You Are What You Read

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.


You Are What You Read!

Happy Easter, Passover, Vernal Equinox, Grilled Cheese Month!  Whatever it is that you celebrate we wish you a happy one.  This weekend will bring us the Full Pink Moon named for the blooming pink wild phlox.  Yup. That’s not happening. Although, I will say on my runs in the evening, I have noticed that the Snow Drops and the Glory of the Snow are FINALLY blooming.  So that’s encouraging.  This full moon is also known as the Sprouting Grass Moon which makes sense or the Egg Moon, again there is a sort of sense to that too, but then there is the Fish Moon.  I have no idea why fish would be involved. Are they spawning?  Were they wintering in the deep, deep depths and now they are back closer to the surface and therefore catchable?  If anyone out there has the 411 on the springtime ways of those that swim among us, just let me know and I’ll reveal all next week. Our image this week is of Sweet Ann’s Egg Tree.  Because, really?  How could we not bring you The Egg Tree?  This has become Tradition.  Thanks Ann!  This week we have France, Miami, the Cunard Line, a pilgrimage, a hobby and some California.  The Playlist?  That’s becoming Tradition too.  Can’t mess with Tradition!

Let us begin!

Sweet Ann has just finished The Nightingale by Hannah Kristen, which is rapidly becoming a staff favorite.  Let’s see if she likes it as much as others have.  “This is the first book that I have read by Ms. Kristen and I believe this novel is her first in the historical novel genre.  It is the story of WWII France and two sisters whose lives will be uprooted and changed by the war.  Vianne is married with a young daughter. Isabelle, her younger sister, is a woman who takes risks and won't let people or situations keep her down.  At first I was concerned when I started this novel that it would be similar to many WWII novels I have read before where a main character reflects back on his or her war experience, but this was a different slant on a story and it was quite good.   The story follows the sister’s lives as they choose very different paths.  Vianne will do anything to keep herself and their daughter safe until her husband returns after being imprisoned in a Nazi prison.  She will also have to contend with having German Captain Beck live in her house.  He is an interesting character and at times I found his actions to be caring, something usually not associated with a Nazi officer.  Isabelle, on the other hand, will not stand by and let the Germans take over.  Her decisions will put her life and the lives of those closest to her in danger. This is a well written fast paced novel.”

Always Fabulous Babs B is thrilled to have a new Joy Fielding to tuck into with Someone Is Watching.  “I was so excited to see a new Joy Fielding book and was not disappointed. The story centers on Bailey Carpenter who is a special investigator for a Miami law firm.  On one of her assignments spying on a deadbeat dad in the middle of the night, she is viciously attacked and nearly killed.  Once she is released from the hospital she becomes a veritable prisoner in her own home, unable to venture past her front door without panicking.  To fill her time, she uses binoculars to casually observe from her window the neighboring buildings and other people's lives.  Anyone else see Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window going on here?  Bailey fixates on the handsome guy across the street and then suddenly realizes he is watching her too.  Suddenly she starts thinking the terrifying possibility that he may be the man who shattered her life.  The police become involved and do a check on this man and he is totally clean.  Bailey feels like she is losing her sanity as nobody believes anything she says.  Suffice it to say, there is a real twist at the end which I never saw coming!  Good to have you back, Joy!”

Barbara M has tackled Erik Larson’s latest book Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania.  Larson describes the tragic event of May 1915 which needn’t have happened.  As he has done with his other books Larson creates an atmosphere by telling the story from different viewpoints; the Cunard Company, the captain of the U-boat, the passengers and crew of the Lusitania, President Wilson, and the British government. His research is meticulous and it is the details which make the story come alive.  For example, one of the passengers, Charles Lauriat Jr., a book dealer from Boston, boarded the Lusitania with two priceless items; a set of drawings by William Makepeace Thackeray and a copy of A Christmas Carol with annotations made by Charles Dickens. Although we know how the story ends Larson’s writing makes this a compelling and exciting read.”

Pat T, as always, can be found listening. Here is what she liked this week. “The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessey by Rachel Joyce is the companion book to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye. I just finished listening to the audio book and I think it enhances this charming story. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye takes us on a journey with Harold as he sets off to walk 500 miles across England to visit his friend, Queenie, who is at the end of her life. Now, we have the pleasure of hearing about Queenie's recollections of her friendship and love for Harold. Both books reveal delightful characters reflecting on their lives and move forward with dignity and courage as they reach out, in friendship, to one another one last time. As I began reading Queenie's story I couldn't help but think of one of our former co-workers, who hailed from Britain, because he originally recommended, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye, to ‘all us wonderful librarians’! I hope life is good for him and his children, across the pond!”

