You Are What You Read

You Are What You Read!

The message from The SoNo Loft is “You Are Not Broken”.  And we aren’t thank goodness. The storm has come and is thankfully gone.  It is the end of January; these things are to be expected.  I like to spend the time before a weather event examining what makes it into the shopping carts of others.   It has always fascinated me what people think they “need” for a big storm.  Does anyone really need an industrial sized drum full of Cheetos?  The only use I could think of was that the orange glow of your hands would enable you to be found in the dark should power be lost.  Or perhaps that same orange powder can melt snow?  People!  As my mother used to say, a loaf of bread, a dozen eggs and a bit of cheese and you’ll be just fine.  She left out the Liquor Store but I have to believe that was implied.  Monday, the PA Rodent will emerge from its bunker and hopefully this year he will have some good news for us. Make a wish and here’s hoping that the Full Snow Moon which is going to occur on Tuesday is totally misnamed. This week we are all over the map and we have Boston, more Boston, Hong Kong, Newfoundland, Florida and New York.  And of course The Playlist!

Let us begin!

Pat T. has finished Boston Girl by Anita Diamant.  Here’s what she thought.  “The cover of this book depicts a young girl engrossed in her book as she sits on a post surrounded by water and this picture captures exactly what I felt as I was reading this book. Addie Baum, as 85 year old woman, looks back on her life when her granddaughter asks her the question, ‘How did you get to be the woman you are today?’  Her story is full of warmth, sadness, love, misunderstanding, friendship, loyalty and humor. I didn't want to let go of the pleasure of reading this lovely novel!”

Mall has also just finished Boston Girl  and she too is a fan.  “Thank you, Juno, for encouraging me to devour Anita Diamant's latest novel, The Boston Girl. Addie Baum narrates the story of her life, growing up in the North End of Boston to immigrant parents during the turn of the century. As a young girl, Addie's active curiosity brings her to The Saturday School, a literary and arts club for young women from all backgrounds. Don't let that make you think it's all poetry and embroidery; Addie and a group of young girls all surround and eventually scare off an abusive man with nothing but croquet mallets and baseball bats. The story is about Addie, sure, but it's also about the power of female friendships that help in shaping a whole, complete person. Teachers, friends, sisters, colleagues, and granddaughters, they all play a role in this book. Keep your phone handy because you'll be calling every important woman in your life after finishing this one!”

Abby is starting a new series this week. “While I did not read book group favorites The Art of Hearing Heartbeats and A Well-Tempered Heart by Jan-Philipp Sendker, I was excited to see his upcoming book Whispering Shadows (April 2015) is the first of a mystery trilogy., German-American Paul Leibovitz was always fascinated by China and as an adult expat in in Hong Kong, he was living the life he dreamed of when he suffers an unimaginable loss. Moving to a small island in Hong Kong accessible by ferry, Paul is immersed in grief and barely able to manage contact with others. When approached by an American couple whose well-connected businessman son has gone missing, Paul turns to his police detective friend Zhang.  Zhang is a devoted friend who understands Paul’s grief and does his best to draw out his old friend. Zhang himself is badly scarred from events that took place in his youth during the Cultural Revolution.  I’m looking forward to how Sendker moves Paul and Zhang’s investigations into a trilogy. “

Barbara M is also on an island this week.  In a different part of the world but an island just the same. “An island off the coast of Newfoundland is the setting of the novel Sweetland by Michael Crummey. The Canadian government has decided that it was no longer viable for them to provide services to the island and so they offer the inhabitants large sums of money to move to the mainland, but only if they all agree to leave. There is only one hold-out, Moses Sweetland,   whose family has lived on the island for twelve generations and for whom the island was named. The descriptions of island life are vivid and the dialogues which are written in dialect all add to the atmosphere. The pace of the book is leisurely and the author alternates between the present and the past revealing the islanders’ histories. I am thoroughly enjoying this book and am totally captivated by the story of this remote place. “

Steph is reading about weddings.  This is not surprising.  But this week she is reading about a fictional wedding.  “Over the weekend, I read I Take You by Eliza Kennedy, a very funny and oddly sweet debut novel. The novel begins a week before the marriage of Lily Wilder with a drop-dead introduction:
“I’m getting married.
He’s perfect!
It’s a disaster.”
For though her fiancé Will is indeed fairly perfect, and though pretty much everything about her life is perfect, there’s one big problem: Lily can’t stop cheating on him. She’s not even sure she wants to get married at this point. She, Will, and her closest friends all head down to Florida to meet with the neurotic wedding planner and her odd family to prepare for the big day.  A great book for fans of Jincy Willett or Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, or anybody who likes their books funny and with a sharp bite.

