You Are What You Read

You Are What You Read!

Did you hear that?  Did you hear that collective sigh of relief when the mercury in the thermometer edged up past 32 degrees, when the snow started melting and when the stuff coming down from the sky was just water?  I think that we have turned a corner here, People.  Sure, it’s still less than charming out there but our standards are so low at this point that just that little bit of improvement does wonders.  I swear it’s like all my Train Friends have had Prozac slipped into their hot beverage of choice, so buoyant is the atmosphere on the platforms.   The words from The SoNo Loft are Kickstart Your Life.  Timely, given that when the weather makes that turn for the better, you feel like things are possible again.   One more week of Winter, People!  Hold tight!  We can do it. The Fitbit Challenge update:  As many of you who visit are aware we were soundly thrashed by our friends up the road.  We salute you Fairfield Public!  We salute you and what have to be the bloody stumps that you all now call your legs.   This week we have some fuss, some Grace, naughtiness, charisma and a hot mess.  Of course, we have The Playlist.

Let us begin!

Asha.  Sometimes she’s here and sometimes she’s not.  Here’s what she gathered up from the last time she was here. “I wanted to see what all the fuss was about with Girl on the Train and I can see why people would be enthralled by it; the voyeuristic aspect, the unreliability of our narrator, and the utter failure that is her life. Still, I was disappointed, mostly because rather early on I was aware of who did the act and why. This is not to say that it wasn't a good book, I just wished it was a bit more insidious and not so lacking in its sketchiness. I'm not sure what that says about me as a person.”

Diane is new to YAWYR and Darien Library.  She can be spotted on the Welcome Desk. Welcome Diane! “Saving Grace by Jane Green is a book I would like to recommend. Meet  Grace and Ted Chapman a well-respected couple living outside New York City. Ted is an author and Grace is an active volunteer in their community. Life becomes chaotic when Ted's longtime assistant leaves her job and Ted can't handle his career without her. He becomes nasty, threatening and difficult to live with.  When a young woman appears in the couple's life, Ted's life finds balance again while Grace suddenly finds hers falling apart. The book had a slow start but suspense and mystery became part of the story. In the end I couldn't put the book down.”

Virginia the Tall Cool Texan is here with an old favorite that she somehow missed. “Delicious and a little bit naughty, but laced with a sharp edge of regret and sorrow is how I would describe Charles Dubow’s book, Indiscretion. Harry and Madeleine Winslow are the quintessential East coast couple. You know the type: gorgeous, successful, with the brownstone in NYC, and the cottage in the Hamptons. Harry and Maddy have been married for twenty years with a beautiful child, and are still madly in love with each other. Together they radiate that special charisma that draws people in and makes them feel at home. Like a moth to a flame, that very magnetism draws in a young woman who will ultimately shatter the idyllic world of the Winslow’s in tragic ways. One of the things I most enjoyed about the book is the narrator, Maddy’s childhood friend, Walter, whose reflection provides insight, and innate Waspish tone provides moments of humor. This was a book that made me long for a beach, a sunset and, of course, an umbrella drink. Luckily Dubow’s second book, Girl in the Moonlight, is being released soon. “

Steph!  What’cha doing?  “Everyone seems to be on the hunt for lighter reads now that the snow is finally melting. As a result, I am gearing up to recommend The Royal We, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (recognize those names? perhaps you know their amazing snarky fashion blog, Go Fug Yourself?) when it comes out in a few weeks. The Royal We is their retelling of the courtship of Prince William and Kate Middleton, and both women are notoriously obsessed with that coupling, so you know this’ll be good. In this story, Prince William becomes Prince Nicholas, and Kate becomes Bex, an American who literally runs into him on her first day studying abroad at Oxford. Despite everything, they fall madly in love, but when their love goes from secret fling to something more serious, the drama increases about as much as you’d expect. Hysterically funny and such a delight to read, but not too frothy, there’s enough seriousness to the plot that gives it more depth than a tabloid rehash. I predict that this will be one of the big beach reads of 2015. Anyone who had opinions on Kate Middleton’s wedding dress (or Pippa’s dress, for that matter!) will love this one.”

