You Are What You Read

You Are What You Read!

Our optimism this week knows no bounds. Pansies and ranunculus are ready for sale next door, the snow is slowly receding, and I have even seen snow drops blooming in the mud.  Spring is on its way (5 more days!)  and not a moment too soon.  This week we have a fancy restaurant, unspeakable acts, lots of blood, a future screening (!), some very valid concern, understatement, a psychotic ghost and a rather unsavory obsession.

Let us begin!

Sweet Ann’s Hurricane Sandy nightmare is almost over.  She sent this one to me while high on paint fumes. “I'm sitting in my house inhaling paint fumes before I go off to Pilates and thought why not do YAWYR? I just finished  The Dinner by Herman Koch.  The Dinner follows the dinner of two couples, Paul and Claire, and Serge and Babette.  The men are brothers and don't get along that well.  Paul narrates this story including the meal from appetizer to dessert, which in itself makes this novel quite interesting.  The book takes place in a very fancy restaurant in Amsterdam where the couples have gathered to discuss what their sons, (cousins), have done.  The fifteen year old cousins have committed a horrendous crime and the parents are trying to figure out how to handle the situation.  The book is engaging because as a reader you think what you would do, what the "right" thing to do is and what these two couples decide to do.  Since one brother tells the story you just get his side, but his thought process is intriguing and frightening at the same time.”  See?  Ann is sweet even when impaired.  This is why we love her. 

Jeanne, while not impaired to our knowledge, is also reading The Dinner by Herman Koch.  “Reading this novel makes me wonder why an author will write about the worst in people and why so many of us are compelled to continue reading. Do I hope that there will be redemption? Or am I just a sucker for a book that might describe good food? Through four courses in an upscale Amsterdam restaurant, Paul and his politician brother, Serge, along with their wives Claire and Babette seem to just go through the motions of dining while their teenage boys are up to unspeakable acts. I generally like the blunt way of European writers, but this story is shaping up to be very hard-boiled. I haven't lost my appetite yet.”

The Amazing Amanda finished the Jessica series with Jessica Rules the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey. This book picks up a few months where Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side left off. There is a murder mystery afoot which has led to the imprisonment of Jessica’s new husband, Lucius. Jessica is unsure of who to trust as she dreams of betrayal and blood. Lots and lots of blood. This book also delves into the romance of Jessica’s best friend, Mindy. Overall, it was nice to finish these books, but I felt that this book was a weak companion to the delightful earlier novel. Lucius is hardly seen since he is locked away in the dungeon and Jessica is sidelined as well thanks to Mindy’s story. I also figured out who was the murderer early on. So while I enjoyed this read, I wish there had been more about the vast society of vampires. There’s a lot of potential to flesh out this universe if the author would get away from the main cast.

Erin is clueing us in on her process!  “This week, I watched A Late Quartet with Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, and Catherine Keener. It focuses on the beginning of the performance season of an acclaimed string quartet, just as one of the members is diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. It was one of the more gorgeously heartbreaking films I have seen in a long time. Christopher Walken's performance, in particular, is nothing short of spectacular. We'll definitely screen it in our Community Room this April.”

Barbara M. has informed me she is still in India reading Shantaram.  No Paris.  No Nazis.  Just. Plain. Wrong.  I can no longer hide my concern.   She also shared with me that she is the proud owner of not one but two saris.  I am starting to think we have an imposter on our hands.  Discuss.

Stephanie has a new love!  “This week was devoted to Denise Mina, who I’ve finally discovered with some help from a patron. I don’t know why it took me so long (especially given that she briefly wrote for the comic series Hellblazer, one of my favorites). Gods and Beasts is her latest novel and it is fantastic. Tana French mixed with John le Carre; a beautifully understated and thoughtful crime novel with characters so real that I kept forgetting it was fiction. I also read Still Midnight and The Slip of the Knife and liked them just as much. She is my new favorite crime fiction writer.”

