entangled in their lives. The writing is beautiful and the tension of both the situations that arise and the relationships between the characters is palpable. This is definitely a book worth reading.”

The Fabulous Babs B has just finished The Headmaster's Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene.   “Arthur Winthrop, like his father before him, is the Headmaster of an elite school in Vermont.  But nothing is what it appears to be in this brilliant and beautifully written story of a life gone awry.  After reading the first half of this book I thought to myself wow and little did I know the second half was even better. Finishing it, I found myself re-reading the first few chapters as to make sure I didn't miss anything in this complex story.  Part mystery, part love story, this is a layered story of love, unbearable loss and grief.  This was a quick read and I highly recommend it!”

The Tall Cool Texan Virginia is listening to her brother. As my brother will tell you, it’s something I should have done long ago. “It is amazing how much your family can influence your reading habits.  My brother first introduced me to James Rollins’ Sigma novels several years ago, and I have been a fan ever since.  So I was super excited to learn Rollins was introducing a new action series, The Kill Switch which features Army Ranger Tucker Wayne and his brave companion, Kane a military working dog.  The novel has lots of action, and enough conspiracy to keep you guessing.  It’s coming out in May.  I also just finished and highly recommend, The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon, a psychological suspense novel, but with the under-current of a good old-fashioned ghost story.  Fair warning however, if you live in the woods then don’t read this when you are alone, because it is seriously creepy.  West Hall, Vermont is a town that has always been plagued with mysterious ghostly sightings and legends but when people begin to disappear, the secrets of a hundred years must come out, even if it reveals things better left in the woods.”

Claire of the Children’s Library is not reading anything remotely childlike.  But it’s making her happy.  Let it slide people!  “Galveston is True Detective creator, Nick Pizzolatto's first novel. The main character, Roy Cady, exudes a bit of Rust and Marty for any fans of the acclaimed HBO series. The opening scenes had me on edge as Roy barely escapes a bloodbath, fleeing New Orleans with a young prostitute in tow. As they both try to start new lives in East Texas and finally Galveston, Roy can't seem to leave the past behind. This has everything I want in a noir novel: a bleak motel, gritty but lovable hero, and enough twists and turns to keep me awake on Metro North.  According to the press they are already turning this gem into a movie. Galveston was also a finalist for the 2010 Edgar Award for Best First Novel.”

Steph is on a tear. “I’ve been obsessed with thrillers this week. Probably my favorite of the bunch will not surprise regular readers of this email: Doing Harm, by Kelly Parsons. After hearing Babs and Virginia rave about it, and then after Stephen King called it ‘the best damn medical thriller I've read in 25 years,’ I couldn’t resist. I found the ending a bit too neat, I thought the tension level was just perfect. And though I normally loathe arrogant characters, arrogant chief resident Steve Mitchell was the perfect protagonist. This would be a great beach book, especially for readers who love medical true crime like one of my recent favorites, The Good Nurse.”

I have another book from 12 that I am excited about.  You remember that I told you about 12? They are a division of The Hachette Book Group and they only publish 12 books a year.  By limiting it in this way they are all about the quality of the product.  You are pretty much guaranteed an amazing read if 12 is putting it out.  What is Visible is a debut novel by Kimberly Elkins and it is indeed remarkable.  Laura Bridgman.  Does the name ring a bell?  She was the most famous woman in the world in the 19th century after Queen Victoria and yet we have forgotten about her.  Laura was the first deaf and blind person to learn language under the care of Samuel Gridley Howe at the Perkins Institute in Boston.  It was Laura, in fact who ended up teaching Anne Sullivan the Tactile American Sign Language method that Sullivan then used to teach Helen Keller.  This book has a parade of historic figures such as Charles Dickens, Julia Ward Howe, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and John Brown to name a few.  It is due out in early June and we have also purchased it for our Book in a Bag program for book groups.  It also has a great cover!  

DJ Patty McC is ruminating on one of the news stories mentioned earlier.  And no, it’s not about George Clooney’s engagement.  It could have been.  But it’s not.  Here is her Playlist for the week. “This July 2nd marks the 50-year anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This is something to celebrate and folks should hold some epic 4th of July parties in honor of how far we’ve come. How far have we come? I’ll give you a hint or better yet, let’s play a word association game. I’ll list all the things that have been troubling me as of late and you guess the theme. Ready…Set…GO! Cliven Bundy, Donald Sterling, Dani Alves, and Affirmative Action in Michigan, are you sensing a theme yet? It would seem the time is ripe for some delicate discussions of race. This week I invite you to lead that elephant out of the room and into the daylight. Better yet, let’s bring that elephant outside for all to see and have a real candid, honest discussion about race in our country. In the words of Rodney King, “Can we all get along?” because in the end underneath it all, we are all the same.”

New DVD Releases

Here is what you can find new to the shelves in the upcoming days.

You Are What You Read!

