You Are What You Read

You Are What You Read!!!

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

Let us begin!

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

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

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

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

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

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


You Are What You Read!!!

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

Let us begin!

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

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

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

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

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


You Are What You Read!!!

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

Let us begin!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


You Are What You Read!!!

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

Let us begin!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


You Are What You Read!!!

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

Let us begin!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


You Are What You Read!!!

First of all a heartfelt thanks to The Citizen for filling in for me these past two weeks!  She did an amazing job and I salute her.

This week we have a dentist, some siblings, a lack of talent, some questions, a cup of coffee, a work of art, immigrants, a people adrift, and some Harvard.

Let us begin!

Citizen Asha reports that she is reading another sunny and uplifting tale.  “I finished Threats by Amelia Gray. You follow the life of David as tries to pick up the pieces after the loss of his wife, once a dentist, he now hides from the world in is his decrepit home. But, something is happening to him, his mind is deteriorating and it does not help that he keeps finding threatening notes describing his wife’s death. I’m not sure how I feel about this book, there is not much to like, there are no redeeming qualities just loss and pain.”

Pat T. says, “I have just started reading Carry the One by Carol Anshaw in hopes of hearing the author speak at an event this week. This is a novel about three siblings, Carmen, Alice and Nick whose lives are complicated and intrinsically changed after an accident that killed a twelve year old girl the night of Carmen's wedding. I thought this novel began slowly, but as the story continued I became more invested in these flawed, yet redeemable characters.”

The Lovely Pat S. is tackling not just one read but 2! “ The Spoiler by Annalena McAfee  opens in London in the second half of the 90's. Two journalists, one older, highly illustrious, and the other, young and hungry but lacking refined talent, square off against one another. Neither of these characters is in any way likable nor sympathetic. nor is their story compelling. Thus, their story drags on endlessly and the reader can only count down the pages to the end. Life is too short to recommend this to anyone. The Affair by Alicia Clifford  begs the question, "How well do we really know our loved ones?".  Taking place in England over a period of fifty years, this story traces the supposed love story of two people as seen through the eyes and memories of family and friends. Yet the truth is different for each.  Well written and with likable characters, the reader ends the story with questions about their own circle of family and friends.

Jeanne is working her way through Drowned by Therese Bohman. The author is Swedish so I was not surprised at the making, drinking and offering of coffee on every third page like that popular Swedish trilogy. But I was a bit surprised at the unexplained psychotic behavior and resulting tragedy in an otherwise seemingly peaceful setting.  

Barbara M. is reading Girl Reading: A Novel by Katie Ward. “ It’s her debut novel and is really seven separate tales each describing the story behind a work of art depicting a girl reading. The stories take place in different time periods. I thought the premise was intriguing and so far it’s kept my interest.  “

Marianne reports that she has “finished 97 Orchard Street by Jane Ziegelman just in time for the discussion that Barbara Monin and I will be leading.  This book appeared to have everything I want in a good story.  And while I found the writing a little on the dry side, I love all of the new information I have regarding the immigrant life in New York City back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  It's a valuable read, not only because it helps us all understand our ethnic heritage, but may also, give us some perspective on the challenges that today's immigrants are facing.”

Priscilla just finished  The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan.  “The year is 1914 and Grace is on trial for murder along with two other women. So begins the saga of 39 people aboard a lifeboat. The suspense builds as we learn about the dynamics of living on this boat for 3 weeks. I found myself asking, what would I have done or felt? Would I be as noble as I think I am?  Grace narrates this tale of decision making, personalities, mystery, hunger and death. She is only 22 and has been married for 10 weeks. Did her husband survive the ships explosion?  Is she or is she not guility of murder?  This is a debut novel and I so enjoyed Charlotte Rogan's writing.

I just finished The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan.   This is the story of 4 women from the Harvard   class of 1989 who reunite for their 20th reunion.  Addison, Mia, Jane and Clover are all facing various crisis of the soul. Will this weekend heal them or hurt them?   The Red Book is an actual book put out by Harvard every five years in which alumni write essays describing where they are and what they are doing.  I loved all four of these women and rooted for them all.


You Are What You Read!

Let's Begin:

Ann is reading The Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler. “This is a touching story about Aaron moving on after his wife Dorothy is killed in a freak accident. He loved her for all her quirks and misses her terribly. He does “see” her after she dies and gets comfort from those visits. He does find a new relationship and life. I found this book to be okay and not up to Anne Tyler's previous work.”

