You Are What You Read

You Are What You Read!

Greetings!  Hope the Thanksgiving was all you hoped for and the leftovers bountiful. A happy Hate Week to us all.  This weekend, the kinfolk and I celebrate the diversion that is That State Up North v. Ohio State.  Also known as the holiday that rivals the Yuletide, if the Yuletide was fueled by a whole lotta dislike.  The clan has been celebrating this for just about as long as there has been a clan or at least since 1897.  The TC and I will be traveling to New Jersey on Saturday before noon to watch with The Brother and his people.  There will be a protein in the Green Egg and a keg of beer at the ready.  This is not an event that we take lightly.   At Ohio State, the student body has dedicated their week to eradicating a certain letter everywhere it appears on the property and I too have taken up that challenge.  So there will not be a certain letter in this weekly dispatch.  You can read about the student body efforts here. This is the 110th get -together and even though the squad of The State Up North is sad, sad, sad this year, a win by OSU is not a foregone conclusion.  You can’t predict the results when passions run high on both sides.  A favorite story about this rivalry involves a young boy who is the son of two OSU grads.   When Grant Reed was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 11 he decided to label his cancer after That State Up North so that when he was cured he could state with a certitude that he had indeed Beat That State Up North.  Happily he has done just that. You can read about that here.   So Happy Weekend People!  Let’s go Buckeyes! This week we have Big Coal, China, privilege, and elephants.

Playlist?  Yup.  No worries. 

Let us begin!

The Always Delightful Pat S has just finished Gray *ountain by John Grisha*.  How was it Pat?  “After a long hiatus as a reader of Grisha*, last year’s highly entertaining Syca*ore Row brought about a return to the fold. So I picked up Gray *ountain and so far, have not been disappointed. Sa*antha Kofer, high powered associate in a big New York City law fir*, beco*es a casualty of the financial collapse of 2008. Her career plans co*e to a screeching halt as she is furloughed, and told to find a volunteer position in a legal aid situation of so*e kind, and just possibly, after a year’s ti*e, she could  be reconsidered for fullti*e e*ploy*ent again. This brings her to *ountain Legal Aid in the s*all town of Brady, Virginia, deep in the heart of Appalachia. Here she is faced with a veritable cornucopia of injustices perpetrated against the poor and underprivileged, particularly in an area of the country that is essentially run by Big Coal. Naturally, there is a very attractive lawyer who takes on the big co*panies-only to be found dead in questionable circu*stances. Ulti*ately, Gray *ountain is an indict*ent of the coal industry in A*erica today. However, if by *ixing in a little *urder, a little ro*ance *akes the topic of coal *
ining so co*pelling then I tip *y hat to *r. Grisha*.”

Steph!  What’s doing?  “This weekend I read The Three-Body Proble* by Cixin Liu, the first book in a land*ark Chinese science fiction trilogy, which has just been translated into English. I’ve been anticipating the book for *onths, and I’* happy to report that it *ore than lived up to *y expectations! In *any ways, The Three-Body Proble* has a classic sci-fi plot: hu*ans *ake contact with aliens, disagree about what to do next, and start turning on each other even as the aliens are en route for first contact. There’s lots of high-level science and technology discussion, not to *ention an otherworldly video ga*e. But Liu layers this story with one that’s all too real: the events of the Cultural Revolution in the late 60s, when Chinese youth took over the country in a violent political *ove*ent. The co*bination of hard sci-fi and living history is powerful and brings the science of the book to life in an unexpected way. Translator Ken Liu has done a *arvelous job of creating a work that reflects the original book while keeping it accessible to Western readers (for exa*ple, he uses footnotes very unobtrusively to help readers keep pace with references to Chinese history). Sci-fi lovers probably already have this on their TBR list, and video ga*e fans *ay also, but fans of apocalyptic fiction would do well to check this one out as well.  It *ay  not what you’re used to, but that can be  a good thing.”

Babs B loves herself a celebrity bio.  Here is what she thought about There Was A Little Girl: The Real Story of *y *other and *e  by Brooke Shields. “I have to be honest, I was not in a rush to read this book but a* so glad I did!  This was a very frank account of growing up in a privileged but painfully   dysfunctional fa*ily.  Brooke's parents divorced when she was less than a year old and Teri Fields raised Brooke by herself.  Teri, who loved Brooke al*ost too *uch, was unfortunately an alcoholic and Brooke goes through life trying to ‘fix’ her *other.  How Brooke ended up being as nor*al as she did is a *ystery to *e.  She was a loving daughter trying to deal with her *other's illness while at the sa*e ti*e beco*e her own person.  This is a beautifully and honestly written tribute to a co*plex, talented and ulti*ately tragic person.  Kudos to Brooke Shields for writing this book...she is *uch *ore than a pretty face!”

