I need to begin this week with an apology. Apparently I caused some marital discord because I stated the Harvest Moon would take place on Monday when, in fact, it occurred on Wednesday. So my apologies to Curtiss R, I regret to inform you that Leslie was right and I was wrong. As for the rest of you, I hope that your gleaning/threshing activities were in no way inconvenienced. But it was a really pretty moon, wasn’t it? (Hangs head in shame, shuffles away and changes the subject) As you can see, the message from The SoNo Loft this week is Tell the Story. Who doesn’t love a good story? Good stories enlighten, entertain and stay with you. On Wednesday (and yes I double checked that), the National Book Award committee will be announcing the short list for fiction and I am praying that my two favorites, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and Some Luck by Jane Smiley will be among the five chosen. Both of these are amazing stories and they are populated by wonderfully rich characters. And with the way the world has been lately, who wouldn’t want to lose themselves in a wonderful story? I for one have this weekend off, no OSU Football to occupy me and I am looking forward to a big stack of book to lose myself in. I hope you have a similar stack. If not, we can help you with that and you know where to find us. This week we have voices, a really questionable romance, letters, life choices, sad discoveries, and a wave. And the Playlist! This week times two!
Let us begin!
Sue S has a new romance novel that she is rabid for. “Let’s face it, it’s a fact, heroes are my weakness. It's also a fact that for this week’s You Are What You Read it is the title of the book I devoured in 2 evenings. Heroes Are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips is the story of a young woman, a down-on-her-luck ventriloquist, who has to stay 60 consecutive days on an island in a cottage once owned by her deceased mother or risk losing it. She comes to find that a reclusive writer, Theo Harp, who writes chilling horror novels, is also staying on the island. Annie and Theo (who I found to be as broody as Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights) have a past and now they're trapped together on a snowy island off the coast of Maine. Annie’s inner voice and those of her puppets is warning her that Theo is trouble and that she should stay way. But it’s Annie's heart that is the real trouble maker when it starts telling her he has changed. Only time will tell who Annie should really listen to! This book will definitely get rid of the chill on a cold day!”
Amanda is heating up her fall with the sizzling new eBook, A Good Debutante’s Guide to Ruin by Sophie Jordan. “This book first comes with a warning: the lovers are stepsiblings. However, as shocking as this may be to us, fans of historical romance know that stepsibling romance is only unseemly and not all that bad. The hero, Decian, was thrown out of his home 10 years ago. His stepsister, Rosalie, was sent away to school and left there. Now Decian’s father is dead and Rosalie has been unceremoniously dropped on his doorstep after overstaying her welcome at school. Will Decian be able to forgive Rosalie the sin of being her mother’s daughter? And to what lengths will Rosalie go to discover herself before being forced into marriage with a stranger? This book is a marvelous quick read and one of the most scandalous things I’ve ever read. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series which alas – has not been announced yet.”
Pat T has taken a suggestion to heart this week. “A patron suggested I read Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher. She said, ‘I know you don't like epistolary style books, but I promise this book is laugh out loud funny.’ And she's right! Jason Fitger is a creative writing professor at a small Midwest college and he is always called upon by the students to write letters of recommendation on their behalf. Jason's once promising writing career is in a downward spiral, he wreaked havoc on his personal life by disclosing his private affairs in his novels and he is in rivalries with the other college departments because they are better funded. This and more is detailed in this hilarious, clever and passive aggressive letters of recommendation. Sit down, put your feet up and enjoy this humorous read!”
Sweet Ann has just finished The Children Act by Ian McEwan. “This short read kept me engaged from the first page to the last. Judge Fiona Maye presides over family cases that are heart wrenching. The novel centers on the case of an eighteen year old boy who is a Jehovah's Witness and needs a blood transfusion to survive his cancer. The boy is strong in his beliefs and he and Fiona form quite a bond after she visits him in the hospital to help her determine her decision. Fiona is also having marital trouble. Is she too involved in her work or just dealing with her inability to ever have children? This novel makes you think about life choices we all have to make. It also makes you question how involved one should get in someone else's life. It is a great read and I also loved the novel Saturday by Mr. McEwan.”
Steph has another book to add to the Favorites of 2014 List! “After hearing so much about it online and from fellow readers in the Library, I was glad to finally get a chance to read Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. The novel opens with a disappearance, and then a sad discovery: Lydia Lee has drowned in the lake in her small town in Ohio. Her family is devastated, because not only was her death unexpected, but it has also unveiled many family secrets. The book skips from mind to mind and from past to present as the mystery unfolds. The revelations of the story, while quiet and small, are devastating. Ng captures so beautifully (her writing is exquisite) the ways families hurt each other, even, and especially, out of love. My heart ached for every character. This is one of my favorite books of 2014.”
Virginia the Tall Cool Texan is here this week and she’s revisiting one of her obsessions. “This week I return with my love of YA dystopian novels. My newest obsession is Hugh Yancey’s The Infinite Sea, the second installment in The Fifth Wave trilogy. Warning, you really need to read The Fifth Wave first, because this one picks up almost immediately where it left off. I have been anxiously waiting for this book to come out for months and it did not disappoint. Just like the first book, the story is told through different perspectives as the characters try to survive as they prepare to battle the fifth and final wave. Yancey does an excellent job of enriching the story with character flashbacks and, while I was somewhat disappointed one of the storylines took a backseat, by the end I had a better appreciation for some of the other characters. The book was action-packed but it also displayed a rare vulnerability with its character development. While many of the questions from the first book are answered, other mysteries arise, and by the end, Yancey has set himself up for an epic showdown for the final book. This is a series that cannot be missed. Think Hunger Games meets the X-Files meets the Body Snatchers. My only complaint is now I have to wait another year for the third and final installment of the series. “
DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here from The State Up North (49 days until The Game. Get excited!) and as you can see she is back to herself again. Here’s what she’s thinking about this week. “Is anyone else suffering from media overload? It seems that every news outlet is more focused on producing hysteria than reporting facts. There are a lot of things to worry over. Trust me, I could create an exhaustive list that would leave you in a sweaty ball of anxiety, require heavy medication and a team of specialists to get you out of the house again. I refuse to be another voice of hysteria. Instead, I’d like to suggest that we all take three deep breaths and don’t freak out. There are a few things we can do right now to alleviate some of this craziness:
1) Get a flu shot (I know, I sound like a broken record)
2) Make sure your children’s immunizations are current and get them a flu shot (Needle stuck in the groove)
3) If your child is sick, keep him or her home from school. (Yes, this one is tough for working parents especially if you have a child who is ill for a long time. My third grader was out for eight days straight from school already. I feel your pain.)