On the one day a week that I drive to work I can be found in my tiny little car listening to the totally charming I’ll Drink to That:  A Life in Style with a Twist by Betty Halbreich and read by Jane Curtin.  Babs B pressed it into my hands promising me that I would soon be in love with Betty. And as usual, Babs is right.  Eighty-six-year-old Betty has spent nearly 40 years at the Shopping Mecca that is Bergdorf Goodman.  She has seen a lot; the good, the bad, and the severely unfortunate and she’s not afraid to tell you to take that hot mess off, put down that over-priced handbag and remind you that to look good is to feel good. Jane Curtin is doing an amazing job of bringing Betty and her story to life.  I can’t recommend this highly enough.

DJ Patty McC is here from The State Which Shall Not Be Named.  “This has been a week of endings but also an opportunity for beginnings. This week we offer our condolences over the death of our friend, and library lover Lisa Bonchek Adams.  She asked me a few years ago to remind everyone that she was not ‘lost’ and that she never ‘gave up a battle’. Cancer doesn’t work like that and the language that our society uses to discuss it bothered Lisa. She will be missed by the thousands of lives she touched through her kindness and grace. I think she would have liked this week’s playlist. In honor of Lisa’s daily mantra, let’s all go out, find a bit of beauty in the world and share it.”


You Are What You Read!

Welcome to the Full Worm Moon edition of You Are What You Read!  I consider this to be the ultimate irony and here’s why.  The moon is thusly named because of the softening ground and the reappearance of earthworms.  As we all now know, this is not the case and may never be the case ever again.  We live on the Tundra and that is that.  It is also known as the Sap moon because allegedly this is the time when the tree sap begins to flow.  People, there is no sap on the Tundra.  So let that notion go.   I am sure that by now, you, like me are done and undone.  I just can’t do another week like this one.  Phil.  Please.  We are begging you.  Undo the evil that you have wrought.  The words of the SoNo Loft are “You are forgiven”. I have to believe that these words are in no way directed at Phil.  In addition, kindly remember it is Spring Ahead weekend. This will go a long way to sweetening our moods I am sure.  Check those batteries in the smoke detector!  By the time you all get this, The Fitbit Challenge will be in its death throes and so will its participants.  We tip our caps to our Friends at Fairfield; they are not only worthy opponents but just damn fine people!  We are honored to be your colleagues in LibraryLand!  Be sure you check the service desks next week to find out the outcome. It’s been a close one. This week we have some Poland, Germany, Macy’s, a whole lotta likker, and a labyrinth of lies! 

The Playlist?  Of course!

Let us begin!

Laura is here with something that she recently enjoyed. “Ida is a beautiful film about a young woman who was raised by nuns within the safe walls of a Catholic convent located in the countryside of Poland.  Her family placed her in the convent soon after World War II when she was a child and it is the only life she has known.  The story begins as Ida, now in her twenties, visits her one remaining relative before she takes her vows. When she meets her, Ida is told that she is Jewish.  They then strike out to find her childhood home that was stolen away from her family by the Nazis. The black and white cinematography lends beautifully to the story, and complements the harrowing artistic undertone of the film.  This is a worthy film to watch for the history alone.

Babs B has just started The Alphabet House by Jussi Adler-Olsen.  How goes it Babs? “This is a psychological thriller set in WWII Germany that centers on two British pilots who have been shot down in enemy territory.  They know they will be executed if captured, so with an enemy patrol in pursuit they manage to jump aboard a train reserved for Senior SS officers wounded on the Eastern Front.  In a state of panic, they throw two dead patients off the train and take their places, hoping they can escape.  But that is not to be as they end up in the Alphabet House, a mental hospital located far behind enemy lines where German doctors' experiment on their patients with shock treatments and experimental drugs.  The pilots' only hope of survival is to fake insanity until the war ends but they find out they are not the only patients using this ploy.  I just started this book last night and hated to put it down!”