The Tall Cool Texan Virginia who is not a football girl (how does a girl fro* Texas get away with that?) is here with a new favorite in Begin Again.  “I a* not a huge *ovie person, but on a whi* last week, I grabbed Begin Again starring *ark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley.  I a* so glad I did because this *ight be *y new favorite *ovie.  It is absolutely char*ing and it re*inded *e that fil**aking and acting are actual crafts.  A chance encounter between a broken-hearted songwriter and a burned out *usic producer turns into a pro*ising collaboration. This isn’t a ro*ance, it’s about two people rediscovering the*selves through each other’s eyes.   All of the actors are tre*endous and have real che*istry with each other.  As a bonus Ada* Levine fro* *aroon Five is in it and is surprisingly good (granted you have to get past his *ega beard).  Altogether, it is a poignant, hopeful, and funny fil*. It isn’t often I consider buying a *ovie but this one *akes the cut.”

Pat T is still listening.  “Ann wrote about Leaving Ti*e by Jodi Piccoult last week, so I thought I would give you *y take on the audiobook. This novel has ele*ents of fiction, detective *ystery, non-fiction and fantasy.  The best thing about this book is the extensive research the author did on Asian and African elephants and elephant sanctuaries. The narrator of the character, Alice *etcalf, the research scientist, was engaging, but the other narrations didn't depict the essence of the characters they were portraying. Also, the ending was a bit contrived, but I would still reco**end reading/listening to this book because of what you learn about elephants. Next on *y list to listen to is The Elephant Whisperer: *y life with the Herd in the African Wild by Lawrence Anthony.

DJ Jazzy Patty *cC is here in the house. But not The Big House. Your turn to host is next year.  What’s doin’ Pats? “The closest I ca*e to being a football fan was *y crush on Wayne Gretzky. Oh, wait that’s hockey.  *y sports indoctrination was born out of teenage years spent in a ho*e that religiously watched Hockey Night in Canada like the Pope attends *ass on Sunday. I don’t understand football but I a* a good student. So this week I’ve got so*e questions that I’* hoping Jen can help *e out with:  What’s up with the stickers on the hel*ets? Are they five years old? Do they get a gold star every ti*e they score a touchdown? Why does the guy put his hands dangerously close to another guy’s butt and what is he shouting while he is doing it? What’s with all the Bob Fosse *oves after the touchdown? Can we please add jazz hands if they’re going in that direction? I will say that I do, however heartily approve of the tight pants. Ga*e on and *ay the best tea* win! GO BLUE!”


Nice New Book Goodness

Here is what you can find on the shelves that is new next week. Come in and visit us, or put your items on hold from home! We will let you know when they are ready for you to pick up!

You Are What You Read!

Greetings and welcome to the mise-en-place edition of You Are What You Read! This time next week Thanksgiving will be a mere fond memory and a whole lot of foil in the fridge.  I know that I am spending part of this weekend organizing myself in the kitchen for the Big Day. My Sons, The Traveling Companion and I are taking to the highway and cruising up state with our assigned dishes to what has become a tradition with us that we call Cousin Thanksgiving.  It is the one time of year I see my three cousins and their families.  Sadly, this year we will be missing 2 of our Merry Band.  My cousin Matt and his family have been sent across the country to a new naval base in the Pacific Northwest, and my other cousin Diana will be visiting her husband’s family in Mexico which leaves one cousin to have the Cousin Thanksgiving with.   As some of you may remember, The Traveling Companion was nervous about the deep fried turkey last year.  Well, this year he has a whole new set of nerves to work; because the one cousin standing, who happens to be the Hostess, is a practicing vegan.  Liz is going to be making a Traditional Feast for us all (a round of applause for what a good sport she is!) and she will be having some sort of Traditional Tofu something for herself.  Last year I was so worried about her not being able to eat the majority of the feast that I made 2 different Brussels Sprout recipes:  one vegan friendly and one not. I am sharing these with you because the un-vegan one was so good that Liz declared that she was Breaking Vegan for it.  They both begin the same way.  Take Brussels sprouts that you have trimmed and quartered and toss them in plenty of olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast them in a 425 oven until they are, well, roasted.  You know what you are looking for. Now while that is going down, you can ponder the choice of 2 sauces to toss them in.  The first is the vegan friendly one which is Dijon mustard to which you have added a touch of maple syrup to.  The second concoction is a sauce made of harissa, lime zest, lime juice, and honey.  Toss the roasted sprouts in this and then to gild the lily, take some beautiful pomegranate seeds and strewn them over the top.  A Sprout so good you are willing to cast aside your Dietary Beliefs! Have a lovely Thanksgiving! This week we have Scotland, elephants, and some culture. 

Playlist?   Of course!  We can’t have you doing all that prep and handling knives without some music.  Pffff. That’s not cool.
Let us begin!

