Welcome to a very special edition of You Are What You Read. This week we present to you, You Are What You Read: The Road to Hell. Our commute, and we are sure yours as well, this week has been nothing but painful. It doesn’t matter if you are on a train ( the New York Girls are reporting up to 2 hours for a one way trip), or if you are in a car (for myself, almost an hour and a half one morning), the transit woes are killing us. Sweet Ann’s words of wisdom for the week come from one of her neighbors growing up. Ann wants us all to remember this: “You can take a Local. You can take an Express. But you don’t get off until you reach Success.” Sadly I think that just reaching your destination with body and soul intact is what constitutes success at this point. But, I would like to note also that this is the mettle of the people I work with. Once they get here you would never know that their world is anything less than sunshine, rainbows and unicorns. So, here is hoping that I can report next week that the New York Girls are not spending 2 hours on a train to go some 50 or so miles (some of us walk faster), that I can get back on the train and out of my car, and that going forward this will be a dim, sad memory. This week we have a know-it-all, Purgatory, The Iron Lady, creepy usage of a riding crop, sharks, logging, six pack abs and some grit, fear and death, the Netherlands, a group home and a little gift.
Let us begin!
Miss Kiera of the CL is one of the New York Girls who has been dealing with the hellish commute. You will please note that she has done so with a smile. She’s excited about an old favorite doing new things. “Kevin Henkes, perhaps best known for his beloved and award-winning picture books like Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, has a new chapter book out: The Year of Billy Miller. Billy is just about to enter second grade when a small accident causes him to wonder, ‘Am I smart enough for second grade?’ His new teacher wears chopsticks in her hair and rings a gong, his tablemate Emma is a know-it-all, and his little sister Sal is starting to get on his very last nerve. And the year has just begun! This is funny, realistic fiction with short episodic chapters and a large typeface. It's a great transitional book for children who are reading independently (but perhaps not quite ready for longer, more complex texts.) I hope to see many more Billy Miller stories from Mr. Henkes! “
Miss Elisabeth of the CL: Another New York Girl with an amazing sense of grace in a bad situation. Seriously. You would totally want these people next to you in a fox hole. If that should happen to be where you find yourself. I hope not. “This week I read Patrick Ness’ beautiful, marvelous, wonderful, gorgeous More Than This. The first line of the book? ‘Here is the boy, drowning.’ Chills! I get chills! And it only gets better from there. 16-year-old Seth has drowned in the ocean and had his head smashed in by rocks. The last line in the first chapter? ‘He drowns.’ But then! Then he opens his eyes and wakes up in a strange, deserted version of the small English town he grew up in. Is he in hell? Is he in purgatory? Has he traveled to a new world? Or is there something far more sinister at play? I adored this book, for the deep questions it asks about guilt and family and love, for the beautiful way it’s written, and especially for the fact that when the book turns, you are truly gob smacked, and there are even more questions to ponder about the internet and technology and the future of humanity. “
Steph! A New York Girl slogging it out this week with humor and poise! Stephanie begins this week’s reflection with a question. “Am I sold on 1979 being the birth of the new century? No, not really. I think that’s just goofy marketing tactics. But Strange Rebels by Christian Caryl makes for interesting reading anyway. In 1979, many interesting things happened in the world; Caryl focuses on the election of Margaret Thatcher, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (and subsequent US response), Pope John Paul II’s travels (especially to Poland), the Iranian Revolution, and Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms in China. Though he focuses on the economic and political ramifications of all this chaos, and especially how they intersected, he also provides succinct biographies of the principals involved. I mean, I think those things are interesting. If it sounds interesting to you, you will probably love this book. Caryl’s characterizations of the people and pivotal events of 1979 are deft and enthralling, which is especially impressive given the amount of detail included here. I have a few political quibbles, but overall, one of the more engaging non-fiction books I’ve picked up this year."
Amanda, while not affected by the commutation woes, is still cranky and is a powerful reminder of the usefulness of an awesome audio book to make the time fly. And, alternatively, the sadness that a bad one can induce. “‘Reader, I hurled,’ is one of my favorite quotes which aptly applies to Catherine Coulter’s Night Fire. I had a long car trip last week and this book was recommended to me. If I had had something better to listen to, I would have done so. This book is about Arielle, who at 16 was forced to wed her much older neighbor. At the end of his riding crop, she suffers severe beatings and degrading sexual acts. Like a miracle, he finally chokes to death. Arielle believes she is free. That is until the Earl of Ravensworth comes home from the Napoleon wars. He’s smitten with the girl Arielle was at 15 and he’ll do anything to possess her. The tactics of Ravensworth make him barely better than Arielle’s dead husband. Stay clear unless you like a lot of brutality in your romance. The book’s reader also sounds like a grandmother which somewhat makes everything that much worse. “
Birthday Girl Erin who has no commuting woes remains her usual sunny, sassy self. “I have been on a MOVIE ROLL lately so I would like to share what I’ve been watching. Kon-Tiki is a Norwegian film that was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. It follows a group of Norwegian adventurers who attempt to float a raft from Peru to French Polynesia to prove that the islands were settled from the east instead of the west. Along the way they encounter sharks, storms, and self-doubt. And for people who read and loved Gone Girl, I’d like to recommend the movie Side Effects. A young wife suffering from depression is prescribed a new drug that causes intense sleep walking episodes. I don’t want to tell you what happens next but there are twists! There are turns! There is Channing Tatum! And the last film I’d like to recommend, which is now in theaters, is Ron Howard’s Rush. It’s based on the true story of a 1970s race car rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda. It would make the perfect date movie because there are race cars, suspense, fire, and Chris Hemsworth (even though I’m Team Liam, I’m not blind).”