Barbara B. is reading The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott but, she finds it a bit soap opera-ish. However, she is fascinated by Jacqueline Kennedy: the White House Years, "it offers an in-depth look at the clothes and era demonstrates how Jackie Kennedy became the beacon of style whose legacy is still with us today."

Barbara M. says, “I’m re-reading 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement by Jane Ziegelman in preparation for the book discussion Marianne and I will be doing on April 26th. I liked it the first time I read it and I still like it.”

Candace is reading March by Geraldine Brooks. “This historical fiction novel, my favorite genre, completely swept me away. The author based her novel on the characters in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and loosely on that period of the Civil War using the eloquent vernacular of the time. Ms. Brooks imagined that Mr. Marsh, the father in Little Women, was the Chaplain for the Union Army. By creating his (fictionalized) character around his personal ideals, his love for his family, and what he encountered and endured in the horrors yet seeming inevitability of the war, she depicted the greater landscape of that period. I particularly appreciated the complexity of his relationship with his wife as life began to challenge his ideals and pull him from being the man whom he felt was worthy of her.”

I am reading Damage by Josephine Hart. It's a story about a middle-aged doctor turned politician who leads a very safe, if not boring life with his wife Ingrid and their two children Sally and Martyn. Everything changes when he meets Anna Barton, his son’s new girlfriend. They begin a dark and torrid affair. I found it fascinating, watching stoic Stephen descend into obsession and destruction.

Jeanne has a lot this week: “when Gail Caldwell was chief book critic at the Boston Globe, she won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism and was especially noted for her insight to contemporary life and literature. Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship is about her friendship with Caroline Knapp, also a writer of Drinking: A Love Story. Caldwell’s story-telling ability and precise, poignant style are testament to her prize-winning writing. Caldwell and Knapp are two extraordinary, independent women who meet by chance and for years, log many miles walking and rowing the Charles River where they share their struggles with men, alcohol and colleagues. Then Caroline is diagnosed with terminal cancer and this story is a tribute to their remarkable friendship. Anne Tyler’s latest, The Beginner’s Goodbye, has her usual cast of misfits struggling along in their ordinary lives. I keep reading her books because she does it with a unique style and she never fails to offer windows into the lives of her broken, disheartened characters that can provide an opportunity for personal reflection. Aaron Woolcott works in his family’s small publishing firm (with his overbearing sister) noted for their series “The Beginner’s…” you fill in the blank “Pregnancy, Investor, Gardener,” like the For Dummies series. They are young and single when Aaron meets his sister’s opposite and he falls in love. Or is it escape?”

Pat: “Last month Marianne's library book group read Emily, Alone by Stewart O'Nan so I thought I would read his newest book The Odds this week. Marion and Art have been through a lot during their 30 year marriage - betrayals, disappointments and job losses. Now facing bankruptcy and the collapse of their marriage they decide to travel to Niagara Falls for a second honeymoon. What are the "odds" that this couple would have a good time together as they sightsee by day and gamble at night?”

Priscilla is reading The Healing by Jonathan Odell. “Here is a magical, mystical story that grabbed me from chapter one. It is set on the Mississippi Delta, pre civil war, on a cotton plantation. Told by Gran Gran a former slave who is in her nineties, this tale weaves back and forth through past and present. Strong women, the human spirit, heartbreaking slave stories and never giving up hope will keep you reading. The ending was wonderful too!”

You Are What You Read!

Abby has spent some time in YA Land and read the first two books in a series titled Matched by Ally Condie."Like some other current series, the books are set in a dystopian world where a strong young woman is fights back against a totalitarian regime. In this case, when a young adult turns 17, using various criteria the government "matches" them with the person they will marry at age 21. When Cassia learns of her match, she does the unthinkable which is to question if he is indeed the right match for her. Action, romance, and rebellion ensue. While I have enjoyed the series and will read book 3 when it is released, with so many YA dystopian trilogies out there, I hope the genre does not become a cliche."

Ann says, "The Affair by Alicia Clifford is an interesting story about adult children discovering secrets about their parents’ supposedly perfect marriage. The father Frederick was a military man who needed years of care by his wife Celia after he suffers a massive stroke. When he dies their mother's writing career takes off and she seems quite happy in her work. After she dies the family discovers secrets about their mother's childhood, affairs and missed opportunities. People are not always what they seem to be."

Barbara B. is currently reading Mrs. Kennedy and Me by Clint Hill. "It offers an in-depth relationship between Jackie and her bodyguard. It also reveals a much warmer side to the former First Lady."

