You Are What You Read

You Are What You Read!

Hosted by Jen Dayton
Hosted by Jen Dayton

The message this week from the SoNo Loft is Adventure Awaits!  And indeed it does!  Next week I am going on vacation to what is referred to, without irony it should be noted, by the Traveling Companion as The Homeland.  The rest of us call it North Carolina, specifically Southern Pines and Pinehurst.  The real adventure here is that I will be attending my first major golf tournament.  Those who know me realize that this may not be the best fit.  But I am going in, I am excited and I will report back.  Sweet Ann is also having an adventure next week and will be exploring areas of New York City with one of her sons that she has never been to before.  She is excited.  Erin and Mallory are going to the Ninety9 Bottle Craft Beer Fest tomorrow in SoNo as their adventure. And they are excited too. So I encourage you all to get out there.    The weather promises to be glorious so no excuses will be accepted.  Have an adventure this weekend! Try something new. Get excited about it and then report back and let us know what you did.  This week we have a Painter, a biologist, a rotary phone, Australia, Norway, a pile, some drinking, Liverpool, Ozarks, pain meds, Nazis, and golf.  Because it would appear all roads lead to golf.  Playlist?  You betcha!  Would it be a weekend without one?

Let us begin!

John has been busy. Very, very busy.  Here is what he has been working on.  “First, there was The Painter, Peter Heller’s second novel.  Hellers first book, The Dog Stars, was one of my favorites from 2012 so you can imagine I was anxious to read his second.  The storyline was not at all what I expected and I found myself, once again, engrossed in his storytelling. Hellers prose is clean and clear and his descriptions of nature will leave you feeling like you’re standing in a mountain stream, underneath a clear, starry sky. If a novel about vigilante painters piques your interest, you will enjoy this one.  I then moved on, and quickly through, the first two books in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy: Annihilation and Authority (the third book comes out in September). This is serious science fiction for connoisseurs of the genre.  The series begins are we are dropped into the mysterious ‘Area X’ as a biologist representing an all-female, multi-disciplinary research team. But things start going wrong terribly wrong immediately, just as they did for the dozens and dozens of teams that came before them. This is an eerie and deeply psychological series that will give you goose bumps and keep you turning the pages.”

The Delightful Mallory joined our ranks as a full timer this week and we could not be more pleased.  Here is what she has enjoyed recently. “Rainbow Rowell does this thing.  She creates these characters, these deeply flawed, difficult characters, and makes you fall desperately in love with them.  Rainbow's newest protagonist, Georgie, can be found in the July debut Landline.  Georgie is career-driven to a fault, used to getting what she wants, a barely-there mother and wife and she  is about to receive the opportunity of a lifetime.  In saying yes to this new opportunity, she loses both her husband and two young daughters. And just what is her method of coping?  Wearing awful velour track suits and utilizing a magical, time-traveling rotary phone!  As Georgie rapidly spirals downward, she also begins to understand what truly matters and what it takes to fix it.  Landline is as quick as it is touching, the perfect summer read.”

Miss Elizabeth of the CL has a new obsession.  I’ll let her explain. “This week I discovered a new obsession streaming on Netflix (and soon to be available at the library!) Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. Set in the roaring 20's in bustling Australia, the television series follows the entirely glamorous, fabulously wealthy, Honorable Miss Phryne Fisher as she solves crimes around Australia, flies planes, drives fast in wicked-looking cars, wears gorgeous clothing, and has innumerable flirtations with dangerous men. In short, the series is perfect and I cannot recommend it enough. So imagine my joy when I discovered my new favorite TV show is based on a series of detective novels! I raced through the first Phryne Fisher Mystery in just a few days. Cocaine Blues follows Phryne's return to the continent where she was born into poverty many years before, on a mission to determine if the wealthy daughter of an acquaintance is being poisoned by her philandering husband. Drama, intrigue, and delectable descriptions of clothing and luncheons follow. “

Sweet Ann has just finished Days in the History of Silence by Norwegian author Merethe Lindstrom. “I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it is in my top favorite reads of this year.   The novel takes place in Norway and centers on the long marriage of Eva, a former teacher and Simon, a retired doctor.  It is a very thoughtful and wonderful reflection of a marriage and the secrets that a couple share between themselves.  Simon has stopped talking and spends his days in silence and while  Eva misses his voice she accepts that silence is the way he deals with his past.  Their grown daughter thinks she would be happier if Simon was put in a home.  This novel is described as unnerving and it is as Eva, the narrator of this novel, reflects on her marriage and the secrets their shared past.  I can't recommend this novel enough and it will stay with you long after you finish reading it.

Abby was abroad last week.  Here is one of the titles she is excited about. “BEA provided me with the opportunity to meet authors whose work I have long respected. I was charmed by David Mitchell and enjoyed hearing him speak because of the content of his talk, anticipation over his new novel The Bone Clocks, and on a more superficial note, his wonderful accent. I’ve read a few of his previous books and find him to be a thoughtful writer capable of creating complex worlds. His latest, The Bone Clocks, is at the Top ‘O the To Be Read pile.”

Steph has found some peace in between the covers of the following.” During this past crazy week my respite was Fourth of July Creek, a debut novel by Smith Henderson. I knew I had to check it out after hearing great things about it at BEA, and then getting an email from John with the subject line ‘OMG’ that contained only the link to this book. The story centers around Pete Snow, a social worker in rural Montana who is only slightly less troubled than the families he helps out. His wife and daughter are leaving him, he drinks like a fish, and lives on his own in a cabin. But that’s nothing compared to the dysfunction he sees on a regular basis, especially after he returns a kid to his backwoods survivalist father in a cabin where he is defacing US coinage in preparation for the end of the world. (Believe me, that sentence doesn’t come close to explaining the insanity of Jeremiah Pearl.) As Snow’s life and the lives he manages get increasingly chaotic, his daughter goes missing, her story popping up in between chapters and growing increasingly dire. Sounds cheery, right? Well, it’s a grim book, but a great one. Henderson’s writing is rough and oh-so American, reminding me of Cormac McCarthy by way of Bonnie Jo Campbell, and the story is addictive to the point of making me wish for a train delay. OMG is right!”

Introducing Julia our RA High School Intern!  Take it away Julia!  I went to my very first BEA last Thursday and met some very cool publishers and authors. I brought home plenty of books that are going on the list to read in the upcoming weeks, including We Are Called to Rise, about a child’s fate told through an immigrant boy, two women, and a young veteran. I’m excited to read these new books, but before I do I had to go back and read a book from years ago that I just never got around to, Gone Girl. I know everyone is probably over it by now, but I’m halfway through and enjoying it immensely. Also, in the past week I’ve gotten a recommendation from Stephanie, the head of Readers’ Services, about the book Red or Dead by David Peace. It’s about The Liverpool Football Club, who, with the help of their beloved coach, make it up the ranks and win the title. I haven’t heard such glowing reviews from a book in a long time, so it’s going on the ever-growing list of novels I’ll make time to read.”

Virginina the Tall Cool Texan is still on the treadmill. Still listening.  Go Virginia! “I love a great mystery/thriller, especially as an audiobook, because it makes my workouts go so much faster, and  The Weight of Blood  by Laura McHugh did not disappoint.  In fact, it was so outstanding, I am actually sad I already finished it, and wished I would have paced myself a bit more.   A young girl living in the Ozark Mountains is haunted by the gruesome death of a friend and goes searching for answers only to find they lead back to the mystery of her missing mother.  If you liked Gone Girl, this dark novel is for you.  Also, I just finished All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner.  The main character, Allison Weiss, is a woman who supposedly has it all; the perfect home, a great husband, a precocious daughter and a wonderful, fulfilling job.  Unfortunately, she also has a serious addiction to painkillers.  When it spirals out of control her perfect life crumbles around her.  While I am not sure I loved this book, I did enjoy it and parts of it have stuck with me.  It is worth reading and I think it is going to be a very popular book this summer.”   

