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!

It would appear that we are deep into the winter blues this week.  Maybe the expected warmth coming our way this weekend will cheer us.  If not, someone please send some mood elevators or perhaps one of those special sun lamps.  This week we have a puppet master in plain sight, lots of sad, some more sad and tragic, and a rather tragic reading rut.


Amanda is reading For the Win by Cory Doctorow. “I am reading this because several of my techie coworkers have a love for all things written by Mr. Doctorow. The story is set across multiple characters living in various locations around the world. All of them are players of massive multiplay online games (MMOGs). Some of the players are playing for the fun of belonging and others because they need to make a living. For those forced to play, they endure rough conditions, beatings, and worse if they speak out about the way they are treated. However, an online revolution is coming as players began to form online unions to demand better conditions.   Doctorow lacks the narrative spark that makes you emphasize with his characters, though you cringe away at the harshness of their lives in the slums. He's also a bit on the preach-y side as he suddenly stops the story to go on a tangent about how money is made in these games. My fault with the work is that I can see the puppet master. On the other hand, it's a fascinating look at the serious world of MMOGs. I am not a gamer, so I had very little background knowledge about the topic. “

I want it noted that Ann aka Little Miss Unicorns and Rainbows has used the word ‘sad’ three times in her offering this week.  Let us discover what is bringing our girl down, shall we? “I have just finished The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis.  I would like to begin by saying I like sad books but this book although beautifully written was one of the saddest books I have ever read.  The story follows Hattie who has come North to Philadelphia with her mother and sister during the migration of many Black people from the South. Hattie gets pregnant and marries August a young man she loves.  Their life, although a struggle, seems happy until tragedy occurs when their twins die of pneumonia.  Hattie becomes very disenchanted with her life.  After the initial chapter of the death of the twin babies, the novel jumps in time to tell the story of some of Hattie's other children as adults.  Their lives have been impacted greatly by poverty, prejudice, and their mother's bitterness.  The writing is wonderful but this story is extremely sad.”  Please.  Won’t someone send some sunshine Ann’s way?  I think she could use it.


Jeanne also weighs in.  She is not much happier. “I read The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis because I wanted to learn what the title meant. I am still not sure about the title but I have some biblical ideas. For instance, the choice of the number twelve and the choice of Hattie's last name as Shepherd.  Is it perhaps possible ultimate salvation? What I do know is that there are twelve children involved and what happens to them is mostly sad and often tragic. Hattie Shepherd, a teenage wife and mother, and her husband August have ten of these children; Hattie has one by another man and the last is a grandchild. They are a struggling black couple who have left the Jim Crow south of the 1920s to live in Philadelphia. After her adored first twins die in infancy of a disease that could have been prevented with pennies, Hattie and August have several more children that she "shepherds" fiercely through life with food and shelter and education, but not demonstrative love. As they grow, each of the children develops some debilitating issue, illness or obsession into adulthood. It is always sad and tragic to read a portrayal of people struggling against racial bias and this is dramatically apparent in this family's raw story of dysfunction. The book actually reads more like short stories than a novel as Mathis writes about Hattie and each child's struggles by chapter. Still, it is a mournfully beautiful first book and I would anticipate more by this author.”  As I said, please someone send us some chocolate or something.  We could use it.


I am in a totally tragic reading rut.  I finished a few weeks ago something that I am sure is going to be a favorite for 2013.  I have long been a fan of Kate Atkinson and her new offering Life After Life is going to be her masterpiece.  The book begins with the main character Ursula in a café in Berlin in the mid 30’s.  Who should walk in but her good friend Eva Braun and Eva’s beau Adolph Hitler.   Urusla pulls out a pistol and kills him thus altering the future. The next chapter has Ursula being born in the English countryside.  Sadly Baby Ursula dies.  Chapter three has Ursula being born in the English countryside and she lives.  You see, Ursula gets to have do overs.  She can change small details and literally alter the course of her life.  Atkinson’s writing is genius and you will totally fall for Ursula.  Some of her fates are ugly and it kills you when you read them until you realize that this may not be her fate after all.  This one comes out in April.