Hosted by Jen Dayton
Hosted by Jen Dayton

You will notice that this week there seems to be a lot of listening going on.    Not hearing but listening.  There is a difference. Even those of us who normally have our nose stuck in a book are out in the world and getting our reading fix by listening.  I am not sure what to make of this.   It’s funny when you think of it really.  We all begin our reading lives by being listeners.  No one is born reading, but we are all born listening!  I think that maybe this is really about finally getting away from the warmth of our hearths, getting out into the world but still wanting a story even as we create our own. Because sometimes when you are listening, the message you get is not what you were expecting but there is a truth in it just the same that can turn your thinking and your world around. So get out into the world, revel in the warmth and joy of spring, and take a story with you while you create your own.  This week we have Zulus, sniveling, squawking, dogs, Italy, some boys, Bed-Stuy and Commitment Issues.  Playlist, you ask?  But of course!


Let us begin!


Abby is reading Present Darkness by South African writer Malla Nunn. ” Set in the 1950s during the early days of apartheid, Present Darkness reunites us with Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper. Cooper is deeply scarred by his time fighting in Europe and lives with a number of secrets. While I am generally a passionate proponent of reading a mystery series in sequence, it is especially important with this series. Present Darkness finds Cooper investigating the murder of a white couple. When one of the named suspects is the son of his colleague Zulu Detective Samuel Shabalala, Cooper will not let his superiors or brutal racial divides stop him from assisting his friend. Nunn once again treats us to an absorbing mystery and culture while also shedding light upon the toll South Africa’s inhumane apartheid laws took on the nation of South Africa.  This is to be released on June 3rd.”


Sue S.  Not happy.  Not having it.  “Truth be told, I am a girl who devours a great chic-lit book when I get one.  However, there will be no ramblings about butterflies and rainbows or about how this book should be made into a movie. Instead, I will tell you how much I disliked Chances AreAre by Barbara Delinsky.  This book was torture as I was subjected to what should have been a smart, strong female character, but ended up being a sniveling, insecure self-doubting individual who only gains confidence from what I can only describe as a male chauvinistic pig who has never heard of the term ‘No means No’.  I would never recommend this book to anyone who has any sort of self-worth.  If you are looking for a good chic-lit book I do not recommend this one.”


Miss Elisabeth of the CL is as excited as I have ever seen her this week. “This week I devoured, in one sitting, Elaine Lui’s memoir Listen to the Squawking Chicken: When Mother Knows Best, What’s a Daughter to Do? Elaine, or Lainey, is the purveyor of Laineygossip.com, one of my all-time favorite websites. Lainey is an intelligent, witty, take-no-prisoners kind of writer and from her position at the Canadian version of E, she is able to give first-hand accounts of the hypocrisy of celebrities. Her website could be called a guilty pleasure but you will not feel guilty reading it! The Squawking Chicken in the title refers to her Chinese-immigrant mother, a highly-superstitious woman whose squawks have guided Lainey throughout her life. I tore through the book in a mix of fascination, admiration, and horror. Her mother’s determination that she make something of herself and complete aversion to coddling or praising her daughter is something rarely seen in western parenting. You might think that her mom’s reliance on shame, Feng Shui, blackmail, and horrific storytelling as parenting techniques would backfire, but instead Lui’s love and admiration for her mother shines through every page, even when her mother is forcing her to eat a papaya every morning to keep her luck, disparaging her ‘low classy’ roommate, or asking for ‘no tax! ‘at the Pottery Barn. With chapter titles like, ‘I Should Have Given Birth to a Piece of Barbecue Pork’ ‘Miss Hong Kong is a Whore’ and ‘You Will Be Thanking Me Your Entire Life,’ the book is laugh-out-loud funny in addition to making you really want to call your mom. I loved it, and I’ll never bring home anything I found on the street again!”


Pat T is embracing the season.  “Throughout April, we are celebrating National Poetry Month and on Tuesday we celebrated Earth Day, so I thought it fitting to share one of my favorite poets, whose work reflects our connection to nature. Dog Songs: Thirty Five Dog Songs and One Essay by Mary Oliver is her latest book of poems and a particular favorite of mine since I have a great affinity for dogs! Oliver captures the special relationship between dogs and their owners. Two other works by Mary Oliver that are equally wonderful are, A Thousand Mornings and Why I Wake Early.”


The Ever Delightful Pat S has just finished The Secret of Raven Point by Jennifer Vanderbes.  Here’s what she is thinking.  “While never a fan of book about war, here is one that took me by surprise. Part coming-of-age, part mystery and part wartime saga, The Secret of Raven Point by Jennifer Vanderbes is an illustration of what war does to people both the good and bad. Opening at the start of World War II in a sleepy South Carolina town, Tuck Defresne enlists to the sorrow of his devoted younger sister Juliet. When after a short time, Tuck is declared MIA, Juliet takes a crash course in nursing and gets shipped to Italy where he was last seen.   This is where the novel really takes off. In the little covered Italian Front, Juliet is faced with the raw facts of war, the daily insanity littered with broken bodies and broken minds that constitute the Front Lines. In the course of Juliet's search for Tuck, she comes to know a Private brutalized as much by his comrades as by the enemy; a minister who must redefine his moral compass as decreed by the idiotic rules of war; and a doctor who must maintain his faith in his own ability against overwhelming odds. Vanderbes does an excellent job of creating a world where there is no black and white, just the very real and very raw desire to survive.