Pat S
is not happy this week.  She found Flash Boys by Michael Lewis to be less than satisfying.  Here’s her reasoning.  ”Now, we all know that I am a longtime fan of all things Michael Lewis, so imagine my delight when I finally got my hands on Flash Boys. The first third of the book introduced the topic of high frequency traders in the finance industry and their ability to game the system by virtue of a technical glitch of ‘micro-seconds’, or ‘frontrunning’ thus affecting the transparency of the market. Lewis focuses on the technological developments in the operation of financial markets which have occurred at such a fast pace that the regulatory board (SEC) has not been able to keep up with them. In his usual style, Lewis gives us a narrative that includes heroes, villains-and the moral high ground. Unfortunately, where in books such as The Big Short, Liars’ Poker and Boomerang  Lewis has been able to successfully de-mystify the complex world of the financial industry for the layperson, he misses the boat this time around. I stuck with the book for my book group, but am sorry to say that at the end, I am still not sure of what frontrunning is.  On a happier note, neither were the other members of the book group!”

Babs B is doing things a little differently.  “This isn’t my typical summer beach read but it is a beautiful novel that shows how courage and hope can be two of the most powerful motivators of all time. The Auschwitz Escape by Joel Rosenberg  delves into one of the darkest moments of history.  His main character, Jacob Weisz, is faced with the horrific reality of being Jewish in Germany during WWII.  Fighting as part of the Resistance, Weisz is captured as he courageously works to free a train full of Jewish prisoners.  Taken directly to Auschwitz, Weisz’ only goal is to escape and let the world know of the atrocities being committed at the death camps. Rosenberg was inspired to write this book after his visit to Auschwitz in 2011.  You will be inspired at the lengths he goes to survive and I highly recommend this read!”

My pick for you all this week is one that is somewhat selfishly motivated.  It’s the first ever pick for the Golf Channel’s newly formed book group and it’s called Arnie, Seve, and a Fleck of Golf History:  Heroes, Underdogs, Courses and Championships by Bill Fields.  As I stated in the intro I am going down to Pinehurst and I will be attending my first ever US Open.  I am not a sportif person.  I don’t really follow anything but Ohio State Football because in my family that is a non-negotiable.  My brother Peter is the golf fan.  He loves the game and he would take great delight in pointing his finger at me and stating with great confidence that someday I was going to need to know about golf.   Of course, I told him with utter confidence I would never need this knowledge.  I apologize to my brother and so now here I am, going off to the US Open with Bill Fields.  There is a truth in the genius of really beautiful writing and it is this:  even when you don’t care about the subject one whit, the writing alone carries you along and draws you in until without realizing it you do, indeed, care.  Take for example this first paragraph from his essay entitled King of the Hill:

        Sam Snead’s swing used to resemble a Faulkner first sentence. It was long, laced with the perfect pause, and                           blessed with a powerful ending.  Now that he is eighty-four years old it is only slightly less so. He is driving off a tee                   beside me, on a piece of Florida land that was a swamp way back when and he still purrs.

See?  Genius!  So think of me next Sunday while I attend my first ever Open and Bill reports on his 30th.  And pick up his book in the meantime.  An entire channel devoted to the game can’t be wrong. And I know I’m not.

DJ Jazzy Patty McC is in da house to let us know about what’s going on in The State Which Shall Not Be Named. It would appear that she is all about the Adventure. Take it away Patty! “It’s been a rainy week in the Midwest but who am I to complain when the weekends are resplendent with ALL that is summertime? The sun and temperatures here have granted the worker bees a bounty of weekend blessings. The grass is thickly growing underfoot and my organic container garden is sprouting on the balcony. If you have not kicked off your shoes and let loose your tresses, you really need to do that. Do it now, I’ll wait… Life here in the D is bursting with hope, promise and lots and lots of green. I’ve coined it the new Brooklyn. Skinny jeans, flannel and ironic facial hair can be found everywhere, thankfully mostly on the men folk. We are the testing site for self-driving cars, the 10.4 acre living roof of the Ford Rouge Center and home to Hantz Farms, the world’s largest urban farm.  Life is an adventure for sure and humans are natural storytellers and creators. So, this week I invite you to get outside, start your own adventure and just for fun change your narrative. Let me know how that goes. Don’t forget to enjoy it with a frosty glass of lemonade. “

You Are What You Read!

Hosted by Jen Dayton
Hosted by Jen Dayton

Well the weekend we thought would never come is here!  The official kick off to Summer 2014 begins with the arrival of this missive.  Happy Summer!  We made it!   Break out those white pants/shoes and rejoice!  Although I must say that I have broken that rule with a new pair of white jeans that I am wild about.  The Fabulous Babs B has been kind and not chided me for it but I know that this is the one fashion rule she will never break.   Sure the beginning of the weekend won’t be the best in terms of weather but it’s still better than what we have had to wade through to get to this point.  All week I have had people tell me they were stocking up on library material for the great migration to wherever they Summer.   I have heard about trips to the Adirondacks, Maine, Nantucket, The Cape, and Block.  Places that we could only have imagined in our little frozen brains just weeks ago.   And so I wish you a lovely three days filled with sun, sand, something festive to sip, a comfy chair and a great read.  Please be aware that there will not be an issue of YAWYR next week.  We will all be at Book Expo finding out what is coming up for the year in Books.  We’ll be back in business though on the 6th.   As an aside, if you are in the State Which Should Not Be Named at a certain golfing event on Sunday and you see the Traveling Companion wish him a Happy Birthday.   He’d like that. This week we have some strange people, a need for sleep, the American Dream, a cold case, Daphne the Deb, a pilot and some Frank Campbell.

The Playlist?  But, of course!

Let us begin!

Alan, our leader is finished but just with his latest read.   No worries.  He’s still around. “I’ve just finished Ingenious: A True Story of Invention Automotive Daring And the Race to Revive America by Jason Fagone. He followed 4 of the 100+ teams that entered the 2007 X Prize Foundation contest to build a safe, mass-producible car that could travel 100 miles on the equivalent of a gallon of gas for a prize of $10 million dollars. There are engineers, tinkerers, some amazingly interesting and accomplished (and strange) people who compete, and the author does a great job of telling the story of a resurgence of innovation and invention.”

Kim (you know…the one with the shiny boat shoes) is reading Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom and Wonder by Arianna Huffington.  “The book, about the dangers of personal burnout, gives statistics that universities and colleges have collected as well as examples of real events.  It is a very informative and one of the main ideas it tells the reader is that more sleep leads to a better life!”

Sweet Ann has just finished Family Life by Akhil Sharma. “This is a beautifully written story about a family coming here to experience the American dream.  The Mishra family, parents and two sons, immigrate to Long Island (Queens specifically) from India.  Ajay and his older brother Birju find many things in the U.S. fascinating from elevators to escalators.  Birju, a good student, takes the entrance exam for the Bronx High School of Science and with his whole family's support he passes.  But the family’s happiness is short lived after Birju is injured in an accident.  This accident will take its toll on the family and each member has to deal with it in their own way.  Ajay narrates the story in a very realistic manner expressing fear, love and even jealousy as his parents focus their attention on their injured son. I highly recommend this book.”

Abby is sticking with a favorite. “Tana French’s latest in the Dublin Murder Squad series, The Secret Place, grabbed me from the first paragraph. As in her earlier works, she takes what has been a peripheral character and turns them into the main protagonist.  In Secret Place, it’s Detective Stephen Moran. Working in cold cases, Moran has his eye on the homicide division.  One cold case, which involves the murder of a young man at a posh boarding school,  now has a very current lead, and allows him the opportunity to try the prestigious murder squad on for size. While I’m still in the early part of the book, I cannot wait to read more. French is one of the few writers whose work you can see evolving and I am a major fan.”

Pat S has just finished Cavendon Hall by Barbara Taylor Bradford.  “Attempting to keep Downton Abbey withdrawal at bay, I picked up Cavendon Hall by Barbara Taylor Bradford. Set in Edwardian England, Cavendon Hall is home to Charles Ingham, the illustrious Earl of Mowbray and his family living side by side with the Swanns, the family of loyal retainers who have served the aristocratic family faithfully for generations. The story opens during the years leading up to WWI as one of the Earls’ daughters’, Daphne, is about to be presented at court. But on the eve of this debut, Daphne is assaulted, and the world as it was known, has been turned upside down. So begins the sweeping family saga, told through the eyes of the Earl’s six children, as well as the current generation of the Swann family, Bradford does a great job of presenting the historical landscape. This is a great, fun read filled with all the passion, intrigue, secrets and general mayhem one could hope for in a summer read.”