Abby, actually, liked being in her car last week.  “My commute was much improved last week thanks to being joined by Mr. Alan Cumming, Scotsman, actor, and audiobook reader.  I listened to his emotionally charged memoir Not My Father’s Son. The opening chapter is a study in torment; as children, Alan and his older brother were subjected to their father’s physical and mental abuse. His home life was so dark, it wasn’t until he was a grown man that he could truly appreciate the beautiful forest area in which he grew up.  The story is set with his participation in the British TV show Who Do You Think You Are, where genealogists and historians research a celebrity’s family history and share the details on screen with the audience. When he was invited to participate, Alan’s personal quest was to learn more about his maternal grandfather Tommy Darling, a man he never met and around whom there was great mystery. But as the research began to unfold, Alan was faced with a number of personal crises including making peace, with his abusive father, and gaining strength from an ancestor he never knew. The title of the book takes on increasing significance as the story goes on. Cumming is a great actor, but after listening to his story, I believe he is an even better man.”

Sweet Ann has just finished Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult. “I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Jenna, a thirteen year old, searching for her mother who disappeared when she was three years old.  There was a tragic accident/murder at the elephant sanctuary which Jenna's parents owned and operated.  At the time of the incident, Jenna's mother disappeared.  Jenna is able to get a psychic and retired police detective to help her in her search.  Leaving Time also contains information on the habits of elephants that was wonderful to read about and will make you think twice about them. This book is told in alternating chapters so the reader will learn the histories and points of view of the characters. While there is some ‘magical thinking’ in this novel but it is well worth the journey with Jenna.”

Barbara M for those who watch this space loves herself some other cultures.  Here is what her latest read on them is all about. “I’ve read many books about cultural differences but what makes The Culture Map by Erin Meyer different is that it puts various qualities on continuums so you can see what one culture expects in relation to another culture.  For example, on a communications scale, the United States is considered ‘low-context’ meaning communications are generally straight forward without many nuances. Japan is on the other end of the scale and has a ‘high-context’ communications style where things are not said but implied. Although the UK tends toward ‘low-context’, misunderstandings may occur because the British use more irony and sarcasm which may not always be understood by Americans. In this ever shrinking world of intercultural exchanges, I think this book is a worthy read.” 

And finally we have DJ Jazzy Patty McC from The State Up North (8 days until The Game. Let’s go Buckeyes!).  What’s good Pats?  “ This year is a Midwestern Thanksgiving. I haven’t celebrated this holiday here in a couple decades and I am grateful to be spending it with my family. The feast will be much like our clan gatherings in Boston in years past. The Midwestern cousins are hosting and we are all contributing.They asked me what I would like to bring and after hearing the planned menu it struck me that there was a serious shortage of vegetables. Sure there would be mashed potatoes and a green bean casserole but little else in the way of our root-bearing friends. I told them that I would bring roasted Brussels sprouts. They shared a look. I knew that look. It was the same look my kids give each other when I put a new food in front of them to try. It was the look of “No way are we going to eat that.” Then the cousins outright said, “No way are we going to eat that.” I hesitated. Then I added that I could also bring roasted baby carrots. They jumped on that and told me to just bring the carrots. I stood my ground. I said I’d bring both and then blurted out that I’d also bring some roasted butternut squash. Again that shared look and their reply, “That’s a lot of vegetables.” I smiled. They have no idea that this is just the beginning of their vegetable education. This week I invite you to try something new and in the process educate yourself and those around you. Now go eat your vegetables.”


You Are What You Read!

Greetings! A Happy Friday to you all. It’s really hard for me to wrap my pea brain around the fact that on Monday I went for a run in shorts and ate my breakfast on a terrace OUTSIDE in the aforementioned shorts and I am ending my week with a winter coat, snow boots at the ready.  Granted, that breakfast took place in Florida, but still.  When the Traveling Companion asked me at dinner what we were going to be discussing this week and I said the sad, inevitable return of winter his reply was, “Already?”  So adieu to the Farm Share, the bare leg, beach weekends with a cooler filled with contraband, no coat, big hair (no tragedy there really but I feel the need to include it), dining al fresco (unless you happen to be in Florida), and sweaters that are a wisp of spider web nothingness.  Let’s embrace longer nights (more reading time!), chillier temps (fires to read by!  Lovely soups and stews for dinner!), chunky warm sweaters (they can hide the effects of all that lovely soup and stew and fireside sitting) and the occasional snow day (always have chocolate chip cookie fixings at the ready!).   Maybe this year won’t be so bad.   This week we have a tiny woman brain, a little poetry, panache, farmers, and love with a capital L.  Playlist?  It may be cold out there be we aren’t!

Let us begin!

