Hello! And welcome to the Mother’s Day edition of You Are What You Read. This past weekend should have been my Aunt’s birthday, but she died of cancer at the ridiculous age of 62. The Cousins, whose mom this was, and I have been discussing how much we still miss her. Next month is the 10th anniversary of my own mother’s death at the also ridiculously young age of 66, and also from cancer. We don’t know that this is something you ever fully recover from. This Wednesday while I was picking up some dinner things at the Whole Foods, a salesperson who was stocking shelves looked at me and asked me if I wanted to look at some scarves for my mother for the upcoming ‘special day’. The grief came flooding back in waves as if she had left the planet yesterday. So my thought for this week is if you are blessed enough to have your mom with you, take the time to thank her for ALL of it. This includes the nagging about standing up straight, making your bed and cleaning up after yourself, as well as the good stuff. Because really isn’t it a mother’s job to civilize you and make sure you don’t embarrass yourself? Sorry, sometimes nagging is necessary. A few flowers, a delightfully tiny package, maybe a lovely meal and a card would also not be remiss. Really just a drop when you consider all that she did for you. What if your mom is not with you? Honor her in some way that would please her. As for me, I try to honor my mother and aunt by giving blood every 56 days. I like to think I may be buying someone else’s mom a little more time on the planet. For your information, the Red Cross Donor Center in Norwalk will be open tomorrow from 8:00 to 1:30. I am sure they would love to see you. I have no idea what my Mother’s Day will look like but I am sure both boys will rise to the occasion. Won’t you, Boys? Boys? Boys? Whatever, this week we have New Jersey, some magic, the whole wide world, beach reading trifecta, a memory, some letters, Tudor TV Time and Lila! And of course we have a Mom Worthy Playlist!
Let us begin!
Abby is reading a real staff favorite that should come with a box of Kleenex. “I have almost finished The Short & Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs. I’ve stopped short because the foreshadowing in the title and narrative is so heartbreaking, I need more time before I’m ready for it to end. The author, Jeff Hobbs, was Rob’s college roommate and witness to some of the pivotal decisions Rob made. He clearly has an emotional stake in the story and does a beautiful job sharing Rob’s story. This biography introduces us to Robert Peace, known as Rob. Rob was born and raised in urban northern New Jersey to a mom devoted to his success and a dad with a keen, inquisitive mind and an illegal way of paying the bills. By all accounts, Rob was a sponge for knowledge. It’s not just that he was intellectually gifted; his diligence in quenching his enormous curiosity set him apart and what he achieved educationally is beyond what most of us could imagine. Exposed to violence, drugs, and a culture unsure of how to deal with his gifts, Rob created a mental and physical shield to protect himself from his friends, neighbors, and even family. It’s painful to think about the end of this book as I creep forward. In moving slowly, I want to believe I can delay what I already know.”
Have you all met James? He can be found running around the building making all our technology behave. Here’s his take on A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab. “I never found myself relating to the characters. In as much time as it takes to explain the legal moves of the pieces on a chess board (maybe excluding the pawn’s en passant), you develop a solid understanding of the proclivities of the main characters. That said, what kept me turning pages in bed rather than going to the gym was learning more about the world in which they live and how that world and the actions the characters take within it put the characters in positions that produce genuinely interesting interactions. Despite their archetypical nature, the story progresses quite rapidly with plenty of intrigue and surprise. I can’t seem to remember what first prompted me to add A Darker Shade of Magic to my ‘to read’ shelf but I’m glad I did.”
Barbara M All over the globe. “I started reading Sasha Martin’s book Life from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family and Forgiveness because it was about food but it turned out to be more than just about food. It’s about a highly unusual family, some might call it dysfunctional, who suffered through trying times and yet who somehow stayed together. At a certain point in her life Martin decided to ‘cook the world‘ to reconcile the randomness of her childhood and connect it to the cultures of the world through food. She started a blog in which she cooked a representative food from every country starting with “A” for Afghanistan and ending with “Z” for Zambia. Her blog is filled with wonderful stories and recipes just waiting to be tried. This is a story that begins sadly but which ends happily.”
Steph is beach ready this week. “Based on Virginia’s recommendation last week, I read The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza. Great fun read! Despite being one of those crazy tech-loving millennials, I still loved the commentary on how technology might be taking over our lives and our jobs just a wee bit too much, as well as all the crazy fashion anecdotes. Whether you look at Instagram a million times a day or have no idea what Instagram is—and whether you wait anxiously for the September issue each year or don’t know why September is so important—it’s the perfect beach book. This brings my 2015 beach book trifecta to The Knockoff, China Rich Girlfriend, and The Royal We. Happy Summer!” As an aside, when you see Steph make sure you congratulate her on getting her MLS this weekend. Great job Steph!