Jeanne is still just doing one thing, and I cannot deny what a worry this is to me.  It should worry you too. “I am listening to The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown. True to the reviews, if you liked Unbroken you will also like The Boys. But the latter stresses the necessity of teamwork more and Joe Rantz came from a very tough background, with nothing and no one, but his own resources and strong will. How can he fit in as a member of an elite crew at the University of Washington? The story moves slowly at first, but Edward Hermann is a terrific narrator with a voice that will keep you listening. “

Steph is also listening this week! “This week on my mini-road trip I listened to the audiobook of P.S. Be Eleven, a middle grade novel written by Rita Williams-Garcia and narrated by Sisi Aisha Johnson.  I’ve wanted to read it since it won the Coretta Scott King Award earlier this year, and when I saw the ACD on display I knew the time was right! (See, our displays even work on librarians.) This book is the sequel to One Crazy Summer, which won the Newbery Honor, but it’s not necessary to have read that book to try this one. It is a fantastic historic novel set in Bed-Stuy in the late 60s, and follows the story of sixth-grader Delphine as she settles back into her life after spending a summer with her Black Panther activist mother in Oakland. Her year involves a lot of transitions: becoming a sixth-grader, her first school dance, the introduction of the Jackson 5 and saving money to go to their concert at Madison Square Garden, her pa getting married, and her uncle coming back from Vietnam with a lot of pain. As a result, the book goes back and forth from mundane to serious issues remarkably well, with Delphine’s strong voice at the center of it all. Williams-Garcia’s writing is just spectacular, bringing history to life with simple flourishes. This ought to be required reading for all Brooklyn tweens and teens, because it is such a great snapshot of its time and place. Johnson gives even more vividness to Delphine with great narration and impeccable voice acting that evokes, rather than a cast of characters, a twelve-year-old’s perception of that cast of characters. This was a great acting choice for the book, and the hours of my drive flew by as Delphine told me her story. I can’t recommend it highly enough!


I have to drive once a week.  It makes me miserable but it’s something that must be done.  Monday’s ride to my Monday night commitment was especially brutal.  How does it take a human 40 minutes to get from here to Westport?  Happily I had Selected Shorts as my companion.  As we discussed last week, I have Commitment Issues.  While it is a serious problem where DVDs are concerned, it goes double for Books on CD.  My fellow commuters swear by them but I am too scattered to devote attention to a full blown book while I drive.  This is the genius of Selected Shorts.  For those of you who don’t know what this is, Selected Shorts is a program that is on every Saturday on WSHU at 3:00 and it matches great short stories with great readers who also happen to be great actors.  People like William Hurt, Parker Posey, and John Lithgow to name a few.  So while I can’t commit to a full blown novel, I can commit to a short story of 20 minutes or so in length.   The one that saved my sanity on Monday night was from the collection entitled (what else?) Behaving Badly, specifically the Stephen King story Popsy read by Michael Imperioli. The story line involves a gambling addict named Sheridan whose marker is coming due.  How does he pay them off?  By abducting young boys and selling them to a man named Mr. Wizard. But this time around Sheridan may have just picked the wrong kid to mess with.  This wonderful series is just perfect for those errands around town when you can’t face another minute of commercial radio. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

DJ Jazzy Patty McC is also listening!  And as we said at the start, the message that she received was not really what she was expecting, but it was welcome just the same. Here is her take on the week. “I seem to be a bit stuck in my feminist leanings from last week.  Might it have something to do with the Paycheck Fairness Act? Or maybe it was the negative media attention given to Hillary Clinton and her impending status as a grandmother? Or maybe it was the lingering negativity directed at United States Senator Feinstein accused of being emotional on issues of torture? I’d say it’s all of the above.  During this time of my own angsti-ness, my dear Wunder-Jen asked if I had heard the song ‘Water Fountain’ by tUnE-yArDs. Indeed, I had and I like it. I like it a lot. Merrill Garbus was interviewed recently by Pitchfork and was asked how she came by her new shift in sound. She replied that she walked into a public library and checked out the book, ‘How to Write a Hit Song’ by Molly-Ann Leikin. Well, now this spoke directly to me; musicians, how-to books and public libraries? Stop! The autodidact in me sang with joy. Then I began to reflect on what I considered a disservice to my Sisters by underrepresenting them last week on the playlist. It bothered me, it did. So this week I bring you, Women Who Will Rock Your World! Now let’s get to work on the rest of those misogynistic notions. Note: The entire album ‘Nikki Nack’ by tUnE-yArDs won’t be released until May 6th but you can listen to ‘Water Fountain’ now. Jen and I give it two big thumbs up. I sense a summer hit song/album. “

You Are What You Read!