Miss Elisabeth of The CL is trying to come to grips with a sequel that is not living up to its predecessor.  Still, you have to admire her tenacity.  “This week I am reading The Madness Underneath, by Maureen Johnson. It's the sequel to her The Name of the Star. Rory is a southern gal from Louisiana whose professor parents decide to teach in England during her senior year of high school, moving the whole family to the Emerald Isle and Rory to a boarding school in London. In the first book, Rory got mixed up with a very strange police force and a psychotic ghost imitating the Jack the Ripper murders. The Name of the Star was amazing - I literally read it until 3 in the morning and couldn't put it down. The Madness Underneath deals with the repercussions of events in the first book. It's good, but I'm not quite as gripped by it as I was by the previous story. Still, I feel affection for these characters, so I'm excited to see where the story takes me. “

Those who know us have a general inkling about our obsessions with topics far from savory.  One of these is murder.  We want to know it all.  Who what where and most definitely why.  If you need to know how to hide bodies just ask!  We can help!  And those who know us know that once one of us gets started obsessing, others will join in.  This has been decidedly the case with Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham.  Graham looks at what drove 15-year-old Juliet Hulme (Anne Perry’s real name) and her best friend, 16-year-old Pauline Parker to put a brick in a stocking and bludgeon Parker’s mother to death after Tea in 1954.  Not content with mere reading material I also viewed Heavenly Creatures this weekend. I know that my fellow obsessives Pat S. and Stephanie will be discussing this endlessly amongst ourselves and roping in others. Won’t you join in too?  The book comes out in May but you can get started by watching the movie which in the words of my son who I made watch it with me “is messed up.”  When your 20-year-old says this with awe and amazement in his voice, you can be assured this is a ringing endorsement.  And no, I am not worried about giving him ideas.

You Are What You Read!

I am detecting a decided uptick in mood this week.  There seems to be a lot of happiness and optimism and we begin Daylight Savings Time on Sunday.  I don’t think that this is a coincidence by the way.  Maybe the PA Rodent is taking pity on Poor Winter Weary Us and fulfilling his promise.  Let’s hope. This week we have some magic, a restless ghost, some isolation, Iran, India, a murder, the Tsar, Ireland, delight, and a Royal wave.

Let us begin!

Erin is back from her hijinks on the high seas.  Here is a little something that she enjoyed whilst away.  “Over vacation, I watched a film called The Prestige, starring Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, and DAVID BOWIE. It’s about two rival magicians in London at the turn of the 19th century. This movie is so full of twists, turns, foreshadowing and all around CRAZINESS that I literally found myself exclaiming with joy at certain unexpected parts. I LOVED this film. “

Miss Elizabeth is crazy happy about her choice this week and it’s nice to see. “I’m two for two with my adult books recently – after reading and LOVING The Rook, I started reading Wide Open, by Deborah Coates, not entirely certain it would live up to the former’s pure adrenaline rush. But this nail-biting crime thriller was excellent! When her big sister dies, Sgt. Hallie Michaels is sent home from Afghanistan on 10 days condolence leave. Arriving at the airport in her native South Dakota, Hallie is greeted by her sister’s restless ghost. Though everyone in her small ranching town thinks her sister committed suicide, Hallie knows that’s not the case. She has ten days to solve her sister’s murder and avenge her spirit. This gritty, Midwestern novel felt more realistic than supernatural. I loved it!”

The Amazing Amanda read Blankets by Craig Thompson.   “Thompson is known for his beautiful, imaginative graphic novels which are weighty in the hands and hard on your tear ducts. The book is a loose autobiography of Thompson’s childhood where he dives deep into religious feeling to overcome the isolation enforced on him by his peers and family. However, his faith starts to tremble as he grows up. He finds comfort in writing to a girl he met at a Bible camp. Thompson’s journey explores the faith we place in others and ourselves. How one grows and how nothing can stay the same. This is a beautiful work and is simpler in themes than his later epic Habibi.  Both works explore the ties between religion, sexuality, and growing up.

Lois  Mistress of Materials Management is joining us for the first time this week and has just finished A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea by Dina Nayeri. Welcome Lois! “It is the story of a young girl growing up in post-revolutionary Iran in the 1980’s.  Saba Hafezi and her twin sister Mahtab are obsessed with all things American and look forward to leaving Iran someday to live in the Western world.  When her twin sister and mother disappear, Saba believes they have left her to live in America.  She creates stories in which she imagines the life Mahtab is leading in America.  Their small rural village embraces Saba and her father, providing an array of surrogate mothers and unique friends that each bring different perspectives into her life.  As the years go by, Saba is caught up in the rhythm of life in Iran, but she never abandons her hope of moving to America for the chance to pursue her dreams.  I enjoyed the storytelling aspects of this book and the introspective views from a young girl born into a culture which is both warm and embracing as well as brutal and oppressive.  The author’s bio closely resembles that of her main character, Saba, and that lends heartfelt warmth and credibility to the story.”