It’s no secret that there is a core group of us who are Bravo fans.  Big, big Bravo fans.  We discuss and dissect the Housewives, chat up Top Chef, and basically worship at the Altar of Andy.  Andy is now keeping me company on the days I drive to work with The Andy Cohen Diaries:  A Deep Look at a Shallow Year.  Andy draws inspiration from the other Andy, as emulates the Andy Warhol Diaries looking back on a year in his life and all who come into his orbit.  The title is truthful: it’s shallow but it’s also much fun. Andy is unabashedly in love with New York, pop culture, celebrity and he’s not afraid to dish.  Definitely not something you would want to listen to with kids in the car though so be warned about that. 

DJ Jazzy Patty McC!  From The State Which Shall Not Be Named.  I have heard that it’s her birthday next week (the 4th for those who like precision) HAPPY BIRTHDAY PATTY!  And thanks for our weekly playlist!  Everything goes down easier with a playlist!  What’s good this week Birthday Girl? “I was almost jealous of the mountains of snow you folks were promised during Snowmaggedon. I thought about the luge my children made in our front yard last year and remembered the joy that it brought them. It’s been seriously cold here but the Snow Gods have been kind to us this season. We’ve not been out sledding yet and are still searching for the perfect hill. So I thought this week you might need a playlist for future snow days. Whether you are shoveling, snow blowing or just staying warm inside consuming carbohydrates and hot chocolate it goes without saying that we need tunes. I recommend this one on shuffle. Stay well and stay warm.”


You Are What You Read!

Well the voice is back and so am I!  A week of sitting on my Sad Little Couch has restored my voice and my health. My son, Thomas S, will be the first to tell you that the real relief is not that his mother is feeling better. Rather, it is a twofold relief.  Relief one:  real meals are back and there is not a drop of broth to be found.  Relief two:  I am no longer sitting on the Sad Little Couch plotting living room re-orgs.  Because I had all that time praying for a swift end that refused to come, I had the time to finally deal with an awkward room arrangement that had never really been pleasing to me.   Is there anything worse than opening your front door and being greeted by something you know isn’t quite right but you can’t quite figure it out?  Well, this past week I finally figured it (after 3 years!) and now when I open the door I am greeted by a warm and cozy Nest of Tranquility. Thomas, I promise, we’re done with the moving of the furniture.  For now.  The message from The Loft is Kaizen Does Not Equal Perfection.  What the what you say?  Kaizen is a Japanese business philosophy that embraces positive change as a way of improvement which can apply to basically everything in your life from business to your personal life.  So, to you, Thomas S, I say we Kaizened the Living Room!  Who knows what other Kaizens the year will bring!  This week we have some magic, Mennonites, Ohio (OH-IO!!!), a dress shop, a train, Jack Nicholson, New Canaan, shots (ouch!) and the need for a Revolution.  And it’s a cold cruel world out there, People!  But everything is easier with The Playlist!

Let us begin!

Virginia the Tall Cool Texan is giving us a cliff hanger this week. What’s the story VA? “Aaahhhh, my inner nerd is temporarily satisfied.  Two weeks ago I was introduced to The Magicians series by Lev Grossman, and I am absolutely hooked.  Think Harry Potter meets Narnia, but darker and grittier.  The trilogy starts with The Magicians, where you are introduced to the brilliant, but awkward Quentin Coldwater, a high school student who finds reality dull and gray compared to the magical world of Fillory, the setting of his favorite childhood fantasy novels.  All of that changes one day when he gets invited to attend Brakebills, the prestigious and very secretive college of magic.  There, Quentin finally finds his footing with new friends and a newfound confidence with his skills in magic.  But the real adventure begins after graduation when Quentin and his friends discover that Fillory, the fictional land of the beloved children’s novels, is indeed a real place and in need of their help.  What should have been Quentin’s greatest dream to come true, has become his greatest nightmare, and even with the help of magic he might lose what he loves the most.  This is not a children’s book.  It has hints of hedonism, it can be violent and at times very dark but it is also very addicting. ”

Sweet Ann is here to tell us what she thinks of All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Towes. “This very well written and thought provoking novel follows the relationship of two sisters, Elfrieda,(Elf) and Yolandi(Yoli) from their childhood in a Mennonite community in Canada to adulthood.  Although growing up in a very strict community where women were held down intellectually and artistically, Elf and Yoli are given a great deal of freedom to become who they want to be.  Elf becomes a world class pianist and is happily married to Nic.  Yoli's life has been more difficult in that she has had two children with two different fathers, her present marriage is failing and the new novel she is working on is not coming together as she would like. From afar it looks as if Elf has everything a person could want, but she is suicidal and wants to end her life. It is also the wonderful story of family love told with humor and touching family moments between the sisters and extended family. I highly recommend this book.  “

Pat T is still listening. “I have just finished listening to the audiobook, Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng and I came away from it feeling that while it is very sad story, it is well worth listening to. James and Marilyn Lee live in a small Ohio town in the 1970's raising their three children. They have centered their attention and ambitions on their lovely middle daughter, Lydia. James wants Lydia to have friends and be popular in school: Marilyn wants her to be a doctor. The family is shattered when Lydia's body is discovered in the town lake. Was it murder or suicide? Family secrets, questions of how and why are unraveled in this moving debut novel.”