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 teen spy, eminent defeat, prison, a whirlwind, some Carolina, lie changers, some unraveling, two halves making a whole, heartfelt confessions and a Red Rooster.

Let us begin!

Gretchen reports that she is reading Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein and LOVING it.  “This story is told through a teen spy’s confession during a Nazi interrogation. Although it is a dark war story it is getting lots of buzz in Young Adult book circles.”

From Marianne we get City of Women by David Gillham.  “The place is Berlin and the year is 1943.  Signs of Germany's eminent defeat are beginning to appear, but the Reich is still in control, propaganda is rampant and the citizens, most of whom are women, live in fear of the government and the nightly bombing raids from the Allies.  This story follows the everyday lives of German women whose husbands are away at war.  We learn about their strengths and weaknesses and how they handled subjects like infidelity, infertility, injustice, and how they fought back. This is a great look from an insider's point of view and  I found it to be a compelling read.”

Stephanie is crying out for someone to please join her. “This week I took a chance on a book because it had a bright yellow cover: Mountains of the Moon by I. J. Kay. I am pretty sure that I liked it and I definitely loved a lot of the prose, but I would like to talk it out with somebody before deciding. In part this is because the narrator spends much of the book out of contact with reality, so it’s hard to think about it rationally. It’s the story of a young British girl who retreats into imagination to avoid the horrid realities that she faces at home, going back and forth between her as a child and the present day, where she is an adult who has just been released from prison, full of hallucinatory and indistinct memories and experiences. I keep wanting to say it reminds me of Room, but it’s possible that all UK child narrators sound the same to me, so that is perhaps an unfair comparison. I’d recommend it for a book group, both because it obviously leads a reader to want to have a chat, and also because I’m not entirely sure I know what happened in it, which is always a good place to start with discussion.”

Miss Kiera is doing some heavy lifting! “This week I’m reading The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood by James Gleick. It is a fascinating whirlwind in which Gleick looks at how information and communication have evolved from the dawn of history up to right now. From African drumming to the development of Morse Code to the very first attempts at the creation of an English dictionary and onwards through the digital revolution, this is a hugely ambitious and highly entertaining book. If you enjoy pop-science/sociology/psychology books in the tradition of Freakonomics and Blink, you won’t mind that The Information is a good 500+ pages. I recommend borrowing it as an ebook!

KLS’s own Elizabeth has you covered on two fronts: “For anyone with Carolina on their mind (North Carolina, of course), I highly recommend Wiley Cash's new novel A Land More Kind than Home. Published in September 2012 and inspired by Thomas Wolfe's You Can't Go Home Again. We have it in print and e book.

Hmm.  Isn’t this week 3 of no France, no Nazis for Barbara M?  Just seems wrong somehow.  “I’m reading A Possible Life: A Novel in Five Parts by Sebastian Faulks, a loosely woven novel about life changing choices, those taken and those not taken. The five stories take place in different places and in different times but the theme is the same : there is a time when a choice has to be made that will impact the future. As usual Faulks’ writing is beautiful and full of vivid imagery. “

The Delightful Ann is working on Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan. “I enjoy Mr. McEwan’s writing because he always gives the reader something to ponder. His novels include stories of deception, newlyweds who struggle to find their rhythm (literally and figuratively), and what happens to a family on a normal Saturday that becomes far from normal. Sweet Tooth is the story of Serena Frome who upon graduation from Oxford goes to work for the M15, Britain's equivalent to our CIA.  Her journey there is interesting and involves one of her loves in this novel. She is assigned the case "Sweet Tooth" and becomes entrenched in the world of literature which she has always enjoyed.  She becomes involved with an author who will be her unraveling.  I found this book to be an acceptable read, not his best work in my opinion but still intriguing.”

