Thanks, Hank, and I can guarantee wonderful book goodness which will also prove illuminating as our days grow shorter.
Seriously, this September is one of the best ones I can remember for new releases. Be sure to check out these stellar reads!
Birds of Paradise by Diana Abu-Jaber. In modern day Miami pastry chef Avis and real estate lawyer Brian are still mourning the disappearance of their daughter Felice who ran away when she was thirteen. When she reappears in their lives 5 years later, they all must reexamine just what it means to be a family. If you have loved Abu-Jaber’s previous works as we have, her latest will make you adore her all the more.
On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry. 89 year old Lily is looking back on her life upon the death of her grandson. This Booker nominated novel spans the time and place of the Great War and life in Ireland to Vietnam and America. It sounds like it would be a natural for book groups.
Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks is my pick of the year. How do you define genius writing? For me it is taking a main character that your logic tells you would not give an ounce of empathy or sympathy to and turning it on its ear. The Kid is just such a character. He lives under a causeway in Florida and sports an ankle bracelet. And he is not allowed within 2,500 feet of where children may gather. Despite the warning flags, I promise you too will be rooting for The Kid.
Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach is a baseball book that is not about baseball. When Henry Skrimshander arrives at Westish College to play short stop on the school’s baseball team he is on the top of his game and it would seem that he is destined to play for the Majors. But when a throw goes awry his amazing gift seems to desert him. Even the minor characters in this wonderful debut sing. This is what everyone needs for the Fall. A smart wonderful novel.
Happy End of Summer/Begining of Fall!
And the Citizen and I were playing it yesterday with one of our favorite new books, The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson.
The Family Fang tells the story of, well, The Family Fang. Mom and Dad Fang (Camille and Caleb) are performance artists who use their children Annie and Buster (aka Child A and Child B) as part of their “art” (Buster and Annie call it mischief). When the “art” goes too far Annie and Buster are in high school and they say no more moving out and on with their lives as soon as they can.
Unfortunately Annie and Buster come up against some pretty disastrous career and personal setbacks, and they are forced to move back home. Caleb and Camille see this as a wonderful opportunity to perform one last piece. But then the Parents Fang disappear, the possible victims of a violent crime. Or did they?
This book would be tremendous for book groups.
Oh and did I mention that it is devastatingly funny? Because it is.
So anyway, back to the game.
Here is the casting that The Citizen and I agreed on after MUCH discussion:
Caleb Fang –Alec Baldwin
Camille Fang – Diane Keaton
Annie Fang – Christina Ricci
Buster Fang – Toby Maguire
Won’t you please grab a copy and then visit us at The Welcome Desk with casting ideas of your own.
This week’s installment has marketing, missing siblings, agoraphobics and tom foolery, the Amish and courtship rituals.
Let us begin!
Barbara M. says, “I’ve just finished Faith by Jennifer Haigh. It’s a tense drama about a priest accused of child molestation but even more it’s a story of complicated family dynamics. Once I started it I couldn’t put it down. I’ve started reading Unthinking: The Surprising Forces Behind What We Buy by Harry Beckwith - a marketing expert’s theories about what really motivates the choices behind how we make decisions about what we buy.”
Pat T. is “in the middle of reading "Sister by Rosamund Lupton and I look forward to continuing the story each evening as I crawl into bed. Bee returns home to London when her younger sister Tess is reported missing. When her body is discovered the police rule the death a suicide. However, Bee knows her sister well enough to know that she would never have killed herself and she sets out to prove this. There is a good deal of intrigue, as well as the bond of sisterly love.”
Citizen Asha as usual has something unusual. “I am reading Bed by David Whitehouse. An unnamed narrator describes life with his family. His older brother Malcolm has decided to never leave his bed ever again which is great, except now he weighs more than half a ton. His parents cope with it in different ways; his mother enables Malcolm’s tomfoolery while their father escapes to the attic for long periods of time. I’m thoroughly enjoying it. “
Marianne is working her way through, "Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: a Memoir of Going Home by Rhoda Jantzen. "In her early 40s, the author found herself back in her parents' home, enveloped in a life of German folk songs, strudel, borscht, traditional handicrafts and pious religious beliefs." Jantzen manages to bring humor and honesty to her mid-life altering crises. I'm finding this to be a perfect late summer read. And it really is true you can always go home again."