Sue is looking for love the way she usually does!  Between the covers of a book!  Here is her new favorite on the Romance front. “I read The Dress Shop of Dreams and just totally LOVED it.  I highly recommend it for someone who is looking for a light romance mixed with a tad of magic and mystery! The story centers on Cora Sparks a scientist who is missing out on life by hiding in her lab and her grandmother Etta who runs a dress shop which has more to it than meets the eye. Throw in a lifelong friend who has loved Cora all his life, but who is seemingly invisible to Cora and two separate mysteries and you have a romance novel that is guaranteed to please!”

Babs B is here with a current favorite The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.  “This debut psychological thriller has been compared to the very popular Gone Girl.  The story centers on 3 women; Rachel, who is the narrator, is a lonely divorcee who gets caught up in the disappearance of a woman named Megan.  Megan has problems of her own, namely cheating on her husband.  Then we have Anna who is married to Rachel's ex-husband.  Are you with me so far?  In the twisted conclusion, all three women and the men with whom they share their lives, are forced to alter their delusions about others and themselves, their choices and their respective relationships.  After finishing this novel, I thought about what a great Alfred Hitchcock movie it would have made of it.”

The Always Delightful Pat S is here and she’s not very happy.  “Watch Me is the second of two memoirs Huston has published in the last 18 months. A Story Lately Told covered a childhood spent in Ireland, far from the land of fame and celebrity inhabited by her father, the famed director John Huston. The first volume was beautifully written, with sharp observations of people and situations that ended in the late sixties, just as Angelica had embarked on an international modeling career and a potentially unhealthy relationship with a much older photographer. Watch Me opens in the early seventies in California, when Huston fled the bad relationship and a stalled career. However, almost before taking a second breath, she meets Jack Nicholson and proceeds to follow him around the world for the next almost twenty years. Yes, she decides to follow acting seriously, but in a rather desultory way. The next few decades are described in a series of Hollywood vignettes which feature the rich and the fabulous attending parties the rest of us only read about. The acting continues, even garnering a coveted Oscar award. Finally, in her forties, she meets the artist Robert Graham and embarks on marriage. At the end of this second volume, I felt sad for an obviously talented woman who seemed to have lived life mainly as an adjunct to the men in her life, beginning with her father. There is something strangely removed in the telling of the events she shares which makes this second volume superficial, with nothing much under a beautiful veneer. Disappointing.”

Steph!  Here with directives! “Over the weekend, I devoured The Invasion of the Tearling, the sequel to last year’s Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen which was one of my favorites of last year. In Queen, Kelsea was elevated to rule a kingdom she barely knew after a childhood full of preparation. As queen, she replaced a cruel system put in place by her mother which sold Tearling subjects as slaves to a neighboring kingdom to appease the feared Red Queen.  With this abrogation, she won the hearts of almost everybody in her kingdom, and all looked forward to a new era. In this book, the realities of ruling have set in, and Weary Kelsea has little time to develop her kingdom or mature as a ruler. Under the stress of her position, she has started to go into fugue states and travel back in time, seeing her world’s past which is our world’s future,  through the eyes of Lily, a young woman living in the gated community of New Canaan (yes, that New Canaan) which is  a semi-Atwoodian dystopia. Lily’s story starts out as an interesting side plot, but quickly becomes more important to Kelsea as a crucial moment of decision grows nearer. The conclusion is as satisfying as the second book in a trilogy can be which is to say that I wasn’t left hanging, but I’m desperate for the final installment. As with the first book, Johansen’s writing is exciting, evoking both Kelsea and Lily’s rapid emotional changes well, and the pacing is perfect. This book is being released in May. Those who haven’t read the first book yet should start there, and then join everyone else in anticipation!”

Laura is looking toward the news for her recommendation this week: “Given the recent measles outbreak in Southern California, it is worth reading Eula Biss's On Immunity: An Inoculation.  Determined to make the right choices for her baby's safety and well-being, Biss leaves no stone unturned as she delves into the arguments that surround the fears and benefits of inoculations.  Her essays are wide ranging and include history, environmental concerns, big drugs dual role in making something effective and profitable and the emotional weight of parents who want to do what is best for their child, no matter what.  I will tell you, she's in favor of vaccinations. But when her father, who is a doctor, calls the non-vaccinators idiots, she rises to their defense heralding their argument that much more should be done in our world to safeguard all of us.  She is relentless in her writing to create fair judgment of all issues.  I think this would be a very helpful book to parents and anyone interested in the well-being of our society.”