Hosted by Jen Dayton
Hosted by Jen Dayton

I feel I should tell you this right off the bat.  We are not playing with this whole winter reappearance thing.  It is just wrong that my car can be covered not only with pollen, but snow and ice too. If I am going to have allergy issues, it should at least be warmish out there.  Babs B and I are still committed to maintaining the bare leg policy.  And now, Erin has joined the sisterhood and is bare legging it too.  I have foresworn the winter coat and don’t want to see it again until maybe November.   Sweet Ann has decorated the Egg Tree and is ready for Sunday.  Even Sally has declared that she is only wearing spring colors from here on out.  The message hung outside the SoNo Loft says, “Long Live the Fighters” so it would appear that they would be with us if they knew we existed.    So won’t you join us in solidarity?  Declare it spring and it will be so!  Don’t let the cold, the snow, the sleet and the rest win.  It’s spring already!  This week we have a dead doctor, winner! winner! chicken dinner!, some disappointment,  spies,  Boris!, and an Oscar winner. The Playlist?  It’s here too.


Let us begin!


Sweet Ann has just finished A Circle of Wives by Alice LaPlant. “This is a murder mystery with quite a twist. What makes this novel different is that the victim is married to three women. Dr. John Taylor, a renowned plastic surgeon, is found dead in a Palo Alto hotel.  Dr. Taylor and his wife Deborah are not happy after their thirty years together. But rather than divorce and lose her social standing, she comes up with this crazy idea to keep her husband happy and her marriage intact. She has helped him find two other wives who do not know that he is married.  MJ is a hippie type with quite the past, Helen is a renowned children's oncologist and there might be another woman no one knows about.  This was a fun read.  I also enjoyed Ms. LaPlante's previous novel, Turn of Mind which told the story of a woman suffering from Alzheimer's who is being investigated for the murder of her best friend.”


Barbara M is asking questions. “What would do if you won 18.5 million Euros in the lottery? That’s the dilemma the protagonist in My Wish List by Gregoire Delacourt faces. Although it seems like a simple problem, it isn’t really; the consequences are life changing.  Jocelyne and her husband of twenty-one years live a rather mundane life in a small town in France. Their children are grown, she runs a fabric shop and he works as a manager in a factory. When she wins the lottery she decides to tell no one except her elderly father who, after having had a stroke forgets everything every six minutes.  What she does instead is make a list of how she could spend the money. This is a delightful little novel about change and choice. ”


Virginia the Tall Cool Texan is bemoaning a lack of substance. “When I first started The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger, I was really hopeful it was going to be one of those fun chick lit books that just begs to be read on the beach.  Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to its potential.  Sophie, the main character, is a promising young criminal attorney who gets roped into handling a complicated divorce for the daughter of the firm’s top client.  Begrudgingly she takes the case and while her criminal-law approach to the divorce wins accolades from the client and the partners, it leads to tension in the office.  To add to her stress, handling a divorce has made her question the choices she has made in her personal life. Written as a series of emails, memos and lots of legal materials, the story ends up getting lost in too much legalese.  Don’t get me wrong, I have a fondness for the epistolary style of writing and the author showed promise, but if you were to subtract all of the pure legal jargon (most of which you end up skimming) you really have only enough substance for a short story. 


Steph is here this week to tell us about an interesting author mash-up. “Last weekend I read Decoded by Mai Jia and loved it. Jia is one of China’s most famous novelists, but this is his first book translated into English. It’s a fantastic quasi-spy thriller/historic novel of cryptology and genius. The combination means that fans of Amy Tan and John le Carre will find something to enjoy in this one!”


Jeanne is here with only one thing this week.  But, I must say that she is very excited about it.  “Even if you have already read The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, you must listen to it on audio. I borrowed it through Overdrive and David Pittu is BRILLIANT as the young and older troubled Theo Decker, his nerdy friend Andy Barbour, his crazy, but loyal Russian friend, Boris and his savior and extraordinary antiquarian, James ‘Hobie’ Hobart. There are many more characters that Pittu gives voice to in an authentic, entertaining manner that enriches Tartt's fascinating story of losses, loves and deceit in the art and antiques world as lived in New York City, but also Las Vegas, Amsterdam and Maine.”


I always have the best of intentions.  Truly.  But as my sons will tell you, the DVDs that I usually bring home become coasters for my evening wine and are never even opened.  In fact, son Thomas greets all instances of DVDs appearing at home with a requisite eye roll, a voice tinged with disgust and the following statement, ‘Great.  Another DVD we won’t watch.’  That being said, Barbara M recently pressed one into my hands, insisted I bring it home and actually watch for a change. And so I recently had the great pleasure of watching Twenty Feet from Stardom which won the Oscar for best documentary.  Twenty Feet brings us into the world of backup singers and their very complicated and fraught relationship with fame. I loved the Bruce Springsteen piece in the beginning of the film where he states that the ‘20 feet walk to the spotlight can be complicated.’ Of course it can!  Not all of us want the spotlight.  A whole lot of us are very content to be twenty feet away from the spotlight doing what we do.  But imagine if you will what the Stone’s Gimme Shelter would sound like without the amazing vocals of Merry Clayton.   Hardly the same song I would imagine.  You really come to admire these ladies and I guarantee that you will be in awe of their gifts.    Barbara was right. Take this one home and play it.


DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here with The Playlist and some thoughts on one of my favorite Rites of Spring: the reappearance of Mad Men.  I do love me some Roger Sterling. “So I gave up watching Mad Men due to my own issues. Yes, it’s a wildly popular TV show. Yes, those things really happened. I just couldn’t get over my own reaction to the sexism that was played out in every episode.  Does this make me any less a feminist? I’d like to think not. Then my sweet partner pointed out the number of men vs. women on my playlist this week given the era. I balked, choked, spit, sputtered and showed him the women on the playlist. He was right. There were a disproportionate number of men vs. women. I grew up in the Motor City.  I know music. I do. But I’d missed out on some great women who were sharing their voice. This week may we all find our voice as women, men, individuals and people who might otherwise need help finding it.     Now, rock on ladies…

You Are What You Read!

Hosted by Jen Dayton
Hosted by Jen Dayton

Spring is suddenly everywhere we look and we are all out there staking our claim. Like the swallows to Capistrano, and the buzzards to Hinckley Ohio, the osprey’s have returned to their summer home over at the police station.  The pansies are out next door and across the street and I have seen the eight man shells out on the Norwalk and Saugatuck rivers from my train.  What is probably the ultimate sign that we are hurtling into spring, The Traveling Companion is with the rest of his Writing Brethren at Augusta reporting on his 29th (!)  Masters.  I suspect he must have felt a bit like Dorothy leaving behind the gray of Kansas and stepping into Technicolor Munchkin Land. Erin is rocking the seersucker and she has stated that she refuses to wear her winter coat anymore. As for myself, I have committed to the Bare Leg. Not so much because it’s spring, it is more that I am down to one pair of hose and I just can’t face buying more.  So there’s that. And the fact that I hate wearing hose, and that Babs B. started the Bare Leg  earlier this week.  I figure if Babs says it is fine to do so, then it is so. This week we have a road trip, a spooky mystery, donations of a kind, some flawed humans (are there any other kind?), April in Paris, a marriage, and the love of books. And really? A weekend without The Play List?  Not happening.


Let us begin!

You Are What You Read!

Hosted by Jen Dayton
Hosted by Jen Dayton

This week has been totally schizophrenic has it not?  Monday morning’s  soul crushing snow and cold which gave way to an afternoon full of sun and warm breeze, the beauty of yesterday (have we seen anything like that since October?  I don’t think so!) and then today cold spitting rain.  It’s April and my boy T.S. Eliot was not lying when he called it the ‘cruelest month’.  I don’t know about you but I found myself literally chasing sun this week.  Whenever it was out, so was I and I was amazed at how it elevated my mood and outlook.  The People of the Weather say that this Sunday is going to be amazing while the beginning of the week will be a sodden sorry mess which I suppose gives credence to the whole April showers, May flowers thing, so I charge everyone with the following task:  Go outside and play.  Take a walk, plant a pansy, visit the beach and report back. I promise you that you will be amazed at how good you will feel.  This week we have lots of things, some midlife, a couple for the ages, hoarding, tension, the reappearance of Jeanne, an amazing debut novel, and what would Friday be without The Playlist?

Let us begin!

Barbara M is showing her gathering skills this week.  “I absolutely love Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities by Kevin Kelly.  A Thank You to Lois for bringing this book to my attention. It is a modern version of The Whole Earth Catalog filled with solutions to things you never knew you needed solutions for. I’ve already bought one to give as a gift. It’s filled with things I never knew I needed: a JarPop easy jar opener, E.A.R. foam earplugs, a Black and Decker Accu Mark Level. It’s a catalog and so much more with helpful advice like how to keep track of your books and which seat to choose on an airline. It’s an encyclopedia of useful and useless facts, objects and sites guaranteed to keep you glued to your computer for hours and hours.”

Sweet Ann is reading a book that has rapidly become a darling of the Reader’s Advisory Department, The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles by Katherine Pancol.  “This is a French novel which was translated into English but anyone can relate to it.  The characters in this story are dealing with job loss, infidelity, disgruntled teenage children and other midlife issues. The story centers on Josephine whose husband leaves her to raise crocodiles in Africa with his mistress.  She and her two daughters are devastated and the eldest, Hortense is angry at her mother for her father leaving.  Josephine's life becomes more complicated when her sister convinces her to go along with a crazy scheme. This is a light, enjoyable read that will make you smile.  I think this book is a great way to welcome spring or bring to the beach in a couple of months.”

Miss Elisabeth of the CL spent a pleasant 117 minutes this week with one of my personal favorites. “I actually squealed with glee when I saw it: The Long Hot Summer is streaming on Netflix! This is one of my all-time favorite movies. The chemistry between Paul Newman and his future wife, Joanne Woodward, is so crackling it leaps off the screen. They play characters that embody the archetypes we saw them as: Newman is the drawling, gorgeous outsider with a heart of gold and charisma aplenty, while Woodward is an ice queen with a molten core. I think it’s one of the sexiest movies (with no sex!) ever produced. The script was based on two William Faulkner short stories, one of which, Barn Burning, can be found in The Art of the Short Story in the Literature section, or on audio in Collected Stories.  This is a must-see, and it’s very rarely available on streaming sights, so watch it while you can! “

Virginia the Tall Cool Texan is heeding my advice.  Good Girl Virginia! “Having never read E.L. Doctorow, I was on the verge of picking up his new book, Andrew’s Brain when Jen made the recommendation to first try an earlier work of his, Homer & Langley.  I am so glad I did because I just loved the book.  This novel is based on the infamous New York hoarders, Homer and Langley Collyer. Doctorow takes considerable historical liberties by extending the brothers’ lifespans and exploring their inner lives.  It is well-written, interesting, fun but at the same time absolutely tragic when you realize these two men had real lives with serious problems that in the end destroyed them.”