If you still find yourself still freaking out, put the newspaper away, step away from the glowing screen, get outside and go for a long walk in nature. Hard data proves that this simple step reduces anxiety.”
DL TELL THE STORY 2014 & DL Don't Freak Out 2013
The Loft’s message remains the same; ‘Leaf on the Wind’ and I still don’t get it. If anyone out there is feeling the message, please report back. On Monday we have the Harvest Moon to look forward to. This full moon is thusly named because it is the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox and is typically bright enough to allow the finishing of harvest chores after the sun goes down. So those of you with some last minute threshing to take care of will have light from the moon to get that done. Enjoy! Of course this also means that we are in the thick of the fall season and I suppose I should do something this weekend to celebrate that fact. Perhaps an apple pie would make me feel better about this? Or a lovely savory something made with butternut squash? I did sneak in a white pants wearing last weekend because the weather was cooperating but even I have to concede defeat and declare that there will be no more white pants now until May 26, 2015. Mark the calendar. I am however still clinging stubbornly to the bare leg but honestly if the mornings continue to run cool as they have been that will be the next thing to go. This week we have some dystopia, Paris, a team of women, Italy, drinking, grey cells and bodies. A whole town full of dead bodies. Playlist? You betcha!
Let us begin!
Miss Elisabeth of the CL is doing a reversal this week. I’ll let her explain. Miss Elisabeth? “On Saturday I went to see The Maze Runner. It was great! I'd never read the book, so I went in completely blind, and I found the action-packed plot thrilling. The ending of the movie was a bit of a mess; the explanation for the Maze didn't make too much sense, but I assume that's because I didn't read the book. The cast was excellent. Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who stole everyone's hearts as the adorable Sam in Love, Actually was one of the main characters, and he looks exactly the same! The lead character was played by Dylan O'Brien, who is very, very funny as sidekick Stiles on MTV's Teen Wolf. The whole cast was really pleasantly diverse and they did a great job with the material, elevating what could have been another run-of-the-mill dystopian movie into something really fun to watch. I just checked the book out today, and I look forward to figuring out what the heck was going on in the last ten minutes of the movie!”
Barbara M. Back in Paris. As it should be. “On the advice of one of my favorite patrons I’m reading Sacré Bleu a whimsical, comedic, absurd novel by Christopher Moore. It’s about van Gogh’s death, the color blue and the art world in Paris during the late 1800s. The cast of characters includes not only well known artists such as Toulouse-Lautrec, Monet, Gaugin and Manet but also a mystical being called The Colorman who roams around trying to sell his special blue paint to artists. The book is a mixture of genres (historical-fiction, fantasy, satire) and is very funny. Although it is not my usual type of book I’m thoroughly enjoying it.”
Laura is surprised this week. “Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer was a satisfying surprise. Set in an everyday world, a team of four women, a biologist, a surveyor, an anthropologist and a psychiatrist set out to study Area X, a part of the world that has evolved in a different way. The scene is not necessarily post-apocolyptic and it could be taking place in the present day. The story's point of view is through the eyes and mind of the biologist as she studies and gathers data. There is very little dialog but the inquisitiveness of the biologist keeps you reading. It is a slow burn kind of read that when you pick it up to, you are rewarded with a steady and even handed drama. Annihilation is Book One of the South Reach Trilogy and I am looking forward to reading Book 2, Authority, in the future.
Babs B has finished The Secret of Raven Point by Jennifer Vanderbes. “When her adored older brother goes missing in Italy during WWII, Julie signs up to be an Army nurse. When she finds herself assigned to the front lines, her once sheltered life changes dramatically. Her only thought in the beginning was finding her brother, but as the weeks turn into months and she befriends patients, makes new friends, and her whole life opens up. While reading this story I honestly felt transported to another time and place. I had a great time with this book!”
The Always Delightful Pat S has just read A Spy Among Friends by Ben McIntyre. “If you are a 007 fan, this book is going to be a myth buster. Kim Philby, perhaps the greatest double agent of the 20th century, was working for the Soviets while he had a long and high profile position in MI6. This allowed him to infiltrate not just the center of British security but American security as well. McIntyre tells the story of his entrance into the spy world; a seamless transition from the storied world of Cambridge to MI6 where he joined a select and class-conscious few. Predicated on nothing more substantial than knowing the right people, Philby embarked on a career which was ably assisted by his charm, sociability and prodigious drinking habits. In fact, it was Philby’s very sociability which allowed him access to inner circles the world over. When the charade ultimately came to an end in 1963, and Philby defected to Moscow, neither his best friends from Cambridge, fellow spies, nor any one of his three wives had any clue as to his duplicity. This is a fascinating look at a world where the myths are less improbable than the reality.”
Steph is visiting with an old friend in a new way. “It was with some trepidation that I approached The Monogram Murders, by Sophie Hannah. You might not know that this book is by Sophie Hannah if you looked at the cover quickly, because another author’s name is MUCH bigger on it: AGATHA CHRISTIE. That’s right: this is a new Hercule Poirot story, the first since Curtain was published in 1975! It’s always a little scary when someone gets a new crack at a favorite like Poirot, but knowing that she had the full backing of the Christie estate, I tried it out. The result? Quite fun! No, it’s not the Agatha Christie you remember. But the plot is a delightfully Christie-like maze, and more importantly, Poirot sounds exactly like he should. This was very enjoyable and certainly worth the attention of your little grey cells.