Barbara M.  I have no words.  No Paris.  No war.  No Nazis.  There must be some sort of epic sun spot that is affecting the universe. “Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts was published in 2003 and in spite of rave reviews from all who read it I’m finally getting around to tackling this daunting 933-page book. This autobiographical novel tells the story of a man, later known as Shantaram, who escapes from a maximum security prison in Australia and travels with a false passport to Bombay, India. In Bombay he is befriended by a tour guide, Prabaker, and a beautiful Swiss woman, Karla, who will both have a great impact on his life in India. The writing is poetic at times and beautifully descriptive. Although I’ve never been to India this book seems to capture the special qualities of the land and the people.”

The Fabulous Babs B! joins us this week with the  The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson.  “I have to be honest, this was not one of my favorite books.  Teenagers Poppy and Serena were the only suspects in the murder of their teacher.  Poppy is convicted and goes to prison for 20 years while Serena is living a picture-perfect life with a husband and two children.  When Poppy is released she makes it her mission to find Serena and confront her... it seems she did not kill the teacher nor did Serena.  The ending FINALLY brings everything together as the reader finds out who actually did the dirty deed! “

Pat S. has finished a book I adored,   Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy by Douglas Smith.  Here is her take on it.  “This is a fascinating book which details the annihilation of an entire generation of the ennobled class in Russia at the turn of the last century. Everyone is familiar with the tragic tale of the Romanov dynasty but did you know that the upper class was as much in favor of abolishing the monarchy as were the worker/peasant class? Were you aware that the anti-Semitism which has long colored Russia's history was held down under the Tsar, and went through the stratosphere under the Soviets? In addition to brilliant scholarship, Smith details the ultimate extinction of the ennobled class by following two families, the Golitsyns and the Sheremetevs beginning in 1917. It is a  riveting story that reads like a novel but defines the much larger cultural ramifications of the tragedy.”

Stephanie and I, as usual, are in agreement about something.  This time around it is about the genius of   TransAtlantic by Colum McCann. “I approached this with trepidation. McCann is a great writer so one always does. Short sentences, short thoughts, then deep thoughts.  Interwoven stories through modern Irish history, from several perspectives, a chain. Imitable.  As you can see. But nothing I do can truly imitate McCann’s clean sentences and flawless metaphors; they guide you across the pages like so many neon lights on the runway, coming in for a landing on a clear and moonless night.”

Pat T. doesn’t mind the heat so she’s in the kitchen this week with The Lost Art of Mixing. “ If you have read The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister, you might be interested in reading the author's newest book The Lost Art of Mixing. I am in the middle of this delightful read that centers on Lillian, a cook, who has taken her love of cooking and created an inviting restaurant that draws her customers, as well as her employees together through their love of food. There is a whole mix of characters, some struggling with their relationships and others seeking friendship, companionship and love!”

Jeanne is only doing one thing this week.  Discuss. " I am loving The Uncommon Reader on audio. It is read by its author, Alan Bennett whose well-paced bon mots are a delight. The fun begins when the Queen discovers a mobile library near Buckingham Palace. She further discovers; with the help of Norman, a kitchen knave, that she loves to read. She loves reading so much more than the business of politics and she even manages to read surreptitiously as she travels in her royal car and waves her royal wave. Too bad it's a short novella, but I will be sure to look for other similar audiobooks."

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!

I am back from my much needed Staycation.  No exotic locales for me, but I am proud to report that my closets are looking very tidy. I wish to send Many Thanks to Stephanie for doing such a great job last week.  This week we have some Russia, some Heaven, some time, and some painfully obvious.

Let us begin!

Elizabeth of KLS has just finished a staff favorite. “I signed up for World Book Night in April to hand out free books to random people, and the book I will be giving out is David Benioff's City of Thieves.  So I immediately ran out and got it and started reading.  It's about two young men in Russia during the Siege of Leningrad. Thrown together by circumstances, they must find a way to survive (e.g. escape execution) and do so by embarking on an adventure to procure a dozen eggs for a military colonel during a time of shortage and suffering. Cool to note: The author is also a screenwriter and is a co-creator and writer for the HBO hit series Game of Thrones."

Jeanne as usual is working on two things at once.  It is nice to know some things never change.  “As part of a bible study that I belong to, I am reading two books. Heaven Is For Real : A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd Burpo. The author, a pastor in a small church in Nebraska tells the true story of his pre-school son's grave brush with death from a burst appendix. Whether you are interested in heaven or not, this well-written story as told by a loving dad of what he learned from his son about love and trust is a "feel good read." I am also reading Proof Of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander. This is a personal telling of the author's glimpse of heaven while in a coma from a rare and mysterious bacterial meningitis-encephalitis. Alexander is an academic neurosurgeon with Harvard and Duke in his CV. For me, this book is less satisfying as a good read than the Burpo book, but still interesting in the author's search to explain his NDE or near death experience.”