Abby is off on another mystery series kick. “I just finished Massacre Pond, the 4th book in the Paul Doiron detective mystery series set in the Down East wilderness. Filled with Maine culture both high and lower-brow, our hero is Maine State Game Warden Mike Bowditch, ironically, the son of a big time poacher. Perpetually in the work doghouse, Mike must investigate a brutal slaughter of wildlife that appears to be part of a campaign against the establishment of a new national park. Those against the park fear they will be blocked from accessing their beloved wilderness costing much needed logging jobs and access to hunting to feed their families. Those in favor believe they are saving that same space for future generations. As the two sides square off, Mike has some serious investigating and soul searching to do. “
Alan, a man who seems to have no commuting issues this week, chimes in with two series he is rather fond of. “Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher novel, Never Go Back, is the best of his recent novels in this series. Reacher, whose polymath brain is equal to his immensely strong body (we get a description of his six-pack abs and cantaloupe-sized biceps at one point) is dealing this time with a conspiracy at the top of the government. Teaming up, for the moment, with a strong female character, he gets himself out of jams with his brain or his fists, crosses the country in search of resolution, and brings things to a satisfying conclusion before setting off, alone, again. If you like Lee Child’s Reacher series, you’ll be very pleased with this; if you don’t know it, this is a good place to try it out. George Pelecanos is a really good writer – of his dozen or so books that focus on crime in the District of Columbia and of the TV series The Wire and Treme. In The Double, to be published October 8, he’s written a second book about Spero Lucas, the young, tough, sensitive, still-has-a-lot-to-learn, searcher for missing things, who seems to find trouble wherever he looks, but has the grit and guile to resolve things, often with jarring violence. In this case he’s looking for a stolen painting, while resolving some other issues – like murder. A sensitive, strong protagonist, great writing, and you’d-think-you-were-there descriptions of the DC you don’t see as a tourist – a very satisfying read.”
I have not heard John complaining about his commute this week but since he lives even further north than I do I cannot imagine it was any sort of Mardi Gras. In fact, I would imagine it was pretty much the morning after Mardi Gras in nature. Sort of headachy, smelly, and full of regret. This is probably why we have two things from John this week. “In anticipation of Carol Rifka Brunt's visit to Darien Library on October 10th, I decided to read Tell the Wolves I'm Home. It's an incredibly compelling and heart-wrenching story about a thirteen year-old girl whose uncle, whom she adores, dies of AIDS. The novel takes place during the early days of the insidious disease and it reminds us that when it was first emerging, AIDS was shrouded in a cloak of fear, intolerance, and homophobia. I was only slightly younger than the main character, June, during that time and I remember how those with AIDS were stigmatized and dismissed as deviants. This novel explores that time in a very human way. I would classify this as a YA (young adult) novel, based upon the writing and voice (first-person from June's point of view). Yet this is an important YA book because it is representative of how much that genre has evolved over the past decade. This is a serious novel with serious subject matter that can be read by both teens and adults. I've also just begun (and am halfway through) the short novel, Tinkers, by Paul Harding. The novel is framed as a series of remembrances by George Washington Crosby on his deathbed. They primarily focus on his father, a tinker who sold goods and trinkets from a mule-cart in rural Maine and who suffered from epilepsy in a time when people thought that affliction was a type of insanity. This is a painfully beautiful book that is more of a series of meditations on the wonder of life and its intricacies. Naturally the theme of the tinker--a person whose livelihood depends on fiddling with intricate metalwork--carries over into the complexity of the natural world around us. This is a wonderful little book (and no wonder it took the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for fiction). It's like an amuse-bouche for your soul.”
Barbara M. No commuting trauma. Reading about World War II. Like life is normal. I want to live in Barbara’s alternate universe for a while. “I’m reading Dancing with the Enemy by Paul Glaser. Paul Glaser grew up Roman Catholic in the Netherlands. When he was 35 his friend casually mentioned that Glaser was a common Jewish name in Vienna and then later while visiting the museum in Auschwitz he saw a valise with the name Glaser on it. His suspicions aroused, he confronted his father who confirmed what Paul Glaser had suspected – his father’s family was Jewish. When the author investigated what happened to his family during WWII he became especially interested in his Aunt Rosie’s story and this is the story he focuses on in the book. Rosie was a talented ballroom dancer who was able to circumvent the forced deportation of Jews to work and concentration camps until her ex-husband betrayed her. Her wits and her charms helped her survive the many camps she was sent to. This book describes an unusual view of Dutch complicity during the Nazi occupation of Holland.”
Sweet Ann wants us all to keep smiling and brings us The Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford. “I am midway through this novel and I am beginning to enjoy it more. The story takes place in 1934 Seattle as twelve year old William Eng searches for his mother. William has been living in a group home ever since he was a young child when his mother was whisked off to the hospital. He believes he has seen his mother in a film and hears that the actress will be in Seattle in the near future. William escapes the home and meets up with the actress who is his mother. She begins to tell him what happened in her life and how they both ended up where they are. As her story enfolds I am more intrigued.”
And finally from DJ Jazzy Patty McC. we have a musical valentine/Band-Aid/salve for all of us who fought the commutation fight for the last couple of days. Thanks Patty! Life is indeed better with a soundtrack. “No doubt life is better with a soundtrack and it’s no secret that I’m a music lover. In my opinion, we should all have a theme song. It would be even more fantastic if it played when we walked into a room. So with this front of mind, I began contemplating my sweet librarian’s hellish commute due to the recent transportation snafu. This week I give you my curated DL The Commute from Hell 2013. You can thank me later. Today this is your daily slice of awesomeness. “