Barbara M loves the demented world of David Sedaris. “In December NPR rebroadcast their yearly piece of David Sedaris reading his essay The Santaland Diaries about his experience working as an elf named Crumpet for Macy’s Department Store. It is in the Audio book Holidays on Ice and is laugh-out-loud hilarious. In one incident, he recounts how one day  ‘a woman was standing at one of the cash registers paying for her pictures while her son lies beneath her, kicking and heaving, having a tantrum. The woman said, Riley, if you don't start behaving yourself, Santa's not going to bring you any of those toys you asked for. The child said, he is too going to bring me toys, Liar. He already told me. The woman grabbed my arm, and said you there, Elf, tell Riley here that if he doesn't start behaving immediately, then Santa's going to change his mind and bring him coal for Christmas. I said that Santa changed his policy and no longer traffics in coal. Instead, if you're bad, he comes to your house and steals things. I told Riley that if he didn't behave himself, Santa was going to take away his TV and all his electrical appliances and leave him in the dark. The woman got a worried look on her face and said, all right, that's enough. I said, he's going to take your car and your furniture and all of your towels and blankets and leave you with nothing. The mother said, no, that's enough really.’ Although I had read this essay and many others hearing Sedaris read them with his deadpan delivery adds a whole other dimension. For these cold, cold days I’ve decided that funny is the way to go while driving and am now listening to When You Are Engulfed in Flames. I just worry about laughing too much to concentrate on driving. “

Sweet Ann is back to doing two things at once which I find oddly reassuring.   “The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is a fun thriller.  And in the beginning, you can relate to the main character Rachel's obsession of watching people from her daily train commute.  However, you quickly realize that Rachel has a drinking problem and is completely obsessed with her ex-husband and his new wife and their baby.  There are quite a number of conflicts between Tom, Rachel's ex-husband, and Anna his new wife as Rachel cannot let go of her new lonely existence.  There are lies and deceptions throughout this novel as well as a missing woman who lives on the same street as Tom and Anna.   This is a novel that you should read with suspended belief and just jump aboard the commuter train and see where it will take you.  I am also listening to There was a Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me by Brooke Shields.  This audio book is read by Brooke Shields as she tells about being raised by her mother, Teri, an alcoholic. Her mother tried her best but often her drinking would get in the way of her parenting, whether it was setting bedtimes or routines, or orchestrating Brooke's career.  It was an interesting story especially because I remember The Blue Lagoon, the Calvin Klein ads and I did in fact see Brooke on Broadway when she performed in Cabaret.  I think Brooke recognized that her mother had flaws and has spent a lifetime coming to terms with her upbringing.  This was an enjoyable audio book.”

The Ever Delightful Pat S is here with something I have been dying to get my hands on.  “Black Diamonds is a must read for all the Downton fans who have just finished season five. Catherine Bailey is back with the tale of a crumbling aristocratic dynasty during the twentieth century, the Earls of Fitzwilliam. With a fortune based in the Sheffield coal industry, the sixth Earl of Fitzwilliam left the second largest inheritance to his heir upon his death in 1902, somewhere in the neighborhood of three billion dollars in today’s money. He also left what remains the largest private home in England, with 365 rooms, one for every day of the year. Yet all of this was about to change.  The new century would see the collapse of the Yorkshire coal industry, (which is meticulously detailed here) after the most horrific human rights abuses. Oddly enough, the Fitzwilliams were among the best of the land owners, always implementing the newest safety measures in the mines and making genuine strides in quality of life issues in the lives of the miners.   But for all the 'nobility' inferred in the Fitzwilliam title of Earl, the lives of the family were a labyrinth of lies, falsehoods and complicated cover-ups! Illegitimacy, alcoholism, chronic philandering, gambling-it's all here, in vivid detail! This will get even the most stalwart fan through the post season letdown!

