This week we have involved readers, Paris (you know you missed it last week!), a gatekeeper from Da Bronx, a He who is really a She, white shoes before Memorial Day (horrors!), kid lit, and a new phobia.
Let us begin!
Marianne wants everyone to know about The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey. “I read this as an advanced readers' copy and really did like it. The author's reinvention of the Jane Eyre story held my interest while in some parts I did have a hard time believing that people would revert to such evil and antiquated tactics in modern day England. After I finished I passed it on to a friend who thoroughly enjoyed it, but took great exception to all of the comparisons to 'Jane Eyre.' She felt the story really stood on its own. In fact she was so unhappy about it she emailed the publisher and asked the firm stop advertising the book as a modern 'Jane Eyre.' Now, that's what I call an involved reader!”
I am sure it will come as no surprise to those of you out there keeping score that Barbara M. is back in Paris. In her mind anyway. “I'm reading Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman about the differences between French and American child rearing as seen through the eyes of an American living in Paris. Druckerman is sometimes repetitive but the book is interesting.”
Pat T. has just finished reading "Fairytale Interrupted: A Memoir of Life, Love and Loss by Rosemarie Terenzio. “In this memoir the author shares her five years as John F. Kennedy JR's personal assistant, confidante, friend, and the overall gatekeeper of his personal and business affairs. She was the tough Bronx girl from a struggling Italian family who landed this plum job that changed her life forever.”
Citizen Asha is oddly enough, reading something almost normal. “I am currently reading Albert Nobbs by George Moore. I wanted to see the movie but was unable to, so I thought I would read the book. It’s set in Dublin, Nobbs is a waiter with a secret; he is actually a she. The novel is filled with great sadness; she’s abandoned by parents, fearful of men, and has bouts of depression. A great read, now I am anxious to see the movie. “
Abby reports that she is “enjoying Heart Of A Killer the latest mystery-light from David Rosenfelt (outside of his regular Andy Carpenter series). While he raises interesting legal points in this novel, he manages to incorporate humor and a nice touch of humanity. When a mom convicted of murdering her husband asks to be permitted to donate her heart to her ailing child, her case goes out pro bono to Jamie Wagner, a Harvard trained desk jockey at a white shoe law firm. Questions about the original murder case begin to get explored as Jaime's best strategy appears to be getting his client out of jail so she can then end her own life to save her child. Looking forward to seeing how this one ends.
Jeanne is taking a class on Kid Lit for her MLS. She says that, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret took my breath away! “ The rest of us in RA who have seen the movie release this week can understand her love for the story.
A friend of mine, Laurie W. (aka The Rye), insisted I pick up a copy of “Sometime I Feel Like a Nut: Essays and Observations by Jill Kargman. The chapter on what she is afraid of is totally hilarious because honestly? While I can totally relate to not feeling entirely comfortable around clowns and mimes, she has now totally sold me on being wary around vans too. This one is lots of fun.
The Lifespan of a Fact - This book is based on a 2005 essay eventually published in The Believer about a suicide in Las Vegas. The book presents the essay line-by-line with commentary running throughout between the author, the fact-checker, and the editor. It is at times insufferable in the most hilarious of ways. I laughed out loud and then I wondered why journalists go into fact-checking because librarians would just eat this stuff up.
The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac - Kris D'Agostino is the first in our Spring Meet the Author Series. The cast of characters in this dark comedy includes our narrator Calvin, a grad-school drop out living at home doing what many would consider too many drugs. He is the unlikely glue that holds his family together. His 17-year old sister Elissa seems to have it together until she tells Calvin she’s pregnant. His brother Chip is the type of guy who would wear a blackberry in a belt holster and carry a cell phone. His mother has fallen behind on bills in an attempt to pay for his father’s medical expenses as he recovers from an illness that has forced him to leave his job as a pilot. His father carries around a gun at all times.
"8 Women" - This might just be the perfect movie to watch during tonight's predicted snowstorm. Eight women live in a house where a murder has just been committed. Suddenly they're snowed in and the phone lines have been cut. And it's a musical! You'll laugh at the innappropriate humor in this murder mystery right up until the very end. Whodunit? or shall I say Qui l'a fait?