I am WILD for The Undertaker’s Daughter by Kate Mayfield. Kate grew up in sleepy, segregated Jubilee Kentucky. Grief brings out the best and the worst in people and as the daughter of the town’s undertaker, Kate saw it all. I recently described it to a co-worker as To Kill a Mockingbird with dead bodies, and a soupçon of mental illness with a side of alcoholism and infidelity. Mayfield is a wonderfully evocative writer who describes her unusual upbringing and her hometown with love and tenderness even while she is conjuring up painful reminiscences. How much do I love this book? I am reading it on my Kindle for my commute and in book form the minute I get home. I am planning what will be for dinner to optimize evening reading time. This gem is due out in January and be glad of it because the Hellidays would probably be a diminished affair if you got your hands on it in December.
DJ Jazzy Patty McC is still battling a vicious something in the State Up North. Join me in wishing her recovery. It would appear we are too late to wish her the speedy part. “Last weekend my family and I wrapped up Banned Books Week by venturing out to celebrate a nighttime festival of art and light in downtown Detroit. The Exhibition DLECTRICITY featured over 35 world-renowned and emerging artists whose work lit up the city in brilliant color and movement. Art galleries, studios and cathedrals were open for art projected on their walls both inside and out creating an art display unlike any other. Kids were outside playing Minecraft and their games were successively projected on one side of the Detroit Institute of Arts. There was even a parade, a light bike parade! The Mindfield video projection on the Detroit Institute of Arts and across the street on the Detroit Public Library was mind blowing. So this week, I thought it would be worthwhile to celebrate and listen to an artist who is no stranger to the threat of censure or banning. This week listen to a musical genius and artist who just released not one but two albums! This week I bring you the MAN in PURPLE otherwise known as Prince. Enjoy the tunes.”
We begin this week with a shout of thanks to Sandy and Jim D for the beautiful floral tribute. No need to apologize that it wasn't taffy or fudge! Just seeing that lovely arrangement can make one forget all about taffy and fudge! We thank you and so do our pants! While I continue to bemoan the fact that summer has left us, The SoNo Loft has moved on and is celebrating the change of season with the message of ‘Leaf on the Wind’. What this means is anyone’s guess. This week we have Rock & Roll, some potential frustration, Dublin, a power couple, Detroit, New York City, and some love. Playlist? Of course!
Let us begin!
Abby has just finished watching 20 Feet From Stardom. “This is a case of better late than never. I finally watched the Academy Award winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom. The film introduces us to the voices we grew up listening to and singing along with but we never knew the people behind them. The storytelling is helped along by some of the biggest stars in Rock & Roll who share their appreciation for the backup singers who add layers of complexity and feeling to their work. One of the highlights for me was learning the story of Merry Clayton, the woman who sang the haunting background on the Rolling Stones hit Gimme Shelter. Watching Merry sit in the studio listening to a playback of her part is a wonder. I already knew some of Darlene Love’s story. Learning how her career as a solo artist was sabotaged was heartbreaking but her realization that she was meant to sing reclaimed her career. As one of the singers said, when people sing along, they sing OUR parts. Get ready to get some great music stuck in your head.”
John is looking forward to starting something new. “I have started a behemoth of a fantasy series The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson. I may have set myself up for frustration, however, because with only two of ten planned books written, I’m going to have a hard time sitting on my hands, waiting for the next installment (due sometime in 2015). The first book, The Way of Kings weighs in at 1007 pages, but the story is so immersive that the time goes by quickly. I’m on to the second book now, Words of Radiance which, at 1087 pages, is no less captivating. Sanderson is a master world-builder, and while Game of Thrones fans will undoubtedly think his writing significantly less gritty than they are used to, they may find the pace and storyline compelling enough to break into this series.”
Sweet Ann loves The Secret Place by Tana French. “This is the fifth novel by Ms. French concerning crimes that the Dublin Murder Squad tries to solve. Her writing is wonderful and her descriptions transport you to the locales she mentions, whether it is the grittiness of the squad room, or the lush beautiful grounds of a girls' school. This story tells about the death of a sixteen-year-old student at the nearby boys' school whose bludgeoned body was discovered on the grounds of a girls' school. The murder occurred a year ago and there has been no progress on the case until a picture of the victim appears with the words ‘I know who killed him’ written on it. The Secret Place is another great mystery by Tana French.”
Pat T is keeping her latest obsession alive. “Last week many of us watched the highly acclaimed PBS TV series The Roosevelt's: an Intimate History. Now that it is over, I am going through withdrawal, so I decided to listen to the audio book Franklin and Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage by Hazel Rowley and narrated by one of my favorite narrators, Tavia Gilbert. Just like the Kennedy's and the Clinton's, there has been much speculation about the Roosevelt's marriage, and the author gives us a glimpse into the Roosevelt's unconventional marriage. These two people created a partnership according to their own ambitions and needs, yet at the same time supporting and encouraging one another. Hazel Rowley refers to Eleanor Roosevelt's biography, This Is My Story, so I will add this book to my reading pile too!”
Miss Elisabeth of the CL did some very adult reading with the latest by Lauren Beukes. “I enjoyed reading Broken Monsters but I wouldn’t ever read it again! It’s a very, very dark book. It starts out as a crime thriller: Detroit Homicide Detective Gabriella Versado has caught a particularly gruesome case. A young boy was murdered, cut in half, attached to the bottom of a fawn, and then left in an abandoned tunnel. Soon another body, also horribly disfigured, is found. As Verdosa begins to piece together the madness behind the crimes, we also follow the stories of a failed reporter newly arrived in Detroit, Verdosa’s 15-year-old daughter, Layla and her tragic best friend Cass, a reformed criminal named TK, and an artist named Clayton at the end of his rope. The stories begin to come together with the introduction of a seriously disturbing supernatural element. The writing is beautiful, and the author, who is South African, speaks with surprising authority on the decay of Detroit. Still, the end is SO CREEPY. Shudders all around.”