Steph is reporting back from last week. “To complete my report on The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara: Wow! I loved it. I like nothing more than being surprised by a book, and this book surprised me on multiple fronts. Yanagihara is a spectacular writer. What’s impressive beyond her obvious ability, though, is her ability to write in the pompous voice of a horrible person while simultaneously skewering that person. Further, though she builds up tension so subtly that I’m not sure I’d be able to expect it on a re-read.  This tension builds to the point of near breath-holding in the final sections. I only wish I had read it sooner.”

Jeanne has been quiet these past weeks.  A little too quiet if you ask me.  Here is what she’s been up to. “I have been busily reading 2014 Nutmeg nominees to get ready for Nutmeg @ Night and trying to catch up to the fantastic four Children’s Librarians. Maybe that won’t happen, but I am having so much fun trying. My current favorites are The Candymakers by Wendy Mass and Closed for the Season by Mary Downing Hahn.  I have also been listening via Overdrive and Hoopla so here is my audiobook playlist. I absolutely loved A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. The narrator, Colette Whitaker was perfect and the story, while a tragedy in the very recent past, was compelling with great characters and fantastic dialogue. I enjoyed Divergent and Insurgent by Victoria Roth and read by Emma Gavin.  One of our esteemed colleagues says this is cookie cutter dystopia, but if you haven’t read the other cookies, who cares? I tried The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philip Sendker and I am not sure if it was the narrator, Cassandra Campbell or the story, but I abandoned that about half way through.  I went on to listen to Orange is the New Black: My Year in A Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman; also narrated by Cassandra Campbell. It is a memoir of the author’s time in Danbury’s Federal Correctional Institution.  She served several years of time after doing something very stupid and illegal while a student at Smith. I thought Campbell was a perfect voice for the author and the many different inmates that Kerman meets.  I am currently hitting PLAY on The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and read by David Pittu. This book has gotten a lot of great press and I have high hopes.”

I am totally in love with Flying Shoes by Lisa Howorth.  This debut novel, based on the author’s life has me savoring each and every sentence.  Mary Byrd Thornton is a matron of a certain age living her life in a Mississippi college town when the phone rings one morning. It’s the police telling her that she and her family will need to go back to her childhood home in Virginia because they have cracked the long cold case of what happened to her nine-year-old stepbrother back in 1966.  The writing is rich and descriptive and just downright darkly funny in a way that it seems only southern writers can be.  This one comes out in June and I am buying lots of it. 

DJ Jazzy Patty McC has left The State Up North this week for the Wrong Coast.  While I am sure that this is an improvement in climate, I am not sure that it is an improvement in general.  “This week I boarded a Boeing 767 headed for Los Angeles to enjoy a respite of sorts, an opportunity to relax, catch up with friends, soak up some sunshine and perhaps bury my feet in the sand. What I hadn't planned for was spending 4.5 hours seated with a man who was violently ill the majority of the flight. Let's just say that there were not enough plastic bags to contain the fluids or prevent it from hitting the deck. I'm giving myself a reboot. Right now I'm sitting on my cabana balcony overlooking a work of art by David Hockney in the swimming pool. Foster the People just shot their video here yesterday for their new song Best Friend and today the radio world will descend on the hotel for the Worldwide Radio Summit. I think I'm going to get in the car, drive out to Santa Monica, dig my toes into the sand, soak up some rays and listen to some tunes. This just might be the reset button I need. So today, find your reset button, push play and chase after some sunshine. I'd be willing to bet it will put a little spring into your step.”

Nice New Book Goodness!

Selected by Jen
Selected by Jen

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

You Are What You Read!

Hosted by Jen Dayton
Hosted by Jen Dayton

This week I have been thinking about the nature of Lost and Found.  Sometimes you lose things and it’s perfectly fine if not downright welcome.  Lose ten pounds?  Sign me up!   But lose your temper or your sanity?  Not so good.  It would appear size is not a factor when we lose things.  You can lose a needle in a haystack or one of those annoyingly necessary earring backs, but you can also lose a jet over an ocean and this week it would appear a circus lost some elephants.  Last week it looked like we had finally found spring only to lose it again this week.    The same is also true of finding things.  Find some trouble?  Not so good.  Finding your bliss?  It can be as elusive as that aforementioned needle but a wonderful thing when it happens.   What are Sweet Ann’s Words of Wisdom this week?  “Lose the blues and find the good!”  Duly noted, Ann.  As for spring, I am happy to report that we wrote our check for our CSA Shares this week.  This has to mean that we are just that much closer to warm sun and blue skies.  This week we have a RHONY, two friends, disgrace, a dinner, quarantine, Chicago, Papa H, and of course The Playlist!