"My Best Friend" - What is the French word for bromance? Frèrance? We'll go with that. François is an extremely rich art collector who thinks money can buy everything. When his colleagues point out that he has no friends, he makes a bet that requires him to introduce them to his best friend in 10 days. As François pays a Parisian taxi driver to parade him around town reuniting with old friends, he comes to realize they all hate him. I won't tell you how it ends, but there is a climactic scene on the set of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
Paris versus New York - Based on his blog by the same name, Muratyan, a graphic designer, has created a simple, but elegant, visual comparison of the cities of Paris and New York. Some pairings contrast the differences between two cultures, while others show their similarities: for example, the “bobo dans l’est Parisien” and his Rayban sunglasses is faced by the “hipster on the Williamsburg Bridge” and his Rayban sunglasses. Another pairing shows a church spire with the heading “Quasimodo” and the facing page shows the Empire State Building with the words, “King Kong”. Fun and funny for the Francophile or New Yorker, you won’t want to stop turning the pages.
World War Z - This “oral history” covers the development of the zombie invasion from its mysterious origins in the Three Gorges area of China to the spread of infection across the world to the attempts to contain the walking undead. Told in an interview style by people who experienced the “war” in different ways and places, this is the bloody, no-holds-barred zombie book you’ve been waiting for. After reading Zone One by Colson Whitehead, which is a more literary zombie story (seriously), I was ready to sink my teeth (pun intended) into a gory-er tale and this one hit the spot.
Austenland - For those of us who always wish we could just sink into the pages of Jane Austen’s novels or push through the TV screen into one of her miniseries, well, this book makes you re-think it. Jane is obsessed with Jane Austen’s books, and when a relative bequeaths her a visit to a Pemberley-like house where she will dress and behave as if she were in the Regency period, she can’t wait to go. With a strict house chaperone, a cold possible-suitor, a cute gardener, and a ditzy fellow visitor in the mix, Jane starts to wonder if Austen’s stories are best left in the book. A light-hearted book for romantics and Austen fans.
There are some old favorites and some new friends waiting for you on the shelves this week.
Just My Type by Simon Garfield. Just My Type is a great title for this entertaining book about fonts. Yes, I used the word font and entertaining in the same sentence. Garfield explores the art and function of type along with the history of font development. How do the letters f and l flow together on the page? Is a certain font readable at high speeds if you are in a car? How about designers going with different fonts (such as the Paris subway system where each stop has its own typeface) or do you prefer the New York City system where the entire system uses the same font? Whatever your preference, fonts are everywhere and this books adds fun and interesting insight into the print world around us.
"Helvetica" -DVD Documentary. Because it wasn't enough for me to just read about fonts, I also watched this documentary on just one font: Helvetia. An indepth look at this commonly used font and its many nuances. Also provides interesting insight into the development of fonts and individual biases. The reasons Helvetica is universally loved and adopted are the same reason it also has haters.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Lisa Abend. Chef Ferran Adrià restaurant elbulli has been praised as the world's greatest restaurant. What intrugued me about the book was less the food than the organizational structure. The apprentices refered to in the title are talented chefs from around the world who pursue the opportunity to work in elbulli for 6 months for no money. They are willing to put their lives on hold and work grueling hours to observe Adrià's methods, learn how to develop recipes, and decide how they will, or will not run their own kitchens some day. Most think it is worth it, but not always.
Catherine The Great by Robert K. Massie. Massie continues to develop our understanding and appreciation for russian history with this latest book. The court of Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia comes alive as you learn of her rise to power and enlightened approach to leading her nation.
Burn Down The Ground by Kambri Crews. This memoir opens with Kambri's charasmatic dad writing to her from prison asking for money. Are you ready for some dysfunction? There is plenty of it here. Kambri Crews grew up in Texas the hearing daughter of deaf parents. While there are stories that make you wonder how Kambri was able to successfully survive her childhood, there are also some fascinating insights into the deaf culture. The Deaf Community enjoy a rich culture filled with pride and strong connections making the perfect topic for another book on the subject. Clearly, humor helped Kambri through the rough times. A great book for fans of The Glass Castle and yet another Texas woman Mary Karr, author of Liar's Club and Lit.
11/22/63 by Stephen King. This massive book caught me at page 1 and held me until the end. Playing with revisionist history and exploring the emotional of the assasination of JFK, King provides us with a scenario that asks if we had the power to alter history would we do it? Should we do it? What may seem clear cut decision, often is not.
Pink Smog: Becoming Weetzie by Francesca Lia Block.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer.
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman.