Pat T. is ringing in the the New Year rather philosophically. “I have just started reading Falling Upward : A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr. The author has an interesting take on life as being divided into two segments- the first half is when you are discovering your identity (building the container) and the second half is when you are searching for meaning in your life (filling the container). The challenges, struggles and failures we face in the second half of life can be the impetus to find our way up again into a richer more fulfilling existence, thus the paradox title It is quite philosophical and something to ponder as we begin a new year! “

Jeanne is loving herself some memoirs! “I read Elsewhere by Richard Russo and I loved it! I loved the pace and the heartfelt confessions of the young boy trying to live with and care for a mother who was unstable and continuing as a man to the end of her life. It was beautiful to read Russo's remembrances of his small, mill town upbringing and connect it to his brilliant literature of the same, like Empire Falls. This is also a wonderful DVD with Paul Newman and Ed Harris. I am now reading Yes, Chef: A Memoir. It's about the life of Marcus Samuelsson. After his mother died in Ethiopia, he and his sister (both very young) were adopted by a loving family in Sweden. His story, also well-paced, is of his early love of food: the smells, tastes, textures and his culinary education beginning in his grandmother's kitchen. There is a great story between there and opening his acclaimed restaurant in Harlem, The Red Rooster. You don't have to be a foodie to enjoy the show, but there are lots of mouth-watering performances!”

 

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!

Welcome to YAWYRYE also known as You Are What You Read Year End.  And as such, we will be looking back and telling you, our loyal YAWYR fans what really stood out for us this year.  What makes this list different from any other list?   We made it.  So it rocks.

This year we had a roadside attraction, an obsession, a love story, an opportunity for conversation, a three way tie, a ditto, witches, end of days and an amazing love story.

Miss Kiera says that “this year I've had so many favorites and certainly too many picture books to count. But one work of children's fiction that sticks out in my memory and has really stayed with me is The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. It's the fictionalized version of a true story. Ivan was a gorilla kept as a neglected roadside attraction for years until finally being brought to a sanctuary. In Applegate's story we learn about Ivan and his fellow animal captives through a first-Gorilla perspective. It's the kind of book that you cannot read in public. It's a four-tissue minimum.”

Erin has all year long spoken quite openly of her obsession with Cheryl Strayed.  She went to another library to hear her speak, she not only read Wild in print but she then drove the back roads of Fairfield County listening to it on her CD player. She is an evangelist for her writing.  So what she has to say is really no surprise at all. “My favorite book this year which will be a surprise to absolutely no one was Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.”  Yes, if I were Ms. Strayed I would be on the lookout for a certain tall blonde. 

Ann says that her favorite read is The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Phi Sendker. She says that it was very hard to choose.   This sweet love story set in Burma is the one that won the heart of our Sweet Ann so you are sure to know it is as wonderful as she is.

Pat. T’s choice is very telling about Pat T. And without saying a word! “My best book of 2012 is Quiet by Susan Cain because it is informative and the book provides the reader with the opportunity to engage in conversation about the subject of introvert and extrovert personalities.”

Barbara M. cannot pick just one and yet again, week three, you will notice no France and no Nazis.  Discuss amongst yourselves. “My best book of the year is often the one I am reading now and Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity would certainly qualify but I would also have to add Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel and In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner.”

Stephanie says ditto to Barbara about Far from the Tree.

Miss Elisabeth is in a tussle.  With herself. “I’m really struggling with my favorite book of 2012, but I think I'd have to say Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness. The sequel to her bestselling A Discovery of Witches, this book was not quite perfect, but I was so excited to delve into history with these characters that it's hard for me to think about the book with anything other than glowing praise. I can't wait for the final book in the trilogy!”

John does love his end of days fiction! “My favorite book of the year would have to be The Dog Stars. So good.” 