Miss Lisa from the Children’s Library has just finished reading a book I am hearing great things about. “This weekend I read the excellent collection of essays Men Explain Things to Me, by Rebecca Solnit. It starts out with a droll and humorous account of the way men tend to explain things to her - for example, a man at a party who attempted over and over to explain to her what a book she had written was about, in spite of her protests that she knew, because she somehow, using her tiny woman brain, had written the book he was talking about.  She deftly moves on to discuss the issues of violence against women  and violence in general, Virginia Woolf's understandings of uncertainty and hope, and how to make change in our world, all with a deft sense of history, literature, and current events.  She argues for the basic rights of women to ‘show up and speak’ in all parts of our world; as she says, ‘The battle for women to be treated like human beings with rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of involvement in cultural and political arenas continues, and it is sometimes a pretty grim battle.’ But, somehow, you finish reading this book with hope and energy.  It's a great read for all genders. Similarly, another tale of powerful women is Queen of the Tearling, which I know has a lot of hype - but the hype is worth it! What a wild ride into an endangered kingdom that has struggled through a lot of weak and greedy leaders.  Good thing the new Queen can manage spectacular magical jewels, fight slavery, and stand up for the people!”

Pat T has been dipping her toes into the Poetry Pool. “I had the pleasure of coming upon Mary Oliver's newest book of poems last week, Blue Horses, and I must say it is a delight to read over and over again. Her poems reflect the everyday occurrences in life and nature yet transcend the ordinary by showing us what we experience as exceptional.  I laughed while reading, What I Can Do, was moved by the poem, I Woke, and was delighted by, Good Morning. I hope you take the opportunity to read anyone of her wonderful books of poetry!”

The Ever Delightful Pat S has just finished a book that is rapidly becoming a staff favorite with us entitled I’ll Drink to That by Betty Halbreich. “Described as 'a life in fashion, with a twist', this is the memoir of the now legendary personal shopper from Bergdorf Goodman. Now eighty six, Ms. Halbreich tells the story of her upper-class upbringing in Chicago where she was an only child celebrated for her beauty and her ability to wear clothes with panache. Capitalizing on these attributes, she then makes a young marriage to the handsome and wealthy scion of a Manhattan real estate family. After a twenty year marriage comes to an end, Ms. Halbreich finds herself her first job, and eventual career based on her talent with clothes. Forty years on, she has elevated that title of personal shopper to mother/therapist/lifecoach. While the stories of the celebrities and socialites are fun to read, it is the story of her personal transformation which provides gravitas to the book. And as an aside, she is currently working on a television series with Lena Dunham based on her life.”

Laura has been having fun with a cult classic. “I highly recommend book groups to read Stoner, by John Williams.  Set in the 1900's, the reader meets Stoner early in his life as the only child to stoic, hard-scrabbled Missouri farmers who have little time for neither conversation, nor interest in anything beyond the few acres they own. He is sent to university by his father to study agriculture but instead he falls in love with literature and takes a different path by becoming a scholar. His life develops; marriage, friends, career, child, his mistress, and his nemesis, sadly all but one, are what may be seen as failures.  Once I started reading, I couldn't wait to continue.  The story while not a page turner was so well written that reading it was a pleasure.   I didn't know how my book group was going to react to this story but they loved it and had a lot to talk about. The story was curious and everyone had a different take on the gentle, stubborn, stoic character that some of us adored and others of us worried about and the rest of us couldn't see Stoner's merits at all. It was the liveliest and deepest discussion our group has had in a long time.”   

Longer nights?  What am I reading before sleep?  Light of the World is Elizabeth Alexander’s amazing memoir of her journey through grief.   Alexander was just 49 when she lost her beloved husband and father to her two young sons.  Please don’t think that this is a depressing read.  It’s the exact opposite of that actually, because the one thing that shines through all the horrible is Love with a capital L.  At its heart this is a love story. Not just the love she had for her husband but also the love she has for her two sons.  Because her day job is as a Pulitzer nominated poet and a professor up at Yale you can expect some beautiful language and turns of phrase.  This comes out in April and I think you all will love it.

DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here from the State Up North (14 days until The Game!  Let’s go Bucks!) with this week’s musings and playlist.  She has had it a whole lot harder than us already this year with this whole reappearance of winter.  How’s tricks Pats? “We woke up this Thursday morning to snow. Yep. Those white fluffy frozen flakes were falling softly from above. My daughter moaned, my son jumped for joy, my husband gritted his teeth and I sighed. I knew this weather was headed our way so like a good Girl Scout I prepared the day before. Everyone had boots, winter coats, hats and gloves. The squirrels have been snacking on our carved pumpkins outside but those will need to go this weekend. Now we just need to unpack our sleds and begin searching for the perfect sledding hill. Me? I’ll be buying a big honking full spectrum light lamp in the hopes of working on a winter tan and to ward off any winter blues. While I am not ready to slide into winter, I do enjoy a pair of stylish boots and a fine cashmere sweater.”


You Are What You Read!