The Always Fabulous Babs B has finished Memory Man by David Baldacci. “In his latest thriller, Baldacci introduces Amos Decker, who is unlike anyone you've read before. He is an ex-football player and a highly decorated ex-cop. While playing football, Amos suffered a horrendous blow to his head and almost died. The injury resulted in a condition of having a memory where he forgets nothing. When his wife and daughter are brutally murdered, he becomes a shattered man. Amos is called in by the police department to help solve the murder of some students and teachers at the town's high school. Baldacci does a great job of keeping the reader guessing as to who the actual person is behind these horrendous murders. I have to say the plot was one of the most bizarre I have ever read, but I couldn't put the book down. Great job Mr. Baldacci!”
Pat T is reading with the weekend in mind. I’ll let her explain. “Last week I was fortunate to come upon the book, A Letter to My Mom, by Lisa Erspamer which is perfect for Mother's Day! This book is filled with the personal reflections from sons and daughters about their love, gratitude and admiration for their mothers. A few of the lessons learned and poignantly written about in these epistles are; believe in yourself, be brave and responsible, communicate, value hard work, the importance of forgiveness and independence, selflessness, how to deal with loss, sickness and be happy. In one letter a son elegantly writes ‘A good parent curates reality for their children. They gather up all of the good stuff; all of the knowledge, opportunity, existential wonderfulness and more and they say, here's what the world has to offer - go enjoy it!’ This book captures the joy, heartache, fun, sacrifice and most of all the loving connection between mother and child. A true tribute to mothers!”
The Always Delightful Pat S is having some good old fashioned Tudor TV Time with Wolf Hall. “Have you been watching the PBS series Wolf Hall? If you have missed it, make sure to catch it on DVD because it is stunning! Based on Hilary Mantel's award winning books Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, Wolf hall is an amalgam of both books. Taking place in the early part of the reign of Henry VIII, the story line is Henry's quest for divorce from his wife Catherine of Aragon, and attempt to marry again with a woman who can deliver him a healthy son. When Rome proves implacable to divorce, Henry is moved to separate from the church, and establish his own; the Church of England. But who helped Henry arrange these monumental changes? In comes Thomas Cromwell, the ‘Fixer’. Historically Cromwell has been portrayed as a Machiavellian creature, moving people and situations around like pieces on a chessboard. However, in this production the whole tale is told through Cromwell’s eyes and this is a thoughtful, careful and more sensitive man. Mark Rylance as Cromwell is simply brilliant in his performance, imbuing a raised eyebrow with a world of intent. Damien Lewis, of recent Homeland fame, creates a Henry VIII whose ego is more fragile and beset with anxiety than previous depictions. And Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn is quite simply hateful, marvelously heartless and self-serving to the bitter end! The entire production is physically exquisiteand each week I find myself drawn back into the sixteenth century. This is a surefire hit for a history buff, or anyone who enjoys very fine acting.”
Laura is done with Lila by Marilyn Robinson. “The story begins as Lila, at 4 years old, is purposely locked out of her family's shack in rural Iowa and has to spend the night, all alone, in the crawl space under the front steps. At that young age she innocently reasons and accepts her fate though she knows for certain that she is scared of the woman and man in that shack and also frightened of being inside the shack itself. Providence occurs when Doll, a vagrant that travels town to town in search of work kidnaps Lila from under the porch and raises her as best she can given her very limited means. The story's narrative shifts to Lila as a grown young woman who is wandering alone. Lila meets and marries the local pastor after a brief courtship. While pregnant with the his child, Lila’s past churns into her conscience and haunts the story. What happened to Doll, what happened to Lila and why were those memories suppressed? Lila is a wonderful story about human existence and the acceptance of its many forms. Robinson's narrative is challenging. But, if you take the time to absorb her phrasing, and her use of flashbacks that pop seamlessly in and out of Lila's daily thoughts, you will be rewarded. Give yourself a break and do not read it quickly. This story is to be savored."
DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here from The State Which Shall Not Be Named. I know you join me in wishing her a Happy Mother’s Day! What’s good this week Pats? “This week we celebrate Mother’s Day. It should come as no surprise that my own mother played a whole lot of music when I was growing up. She would let us play her albums on the giant beast we called an entertainment system. It was the kind of stereo system that measured about five feet across and weighed no less than a thousand pounds. It included a stackable turntable so five or more albums could play consecutively. Automatic record changing was pretty high tech back in the day and I played that thing all the time. So in honor of all those mothers who let their children play with their music, I thought I’d bust out the vinyl and the 8-tracks and pull together a little playlist that my own mom would enjoy. Now, say hi to your mother for me.”
Here are the new books from OverDrive.