This year I loved The End of Your Life Book Club, Will Schwalbe’s amazing love letter to not only books but the remarkable woman who was his mother.  She not only raised a lovely family but also worked tirelessly for the International Rescue Committee in dangerous situations.  In what has to be one of my favorite literary thoughts of the year Will’s mother explains to him that she has no time for silly in her reading.  She narrows this down by saying, “I’m talking about those novels where the characters aren’t really interesting and you don’t care about them or anything they care about.  It’s those I won’t read anymore.  There’s too much else to read-books about people and things that matter, books about life and death.”  I hope that this year we brought to you options that saved you from this fate and we wish for you many great reads in 2013.

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 one-legged pigeon (totally a first), a sub-par British accent, a Clementine, some Vietnam, E. coli, some dragons, some differences, Swinging London and the cult of beauty, a Ruby, some truth, another Ruby,and an oldster in the attic.

Miss Kiera reports in with this offering: “This week I'm reading a work of middle-grade fiction: On the Road to Mr. Mineo's by Barbara O'Connor. Told in alternating perspectives of the townsfolk of Meadville, South Carolina, over the course of one long, hot summer, we learn about each character as they try to find a troublesome one-legged pigeon. This is no street pigeon, but a homing pigeon lovingly kept by Mr. Mineo and his fat dog, Ernie. The pigeon goes missing during a routine flight over Meadville and winds up insinuating himself into the lives of almost everyone in town. As a child, my grandfather kept about 200 homing and racing pigeons on our roof. So, for me, pigeons have a special place in my heart. What is so remarkable about this book is the way we come to know and truly care about these sometimes oddball, but often charming cast of characters. Each character's search for the one-legged pigeon comes to represent that individual's search for truth, or power, or respect, or friendship. In a way, aren't we all searching for our own one-legged pigeons?”

 Erin is not at all pleased.  “My review this week is going to be controversial among staff members. I am listening to Tell the Wolves I’m Home on audio and I am not loving it. This book is narrated by 14-year-old June who lives in Westchester in the late 80s. Her uncle and closest friend Finn has just passed away due to complications from the AIDS virus. She finds friendship in an unexpected place: her late uncle’s boyfriend Toby. Our staff was wild about this book but I have to say I find the narrator to be a little too precocious to the point that she annoys me. I also think her relationship with her uncle was weird! I am close with my uncles too but I don’t “want to brush the hair out of their eyes,” which is a feeling she has at one point about Finn. I will also note that there are small parts narrated in a sub-par British accent.”  That’s okay Erin.  We love you just the same!

Gretchen is having a good time with the latest installment of one of her favorite series. “I read Clementine and the Family Meeting by Sara Pennypacker this week and laughed out loud! My favorite series of books for young readers (2nd-4th grade), Clementine is like a modern Ramona Quimby. She has a short attention span, but a heart of gold. In this story, Clementine’s perfect family of four is about to become five, the science class pet rat has gone missing and she has to untangle a host of complicated feelings about their expanding family. 'Spunky girl' books (early chapter books) are one of my favorite genres and Clementine has topped the list for years. This addition (the 5th book) is as funny and endearing as the first 4!”

Ann has just begun The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam.  “This story takes place in Vietnam during the Vietnam War.  Percival Chen is the headmaster of a highly regarded English school.  He is a proud to be of Chinese descent and does not want to teach Vietnamese at his school.  The repercussions from this decision will affect his son and his life in ways he could not imagine.  So far this book is quite well written and I am enjoying it very much.”

Pat  T. has just finished Proof of Heaven by Dr. Eben Alexander. “This is about Dr. Alexander's personal experience as a patient, rather than the neurosurgeon that he had been for the past 25 years. When the cortex of his brain shut down due to an attack of E. coli bacteria, he laid in a coma for seven days and  experienced something so profound it made him rethink his beliefs, as a scientist, about consciousness after death. This is a very thought provoking book!”