I spent my time on Sad Little Couch (Sick Bed just sounds too tragic and while the illness was tragic it wasn’t capital T tragic) watching and reading about a time-gone-by.  In the documentary Manor House, which was first broadcast in 2002 on PBS, 21 people are brought together in a real Manor House on the border of Scotland for 3 months; 6 are Upstairs, 15 are Downstairs.  Think Reality TV for your inner nerd. There is actually a position below stairs for a Hall Boy.  This is a dude who literally lives in a hallway below stairs on a sort of Murphy bed arrangement.  The message basically is that he so lowly that he is not deserving of a room of his own. If after watching this you are still puzzled about why the Russian Revolution happened I can’t help you. This will be especially true after hearing the “Poor are always with us speech” by the Lord of the Manor.  The gist of this ghastly pontification is that they are always going to be with us and aren’t they lucky to be serving him.  Another bit of Good, Nerdy Fun is How to be Victorian: A Dawn to Dusk Guide to Victorian Life by Ruth Goodman.   It is exactly what the title says, beginning with your wake-up ablutions and ending with the things that go on in the dark.  You will be thanking the Good Lord for indoor plumbing, electricity, pharmaceuticals and no need for corsets.  I promise. 

Here’s DJ Jazzy Patty McC from The State Up North.  She’s got it way worse weather wise than we do so how about a bit of tea and sympathy for her please? What’s good Pats? “This week I think all the smart animals are hibernating during this dreadful season. Seriously, I’ve had enough of the Polar Vortex, single digits and a wind chill that forces the temperature into the negative. Lake effect? Yeah, we’ve got that too. I imagine it says, ‘We’re dumping snow all over the western part of the state and giving you cloud cover so you’ll never see the sun again. Send fudge and we’ll consider giving you partial sunlight on some days. AND It depends on how good the fudge is.’ My daughter has been home with some sort of virus for the past week with a fever. My neighbor, aka the surgeon across the hall and owner of Dax the dog, told me that all the staff at the hospital have been or are currently ill with the exception of himself. Then he included me in the healthy stats and promptly knocked on all surrounding wood to ward off any ill in a superstitious kind of way. What am I doing to stay healthy? I’m cooking and reading right from the Soup chapter of Marcus Off Duty this week. Why? Because he’s a great chef and every chapter comes with his own playlist to listen to while cooking. AND you know I love that!”


Nice New Book Goodness

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!

Words.  This week I have none.  Literally.  My words from last week became prophesy on Monday afternoon when the sickness began.  I couldn’t even watch The Game past halftime.  The Traveling Companion however taped it for me and because he is a wise man, and because he has learned from our unfortunate taping history he stayed up to make SURE that it taped so that I can enjoy that when I am well.  What has been interesting about this whole thing is that when you have no voice, you literally HAVE NO VOICE, and when you do try to talk the world rushes at you begging you not to speak.  So this week I am afraid I don’t have much to say.  Because I can’t.  So enjoy that.  Or not.  This week we have turmoil, a fun home, a convalescent home, an unreliable narrator, paperbacks, and some narcotics.  Playlist?  But of course! 

Let us begin!

Abby is here with what is rapidly becoming a staff pick. “Like Virginia before me, I was charmed by the film Begin Again. Starring Mark Ruffalo and Kiera Knightly, the film tells the tale of two people whose lives intersect at just the right point in time. Ruffalo is a once influential music producer experiencing a personal and professional decline. Knightly is a free-spirited songwriter dealing with a cruel betrayal. When Ruffalo happens upon Knightly reluctantly performing at a small club, he can see something vibrant and special.  Ruffalo’s character Danny exudes both pain and amazing creative energy. Their collaboration and friendship allow them to find their way back to what they most cherish. Real life pop star Adam Levine does a nice job playing Knightly’s beau, and there is a terrific concert performance of a song written for the film I cannot get out of my head. Ruffalo demonstrates why he is one of our top actors and it’s nice to see Knightly and playing a lighter role. “

The Always Effervescent Julia Rae has been joining us on the Front Lines while she is home for Holiday Break.  Here is what she is excited about. “I am lucky enough to attend a college that assigns books for winter break that are actually interesting. My favorite was a graphic novel called Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. The author gives her readers a very personal and engaging overview of her experiences with her interesting, to say the least, family life. She tackles the issues of coming to terms with her sexuality and aloof father. Not only is Bechdel a talented artist, she is also a phenomenal writer, each page was so rich with honesty and stark descriptions I could hardly put it down. The other book I was pleased to spend Christmas reading was Amy Poehler’s book, Yes, Please. It is so difficult to be funny yet engaging and authentic, and yet she pulls it off marvelously. I had a good chuckle at least every page and I always felt uplifted while reading. She gives so much to her readers; detailed anecdotes, hilarious jokes, and heartfelt advice. These two books are definitely getting packed into my already-stuffed bags and going back to school with me!