Sue S is having a blast with The Cure for the Common Breakup by Beth Kendrick.  “Normally I would devour a chick-lit book like The Cure for the Common Breakup in two evenings.  However, I have been enjoying this book so much that I have had to force myself to read only a few chapters an evening because I do not want to see it end!  The plot centers on Summer Benson, who we learn is a flight attendant and dating none other than a pilot who is supposed to be the most fabulous catch.   Very early in the book Summer’s life is turned upside down by two significant events.   Summer takes herself to heal in the town of Black Dog Bay.  It is her time here that you will want to savor and revel in her interactions with the town’s characters.  The way that Beth Kendrick writes you can easily imagine the people of the town and you find yourself happily transported into Summer’s world.  A little bit of craziness, healing, heartache, laughter and people harboring long held grudges are what make The Cure for The Common Break Up a book that I hope you too will love.”

I have never made a secret of my love of a good tale of WASP dysfunction.  I love reading about my tribe complete with all of our peculiarities and foibles. Throw in some McLean or Silver Hill, a poet or two, a waning fortune, two Sherries at 5 max and a big Frank Campbell send-off and I am in heaven.  The May 5th edition of the New Yorker ran a piece called Pilgrim Mothers: The Ladies of the Four O’Clock Club by Sarah Payne Stuart which I found charming and it reminded me a lot of an outfit that I belong to; the $5.00 annual membership fee, the strict adherence to rules that were set forth in 1879, and some fierce dragons not to be trifled with but adored just the same.   Imagine my delight when I came across the fact that I could get even more of the same when Perfectly Miserable: God, Guilt and Real Estate in a Small Town comes out next month!  Stuart ran like the wind from her hometown of Concord, MA when she was 18 with the intention of never coming back, but when she begins a family of her own, she throws herself back into the thick of it.  Stuart not only looks hard at her own  domestic life, but the lives of some of Concord’s most famous women including the wives of Ralph Waldo Emerson and the forever suffering Abby May Alcott  better known as Marmee of The Little Women.  You can get your own fix if that is what thrills you when it comes out on June 12th.

DJ Jazzy Patty had a happy/sad week. I’ll let her explain: “One of the great paradoxes of life is change. Rarely do people like it, few seek it and yet it’s happening as you read these words. On a micro-cellular level we are constantly dividing, dying and regenerating. Every single day that we take a breath and our hearts beat, we engage in the cycle of aging. Babies are born, prefrontal cortex development happens, and then in the wink of an eye, wrinkles and grey hair. This week my family welcomed a baby and said goodbye to a great man in the space of two days. Last week I said we can’t know what’s going to happen day-to-day, but here’s something I do know. I know that we change all the time and that what we do in between birth and our last breaths is the good stuff. It’s the meat or portabella mushroom in your sandwich. It’s the important stuff. How we choose to live it and what happens will be different for us all. I’d like to believe that we all consciously choose kindness, express gratitude and share whatever our particular gift is with others. I am fortunate be in a family of storytellers. So this week we will share our stories about beloved John and we will hug each other, we will cry and we will all clamor to hold sweet baby Jayden. With the stories we share, time will feel like it’s stopped even though in that very moment we will be changing. “

You Are What You Read!

Hosted by Jen Dayton
Hosted by Jen Dayton

Readers of YAWYR who have come late-ish to our party often ask me, “What is the SoNo Loft? How can a Loft have a message?  Is this some kind of cult? Just what are you constantly referring to week after week?  Do these pants make me look fat?” Well New Friends (no, not you Susan from Fairfield Cheese Company), the SoNo Loft is probably the only charming piece of my rather charmless commute these days.  Whoever is living/working in the space attached to this deck takes great care every week to paint a banner and hang it from the railing of their deck.  What makes this especially cool is that it is a message that is only visible from one side of the train, only going into New York and you can’t see it from the street.  This is a message crafted just for us and it is without exception happy, upbeat, and thought provoking.  It is a nice way to begin the work week and it can sometimes totally set the tone for what is to follow.  I have been trying to get a picture via the cell phone for a while now and this week I succeeded!  The Traveling Companion (thank you Bill F – now you know his real name) tried to smooth some of the rough edges and prettied it up for me so this week I present to you The SoNo Loft and its rather lovely message of ‘Keep Calm and Think On.’ And yes, I think those pants would be better served on someone else. This week we have a 12-year-old child , secret societies, Nazis, inspiration, a group home, another 12-year-old child, alien invasion, and Wall Street and yes, another 12-year-old.  Playlist?  Got that too!

Let us begin!

John has finished The Good Lord Bird by James McBride.  “This is a brilliantly-crafted tour de force about the story of John Brown and his capture of the armory at Harpers Ferry.  Told as a retrospective oral narrative from the point of view of a twelve year-old slave, freed by Brown, it reads like a Mark Twain novel.  At times funny, sad, horrifying, and astonishingly tender, the importance of this book cannot be understated.  It is truly a masterpiece.  I needed to follow that with something a little different, so I opted for The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway.  If you are an Anglophile who likes intelligent, witty prose about time-travelling secret societies, then this book is for you.  I will say no more about it other than that it is wildly entertaining and written well enough to make you not feel like you’re slumming it.”

Barbara M is reading 50 Children: One Ordinary American Couple's Extraordinary Rescue Mission into the Heart of Nazi Germany by Steven Pressman. Bet you anything there were 12-year-old involved.  “In his attempt to rid Germany of Jews, Hitler encouraged them to leave before World War II started. Unfortunately, this was not always possible as few countries would take them in and even those who were granted visas often lacked the money to leave.  The author’s wife’s grandparents, Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus, prominent members of the Jewish community in Philadelphia, decided to do something about the plight of Jewish children living in Austria under the Nazi regime.  Government regulations about bringing unaccompanied children into this country were strict and not easily circumvented but with the help of a few people, and with their determination, the Krauses succeeded in saving the lives of 50 children who otherwise might have perished. This is a heart-warming story of a courageous couple who found a way to do something they knew was righteous.”

Blanche!  A Librarian so legendary she needs only one name.  Like Cher.  Or Madonna.  They aren’t librarians, but you understand what I am saying. This is her yearly rare appearance and here is her take on Everybody's Got Something by Robin Roberts with Veronica Chambers.  “This is a touching and inspiring story about Robin’s fight against myelodysplastic syndrome or MDS as it is known. You can’t help but cheer her on from page one and I didn’t want to put the book down when I started to read it.

The Delightful Mallory is here with a surprise this week. “I hate movies.  I get bored easily, can't commit, and just generally don't find them engaging as a medium.  The last movie I saw in theaters was Les Misérables and that was only because my love for musicals and Hugh Jackman trumped my hatred for film.  I say all of this to let you know that if I'm recommending a movie, it's gotta be pretty darn good.  Short Term 12 follows Grace, a young 20-something, who works at a foster home for disadvantaged youth.  The movie opens with Grace and her peers giving advice to a new coworker.  It goes a little something like, ‘Lose the tie.  Don't be their friend.  They'll try and push you, just say no for a while.’  This is followed by a story of Mason, another group-home worker, who was so frightened on his first day on the job he actually pooped himself.  Even with the given advice, it's clear that Grace does nothing more than absolutely adore and advocate for each of the children in her care.  The film is equal parts heartbreaking and uplifting, as silly as it is raw, and above all, masterfully told in both cinematography and script.  I will recommend this movie to every human I meet until the end of time.”

The Fabulous Babs B is here with You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz.   “Grace Reinhart Sachs has it all.  She loves her husband who is a pediatric oncologist, is a successful marriage counselor and she is about to have her first book published. But when her husband goes missing, everything falls apart.   Not only has he cleaned out their joint checking account but he is a prime suspect for a murder!  Little by little, Grace realizes that the warning signs were there about her marriage unraveling and she chose to ignore them instead of practicing what she preaches. Grace must dismantle one life and create another for her herself  and their 12-year-old child if she wants to survive.  I found it interesting how easily she and her son adapted to their new life.  Not one of my favorite books but I had to finish it!”