Barbara M. is reading Trip of the Tongue: Cross-Country Travels in Search of American Languages by Elizabeth Little. "It’s a non-linguists investigation of the numerous languages still spoke in the United States other than English. She searched for dying Native American languages and is now looking for the roots of Louisiana Creole. The book is casual in tone and very interesting."

I have just finished The Other Woman's House by Sophie Hannah. I picked up an ARC of her book after listening to her speak at PLA. This is my first time reading one of her novels and I must say that I was very intrigued. While doing a virtual tour of a house, Connie sees a dead woman's body on the screen. Strange yes, even stranger when her husband comes to investigate, the body has disappeared.

Jeanne has not finished an Adult book since last week, mostly children's and YA. "I am still working on Mark Haddon's, The Red House. It portrays the usual dysfunction and human frailties in coexisting, especially with family, but with Haddon's trademark astute, all-too-honest perception of love, anger, disappointment. A middle-aged brother and sister have recently lost their last parent, their mother, and the successful, newly remarried brother (beautiful new wife, unpredictable teenage stepdaughter) invites the dowdy sister and her family (unfaithful husband, two teenagers, one has newly found religion; and a young son) away for a weekend in the English countryside. Haddon, as usual, entertains us and moves the story along with a transparent, kind of startling look into what's on the character's minds."

Jen has just finished Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick. "Charlie Beale wanders into the town of Brownsburg, Virginia after serving his country in WWII. He arrives with a suitcase full of money and a suitcase full of knives. Because this is Robert Goolrick you just know that there are going to be some shenanigans and chances are quite good they will not be of the pleasant variety. I liked this, a whole lot more than his last one The Reliable Wife."

Marianne: "My book group just read and discussed Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea. It is a provocative look at immigration from another view point; that of a Mexican person trying to get into our country. We love the descriptive parts of the story and found lots to talk about. But, overall we didn’t love the book."

Pat T. has just finished laughing her way through Ali in Wonderland by Ali Wentworth. "Ali takes us along for a hilarious ride as she reminisces about her WASP upbringing in Washington D.C., her rebellious teenage years and her roller coaster life in Hollywood. Throughout the good, bad and ugly times her mother always offered no nonsense advice with an elegant flare. After a run-in with Mexican gang members, Muffie (her mother) told her daughter to “go to the Four Seasons Hotel” and she did, for two weeks! These days she is married to George Stephanopoulous and the mother of two daughters and she still maintains a flare for a spirited and dramatic outlook on life"

Priscilla just finished Chocolate Chocolate: The True Story o f Two Sisters, Tons of Treats, and the Little Shop that Could by Francis Park and Ginger Park. "What a little gem of a read! These two charming sisters, after the unexpected death of their father, take their inheritance and decide to set up a chocolate shop in Washington DC. The shop is still delighting folks with its decadent treats. You too will be delighted with their adventures. From the evil landlord, corrupt contractor, romances, customer friendships, family, and oh yes chocolate. Each chapter has a special chocolate title which is described within. Oh my!"

You Are What You Read!!!

This week we are still quiet, a ghost, a little Tuscany, a peacock or two, some intelligence, angst and a genocide.

Let us begin!

Pat T. says, “I am still quietly reading Susan Cain's book Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking . The author writes about the ‘Extrovert Ideal’ and how people like Dale Carnegie and Tony Robbins, along with the Harvard Business School promote this ideal and she explores the pervasive effects this has had on our society. I must say this topic lends itself to thought and conversation about our varied personalities! I look forward to listening to Susan Cain speak about her book April 19th when she visits the Darien Library.”

Citizen Asha is, no surprise here up to some dark, sketchy and creepy stuff. She reports that, “I am reading Dead Father's Club by Matt Haig. I stumbled upon it this book, while in the stacks and I figured I would give it a go. It’s a modern and darkly funny twist on Hamlet, which I always thought should have been considered a comedy. Philip Noble is visited by the ghost of his father, who tells him that he needs to avenge his death against his Uncle Alan; otherwise his father will be descending into the Terrors for all eternity. “Speaking of The Citizen she will be filling in for me the next two weeks while I take some time off.  Please be kind to her.

Barbara M. is no longer in France but is still on the Continent.  “I’m reading Restoration: A Novel by Olaf Olafsson which takes place in Tuscany during World War II. The characters are intriguing and the story is absorbing. What makes it more interesting is that it is loosely based on the life of Iris Origo who looked after refugee children and escaped Allied prisoners in her villa in Italy.”