Virginia the Tall Cool Texan is back this week! What up VA? “This week, I got my greedy little hands on an advanced copy of the sequel to one of my favorite books of all time, The Rosie Project. Author Graeme Simsion brings back Don Tillman in all of his pathologically, micro-managed, organized glory. In The Rosie Effect, Don and Rosie are newly married and have left Australia to live in New York. Just as they are adjusting to being newlyweds, (Don has created a schedule and menu to his liking), they find out Rosie is pregnant. This is where the book falls off course for me. The natural assumption would be for Simsion to focus on Don and Rosie’s relationship and how they adjust to the idea of being pregnant and becoming parents. However, Rosie’s character fades to the background, and Simsion chooses to focus on Don, his conflicting emotions about the pregnancy and his growing relationship with his buddies. In fact, in a lot of ways, this book is more of a bromance than a romance. This was unfortunate, because I found the magic of The Rosie Project to be the important dynamic between Rosie and Don. She provided a good balance to him, making the reader see his personality quirks as more lovable than annoying. Let’s just say in The Rosie Effect, you don’t have the luxury of this buffer. As with most sequels, I didn’t find The Rosie Effect to have the same charm as the original but it was still an enjoyable read.
Thomas S aka My Son is here and is celebrating his freedom to read whatever he pleases. Makes a Mom proud actually, or at least this Mom. “In August of 1998, the recently reunited mid-western emo band Mineral released their single, &Serenading on Crank! Records. The b-side of that single was a totally awesome cover of a song by the band, The Psychedelic Furs. In my own honest opinion, this cover of Love My Way is vastly superior to the original version. You can judge for yourself by clicking here. Continuing the theme of loving your own way, and in honor of Banned Book Week, I have decided to talk about Nancy Garden's Annie on My Mind. First published in July of 1982, this book is groundbreaking because it was really the first novel to explore these themes in a positive light, as opposed to the majority of LGBTQ subjects that were being presented negatively in pulp novels. I will admit, some elements of the story are a bit dated, but that should help paint a clearer picture for the reader as to how important this work of fiction truly was. This book broke all the rules set for presenting homosexual characters. I guarantee that anyone who reads this will walk away thinking about how beautifully the romance was presented. I think it's this reason that the book was banned in the first place. If you choose to pick this up, remember that you don't know everyone around you 100%, and it's this reason that you should never condemn something that makes someone else happy and doesn't harm the people around them.”
DJ Jazzy Patty Mcc is back this week and feeling much better thank you. Here’s what she musing about. “A new season is here that brings us gourds-a-plenty, DIY apple picking, hayrides, apple cider, doughnuts and hours spent wandering lost in giant corn mazes. The cooler temperatures, the new light that filters everything with a soft glow, the changing colors of the leaves all signal a sweet gradual change that will gently ease us into the slumber of winter. We’ve enjoyed some really lovely weather here in my fine state and I’m happy to report everyone is well again. So this week I invite you all to curl up with a book, a steaming mug of something yummy and relish your freedom to read what you want when you want. I can guarantee that this prescription is sure to cure all ills. “
To start this week, we give a shout out to Amy C, True Library Friend and our Beloved Board President, who brought us caramels from the spot where she Summers in Montana! They were EPIC and worth every calorie. Thanks Amy! I have come to the sad realization that I can fight the March of Autumn only so long before even I have to surrender. The Autumnal Equinox arrives on Monday at 10:29; so officially this is the last weekend for the Summer of 2014. A more beautiful summer I don’t think I have ever seen. I don’t know about you all but I marvel at how swiftly fall is taking over. The golden quality of sunlight, the way it’s getting darker earlier, that bite in the morning air, even the green of the leaves is starting to have that muted characteristic of impending change. At the Farmer’s Market this week there were still beautiful tomatoes and corn to be had, but there were also plenty of fall squashes, pumpkins, mums, newly dug potatoes, lovely crisp apples and pears. This morning on the train platform I was in the minority with my sleeveless dress and bare leg. All around me were tweeds and boots and sweaters. They looked much more comfortable than I felt. So I officially yield to fall and I wish it a long glorious reign because just the thought of winter returning is killing me. This week we have knife throwing, Queens, (but not Knife Throwing Queens. Sorry), Wonder Woman, some Grand Duchesses, London, The Street and a Boston Girl. You want a soundtrack with all that? Done! In fact we are giving you two!
Let us begin!
Miss Elisabeth of the CL is still talking about what she did while Away. “While I was on vacation, I read 6 adult books, mostly light beach reads and detective thrillers. By far the best one was a brand new book by Chelsea Cain, One Kick. The beginning of a new mystery series, this was a nail-biting suspense novel with the type of heroine you can’t help but root for. When she was six, Kick Lannigan was kidnapped from her front yard. When she was 11, Kick was accidently rescued by the FBI. Now she’s 21, and she’s spent the past ten years making sure she knows how to keep herself safe: martial arts, sharp shooting, knife throwing skills, and lock-picking are among her many talents. Her quiet, safe life is forever altered when she is drawn into the investigation of two recent child abductions with eerie similarities to her own. I literally could not put this book down. I read it on the plane, and was so engrossed in the story I didn’t notice we were landing until I felt the plane bump the ground! If you like suspenseful mysteries, One Kick is a great pick. “
Barbara M loves herself a Seriously Sad Story. Here is her latest pick. “When I started reading We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas I thought it would be an updated version of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, a family saga of the Irish-American experience. In a way, it is an immigrant American family saga but it is so much more. It’s about unfulfilled dreams and how the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease can devastate a family. The book is the beautifully written story of Eileen, a child of Irish immigrants, who has aspirations of escaping her life in Woodside, Queens. When she marries Ed Leary, a promising scientist, she believes that her life will go as she planned. It doesn’t. A sad story exquisitely told.”