Virginia the Tall Cool Texan is like a Tall Cool Texan Gerbil on a Wheel.  Literally.  I will let her explain.  “I love the recent hint of Spring and Summer in the air, and it has reminded me it’s time to get back to the gym.  Thank God for the library’s Hoopla service, because my time on the treadmill is so much more bearable when I am listening to a good audiobook.  The 5th Wave by Hugh Dancy is certainly making my gym time fly.  This may be one of my favorite dystopian novels since the Hunger Games.  A brutal alien invasion has nearly eradicated the human race by sending waves of darkness, tsunamis, disease, and deception to Earth.  The few humans unlucky enough to survive are racing to save the world before the next and final wave hits. Read it now before the next installment of the book, The Infinite Sea, comes out in September.  I also just started Flash Boys by Michael Lewis and so far I am thoroughly enjoying this look at the dark side of Wall Street. At times it's hard to believe this is non-fiction, because Lewis does such an amazing job of building the characters and explaining the complex financial markets.  So far, I can see why Flash Boys is on the top of everyone's must reads for this summer. “

DJ Patty McC is taking the SoNo Loft message to heart and is Keeping Calm but Thinking about Stuff just the same.  Here is Patty’s report from The State Up North and of course The Playlist.  Take it away Patty!  ”This week has been an interesting one weather-wise out here in the Midwest. In the space of a few days, we’ve experienced 87-degree temperatures, flash floods and tornado watches. It makes one ponder things happening to our planet that 97 percent of scientists agree on. The things that some media sources and politicians tell us, ‘It ain’t so!  Not all the evidence is in.’ Greenhouse gases are increasing, causing significant climate changes around the world. This is a fact. There is no magical thinking involved in this claim just data and hard science.  This week my 12 year-old-daughter had her first middle school tornado drill. This is old hat to me as I grew up in the Midwest. As a kid, my older sister derived pleasure by having us practice very precise and terrifying tornado preparedness drills. Those drills left me a fearful, neurotic mess. My daughter was unfazed by the tornado drill, but my 7-year-old-son appeared to be completely freaked out. I asked him if he was worried that we would have a tornado here. He shrugged. I very calmly and clearly explained that it was rare and that I had never had one in my town while I lived in Michigan. Then I lied and told him that it wouldn’t happen here and gave him our family plan should one occur. He spent the remainder of the day with his blanket firmly clenched between his first two fingers and thumb. We all need those touchstones; something that comforts us when life is unsure or off-kilter. It may not be socially acceptable for adults to carry around a blanket, but we have them nonetheless.  We can’t know what’s going to happen day-to-day but we do know that we can affect change NOW one tiny step at a time. So this week I encourage you to have a difficult, honest conversation with your children or a friend about something that takes you out of your comfort zone without freaking out and don’t forget your blankie. A little music might help.  At least it does for me.”





You Are What You Read!

Hosted by Jen Dayton
Hosted by Jen Dayton

Happy Mother’s Day Weekend!  Consider this a Public Service Warning that you now have 48 hours to get it together and honor your Mom.  Being a mom is not easy work.  The hours are long, the pay stinks, you grow half a shoe size with each child and if that weren’t grim enough, some of us do that dance all alone without any support from the other piece of the parenting puzzle.  Couple that with it’s the only job that only ends when you do.  And who knows? Maybe not even then.   It doesn’t matter how old your children get, they are still the cause of fret and worry.  In the words of the wise and wonderful Priscilla S (her real name), “You are only as happy as your most unhappy child.” I loved the New Yorker cover this week.    What mother on the planet hasn’t had that moment?  I know for myself as the mother of two active boys it was a frequent occurrence and I considered the day a triumph if I did not hear the word ‘incident’ come from a teacher’s mouth.  (An aside to you new Moms out there; no good ever comes from an educator using the word incident. Trust me on this one.)   My cousins and I lost our mothers when they were relatively young and not a day goes by that we don’t miss them.  So call your mom!  Shower her with flowers and prettily wrapped gifts, pour her a big glass of whatever makes her happy, make her put her feet up and do her bidding. If, you are like me and the cousins and that’s not possible, do something in her honor that would make her proud.  She would like that very much. Do we have The Playlist?  Of course we do!  It’s a Friday.  This week we have a young writer, some moms, Rhode Island, journalists, London, sisters, criminal activites and some anxiety.

Let us begin!

Abby is reading The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair due out on May 27th. “One thing that attracts me to a book is when it doesn't remind me of anything else I've read. Even if I don't absolutely love the book, I have tremendous respect for originality. This is where I find myself with The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker.  Already an award winner and bestseller in Europe, it is a dense and original work that is an absorbing mix of romance, mystery, and literary fiction. Bouncing between the present  and the mid-1970's, Dicker tells the story of Marcus Goldman, a young writer who becomes the toast of the town following the debut of his first novel, but then gets hit by a crushing bout of writer's block. Under pressure from a demanding public and an impatient publisher, Marcus reaches out to his college mentor Harry Quebert to help him break it. But when details about Harry's past emerge, Marcus is determined to stand by Harry and clear his name.  This book is an interesting mix of Harry's writing, small town life, fame, loyalty, and the very nature of love.

Pat T is celebrating Mother’s Day in a literary way.  “This Mother’s Day I would like to bring to your  attention  Anna Quindlen, since the subject of her many novels touch on motherhood and family. In her book, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, she looks back on the days when she ‘lived everyday devoted to the welfare of three exuberant, emotionally exhausting children and had no clue about how these three children would change everything’. In Still Life with Breadcrumbs, Rebecca Winters, is a daughter, wife and mother whose life has been upended but she faces the challenges with a renewed energy.  In Black and Blue, and Every Last One, the mothers deal with challenges and tragedies with honesty, strength and courage.  I wish all you Moms a relaxing, carefree day, reading a good book!”

Sue S had reached completion! “I finished On the Rocks by Erin Duffy. When Abby is dumped by her fiancé via Facebook, she uses the summer in Rhode Island to find herself.  It was a good story with its funny points but it ultimately left me wanting in terms a good well rounded ending.”

Laura has two things this week that have made her happy.   “I am on the edge of my seat reading A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett.  It gives a great insight into the dare-devil world of freelance journalism. I am only half way through and I can't wait to sit down to read more.   I have also been enjoying the TV series Call the Midwife. I binge watched what I had on TiVo.  I love the characters and the London East Side stories that tear at your heart.  I am curious to read the actual diaries of these nurses from the book by Jennifer Worth.”

Pat S has just finished Dear Abigail: The Intimate Lives and Revolutionary Ideas of Abigail Adams and Her Two Remarkable Sisters by Diane Jacobs.  “I chose this book because I am a huge fan of the epistolary format and this volume didn't disappoint. Using the letters and journals of Abigail Adams and her sisters Mary Cranach and Elizabeth Peabody, Jacobs weaves a riveting narrative of the life and times of women in revolutionary times. While the lives of Abigail and John Adams take center stage, the women discuss everything from the day to day quotidian tasks of housekeeping and childrearing to the larger issues of gender inequality and the fast changing political landscape of the era. While the sisters were unusual at the time for their level of education, it makes this portrayal of women’s' lives no less fascinating.”

Steph has an announcement.  Listen up, People! “Attention Denise Mina fans: she’s back, and she’s still in great form! The Red Road is the latest in the Alex Morrow series, and it’s just as tense and well-written as the rest. Morrow once again finds herself accidentally immersed in a messy case, as well as dealing with her half-brother’s criminal activities constantly ricocheting into her day job. And the center of it all is the sad Scottish foster care system, and one violent night that has had consequences all the way into the present day. Mina continues to set the bar high for all other crime fiction writers. I am already looking forward to her next book.”