Here’s DJ Jazzy Patty McC as always with some final thoughts about life. What’s good Pats? “I’ve had a Phil update from my weather paranoid friend. The latest email from the band of rogue rodents states that even they are tired of the weather they’ve inflicted on us so they’re migrating to warmer climes while they let the rest of us suffer this unending winter. Since the airlines are no longer letting them board (they’ve got a beef about that too) they’ve taken to hopping free rides on birds
Phil was the last of the rodents to be allowed to board a plane so he hopped down under to enjoy the last days of summer. He’s warming his fur and is moving on from his Valentine breakup with Eula. He said he’s impersonating one of his friends who has been helping him heal his wounded heart. He’s taking selfies with folks all over Australia under the guise of being a quokka. Apparently he’s been listening to a LOT of Chet Baker, Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto and I just can’t hate on anyone, rodent or otherwise who has this music in their wheelhouse. So if we’re going to be stuck indoors let’s listen to some great jazz and hope that Phil remembers to set his clock forward.

DL Rodent Wrath 2015

You Are What You Read!

If you were in the library this week you may have been aware of a sort of restlessness. A weird sort of amped up energy, perhaps?  Did you notice lots of staff running up and down stairs, walking willingly (and still necessarily, shame on you Nissan) in the road  in the arctic freezing cold to and fro from Station to Library and back again?  You were most correct in thinking something was going down. My friend Merry M from Fairfield Public Library thought it would be fun to throw down the gauntlet and challenge us to a Fitbit Work Week Challenge.  What the what, you say?  Fitbits are personal tracking devices that measure steps. Fairfield had done an in-house challenge that I was involved with and we had such a good time with it, we thought it would be fun to have our libraries face off.  But first this week, we had an in-house challenge with 4 teams of staff members facing off against each other.  The top seven steppers from these teams will be the ones to go up against our Fairfield Friends.  The loser of the challenge has to post a sign on their Front Desk declaring that they are the losers and are either ‘ashamed’ (our wording for Fairfield) or ‘sad pandas’ (Fairfield wording for us).  Hey, in the end?  Know who’s going to win? Our pants.  That’s who’s going to win. This winter has been rough, rough,rough.  This week we have some Brits, a boy, and a new girl with a rose.

And what’s a workout without a playlist? Not much fun I can tell you that!

Let us begin!

Pat T. is going to tell us what she thinks about our most coveted title. “Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is currently one of our most popular library books and I just finished listening to this thriller on audio and I have to say my commute was much more enjoyable because of this book. The three narrators and their British accents add more intrigue to the story.  The story is told by three characters, Rachel, Megan and Anna. Rachel's life has unraveled because of her divorce, alcoholism and unemployment and as she rides the train each day from home to Euston she makes up stories about the lives of the people she sees through the passing train window. She is envious of a young couple, whom she has named Jess & Jason and despises her ex-husband Tom's new wife Anna. One day she sees Jess, (real name Megan) from the train window with someone other than her husband Jason, (real name Scott). Shortly after this encounter she finds out that Megan has disappeared and begins to involve herself in the disappearance to the annoyance of her ex-husband Tom, Megan's husband, Scott and the police. Because of her blackouts she cannot always remember what she actually witnessed, or is that because others are telling her she is unreliable? The story is a roller coaster of emotions - deceptions, lies and betrayals and makes you question do you ever actually know someone!”

Abby occupied herself with Oscar this week. “Over the weekend I finally had time to watch the movie Boyhood. Written and directed by Richard Linklater, Boyhood follows Mason as a little boy up until the time he leaves for college. The movie was filmed over 12 years with the cast reuniting every few years to film the next chapter. The film opens with young Mason and his older sister Sam living with their divorced mom played by Patricia Arquette, who won the Oscar for the role. With her ex-husband out of the picture, she moves her family so she can attend college to make a better life for them. At the next phase, we get reacquainted with the family a few years down the road as mom is attending school and the children are adjusting to their new life with their dad back in their lives, determined to be a good father. As the film continues, Linklater show us aging characters in new stages of life without introduction or fanfare. I found the transitions to the different stages of life to be astounding. Too often, we let important moments slip by where we don’t pay attention and when we turn around, things have altered in some slight but significant way. Life is made up of major events and small moments and Boyhood quietly portrays both, beautifully and seamlessly.” 

