This week we saw Earth Day come and go and I have been thinking a lot about the nature of Nature. It seems to me that it’s been sort of creeping into places it should not be but in all fairness to Nature, it was here first. Lately we have heard of Nature appearing in of all places, the Upper West Side in the form of a coyote who was seen hanging around Lincoln Center and Grant’s Tomb of all places. Here in town there was a black bear sighting. Of course, this is really nothing new. No matter how hard we try to beat it back and tame it, Nature seems to come back with a vengeance. Does anyone else remember when the sighting of deer in your yard was the stuff of wonderment and not an occasion to despair over some really expensive landscaping becoming a Sizzler Endless Salad Bar for Bambi? In my neighborhood, the landscape is a mix of hard-core city and tightly packed suburbs with a few old estates high on a hill facing the Long Island Sound. For years, it has been host to not only the usual urban suspects like skunks, and raccoons, but also to parrots which build these giant nests and actually live in them year round, no escaping to warmer climes for them. Now we have 3 foxes that can be seen cavorting in yards and trotting down the streets like they own it. There were 4 but one came to an untimely end via a careless driver which was reported with great sorrow on our community Facebook page. I have even seen wild turkeys marching down the middle of the 4 lane avenue that bisects the neighborhood. And of course, last week we had the story of Kasper the Wolverine Who Would Not Be Caged trying to make his new home in Newark not an Alaskan nature preserve for which he was destined. Perhaps the nature of Nature is that you as a human think that you can impose your ways upon the world but Nature is always going to reclaim what you stake. So be on the lookout People! Nature is on the march!
This week we have Boston, Royals, Scotland, police, and Montana. It is not in our Nature to deny you a playlist, so yes, there is The Playlist.
Let us begin!
Pat T was a big fan of Lisa Genova's book, Still Alice, and so she decided to read her latest novel, Inside The O'Briens. Did it stack up? “The O'Brien's are an Irish Catholic family living in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Joe is a Boston Police Officer, Rosie, a homemaker and they have 4 grown children who live with them. Joe begins to experiences mood swings, and falls which he shrugs off to being tired, until one day his behavior can no longer be ignored. With much urging by Rosie, Joe goes for a medical evaluation and shockingly discovers he has Huntington's Disease which an inherited neurodegenerative disease that causes you to lose control over your ability to move. All the O'Brien children have a fifty percent chance of inheriting this disease and they each must make their own decision about genetic testing. Their faith is tested as they struggle through all the stages of denial, anger, depression. Eventually they come to peace with the fate that has been handed down to them because of the support and love of their family. I don't know if I have done justice with my review of this book, but I strongly suggest you read it because the subject is so enlightening and the characters are so real that they could be your own family!”
The Effervescent and Ever Delightful Pat S has been raving to me about The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan all week long. Let’s just let her end the week on that same not shall we? ” From the authors of the extremely clever, sneakily snarky authors of the blog Go Fug Yourself, The Royal We is for everyone who can’t resist a fairytale, and one you will want to place at the top of your list of beach/vacation reads! Heavily based on the courtship and marriage of Kate Middleton and Prince William, The Royal We follows Bex, an American (oh, MY!) student on a year abroad program where she lands living on the same floor as Prince Nick. When they meet they become friends first, and then comes the romantic slide into passionate love. What begins as students almost playing a game as they conform to the Palace requirements of complete discretion becomes stultifying as the years pass. Once the cat is out of the bag, the glitz (fabulous parties, glamorous skiing trips, etc) is accompanied by the very real emotional morass of the dysfunction of the Royal family. As the story develops, it does stay fairly close to the tabloid-suggested characterizations of family members but with just enough twists to make it continually entertaining. While, as in any good fairytale, the ending is happily-ever-after, The Royal We certainly makes you think about what the very real price of what that fairytale might be.”
The Fabulous Babs B has just finished At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen. Here’s what she thought. “This is the story of Madeline Hyde, a young Philadelphia socialite who reluctantly follows her husband to a remote town in Scotland in search of the Loch Ness Monster. The reader slowly watches Maddie, who really is a stranger to herself, snap to reality after a series of events involving her husband's spiral into conceit and self-deception. This also is a story of adventure, friendship and love in the shadow WWII. I wasn't crazy about the author's previous book, Like Water for Elephants, but thought this one was a winner!”
Sue is taking a break from her usual Romance Reading and diving into a Police Procedural instead. “At the moment I am reading and enjoying a steamy police crime book titled Risking it All by Tessa Bailey it features NYPD detective Seraphia Newsom who is seeking to avenge her brother’s death at any cost. To do that it means she has to insinuating herself into a rough, Brooklyn street gang and go so far undercover, she’s not sure she’ll be able to get out. Every minute she spends in their midst means the clock is ticking down on her life.”