I am in love Jeffrey Eugenides’ new book which is coming out in October. The Marriage Plot looks at the lives and loves of three Brown graduates in the early 1980’s and asks the question, can a traditional love story thrive in the late 20th century? Or have the rituals become obsolete in the face of the practicalities of modern courtship. As always, Eugenides’ characters sing off the page and straight into your heart and mind. Get excited. This one is worth it.
This week’s installment has some rather fascinating features. We have water, water everywhere, a new obsession, peculiarities, three essential ingredients, an affair, and still more Paris.
Barbara M wants all to know, “I’m listening to The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough a devastating account of the flood of 1889 that killed two thousand people. It is even more heart wrenching because it was avoidable. McCullough's writing, compelling and vivid, puts you, the reader, into the action. “ She also has a new obsession in watching “Lark Rise to Candleford a BBC adaptation of Flora Thompson's autobiographical novel set in 19th century England about a young girl who moves to town from the countryside to become a postmistress’ apprentice. “
Citizen Asha as usual is weighing in with something not quite right: “I just finished reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. When I first saw the title at BEA, I figured it would be a great read and I was right. Jacob’s grandfather has been telling him stories of a strange but fantastical orphanage in the Welsh countryside, when his grandfather dies he decides he needs to take a trip to see the orphanage. Only one problem, the orphanage was destroyed on September 3rd, 1940 during an air raid yet, he has a letter from Miss Peregrine dating 1985. Very peculiar.”
Candace is remaining true to type and continuing to ponder her fellow homo sapiens: She is reading The Social Animal by David Brooks and reports that it “is so interesting! I want to buy a copy.”
Pat T. wants all to know that she has “just finished reading another great Douglas Kennedy book - Pursuit of Happiness. His books always have a good plot, great character development and engaging dialogue - three ingredients for a good read!”
Abby says “I’m currently having a fun time with The Affair, the new Jack Reacher novel coming out in September. Armed only with his travel toothbrush and heavy duty English shoes, Jack heads south in this book. The Affair provides good background about Jack's origins and what led him to life out of the military and off the grid. Reacher Creatures should be pleased.”
Elisabeth of Team Tone reports: Right now I am reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. It is a fictional account about Ernest Hemingway's marriage to his first wife, Hadley Richardson, and their life together in Paris at the beginning of his writing career. This story has an intriguing mix of funny and heart-sinking moments, and it provides insight into the personal life of one of America's most revered authors from the perspective of the person that knows him best.
Have a great weekend!
Now you can pick up a whole lot more than a cup of java or a paper at the station!
Look for our spinning rack filled with donated books! Feel free to take one for you commute. And when you’re done, feel free to keep it or pass it on to a fellow commuter.
This week’s installment has the following fascinating elements: a royal wedding, a literary canon, more Paris (like we can ever get enough), a trip down a river, volunteer opportunities, and a baseball book that is not even really about baseball.
Let us begin!
Asha says “Sadly, this week does not feature any sketchy tales, instead--I’m reading Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof. I’ve always wanted to read this book but could never find the time, but then I read Think by Lisa Bloom and she mentions this book and I realized that I had to read it as soon as possible. Between Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed Down World and Half the Sky, I have decided that I need to do more so I started volunteering in Stamford.”
Marianne is working her way through Twenty five Books that Shaped America: How White Whales, Green Lightsand Restless Spirits Forged our National Identity by Thomas C.Foster. “Written by the author of How to Read Literature Like a Professor Foster has chosen twenty five works of literature that he feels significantly impacted the development of the American character. While lists like these are always subjective, this book has really caught my attention. While my intent was to casually peruse and skim through the titles, I keep stopping to read the whole entry. I particularly liked "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The author finds it ironic that the most devastating portrait of capitalism run wild in Roaring 20s New York was written by a person who himself chased everything related to over the top consumerism.”