Here is DJ Jazzy Patty’s take on the weekend festivities!  And of course The Playlist.  “What do rappers and boy bands have in common you ask? They love their mommas and they wrote a song about it. I could talk about cards and flowers and brunch, but I think I’ll leave that to others. This Sunday is Mother’s Day and in the past, it was a day I worked. In the restaurant biz it was a day to be dreaded; rookies on parade. This year that is not the case, and for that I am grateful. I am grateful to be able to spend the day with my family. Nowadays being a mother is very complex as is the execution of that role. That is one of life’s great paradoxes. Parenting books abound and some offer good solid, no nonsense advice while others can leave you confused, massively insecure and curled up on the floor in a ball of anxiety. I’m only in chapter two of Jennifer Senior’s, All Joy And No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood but it’s good. It’s not a book about parenting per se but about parents and specifically written for middle class moms and dads. The book’s underpinnings of research, philosophy, psychology, her insights and observations make it a compelling read in the age of anxious parenting. As parents, we are given the profound gift of raising another human being and our lives and relationships are forever changed by it. So this Mother’s Day take some time off from anxiety and be kind to yourself and in the words of Mark Wahlberg,’ Say hi to your mother for me’”

You Are What You Read!

Hosted by Jen Dayton
Hosted by Jen Dayton

This week was quiet for me.  Perhaps we are all still listening instead of talking?  Sweet Ann was quiet this week because she was under the weather but she is now on the mend and is grateful for it.  Her words of wisdom is really just one word.   Ann says Gratitude.  So reflect on that if you will.  Even the SoNo Loft is quiet this week as there are no messages hanging from the deck (Sorry Susan of Fairfield Cheese Company!).  Even though the weather was truly dismal for everyone this week (didn’t seem to matter where in the country you were: too wet, too dry, just meh), there were two things that went down that I considered Glad Tidings.  I love that the most eligible bachelor in Hollywood picked Brains over Bimbo in the selection of his fiancé.   There was a great piece on this in, of all places, the New York Post.  You can read it here.  I also loved that a certain franchise owner’s nasty mouth/attitude/beliefs got him in a whole lot of trouble and we won’t have to hear it anymore.  Ugly is as Ugly does and sometimes it is just reassuring that the Universe is indeed on top of this stuff, that good things can happen and justice is served.  It’s also nice to be around to see it.  This week we have Great Britain and Germany, emotional casualties, dog, tribes, Preps, more dog, Galveston, a Chief Resident, and a parade of historic figures!  Playlist?  Got that!

Let us begin!

Laura is doing lots of reading for her book group.  “Life After Life is my favorite book group pick of 2014, so far.  I enjoyed it more than Goldfinch but not by much.  Both authors, Atkinson and Tartt, drew me into the hearts of their protagonists but Atkinson's Ursula felt like a very close friend telling me all her travails of WWII, in all her reincarnations.   Ursula was engaging, giving a close perspective of someone personally enduring WWII from both the British and German sides. “

Jeanne is still doing one thing.  I think there is something very wrong with this and I am beyond concerned. “I watched Jayne Mansfield's Car, written, directed by and starring Billy Bob Thornton, Robert Duvall, John Hurt, Kevin Bacon and others. The cover says "Torn Apart. Driven Together." And they are. In 1969, in a small southern town, war has left its emotional casualties but ultimately human need creates some overdue and unusual family ties.”

The Ever Delightful Kim: Owner of Shiny Boat Shoes is reading Uganda Be Kidding Me by Chelsea Handler.   “Chelsea Handler has no filter when it comes to talking about her trip to another continent with her friends.  One of the most ridiculous conversations is when Chelsea is deciding whether or not to fly her dog on a private plane to another country because she believes he must miss her.  In all, this book is a page turner!”

Barbara M agrees with me about her pick this week. We cannot endorse this one highly enough.  One thing Barbara forgot to say is how much she loves the cover.  I do too!  It's amazing. “Lily King’s new novel, Euphoria, is very loosely based on the life of anthropologist Margaret Mead. Nell Stone and her husband Fen are studying tribes in New Guinea when they are befriended by a fellow anthropologist, Andrew Bankson, who becomes intimately entangled in their lives. The writing is beautiful and the tension of both the situations that arise and the relationships between the characters is palpable. This is definitely a book worth reading.”

The Fabulous Babs B has just finished The Headmaster's Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene.   “Arthur Winthrop, like his father before him, is the Headmaster of an elite school in Vermont.  But nothing is what it appears to be in this brilliant and beautifully written story of a life gone awry.  After reading the first half of this book I thought to myself wow and little did I know the second half was even better. Finishing it, I found myself re-reading the first few chapters as to make sure I didn't miss anything in this complex story.  Part mystery, part love story, this is a layered story of love, unbearable loss and grief.  This was a quick read and I highly recommend it!”

The Tall Cool Texan Virginia is listening to her brother. As my brother will tell you, it’s something I should have done long ago. “It is amazing how much your family can influence your reading habits.  My brother first introduced me to James Rollins’ Sigma novels several years ago, and I have been a fan ever since.  So I was super excited to learn Rollins was introducing a new action series, The Kill Switch which features Army Ranger Tucker Wayne and his brave companion, Kane a military working dog.  The novel has lots of action, and enough conspiracy to keep you guessing.  It’s coming out in May.  I also just finished and highly recommend, The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon, a psychological suspense novel, but with the under-current of a good old-fashioned ghost story.  Fair warning however, if you live in the woods then don’t read this when you are alone, because it is seriously creepy.  West Hall, Vermont is a town that has always been plagued with mysterious ghostly sightings and legends but when people begin to disappear, the secrets of a hundred years must come out, even if it reveals things better left in the woods.”

Claire of the Children’s Library is not reading anything remotely childlike.  But it’s making her happy.  Let it slide people!  “Galveston is True Detective creator, Nick Pizzolatto's first novel. The main character, Roy Cady, exudes a bit of Rust and Marty for any fans of the acclaimed HBO series. The opening scenes had me on edge as Roy barely escapes a bloodbath, fleeing New Orleans with a young prostitute in tow. As they both try to start new lives in East Texas and finally Galveston, Roy can't seem to leave the past behind. This has everything I want in a noir novel: a bleak motel, gritty but lovable hero, and enough twists and turns to keep me awake on Metro North.  According to the press they are already turning this gem into a movie. Galveston was also a finalist for the 2010 Edgar Award for Best First Novel.”

Steph is on a tear. “I’ve been obsessed with thrillers this week. Probably my favorite of the bunch will not surprise regular readers of this email: Doing Harm, by Kelly Parsons. After hearing Babs and Virginia rave about it, and then after Stephen King called it ‘the best damn medical thriller I've read in 25 years,’ I couldn’t resist. I found the ending a bit too neat, I thought the tension level was just perfect. And though I normally loathe arrogant characters, arrogant chief resident Steve Mitchell was the perfect protagonist. This would be a great beach book, especially for readers who love medical true crime like one of my recent favorites, The Good Nurse.”

I have another book from 12 that I am excited about.  You remember that I told you about 12? They are a division of The Hachette Book Group and they only publish 12 books a year.  By limiting it in this way they are all about the quality of the product.  You are pretty much guaranteed an amazing read if 12 is putting it out.  What is Visible is a debut novel by Kimberly Elkins and it is indeed remarkable.  Laura Bridgman.  Does the name ring a bell?  She was the most famous woman in the world in the 19th century after Queen Victoria and yet we have forgotten about her.  Laura was the first deaf and blind person to learn language under the care of Samuel Gridley Howe at the Perkins Institute in Boston.  It was Laura, in fact who ended up teaching Anne Sullivan the Tactile American Sign Language method that Sullivan then used to teach Helen Keller.  This book has a parade of historic figures such as Charles Dickens, Julia Ward Howe, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and John Brown to name a few.  It is due out in early June and we have also purchased it for our Book in a Bag program for book groups.  It also has a great cover!  

DJ Patty McC is ruminating on one of the news stories mentioned earlier.  And no, it’s not about George Clooney’s engagement.  It could have been.  But it’s not.  Here is her Playlist for the week. “This July 2nd marks the 50-year anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This is something to celebrate and folks should hold some epic 4th of July parties in honor of how far we’ve come. How far have we come? I’ll give you a hint or better yet, let’s play a word association game. I’ll list all the things that have been troubling me as of late and you guess the theme. Ready…Set…GO! Cliven Bundy, Donald Sterling, Dani Alves, and Affirmative Action in Michigan, are you sensing a theme yet? It would seem the time is ripe for some delicate discussions of race. This week I invite you to lead that elephant out of the room and into the daylight. Better yet, let’s bring that elephant outside for all to see and have a real candid, honest discussion about race in our country. In the words of Rodney King, “Can we all get along?” because in the end underneath it all, we are all the same.”