Stephanie is looking to rethink! “This week I read a very helpful book about time management. It was even funny and engaging! I know that funny is not usually the word we associate with time management books, but it is true nonetheless. 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, by Laura Vanderkam, posits that rather than plan our time day-by-day or even hour-by-hour, we should look at it in weeklong chunks.  There are 168 hours in one week. If you sleep 8 hours a night and work 40 hours a week, that leaves you with 72 hours each week to commute, exercise, cook, hang out with friends, and be a parent. I find that’s a much more optimistic way to think about the week! Vanderkam leads you through exercises that help you determine how you spend your time—and then what changes you can make to spend it more happily. Not all of them will work for everybody, but ultimately the real joy of this book is that its positive approach to time management made me inspired and excited to think about making changes in my life, rather than frazzled and harried.”

When not organizing, decluttering and Staycationing, I read The Autobiography of Us by Aria Beth Sloss.  Believe me when I tell you that I have taken this bullet so you won‘t have to.  This is the story of two best friends who came of age in 1960’s Pasadena.  Alex is beautiful, rich and wants to be an actress.  Rebecca is not so beautiful, brainy and wants to be a doctor.  Yeah.  This is not going to end well.  I felt like a person in a movie theater watching a horror film and I kept wanting to shout, “Look out!  Here comes the dude with the knife!”  Or, rather in the case of this book, “Look out!  Here comes the unwanted pregnancy/bad marriage that is going to kill your dreams!”

You Are What You Read!

Hello, Darien readers--Stephanie here, filling in for Jen this week. Lots of great books for you this week as it seems the long weekend gave our librarians an excuse to read widely, and they snapped that excuse right up!

Amanda had a Vampire Weekend (no, not the band!) by watching “The Vampire Diaries” and reading Beth Fantaskey’s book, Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side. "I read Fantaskey’s book with the mindset that it was lightly mocking the Twilight books which made this book laugh out loud funny. I am unsure if that was the author’s intention, but it helped set the pace as I read this 384-page novel in one sitting. Jessica is a farm girl who finds out that her birth parents betrothed her to a Romanian vampire prince, Lucius, to stop a war. Moreover, she is also a vampire princess. Unlike other heroines who would be swept away, Jessica stonewalls Lucius. She’s determined to live a normal life. The great thing about this book is that both Jessica and Lucius develop and grow as characters. Lucius goes from overbearing pampered royalty to a fighting for what’s right. Jessica faces up to her difficult destiny and demonstrates maturity. The book concludes with a heart pounding confrontation between herself and Lucius.  I loved this book because it does some real world building with relatable characters."

Elizabeth really liked The Movement of Stars by Amy Brill, a novel about Hannah Gardner Price, who has lived all twenty-four years of her life according to the principles of the Nantucket Quaker community in which she was raised, where simplicity and restraint are valued above all, and a woman's path is expected to lead to marriage and motherhood. But up on the rooftop each night, Hannah pursues a very different— and elusive—goal: discovering a comet and thereby winning a gold medal awarded by the King of Denmark, something unheard of for a woman. "I really liked it, and I think it should really appeal to our Darien female audience because of the Nantucket connection. It was really enjoyable to read about Nantucket in the mid-1800's even if it wasn't the greatest time to be a woman there...the landscape is almost a character....Good story, and lovely writing style...."

Barbara M. is balancing two dark books. "I’ve just started reading The Island by Victoria Hislop because I liked her most recent novel, The Thread. What attracted me to this book was its subject, a leper colony on an island, Spinalonga, off the coast of Crete. The story’s premise is good and revolves around a young woman’s search for her family’s roots.  The writing is prosaic and the characters are sometimes one dimensional but what may redeem this book for me is the author’s description of Crete (she is a travel writer) and its history. I’ve also started The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon which describes his battle with the disease. It’s beautifully written but Solomon’s pain is so raw that it’s difficult to read too much of the book at one time."

Miss Amy read a book that she warns is not a new one, but it is a good one: Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman. Fine by us, they don't all need to be new! There's a reason we keep these books in the stacks for nice long lives.