Mallory has been talking non-stop about her love for this book. Seriously. She won’t stop. Please someone else read this so she can have a Book Friend. Thank you. For those of you who want a head start, check out Darien Reads. “The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore is part biography, part feminist history, part comic legacy, and my new go-to recommendation, so get used to hearing me blab about it. William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman’s creator, was a man obsessed with truth and justice, surrounded by women who were crusaders during the suffragist and birth control movements of the early 1900’s. He gets a degree in law, gets a degree in psychology, invents the lie detector, and basically fails at everything he attempts. Marston marries his high school sweetheart and then takes on a secret live-in wife as well (the feminist Queen Margaret Sanger’s niece). He has children with each woman and they all live together as one glorious oddball family in a little town called Darien, CT for a short period of time. Marston imbues Wonder Woman with characteristics from the women he encounters and uses her as a radical agent for social change. Wonder Woman was powerful, political, and her only weakness was being shackled by man; Marston’s Wonder Woman is my new personal hero. He states, ‘Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who, I believe, should rule the world.’ You’ll find The Secret History of Wonder Woman when it comes out in October, so place your holds now!”
The Fabulous Babs B just finished a book we are pretty wild for, The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport. Here’s what she thinks. “This is the history of the four daughters of the tsar of Russia, Nicholas II. They were the Princess Diana of their day and were much admired for their happy dispositions, their looks, the clothes they wore and their privileged life style. The girls lived in virtual isolation, their only freedom being when they traveled, usually on the Royal Yacht. I found it sad that they were constantly surrounded by armed guards. I also learned that Alexandra, the girl's mother, suffered with numerous health issues throughout her life which severely restricted her lifestyle. I was drawn to the great love and devotion the Romanovs felt for each other, despite living through the harshest of circumstances. “
Pat S has just finished Love, Nina: A Nanny Writes Home by Nina Stibbe. “Back in the early 80's, Nina, a young dropout from rural England, decides to try her luck at being a nanny in London. She joins the bohemian household of single mom Mary Kay Wilmers (editor and owner of London Review of Books) and her sons Will and Sam Frears. She finds herself in a rather rarefied literary world where one of the neighbors is the esteemed playwright Alan Bennett who drops in frequently for dinner, and the ex-husband is Stephen Frears the movie director. Nina does not recognize the names, nor is she impressed when told who they are. She is the anti-Mary Poppins (she neither cooks nor cleans), and fits in perfectly with this colorful, raffish crew. Over a period of the next several years, Nina recounts to her sister Victoria her daily routines and exchanges first as a nanny, and then as a returning university student in this enchanting, laugh out loud collection of letters. After reading these delightful letters, it made me wonder what will become of the epistolary format now that no-one seems to write letters any longer.”
Here’s Steph and what she’s reading. “This weekend on my commute, I read Business Adventures by John Brooks. This is our selection for September’s Business Book Group, and came to most people’s attention after Bill Gates told an interviewer it was his favorite business book. To be honest, even though I usually like business books, I didn’t have high hopes for this one, because it seemed to be a bunch of random stories from twentieth-century Wall Street. I was so wrong! This book has been a delight. Brooks was a writer for The New Yorker, and each of these stories reads like the sort of article you cut out and pass along to a friend. Whether he’s explaining how a corner works (and what happened the last time someone tried to pull one off), or walking the reader through the growth of Xerox, his writing is funny and clear, and has something to offer both the business novice and the Wall Street expert. I’m really looking forward to discussing it on September 23.”
I must confess that I was not a huge fan of Anita Diamant’s book The Red Tent. I have found that you either love this book, or you are in my camp: Camp Pack-Up-Your-Tent-And-Go. But when I heard her speak at a Library Preview at Simon and Schuster about her new book Boston Girl I was intrigued enough to give it a shot and I am glad I did. Addie Baum is asked by her granddaughter the following question: “How did you get to be the woman you are today?” Thus begins the story of 85-year-old Addie and her family living in the multi-cultural North End of Boston at the turn of the last century. I must confess. I love this book and the voice of Addie Baum so much I almost missed my stop this week. I think Book Groups would find plenty of meat to pick off the bones of this book and it comes out in December.
It would seem that The State Which Shall Not Be Named is a place to avoid at all costs and not for the usual reasons. Here’s DJ Jazzy Patty McC to explain why. “An uninvited guest arrived at our house last week. The cold, flu and virus season has officially moved in and I am feeling inhospitable. Our friends across the hall (he’s a surgeon and she’s an ER pediatric nurse) have assured me that we are not alone in the land of illness and quarantine. So this week, I’m going to keep things brief and to the point. Get a flu shot. Do it now. My autumnal equinox wish for you is that you have no uninvited guests. They’re hard to get rid of, they don’t want to leave and they don't clean up after themselves.”
First of all, a big thanks to Pamela M for the taffy from of all places, Alaska. Who knew one could Summer in Alaska? Well, Pamela M did. Thanks Pam! I just need to say that I am holding fast to summer. While I had to forsake the sandal this week because the Dayton 10 just got too cold, I am still working the white pants. The Ever Fabulous Babs B is looking pointedly in the other direction pretending that fashion faux pas is not happening on her watch. On Tuesday morning, I was mourning the fact that summer was indeed creeping away from me, that it was only 8:00 in the morning and everything I tried my hand at was epically failing, and that the week seemed to stretch way too long ahead. It was a pity party for one and it wasn’t pretty. And then I looked out the train window for this week’s message from The SoNo Loft. And there it was, “You are what you read!” It made me laugh out loud and then I am afraid I whooped. My apologies to the man who was sitting next to me; if you are out there Sir, I swear I am mentally stable most of the time so there was no need to try to shrink into the window and away from me. And just like that the day turned around and things did not seem so daunting. So, a huge thank you to Think Around Corners and Greg C, the mad geniuses behind the message each week. You all will never know how much I delight when the train is pulling into the South Norwalk Station because of you! In their honor, go out of your way this weekend to gladden someone’s path and remember to thank those that gladden yours in ways big and small. This week we have some Maine, devastation, cottage cheese containers, the G8, Australia, Burma, a bookstore, and some grieving elephants. And, of course, from The State Which Shall Not Be Named we have The Playlist.