P-Tone aka Pat T. is enjoying “The Commoner by John Schwartz. Haruko, a young Japanese girl, meets the Crown Prince of Japan at a tennis match and over time and more tennis matches they find they are attracted to one another. Haruko is from a good family, but none the less a commoner who marries the Crown Princess and must learn the customs and culture of the Imperial Family. She overcomes many hardships throughout her marriage and perseveres to become the Empress of Japan.”
Abby says “There are a times I need to wait a bit once I've finished a book to decide how I felt about it. For me, Once Upon A River by Bonnie Jo Campbell was that kind of book. I've decided I really liked it! Set in the early 1980's this unique mix of The Odyssey and Huckleberry Finn follows the story of young Margot Crane who decides to live on and off of the river outside of Kalamazoo, Michigan. I was a huge fan of Tom Robb Smith's debut novel Child 44, and to a slightly lesser degree The Secret Speech. I was incredibly excited when the publisher sent me an advance copy of his latest, Agent 6. See, I don't just read Scandinavian crime; I am also sucker for a mystery set in the old Soviet Union. In this series, lead character Leo Demidov is an agent of the State. Leo works hard to be a believer in the State yet has strong issues of conscience with the demands of the Stalinist government. His relationship with his wife, Raisa is also somewhat fascinating. I'm not yet far into Agent 6, but look forward to seeing Leo's struggle and continued evolution.”
I am really enjoying a first novel that is coming out the beginning of September. Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding is a book that is about baseball the way A River Runs Through It is about fly fishing. What this means is that you do not need to be sportif (and please believe me when I say I am so very far from sportif ) to enjoy this wonderful glimpse into the world of Westish College and most specifically Henry Skrimshander, star short stop, who seems to be destined for the Big Leagues until something goes horribly wrong and his whole life’s purpose is called into question. Even the minor characters are lush and fully formed and I must say I love them all.
Have a happy weekend!
Yes Sam, August can be a bit rough but when you have some wonderful juicy new book goodness it certainly helps.
Here is what we are excited about for August!
In The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson, Annie and Buster have made rather a hash of their adult lives. How bad are things? Well, they are so bad that they must return home to their parents, Caleb and Camille, performance artists who used Annie and Buster all through their childhoods to create their “art”. Now that the family is reunited they want to perform one last piece. Will Annie and Buster relent and participate? This is a wonderful book that asks the question how far can an artist go for his or her art?
Next to Love by Ellen Feldman examines the darker side of The Greater Generation. Babe and her friends Grace and Millie marry their beaus and then send them overseas to fight in World War II. But only two husbands come home. This novel examines what life was like for both the men who fought the war and came home and the women who waited for them. The scars of war are not just the provenance of returning soldiers. This is a huge favorite for those of us who have read it and we cannot wait to share it.
In Among the Wonderful by Stacy Carlson takes us back to the Manhattan of the 1840s. When P.T. Barnum takes over the dusty Natural History museum the lives of Ana, the 8’ giantess and cranky Emile the resident taxidermist are turned upside down. Change is on the horizon for them both and the question is how they will individually deal with it. Carlson shows us a New York filled with oddities and outsiders both real and imagined.
Tom Violet always thought that by the time he reached a certain age things would be delightfully predictable. Nice wife ensconced in a nice home with a nice dog to come home to after a day working at his nice job. Sadly things have just not worked out that way. In Matthew Norman’s Domestic Violets we get a portrait of a man who has decided not to take his soul sucking life in stride with hilarious results. This one is for fans of Richard Russo or Jonathan Tropper.
Enjoy your Dog Days! September is sooner than you think!