Barbara M is reading dark this week which is a change for her. “I’ve just finished reading The Stone Boy by Sophie Loubière and it is a psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the last pages. Madame Préau is now elderly and frail both physically and mentally after having spent several years in a convalescence home. She’s moved back to her old neighborhood which has changed drastically since she last lived there. Across the street where there was once a garden, there is now a house and from one of her windows she can see directly into the backyard.  Her neighbors seem to have two young children but Madame Préau sees a third child in the background who she feels is being abused. She tells the authorities, she tells her doctor and she tells her son but no one can find any proof of her accusations. Is this the result of Madame Préau reliving her difficult past or is it real?”

Here is Steph’s take on the same book. “This week I read The Stone Boy, by Sophie Loubière, on the recommendation of Barbara M. Now, if you know anything about Barbara’s reading habits, you know she doesn’t read many thrillers, even French ones. So when she recommended this book, a true thriller from start to finish, I knew it had to be good! The book follows Madame Préau, who has just moved back into her home in the Paris suburbs after taking a break from life for unspecified but seemingly dark reasons. Her days are highly regimented; dinner at the same time each night, cleaning at the same time each morning, shopping every Friday, and a bit dull, so she takes to keeping an eye on her neighbors. She quickly realizes that her next door neighbors have three children, one of whom she sees very rarely and who appears to be abused. She begins to investigate and get the authorities involved, but several previous occurrences keep anybody from taking her seriously. Madame Préau is a terribly unreliable narrator, but a sympathetic one, and the tension in the story ramps up quickly. I burned my dinner slightly because I was trying to read this book at the same time I was cooking. I know The Girl on the Train is supposed to be the new Gone Girl, but I didn’t care for it. I’d recommend this book instead, for sure.”

Miss Elisabeth of the CL is back again this week!  “Dipping my toes into adult book pool again, this week I read the fantastically inspiring When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win WWII by Molly Guptill Manning. This is the remarkable true story of the Armed Services Editions, portable paperbacks that American publishers produced for troops headed overseas. Before the publishers stepped in, there was the American Library Association’s National Defense Book Campaign, which organized book drives all over the United States, collecting over 10 million volumes to give to the armed forces. All told, the United States sent over 120 million books overseas during the war. The entire program came about as a reaction to the book-burning habits of the Nazi’s, with President Roosevelt saying, ‘Books cannot be killed by fire. People die, but books never die. No man and no force can put thought in a concentration camp forever.’ Reading this book made me proud to be a reader, proud to be a librarian, and proud of my country. It’s a gripping, quick read. I can’t recommend it enough!”

My delightful friend Golda R of WW Norton Publishing (that’s her real name..Hey Hey Golda!  What’s doin?) had been telling me about this book for months before she sent me a copy.  She promised me a book that would help scratch my never-ending itch for dysfunctional family literature.  It finally appeared before the holidays and I really have to say Golda knows me well.  Maybe too well.  Bastards by Mary Anna King opens with Mary flying to Oklahoma to bear witness at the bed-side of the dying woman who raised her, and her brother and sister.  But at the start we learn things are not as they seem.  Because while she is indeed going to pay respects to a dying woman who did indeed raise her, she is not in fact Mary’s mother, she is Mary’s maternal grandmother.  How did Mary make it from New Jersey to Oklahoma to be raised by old folks? Mary’s real mother was incapable of caring for her children due to crushing poverty and an absent father whose main talent seemed to be looking for Jesus via the use of narcotics.  This however did not stop her mother from having his babies.  Like clockwork.  And then she would just give them away as if they were kittens. Mary has four sisters who were given away and who, as teenagers, came looking for their birth family.   This funny, wise and very moving book comes out in June. 

DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here as always from That State Up North and as always she comes bearing good tunes and even greater wishes. What’s good Pats?” So here we are at the height of the cold and flu season and our lovely JD is down for the count. I know it’s hard to imagine our fearless YAWYR leader speechless but it’s happened folks. Since I can’t bring her broth, I trust that all of you will and when you do make sure you congratulate her on that big football win. I think that will bring a smile to her face and I’d like to know that even if she has no voice that she is smiling. Seriously, everyone here in The D is hoping you feel better soon, Jen! 
Comfort. I’ve always taken comfort in words, books, libraries and museums. Words have the ability to soothe, inspire and conjure other worlds when our own might feel less than ideal. Reading allows us to experience life through a different lens. In light of the recent tragedy in Paris, I hold tight to my own hope for a positive evolution that advances the written word and art in all its forms without fear of retaliation. This week’s playlist shares a little music love and I think we could all use some of that right now.


What's the Hoopla?

How about some great series from Across the Pond?

Not sure what this is?  Read all about it here. And remember!  Our Holiday gift to you is 20 downloads this month.  Enjoy!


You Are What You Read!