New DVD Releases

Here is what you can find new to the shelves in the upcoming days.

You Are What You Read!

Hosted by Jen Dayton
Hosted by Jen Dayton

You will notice that this week there seems to be a lot of listening going on.    Not hearing but listening.  There is a difference. Even those of us who normally have our nose stuck in a book are out in the world and getting our reading fix by listening.  I am not sure what to make of this.   It’s funny when you think of it really.  We all begin our reading lives by being listeners.  No one is born reading, but we are all born listening!  I think that maybe this is really about finally getting away from the warmth of our hearths, getting out into the world but still wanting a story even as we create our own. Because sometimes when you are listening, the message you get is not what you were expecting but there is a truth in it just the same that can turn your thinking and your world around. So get out into the world, revel in the warmth and joy of spring, and take a story with you while you create your own.  This week we have Zulus, sniveling, squawking, dogs, Italy, some boys, Bed-Stuy and Commitment Issues.  Playlist, you ask?  But of course!

Let us begin!

Abby is reading Present Darkness by South African writer Malla Nunn. ” Set in the 1950s during the early days of apartheid, Present Darkness reunites us with Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper. Cooper is deeply scarred by his time fighting in Europe and lives with a number of secrets. While I am generally a passionate proponent of reading a mystery series in sequence, it is especially important with this series. Present Darkness finds Cooper investigating the murder of a white couple. When one of the named suspects is the son of his colleague Zulu Detective Samuel Shabalala, Cooper will not let his superiors or brutal racial divides stop him from assisting his friend. Nunn once again treats us to an absorbing mystery and culture while also shedding light upon the toll South Africa’s inhumane apartheid laws took on the nation of South Africa.  This is to be released on June 3rd.”

Sue S.  Not happy.  Not having it.  “Truth be told, I am a girl who devours a great chic-lit book when I get one.  However, there will be no ramblings about butterflies and rainbows or about how this book should be made into a movie. Instead, I will tell you how much I disliked Chances AreAre by Barbara Delinsky.  This book was torture as I was subjected to what should have been a smart, strong female character, but ended up being a sniveling, insecure self-doubting individual who only gains confidence from what I can only describe as a male chauvinistic pig who has never heard of the term ‘No means No’.  I would never recommend this book to anyone who has any sort of self-worth.  If you are looking for a good chic-lit book I do not recommend this one.”

Miss Elisabeth of the CL is as excited as I have ever seen her this week. “This week I devoured, in one sitting, Elaine Lui’s memoir Listen to the Squawking Chicken: When Mother Knows Best, What’s a Daughter to Do? Elaine, or Lainey, is the purveyor of, one of my all-time favorite websites. Lainey is an intelligent, witty, take-no-prisoners kind of writer and from her position at the Canadian version of E, she is able to give first-hand accounts of the hypocrisy of celebrities. Her website could be called a guilty pleasure but you will not feel guilty reading it! The Squawking Chicken in the title refers to her Chinese-immigrant mother, a highly-superstitious woman whose squawks have guided Lainey throughout her life. I tore through the book in a mix of fascination, admiration, and horror. Her mother’s determination that she make something of herself and complete aversion to coddling or praising her daughter is something rarely seen in western parenting. You might think that her mom’s reliance on shame, Feng Shui, blackmail, and horrific storytelling as parenting techniques would backfire, but instead Lui’s love and admiration for her mother shines through every page, even when her mother is forcing her to eat a papaya every morning to keep her luck, disparaging her ‘low classy’ roommate, or asking for ‘no tax! ‘at the Pottery Barn. With chapter titles like, ‘I Should Have Given Birth to a Piece of Barbecue Pork’ ‘Miss Hong Kong is a Whore’ and ‘You Will Be Thanking Me Your Entire Life,’ the book is laugh-out-loud funny in addition to making you really want to call your mom. I loved it, and I’ll never bring home anything I found on the street again!”

Pat T is embracing the season.  “Throughout April, we are celebrating National Poetry Month and on Tuesday we celebrated Earth Day, so I thought it fitting to share one of my favorite poets, whose work reflects our connection to nature. Dog Songs: Thirty Five Dog Songs and One Essay by Mary Oliver is her latest book of poems and a particular favorite of mine since I have a great affinity for dogs! Oliver captures the special relationship between dogs and their owners. Two other works by Mary Oliver that are equally wonderful are, A Thousand Mornings and Why I Wake Early.”

The Ever Delightful Pat S has just finished The Secret of Raven Point by Jennifer Vanderbes.  Here’s what she is thinking.  “While never a fan of book about war, here is one that took me by surprise. Part coming-of-age, part mystery and part wartime saga, The Secret of Raven Point by Jennifer Vanderbes is an illustration of what war does to people both the good and bad. Opening at the start of World War II in a sleepy South Carolina town, Tuck Defresne enlists to the sorrow of his devoted younger sister Juliet. When after a short time, Tuck is declared MIA, Juliet takes a crash course in nursing and gets shipped to Italy where he was last seen.   This is where the novel really takes off. In the little covered Italian Front, Juliet is faced with the raw facts of war, the daily insanity littered with broken bodies and broken minds that constitute the Front Lines. In the course of Juliet's search for Tuck, she comes to know a Private brutalized as much by his comrades as by the enemy; a minister who must redefine his moral compass as decreed by the idiotic rules of war; and a doctor who must maintain his faith in his own ability against overwhelming odds. Vanderbes does an excellent job of creating a world where there is no black and white, just the very real and very raw desire to survive.

Jeanne is still just doing one thing, and I cannot deny what a worry this is to me.  It should worry you too. “I am listening to The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown. True to the reviews, if you liked Unbroken you will also like The Boys. But the latter stresses the necessity of teamwork more and Joe Rantz came from a very tough background, with nothing and no one, but his own resources and strong will. How can he fit in as a member of an elite crew at the University of Washington? The story moves slowly at first, but Edward Hermann is a terrific narrator with a voice that will keep you listening. “

Steph is also listening this week! “This week on my mini-road trip I listened to the audiobook of P.S. Be Eleven, a middle grade novel written by Rita Williams-Garcia and narrated by Sisi Aisha Johnson.  I’ve wanted to read it since it won the Coretta Scott King Award earlier this year, and when I saw the ACD on display I knew the time was right! (See, our displays even work on librarians.) This book is the sequel to One Crazy Summer, which won the Newbery Honor, but it’s not necessary to have read that book to try this one. It is a fantastic historic novel set in Bed-Stuy in the late 60s, and follows the story of sixth-grader Delphine as she settles back into her life after spending a summer with her Black Panther activist mother in Oakland. Her year involves a lot of transitions: becoming a sixth-grader, her first school dance, the introduction of the Jackson 5 and saving money to go to their concert at Madison Square Garden, her pa getting married, and her uncle coming back from Vietnam with a lot of pain. As a result, the book goes back and forth from mundane to serious issues remarkably well, with Delphine’s strong voice at the center of it all. Williams-Garcia’s writing is just spectacular, bringing history to life with simple flourishes. This ought to be required reading for all Brooklyn tweens and teens, because it is such a great snapshot of its time and place. Johnson gives even more vividness to Delphine with great narration and impeccable voice acting that evokes, rather than a cast of characters, a twelve-year-old’s perception of that cast of characters. This was a great acting choice for the book, and the hours of my drive flew by as Delphine told me her story. I can’t recommend it highly enough!