Things have cooled down which can only mean the Desketeers are revving up. This week’s installment brings us feral boys, a dubious religion, water, water everywhere, bouquets, spirited discussions, guilty passion, a grief observed, and 8 year old evacuees.
Let us begin!
Asha says “I am reading Nothing by Janne Teller. It’s a modern adaption of Lord of the Flies. On the first day of school, seventh grader Pierre Anthon announces that life has no meaning and walks out of school. Everything, he has concluded, is a useless step toward death thus his classmates set out to prove him wrong but their efforts become twisted and dark. We all know how I love my weekly dose of sketchiness.”
Abby reports “When I heard Janet Reitman was releasing a book called Inside Scientology, I was all over it. I've seen in interviews where Janet has said she was out to produce a balanced look at the church, and frankly, my first thought was I don't want a balanced look, I want the ugly underbelly. Despite her attempts to be balanced, the established facts and half-baked explanations by Scientology leaders overwhelms my ability to view Scientology as anything but a business organization with a laser-like focus on power and money. Church founder L. Ron Hubbard was a sci-fi writer and fantabulist. That may be a good combination for fiction, but it's not something I'd put my faith in. “
Barbara M. is reading The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough. She says it is “a fascinating story of an avoidable disaster”.
Ann. She is small but she is mighty, mighty busy. She weighs in with the following: “I recently finished Bent Road. What an adventure! It hooked me from the beginning and now I keep wondering if there is a sound at the door. I thought the characters were well developed and I could feel the angst the son was experiencing. It was a different book for me, but terrific. As for Sister by Rosamund Lupton I loved it! The author's writing reminded me very much of Tania French. I loved the story of the sister searching for her sister's killer. It made me cry in parts when Beatrice was speaking of how much she loved her now deceased sister Tess. These great characters kept my interest from page one. Language of FlowersI am just midway through but I absolutely love the story of Victoria Jones and her will to survive. I enjoy the flower references and am thinking of bouquets to put together for people. It's a great book.
Marianne is always reading with an eye towards her book groups: “Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie. This was the second in the Library book group's series of books to movies that we're doing this summer. The book is a psychological thriller, in which the personalities, behavior and motivations of each of the Boynton family members are closely scrutinized. Mrs. Boynton in particular is a horror of a character. When she winds up dead it is up to Hercule Poirot to solve the murder and to accomplish the task within twenty four hours. After reading the book, we watched the BBC movie version which has some drastic changes in it. Needless to say we had a very spirited discussion after we finished reading and watching this intriguing book/movie."
Elisabeth of Team Tone Fame reports “I just finished How Did You Get This Number. It is a collection of personal essays by Sloane Crosley, author of I Was Told There'd Be Cake. It was an easy read, perfect for 20-something women maneuvering their way through the ‘Real World,’ and the jobs, roommates, and relationships that they encounter along the way.”
Pat, Leader of Team Tone says “Today I started reading The Long Goodbye: A Memoir by Meghan O'Rourke - the author writes about her mother's death from cancer and that nothing prepared her for this loss. I am always amazed how an author can eloquently write about such a personal loss. “
For those of you waiting patiently for Kate Morton to give us something new and wonderful I can promise you that you will love Rosie Alison’s book The Very Thought of You which was short listed last year for The Orange Prize in the UK. Anna Sands is 8 years old in 1939 when she is evacuated from London to the safety of the English countryside. She ends up at the estate of the childless Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton. Of course there are bound to be tragedies and secrets waiting. This is a fun read to tuck into the beach bag this weekend.
Have a happy weekend!
This week’s extreme heat seems to have put a damper on the Desketeers. The usual shenanigans may appear to be a bit muted. This is not to say the reading here isn’t excellent, it just feels, well almost normal. But! We do have too much drinking, dyslexia, a soothing narrator, auto-immune disorders, mean streets and peacocks! So while the heat may slow us down, it certainly doesn’t stop us.
Let us begin!