The New Laurel's Kitchen: A Handbook for Vegetarian Cookery & Nutrion by Laurel Robertson.
How to Cook Everything Veg by Culinate, Inc. (iPad app)
Epicurious Recipes & Shopping List by Conde Nast Digital (iPad app)
This week surprisingly there is no Paris (I know!) but we do have Scotland, Pakistan, stunning loss, horrendous crime, perplexing behavior and some lunatics.
Let us begin!
Barbara M. has left Mother Russia and is now reading Gillespie and I by Jane Harris. “An elderly woman, Harriet Baxter, is writing an account of her acquaintance with the artist Ned Gillespie in the late 1800s in Scotland. It reads like a Victorian novel and I'm completely mesmerized by the story. Harris' writing is beautiful and I love the atmosphere she creates.”
Ann is working on American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar. “This is a very interesting book about a young Muslim boy, Hayat, living in America with his immigrant parents in the Mid-West. He has no religious upbringing until his mother's friend Mina flees Pakistan to live with his family. She introduces him to the Quran which he becomes obsessed with and believes in its strict interpretation. Hayat has to live with the decisions he makes but it will cost his family and Mina many hardships. This was a thought provoking read.”
Pat T. says, “I have just started reading The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. The story is told in two parts and the first part reads like a coming of age story about Tony, his school friendships, his first girlfriend and a loss that stuns all the classmates. I look forward to reading part two!”
Abby is working her way through Defending Jacob by William Landay. “This book about a prosecuting attorney father defending his son (hence the title) when he is accused of a horrendous crime has been getting a lot of buzz. And while I am enjoying it, I am not quite getting what all the fuss is about. It's a solid mystery with a bang up ending that doesn't quite rise to the level of a great read.”
Citizen Asha felt compelled to read the following: “I was fascinated by her story so, I thought I would read Once Upon A Secret by Mimi Alford. In the book, she gives an account of how her affair with President Kennedy started as well as what happened afterwards. After reading it, I am perplexed by her behavior. I’m not sure if Mimi is aware that she actually had an affair with Mr. Kennedy because as she says, “I was just keeping him company when he was wife was away.” Hmm. That’s an interesting take on adultery.
I am enjoying Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall. When Iris Dunleavy, plantation wife, dares to question her husband’s treatment of his slaves she is put on trial for insanity and finds herself exiled to Sanibel Island to a lunatic asylum. Here she meets a fascinating assortment of characters but none more compelling than the shell shocked Confederate Ambrose Weller. When they fall in love they realize that they can never have a life together and must escape. But what really waits for them on the “outside”. This one is due out in April.
If you never miss "Car Talk" ...or wake up to "Morning Edition"...or catch up on your drive home with "All Things Considered"...NPR has collected 40 years' worth of outstanding broadcasts in a new collection that you will love. If you're not familiar with any of these programs, NPR: The First Forty Years is a great way to find out what you've been missing.
The four discs in the set feature best-of broadcasts from the 1970s through the 2000s. Early segments include live coverage of Viet Nam protests, a scientific examination of whether Wint-O-Green Life Savers candy really gives off sparks, Nixon's resignation, the hidden codes and secrets found in five-dollar bills, into the 80s and 90s with the Car Talk guys, analysis of the Challenger disaster, Red Barber's insights on baseball and camellias, the fall of communism, and more recently, international news stories like 9/11. NPR was there for all of the events, tears, and laughter over the past 40-plus years -- this set will send you back in time and is a must for NPR fans and new listeners alike.
This week we have an evolving relationship, a trip to Iceland, some problems that just might turn into a stalking, love, Paris (of course! We always have Paris!) and two fabulous women named Muffie and Ali.
Let us begin!
Ann is working on, “American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar. I am just in the beginning of this story but I am hooked to see how the relationship between young Hyat is going to evolve with his mother's friend Mina. As a college student he is now telling a friend why he blames himself for what happened to Mina when he was younger. “
Marianne says” I've just read Operation Napoleon, a new (at least to us in this country) novel from my favorite Icelandic author, Arnaldur Indridason. While I really don't think it's up to his police procedurals featuring Inspector Erlander, it certainly had me reading into the night. The author's description of Iceland's landscape is so central to his novels that it becomes a character in its own right. For a change of pace I always enjoy a bleak, dark and fast-moving thriller. “
Citizen Asha worries us yet again this week with her pick, White Girl Problems by Babe Walker. She says “because let's face it, I can totally relate. That being said, it is the most hysterical thing I have read in a long time. Poor Babe is a vapid, self-centered, fashionista who has lots to say about the world around her. Did I mention that I want to be her friend? I even look at her blog, does that make me a stalker? I hope not because she makes me so happy. “ Babe, our advice to you is to run. Run like the wind.