Happy Friday to you all!  By the time you read this, I will be in Florida with The Traveling Companion getting ready for the big party tomorrow night to celebrate my father’s 80th birthday.  I really have to say this reading habit that I have is entirely his fault.  From the very beginning, one of the strongest aspects of our relationship was all about books and our love of them.   Read-aloud story times morphed into his pressing his childhood favorites into my hands.  He recognized early on that while a girl does love a pretty dress on special occasions like Christmas and Birthdays, the gift that still excited the day after, and even years later, came between two hard covers with a dust jacket.  Every Saturday, I would ride my bike to Leroy Avenue and load up my basket with the reads for the week and then head across the street to the Fairbanks Sweet Shop for a little something to nosh on while working through the stack (I was a rather round child). There was always an exception though and that was when the weather was not the best.  On rainy Saturdays, I would get an early wake up nudge and a, “Would you like a ride to the Library and breakfast at the Sugar Bowl?”  Well, I ask you, what girl could resist a tall stack of books with a short stack of Bobby’s French toast with bacon?  Heaven!  Even when we were in the thick of those ghastly teenage years, the dialogue remained open because of the conversations we would have about what was being read. As I matured, so did our discussions.  Sometimes, there was not even a hello to begin with, we would just launch into what was good, what was great, what broke our hearts, and what we had to leave for dead on the side of the road. Sadly, Dad had a stroke a few years ago, and while he is in fairly decent health, the reading piece never really came back.  These days the conversation is entirely on me.  I try to think of it as a conversation that has come full circle with me telling him what the story is now.  So Happy 80th Birthday Peter Dayton!  And thank you for giving me the unquenchable and all-consuming Need for the Read.  This week we have some pandemic, a widow, Paris, some listening,  and G&T in a can (ingenious!).  

Playlist?  Would we let your weekend not have a soundtrack?  Of course not! We are a benevolent dictatorship!

Let us begin!

Here is Abby’s take on a book that is making a lot of Best of 2014 lists.  “Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is a book I really wanted to like. It sounded like an interesting book, and I had heard the author speak which gives me a greater stake in my reading experience. It took bit of time for Station Eleven to fight its way to the top of my To Be Read Pile, but I am so glad it did. The book is tough to categorize. It is most certainly literary, and while dystopian, and set in the future, it is not science fiction as some have classified it. The story follows the onset of a deadly flu outbreak moves forward through the decades as human settlements and a post-pandemic culture evolve. It has many disparate storylines set in different stages of the crisis, but as the book unfolds, there is a beautiful convergence of people and events. The book Station Eleven most brings to mind is the wonderful Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. He too creates a wonderful, complex story that comes together in an unexpected and powerful way. Station Eleven is a strong contender for my favorite book of 2014.  I suspect I will be thinking about this book for a long time to come.”

Sweet Ann has just finished Nora Webster by Colm Toibin. This is rapidly becoming a Reader’s Advisory favorite and here’s what Ann thought. “This is the story of Nora who lives in a small town in Ireland where she is widowed in her early forties.  Her husband, Maurice, was the love of her life and they had four children together.  Her two daughters are older when she is widowed and almost on their own.  Her younger two sons are struggling without their father and the grief of their mother. This novel follows Nora as she tries to get her new life together.  Nora tries to be strong and independent but at times she must ask for help to survive financially and just try to live without Maurice.  As a reader you feel for Nora's struggles and there is one scene early in the book where she confronts an aunt who watched her sons while her husband was sick that I think will haunt me for a long time.  The emotion is so raw.  Nora Webster is a beautifully written novel.”

Barbara M is back in her beloved Paris  again and she’s with a Nobel winner.  I’ll let her explain. “The three novellas in Suspended Sentences by Patrick Modiano, recent winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, are united in their sense of place and melancholy feeling. Loosely based on his childhood the author recreates the Paris of his youth, a Paris that no longer exists. He also evokes a sense of vagueness that occurs when an adult tries to remember things that happened to them as a child. The stories are mysterious and haunting and I absolutely adored the descriptions of Paris.”

Steph is trying something new this week.  “We all know that we are what we read, but we’re also what we listen to! And what I’ve been listening to the past few weeks is a new podcast called Serial, which comes from the producers of This American Life (you may have heard the first episode there, in fact). It’s in its first season, and has the tagline of ‘One story. Told week by week.’ This season, the story is a true crime procedural about a young man named Adnan Syed, who was convicted as a teenager of murdering his girlfriend in 1999. The host, Sarah Koenig, was told about this case by a friend of Syed’s, as he still maintains his innocence, so she began investigating to see if she could figure out the truth. So far, seven episodes in, she has not, and the mystery has hooked me and thousands of other people—Slate has created a podcast that has a new episode to analyze each episode, and Reddit has a special forum to discuss the clues. Though I admit the storytelling can be a little over-the-top and meandering, but it’s a great listen for any mystery or true crime fan, as well as those looking for a change from audiobooks. It’s become my companion when doing the laundry—I actually look forward to ironing now! You can listen for free on the site, but make sure you start with the first episode. 

