Greetings! And welcome to a pollen coated You Are What You Read. I don’t know about you all but I am actually hopeful that we get that promised rain this weekend so that we can begin to wash some of this Yellow Menace off every conceivable surface that it has settled on (but not on Saturday! I am looking at you Cathy!). It’s a Blizzard of Pollen out there, People! My blue car, which The Traveling Companion derisively and with a sneer refers to as Duke blue and which I refer to as recycling bin blue is actually a rather lurid and shocking shade of green these days. On Wednesday, I was in the City with some of my Fairfield Library Friends and we were all bemoaning our allergy reddened eyes, slow and sleepy minds and sandpapery throats. My long desired runs to the water have turned into exercises in wheezing, coughing and just generally trying to catch my breath after a few steps. I just keep telling myself that this is the price we pay for that blissful scent of lilacs and viburnum in the air. And really isn’t that what we have been wishing/hoping/praying for? The Always Delightful Pat S received the following advice from her doctor on how to deal with this. This doctor recommended that, in addition to the usual doses of insert your favorite allergy meds here, your hair be washed every night prior to bed. Apparently hair is a pollen magnet and while we sleep, it leaves the hair and migrates to the pillow case which ensures a night of breathing in more of the Menace than you should. The good doctor also recommended that we not sleep with windows open but with the a/c on to filter the air. Pat S is happy to report that both of these things have helped loads. So Soldier on People! This is the Price We Must Pay! And no worries, this is a temporary condition much like Spring itself. This week we have a runaway, a stranger, a cult and a coroner, and a very timely Issue. Of course we have The Playlist! Even if it does have an oddly yellow cast this week.
Let us begin!
Sweet Ann has just finished The Dynamite Room by Jason Hewitt. “I thought this was a well written thought provoking book about WWII. Eleven year old Lydia has run away from where she was evacuated to earlier in the war. She makes it back to her English village which is deserted. When she arrives at her home it is closed up and there is no sign of her mother. She is able to gain entrance to the house and thinks she will just wait for her mother to come home and her father to return from the war. While in her room that first night she hears someone entering the house and that someone turns out to be Heider, a German soldier. This novel explores Heider's life before the war when he was a musician in love with a beautiful fellow musician. His life was so happy and then he was drafted in to the war. When you read his war stories, it explains the reason for the title of the book and the fate of an integral character in the story. I highly recommend this book; it is quite a page turner.
Virginia the Tall Cool Texan is here this week with this: The Stranger, Harlan Coben. “Some skeletons are best left in the closet. That is what Adam Price discovers after he is approached by a stranger one night with evidence of his wife’s deepest secret. But what is the cost of the truth? In Harlan Coben’s newest thriller, The Stranger, Adam’s world is upended in one single moment and everything he is always taken for granted is turned upside down. His wife won’t confirm or deny the secret so Adam starts his own investigation. What he uncovers, is a larger and for more dangerous conspiracy at play that puts his family at risk. How far will he go to know the truth? Overall, I enjoyed this book. It is a light thriller and a fairly quick read with an unexpected ending which I really didn’t see coming.”
Laura is taking a page form Jeanne’s playbook and is here with two things this week. “The Witness Wore Red: The 19th Wife Who Brought Polygamous Cult Leaders to Justice is a memoir by Rebecca Musser about her escape from her family’s polygamous lifestyle. She was married in her early 20’s to 85-year old elder, and her people’s supreme prophet Rulon Jeffs. She took the witness stand to save her sisters and the other girls who would be subject, at very young ages, to early marriages. Her testimony in 2007 brought about the raid by Texas Rangers of the Yearning for Zion Ranch and the arrests of its leader. Some received life sentences behind bars once the abusive and manipulative atrocities were learned. It is a gripping read as she relays how she was taught to believe the outside world was ‘dangerous’ and that the houses and communities they lived in had secret hiding rooms, and walls, where the children and wives could hide if someone from the outside entered their realm. Book number two, The Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill is a murder mystery set in Laos, in 1976, after America pulled out of Vietnam. New socialist government systems are being put in place and Siri, the 72 year-old doctor of medicine, who was hoping for retirement after many years of good service, is unwillingly pressed into service as a coroner in a post-war, underfunded and poorly equipped morgue. A prominent politician’s wife dies suddenly while dining with friends and Siri is suspicious of her demise, especially when her husband retains her body quickly for cremation. Three mysterious murders coincide and Siri is further embroiled in cross border politics, spying neighbors, victim hauntings, etc. I consider this my first beach read of the season.”