The Amazing Amanda has just read Seraphina by Rachel Hartman.”I enjoy books with strong heroines who make difficult choices to support their goal. I was unable to put this book down and sped through it in three days. Seraphina is a sixteen year old assistant to the court musician. She unwillingly is forced to leave her desired anonymity behind and gets dragged into courtly intrigue, politics, and trying to solve a royal murder, all while trying to protect her secret. For her secret will surely have her killed not only by humans, but by dragons. As the supreme general dragon arrives to mark the 40th anniversary of the peace treaty between themselves and the humans, Seraphina is forced to get involved. The longest night is coming, can she and the royal family survive the night?”

Barbara M. is reading Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity.  You will notice this is week two of no France and no Nazis.  Hmmmm.  “This is a very well written and well researched book by Andrew Solomon about people raising children who are ‘different’ – deaf, autistic, severely disabled, etc. Solomon has done an incredible amount of research and raises issues I had never thought about; do deaf people want to ‘hear’ and assimilate into a ‘hearing’ world or do they want to remain in their own culture? The book is long, 702 pages, but well worth the effort of reading it.”

Pat S. is feeling fashionable! She tackled both Grace:A Memoir by Grace Coddington and Empress of Fashion by Amanda Mackenzie Stuart.  “Grace is a lively bird's eye view of the fashion world since the late fifties-written by a woman who has been in the center of the fashion world for that long. Beginning as a model in London, she worked and socialized with the likes of David Bailey, Vidal Sassoon, Mary Quant, Jean Shrimpton, the Beatle's and just about everyone who constituted Swinging London. And unlike many of the players of the day, she survived the sex, drugs and rock n' roll sixties fairly unscathed, and went on to establish a thriving career as a fashion editor at Vogue, first in London,  then in America, where she continues on today. In addition to stellar name-dropping, Grace debunks the myths associated with the fashion industry. For those of us of a certain age, this is living history and a lot of fun!
Keeping with the same theme, I then tackled the most recent biography of Diana Vreeland, The Empress of Fashion. It is a fascinating exploration of a woman who reported on and created fashion for over fifty years. Vreeland was a character. Imperious, dramatic, charismatic, histrionic and she brought all of those qualities to her search for beauty. Emerging from a childhood which was materially rich but emotionally lacking, Vreeland embraced the cult of beauty in all things and made it her life's work. Beginning with a single column for "Harper's Bazaar" in the thirties, Vreeland's intuitive grasp of fashion trends led her to  bigger and bigger platforms and ultimately as Editor of Vogue, America. When that came to an end, she found herself a job at the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute curating exhibits.  She did this in such a groundbreaking way that it broke all l previous attendance records. Her methods were suspect but the results were thrilling. I hated to see this one end.”


Stephanie read one of my favorites of all time this week. “This week I was captivated by Kate Atkinson’s Behind the Scenes at the Museum. Jen can’t stop raving about Atkinson’s new book, so I comforted myself with this one in the meantime. I can’t believe this is a first novel because it is so incredibly well-written and well-paced. I love a British family drama, and this book contains several. It begins with Ruby Lennox narrating her life starting at the exact moment of her conception (the first sentence of the book is “I exist!” That’s got to be one of the best first sentences in the Western canon) and takes off in multiple directions from there, through the generations of her ancestors and the times they lived in. As the book sweeps through and back the twentieth century, Atkinson’s powers of storytelling only grow. What a gem.”

Abby seems tickled.  And with so little vested! “I just started Truth in Advertising by John Kenney being released January 22.  I'm only 8% in, but have laughed out loud (LOL for the tech crowd) 4 times.  Not many books make me do that, so I am optimistic I'll continue to enjoy this book.  At 8%, I can't even tell you what it's about besides the advertising biz and a dysfunctional copywriter.”