Steph is crazy busy finishing up her time at Library School so that she is able to do any 'pleasure' reading is either a Christmas Miracle or it’s something she really feels passionate about. “Not much time for non-academic reading this week (and believe me, no one wants to hear about that), but I did start Missoula by Jon Krakauer on my lunch break yesterday. Missoula is the town in Montana which was briefly labeled the ‘rape capital’ of the United States after a string of rape cases related to the University of Montana’s football team. The book uses these cases, as well as the town and the media’s reaction, to examine the larger issues of rape in the United States, most especially on college campuses. So far, the book is even-handed and devastating. Hard to recommend because it’s such a tough issue and he is pretty unflinching with the details, but I’d say anyone in college or with a kid in college should take a look.”
DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here from the State Which Shall Not Be Named with some musings on the Arts. Arts with a capital A! What’s good Pats? “I’ve been immersed in art lately. Last week I went to the Detroit Institute of Arts for the Diego Rivera and Frieda Kahlo exhibit and for the past couple of weeks I have been following Nick Cave around the city as he embarks on his latest, most ambitious Soundsuit project to date. I’ve been doing my part to support the arts at my son’s elementary school through the PTA Reflections Program and I am incredibly proud of the students here. This year’s theme was ‘The World Would Be A Better Place If…’ We had nine students from our elementary school win at the District Level in the categories of Visual Arts, Film Production, Music Composition, Dance Choreography and Photography. Four of our students went on to win at the State Level and one of our students has gone forward to the National Level for his Music Composition. He’s a first grader who keeps a mean beat on the drums. This week I’ve curated a playlist of new music goodness. I encourage you to explore your own artistic side. Take in a museum, paint, draw, write, photograph something or listen to some music. Whatever you choose make sure you get out and support your local arts.
Here are the new titles available from OverDrive.
Claire and Jeanne presented to the Meet Us On Main Street group today and brought, to begin with, DVD's. If you enjoy cooking, entertaining and talking about food, Jeanne highlighted two movies that revolve around anything and everything culinary: Chef and The Hundred Foot Journey. The stories, in different ways, delve into family identity and the pursuit of a better life -- one in a food truck speeding across country and the other across the road from a Michelin starred French gastronomical institution. Both are heart warming and fun. Claire, on a more serious tone, presented the documentary Life Itself, a memoir about movie critic Roger Ebert. At first, she said, she wasn't inspired to watch about his beginnings in journalism and his battle with cancer. But now, having watched it, she readily puts it into the hands of whomever is searching for an inspirational, well told and honest story.
Jeanne who likes audiobooks suggested The Girl On the Train, which use three actors to tell the story -- "excellent!" she raved; and To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, resonates beautifully. As for books, Jeanie enjoyed Anderson Cooper's Dispatches from the Edge -- individual commentaries on how people survive disaster, be it hurricane, war, terrorism, etc.; Belzhar, by Meg Wolitzer about deep love, power and acceptance through journal writing assignments after reading Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar; also Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami about a young man's friends who shun him and the pilgrimage he must take to gain back his place among society; and finally The Arsonist by Sue Miller, sets an edge between "summer people" and "the townies" when, randomly, homes go up in flames -- a who-done-it with a how-can-we-help each other story line.
Claire suggested Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabela Quintero a daily chronicle of a Mexican/American girl's last year in high school when her pregnant friend and her gay male friend need help; West of Sunset, by Stewart O'Nan, about F. Scott Fitzgerald, his later years, in Hollywood when his screen writings were rejected and Zelda was in the hospital; Ties that Bind, by David Isay, is a collection of poignant excerpts from Story Corps' first ten years on air; and lastly, Honey, by Sara Weeks, is a sweet humorous story about a young girl who tries to find who "honey" is that her widowed Daddy talks to on the phone.
The MUOMS group members suggest The Great Divide by Thomas Fleming -- George Washington's and Thomas Jefferson's differences and how they helped define the nation, Lawrence In Arabia by Scott Anderson, the making of the Middle East and The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Phillip Sendker, a love story unearthed by the daughter of a man gone missing. All interesting fantastic reads!
The list begins below:
Here are the new titles available from 3M.
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!
How about some Rock 'N" Roll Inductees this week? And remember you don't have to wait! Immediate gratification can be yours!
Not sure what this means? Click here!
This week I would like to address a breach of civility that I call Yucking the Yum. Many people have asked me by what I mean by this. Well it’s just this: When you say “Yuck” to something that someone finds Yummy , or makes them happy, you are calling them out on their taste. It’s probably one of my biggest pet peeves. Let’s say someone says, “I can’t wait for dinner tonight! It’s going to be a lovely piece of roasted salmon on a bed of arugula. “ This Someone will inevitably shudder with horror, do an eye roll and make that person feel like a circus freak for the joyful anticipation of that meal. I have seen this lately in discussions with books, films, just about anything under the sun that could make a person happy. You know what? If something is not your cup of tea, please just nod politely and either change the subject or formulate this week’s grocery list in your head. Thanks. Phew. I feel so much better now. Many of you may have missed this news story. There was a wolverine named Kasper who was on his way to Alaska from Norwegian zoo. There needed to be a plane change at Newark National airport where he would go through Customs. He was in a metal cage that proved no match for his sharp little teeth and he had managed to chew a hole in the cage to try to escape! Now this just goes to prove my point about Wolverines in general. Only a Wolverine would think that Newark Airport was a place to escape to. Really? You are given a choice between Newark and a 170 acre unspoiled Alaskan landscape and you choose Newark? Point proved. This week we have tenderness and compassion, Vichy France, North Korea, Korean Americans, and a Bake Off.