Pat Sheary just finished a book that I loved as well but was scared to recommend to people, so I'm glad to have a partner in crime: The Love Song of Jonny Valentine by Teddy Wayne. "Based loosely on the Justin Bieber story, this is a coming-of-age tale set within the framework of celebrity and stardom. Jonny Valentine is an 11 year old musical genius whose looks and talents have captured the fickle American public-in a big way. As told in first person narration by Jonny, we watch as he navigates a cross-country tour, endless label marketing meetings to extend his 'brand' (HIMSELF), and a mother/manager archetype occasionally showing flashes of genuine love and concern . Attempting to please these factions, in addition to the ever-present  fanbase, Jonny is trying to  figure out friendship, sexual exploration, and a missing dad. Jonny is funny, ironic and heartbreakingly touching at every turn. I thoroughly and unexpectedly enjoyed this read."

Pat Tone is gearing up for our next First Look Darien event. "I am in the middle of Indiscretion by Charles Dubow and enjoying this page-turner. Claire, a pretty, ambitious young lady is introduced to an attractive couple, Harry and Maddy Winslow, who enjoy entertaining guests in their East Hampton home. Claire is drawn into the orbit of the Winslow's happy family life and soon seduces Harry and betrays Maddy's trust. This is a debut novel of love and deception and the author will be visiting Darien Library on March 7th!"

Ann has been lurking in Paris with The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan. "As a fan of historical fiction I was drawn to this book by the story and quite honestly the by cover.  The story starts a little slowly but once it got going I felt it became a page turner.  This novel is a fictionalized account of the Van Goethem sisters in 1878 Paris.  Their father dies and the family becomes desperate for money. Antoinette the oldest sister used to dance at the Paris Opera but was dismissed when she did not cooperate.  She then becomes a laundress and also gets a job acting.  Marie and Charlotte are sent to the Paris Opera where they will dance and earn salaries.  The girl's mother works as a laundress but has a severe drinking problem.  This novel is told in the voice of Antoinette and the voice of Marie.  Antoinette will get involved with a murderer who will have devastating effects on her and those she loves.  Marie will become a model for Degas, and in real life immortalized in the statue of Little Dancer Aged fourteen.  Marie has a very difficult childhood and must grow up quickly.  This novel brings to life the culture of poverty and what people will endure to survive.  As a reader you will be caring and cheering for the Van Goethem sisters."

Jeanne is listening to Defending Jacob by William Landay. "It's read by Grover Gardner and I can understand why he has been the narrator for so many books and won so many awards. He reads like he is the character; not just a narrator. Gardner's voice is at once confessional, personal and engaging. I have read and heard many favorable reviews of Defending Jacob and am anxious to find out the mystery behind the book's title."

Abby is having one of those no-good weeks when the books are being difficult. "I've been having a hard time finding a book to really dig into. So, for my latest read I looked on the shelf and saw the name Brad Meltzer. I thought, oh, they say he's a nice guy, so I grabbed it. I don't recommend selecting books based on the author's niceness quotient. It's not a very good book. The Fifth Assassin follows Beecher White. Beech is an archivist who works in the National Archives and is revealed early on as a member of a centuries old secret society dedicated to protecting POTUS. My dislike for the book extends beyond my usual obsession with having to read books in sequence. Had I read book one, I still would not like this book. It's basically a conspiracy theory book ala Dan Brown. Meltzer's character development may be better than Brown's, but that's not saying much. What saves it are the interesting snippets about presidential assassinations and the men who committed them."

As for myself, I finished Daddy Love by Joyce Carol Oates. I read everything she writes, for some unknowable reason. This one was a quick read, revolving around a man, Daddy Love, who kidnaps young boys to keep to abuse and call his sons. Not uplifting at all, but very well-written and well-paced. I didn't like it as much as her other 2013 book, which comes out next month (The Accursed), but it is perfect as a novel with that creepy true-crime feel.

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!

We all seem to be a little on the quiet side this week.  It could be we are just making preparations for the Impending Doom.  Or it could be that we are just feeling beat up by this winter in general.  Whatever it is, we are hopeful that the PA rodent’s prediction will come through for us and we will see an early Spring.  In the meantime, this week we have some unrequited love, gossip of the librarian kind, knife skills, computer science, some Rez, and another masterpiece.

Let us begin!

Here is Erin’s weekly film pick!  “This weekend I watched 10 Years, a movie about a group of friends reuniting for their 10-Year High School Reunion. Admittedly, I picked it up because it stars Channing Tatum. The film is sweet and will perhaps make you a bit nostalgic for your own hometown and high school friends. There are several storylines that deal with unrequited love, lost love, and people trying to appear as someone they are not. Ultimately, I thought the film dragged in the middle but I still enjoyed its saccharine ending.”