Let us begin!
Abby has turned to a favorite series this week with The Bone Orchard by Paul Doiron. “A while ago I wrote about a mystery series by Paul Doiron featuring Maine State Game Warden Mike Bowditch. I’m happy to report that Doiron’s latest, The Bone Orchard, is a highly enjoyable read which highlights his obvious love of the outdoors. I never like to reveal too much about a mystery, but I will say in book 4 of the series Mike must step outside his zone of comfort to come to the aid of his friend and mentor. I find Doiron’s writing has an effective and unique rhythm. He has a beautiful way of setting a scene and getting to the heart of his characters.”
Sweet Ann has just finished The Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami. “Tsukuru was part of a close group of high school friends who did everything together. After graduation, Tsukuru is the only one who chose to go to university away from where he and his friends live. By the end of his sophomore year, his friends refuse to see him or answer his calls. This devastates him and he is never the same again. It is as if all his joy in life is gone. Sixteen years later, he meets a woman he would like to date. On their first date she asks questions about his high school experience and for the first time he reveals his lost friendships. As they continue to date, she says he must resolve his past before they can move forward. She then convinces him to return to his hometown to discover the reason for his exclusion. The story follows Tsukuru as he searches for life's meaning and redemption. It is a wonderful read about image, friendship, loss and reconciliation. “
Thomas S aka My Son is here with something he’s been reading in between his school assignments. Please don’t call Social Services on me. I swear I did the best I could. “The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth is easily the best book I have read this summer, and probably one of the best YA novels I have ever read in my life. It deals with all of the wondrous teenage anxieties that come from living in a small town filled with evangelicalism, bigotry, and thinking that your ‘sinful behavior’ contributed to the deaths of your parents. The coping mechanisms the main character uses are fantastic: making a doll house filled with random cottage cheese containers and moss, and renting creepy David Bowie vampire flicks on VHS. Upon the conclusion of book two, I found myself crying in the corner while Brand New's Play Crack the Sky played on my stereo. It was a truly magical experience. “
Virginia, everyone’s favorite Tall Cool Texan, is back and she has been busy! What up VA We missed you! “The past couple of weeks I lost many an hour to two of my favorite authors. I have some good news for fans of Lianne Moriarty and some bad news for fans of Lee Child. Let’s start with the bad. I love the Jack Reacher series. I read the entire series last summer start to finish and was not disappointed. I have waited a whole year to get my Jack Reacher fix and when I started reading Personal I found it very unsatisfying. Reacher finds himself pulled back into the military to help stop an attack on the G8 Summit after a sniper tries to assassinate the French president. The expertise of the marksman has led government and military intelligence to narrow the suspect pool down to a handful of individuals; one of which is a man who spent the last 15 years in jail thanks to Reacher. The government has asked for Jack’s help in tracking the suspect down but are they using him as bait? All of the elements were there, but something was missing. Jack Reacher’s personality and idiosyncrasies were gone and the impossible escapades were toned down. The best way I can describe it is to say it is Jack Reacher lite. On the flip side, Liane Moriarty delivered big with Big Little Lies. I love how Moriarty writes; her engaging tone makes you want to turn the page. In her latest book, she continues her winning way of writing from multiple women’s perspectives slowly revealing how their lives intersect. Unlike The Husband’s Secret, her latest book is darkly humorous, but don’t worry. The story contains all of the twists and turns we anticipate from Moriarty. The book starts with a tragic death during a parent’s night at a local elementary school in an affluent seaside community in Australia. Moriarty then builds the story backwards, showing how three women, each at a crossroads in their life, played a role in the evening’s tragic ending. I found it funny and thrilling with surprising depth. It’s an absolutely wonderful read.”
Pat T has finished the sequel to the Art of Hearing Heartbeats. “The Well-Tempered Heart by Jan Philip Sendker follows Julia's story 10 years later. She is a successful attorney at a crossroads in her life. One day, while preparing for a presentation, she hears the haunting voice of a wailing woman. Julia decides to return to her father's homeland of Burma to understand what she is hearing. With the help of her half-brother U Ba, they discover that it is the voice of a dead woman, Nu Nu, and together they learn the sad tale of Nu Nu's life. In the search for answers, this becomes a journey of self-discovery for Julia, a stronger bond between brother and sister and of course a romance.”
Hello Steph! What’s doin’? “This weekend I read The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin. What a sweet and funny book! Fikry is a bookstore owner on a small island whose life has been going steadily downhill since his wife’s death, but the shocking discovery of a toddler abandoned in his bookstore changes his life quite a bit! A small mystery and a lovely romance round this out into a nice beach read for those who want to sneak in one more this year or alternatively if you’re already looking forward to fall, it would also be a pleasant fireplace read. This is perfect for fans of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.”
Erin, Steph, and I were invited to a Very Fancy Author Dinner for Jodi Picoult this week. As you all know I never, ever say no to talking books and I most surely never, ever say no to dinner; most especially a Fancy Dinner. But frankly, I dreaded the whole idea of singing for my Fancy Author Dinner which was reading Jodi’s new book which is coming out October. The last book of hers that I had read and enjoyed was My Sister’s Keeper which came out in 2005. That’s all I am going to say about that. But, from the moment I picked Leaving Time, I remembered why I liked her back in the day. Jenna is a thirteen-year-old girl whose mother Alice is a scientist who specializes in elephants; specifically elephants and how they grieve. Alice has been missing for the majority of Jenna’s life and Jenna refuses to believe that she could be dead. So she enlists the help of Serenity Jones, a formerly famous TV Psychic and Virgil Stanhope, an alcoholic private detective. The story is told in alternating voices but it is the voice of Alice and her field notes on the grieving rituals of elephants that make this so compelling. This one is due out in October.