Greetings! I wish you all a Very Happy End of the First Full Work Week of 2015. And it’s been quite the week!  Lots of cold and a little snow, which is feeling oddly familiar and not in a good way. It’s January, after all so we should not be shocked or surprised.  And that is all I am saying about that.  The SoNo Loft this week would like us to consider the following resolution:  2015: Be BraveEleanor Roosevelt once said that you should “do one thing every day that scares you.” So I charge each and every one of you to stretch a bit in the coming year.  Make yourself a little or a lot uncomfortable every once in a while.  Now, with this being said, Be Brave does not mean Be Stupid. Please make sure you all have your flu shots (it’s not too late!), that you are taking care of yourselves by bundling up, staying warm, getting into the sun and fresh air when possible and eating well. Sick?  Call us up on the phone to renew your items.  Don’t have anything to read? Consider our digital library!  Too sick to read?  Watch some good stuff through Hoopla!   We have seen a lot of illness this week and this is no way to begin a year People! And frankly?  I have no interest in spending my weekend or my Monday night while watching the College Football National Championship curled up on my couch, with nothing but a box of Kleenex and a cocktail of Nyquil Rocks with a Robitussin Chaser willing to be next to me.   So Be Brave, not Stupid and Soldier On!  And Let’s Go Buckeyes!  (You had to know that was coming and I applaud my restraint over the last 2 weeks).  

This week we have a Martian, and monsters, Burma, and bone disease.  The Playlist is cued and ready!

Let us begin!

Miss Elisabeth of the CL is sharing the feedback her dad gave her on her Christmas gift to him.  How’d it work out Elisabeth? “I heard great things about The Martian by Andy Weir (including a recommendation by our own Alan Gray!) and got it for my father for Christmas. My dad is the person who encouraged me to read science fiction, and it has always been a shared love of ours. He started reading it the evening he opened his presents and finished it two days later, and very eagerly to texted me about how much he loved it! ‘An intense read! One of the best crafted survival epics I've read in a long time. It's very technical and scientific but somehow the author has made it a completely believable story. It's really Swiss Family Robinson meets Robinson Crusoe, meets a probable scientific future. I'm on the last few pages and wow! I could read this forever. You're the best, Daughter Dear!’”  I would say that you gifted well!  Good job Miss E!

Miss Lisa of the CL is enjoying some Hair-Raising Reading Time. “I just read an awesome graphic novel called Through the Woods by Emily Carroll.  It is totally creepy and brilliant.  Carroll’s beautiful illustrations are a perfect companion to her stories, which are as timeless as folk tales but a million times more unnerving.  She nails all the things you wouldn’t want to meet in the woods, including burrowing monsters that turn you into a frightening empty shell, ghosts with blood vessels, and chopped up ladies who sing through the floors. Mainly, her work is all about the fear of not knowing what the heck is going on – you just know you’re scared out of your mind.”

Sweet Ann! just finished this year’s Booker winner The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan. Here’s what she thought: “This novel won the Man Booker prize and has been put on many lists as one of the best books of the year and I have to agree.  The story begins with Dorrigo Evans, an aging Australian surgeon, reflecting on his life as he writes the forward for a book of drawings done by a fellow POW during their torturous time as prisoners of war in Burma during WWII. It is a difficult read when you learn how these Australian men were treated by the Japanese to build the Burma-Thai Railroad in 1943. These prisoners did not have tools, clothing or food and were beaten and tortured constantly and many did not survive.  Another intriguing aspect of this book is Dorrigo's personal life.  Prior to the war he is engaged to a woman who is deemed to be the proper wife of surgeon, but he really doesn't love her.  He has an affair with his uncle's wife whose memory of their times together will help him get through the horrors of the war.  There is such a twist in the story that was not revealed to just about the end of the book and it was great.  This is a heavy book but one I believe well worth reading.”

Steph tackled something that has been on my bookshelf for years and is one of those ‘Most Definitely Someday Books.’ Here’s her take on an American classic. “Over my vacation, I read Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner. It’s been on my to-be-read list for years, as I’ve heard dozens of readers sing its praises. And with good reason! It’s spectacular. The book has two stories. The first is of Lyman Ward, a writer and historian who is newly confined to a wheelchair due to a bone disease, trying to maintain his independence. From his seat in the 1970s, he’s researching and writing about his grandmother, Susan, in the mid-1800s, and how her life went from one of culture and civilization in the East to one of hardscrabble mining towns out West after she married an engineer. The book weaves back and forth between the two, illuminating not just the highs and the lows of their lives, but the development of the United States, for better or for worse. Lyman is angry but compassionate towards his grandmother, whose voice springs to life in dozens of letters, and who he is determined to protect from modern intrusion. I was instantly swept up in the writing and the story—it is just so rich. It combines the resonance of good historical fiction with characters you feel you could reach out and touch. This is truly one of the great American novels, and reminded me very much of Stoner by John Williams, another favorite of mine.  This is a great choice for settling in by a fireplace during a snowstorm.”