Elizabeth, who can sometimes be found on the Reference Desk, reports in with this, “Ok, I had to check out the book that just won the 2013 Printz Award: In Darkness by Nick Lake. This is historical fiction set in Haiti about a young boy trapped by the recent earthquake.  There is also a parallel story about the slave who liberated Haiti from France. This book beat out The Fault in Our Stars and there is lots of librarian gossip about that decision.”

Jeanne is distracted.  Look-out! “The narrator of Kathleen Flinn's, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks is keeping my mind off the road this week. The author has a lot to share with people who don't (yet) cook and people who already do. There's plenty to learn from Flinn's knife skills tips, simple soup ideas and meal planning. It made me feel virtuous about what I do know in the kitchen and humble about what I don't.”

Sweet Ann is reading Bend Not Break a Life in Two Worlds by Ping Fu. “Ping Fu wrote this memoir to bring to light her childhood during the Cultural Revolution in China during the 1960's and 70's, and her booming career in the United States.  As a young child she was taken from her family to be re-educated  by the communists.  People were cruelly murdered and tortured during this time period.  She was one of the lucky ones to survive.  When the universities opened years later she was able to attend.  She became part of a group that condemned the government.  She was arrested and forced to leave China.  She came to the United States where she struggled with language but enrolled in college and was able to eventually get her degree in computer science.  She is now the CEO of Geomagic, a 3D digital reality solution company.  This is a story of family, survival, determination and one woman's drive to succeed. “

Pat T. has just finished a book that is on everyone’s best of from last year; The Round House by Louise Erdrich. “The life of the Coutts’ family irrevocably changes for the worse when Geraldine Coutts is brutally attacked near the Round House on their reservation in North Dakota. Geraldine’s husband, Bazil, and her thirteen-year-old son Joe watch on helplessly, as Geraldine isolates herself from everyone.  Joe frustrated by the injustice of the laws of the land, tribal, federal and state, takes action into his own hands and seeks to find his mother’s attacker. There are many layers to dissect in this wonderful novel: Joe’s coming-of-age story when his secure family life is turned upside down and he is reluctantly thrust into an adult world; the racial tensions; land title laws; and moral and legal implications of justice.”

I am about half way through Transatlantic by Colum McCann.  Anyone who knows me knows what an evangelist I am for Let the Great World Spin.  Well, LTGWS as it is known in Jen-Land is going to have to learn to share the love.  Transatlantic which is out in June is another marvel from McCann.  These interconnected short stories span 150 years and two continents.  This is a novel worth waiting for and when you get it in your hands it is worth savoring.  I for one am looking forward to have weather excuse to do nothing but read this gem of a book.  For the rest of you it comes out in June.  Get excited.  You have more than sunshine and roses to get excited about.  You have Transatlantic.

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!

This week we have a tasty morsel, some fear, some bad weirdness, hope in the heart, some hockey, a crash landing, a dead rabbit and the legend of Zelda.

Let us begin!

Abby is, well, for lack of a better word, excited. “A new book on Scientology?  BRING IT.  I am now about 1/3 of the way into Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & the Prison of Belief and enjoying every morsel.  The author Lawrence Wright has produced some new information that digs deep into L. Ron Hubbard's past and the roots of Scientology.  Perhaps the only thing more fun that reading this book will be the responses and lawsuits cooked up by Scientology. I can't wait to get to the Tom Cruise stuff.  But like all books on this subject no matter how well researched and written, I suspect I'll be left wondering how the group has managed to assemble such passionate followers based upon (in my opinion) the delusions and pronouncements of a mediocre sci-fi writer. The Church of Abbytology, anyone?”

Pat T. is branching out!” New Year, new genre!! I just finished reading my first graphic novel, Stitches, by David Small and I surprised myself by liking this memoir a lot! This is the author's story of growing up with a troubled mother and father, who as a doctor, treated David with radiation as an infant that eventually caused cancer as a teenager. This graphic novel has more pictures than words, but these pictures accurately convey the character's emotions of fear, anger and resilience. “

Double Secret Agent Erin has a new gig writing reviews for Library Journal so she will no longer be shooting us book reviews as her time is being taken up with Serious Reading.  HOWEVER do not despair!  She will be supplying us with what she has been viewing.  In this week’s offering, Erin takes a bullet for us.  Thanks Erin! “This week I watched Your Sister’s Sister, and I am horrified to see that it received an 83% rating on Rotten Tomatoes because it was such a far-fetched, insanely bad movie. There is Emily Blunt, who is secretly in love with her dead ex-boyfriend’s brother. There is Iris, a lesbian who sleeps with the guy her sister is in love with, unbeknownst to her. There is a possible pregnancy. There are tears. It was all very bad and weird. What I thought was going to be a low budget sleeper indie set in a beautiful location was just a script that could have been written by Dawson’s Creek’s own Dawson Leery.”