Capital Dames: The Civil War and the Women of Washington, 1848-1868 by Cokie Roberts
Hot Pursuit by Stuart Woods
The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower
The Road to Character by David Brooks
by Peter Schweizer
Day Shift by Charlaine Harris
A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
Memory Man by David Baldacci
The Wonder Garden by Lauren Acampora
The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
Here are the new books from 3M.
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Stephanie and Jen graced us with a selection of titles, that, let's just call this list of books "The Dazzlers."
Jen brought four non-fiction stories, and one fiction, of what she calls her obsessions -- books she can't not suggest for people to read - no matter how long ago they were published. Cold Comfort Farm, (2006) by Stella Gibbons, Jen's fiction choice, is a hilarious account, set between the World Wars, about an orphaned British debutante sent to a distant relative's farm; Sara & Gerald: Villa America and After, (1982) by Honoria Murphy Donnelly, a touching memoir about her childhood with her amazing renegade parents, Sara and Gerald Murphy, who left America in the 1930's to live an unabbashed life in France, befriending the greatest literary, art and musical artists of the time; Zelda: A Biography, (2011) by Nancy Milford, a more truthful, less sensational, account of the amazing talent and true tradegy of Zelda Fitzgerald, her marriage to F. Scott Fitzgerald and her mental illness; couple that with West of Sunset, (2015) by Stewart O'Nan, that captures, with perfect light, Hollywood in the 1930's and Fitzgerald's frustration and failures of producing a sceenplay for cinema; and Straight on Till Morning, The Biography of Beryl Markham, (1987) by Mary S. Lovell, an engrossing account of the not-to-be stopped aviatrix, race horse trainer and author who, as a child, was abandoned by her mother in Africa and raised by her eccentric dad. As an adult she married three times, and had many lovers; friends' husbands and a royal prince. She is the first person to fly the Atlantic solo from east to west. Spellbinding.
Stephanie chose books that, after reading them, have stayed with her; thier messages impact her daily. Her two top favorites are Ghettoside, A True Story of Murder in America, by Jill Leovy,, an intimate account of police officers trying to do good in solving a crime in the city of LA where most murders are forgotten, even ignored, and never solved; A Little Life: A Novel, by Hanya Yanangihara about four men who meet in college and the aftermath of life as they are challenged emotionally by their pasts, their ambitions and what it is like to be a man in America. Stephanie warns this is a unsettling read but she couldn't put it down. For the Library's Business Book Group book Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo, by Nicholas Carlson, is the inside story of how Yahoo got into such awful shape in the first place, Mayer's controversial rise at Google, and her desperate fight to save an Internet icon. And it wouldn't be Stephanie if she didn't broaden the group's genre horizon with the action comic Ms. Marvel, 1, No Normal of a muslim teen age girl from Pakistan, living in NJ, who is suddenly impacted with extraordinary powers that she uses for good. A new action hero that is a young woman.
Jen and Stephanie both rave about Kate Atkinson's latest book A God in Ruins, where Teddy, from Atkinson's Life and Life, returns from battle and faces a future he never imagined as the world transitions from wartime to peace. Jen has ordered more copies because it is flying off the shelves.
And a friendly, heads-up from the fabulous duo are two fantastic reads, Kitchens of the Great Mid West by J. Ryan Stradal and City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg. Both are coming out this fall.
The list begins below:
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.
Uh-oh! 3 weeks away from the official start of summer. Are you Beach Body ready? Here's some fitness regimes to help you get there. And remember you don't have to wait! Immediate gratification can be yours!
Not sure what this means? Click here!
Hello! We made it to MAY! I don’t know about you but my relief is palpable on this score. Even if my walk to the train this morning felt more like March than May, we have made it to MAY! Saturday we have the Kentucky Derby which is a favorite harbinger of spring. People! Polish the Julep cups, crush that ice, muddle the mint, and dig the bourbon out from the back of the liquor cabinet. Although truth be told, these days I use my Julep cup as my toothbrush holder mostly because it has my married initials on it. We all know how I feel about that. The bathroom feels like a good place for that to reside. This Sunday we will see this month’s Full Moon. Here is the 411 from the Farmer’s Almanac on the Full Flower Moon: “May's Full Flower Moon, also called Mother's Moon, Milk Moon, and Corn Planting Moon, marks a time of increasing fertility with temperatures warm enough for safely bearing young, a near end to late frosts, and plants in bloom.” So there you go. It would appear that our time on the Tundra has, happily, come to an end. In related, albeit disturbing, news tomorrow is World Naked Gardening Day. Yes this is a ‘thing’. Please don’t. There is not enough Julep in the world for that. One last thing you have one week and 2 days to get it together for the mothers in your lives. Make it good People. They deserve it. This week we have a cult, a widow, triplets, a glossy, and Quebec. The Playlist? But of course!
Let us begin!
