You Are What You Read

You Are What You Read!

Let's Begin:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Are What You Read!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Are What You Read!!!

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

Let us begin!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Are What You Read!!!

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

Let us begin!

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

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

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

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

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

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


You Are What You Read!!!

This week we have some trench warfare, a fire, more mid-life, a myth or two and a love story.

Let us begin!

Barbara M. is, very uncharacteristically, reading rather slowly.  She reports that,” I'm up to the last chapter in Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks and am reading it slowly because I don't want it to end. Faulks' description of trench warfare is so vivid it's hard to believe that he didn't experience it himself and equally hard to believe that you're not on the battlefield. The characters are so well drawn that I don't want to say goodbye to them.

Pat T.  is enjoying Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton. “A mother saves her daughter from a fire that ravaged her children's exclusive private school, leaving the mother and daughter in a coma and the son accused of setting the fire. This is a fast paced thriller!”  This one is out next month.

Jeanne says, “Wife 22 is turning out to be way more fun than I originally thought. Some of the dialogue is overdone, but mostly it's full of life, love and laughs. This is a debut novel for Melanie Gideon about a middle-aged woman (keep reading it IS different!) who is feeling out of sorts in her marriage a little and coming apart a lot. She spends copious minutes of her day with her smartphone on Facebook, Twitter and IMing. It is no surprise when her involvement in an online questionnaire about marital happiness as Wife 22 gets out of hand."  This one comes out in May.

Abby is revisiting some old friends.  “The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller is a beautifully written interpretation of the Trojan War.  At the center is ‘The love that dare not speak its name’experienced by the greatest warrior of his time.  You'll be reintroduced to many figures from classic mythology, and be reminded how important mythology is to modern literature and indeed, all culture.  Miller really finds the right tone and pace to making this one fit in with the canon of written mythology.  It was tough to put down. “

I am really enjoying Love Fiercely:  a Gilded Age Romance by Jean Zimmerman.  Zimmerman tells the story of Newton and Edith Stokes.  While both came from wealthy and privileged backgrounds they refused to sit back let that be their only identity.  Together they worked tirelessly on behalf of the poor of New York as reformers and as preservationists of the city they loved.  This is a wonderful love story in more ways than one.  


You Are What You Read!!!

This week’s offerings include France (no surprise there), a mid-life crisis, some more Paris, murder in Dublin,   Russian royalty, and a maiden voyage that ended really badly.

Let us begin!

In anticipation of the BBC series Barbara M. reports that, “I've just started reading Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks and am finding the characters intriguing. It helps that the book starts out in Northern France in 1910. I'm just at the beginning but this promises to be a good read.”

Jeanne in her typical Jeanne Fashion weighs in with this: “I just started Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon. I can always use another mid-life crisis book and hope someone else's hot flashes are worse than mine! “This is due out in May. 

Pat T. says “I am enjoying Tatiana de Rosnay's newest book The House I Loved. Rose Bazelet's family home is about to be destroyed, along with all the other homes in the area, to make way for the modernization of Paris in the 1860's. All her cherished belongings are packed up and sent to her daughters' home, but Rose is determined to stay to the end by hiding out in the basement of her beloved home. To pass the time in the basement Rose writes a love letter to her husband and recalls all the lovely memories of their life together, as well as secrets she has harbored all these years.”

Abby, no surprise here,  is back to one of her beloved mystery series and says, “I am currently enjoying the 4th book in Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series, Broken Harbor.  Her first book, In the Woods was wonderful, with the second strongest entry being Faithful Place.  French is one of those rare authors whose work you can see developing and improving. Set in an up and coming suburb of Dublin, the murder squad is called in following the discovery of a family that had been brutally attacked.  When the pieces of the puzzle fail to come together, the family itself comes under scrutiny.  This one comes out July 8.”

Marianne chimes in with this,”I love Kathryn Harrison’s Enchantments.  The book has everything I am looking for in a good read. This is the story of the last fateful days of the Romanovs as told by Rasputin’s daughter. Intertwined are lyrical Russian stories and beautiful word pictures of the beauty and harshness of the natural world.  Even though I know how it all ends I can’t put it down.”

I spent the past weekend with Shadow of the Titanic; The Extraordinary Stories of Those Who Survived by Andrew Wilson.   This is a fascinating study of those who survived the great tragedy that is the Titanic.  Wilson not only looks at the life of the famous survivors such as Madeleine Astor who really should have gotten herself a decent pre-nup, and Lady Duff Gordon who had to be one of the most hateful people on the face of the planet, but also the Navratil brothers who were abducted by their father and being spirited away to a new life in America away from their mother.  This is a fascinating look at PTSD in the days before medication and therapy.

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