The Ever Delightful Pat S got her hands on It’s What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario which was a book she was highly anticipating.  Here’s what she thought. “Recommended by a colleague, this memoir is a fascinating exploration of the life and times of an award-winning photojournalist. Addario grew up in Westport, Ct and discovered photography as a hobby in her early teens. After college, wanting to travel and see the world, she wound up in South America and it was there she began to photograph people and realized that photography was a way to tell a story. ‘It was the marriage of travel and foreign cultures and curiosity and photography. It was photojournalism.’ From that moment on, Addario worked ceaselessly  to become the best. Paying her dues in South America, she returned to New York where picture by picture, she began to climb the professional ladder which ultimately brought her to the New York Times. It was on a trip to Afghanistan to photograph an essay on women's issues in 2000 that provided the tipping point for Addario. After September11, 2001, she was one of the few photographers who already had a working knowledge of the Taliban. Ultimately, it is Addario and her colleagues who put a human face to war, genocide, and countless other crimes against humanity in the international arena. After being robbed, kidnapped, beaten up, and molested in the course of her work, Addario's only response to the question Why? is 'It's what I do.’ Not yet forty, Addario has won a Pulitzer Prize and been awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant. I can't wait to see what she does with the second forty years.”

Miss Claire of the Children’s Library has just read   Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero. “Gabi, A Girl in Pieces was the winner of the Winner of the William C. Morris award, given to a debut YA author, and it’s not impossible to see why this novel has captured so many readers of teen literature. Told through Gabi’s diary, I was immediately drawn to the character’s honest portrayal of the struggles of being a Mexican-American teen living in California, especially when your father is an addict and your best friend just found out she’s pregnant. Gabi’s story is both humorous and poignant, and witnessing her transformation into a poet and writer is worth every page! “

DJ Jazzy Patty McC!  From That State Up North!  What's good Pats? "This Easter and Passover feels particularly auspicious. Before sunrise on April 4th we can witness a total eclipse of the Full Pink Moon that will last approximately 5 minutes. Times and locations for best viewing can be found here.  We’re making preparations for our creative session of egg coloring. I am cooking up a tiny ham, loads of vegetables and a Raspberry-Ricotta Cake for our Sunday celebration here with the folks. Big thanks to Jen for the cake recipe share! May your holiday involve eggs, a shared meal with family and friends, some chocolate and don’t forget the music.


You Are What You Read!

The words fromThe SoNo Loft this week are “Just Build It.” As always The Loft is ON IT.  I have noticed that there seems to be a movement afoot.  People seem to be just building their own damn Spring.  For me, there is the refusal to wear a hat.  I won’t do it.  You can’t make me.  Gloves came next and then this morning came the realization I am down to one knee high.  This can only mean one thing.  It’s time to start thinking about the return of the Bare Leg.  To be honest, The Amazing Amanda started that trend 4 days ago and she gave me the courage to begin to even think about it.  And we are not alone in this!  There was this article in the New York Times on Wednesday all about it.  And you know when the Times reports on it, it’s a real thing.  So begin building your very own Spring!  Daffodils are 2 bunches for $5 at the Whole Foods.  Even I can afford this.  Buy them in bulk and strewn them all over your home.  Banish the grey, the sad and the cold.   Just Build It already!  This week we have a new romance, twins, spies, life lessons,  Civil Rights, and New Jersey.  Did DJ Patty McC build The Playlist?  You know she did!

Let us begin!