Ann is reading Bent Road by Lori Roy. “This is quite an interesting story about a family that leaves the mean streets of Detroit for what they think will be a quiet peaceful existence on Bent Road, rural Kansas, where the dad grew up. I'm having trouble putting this book down the story is so intriguing and spooky. In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson,(audio book), learning the history and adventure of the author exploring the Outback. It's enjoyable and the author's voice is very soothing. “
Marianne says “I recently finished The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell. And my singular comment for this book is "Please say it isn't so. Good-by Kurt Wallender, the brilliant but fallible and out-of-shape loner who is prone to catching colds and drinking too much. Wallander is a tired and grumpy but very human perfectionist. This final book combines the detective's investigations into the world of the cold war and the relationship of Sweden to the U.S. and Russia along with Wallender's facing his own aging and mortality. I must admit, sad as I am that this is Kurt Wallender's last, I'm ready to move on.”
Citizen Asha is reading The Kid by Sapphire. “I read her first book (Push) years ago and I thought it was absolutely brilliant, dark but brilliant. The Kid is actually the sequel to Push, it features Precious’ son Abdul and his struggles after his mother’s death. I’m thoroughly enjoying the book-- I’ve always been a huge Sapphire fan. “
Abby S. reports she is “heading back to basics with Karin Slaughter's Fallen. In this one Will Trent, the brilliant yet emotional train wreck of a dyslexic detective is on the case as his partner's mother, a possibly corrupt retired detective goes missing. Since Slaughter has blended her two series, Sara Linton, the widowed coroner returns as well leaving us with the burning question of whether she and Will ever hook-up already. An enjoyable crime read and it's good to support Karin Slaughter who is in turn, a huge supporter of libraries.”
Barbara M. has just finished listening to The Sum of our Days by Isabelle Allende. "Excellent" This is all she could say. It was that good. It rendered her mute.
Pat is enjoying Joy for Beginners by Joy Bauermeister. “The story is about the friendship of seven women and the challenges they face at various stages in their lives. I think this book will be a good summer read!”
I spent two wonderful days reading Ann Napolitano’s new book A Good Hard Look. When Flannery O’Connor left New York City for her childhood home in Milledgeville, Georgia it was because her Lupus had progressed to such a degree that she needed her mother’s care. When Cookie and her fiancé come to Milledgeville from New York it is from choice to begin their new lives in Cookie’s hometown. Lona Waters is the wife of a local policeman who has never left Milledgeville and she feels life slowly passing her by. When these three lives intertwine everything they thought they knew about what they wanted from life is called into question. And it has peacocks!
Have a happy weekend!
Summer is finally here and with a nice long weekend to look forward to here is what the Desketeers have been enjoying. Or not. You never know with them. This week’s installment features warring family members, beauty walking like the night, dry alcoholics, segregation, ex-pats, and beauty products for weasels.
Let us begin!
Could it be the impending holiday that has Marianne pondering the State of the Family with her latest: “You may know one, you may have one or you may be one. And what is that? A daughter-in-law! If any of the preceding applies to you, you must read Daughters-in-Law by Joanna Trollope. As a mother of four sons and now, four daughters-in-law this book made me look much more carefully at my own family relationships.” Marianne found this charming article on BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-13973331 . Read, discuss amongst yourselves and then read the book. We guarantee that you won’t just see fireworks in the sky.
Elizabeth, as usual, has many things going on at once. “So this week I'm reading quite the combination of books. I'm reading the Paris Wife which I absolutely adore. This is the first book I've read since The Help that totally takes me to another world. I don't ever want it to end. I also read She Walks in Beauty, which is a book of poems selected by Caroline Kennedy. It's basically her journey through life as told through this collection of poems. They're broken up into sections according to phases of life, e.g. falling in love, breaking up, marriage, loss and grieving, etc. I'm enjoying Caroline's own anecdotes between sections but I'm a little underwhelmed by the poems themselves. I'll just say it's not wowing me. Lastly, I'm listening to Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods on audio. He returns to the U.S. after living in England for 20 years and decides that the best way to reintroduce himself to our fine country is to hike the entire Appalachian Trial with his heinously out of shape, ex-drug addict/alcoholic childhood friend. It is equal parts terrifying and hilarious. I'm enjoying the book but I can say with certainty that it has frightened me out of any future hiking or camping expeditions. The entire first chapter is a list of traumatizing ways one can die in the wilderness. Need I say more?”
