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.

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 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!”

Nice New Book Goodness!

Here is what you can find on the shelves that is new this 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!

"Blindside" meets "Hoop Dreams"...

...with a touch of Friday Night Lights. That's the Academy Award-winning documentary Undefeated, finally out on DVD this week.

Undefeated tells the story of a high school football team in North Memphis, Tennessee. The streets are dirty, the school is crowded and dangerous, and it's hard to look past tomorrow. Add one volunteer coach who believes that teamwork and dedication can change the young men in front of him, and this film chronicles a football season to remember.

As Coach Courtney says, "Football doesn't build character. It reveals character." Undefeated does the same, in unforgettable fashion -- don't miss it!
 

You Are What You Read!

With more Impending Doom due later this week, we are doing our best to soldier on and keep our chins up.  We wish to ask the Weather Gods for some sort of encouraging sign.  Actually any sort of encouraging sign would do.  Oh and as for the PA Rodent, not for nothing, but your street cred is in the toilet. This week we have some friends, some dealing, a Quaker or two, a destination, and memory loss.

Let us begin!


Erin is reading with a look toward a feminist slant.  “2013 is going to be my year of reading memoirs as I am almost finished with my sixth: She Matters: A Life in Friendships by Susanna Sonnenberg. This book details the author’s friendships with women beginning with girls on the playground all the way up through the bonds she makes with fellow mothers. Her friendships are intense…some are almost like love affairs. As someone who has always reveled in the company of my own female friends, I find this book to be a fascinating exploration of the unruly, magnificent, and sometimes all-encompassing friendships women enjoy with other women.”


Barbara M.  Still no Paris.  Still no Nazis. Discuss. “Diamonds weren’t always 'a girl’s best friend'. De Beers, the giant diamond conglomerate made sure, through clever marketing, that diamonds became synonymous with everlasting love. The book I’m reading Precious Objects: A Story of Diamonds, Family, and a Way of Life by Alicia Oltuski tells the history of the diamond trade and gives a behind-the-scenes look at that industry. Alicia Oluuski’s father and grandfather were both diamond dealers first in Germany and then on Forty-Seventh street in New York City and she tells the story of that industry from an insider’s point of view. For what it’s worth, I think emeralds are prettier.”


Sweet Ann is happy.  This is good.  She has just finished The Last Runaway by Tracy Chavalier.  “I enjoy historical fiction and  I liked this book.  Honor Bright was heading to Ohio from England accompanying her sister, Grace, who was meeting her fiancé.   Grace died of Yellow Fever soon after reaching the states and Honor continued on to Ohio with plans to stay with her intended brother -in-law. Honor, who is a Quaker, finds slavery horrific.  She is willing to help runaway slaves, who know that in general Quakers will help them.  Many complications for Honor and the people who care for her will arise from this decision.  Although the writing is simplistic, the story is good.  You will remember Honor after you finish this novel.” 

Jeanne is reading Insane City by Dave Barry. “Seth Weinstein and his Groom Posse are on their way to his destination wedding in Miami. Seth is about to marry his fabulously beautiful and successful girlfriend, Tina, whose galactically wealthy and extremely influential parents do not approve of Tina's choice of mate, but they are paying anyway. From the beginning, when the wedding party arrives at Reagan International, the book reads more like an insane stand-up comedy act than a novel with the Posse's airport hijinks and Tina's sister's ‘habit.’ But Barry does give us plots and sub-plots that include redirected affections, large strippers, Russian gangsters and Haitian refugees. The book manages friendships, social issues and conflicts in a manner that is at once funny and entertaining, but also gives the reader plenty to think about.”


Miss Elisabeth of The CL is practically giddy. “I’m currently reading The Rook, by Daniel O’Malley, and I can’t put it down. The book is AMAZING. I haven’t liked an adult book this much in several months. The book follows a young woman who works for the supernatural version of MI5 – a highly covert, secret organization that protects Great Britain from supernatural harm. When the book starts, she wakes up alone in a park, covered in bruises, surrounded by dead bodies wearing latex gloves, and with no memory of who she is or how she got there. An international tale of mystery, intrigue, memory loss, and some extremely pissed off Belgians, this book is just plain marvelous.”

Elisabeth and Krishna's MUOMS Picks

Stay tuned for the movie this summer!
Stay tuned for the movie this summer!

Elisabeth's Picks:

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale - This is the sequel to Hale's bestselling Austenland, which was about a woman obsessed with Mr. Darcy who goes on a Pride and Prejudice inspired vacation at a resort that allows its clients to live a few weeks in the life of an 18th century noblewoman. Following in that story's footsteps, Midnight follows a middle-aged divorcee who needs to get away from her philandering ex and disaffected teenage children. She finds love, mystery, and possibly murder on her Pride and Prejudice themed, Northanger Abbey-influenced vacation. Even with the murder, this book is light, fluffy, and fun. I highly recommend it to Austenites everywhere. And look out for the movie Austenland, coming this summer to theaters!

Fast Women by Jennifer Crusie - Jennifer Crusie is one of my all-time favorite authors. She writes fast, funny, witty romances filled with characters that will live in your imagination long after you put down the tale. I hesitate to characterize her as "just romance" because she is more than pure Harlequin fluff (and I love fluff!). There's an emotional depth to her characters that I really appreciate. Fast Women follows Nell, a recently divorced redhead with a flair for paperwork and a need for a job. She takes a position as the secretary to Gabe McKenna, Private Eye, and sparks inevitably fly. As she works her way through a dangerous case and falls in love with a dangerous man, is Nell moving too fast?

 

Krishna's Picks:

The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman- The dead have come back to feed on the flesh of the living as one small time cop, Rick Grimes awakens from a coma to find that things aren't what they used to be. The gritty reality that the world will never be the same is depicted in wonderful black and white panels throughout this gripping horrific and honest graphic novel. Will Rick be reunited with his family? Will Atlanta and the world at large forever be plaged by these savage fiends? If you are a fan of horror, and apocolyptic survival you may be like me and have a zombie conginency plan but if not after reading The Walking Dead you will make one.

 

Wonder by R.J. Palacio- "When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind." - Dr Wayne Dyer. This quote is the underlying theme for this brilliant debut children's novel. Auggie Pullman is a ten year old boy who has never attended school but more intergal to the story is that Auggie has been living for the past ten years with a facial deformity that makes going to middle school just a little more terrifying than normal. Throughout this novel the children grow, surprise you and themselves and often "choose kind." Wonder is a beautiful coming of age story that will forever be etched on my heart.

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!

Syndicate content