Of course we have The Playlist! Of course!
Sweet Ann is here this week after reading The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessey by Rachel Joyce. What did you think Ann? “This is almost a companion book to Ms. joyce's earlier novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. In that novel, Harold Fry was walking across England to visit his friend Queenie who is dying in a hospice. In this new novel Queenie is writing to Harold as he walks across England. It is difficult for her to write and one of the sisters at the hospice helps her along with the story she is writing to Harold. Queenie wants Harold to know her real reason for leaving her job, where he also worked, and why she never contacted him again until she was very sick. This is a wonderful story filled with tenderness that at times will make your heart ache but it will also have your heart soar with the love and compassion of these characters. While it sounds like a sad book and it is in some ways, it is also a wonderful reflection on friendship and love.”
Barbara M is back in France and I know that makes me feel like all is right with the world. “I recently watched Claude Chabrol’s documentary film The Eye of Vichy made in 1993. It is a compilation of propaganda newsreels and films made by the Nazis and their French collaborators during the occupation of France in World War II. The aim of these films was to convince the people of France that working with the Germans would benefit France as a nation and that their real enemies were the Jews, the Allied Forces and the Communists. Field Marshall Petain's energetic speeches are filmed followed by children bringing him gifts and flowers in an attempt to endear him to the people. There are clips of young men happily leaving France to work in German factories. Propaganda is powerful and we’ll never know how many people embraced Petain’s vision. After the war most people claimed to be on the side of The Resistance but we’ll never know. This is a fascinating film about the power of the media. “
The Delightful Pat S is here and she’s back to her old ways too. Perhaps this sun and warmth is working its’ magic? “After a few recent forays into fiction, I have fallen back to an old favorite in this riveting memoir Without You, There Is No Us by Suki Kim. Set in the fall of 2011, Kim, a Korean-American writer infiltrates the only privately funded university in Pyongyang. Using her cover as a teacher to the sons of the North Korean elite in order to gather information about living under this totalitarian regime, Kim renders a portrayal which is almost visceral in its' intensity. There are the repressive day to day procedures-complete news blackouts, censoring of all communications, being constantly monitored 24/7. The students have no idea that the 'intranet' they are allowed to surf is only downloaded, pre-approved files, and not the World Wide Web. There is no contact with the world outside of campus unless it has been pre-approved. One such outing included a 98 mile ride on a government road-during which they saw not a single other car-coming or going. As for the students-Kim finds them age appropriately naive and charming-yet tragically stunted in their thinking. Their speech is constantly marked with references to the Great One, and the superiority of North Korea in all things-technology, farming, sports. Kim feels herself choking from the claustrophobia of this lifestyle after only a short while. But she can leave. This book will stay with you long after the last page.”
Steph? Yup she’s already anticipating even better days ahead. I’ll let her explain. “Something about this weather had me in the mood for a beach read, so I tried China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan. This sequel to last year’s Crazy Rich Asians is exactly what you want in a fluffy, smart vacation book. If you read the first book, you’ll be delighted to hear that this one follows Rachel Chu and Nicholas Young after their wedding, as she discovers who her father is and gets to see another side of Asia. But if you didn’t read the first book, you will love this just the same. Lots of family scheming, social feuds, elaborate clothing and jewelry, houses and hotels and clubs you couldn’t imagine in your wildest dreams, and strata of Asian society you didn’t even know existed. Because these characters aren’t just rich—they’re China-rich. I definitely don’t have what it takes to succeed in Hong Kong or Singapore high society, so it was delightful to experience a version of it vicariously!”
I have to tell you all about an amazing debut novel that I spent last week savoring like the best meal you’ve ever eaten. Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal introduces us to Eva Thorvald who ends up becoming one of the all-time most influential chefs of her generation. Each chapter tells about a dish and the character attached to it that made Eva the famous amongst the food intelligentsia. I like to think of it as what Art of Fielding did for baseball, this book will do for the food traditions of the Midwest such as lutefisk and Bake-Offs. It comes out at the end of July and it has already earned a spot on my Top Ten List for 2015.
DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here from The State Which Shall Not Be Named which is rich with Wolverines. That’s all I am going to say about that. What’s good Pats? “Holy Cow by David Duchovny has been amusing me nightly. Sure I’ve read the reviews that pan this book as a hot mess and maybe it is but it has been making me laugh out loud on a regular basis and that’s never a bad thing. It’s a coming of age story of Elsie Bovary, a cow living the life on a milking farm in upstate New York. Elsie leaves her paddock one night with a friend with the intention of visiting the bulls. She wanders off and ends up viewing snippets of a television program at the Farmer’s house about industrial meat farming. This sets her on a journey to the holy land for cows, India. I’m still reading it and have been enjoying this delightfully bizarre tale.”