Ann seems happier this week.  This is a good thing. She has just finished The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam.  “This novel follows the life of Percival Chen, a Chinese immigrant, living in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.  He is running a popular English academy and has learned to work the system to get the things he needs.  That is until his son makes the mistake of angering the South Vietnamese government and is arrested.  Percival will do anything to get his son back.  This book has many twists and turns and people will not be what they seem.  It will make you cheer and cry and create hope in your heart.  It's a tough story but it is quite well written.”

Stephanie is enraptured! “The first I heard of The Antagonist by Lynn Coady was the Briefly Noted section in last week’s New Yorker. It sounded like it was about a hockey player, and I will read pretty much any fiction that circles around athletes, so I gave it a shot. This is a pretty great book, though it’s only tangentially athletic. Think Andre Dubus III by way of Where’d You Go, Bernadette, but in Canada. The same blends of macho/thoughtful, sardonic/compassionate, memory/false memory, but the geography was more confusing. I have no idea whether Coady has adequately captured the inner voice of a college male or adult male, as so many of the Canadian reviews of this book make a point of noting, but that seems beside the point to me. It’s vivid and funny and raw, and I loved immersing myself in it.”

Miss Elisabeth has found a new favorite. “I just finished Code Name Verity, the much-buzzed about YA historical fiction book. Librarians are abuzz at its Printz potential. This is the tale of two best friends in the British Service during WWII - Maddie is an excellent pilot in the ATA (the civilian airforce) and Queenie, aka Eva aka Julie, is a Special Operative. Told from one character's point of view for the first half and anotherfor the second half, the book begins after a crash landing. Only one of the friends has a chance of making it out alive. The story is gripping, and my mind was blown by some of the later twists and reveals. With an unreliable narrator, intense tales of heroism and courage, a detailed historical afterword by the author, and frank depictions of enhanced interrogations and the atrocities of war, this is the most adult YA book I've read in a long time. In fact, as the characters are all adults, I'm surprised it wasn't published as adult fiction. Nevertheless, I can wholeheartedly recommend it as the first book I have read in a few weeks that I couldn't put down.”

Where’s Jeanne?  She’s in her car! “I am listening to Whiteout by Ken Follett. The thriller is set in Scotland and I am enjoying listening to Josephine Bailey's clear, lilting voice. The story begins with a lab technician stealing a canister from the top-secret research laboratory where scientists work at finding cures to deadly viruses. Now he's dead and so is the poor rabbit he stole, wanting to cure it. Who was this guy? Were there others involved? Will there be an international crisis? Follett writes greed, deception and unlikely liaisons in such a way that the reader is gripped before they know how creepy some of it is. I never knew I had a penchant for this type of sensationalism!”

I have just started a very promising work of historic fiction;  Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler.  Zelda is one of my obsessions and has been ever since I read Zelda by Nancy Milford.  So for me to really begin to love it just by reading the prologue is really quite something.   Zelda was the wife and muse of F. Scott Fitzgerald and some say the face of the Jazz Age.  It will be interesting to see how Fowler handles one of the most fascinating and legendary  women of the 20th century.

You Are What You Read!


The sun is out and we seem to not nearly be so sad this week.  Of course this does not mean things are “normal”.  Not by a long shot. This week we have some vicious depression, unhappiness, some harrowing experiences, an obituary, gauche behavior, Nazis (of course), tearing up, and a surprising cup of tea.

Let us begin.

Erin is almost done with Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. “It is told from the perspective of a 26-year-old woman living with her parents who takes a job as a companion to a 35-year-old quadriplegic. She is told her services will only be needed for a six-month span but she isn’t quite sure why. The quadriplegic, Will, is viciously depressed at how his life has changed so drastically. Over time, the two start to form a friendship. At this point in my reading I am pretty sure the book can end in 1 of 2 ways and I am eager to know which way it’s going to go. Regardless, the novel brings up interesting questions about euthanasia, living your best life, and overcoming scars from the past.”