Introducing Reed!  Hello Reed!  Reed is our new Money person and we could not be happier to have her here with us.  I for one am delighted to have a fellow Deadhead on staff.  It can be a little lonely.  Here is what Reed has recently enjoyed.  Or not. Welcome Reed! “I recently finished The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly, having inherited it from my visiting mother.  I must say, I read it out of sheer desperation, but was completely drawn into the story even if it was somewhat predictable. I enjoyed her ability to create very vivid and identifiable characters.  I am already waiting on Mom to pass on The Winter Rose, which is next in the series!”

Virginia the Tall Cool Texan is here with the end of the road for a journey she has thoroughly enjoyed.  “Apparently, its true…all good things do have to come to an end.  And so I start my review of the final book in Lev Grossman’s Magicians trilogy. In the last installment of the series, The Magician’s Land, we find Quentin kicked out of his beloved Fillery and back at Brakebills, secret elite magical school, where he is working as a teacher’s assistant and trying to lead a quiet life.  But no matter how hard he tries for normalcy, Quentin inevitably ends up in a conspiracy that leads to a great magical discovery that can help save an endangered Fillery. This is an epic ending to a wonderful series.  Grossman does a masterful job of introducing new characters while interweaving favorites from previous novels and tying all of the loose ends up. Even if you are not a fan of fantasy, I think readers will enjoy the series for its intricate plot, darkly humorous tone, rich characters and vivid imagery.” 

DJ Patty McC is here from The State Which Shall Not Be Named.  Where it is still cold, still miserable and sadly still February.  What’s good Pats?   “The temperature is still in the single digits every morning here. I recently read an article about how our health would be better if we lowered the temperature inside our houses to 60 degrees. So while the other parents wait in the running car with their kids, I’m taking this recent research to the extreme by standing in single digit temps waiting for the bus with my son. I’ll let you know how our health fares. In honor of all those folks getting up and moving I think I’ll share a little workout playlist I created for our Miss Amy in the Children’s Library. So get up, brave the cold and cheer on all those walking librarians.”


You Are What You Read!

Happy End of Week!  I don’t think I am wishing my life away when I say that every week down is another week I am farther away from the evil being wrought by the PA Rodent (I am looking at you Phil.  Still not a fan.) and that much closer to a cooler full of contraband, a dishy beach read and toes in the sand. We had Mardi Gras and Chinese New Year to help while away the week and ease the pain.  Notice please, that both of these have some serious carbs attached to them.  You have King Cake (burning question: who got the baby this year?), although some people believe more in the Doughnut, Pancake or Paczki for Mardi Gras and Chinese New Year is all about the noodles and the dumplings. I know that for myself I have been carbo loading like a champ.  In fact, if I had to write a bio on myself, I would have to put under interests: reading really good books, eating pasta, celebrating beautifully crusty baguettes loaded with cheese or butter and sleeping through the winter.  I may want to reconsider this approach to life as beach season approaches.  Watch this space for an event that we have coming up that will be announced next Friday.  Suffice to say that a gauntlet has been thrown and we accept.  And there is a certain library up the line that is going to be very, very sorry that they poked this hornet’s nest. This week we have some young women and some young men. And don’t you worry!  We have not given up The Playlist for Lent.  I think the only thing we have put on a 40 day hold is the bare leg! Phil! This is your doing!

Let us begin!

Sweet Ann has just finished Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar.  “This engaging novel is told in diary entries and letters from the different characters commenting on their small social group as well as what is happening in the world at the time.  The main story is told in the voice of Vanessa Stephen, whose sister will become the famous author, Virginia Woolf.  It is an intriguing story about jealousy between sisters and their relationship with their brothers as well as the group of artists they spend much of their time with. As the reader, you are exposed to their advanced ideas for the time as well as examples of their well-known works. The format took me a minute to get into but then I really enjoyed it a great deal. “