DJ Jazzy Patty McC has something to say from The State Up North. Will she be North enough to see this? There has to be something worthy about living up there. “This was a weird week in my world. I’m blaming the last full perigee moon of the year. Please don’t tell Neil deGrasse Tyson I said that. I know, I know correlation is not causation and if he found out it might make him cranky and nobody likes a cranky astrophysicist. I’m stuck in a few transitions. Back to school, summers’ nearing end, the beginning of one thing and the end of another. I am not ready to say goodbye to summer and we don’t officially have to do that until September 22nd. So, I still have my shorts, white jeans and one pair of flip-flops on hand. But I can resist the seasonal change for only so long before I’ll be forced to throw my hands up in surrender and shrug on a sweater or coat of some sort. So if you’re stuck in a transition of your own, it’s perfectly ok to sit there for a while. Look up at the sky, contemplate, reflect and move on when you are ready. Like the planets and stars above we operate on our own specific timetable of movement and change. And let’s face it, saying goodbye is something that is very, very hard to do.”
First of all, a thank you to the Ever Gracious Priscilla S who gifted us with a box of taffy from her beloved Island. Thanks Priscilla! We are happy you’re home and that’s not just the sugar talking. As always, the SoNo Loft has given me something to make me pause and think hard on during my commute. For those new to this space, the SoNo Loft is a piece of charm and whimsy that gladdens my rather charm-free, whimsy-less commute every week. It is a banner hung from a deck in SoNo with a new message every week. This message is only visible from a train bound for New York and only on the left side of the train with you facing the front of the train. This week’s banner declares “Simplicity, Patience, Compassion.” Which, when you think about it, is just about the most perfect message for the start of fall, back to school, back to life, time of year. These are things that are very easy to forget when you are rushing around from place to place trying to keep your head above water and several balls in the air. Just remember the following; that sometimes the best answer to a problem is the simplest one, that patience can be hard to practice but will always be rewarded in its own quiet way, and the compassion we show towards each other can make a hard world seem a little easier. And don’t forget! You are not alone in finding getting back into the swing of things daunting. We are all circling the same drain. So Simplicity, Patience, Compassion! Onward People and thanks SoNo Loft! We love you guys even if you never answer our tweets. This week we have some Q and A, secrets, sisters, Indochina, a fever and a key. Playlist? Of course! We can’t have you all running around without a soundtrack! That would be cruel.
Let us begin!
Miss Lisa of the CL is back with this offering: “I want to recommend The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida. Written by a thirteen-year-old Japanese boy with autism, the book is a series of questions with answers such as ‘Why do you ask the same questions over and over?’ and ‘Why do you like being in the water?’ Higashida has a huge heart and on every page asks for compassion and understanding for people with autism, while revealing the world he lives in with detail, clarity, and charm. If you want to learn more about autism, this is a gem. Hearing the voice and thoughts of someone with autism, instead of what others have to say about it, is extremely valuable. “
Barbara M stuck with Thrity Umrigar’s latest The Story Hour. “This novel is about love, friendship and secrets. After attempting suicide, Lakshimi, an immigrant from India, becomes the patient of Maggie, an American psychologist. What begins as a professional relationship turns into an uneasy friendship where the two share stories and secrets. There are unexpected twists to the story as it unfolds and one’s original alliances and sympathies are challenged. At first I was put off by Lakshmi’s broken English, and while I got used to it and understood why it was important, I still found it jarring. Although I found the story a bit implausible, I could not stop reading it.”
The Fabulous Babs B is watching and reading this week. What did she think of Lucky Us by Amy Bloom and the film classic Indochine? “In Lucky Us we have the story of two half-sisters, (one legitimate, the other illegitimate) of a professor in a small Ohio town, in the late 1930's. The younger daughter, Eva, was dumped by her Mother into the home of the Father and older sister, Iris. When the two sisters take off to Hollywood where Iris plans to become a movie star, this book becomes a study of contrasts about how the sisters behave at different stages and situations in life. It was a fun and quick read! I also watched Indochine where the beautiful Catherine Deneuve stars as Eliane Devries, the icy owner of a prosperous rubber plantation in French Indochina. When her adopted Indochinese daughter innocently falls in love with Elaine's secret lover, the scandalous triangle threatens to destroy their entire family. Set against the violence of the bloody Communist uprising, this is a wrenching tale of love and war with absolutely breathtaking scenery. Thank you to my son for making me watch this with him!”
The Ever Delightful Pat S is reading What is Visible by Kimberly Elkins which is easily one of my favorites of the year. What did she think? “This is a fascinating story about a woman named Laura Bridgman who had scarlet fever at the age of two. She was left without four of her five senses: sight, hearing, taste, and smell. Her only remaining sense was touch. Taken to the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston she learned language via hand signing and was able to communicate. By the mid-nineteenth century she was the second most famous woman in the world-second only to Queen Victoria. What is Visible is the fictionalized story of her inner life; her perceptions of the people and circumstances she encounters. While her story highlights her fierce intelligence, it also underlines her palpable sense being alone, and ultimately loneliness. This is a story which haunts long after the last page has turned. “
I can be found driving some days, which you know makes me most unhappy, but there are times it can’t be helped. It is especially heinous now that summer is over and the roads are not really roads but parking lots where one inches toward your destination. To make this a bit less painful, I have been listening to the audio book of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Nine-year-old Oskar Schell lost his father on 9/11 and has been feeling his absence keenly. When he discovers a key among his possessions he takes it as a sign that his father wants him to find the lock that it belongs to. Running parallel with Oskar’s story is the story of his grandparents who hail from Dresden. The narration of the story is nothing short of wonderful. So while I am late to the party on this book, I am very happy to say I did eventually make it and would recommend this story to anyone not only looking to be entertained, but also looking for a marvelous literary tour-de-force.
DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here from The State Which Shall Not Be Named with The Playlist and these closing thoughts. What’s doing Pats? “There are times when the Loft’s message and my own experience are in perfect sync. This week I went to my first PTA parent coffee for class sign-ups and to hear the elementary principal say a few words, setting the tone for the school year. For his theme, he focused on parents as primary teachers and models for their children. Despite a microphone, I could not hear the principal over the chattering parents. I was appalled and frankly embarrassed by my fellow parents’ behavior. I crossed the room so I could better hear him. He seemed unfazed by their chatter and joked about how it was challenging to compete with parents who hadn’t seen each other all summer. He ended with a video by Kid President on the 20 Things We Should Say More Often. Let’s take on this challenge and put into practice the 20 Things and don’t forget the bonus… Let’s dance!”
Happy Labor Day weekend! Even though this is the last weekend to rock the white pants I say forget that. We fought winter too hard to yield to autumn just yet and this has been the most beautiful summer I can remember. Please don’t misunderstand. I love fall as much as the next girl. What’s not to love about College football (Let’s go Bucks! Beat Navy!), cider and donuts, back-to-school shopping, crisp clear mornings and pretty foliage? I get the appeal. But I am not ready to go gentle into the good night of fall. I am going to string this out as long as I can. I will continue to revel in gorgeous tomatoes, basil and burratta on the dinner table (please save me a ball Fairfield Cheese Company!), the bare leg, an occasional ice cream treat, trips to the beach, a glass of rosé, and yes, the white pant. So no judging when you see me in white pants in the upcoming weeks. Please remember that we are closed on Monday but you will see us back at it on Tuesday morning at 9 when we open the doors again. This week we have yet another TV series, infidelity, dogs, detectives, and some burnt toast. Playlist? Times 2 Baby!
Let us begin!
Abby has another series to offer us. “A few years ago, I started watching a show on AMC called The Killing. Based on a popular Danish TV series, this US version is set in Seattle against a background of gray days and rain filled sky. The lead characters are detectives Sarah Linden and Stephen Holder. Linden has a troubled personal history and a dangerous tendency to immerse herself in her homicide cases to the exclusion of all else, including her young son. Holder is a former undercover cop with his own set of troubles. After 2 seasons, The Killing was cancelled but fan outrage brought it back for another try. Season 3 left us with such an intense and breathtaking ending, it was tough to turn off the television once it was over. Netflix brought The Killing back for a final season on August 1st .This series is not for the squeamish and if too much intensity before bedtime keeps you up, watch during daytime hours.”
Sweet Ann finished Life Drawing by Robin Black. “Augusta, who is known as Gus, and Owen have decided to marry and put her infidelity behind them. They feel their best chance to move forward is to isolate themselves from the outside world by retreating to a cottage in rural Pennsylvania where Owen can write and Gus can paint. While Owen has forgiven Gus he has asked her not to have any contact with her former lover or his daughter, who was one of Gus' art students. They are doing well until Alison, also an artist, rents a nearby cabin. This novel opens with the death of Owen and as a reader you will follow the lies and betrayals to figure out whom or what caused his death. Life Drawing is an enjoyable read.”
Pat T is in the middle of reading Travels with Casey: My Journey Through our Dog-Crazy Country by Benoit Denizet–Lewis. “In case you are wondering about the title of this book, it bears no relation to Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck. As the author says this is the real deal, he traveled 13,000 miles across the United States in an RV with his nine year old Labrador mix. Together they had a full range of dog related experiences from a stop in Westport to help a couple search for their lost dog, and New York City’s Tompkins's Park where one of the regulars said, ‘Hey, man. If you can survive a day in a dog park in New York City, you can survive anywhere!’ With that sentiment, they continue their travels to D.C. and western Virginia stopping at a winery with a sign that set the tone of the place: Slow Please-Dogs, Kids and Winemakers at Play! I will continue reading about this man-dog adventure because it is fun for anyone, like me, who is a dog-lover!”
Stephanie is picking up where she left off last week. “A banner week for mysteries! First, I read the remaining David Mark book, Sorrow Bound, to make good on my promise last week. It was as good as the first two, so I definitely recommend the Detective Sergeant McAvoy series to all the UK mystery fans out there, especially those who love Denise Mina and/or Luther. Louise Penny also has a new book this week: The Long Way Home. I didn’t love it quite as much as the last one, but it’s still very good, and even a bit of a tear-jerker. We should have known that Chief Inspector Gamache could retire and still have detective work to do. I do feel a bit sad for him that he can’t retire quietly, but I’m happy for us that she’s still writing the series. Either book would be a lovely page-turning companion for Labor Day weekend reading!
I took Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food and Love from an American Midwest Family by Kathleen Flinn to the beach last weekend. It is billed as a “family history with recipes” and indeed it is just that. The youngest of five, Flinn tells us the story of her family and more to the point her family’s time at the table and traditions. Be assured this is not a sickeningly saccharine memoir. There is just enough family drama and secrets to keep you interested. The only chapter that I skipped was the chapter where her oldest sister embraces the clown lifestyle. That’s all I am going to say about that. The recipes aren’t anything earth shattering or special but when Flinn puts them into the context of her family’s story they become as important to the narrative as the family pictures that begin each chapter. I also highly recommend The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Flinn.
Here’s DJ Jazzy Patty McC with her take on the long weekend. “The long, slower summer days are rapidly coming to an end and fall will be here soon. Mornings already carry a chill that wasn’t in the air last week. Next week, my children will start another school year and I will post pictures of them going on their way. My current project is to can every last summer fruit and vegetable. I’m putting summer in a jar to be kept on a shelf. I know there will be a day when we are waist deep in snow banks and it will be then that I’ll open a cabinet and reach inside for a jar of summertime. Proust had his madeleines and while I am no Marcel Proust but I will have my own jars of summer preserves, and my own Remembrance of Things Past. This week I invite you to create something for that time when you need a little reminder of summer.
Here are the new titles available from 3M.