Miss Claire of the CL is back and here’s what she did while she was adrift in the world. “After a recent trip to LA, my friend's boss said we had to pick up Last Night at the Viper Room for our girls' weekend. The book is a partial bio of River Phoenix, the childhood actor who was destined for greatness, but it's also interspersed with pieces of 90s cultural references. The book tells of Phoenix's early beginnings as the oldest sibling of a vagabond family whose parents moved their kids from state to state, and then to South America. The family became increasingly involved the Children of God, a cult which encouraged sexual experiences among its young members. The Phoenix clan eventually ended up in Los Angeles where the singing brothers and sisters performed on the Hollywood streets. The book was compelling, although sad as River dies as a result of a drug overdose on Halloween morning. I vividly remember my friends and I finding out the news after trick-or- treating in 8th grade. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed being an insider to young Hollywood in the early nineties and also discovering that the director Gus Van Sant graduated from Darien High!”
Sweet Ann has just finished Bettyville by George Hodgman. “When I read the review of this book, I knew I had to read it. I love family stories and this is a terrific one. George Hodgman leaves Manhattan to return home to Paris, Missouri to take care of his ninety year old mother Betty. Betty is getting forgetful and frightened of being alone now that she is a widow and her health is failing. She and her son have a witty and caring relationship but one where George's homosexuality was never discussed. Bettyville also addresses George's childhood of feeling that he was not normal and the torment he felt. He loved his mother and this book is a love song to her and the people who were there for him as a child and a young man. I highly recommend this memoir.”
Jeanne is only doing one thing this week. Feel free to discuss. “Liane Moriarty has a way of working the bad things that happen to good people into slapstick episodes. In the case of this novel, Three Wishes, she does this in triplicate. Yes, the Kettle sisters, Gemma, Lyn and Cat are beautiful, long-legged, 30 something triplets. Life is never perfect; no one is exempt from the bad stuff. Not even these headstrong Australian women are above wrongdoing, mishaps and mayhem. There is a lot going on with the Kettle sisters; from marital discord, unplanned pregnancies, slashed tires and plenty of champagne. If you enjoyed Big Little Lies, as I did, you will also enjoy Three Wishes, narrated via hoopla by the talented Heather Wilds.”
Virginia the Tall Cool Texan is very happy this week. Here’s why. “Tickled pink, on cloud nine, in seventh heaven. You get the gist. I am happy, happy, happy. You know why? Because, my dear friends, it is my favorite time of the year! Prime Patio Time, or in my part of the world known as PPT. To celebrate this beautiful weather, I bring you the perfect PPT book, The Knockoff: A Novel by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza, a deliciously fun read full of wit, drama and fashion with a little bit of soul thrown in. Imogene Tate, editor-in-chief of Glossy Magazine, one of the top fashion books in the world, finds herself at a crossroads when she returns to work after a six-month medical leave, only to discover her former assistant, Eve, has manipulated her way into a position of power and is trying to convert the magazine into a digital version and app. Many of Imogene’s peers ‘the gray hairs’ have been let go or moved into the supply closet and been replaced with ‘a bevy of manicured and questionably attired underlings who text and tweet their way through meetings.’ If Imogene wants to save her beloved Glossy then she will have to evolve and learn the necessary digital tools to compete in this new landscape, which she does with grace, integrity, creativity and a whole lot of moxie. I know this book seems to be your typical chick-lit novel, but it also is a good commentary on how technology has impacted the business world today. Thoroughly charming, laugh out loud funny and surprisingly relevant, The Knockoff is the perfect read while enjoying your Prime Patio Time.”
Steph. Also happy this week. In fact, she is downright evangelical in her delight. “Rejoice! For Louise Penny has a new book on the way, and it is a true return to form for her. I know some readers, me included, were a bit disappointed in the last Inspector Gamache book, The Long Way Home, it was good, just not as good as previous books in the series, in my humble opinion. I feared that Gamache’s retirement would spell doom for the series. But fear not! Nothing less than a serial killer, the death of a child, and the discovery of a massive weapon hidden in the Quebec forest have brought Penny’s best back to us. The Nature of the Beast comes out in August. Go on hold now and get excited!
DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here from That State Up North with some final musings on this week’s lunar event. What’s good Pats? “It finally feels like spring might stick around. This weekend marks the opening of our Farmers Market here in town and I am ready. I have been waiting to plant my own patio garden. I’ve been living in fear that I’ll be inviting the rodents’ wrath and they’ll throw some frost or snow my way. They’re spiteful like that. So around here while we juggle baseball games, a third grade concert, a middle school musical and art award ceremonies, I’m going to sneak in a little full moon gardening. The full moon isn’t until the 4th but I’m getting a head start. The Full Moon Playlist is my only listening requirement. Now go out and get your garden on!
DL The Fullest Moon or Just Another Day in the Life of Neil deGrasse Tyson 2013