Steph is here with some what sounds like some pretty heavy lifting.  I know we can count on her to tell us if it’s worth it. “I can’t stop thinking about A Little Life, by Hanya Yanigihara, which comes out next month. I really enjoyed her debut novel, the ambitious and surprising The People in the Trees, but with this even more ambitious book, she’s done something truly incredible. The best shorthand I have for this book is that it’s a cross between The Goldfinch and The Interestings, but much darker. Four young men meet at a small college, become best friends, and move to New York full of hope, to pursue careers and exciting lives. The book follows them over the next few decades as their relationships grow, wither, change, and bloom, but keeps coming back to Jude, whose past was unthinkably miserable and haunts him throughout. As the book progresses, Jude’s life is opened up to the reader and some characters, going to darker places than most fiction will go. Incredibly, though, the darkness of the book is not the point—the compassion and love that follows it is. Yanagihara has made two choices that make this book addictive—first, many of the most momentous scenes of the books take place off the page, and second, the point of view changes abruptly, often in the middle of dramatic scenes. The effect, when combined with her incredible gift for building real characters on the page, is that I lost hours of my life to this book without realizing it. I was devastated by the ending. Not a light read, but probably one of the best books you’ll read this year. “

DJ Jazzy Patty McC is in da house from The State Which Shall Not Be Named with The Playlist and some really interesting gossip that I think you all will be intrigued by.  What’s good Pats? “My paranoid weather-tracking friend has given me some news. She said there’s another email circulating from the rogue band of rodents. Apparently it details Phil’s Valentine’s Day misadventures. She said Phil has been dating a sweet little groundhog named Eula and that this was their first Valentine’s Day together. Since Eula is a vegan, Phil made reservations at the swankiest vegan restaurant he could find. It wasn’t local. There was a bit of travel involved but he promised Eula that it would be worth it. When they arrived the Maitre‘d informed them that they did not have a reservation and furthermore he couldn’t possibly seat them as they were fully booked. Phil pleaded. He tried using money, his influence, and his good name but all to no avail. The Maitre’d would not budge. They were turned away hungry and disappointed and headed back towards home. Phil stopped at the local pizza joint on the way back and presented Eula with a heart-shaped vegan pizza. She dumped him the next day via text. Since then Phil has been holed up in his burrow, heartbroken, depressed and despondent all the while muttering that he’ll show everyone a winter they’ll not soon forget.”


You Are What You Read!

Welcome to the Valentine’s Day edition of You Are What You Read!  Every year we do a little display celebrating the darker side of the holiday with a little humor. We like to call it Forever Alone.  If you can’t get into the library to see it in all its glory, the list is here.  Enjoy!  It’s been another rough week of weather.  We all know who is to blame.   Phil, we still aren’t fans and we probably never will be. We have 35 days until spring.  This doesn’t seem like a long time but when it’s this rough it can feel forever.  This all being said the good news this week is that my walk to the train at night is now light, with sunset just finishing up on my home end.  Look,  if it all gets too awful get some primroses and put them in pretty little pots around the house, make sure when the sun is out,  you are too even if it’s just for a baby bit.  Get together with friends.   Don’t shut yourself up.  Of course, it would be helpful if these friends have a place in Florida.  February can seem like the longest month but we can do this People! 35 days!  Soldier on!  This week we have Africa, betrayal, Tennessee, a forgotten island and a beloved brother.

And if music is the “food of love” how could we not have The Playlist!

Let us begin!

Barbara M is reading Leaving Before the Rains Come by Alexandra Fuller which is getting a lot of positive staff buzz.  Here is what she thinks. “This is a powerful heartfelt memoir about the breakdown of the author’s twenty year marriage interspersed with vivid recollections of her coming of age in Zambia in a family afflicted with alcoholism and mental illness.  The title refers to a South African saying which means ‘getting out while the going is good.’ Fuller’s way out was to marry an American and eventually move to the United States. Unfortunately, it did nothing to help her escape neither her chaotic childhood nor her own demons.   This is Alexandra Fuller’s third memoir and I think her best. Her exquisite writing, her insights into her family’s dynamics and the imagery of Africa make this a wonderful, funny, and fascinating read. “

Pat T is enjoying some escapist reading this week. “The War of the Wives by Tamar Cohen is a great book to take in your ski/beach bag this week if you are going away for the February break.  Selina and Lottie Busfield never met until the unexpected death of their husband, Simon.  Needless to say, their lives are turned upside down with the news of his death and the discovery of his betrayal.  Selina's lifestyle is in jeopardy as she deals with the emotional turmoil of her three children. Lottie is overwhelmed with the realization that her life has been a lie, she has no money and a teenaged daughter who is acting out. When the worst that can happen has already happened what do you do? Their stories are told in alternating chapters with an unexpected twist towards the end!”