Julia Rae is back with us fresh from her first year in college! Stop by the desk and say hi why don’t you? Here’s her take on a book about a timely issues. “I found some time at school to read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, and I’m so glad I did. Alexander provides her readers with a thorough, yet gripping, history of the racial Caste System in the U.S. She then gets right into the thick of how past Caste systems play a role in today’s society. The main thread throughout the book is the problem of Mass Incarceration and how the prison population is made up disproportionately by minorities. Alexander meticulously connects the dots to show readers how detrimental Mass Incarceration is, and how it indicates rampant racism in the government today. It was extremely interesting to read this book with the backdrop of everything that is happening in Baltimore. I think everyone, especially college age people, should read this book. Everything I thought I knew about racism in the U.S. has changed since reading.” Welcome back Julia! We missed you!
DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here from that State Which Shall Not Be Named with The Playlist and some musings of the etymological kind. What’s good Pats? “Happy Palindrome Week! What’s that, you ask? Well, a palindrome is a phrase, word, number or a sequence of characters that reads the same forwards and backwards. If you’re a massively talented writer, filmmaker and essayist like Georges Perec you write a Grand Palindrome in French that’s 5,556 letters in length. The Oxford English Dictionary lists the longest palindromic word as the onomatopoeic word tattarrattat coined by James Joyce in Ulysses for a knock on the door. I’m a huge fan of the Oulipo, short for the French “Ouvrior de litterature potentielle” or workshop of potential literature. The Oulipo was founded in 1960 by a group of mainly French-speaking writers and mathematicians who created works through a series of severe writing constraints. Some of the more famous members are Raymond Queneau, Francois Le Lionnais, Georges Perec, Italo Calvino and Jacques Roubaud. Every day this week, the dates align themselves to a natural palindrome. No forced constraints are needed. I think we should all celebrate it by reading Life, A User's Manual: A Novel or Numbers In The Dark : And Other Stories. Need something to read to the kids? Yep, we’ve got that too! Mom And Dad Are Palindromes: A Dilemma For Words...And Backwards. The playlist is not a palindrome this week but now I want to create one. Until then enjoy some fresh new tunes to put a little spring in your step and exercise those brain muscles.”
Here are the new books from OverDrive.
A Lucky Life Interrupted: A Memoir of Hope by Tom Brokaw
Girl in the Moonlight by Charles Dubow
Grow Your Value: Living and Working to Your Full Potential by Mika Brzezinski
Trauma by Michael Palmer
Here are the new books from 3M.
Amanda and Erica hosted the Meet Us On Main Street meeting today.
Amanda started us off with books on how to create blogs or websites: Blog Inc., by Joy Deangdeelert Cho, Blogging for Creatives by Robin Houghton and Create your own Website using Wordpress by Alannah Moore. All are step-by-step guides. Amanda also likes to write stories; she participates each year in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), so today she showcased Book In A Month by Victoria Schmidt, for all the want-to-be writers out there. Her fantasy selections this week are The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett, Grim Tuesday, by Garth Nix and Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman. For the historians in the family, capture your generational history with the help of Kid's Family Tree Book by Caroline Leavitt, 21st Century Family Historians by Devon Lee and Family History Search by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack.
Erica enjoyed reading So That Happened by TV's "Two and a Half Men" star Jon Cryer -- his memoir about his profession and the people he works with, including wild stories about he and his co-star Charlie Sheen. "A fun shooting-the-breeze kind of memoir," says Erica. Also a Bill Murray fan, Erica highly recommends the movie St. Vincent on DVD, with Murray, Naomi Watts and a surprisingly serious Melissa McCarthy. Heartwarming, funny, serious and kind -- it is a story for the whole family. Watch My Baby Grow by Shaoni Bhattacharya and Radhika Holmstrom is a great book for new moms, it gives a week by week guide of a baby's development their first year. And for the Millenial rockers, Kurt Cobain: The Last Sessions is a photo montage of the musicians last interview before he died.
Members of MUOMS suggest the audiobook of Still Fooling 'Em: Where I've Been, Where I'm going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys by Billy Crystal is funny, funny, funny. Average is Over by Tyler Cowen, a sober account of the future of computers and how they will infiltrate our world.
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
How about some audio books about some famous and nearly famous women? And remember you don't have to wait! Immediate gratification can be yours!
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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