Greetings and welcome to the Short Week Edition of You Are What You Read. There is no housekeeping this week. No taffy, fudge or cheese. The Loft may have changed its message or it may not have. I can’t tell. I have to sit on the wrong side of the train these days because it is so packed by the time we hit Westport that all the middle seats are taken and I hate being in a full three seater. I understand that this is ridiculous behavior but we all have our quirks and that is one of mine. And really? That the train is that sort of packed and they will not add more cars is what is really ridiculous here. So listen up Metro North! The 7:52 out of Fairfield Metro needs more cars.
This week I have been musing on some things recently found. We have our newest ancestor, Homo Naledi that has been found in a cave in South Africa. The bones come from at least 15 individuals ranging from babies to children to grown-ups to some oldsters. They appeared to be a small, thin people no more than 5 feet tall and they had an odd mix of features never seen before. What I found to be the most interesting was the challenge of bringing these bones to light. They were found by cavers in 2013 in a place so inaccessible that the call had to put out to “skinny scientists who are not claustrophobic” because you had to descend down a crack 30 feet long that is only 7 ½ “ wide. This is something I don’t like to think too hard about. Interestingly enough six women are the ones who got this gig. If you would like to learn more about this here is a rather nice article on that.
Also, I learned this week that there is more to Stonehenge than meets the eye. Apparently there are a lot of chapels, burial mounds and shrines that no one ever dreamed were there buried in the area surrounding the site. It seems that they were found because of a faulty sprinkler system. When brown patches began to appear on the landscape, the maintenance crew discovered that they created a circle around the remaining stones. This caused researchers to survey the area surrounding where the buried structures came to light. You can read about that here.
Isn’t it kind of cool to think that we are still learning about these things?
This week we have a ghost, a spunky teen, NYPD, a famous newscaster, and a belligerent drunk.
We’d be buggy not to have The Playlist!
Let us begin!
John B just finished A Sudden Light by Garth Stein. “I read it because I loved and related to Stein’s Art of Racing in the Rain. This is a very different type of novel, an unapologetic ghost/haunted house story. The ghosts take on more of a character role rather than a plot device, however, and the story delves into family trauma and reconciliation. While this book doesn't have the raw edge and driven passion of Racing, it does show how Stein's writing is becoming more refined and his storytelling more crafted. I'll continue to read his novels.”
Amy of the Double One Triple Two Zip Code is here and is unabashed in her love of what she herself calls ‘cheesy Young Adult Lit. Here’s what she’s fired up about on that front. “I’m a fan of the overly-emotional, sometimes weepy, always sensational genre of Realistic YA Fiction with a side of something unusual, such as The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer. When a copy of debut author Nicola Yoon’s book Everything Everything graced my desk earlier this summer, I pounced at the chance to read. It tells the story of spunky teen Madeline who has a compromised immune system and a rare disorder in which she is basically allergic to everything, so she lives at home in a sterile environment , behind an airlock that keeps the outside world at bay. Cue a new family moving in next door complete with a teenaged boy with the name of Olly, who falls in love with Madeline by gazing at her through his bedroom window, and then through pithy emails and late-night Instant Messages (a nod to modern day online dating? Well done, author Yoon!). Will they be able to overcome the literal door keeping them apart? A twist ending does not disappoint. Those of you that have a secret soft spot for YA romances will find joy in this sensational debut.”
Abby has another crime series she wants to make us aware of. “The Alexandra Cooper Series from Linda Fairstein is usually a safe bet as solid crime fiction but with a light touch. In the Devil’s Bridge, Fairstein felt the need to shake things up a little so she plays around with the narrative voice. When Assistant DA Alex Cooper disappears, Fairstein starts exploring things from other points of view. While the detectives and other members of the NYPD are searching for clues as to Alex’s whereabouts, the characters are allowed to share their thoughts about some of Alex’s less charming character traits and with Alex’s life on the line, everything must be explored. I’m not sure Fairstein’s narrative experiment was successful, but she does push her characters out of their comfort zones and provide the reader with a little more insight, warts and all.
Sweet Ann can be found bombing around listening this week to A Lucky Life Interrupted: A Memoir of Hope by Tom Brokaw. “Although not read by Mr. Brokaw his words came so alive as I listened, I felt as though it was him and I was hearing a friend. This memoir deals with Tom's multiple myeloma diagnosis and his treatment course, as well as the strength of his family life and moments of history that he reported on such as the Berlin Wall coming down, 9/11 and the 70th anniversary of Normandy. As a celebrity, as he readily points out he was able to be treated by the best doctors and had the money to travel for treatment. But this did not spare him from problems in his treatment. Two well-known physicians thought his back pain was due to exercise, not the beginnings of cancer, and another doctor scheduled further surgery that could have ruined his mobility. Tom is not bitter and relates it to us because all need to be an advocate for our care or the care of a loved one. I loved the part of this memoir when he spoke of the love of his life, his wife Meredith, his daughters and grandchildren I have always thought Tom Brokaw was just a nice man from the Midwest and this memoir confirms that image. It is a great audio book.”
The Always Entertaining Mallory is here with something she has been begging me to read. I’ll let her beg you all now. “Set in the affluent, beachside Connecticut town of Little Neck Cove (cough,Greenwich,cough), The Invaders by Karolina Waclawiak, follows middle-aged Cheryl and her college-aged stepson Teddy. Despite living in an active, privileged community, both Cheryl and Teddy find themselves dealing with extreme loneliness and isolation. Teddy, recently kicked out of college, is bored and battling with substance abuse. Cheryl struggles with an absent husband and the need to feel wanted and desired. Both characters are as infuriating as they are sympathetic, and the novel has a bit of a Kate Chopin The Awakening feel to it as you watch both characters destroy themselves. As believable as Cheryl and Teddy are, The Invaders’ real highlight is in its anti-hero: a drunk, crass old man who rides around on his dilapidated bike and shouts profanities at neighbors, a tertiary character you’ll love to root for.”
DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here from The State Up North with some final musings on something you most definitely don’t want to find and would quite happily lose. What’s good Pats? “This week marked curriculum nights held in schools across the country. Yes, it’s that time when teachers get to meet their students’ parents and run through classroom routines, share curriculum and testing schedules. My fourth grade son will have FIVE mandated testing periods this year and while that news makes me itch and twitch, there’s something else that has parents bugging out. If you read or watch the news you might have heard about the new Super Lice. These mutant bugs are not in fact new, but have been getting around since the late 90’s. Blame it on selfies, blame it on our obsession with being squeaky clean, blame it on whatever helps you sleep at night, but please don’t blame it on kids or teachers or school nurses who have to deal with this nuisance every year. It’s lice folks. No one is going to die. It’s time consuming to deal with but it’s just a bug. Having dealt with this a few times, I have some advice. First, take three deep breaths. Next, check your kid’s hair daily then talk to your kids about NOT sharing hats and hoodies. Finally, just relax. I promise you, it’s possible to get through a case of lice and besides it makes for some great jokes after a little distance from the experience. Need a book to read to the kiddos about it? We’ve got you covered. There’s even a playlist to scratch along to. There’s always a playlist.”