What is coming down to Florida with me?  A debut novel entitled The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is what is coming down to Florida with me.  Rachel is, at first, seemingly, just a girl on the train.  A girl on the train going to work.  Then you start to notice that she has a huge thirst; most specifically for Gin and Tonics (in England they come in CANS!!  How brilliant is that? Why can’t we have that?), and an odd obsession with a couple that she sees from the train on her daily commute.  As the book goes on, you also notice that she seems to be more than a bit off.   She is in fact, as the Brits say, bonkers. The second voice in the book is Megan, the object of her obsession who also seems to be less than reliable as far as truth goes.  When Megan goes missing the police come around to question Rachel.  I have no idea where all this is going. All I know is that the ride is so much fun I am, for once, looking forward to a plane trip so that I can enjoy 2 hours and 45 minutes of uninterrupted reading time.  This one comes out in January.

Here is DJ Jazzy Patty McC from the State Which Shall Not Be Named (T minus 20 to The Game!) with the wrap up and the Playlist.   What’s doin’ Pats? “I knew Jen was hopping on a jet plane headed to see her dad but somehow I nearly missed the detail that it was to celebrate his 80th birthday. Well, upon hearing this news, I was overjoyed both for her celebration with her family and also because I’ve been secretly harboring an obsession for curating an 80’s Playlist. If you know a librarian or two you’ll know that we are fond of themes and obsessions. I may not know anything about being 80 years old but I sure do know 80’s music.  This weekend I invite you to celebrate the elders in your own family. Celebrate those folks who’ve taught or modeled to you how to enjoy things in your life that bring you joy. Things like the pleasure of reading, the art of conversation, or the excitement and thrill of live theatre and music. I’ve always said life is better with a soundtrack. Out here in Detroit, I’ll be enjoying a Ryan Adams concert. So, call this your 80’s gift. Call it New Wave, call it Synthpop, call it what you will this is my musical nod and tribute to Post-Punk music. I recommend you listen to it on shuffle and have a good seat-dance in the car or a full-blown impromptu dance party. I promise it won’t disappoint.  DL IT'S GOOD BEING 80! 2014”

New eBooks from 3M

Here are the new titles available from 3M.

New eBooks from OverDrive

Here are the new titles available from OverDrive.

Blood Magick Cousins O'Dwyer Trilogy, Book 3 by Nora Roberts

The Burning Room by Michael Connelly

Larger Than Life:  A Novella by Jodi Picoult

Not a Drill:  A Jack Reacher Short Story by Lee Child

On the Road with Janis Joplin by John Byrne Cooke

Prince Lestat:Vampire Chronicles, Book 11 by Anne Rice

What a Lady Craves by Ashlyn Macnamara

What a Lady Demands by Ashlyn Macnamara

You Are What You Read!

Boo!  Welcome to You Are What You Read the Halloween Edition!  Mostly, I think we should just be thankful that there is no snow, no hurricanes, no horrific acts of nature so that the Young Ones can actually HAVE a Halloween.  The real treat will be that at the end of the night we won’t need the flashlight once we are inside!  It is a fascination to me that Halloween has become a helliday on the scale of Christmas for some people.  There’s parties to go to, lights to string, webs to strew on bushes, graves to set on the front lawn.  Even pumpkin carving has gone from your classic jack-o-lantern face to sculptural art worthy of Bernini working in marble.  So whatever your plans are for tonight, stay safe and warm, and say a thank you to the Weather Gods that you can participate in this one. The SoNo Loft’s message this week, for those of us who are curious is Be Gentle with Yourself.   As always, Heed the Loft.  This week we have some discord, South Africa, more One Pot, New York, and some Baton Rouge. And The Playlist.  Be afraid.  Be very afraid.

Let us begin!

Pat T is reading Children Act by Ian McEwan.  “I was caught up in this story from the first few pages as the main character, Fiona May, sits in her living room, nursing her scotch and water, trying to recover from the bombshell her husband of thirty years has just dumped in her lap.  While dealing with her marital discord, Fiona maintains her professional obligation as the judge in an urgent medical case of a 17-year-old boy who is refusing a transfusion that could possible save his life on the grounds that the medical treatment goes against his religious beliefs. This is the first book I have read by Ian McEwan and I look forward to reading some of his backlist.”

The Always Delightful Pat S has just finished A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn.  “This is the first in an exciting new detective mystery series taking place in South Africa in the early fifties just after the legalities of Apartheid had been set in place. While this is a murder mystery, it is also a rumination on the cruelty, prejudice and immorality that defined this time.In a small rural village, the Afrikaner police Chief Pretorius is found murdered. An English WWII veteran by name of Emmanuel Cooper is sent out from Johannesburg to investigate and solve the crime. Only recently back from the war, and still suffering deep psychic distress, Cooper is untouched by Apartheid, and simply wants to do his job. Yet, this is not a straight-forward investigation for Cooper, for every lead is tainted by the laws governing the land.  Nunns’ characters are richly drawn and deeply human. At the top of the genre, A Beautiful Place to Die is not only highly compelling but informative as well.