Miss Elisabeth is reading Here Where the Sunbeams are Green by Helen Phillips. “It's a debut Kidlit book, and I'm really enjoying it. Ruby and Madeline are sisters who go in search of their father, a renowned ornithologist. He's been hired by a new "green" spa deep in the South American jungle to help properly conserve the bird species on the resort's property. It's been several months since they've heard from their father, and then the girls get a strange letter, written in code and covered in what look like children's drawings. What is wrong with their father? What is the resort hiding? And will Madeline and Ruby make it out of the jungle alive? I have no idea, because I haven't finished the story yet, but this is a fantastic, middle-grade, ecological thriller that I would recommend to everyone!”

I have been reading a book coming out in April, The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. Troubled teenaged Molly is about to age out of the foster system.  Vivian is in her 90’s and is in need of some help in cleaning out her attic.  As they go through her possessions Vivian tells Molly the story of her life. It is well written, even if it is a tad predictable. You really end up caring about and rooting for these two people who have more in common than they probably realize.  
 

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 trilogy, a twerp, a love story times 2, another love story, the royal yacht, a Degas (or is it!?), some science and faith and some blues, and some nostalgia. 

Let us begin!

John is ready for the next installment! “I've finally gotten around to starting The Twelve the second installment of Cronin's hit Passage trilogy.  If you haven't read The Passage, I highly recommend it.  It's a blast and Cronin knows how to entertain.  These are long books, but he brings the reader up to cruising speed quickly and before you know it, you're completely absorbed in the story.  He's a great writer, though this installment is not quite as strong as The Passage.  But if you're like me, you finished the first book and were dying to move on to the next.”

Alison our Numbers Woman is reading Wanted Man by Lee Childs and is perplexed by some forthcoming cinematic casting. “This is the new Reacher book and it’s getting better.  I can’t believe that Tom Cruise was cast to play Reacher in the movie. Reacher is a big guy at about 6’4’. Cruise is a little 5’6” twerp.”

Gretchen is reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. “I didn’t want to read this book, I generally shy away from cancer stories, but it is a book being considered for our OBOC as well as a possible Printz contender so I figured it was high time I cracked that spine. I am about halfway through and really enjoying it. Hazel is suffering from cancer and meets Augustus (Gus) who also has cancer. They are perfectly suited in wit and intelligence and though their individual tastes certainly vary from literary novels and violent video games – they fall in love. Cancer stories could be sappy, emotional tales, but Hazel and Gus face the world with an honesty and wit that is refreshing to read. The Fault in Our Stars is a glimpse into what life as a teen with cancer is like and a way to celebrate life as it is, ‘Living our best life today!’”

And here is Stephanie’s take on the same book. “This week I jumped on the bandwagon and finally read The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. This YA novel is an unwinding love story between protagonist Hazel and a boy she meets named Augustus. Which is where a lot of YA novels start, but this one has an extra urgency—Hazel has terminal cancer, and she meets Augustus, a survivor of osteosarcoma, at Cancer Kid Support Group. No surprise, I cried like a baby through a lot of this book (and many thanks to the lady across from me on the train, who politely ignored the tears dripping down my face), but it’s not a sappy tearjerker. It’s smart, thoughtful, and genuine. I think even adults who don’t normally read YA would enjoy it. In fact, if you’ve been thinking about trying a YA book, this might be a good one to start with. But it’s also a sterling example of what YA books can do for teens, and I know teens love it, just based on some of the outpouring of writing and art I’ve seen related to this book online. So it would be a great read for teens as well, and maybe even a good holiday gift for the teen in your life (just double-check they haven’t read it yet, since this book has been on bestseller lists all year).”