The Amazing Amanda asks us the following question:  “Are you tired of dainty debutantes and aggressive men with no personality? Then Mary Jo Putney's The Lost Lords series is going to keep you busy for the next few weeks. The books follow the romances of the first class of well-born, but badly behaved young lords of an early 18th century academy. These are not ordinary gentleman since they range from one duke being half-Indian, another is a master spy, others have fought in the Napoleonic wars, while Lord Grey languished in solitary confinement for 10 years. Each man is evenly matched with an equally intelligent woman. These ladies are accomplished and struggling against the restrictive social order of their times. What I appreciate about these stories is the characters are well-rounded, flawed, and working towards goals that matter to them. Be warned though: these books are violent and feature passionate lovers. They're fun to read through and keep you guessing as to who the villain is in every tale. “

Miz Mallory the Programming Diva is getting creative as is her wont.  “Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun tells the story of Jude and her twin brother Noah. Told in alternating voices, Noah’s chapters take place when the twins are 13-years-old and Jude’s take place when they’re 16, this was just what I needed after some heavy nonfiction. What seems to matter most to the twins is what happened in those in-between years, the ones not on the pages. When Noah tells his story, the twins are inseparable, often sitting as close as they can just to feel as if they are one being. When Jude tells her story, the twins are cold and distant. As the story goes on, you begin to learn what happened between 13 and 16, what caused the twins to turn their solid, joyful relationship into a sad, almost non-existent one. You’ll fall for Noah and Jude equally and be screaming at the pages for them to just talk to one another. For lovers of LBGTQ fiction, literary YA, and sibling fiction (which is a genre I just made up), two enthusiastic thumbs up.”

Abby has a new series she wants to share. “I pursued a Soviet Studies in college. No, it hasn’t really helped me much but I did enjoy the writing and lively discussions. Then I discovered the series The Americans. Talk about a series being right in your wheelhouse! The series features 80’s pop culture, excellent spy tradecraft, and a tremendous amount of emotional manipulation. It stars Keri Russell as Soviet sleeper agent Elizabeth born Nadezhda, who was paired with Phillip nee Mikhail played by Matthew Rhys, and placed inside the United States as sleeper agents for the KGB. The KGB trained them to blend in, have a family and live life. And they do just that; until they are activated. Once their missions start rolling in, the borscht really hits the fan! Add to this a marriage that started out as an assignment but has clearly always been more than that to Phillip who is indeed in love with Elizabeth. Will the love be reciprocated because she too loves Phillip, or because it’s her job? The writers do some very interesting things with Elizabeth and Phillip as they juggle their home life with their responsibilities to the motherland. They have an arsenal of techniques to recruit others to their cause and are not above seduction, threats, and executions. Watching them exploit the vulnerabilities of their targets is extremely uncomfortable, yet you pull for them on some level while loathing their actions and trying to will their prey to somehow resist and fight back. Be prepared for a rollercoaster ride filled with the excess of the 80’s, cold war brutality, and the use of sexuality to serve a cause. “

Virginia the Tall Cool Texan can be found on a treadmill listening to Monday's Lie by Jamie Mason.  “At some point in our lives, we all hear our mother’s voice in the back of our minds with the lessons they taught us about how to handle ourselves. For me, it was how to conduct myself as a strong, smart Southern woman. To quote my mother ‘always be the one wearing the pink suit in the boardroom full of men. Show them you are a woman and you aren’t going to be forgotten.’ It's those little life lessons that make each of us unique, but for the main character, Dee Aldrich, in the book Monday’s Lie by Jamie Mason, her upbringing is a little bit different.  You see, her mother was a top-level spy for the government and she made hyperawareness, sleuthing, and other spy traits as part of her upbringing.  For Dee, her mother’s long absences and alternative lifestyle were too much, and so as an adult she chose the polar opposite, instead settling down with the most normal man she could find and living a nice, if uneventful life. But you can’t escape the lessons learned in childhood, and soon Dee becomes aware things are not right, and she will fully need to rely on what her mother taught her if she wants to survive. I recommend this as a fun Spring Break thriller or if you are like me, and need something to take your mind off of your time on the treadmill, it is the perfect audiobook and can be found on Hoopla.

Steph is taking recommendations!  Here’s what she recently picked up. “I took Barbara’s advice and read March: Book Two. This is the second volume in a planned trilogy written by John Lewis, the Congressman from Georgia who is the only remaining member of the Big Six of the Civil Rights Movement. In the first volume, the scene was set for the movement and Lewis’s involvement; in this volume, the action escalates quickly, as Lewis and his colleagues launch the 1961 Freedom Riders campaign at great risk to their lives. Lewis (and his co-writer, Andrew Aydin and illustrator, Nate Powell) are honest and clear about the violence and hatred they encountered, the difficulties and the successes of peaceful civil disobedience, and the disagreements inside the movement. The simplicity of their storytelling, which is set against an ongoing subplot about President Obama’s first inauguration, is powerful beyond measure. I read it twice and it gave me chills each time. This is not just one of the best graphic novels of the year, but one of the best history books, period. “

I was gifted an Advance Reader’s Copy of In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume.   In her first adult novel in 15 years she looks at a 3 month period in 1951-1952.  I was during this time a series of passenger planes crashed in her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey.  Blume draws on her own memories of that time to bring us the stories of those who witnessed this horror on the ground but those who perished in the crashes.  Her voice is still as magnetic as it was whenever you first happened to read her. This one comes out in early June.