Here’s DJ Jazzy Patty McC from The State Up North with some final thoughts and of course The Playlist.  Congrats on that new coach Pats, we look forward to next November.  Now what’s good?  “It’s a new year and it’s a time for new beginnings and new opportunities, but we can’t move forward without reflecting on the past. It has not been a great year for our country. Abroad it’s much the same. Unrest and uneasiness are an unpleasant, but unavoidable part of change. Our freedoms here are many and public libraries are a physical manifestation of our freedom of thought and speech. To protect those freedoms, we have a responsibility to be brave. We can march to our own beat. We can be fearless and jump feet first into something that makes us uncomfortable. We can have necessary and difficult conversations. So be brave. Maybe start with some music. Be brave and listen to what I believe were some of the Best Albums of 2014.”


You Are What You Read!

Greetings!  And a very Happy 2015 to us all!  I know I am not alone in being rather pleased to kick 2014 to the curb.   I don’t know of a single person who didn’t have a hard time of it this past year, whether it was health, monetary or professional issues and in some sad cases a bit of it all.  So all I am asking for is a better year.  It doesn’t have to be a stellar one, though that would certainly be lovely.  I am only asking for better.  This weekend also brings us the first full moon of the year.  This moon is known as the Wolf Moon.  Apparently this was because wolves would howl outside villages in hunger.  So let’s show some kindness People!  See a wolf this weekend?  Throw it a bone won’t you, preferably a nice meaty one. This week we have England, Brooklyn, Dystopia, and of course The Playlist!  New Year!  New Playlist!

Let us begin!

Amanda took my advice and watched Small Island. “I decided to watch this because I’m a fan of Benedict Cumberbath (hello, Sherlock!). Quickly I changed course as I got pulled into the struggles of two Jamaican immigrants to England around WW2. They were taught that England was a kind and gracious mother who loved all her children. They arrive with high expectations, but are met with scorn, racism, and violence. Meanwhile, their landlady struggles with having her dreams clipped by circumstances that led to a cold marriage. The two couples’ lives are headed towards a major collision. I’m easily led to tears and this one left me weeping. This miniseries is based off an award-winning novel that The Guardian selected as a defining book of the decade.  I also suspect that Cumberbatch’s socially awkward portrayal of Bernard led to his BBC Sherlock role. I highly recommend Small Island for history buffs. “

Barbara M has just finished reading a book that has proven to be a favorite with all who pick it up. I’ll let her explain.  “I recently read a children’s fiction book, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson which is neither only for children nor truly fictional. This poignant fictionalized memoir written in verse describes Woodson’s childhood first in the south during the Civil Rights Movement and later in Brooklyn as her passion for writing blossomed. Woodson’s free verse poetry is easily accessible and flows effortlessly. This is a beautifully written book that touched me deeply. “

I spent my Christmas break playing Book Catch-Up.  This time of year is tragic for new books and I usually spend it tackling the To Be Read Pile of books that have already been published that I have missed.  So, on the advice of some of my Librarian Friends (I am looking at you Sue B and Mary C!)  I picked up Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.  Now please understand that this book had to be practically shoved into my hands.  I am not a fan of Science Fiction or Dystopian Lit.  But they were so passionate and so insistent that I acquiesced to them and I am happy to report that I could not imagine a better use of two days off.  When the world as we know it vanishes in the blink of an eye due to a virus that kills in the matter of hours, what’s left?  Art is what is left.   Art and a nostalgia for everything that we take for granted. Which sounds odd I know, but trust me on this: you want to pick this one up and savor it.

DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here with our first playlist of the year.  What’s good Pats? “This week I am on the road. We took to the road after the holidays to visit friends and family. NYC was dressed in all her holiday finery and we enjoyed a lovely dinner in CT with friends that overflowed with laughter. Thank you Christine & Peter! Currently we are with the east coast cousins in MA. We will hike around the Acton Arboretum, sit in front of a big fire, swap stories and laugh like you do with the best of friends. There are few people whom we enjoy more than these folks and it’s both the perfect way to end and begin a new year. It’s been a rough year and I think we can all say that we’re looking forward to better days. Wishing you better days in 2015!  “


What are my neighbors up to?

Here is a list of the most popular items this week.

You Are What You Read!

Greetings and welcome to the Hellidaze edition of You Are What You Read!  It’s hard to believe that this time next week we will all be standing in line trying to return that gift that leaves us scratching our head and pouring ANOTHER glass of eggnog.  The words from The SoNo Loft remain ‘Just Breathe’ so, as always in the coming days, heed the message, stop, and take a deep breath.  I know that for myself, this weekend will be spent tying up those loose ends and then as a reward for just getting it done, a Sunday Morning Meet Up with a selection of some of my Outlaws for a catch-up and some breakfast.  Remember People!  The important stuff always gets done and the most important piece of the Hellidaze is being with your people!  As a reminder we are closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day but we will see you bright and early on the 26th for our regular hours.   Next week, we will have our big reveal as to what the Library’s Top Ten Reads of 2014 are.  So put your heads down, power through it with a bit of joy, a whole lotta eggnog, maybe some pants with an elastic waist and we’ll catch up next week. This week we have Lord Byron, whimsy, Miss Alabama, genius, and some Little House. Of course we have The Playlist for your dashing through the snow, rain or ice, or whatever it is the Weather Gods will be slinging at us.