The Always Delightful Pat S has finished one of my favorites so far this year, The Undertaker’s Daughter by Kate Mayfield.  “As a reader with a soft spot for memoirs, I was very anxious to settle down with The Undertaker’s Daughter. Mayfield begins with her family’s move to Jubilee, Tennessee in the early sixties when she was five and her father has the opportunity to open his own funeral home. The family lived above the shop, and Mayfield is beguiling as she writes of her younger self exploring the world of the dead because it gives her a chance to spend time with her adored and dashing father. We are introduced to her family as she first sees them, the father handsome and charming, the mother strict and humorless, the older sister a bully and the older brother a vague presence. The small town that is Jubilee comes with a cast of characters found in every small southern town; the eccentric Miss Agnes, the black housekeeper Belle, the formality laden bridge parties her mother hosts and a list of church related activities which would bore most of us to death.  The tale meanders as she grows up and begins to see her family more clearly. Her father tortured by his time fighting in WWII is also an alcoholic and serial philanderer, her mother is desperately trying to hold the family together through thick and thin, and sister Evelyn is battling serious mental illness. The town begins to feel smaller and smaller as Mayfield grows older, struggling against the stifling confines of racism which loomed large-even in this time of desegregation.  While the story is well written it can feel strangely bland.”

Virginia the Tall Cool Texan is back with her latest love.  “As I said in my last review, I loved The Magicians by Lev Grossman, the first installment of the trilogy about the adventures of Quentin Coldwater and his magician friends.  This week I am reviewing the second book in the trilogy, The Magician King, and it did not disappoint.  Just as in the first book, it is full of vibrant characters, grand adventures, and incredible imagery.  To get you quickly up-to-date:  Quentin and his friends have taken up the official roles of kings and queens of the magical land of Fillory, where everything seems to be perfect and they live the lives that they always imagined.  But Quentin, a discontented type, feels something is missing and volunteers to seek out a long forgotten island on the edges of Fillory. Julia, one of the queens of Fillory joins him.  Together they discover that nothing is as it seems in Fillory and there is a lot more to lose than they had bargained for.  A big part of why I loved this book is because it dived into Julia’s backstory.  Grossman is a master storyteller.  He knows how to paint a dark and turbulent fairyland. Again, this isn’t a children’s book, if anything, it is darker and grittier than the first but in a lot of ways I enjoyed it more."

I am still sort of reeling from A God In Ruins by Kate Atkinson.   This is the latest installment in the story of the Todd family from Life After Life.  Atkinson takes the life of beloved little brother Teddy through World War II and into the end of the 20th century.  Just like Life this is a genius of a work.  You fall in love with Teddy and Ursula all over again and marvel at the lives you are being shown.   At times heartbreaking and others hilarious, a lot of us feel that this may even be a better book than Life After Life.  We are hopeful that this is not the last we are going to hear about the Todd family. This one comes out in May.

Here is DJ Jazzy Patty McC from the Frozen State that Shall Not Be Named with some final thoughts on this weekend’s festivities.  Take it away Pats! “ I’d like to offer my public service announcement for this Valentine’s Day edition of You Are What You Read. Please tip your server generously. Last year I talked about my time spent in the trenches of the service industry and how much we dreaded this ‘holiday’. Seriously, all the folks who don’t appreciate their partners on a regular basis take them out on this day, buy them flowers then impersonate a master sommelier and tip their servers poorly. Don’t let this be you. Cherish those you love on a regular basis and tell them how much you love them frequently, maybe hourly if you’re the passionate type. Show your love to your loved one, just don’t stiff the staff.”


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!