Miss Kiera has just revisited something I consider to be a masterwork. “I just reread The Great Gatsby for the first time since high school. The movie is coming out this spring and I wanted to refresh my memory before having Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DeCaprio completely obliterate my own imaginings of Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby. I had forgotten how much I love Fitzgerald's writing. Despite how awful and self-involved almost every single character is throughout the story, you nevertheless fall in love with these flawed, melodramatic people. Fitzgerald's lush descriptions of New York in the 1920's (lights twinkling on Long Island Sound, raucous dance parties dripping with diamonds and champagne thrown in Gatsby's immense garden, Daisy's fabulous, flowing silk gowns... ah!) bring you immediately to the time period. I also rewatched the 1974 film starring Mia Farrow (as Daisy Buchanan) and the delicious Robert Redford (as Gatsby.) Whether the remake will live up to the sumptuous set design and costumes that won the 1974 film two Oscars remains to be seen.” 

Miss Elisabeth has just started Mrs. Queen Takes the Train, by William Kuhn. “I'm only about 30 pages in but so far am finding it delightful. Miss Marian recommended it to me, and she hasn't given me a title that I've disliked yet! In this book, Queen Elizabeth II is feeling rather discouraged by the rigors of modern life and the rapidly changing world she finds herself a part of. One day, she decides to take herself on holiday to visit the formal royal yacht. She leaves without telling anyone and is accompanied only by some loyal servants who happened to see her leave and followed her. There's a great Upstairs-Downstairs, Downton Abbey-esque feel to the story, and I love the British monarchy!”

Poor Ann.  Superstorm Sandy is still an intrusion into her world of sunshine, rainbows and unicorns.  Here is what she has to report.  “Sadly to say with the holidays coming and contractors in and out of the house, (from the tree damage), I have only been able to finish Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple.  This is at first look a light read and fun book but then you realize Bernadette is going through a difficult time.  She has a daughter, Bee, who is her main support and the one who believes in her mother coming back home.  It is also the story of competitive parents, Microsoft and people in general who we can all recognize in our daily lives.  This book made me smile.”  And honestly isn’t that all we can ask for in times of stress and strife?  Ann we wish some normality for you soon!

Barbara M. Not in France.  Not a Nazi in sight.  Discuss.”I’m reading The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro, a novel loosely based on the theft in 1990 of thirteen works of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Claire Roth, an artist, supports herself by copying famous paintings for Reproductions.com. When gallery owner Aiden Markal asks her to make a copy of a stolen Degas in return for a show at his gallery Claire faces a difficult decision. The writing is good but not extraordinary and the plot takes many twists but what makes this book really interesting for me is the information about art forgery.”

Jeanne is, no surprise, doing two things at once.  “I am making my way slowly through Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver's latest novel of human frailties and foibles. Slowly because for me, anyway, Kingsolver's writing is always beautiful but very dense. Kind of like the roosts of monarch butterflies in this story of man vs. environment and man vs. man. And like the monarchs, Dellarobia Turnbow, the young mother who lives with her family and her husband's family on a farm in rural Appalachia, longs to spread her wings. There's usually the element of teaching from this author and I am enjoying the tests of science and faith as well as the exposure of public opinion as (mis)reported by the media.  I also just finished listening to Laura Lippman's Baltimore Blues: The First Tess Monaghan Novel on audio. Lippman was a reporter for twenty years at the Baltimore Sun and she weaves a great tale of murder, mystery, law and journalism. And of course there is sex (not too much), deceit (plenty) and money (whose?) throughout. Tess Monaghan, our heroine, is an unemployed former reporter who a) wants to be employed, b) wants to find her friend's killer and c) gets up at 5:00 in the morning to do her rowing workouts on the Patapsco River. This is a great story to listen to in the car as you make your way through your week.”

Pat T. is feeling festive! “'Tis the season and I like Pete Hamill, so I picked up his latest book titled The Christmas Kid  which is a collection of short stories first published in the Daily News in the 1980's. Anyone who hails from Brooklyn will enjoy this collection  of stories because they capture a period of time when Brooklyn was a borough filled with lower middle class homes where the immigrants from Italy, Ireland and Eastern Europeans settled with their families. The stories are nostalgic and poignant!”

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