Let us begin!

Caroline takes time out of her crazy schedule to share what she’s reading when she’s not here or being the mother of twins.  That she can get anything read at all is a miracle to me.  “To quote Phaedra Parks, 'Everybody knows...' Everybody knows I never met a Bravolebrity book I didn't like.  But let's be honest - some are better than others.  Thankfully, Carole Radziwill's new novel, The Widow's Guide to Sex and Dating, is well worth the read, due in large part to the fact that she was actually an established author before she was a Real Housewife of New York City.  Her celebrated memoir, What Remains, recounted her life as a journalist and her husband's battle with cancer.  The newest NYC housewife, Kristen, recently described Sonja and Ramona as her ‘crazy drunk aunts.’  Well I think it's safe to say that The Widow's Guide to Sex and Dating is the crazy drunk aunt of What Remains. Quirky, fun and compelling, you won't want to put it down.  At least not until Housewives comes on.”

Sweet Ann has just finished My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. “This is the first novel in a trilogy that will follow two friends, Elena and Lila from childhood to old age.  It opens with the adult son of Lila calling Elena to inquire if she knows where his mother is.  Elena begins to reflect on her childhood shared with her best friend Lila in the early 1950's in a small Italian village just outside of Naples.  Both families are struggling financially after the war and are attempting to raise their families the best they can.  The girls are quite competitive in their relationship in the early years of grade school but as they enter junior high their lives will take different paths.  Elena is often jealous of her beautiful friend and Lila often covets Elena's life.  This is a very interesting well written novel.  As a reader you are drawn into a time when women were not allowed to have opinions and their fathers and brothers could rule their lives.  This novel was translated from Italian and I have to say I was glad the novel contained a list of the families in the village in the beginning. I am looking forward to beginning the second novel, The Story of a New Name.”


Steph is in the middle of something.  “This week I have been making time to read The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara, because I am loving it so much. This book has been piquing my interest as it keeps advancing in the Tournament of Books, beating books that were personal favorites. How could any book defeat our beloved Life After Life in a head-to-head competition? Well,  I haven’t finished it yet so I can’t say which is better, but this book is certainly a contender. This debut novel is disguised as a disgraced professor’s memoirs, written from jail after he’s found guilty of molesting one of his children. With nothing to do but reflect on his life, he writes about his youth, time in medical school, and how he stumbled into the secrets of immortality while working with an anthropologist to learn more about one of the last undiscovered cultures in the world. He sends his writing piece by piece to one of his only protégés, who has not abandoned him, and whose presence is made evident by a series of footnotes, alternately explaining and defending the man he still reveres. The effect is spectacular: an incredibly well-written story which is clearly going nowhere good, the tension ratcheting up with every page. I keep crossing my fingers for the train to get stuck in a tunnel so I get extra reading time! I’ll report back next week.


Virginia the Tall Cool Texan is working an interesting take on Lost and Found.  One of her topics involves finding, the other involved decided loss.  I’ll let her explain.  “Food, food, and leprosy…that pretty much sums up what I have been reading this week. I have been in a food rut so I turned to our Home section for inspiration and found Weeknight Wonders by Ellie Krieger and The Chew, What’s for Dinner.  Both offer a wide array of recipes but of the two books I prefer Weeknight Wonders. Krieger’s recipes are simple but flavorful and the few I have tried out have been big hits.  The Chew, What’s for Dinner is a bit basic but has quick and simple recipes laid out in an appealing and easy to follow manner. While  I think this would be the perfect book for a novice cook or a college student,  I certainly would use some of the recipes in a time crunch.  Moving on to leprosy…I just started Moloka’i by Alan Brennert and I am thoroughly enjoying this historical fiction novel.  Recommended to me by a patron, the book is about Rachel Kalama, a seven-year-old Hawaiian girl who contracts leprosy and is taken from her family and sent to the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka’i.  Devastated by the cruel and abrupt separation from her family, and terrified by new surroundings and constant reminders of the devastating disease she carries, Rachel must carve a new life for herself. “


Laura is enjoying a book that has been a Staff favorite for a while now.  “After Visiting Friends, by Michael Hainey is a well-researched quest by the author to find out more about the death of his father who was a larger-than-life newspaperman of the Chicago Sun-Times in the 1960's.  It starts with the story told to him since he was six years old:  which he did not  quite believe:  that his father died of a heart attack in the middle of the night, alone on a  street in the city of Chicago after having visited friends. Hainey uncovers lies and deceptions by family and friends. It is a story of protection at all costs.  But who is really being protected?”