This week Steph is singing the Hosanna’s of One Pot.  Sing it Steph! “I'd like to add my voice to the chorus of One Pot fans. This week I made the beet hash with eggs recipe from the Skillet chapter, and it was a hit! I am adding it to the rotation for the fall and winter because the recipes are easy to prepare, delicious, easy clean-up, the whole shebang. The directions are clear and simple, and I also love that the book features a photo for every recipe--it's made it a lot easier to dive in and figure out which recipes to try. This will be the cookbook that finally drives me to buy a Dutch oven, I am sure. It's easily my favorite cookbook of the year and I expect to give it to a few people during the holidays. I am looking forward to trying the cabbage and kale with salmon this weekend!”

Amazing Amanda is preparing for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November, so she's reading Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld.  “The novel is written in two voices for two very different stories. The first is of Darcy, an 18 year old who wrote her first novel during NaNo and then successfully sold it for big bucks. She moves to NYC to chase her dream of the writers' lifestyle. On the flip side, is the less glamorous life of Lizzie, Darcy's heroine in her novel, Afterworlds. Lizzie survives a terrorist attack and in doing so, finds herself in the spirit world between life and death. That is, the Afterworlds. The novel is burning up online reviews with lots of acclaim and admiration. While I'm intrigued by Lizzie's story, Darcy's life in NYC is less engaging. I'm hoping that something as powerful as Lizzie's inciting event will occur soon in Darcy's story, otherwise, I'm just going to skip through and read only Lizzie's chapters.

I am wild for a debut novel that is coming out in February 2015.  M.O. Walsh's debut novel My Sunshine Away is a joy.  The narrator is a man looking back on the summer of 1989 when his Baton Rouge neighborhood's peace was shattered by a horrific act of violence.  But memory can be a tricky thing; healing and destructive and yet it can also lead to redemption. Which one will be the path he will choose? Told in spare and lyrical language this is a debut to be reckoned with. 

Here comes DJ Jazzy Patty McC with the playlist.  Why am suddenly all a-tingle?  “It’s that time of year when we get dressed up and go out into the dark. We open our doors to strangers, offer treats and hope that no one plays any tricks. What’s that you ask? Irrational fears? Where shall I begin? Clowns, dolls, leftovers in Tupperware at the back of the refrigerator, and offal are just a few things that immediately come to mind. None of these things paralyze me or keep me from doing what I do. I’d go so far as to say that most of us have some irrational fears that we deal with on a regular basis.  They may be weird to some but very real to us nonetheless. The Loft’s message this week applies. So while you’re out with the kids trick-or-treating or celebrating at a party remember to Be Gentle with Yourself and I would add Be Kind to Others but I don’t think that will fit on their banner. All the same, I know they’d join me in this sentiment. This week I’m giving you a throwback to the Creepy Halloween Dolls playlist as well as a great podcast from NPR on What We Fear. Boo! Happy Halloween!

DL Creepy Halloween Dolls 2013

DL What We Fear NPR: TED Radio Hour 2014

What's This Week's Hoopla All About?

Here are some Hoopla movies for the entire family to enjoy once Halloween is said and done.  

Not sure what this is? Click here for some more information.

You Are What You Read!

It was such a dreary week, wasn’t it?  We have been so spoiled that when a bit of rain does happen to fall it befuddles us.  I did have a patron say to me that she had been craving weather such as this so that she had an excuse to hole up and read.  I for one never felt the need for excuses but, hey, if that makes you feel better have at it.   It looks like a nice weekend is in store and really isn’t that what we hope for anyway?  This week we have wisdom, a spy, some hype, PTSD and a new favorite. Of course there is a playlist. Of course! 

Let us begin!

Abby is back to reading one of her favorites. “When I finished Louise Penny’s 9th Chief Inspector Gamache novel last year I wondered where she would take the series. Her latest, The Long Way Home while a satisfying read, leaves me with the same question: what’s next? Newly retired Armand Gamache and his wife have set up house in Three Pines, the serene village outside of Montreal too small and hidden to appear on maps. Gamache gets drawn into helping one of his neighbors locate a missing person. While the mystery piece is not strong here, Penny continues to go deeper into the lives of her characters granting them a lovely mix of vulnerabilities, strengths, and quirks. The emphasis here is on how even the strong must tend to themselves and the wisdom we can all take away from the four things Gamache teaches new officers to express: I was wrong, I'm sorry, I don't know, I need help. “

Sweet Ann has just finished Red Joan by Jennie Rooney.  “This is quite an engaging spy novel based on a true story of an eighty-seven-year-old British woman arrested as the longest KGB spy in Great Britain's history.  Joan, the main character, is a brilliant young woman who in the late 1930's is studying science at Cambridge.  Her life is that of a typical student until Sonya, a Russian student, enters her life.  She introduces Joan to her cousin Leo who will introduce Joan to the world of espionage.  Joan is quite reluctant at first to get involved but circumstances change. The story alternates between Joan as an elderly woman being questioned by M15 and her days at college working for the British government during the beginning of World War ll.  This is an intriguing read about the choices people make and the reasons for doing so.  I thought it was well written although perhaps a little bit long.”