DJ JaZZY Patty Mc!  What’s good this week? “Winter is finally giving way to spring and everyone here couldn’t be happier. Sure, we’re wading through big muddy puddles but we can see green living things emerging from the swampland. The snowbirds are flocking back to their northern nests and I’m not talking about the geese. The geese beat my neighbor’s return and they make their presence known in many, many ways. I’ve been mucking my way through construction sites looking at houses. It was a coincidence that The Loft proclaimed, “Just Build It”. I’ve got lots of building plans this spring that include raised garden boxes and some really cool vertical ones. I’ve got the tools to do it. So whatever your particular proclivity is for building or creating. It’s spring. Now’s the time! I thought a little Muddy Waters would be appropriate right about now. “


You Are What You Read!

This week has felt like nothing so much as one step forward and two steps back.  It began with so much promise too!  I enjoyed my first run down to the water since December on Monday evening.  There was a gently setting sun, a new pair of kicks, a softening of the ground, a whisper of warmth in the briny air and the promise of better days.  This all circled the drain the very next day when the temperatures plummeted and on Wednesday snow bedeviled my morning walk to the train. My poor sister-in-law shared a picture of her garden on St. Patrick’s Day encased in at least 6 inches of ice and snow. She was wondering how she was going to get her peas planted.  The answer is, sorry Cathy, you’re not. There are no fresh peas on the Tundra.  Add to this misery, my third cold of the season (seriously? I am practically bullet proof! I never get sick, truly) and I am finding it hard to find any hope or promise of better things to come at this point. But then I noticed something as I was walking to work. I noticed a bona fide, true miracle. The witch hazel bush that lives on the corner of Thorndal Circle and the Post Road in the Nielsen’s parking lot was, wait for it, BLOOMING! There was a living thing. OUTSIDE. WITH FLOWERS ON IT!  So if you, like me, are at the point where you feel in your heart there is no hope to be found, and your soul is weary and grey like the snow left on the side of the road,  get yourself over to Nielsen’s and check out the Witch Hazel.  It just may make you feel better or it just may make you finally book that one-way flight to points South. Your choice. This week we have an accident, civil rights, a library, Walter Reed, France, NYC, a frozen pond, and a dicey trip on a luxury liner. We may be cold but there will always be The Playlist.

Let us begin!

Sweet Ann is here this week.  And I for one want to know when we are going to see an Egg TreeAnnAnn?  Anyway, here is what she thinks of The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer.  “This is an engrossing, well written novel about a young man named Matthew who is a schizophrenic.  Matthew narrates the story as a young man reflecting on his childhood and the death of his older brother Simon.  When Matthew was nine years old there was an accident and his twelve-year-old brother, Simon, who had Down syndrome died. Matthew has blamed himself for years for Simon's death.  Matthew shares his reflections, his relationship with his parents and his mental anguish.  The author changed the typeface of the book at times to reflect Matthew's mental state which really helped to convey his emotions. I found this book to be fast paced and engrossing.  I highly recommend it.”

Barbara M is out of her comfort zone with this week’s read. ”I’ve just finished reading March: Book Two the second non-fiction graphic novel by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell.  It is the story of incredibly courageous people enduring horrible consequences while fighting for their basic rights, the rights most of us take for granted. This is the history of the Civil Rights movement in this country as I’ve never heard it told before, written by a man who was an integral part of it. Congressman John Lewis was the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and was one of the six people who spoke at the 1963 March on Washington. He is the only one still alive. The book is powerful and moving and should be required reading for any High School student studying American History. “

Pat T, as usual, can be found listening. “I took a patron's suggestion to read this short, imaginative tale by the author who also wrote Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage.  I listened to the audio of The Strange Library, by Haruki Murakami. I must say I found the young boy to be  very endearing when he would say, ‘My mother taught me.... to return books on time; if you knock on a door you have to wait there until someone answers it and when you want to know something look it up in the library.’ His mother's instructions get him into trouble when he is directed to Room 107 in search of books about how taxes were collected during the Ottoman Empire. There he encounters a very strange man who imprisons him in the basement of the library. Things then proceed to get dark and curiouser and curiouser, similar to Alice in Wonderland when she went down the rabbit hole.”