I have a confession to make.  I am reading a book that I love but I almost didn’t pick it up.  I really liked The Paris Wife and thought that all that needed to be said about the lives of Hadley, Papa H, and Pauline Pfeiffer had been said and we could move on now.  But when I read the reviews from the UK that used words like ‘intoxicating’ , ‘breathtaking’ and ‘sublime’  I knew I had to take a peek.  Mrs. Hemingway by Naomi Wood is all of those words and it is making my commute a joy.  What makes this really wonderful book different is the how Wood begins each of the four sections (one for each wife) with the moment that the current wife knows the next wife has won and Ernest is lost to her.    The author has done an amazing job providing each of the women with distinct voices and personalities.  I have just begun Part IV with Mary sorting through Ernest’s papers after his death.  It will be interesting for me to see if Wood renders Death as Papa’s final bride.   This one comes out in May and you are going to not only want it in your beach bag but for your book group come the fall.


DJ Jazzy Patty McC is in da house with these final thoughts Lost and Found.  Take it away Patty!  “What’s been lost is sometimes found. Isn’t life at times like that?  We lose keys, airplanes and socks in the dryer or at least that’s the narrative we tell ourselves.  We lose things because we have things.  We compare and contrast because we’re human.  We sing, dance and create because we can and maybe that’s more important than stuff or things. Now go forth and find something. Find truth, beauty or love in a picture book like the wonderful book Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers. Sometimes the meaning of life is right in your hands.”

Nice New Book Goodness!

Selected by Jen
Selected by Jen

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

You Are What You Read!

Hosted by Jen Dayton
Hosted by Jen Dayton

Happy Spring!  We made it! Sweet Ann’s Words of Wisdom this week are again in the form of a question, “Sure you’re alive, but are you really living?”  The message from the SoNo Loft this week is “Learn to Fly”.  Both are nice reminders that the season has changed and we no longer have an excuse to not be enjoying any lovely day that comes our way.  I hope that you were able to partake in some of our Welcome Spring festivities yesterday.  I know that my mood measurably improved with the short trip outside to the ice cream truck where I heeded the siren’s song of a Toasted Almond Ice Cream Bar and a few minutes standing in the sun.   This weekend do something that makes your heart soar and reminds you that you are indeed living life to its fullest.  This week we have Quebec, Russia,  and some Wisconsin Death Trip.  And what would the weekend be without The Playlist?

Let us begin!

Abby is enjoying a perennial favorite, Louise Penny.  “I’ve just finished book 7, A Trick of The Light in the Chief Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny and keep finding nice surprises in each.  The first book, Still Life, was enjoyable but not what I had expected. I thought the series would be more intense and dark but instead found them to be on the lighter side and quite sentimental. To my pleasant surprise, as the books continue, Penny does a nice job of peeling back the layers of reoccurring characters, exposing depth and yes, a bit of darkness. One of the books has me wanting to learn more about the history of the separatist movement in Quebec. I am happy to go along for the ride as Penny continues expanding upon the residents of Three Pines, the wonderful Chief Inspector Gamache and his crew.”


Barbara M is heeding some advice. “On the recommendation of two of our patrons I’ve just started reading The Dancer by Colum McCann. It is a novel loosely based on the life of Rudolf Nureyev and so far it is so beautifully written that I want to read it at every available moment. It starts in a small Russian town at the end of World War II as the protagonist discovers his love and aptitude for dancing. We all know Nureyev’s story but I can’t wait to see how McCann tells it.”

Last week I told you all about how much I was loving The End of Always by Randi Davenport.  Well, I finished it and while reading the acknowledgements she mentioned a book I had forgotten about as being the inspiration for one of the darker moments in her novel.  Wisconsin Death Trip by Michael Lesy is one of those books that rapidly become an obsession.  This non-fiction work chronicles the years between 1890 and 1910 in Jackson County, Wisconsin.  Illustrated with period photographs and accompanied by text from newspapers and diaries, the scene that Lesy paints is far from pretty.  Are insanity, poverty and degenerate behavior your cup of tea?  Wisconsin Death Trip has it.  If you ever find yourself longing for a simpler time, reading WDT will cure you mighty quickly.  A classic example is this newspaper account of a Mrs. Carter who appears to be having a rough week.

"Mrs. Carter... was taken sick at the marsh last week and fell down, sustaining internal injuries which have dethroned her reason. She has been removed to her home here and a few nights since arose from her bed and ran through the woods... A night or two after she was found trying to strangle herself with a towel... It is hoped the trouble is only temporary and that she may soon recover her mind.”

How much do you love that?  “Dethroned her reason!”  Is that not just the most amazing phrasing?   And I know I am not alone in my fascination with this book.  It was the inspiration for one of our favorites, The Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick and also Stuart O’Nan’s Prayer for the Dying.


DJ Jazzy Patty Mc C. is here with this week’s playlist and and her musings on all things flighty and feathered from The State That Will Not Be Named.  Take it away Patty! “This week I boarded a plane and flew with a papier-mâché chicken in my carry-on bag.  No one questioned it. It wasn’t even given a sideways glance or thorough inspection. It passed through the x-ray machine and then bounced along under the seat in front of me. Now, soon enough my new abode will be abuzz with snowbirds returning from their southern nests to their northern ones. In this new type of communal dwelling for us, I imagine my children will be hatching some sort of entrepreneurial endeavor that will engage and delight our new neighbors. Until then I will look to the skies for sunshine and do a little bird watching of my own.”

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