The Tall Cool Texan Virginia has just finished one of my favorites of the year.  What did you think VA?  “Believe the hype about Jane Smiley’s newest book, Some Luck, because it deserves all of the praise and accolades it has been receiving.  This epic saga tells the story of Iowan farmers, Rosanna and Walter Langdon, and their children over a 30 year time period, starting in the 1920s.  Each chapter represents a new year in their lives and is told from the perspective of different family members.  Smiley does a masterful job of creating the personalities of each character and giving the reader an intimate look at their unique realities, from the highs and to the lows.  Nothing is spared. While reading Some Luck, I am not sure if I felt more like a fly on the wall or a distant cousin, but all I know is by the end of the book I cared about the Langdon family and wanted to know where the next 30 years would take each of them. Luckily, Smiley has planned this as a trilogy so we can expect to see more of the Langdon family.“

Steph is here and she has taken to heart a patron recommendation.  I’ll let her tell you all about it. “Over the weekend, I read A Test of Wills, by Charles Todd, after a book group read it and highly recommended it. This is the first of sixteen books in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series, a detective mystery series set in Britain after the First World War. In this book, Rutledge is still suffering from what we would now call PTSD, which he experiences primarily as a voice in his head, of a young man who he sentenced to death during the war. He rejoins Scotland Yard after coming home, and is sent to the countryside to investigate a politically sensitive murder in a town where nobody wants to talk to him. He’s plunged into several small town dramas and, having no one to trust, tries to solve the crime alone. It’s not a book with a lot of twists, but it definitely kept me guessing right up until the end. The book rotates through several points of view, but really focuses on Rutledge’s, giving it the same feel as a Tana French or Denise Mina novel. It’s a great series for fans of those writers, or any reader who likes the combination of a detective’s psychology and a well-plotted mystery. I can’t wait to read more books in this series!

Now that the night comes on faster and the weather has turned cooler, I can be found back playing in my kitchen which most of you know makes me happy.  This time of year brings out the nesting instinct in us all I think.  My latest companion in the kitchen is One Pot: 120+ Easy Meals from Your Skillet, Slow Cooker, Stockpot, and More by the Editors of Martha Stewart Living.  The conceit here is that you can make your dinner in one pot, be that pot a Dutch oven, a sheet pan, or a slow cooker. The chapters are dedicated to whatever vessel you choose to be using and there are some really great recipes in here.  So far the favorites are salmon roasted with kale and cabbage and dressed in a lemon vinaigrette, and sausages and potatoes braised in ale.  The other thing I love about this book is that it takes one basic recipe and changes it up 4 different ways.  I can totally see this as a wedding gift with one or more of the pots alongside. Make sure you grab a copy for yourself!

DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here from The State That Shall Not Be Named (35 days until The Game!) and she has some questions for us.  What’s good Pats?  “Are we what we read? That seems to be the thesis of this weekly missive. But an interesting debate has once again emerged. This dialogue always fascinates me, and finds me swimming right into the deep end of this meta-discussion. The debate is about reading, specifically the types of books children should be allowed to or encouraged to read.   There are two camps in this debate. The ‘just so long as they’re reading’ camp versus the ‘from pulp to Proust? No way, start them with real literature and classics’ camp. I would like to offer another version. While there may be some truth to You Are What You Read, it is far too reductive and simplistic. Aren’t we more complex than that?   Take, for example, my seven-year-old son who frequented the reference desk asking for books on fighter planes, as he had already read all the books on planes in the Children’s Library. His interest that began with planes led him naturally to want more complex texts as he desired more knowledge. As a culture we get anxious when it comes to our children and reading. There exists anxiousness that, as parents, if we don’t give our children the right kind of books they will somehow be deficient. My daughter is a voracious reader and my son is well on his way. I trust that their love of stories and what’s going to happen next will serve them well and that they will go on to read difficult texts with complex storylines.   As adults don’t we sometimes need a little light reading to break up an otherwise steady stream of serious novels or non-fiction? Does anyone exclusively read serious literature 24-7? What is wrong with a slice of pulp fiction or a light-hearted beach book with a side of romance or danger? I say, nothing.  After all, We Are What We Read…DL WHY ARE YOU WHAT YOU READ? 2014

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