Ann also has much going on: “The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew. It is the story of a family living in South Carolina with their black maid, Mary, during the 1950's. The story is told by the thirteen year old daughter Jubie. The father of the family is abusive towards Jubie and it is Mary who gives her comfort. The father also has cheated against the wife so she decides to take her children and Mary to Florida to visit her brother. Due to racial discord in the south at this time, tragedy strikes Mary which has a profound effect on Jubie. It is a good read but predictable in parts. A Place of Yes 10 Rules for Getting Everything You Want Out of Life by Bethenny Frankel. It is an interesting read if you are a Bethenny fan. She tells her life story and how she used her experiences to turn her business adventures into successes and her personal life into all she wanted. Many of her suggestions are not new but she presents them in an amusing way. I did think her advice would be good for young people starting out in their first jobs, for example to stand out at work and not just stay with "the pack". I also enjoyed Bossypants by Tina Fey as an audio book. This audio book was fun to listen to because Tina Fey reads it. She tells about her childhood, beginnings of her career and her present day life. It was fun and made my time on 95 go quickly, not really, but it was a lot more fun with Tina.”
Abby says that listening to The Paris Wife on audio “has me very excited. It was hearing my wonderful co-worker speak of Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast that moved me to read the book, and it sets up the Paris Wife beautifully. WhereA Moveable Feast is Hemingway's take on his time in Paris alongside his wife Hadley, The Paris Wife, while fiction, is an account of his first wife Hadley Richardson. Beginning in her childhood, we learn how she met the aspiring writer. We've not yet been to Paris. This audio has really sucked me into Chicago of the time, rich with details, inner lives, and fountains of Prohibition Era liquor. I usually only get the sensation of thumping in my chest during suspenseful movies (at the end of Silence of the Lambs, my heart was pounding so hard I was convinced the people in the theater near me could hear it and would tell me to quiet down), but the debut novel by SJ Watson had my blood pumping! Set in England, it tells the story of Christine, a married woman who suffers from an unusual form of amnesia. She can hold onto memories during her waking hours, but each day she awakes remembering nothing of the days before. Pursuing treatment, she begins to unlock the mystery of the trauma that cost her so much and explore the woman she was.
Citizen Asha seems, well, almost sedate this week. “I am reading the Love Child by Sheila Kohler. It’s about a woman (named Bill) coping with the loss of her husband as well as a few family secrets. This all takes place while she’s living during the apartheid era in South Africa. It’s a stretch for my usual sketchy novels but I think it will be a great read.” We hope she isn’t coming down with something.
Pat Tone the Leader of Team Tone says "on the recommendation of a patron, I started reading Come to the Edge: a Memoir by Christina Haag. The memoir captures the friendship and five year romance between the author and John F. Kennedy JR. It is lovingly written and the author gives us a rare glimpse into the personal life of John F. Kennedy JR. as a teenager to his early years as an adult. "
Elisabeth of Team Tone Fame is reading In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. "It's a great non-fiction read about the American ambassador in Germany and his daughter during Hitler's rise to power in 1933. You can tell that a lot of detailed research went into the creation of this book, but it reads like a story!"
I read The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai this week. Lucy Hull is a children’s librarian who perhaps cares a bit too much about her young patrons. When she realizes that 10 year old Ian is about to be packed off to an evangelical “re-education” center because his parents feel he is on the fast track to becoming a friend of Dorothy the two hit the road. This is a quick, light, fun read peppered with all sorts of kid lit references, shady Russians, and a lovely little hair care product called Ferret-Glo.
We wish you a lovely long weekend filled with book goodness and an utter lack of Ferret-Glo!