Winter.  Welcome to it.  Or not as the case may be. The Weather Gods have been assaulting us with frozen precip from the sky and arctic temps.  None of us are fans.  For those of us who commute by train, Metro North is making its usual hash of things with trains that never appear or late trains that are short cars or heat and then to add insult to injury when you finally get here and hoof it in, the trip has become arduous and downright dangerous. (Yes! I am looking at you Nissan Dealership!  For shame! I get you’re not there but whoever owns that property is still responsible. You have angered us.  Be afraid.)   Please be kind when you see us in the street.  Believe me we are not there by choice.  We have 6 more weeks of this and the blame lies squarely on the tiny, hairy malevolent shoulders of the Phil the PA RodentPhil, we don’t like you.  We will never like you.  Now go back into your hole until you can give us some good news.  This week we have Colorado, Ireland, and the Hamptons. We have The Playlist.  Indeed we do!

Let us begin!

Sweet Ann is here with what she thought about Descent by Tim Johnston. “I thoroughly enjoyed this thriller about a young girl's kidnapping and the effect on her family.  The Courtland family has decided to take a last vacation in Colorado before their eldest child, eighteen year old Caitlin, departs for college on a track scholarship. Caitlin wants to go for an early morning run and her twelve year old brother accompanies her on his bicycle.  They head up to the mountains and everything is going along well until the parents receive a call from the local sheriff saying their son is injured and in the hospital.  When Grant, the children's father, asks about his daughter the sheriff replies that there was only the boy, no sign of Caitlin.   The novel follows the reactions and interactions of the mother, father and brother while Caitlin is missing.  This is a well written thought provoking novel that becomes quite the page turner.”

Babs B has just finished Nora Webster by Colm Toibin. “This compelling story is set in a small town in Ireland in the late sixties and early seventies.  Forty-year-old Nora Webster has lost her beloved husband and is left to raise 4 children on her own. Nora and her children's struggles are brilliantly portrayed.  As the story progresses, the reader learns that Nora is a strong, intelligent woman who must rebuild her life and face life's challenges on her own terms.”

I have discovered something wonderful that I have to share.  The lighting in my bedroom is less than wonderful for reading.  It is instead designed to make me look fabulous, so I have had to get my reading done prior to climbing into bed.  Which as dedicated readers know is less than ideal. Because really is there anything better on a dark, cold and stormy night than climbing into bed snuggling under the down and reading yourself to sleep.  Well, with my new Kindle I can climb into bed, shut off the light and power up the device and read away.  This is exactly how I read Girl in the Moonlight by Charles Dubow.  Many of you may remember what a staff favorite his first novel Indiscretion was.  I am happy to report that his second is just as much fun.  Wylie Rose and the Bonet siblings become close friends as neighbors growing up in East Hampton.  Aurelio Bonet is responsible for awakening the artist in Wylie but it is his sister Cesca who becomes Wylie's all-consuming obsession.  This is a wonderful, WASP-ey take on Brideshead Revisited and would make a great not too guilty pleasure addition to the beach bag. Should we ever be able to go to the beach ever again.  This one comes out in April.

Birthday Girl DJ Jazzy Patty McC is in da house from That State Up North with some final thoughts and of course The Playlist.  What’s good Pats? “Now I’m not saying correlation is causation, I’d NEVER do that. I’m a card-carrying hard science, fact-lovin’ kinda gal but there’s a new conspiracy theory floating around that intrigues me. It involves our current weather situation and that beloved groundhog. Allow me to present some facts and then I’ll share what I’ve heard.
Six years ago this happened to Mayor Bloomberg.   
Last year this happened to Chuck the groundhog in Staten Island. 
And now this happened to the mayor of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin this week. 
My conspiracy theorist and weather paranoid friend recently told me that there’s an email floating around written by a band of rogue rodents who got their paws on a new iPhone 6+ (apparently they needed the larger screen for the keypad). Supposedly this email contains some surprising news of their vast powers over our weather. The email stated that they’re tired of being paraded out every year and that the last straw was when one of their brethren was dropped resulting in his untimely demise last year in Staten Island. They said they’ve had it. Apparently the email is peppered with some rather salty language. That part surprised me. Now, if this is true then I think we may have angered the rodents to the point of no return and the only thing we can do now is hunker down, ride out the storm and pray that they have a short memory. “


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!

Syndicate content