I have to drive once a week.  It makes me miserable but it’s something that must be done.  Monday’s ride to my Monday night commitment was especially brutal.  How does it take a human 40 minutes to get from here to Westport?  Happily I had Selected Shorts as my companion.  As we discussed last week, I have Commitment Issues.  While it is a serious problem where DVDs are concerned, it goes double for Books on CD.  My fellow commuters swear by them but I am too scattered to devote attention to a full blown book while I drive.  This is the genius of Selected Shorts.  For those of you who don’t know what this is, Selected Shorts is a program that is on every Saturday on WSHU at 3:00 and it matches great short stories with great readers who also happen to be great actors.  People like William Hurt, Parker Posey, and John Lithgow to name a few.  So while I can’t commit to a full blown novel, I can commit to a short story of 20 minutes or so in length.   The one that saved my sanity on Monday night was from the collection entitled (what else?) Behaving Badly, specifically the Stephen King story Popsy read by Michael Imperioli. The story line involves a gambling addict named Sheridan whose marker is coming due.  How does he pay them off?  By abducting young boys and selling them to a man named Mr. Wizard. But this time around Sheridan may have just picked the wrong kid to mess with.  This wonderful series is just perfect for those errands around town when you can’t face another minute of commercial radio. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

DJ Jazzy Patty McC is also listening!  And as we said at the start, the message that she received was not really what she was expecting, but it was welcome just the same. Here is her take on the week. “I seem to be a bit stuck in my feminist leanings from last week.  Might it have something to do with the Paycheck Fairness Act? Or maybe it was the negative media attention given to Hillary Clinton and her impending status as a grandmother? Or maybe it was the lingering negativity directed at United States Senator Feinstein accused of being emotional on issues of torture? I’d say it’s all of the above.  During this time of my own angsti-ness, my dear Wunder-Jen asked if I had heard the song ‘Water Fountain’ by tUnE-yArDs. Indeed, I had and I like it. I like it a lot. Merrill Garbus was interviewed recently by Pitchfork and was asked how she came by her new shift in sound. She replied that she walked into a public library and checked out the book, ‘How to Write a Hit Song’ by Molly-Ann Leikin. Well, now this spoke directly to me; musicians, how-to books and public libraries? Stop! The autodidact in me sang with joy. Then I began to reflect on what I considered a disservice to my Sisters by underrepresenting them last week on the playlist. It bothered me, it did. So this week I bring you, Women Who Will Rock Your World! Now let’s get to work on the rest of those misogynistic notions. Note: The entire album ‘Nikki Nack’ by tUnE-yArDs won’t be released until May 6th but you can listen to ‘Water Fountain’ now. Jen and I give it two big thumbs up. I sense a summer hit song/album. “

You Are What You Read!

Hosted by Jen Dayton
Hosted by Jen Dayton

I feel I should tell you this right off the bat.  We are not playing with this whole winter reappearance thing.  It is just wrong that my car can be covered not only with pollen, but snow and ice too. If I am going to have allergy issues, it should at least be warmish out there.  Babs B and I are still committed to maintaining the bare leg policy.  And now, Erin has joined the sisterhood and is bare legging it too.  I have foresworn the winter coat and don’t want to see it again until maybe November.   Sweet Ann has decorated the Egg Tree and is ready for Sunday.  Even Sally has declared that she is only wearing spring colors from here on out.  The message hung outside the SoNo Loft says, “Long Live the Fighters” so it would appear that they would be with us if they knew we existed.    So won’t you join us in solidarity?  Declare it spring and it will be so!  Don’t let the cold, the snow, the sleet and the rest win.  It’s spring already!  This week we have a dead doctor, winner! winner! chicken dinner!, some disappointment,  spies,  Boris!, and an Oscar winner. The Playlist?  It’s here too.

Let us begin!

Sweet Ann has just finished A Circle of Wives by Alice LaPlant. “This is a murder mystery with quite a twist. What makes this novel different is that the victim is married to three women. Dr. John Taylor, a renowned plastic surgeon, is found dead in a Palo Alto hotel.  Dr. Taylor and his wife Deborah are not happy after their thirty years together. But rather than divorce and lose her social standing, she comes up with this crazy idea to keep her husband happy and her marriage intact. She has helped him find two other wives who do not know that he is married.  MJ is a hippie type with quite the past, Helen is a renowned children's oncologist and there might be another woman no one knows about.  This was a fun read.  I also enjoyed Ms. LaPlante's previous novel, Turn of Mind which told the story of a woman suffering from Alzheimer's who is being investigated for the murder of her best friend.”

Barbara M is asking questions. “What would do if you won 18.5 million Euros in the lottery? That’s the dilemma the protagonist in My Wish List by Gregoire Delacourt faces. Although it seems like a simple problem, it isn’t really; the consequences are life changing.  Jocelyne and her husband of twenty-one years live a rather mundane life in a small town in France. Their children are grown, she runs a fabric shop and he works as a manager in a factory. When she wins the lottery she decides to tell no one except her elderly father who, after having had a stroke forgets everything every six minutes.  What she does instead is make a list of how she could spend the money. This is a delightful little novel about change and choice. ”

Virginia the Tall Cool Texan is bemoaning a lack of substance. “When I first started The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger, I was really hopeful it was going to be one of those fun chick lit books that just begs to be read on the beach.  Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to its potential.  Sophie, the main character, is a promising young criminal attorney who gets roped into handling a complicated divorce for the daughter of the firm’s top client.  Begrudgingly she takes the case and while her criminal-law approach to the divorce wins accolades from the client and the partners, it leads to tension in the office.  To add to her stress, handling a divorce has made her question the choices she has made in her personal life. Written as a series of emails, memos and lots of legal materials, the story ends up getting lost in too much legalese.  Don’t get me wrong, I have a fondness for the epistolary style of writing and the author showed promise, but if you were to subtract all of the pure legal jargon (most of which you end up skimming) you really have only enough substance for a short story. 

Steph is here this week to tell us about an interesting author mash-up. “Last weekend I read Decoded by Mai Jia and loved it. Jia is one of China’s most famous novelists, but this is his first book translated into English. It’s a fantastic quasi-spy thriller/historic novel of cryptology and genius. The combination means that fans of Amy Tan and John le Carre will find something to enjoy in this one!”

Jeanne is here with only one thing this week.  But, I must say that she is very excited about it.  “Even if you have already read The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, you must listen to it on audio. I borrowed it through Overdrive and David Pittu is BRILLIANT as the young and older troubled Theo Decker, his nerdy friend Andy Barbour, his crazy, but loyal Russian friend, Boris and his savior and extraordinary antiquarian, James ‘Hobie’ Hobart. There are many more characters that Pittu gives voice to in an authentic, entertaining manner that enriches Tartt's fascinating story of losses, loves and deceit in the art and antiques world as lived in New York City, but also Las Vegas, Amsterdam and Maine.”

I always have the best of intentions.  Truly.  But as my sons will tell you, the DVDs that I usually bring home become coasters for my evening wine and are never even opened.  In fact, son Thomas greets all instances of DVDs appearing at home with a requisite eye roll, a voice tinged with disgust and the following statement, ‘Great.  Another DVD we won’t watch.’  That being said, Barbara M recently pressed one into my hands, insisted I bring it home and actually watch for a change. And so I recently had the great pleasure of watching Twenty Feet from Stardom which won the Oscar for best documentary.  Twenty Feet brings us into the world of backup singers and their very complicated and fraught relationship with fame. I loved the Bruce Springsteen piece in the beginning of the film where he states that the ‘20 feet walk to the spotlight can be complicated.’ Of course it can!  Not all of us want the spotlight.  A whole lot of us are very content to be twenty feet away from the spotlight doing what we do.  But imagine if you will what the Stone’s Gimme Shelter would sound like without the amazing vocals of Merry Clayton.   Hardly the same song I would imagine.  You really come to admire these ladies and I guarantee that you will be in awe of their gifts.    Barbara was right. Take this one home and play it.

DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here with The Playlist and some thoughts on one of my favorite Rites of Spring: the reappearance of Mad Men.  I do love me some Roger Sterling. “So I gave up watching Mad Men due to my own issues. Yes, it’s a wildly popular TV show. Yes, those things really happened. I just couldn’t get over my own reaction to the sexism that was played out in every episode.  Does this make me any less a feminist? I’d like to think not. Then my sweet partner pointed out the number of men vs. women on my playlist this week given the era. I balked, choked, spit, sputtered and showed him the women on the playlist. He was right. There were a disproportionate number of men vs. women. I grew up in the Motor City.  I know music. I do. But I’d missed out on some great women who were sharing their voice. This week may we all find our voice as women, men, individuals and people who might otherwise need help finding it.     Now, rock on ladies…

You Are What You Read!