Here is Ann’s take on Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. She seems a little happier over last week.  But not by much. “This is the heartfelt story of Louisa Clark and Will Traynor.  Lou Clark is twenty- six and stuck in her life by an event that happened to her when she was younger.  She is content to work at a cafe and live in her small girlhood bedroom with her parents.  When her job ends abruptly she becomes the paid companion to Will Traynor, a quadriplegic, who was injured in an accident at the height of his  fast- paced career and life.  Will is trapped in his life, wheelchair bound and unhappy.  After some initial difficulty, Will and Lou begin to enjoy their time together and their lives become larger.  Decisions will impact their lives in ways they can't predict.   This is a wonderful book with beautifully written characters that will remain with you long after their story is finished.”

Caroline is in a soothsayer kind of mood. “I just finished Above All Things, by debut novelist Tanis Rideout. It is coming out February 12, so place your holds now!  Set in 1924, England, this novel is based on a true story in which George Mallory departs for his third attempt to summit Mount Everest.  His wife, Ruth, is left home in Cambridge with his children, and the page turner switches back and forth between George's harrowing experiences on the mountain, and Ruth's ordeals at home, where she receives very sporadic updates on his progress.  Not as technical as a book like Into Thin Air, this story is about mountain climbing in the way that The Art of Fielding is about baseball, and much like The Art of Fielding.  I predict it will be enjoyed by both men and women. “

Abby has just finished the engrossing memoir After Visiting Friends by Michael Hainey.” Growing up in Chicago, Hainey had just turned six when his uncle knocked on the door and informed the family their father Bob, a well-respected newspaperman, had died.  The sentence of the obituary that stuck with Michael was he died ‘after visiting friends. ‘Fast forward 30 years or so, and we meet Michael as a grown man, also a journalist, determined to learn what really happened to his father that night. The obituaries seemed to offer a hint that things were not as they were written. Michael's mom, not a big talker on even the lightest of subjects cannot help Michael on his quest for the truth, and Bob's journalist friends from the newspaper fraternity all clam up when questioned.  Maybe the truth isn't always as healing as we'd like to believe. “

Barbara M. still no Nazis, still no Paris.  Yes.  I am concerned and you should be too.” I’m reading Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson the absorbing story of the implements we use for both cooking and eating. For example, the reason it's considered gauche to cut lettuce in a salad is because the carbon steel blades of earlier knives interacted unfavorably with vinegar turning the blades black and giving an unpleasant taste to the salad.”

John however has Nazis and he says, “Having just finished Winter of the World, which is a wholly respectable sequel to Fall of Giants, I decided to stay with WWII for a bit longer and delved into HHhH, which says it's a novel, but it's not really. Not quite.  The book is about the two Czech parachutists who assassinated Reinhard Heydrich, the head of the Nazi SS, and chief architect of the Holocaust. Also known as "The Butcher of Prague", Heydrich, after Hitler himself, is probably the most evil man who has ever been born.  Much of this book is dedicated to filling in details of his life and his ascent to power.  HHhH, incidentally, stands for "Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich" or "Himmler's brain is called Heydrich".  This is "not quite" a novel because it's really almost non-fiction.  Large portions of the book are given over to simply relaying the facts, and as the author, Laurent Binet, does this, he slips into fictional narrative--perhaps crafting some dialogue or setting the scene.  He does this with characteristic French angst, hating himself for having to resort into "imagining".  It's quite amusing, actually, and the effect is that he crafts a work that is unlike anything I've read before--a fiction/non-fiction hybrid that brings to life one of World War II's more obscure episodes.  Binet's obsessive dedication to accuracy ensures that anyone reading this work will experience a version of the events that is as close to the truth as one can possibly get.’

Jeanne is loving her current read.  So she is happier this week than she was last.  I am happy for her!  “ Louise Erdrich is a master storyteller. She is of German and Native American descent and many of her books are set on and around a Midwestern reservation, as is this one. The Round House, winner of the 2012 National Book Award for fiction, is part mystery, part Native American legend, and part testimony slash confession. Antone Bazil Coutts, aka Joe, is a precocious 13-year old living on this North Dakota reservation in 1988. His mother is brutally raped and the family is changed forever. Joe wants his family’s life back and he goes to great lengths to seek revenge. Erdrich’s writing, as always, is beautifully heart-felt and personal and makes me tear up, smile and shake my head. Just the way I like my books!”

Marianne is driving around town listening to Falling Man by Don Delillo. “I’ve never read anything by this author before and even though he's highly regarded, I didn't think his subject matter was my cup of tea.  Surprise of surprises I really liked this book.  The main part of the story follows the lives of one family on the day of and immediately following the 911 attack.  It's a true urban tale, disturbing in that it brings back the horror of those days.  I found it very provocative, made me think about the decisions made by these people and what my own reactions would be in such a difficult set of circumstances.”

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