The Lovely Priscilla is letting her ears do the reading! “A Good Hard Look by Ann Napolitano - It always amazes me when an author feels comfortable writing fiction that includes a real person. This wonderful book has Flannery O'Connor as one of its main characters. Flannery has been forced to return to her family farm, Andalusia, in Milledgeville, Georgia to live out her days coping with lupus. The fictional characters of Cookie, her fiancé Melvin, Lona and many others spin around the strong personality of Flannery. It also includes bits on her mother, her Catholicism, her peacocks and the realization that life has more to offer for all. Mistakes and bad decisions are made which result in some shocking realities which caught me completely off guard.   The audio version is how I "read" this book and Debra Monk did an amazing job of capturing the southern inflections and voice of all the characters. I could do it all over again.”

Abby reports in with the following.  “The Expats by Chris Pavone is a great new spy thriller I am really enjoying. Katherine/Kate is a DC intelligence analyst. Or is she?  When her husband, a computer security expert announces he has a great professional opportunity in Luxembourg, the family packs up and join the Expat community in Europe.  When strange things start going on around her, Katherine/Kate must wonder if an event from her past has triggered the events.  Everyone is under suspicion as Katherine/Kate works to protect her family and her secrets. 

Jeannie is reading The Red House by Mark Haddon .  “Written with the usual caustic wit we loved in A Spot of Bother, this appears to be another dysfunctional family, lots of teenage and parental angst. This one, though, is written in choppy paragraphs, each successive one a new character that makes reading a bit difficult, but so much dark fun it may not matter.” This one is out in June.

I have just begun Chris Bohjalian’s new book The Sandcastle Girls which is due out in July.  Based on the author’s own Armenian ancestry this is the story of Elizabeth, newly graduated from Mount Holyoke who has volunteered to deliver aid to the victims of the Armenian genocide.  It is also the story of Laura Petrosian who is a novelist in the present day.  How will these two very different worlds come together?  I can’t tell yet, but I am happy to report that I am enjoying finding out very much. This one should be in the catalog soon.

You Are What You Read!!!

This week we have some quiet, some excitement, a few disgruntled workers, a defense, some wishful thinking (c’mon Mega Millions!)  and a lighthouse!

Let us begin!

Pat T. is very quietly working her way through a little something.  “I have just started reading Quiet:; The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking  by Susan Cain and I am finding it fascinating! One of the single most important aspects of our personality is the introvert-extrovert spectrum. It influences our friends, mates, careers and values. Society fosters the extrovert ideal, while introverts are a second class personality type. In this book the author embraces the virtues of the quiet and cerebral introverts.”

The Citizen Asha is, as usual, excited.  “I just started listening to the audio book Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card and it is unbelievable, I am thoroughly enjoying it. Can't believe it took me this long to get to it. By the bye, it's going to be a movie. I cannot wait!”

Barbara M. is exploring something totally different from her usual.  “I’m just about finished reading two memoirs which describe the life of an English servant. One, Below Stairs by Margaret Powell, is about a kitchen maid in the first half of the 20th century and the other, What the Butler Winked At by Eric Horne, about a butler who worked from the 1860s until just after World War I. They are both interesting but there are no surprises. The serving class was underappreciated and underpaid.”  Honestly though who hasn’t felt that way?   So get back to work!

Marianne is working her way through Defending Jacob by William Landay.  “After receiving very opposite reviews from my two most trusted readers' advisors, I really had to see for myself.  What would you as a parent do if your fourteen year old son were accused of killing a classmate?  Almost anything, I'm sure.  While the author stretches credulity in some places, I found it to be a compelling read and I couldn't put it down.”

Abby says, "I am reading House of the Hunted by the always solid Mark Mills.  In his latest espionage thriller, Tom Nash was a British spy during the Russian Revolution.  Fast forward to the Côte d’Azur, France, 1935.  Now a successful writer, Tom has not quite given up serving Queen and Country but must try and figure out which previous adventure has someone out to get him.  This setting of this book really reminds me I need to spend some quality time on the coast of France on a nice sailboat. But with no one chasing me. A villa would also be fine. "

As for me? The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman is amazing and it is coming out in August. When Isabel convinces her WWI veteran husband and lighthouse keeper to keep a baby who has mysteriously washed up on the shores of their desolate island, the repercussions are not immediately felt.  But when they are able to go on shore leave 2 years later they are tragically reminded that truly no man is an island and our actions do have far reaching affect. 


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