Hosted by Jen Dayton
Hosted by Jen Dayton

Spring is suddenly everywhere we look and we are all out there staking our claim. Like the swallows to Capistrano, and the buzzards to Hinckley Ohio, the osprey’s have returned to their summer home over at the police station.  The pansies are out next door and across the street and I have seen the eight man shells out on the Norwalk and Saugatuck rivers from my train.  What is probably the ultimate sign that we are hurtling into spring, The Traveling Companion is with the rest of his Writing Brethren at Augusta reporting on his 29th (!)  Masters.  I suspect he must have felt a bit like Dorothy leaving behind the gray of Kansas and stepping into Technicolor Munchkin Land. Erin is rocking the seersucker and she has stated that she refuses to wear her winter coat anymore. As for myself, I have committed to the Bare Leg. Not so much because it’s spring, it is more that I am down to one pair of hose and I just can’t face buying more.  So there’s that. And the fact that I hate wearing hose, and that Babs B. started the Bare Leg  earlier this week.  I figure if Babs says it is fine to do so, then it is so. This week we have a road trip, a spooky mystery, donations of a kind, some flawed humans (are there any other kind?), April in Paris, a marriage, and the love of books. And really? A weekend without The Play List?  Not happening.

Let us begin!

You Are What You Read!

Hosted by Jen Dayton
Hosted by Jen Dayton

This week has been totally schizophrenic has it not?  Monday morning’s  soul crushing snow and cold which gave way to an afternoon full of sun and warm breeze, the beauty of yesterday (have we seen anything like that since October?  I don’t think so!) and then today cold spitting rain.  It’s April and my boy T.S. Eliot was not lying when he called it the ‘cruelest month’.  I don’t know about you but I found myself literally chasing sun this week.  Whenever it was out, so was I and I was amazed at how it elevated my mood and outlook.  The People of the Weather say that this Sunday is going to be amazing while the beginning of the week will be a sodden sorry mess which I suppose gives credence to the whole April showers, May flowers thing, so I charge everyone with the following task:  Go outside and play.  Take a walk, plant a pansy, visit the beach and report back. I promise you that you will be amazed at how good you will feel.  This week we have lots of things, some midlife, a couple for the ages, hoarding, tension, the reappearance of Jeanne, an amazing debut novel, and what would Friday be without The Playlist?

Let us begin!

Barbara M is showing her gathering skills this week.  “I absolutely love Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities by Kevin Kelly.  A Thank You to Lois for bringing this book to my attention. It is a modern version of The Whole Earth Catalog filled with solutions to things you never knew you needed solutions for. I’ve already bought one to give as a gift. It’s filled with things I never knew I needed: a JarPop easy jar opener, E.A.R. foam earplugs, a Black and Decker Accu Mark Level. It’s a catalog and so much more with helpful advice like how to keep track of your books and which seat to choose on an airline. It’s an encyclopedia of useful and useless facts, objects and sites guaranteed to keep you glued to your computer for hours and hours.”

Sweet Ann is reading a book that has rapidly become a darling of the Reader’s Advisory Department, The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles by Katherine Pancol.  “This is a French novel which was translated into English but anyone can relate to it.  The characters in this story are dealing with job loss, infidelity, disgruntled teenage children and other midlife issues. The story centers on Josephine whose husband leaves her to raise crocodiles in Africa with his mistress.  She and her two daughters are devastated and the eldest, Hortense is angry at her mother for her father leaving.  Josephine's life becomes more complicated when her sister convinces her to go along with a crazy scheme. This is a light, enjoyable read that will make you smile.  I think this book is a great way to welcome spring or bring to the beach in a couple of months.”

Miss Elisabeth of the CL spent a pleasant 117 minutes this week with one of my personal favorites. “I actually squealed with glee when I saw it: The Long Hot Summer is streaming on Netflix! This is one of my all-time favorite movies. The chemistry between Paul Newman and his future wife, Joanne Woodward, is so crackling it leaps off the screen. They play characters that embody the archetypes we saw them as: Newman is the drawling, gorgeous outsider with a heart of gold and charisma aplenty, while Woodward is an ice queen with a molten core. I think it’s one of the sexiest movies (with no sex!) ever produced. The script was based on two William Faulkner short stories, one of which, Barn Burning, can be found in The Art of the Short Story in the Literature section, or on audio in Collected Stories.  This is a must-see, and it’s very rarely available on streaming sights, so watch it while you can! “

Virginia the Tall Cool Texan is heeding my advice.  Good Girl Virginia! “Having never read E.L. Doctorow, I was on the verge of picking up his new book, Andrew’s Brain when Jen made the recommendation to first try an earlier work of his, Homer & Langley.  I am so glad I did because I just loved the book.  This novel is based on the infamous New York hoarders, Homer and Langley Collyer. Doctorow takes considerable historical liberties by extending the brothers’ lifespans and exploring their inner lives.  It is well-written, interesting, fun but at the same time absolutely tragic when you realize these two men had real lives with serious problems that in the end destroyed them.”

Steph is reporting back from last week. “To complete my report on The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara: Wow! I loved it. I like nothing more than being surprised by a book, and this book surprised me on multiple fronts. Yanagihara is a spectacular writer. What’s impressive beyond her obvious ability, though, is her ability to write in the pompous voice of a horrible person while simultaneously skewering that person. Further, though she builds up tension so subtly that I’m not sure I’d be able to expect it on a re-read.  This tension builds to the point of near breath-holding in the final sections. I only wish I had read it sooner.”

Jeanne has been quiet these past weeks.  A little too quiet if you ask me.  Here is what she’s been up to. “I have been busily reading 2014 Nutmeg nominees to get ready for Nutmeg @ Night and trying to catch up to the fantastic four Children’s Librarians. Maybe that won’t happen, but I am having so much fun trying. My current favorites are The Candymakers by Wendy Mass and Closed for the Season by Mary Downing Hahn.  I have also been listening via Overdrive and Hoopla so here is my audiobook playlist. I absolutely loved A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. The narrator, Colette Whitaker was perfect and the story, while a tragedy in the very recent past, was compelling with great characters and fantastic dialogue. I enjoyed Divergent and Insurgent by Victoria Roth and read by Emma Gavin.  One of our esteemed colleagues says this is cookie cutter dystopia, but if you haven’t read the other cookies, who cares? I tried The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philip Sendker and I am not sure if it was the narrator, Cassandra Campbell or the story, but I abandoned that about half way through.  I went on to listen to Orange is the New Black: My Year in A Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman; also narrated by Cassandra Campbell. It is a memoir of the author’s time in Danbury’s Federal Correctional Institution.  She served several years of time after doing something very stupid and illegal while a student at Smith. I thought Campbell was a perfect voice for the author and the many different inmates that Kerman meets.  I am currently hitting PLAY on The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and read by David Pittu. This book has gotten a lot of great press and I have high hopes.”

I am totally in love with Flying Shoes by Lisa Howorth.  This debut novel, based on the author’s life has me savoring each and every sentence.  Mary Byrd Thornton is a matron of a certain age living her life in a Mississippi college town when the phone rings one morning. It’s the police telling her that she and her family will need to go back to her childhood home in Virginia because they have cracked the long cold case of what happened to her nine-year-old stepbrother back in 1966.  The writing is rich and descriptive and just downright darkly funny in a way that it seems only southern writers can be.  This one comes out in June and I am buying lots of it. 

DJ Jazzy Patty McC has left The State Up North this week for the Wrong Coast.  While I am sure that this is an improvement in climate, I am not sure that it is an improvement in general.  “This week I boarded a Boeing 767 headed for Los Angeles to enjoy a respite of sorts, an opportunity to relax, catch up with friends, soak up some sunshine and perhaps bury my feet in the sand. What I hadn't planned for was spending 4.5 hours seated with a man who was violently ill the majority of the flight. Let's just say that there were not enough plastic bags to contain the fluids or prevent it from hitting the deck. I'm giving myself a reboot. Right now I'm sitting on my cabana balcony overlooking a work of art by David Hockney in the swimming pool. Foster the People just shot their video here yesterday for their new song Best Friend and today the radio world will descend on the hotel for the Worldwide Radio Summit. I think I'm going to get in the car, drive out to Santa Monica, dig my toes into the sand, soak up some rays and listen to some tunes. This just might be the reset button I need. So today, find your reset button, push play and chase after some sunshine. I'd be willing to bet it will put a little spring into your step.”

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