Let us begin!

Abby explores the history of the seemingly newish Tech Industry with The Innovators by Walter Isaacson.  “My biggest takeaway from The Innovators is that even the most creative and brilliant minds need to master the art of collaboration in order to bring about progress. The book opens with the story of Ada Lovelace, born in 1815, who was the daughter of Lord Byron. Ada was an accomplished mathematician and early logic theorist whose work set others on the road to computing. In fact, throughout the book, women are the unsung heroes of early computer programming. While men tended to build the machinery, it was women who were instrumental in making the contraptions work. The Innovators is an enjoyable and educational book; that’s a tough combination to master, but Isaacson has again shown he has found the right formula.”

Pat T has a solution for us this week. “If you are feeling stressed with the holiday rush, I suggest you take 10 minutes to read the delightful, Everything I Need to Know About Christmas I Learned From a Little Golden Book, by Diane Muldrow. Basically, this whimsical book agrees that yes, the holidays are a lot of work, but it also reminds of us what we would be missing if we didn't celebrate. So keep it simple and enjoy this special time with family and friends!
Happy Holidays!”

Sweet Ann is breaking out of her usual fare and doing things a little differently “I am listening to I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg.  It’s read by Ms. Flagg and it's a hoot.  I am known for reading on the side of dark and depressing but occasionally I need a chuckle.  You wouldn't think this book would make you smile since it opens with the main character, Maggie Fortenberry, a former Miss Alabama, planning her demise in the local river. Maggie is an interesting woman who can't stop putting other’s needs before her planned departure.   This novel contains race relations, a little person, a murder mystery and a cast of characters that will make you smile. “

Steph is getting that jump on 2015. “I’m using the holidays to start getting ahead on my 2015 reading. This week, I read Kelly Link’s short story collection Get in Trouble, which comes out in February. She is a genius who brings a new life to everything she writes. Whether you’re a lifelong short story lover, or have been coming back to stories thanks to writers like George Saunders, or perhaps don’t like them at all, you’ll find something to love in this book. Link combines the clarity and structure of an Alice Munro story with the imagination of our best fantasy writers. Each story has a surreal element (for instance, superheroes are real and they have conventions like every other profession) and is set in a world that is otherwise our own.  The tension between reality and fantasy is spectacular, taking most of the stories to a whole new level. While not all of them are perfect, there are 5-6 stories in here that blew me away. I can’t wait to start recommending this one.” It comes out in February and will be in the catalog next week.

How am I avoiding the Hellidaze? The same way I always have; with my nose in a book.  I have never been shy about my love of The Little House Books. In fact, not only was the next installment in the series was always one of my favorite gifts under the tree growing up but if I am being totally honest, it was probably the first of many obsessions that I cultivate to this day.   I had nothing but contempt for the TV series by the way.  They weren’t faithful to the stories and Melissa Gilbert just plain annoyed me.  So I will be tucked away in a corner with Pioneer Girl:  The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pamela Smith Hill, editor.  Hidden away from the world since the 1930’s, Wilder’s biography has a lot of surprises in it.  Think a not-so-sunny prairie with financial insolvency, early death and child labor.   Add to that some meticulous foot notes by the folks at the South Dakota Historical Society who researched each and every sentence, added photos pertaining to the text when they could be found and I will be in Little House Heaven. For those hankering for more on the true story there is this New Yorker article that I reread every couple of years and don’t forget another favorite of mine Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure. 

DJ Jazzy Patty McC from That State Up North.  What’s doing Pats? “Greetings from the Motor City! Chanukah is here and Christmas is right around the corner. Seems like everywhere I turn there’s a procession of cars with menorahs on top or a car grille with a wreath strapped on to it. How is this not a fire hazard? Folks here take their holidays VERY seriously. Plastic Santa’s line the rooftops, 12-foot blow-up Chanukah Bears holding dreidels sit on lawns and Hines Drive Lightfest will celebrate its 21st year. It’s a 4-mile light show spectacular complete with 55 animated holiday-themed displays. Because here in the Motor City, we do everything with our cars, holiday driving through a light show on a roadway is just part of the seasonal merriment. So may you have a dusting of snow for your holiday, enjoy a steaming mug of Glögg in front of the old Yule log and share it with those you love. This year it seems appropriate to share something from The Godfather of Soul. Happy Holidays everyone!”


New eBooks from OverDrive

Here are the new titles available from OverDrive.

Blue Labyrinth by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Deadline by John Sandford

The Escape by David Baldacci

Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan

Full Force and Effect by Mark Greaney


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