Diane just finished Blue Stars written by Emily Gray Tedrowe. “This novel recounts the lives of Ellen, a Midwestern college professor whose guardian has enlisted in the Marines, and Lacey, a Bronx native married to a career Army man always struggling to make ends meet. The novel brings these two women and their families together at Walter Reed Medical Center. The daily stress, frustration and bureaucracy involved with the care and decisions being made for their injured family members are mixed with the long term realities. Adding to this stress, are the deplorable conditions many families face during temporary housing while on the Walter Reed Campus .I really enjoyed this very emotional story.”

Babs B can’t stop talking about how much she loves The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. “It is 1939 France and the quiet village of Carriveau is on the brink of changing forever.  The once peaceful and bucolic town has turned into a horrific show of airplanes, war tanks, bombs and Nazis. Vianne Mauriac, the young wife of a recently drafted soldier, is obligated to house a Nazi.  Her rebellious sister Isabelle, chooses the dangerous path of joining the French Resistance. This was a great historical fiction novel and I thought the author did a wonderful job explaining this complex story and taking the time to make the reader understand the complex characters and their journey throughout the book.  I even gave up one of my favorite TV shows because I loved this book so much!”

The Always Delightful Pat S never wastes her time on silliness so let’s see what she thinks of  The Whites by Richard Price. “As you know, Crime and Detective/Mystery are not really genres I read often but I made an exception in this case because the buzz has been so hot. Situated in New York City, we are introduced to Billy Graves, who holds a position as a detective in the graveyard shift which is essentially a placeholder until he reaches retirement. But once he was part of a young and aggressive group of crime fighters known as the Wild Geese who all graduated from the Police Academy together. As we are introduced to the other four ‘Geese” we see that time and experience have beaten them down. Each has had a traumatic encounter with some heinous thug which has left them deeply disillusioned, made all the more so by the fact that these thugs were never brought to justice. Until now as one by one, the various perpetrators are being found dead throughout the city and it falls to Billy to investigate. The mystery is not the most compelling feature here, it is the writing. Rarely has the grittiness of New York’s boroughs been so keenly described. Price does a brilliant job of painting the barren emotional landscape after twenty years on the job for these policemen. Overwhelmingly, the reader is left with a sense of hopelessness because good doesn’t always trump evil. Not for the faint of heart!”

Sue is reading a fiction and a non-fiction book this week and she is enjoying them both. “My fiction choice is The Winter People by Rebekah L. Purdy. Salome Montgomery truly fears winter, unlike those of us who are just sick and tired of it. She’s not a fan of the cold, the snow, the ice, but most of all she is afraid of the frozen pond she fell through as a child. Haunted by the voices and images of the strange beings that pulled her to safety, she hasn't forgotten their warning to ’stay away.’ I am really enjoying reading this book and I highly recommend it to those who also share a love of all things otherworldly!  My non-fiction choice is Dead Wake; The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson.  On May 1, 1915, a richly appointed luxury ocean liner sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were anxious and rightly so with the knowledge that Germany had changed the rules of war to include attacking passenger ships. Erik Larson's writing makes me feel like I am on the decks of the ship where you can feel the intensity and uncertainty of war around you.  Dead Wake is a page turner and a must read!”  

DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here from The State Which Shall Not Be Named with our final thoughts of the week and of course, The Playlist.  What’s good Pats? “I know we’ve all had it with winter. We said goodbye to Phil last week. We are more than ready for spring. But there’s been a new development. I’ve been told by my conspiracy loving friend that there’s a final email circulating from the rodents. Phil’s still down under, soaking up the last of the summer rays, chilling in the surf, practicing the putt and consuming beverages topped with umbrellas. He’s angered his band of rogue rodents who’ve been left behind due to new airline restrictions. They’ve said they’re planning an early April Fool’s Day joke. Phil is flying back Friday and they’ve decided that his arrival should include some flurries, maybe more than a few, a last winter blast that will sting. Apparently rodents hold a grudge and have a long memory. Wishing us all springtime weather soon.”



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