Pat T. states “Since we celebrated Valentine's Day this week I found the perfect book to read as I was shelving it on Main Street - All There Is: Love Stories from StoryCorps by Dave Isay the founder of Story Corps. StoryCorps is a oral history project and the participants record, share and preserve the stories of their lives. In this book, the storytellers reveal their stories of falling in love: remembering a loved one; and finding love unexpectedly. The most poignant story was from a woman who honored her husband who died in 9/11 and then she tragically passed away in a plane crash a few years later.”
Barbara M. is back in Paris , in her mind anyway with this selection: “ I’m reading Tatiana de Rosnay’s new book, The House I Loved and in spite of its flaws I don’t want it to end. It’s set in Paris during the 1860s when Haussmann was modernizing the city and as in her other books it involves a secret.”
I am in love Ali Wentworth’s new book Ali in Wonderland: And Other Tall Tales Ali’s memoir about growing up as the daughter of the fabulous Muffie Cabot who was Nancy Reagan’s social secretary. This book literally can have you laughing so hard you are crying one minute (the chapter on the family’s nannies is worth the price of the book. Trust me.) and the next you are really feeling for Ali during her darker periods. But through it all Muffie is there with her ultimate sense of WASP Suck-It-Up, No Wallowing Allowed and a toasted English muffin with tomato. And don’t tell Asha but I want them to be my friends too. But they are real and I promise no stalking.
This week we have some more greatness, a broken hip, divorce, some self exploration, toast in a boat, Wall Street shenanigans, a Prince, dementia, and some seriously creepy writing.
Let us begin!
Barbara M. says, “Undaunted by its size I’m still reading Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie and it just keeps getting better and better. Massie’s writing makes the era come alive. “
Ann has just finished reading How It All Began by Penelope Lively. “Charlotte, an elderly woman, breaks her hip and that has repercussions for many people in her life including her daughter, her daughter's boss and his niece. It is fun and poignant at the same time, quite an enjoyable read.”
Citizen Asha is reading The Postmortal by Drew Magary. “What would you do if they found the cure for longevity? Would you take? The novel follows the post-cure life John Farrell who was once a lawyer but when cycle marriages are introduced he leaves that to become an “end of life specialist.” Apparently, since no one is dying the population is increasing, and the divorce rate is now 100%. Who would have thought that would happen? “As an aside I just want to put out there that Asha is young and innocent. She will learn in time.
Abby ponders the following: “Do you think before you leap? Think before you speak? Become revitalized by solitude? Actually look forward to an evening alone with just you and a book? In a world that values the gregarious and extroverted; Susan Cain's book Quiet; The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking explores the mighty tools of introverts. The book presents an interesting opportunity for self-exploration and empowerment.”
Pat T. checks in with the following: “After reading Making Toast: A Family Story by Roger Rosenblatt I knew I wanted to read his newest book Kayak Morning: Relflections on Love, Grief and Small Boats. In this book, Rosenblatt has taken up kayaking in hopes of finding solitude as he attempts to come to terms with his grieve over the sudden death of his 38 year old daughter two years ago. He laments that "they do not tell you how to live in this world without your daughter" and yet as he moves forward in his kayak, as well as in life, he knows that Amy lives in his love for her.
Pat S. has two reads that are very different from each other. “Bond Girl by Erin Duffyis a new light and very entertaining take on Wall Street. If you liked The Devil Wears Prada, you should enjoy this one as well. Young college co-ed gets first job in a big firm on the street! The reality doesn't quite match the dream. Moves right along-perfect for that February island vacation.”
“Prince Philip: A Turblulent Early Life of the Man Who Married Queen Elizabeth II is a riveting biography of the ' man in the shadows' to the Queen of England. While he survives a childhood which only just stops short of Dickensian in description, it does explain why she and her solid family links were so appealing to him. As well, it gives an excellent historical narrative of the English monarchy in the 20th century. It is very interesting reading.”
Jeanne, who has been felled by a mighty and awful cold, chimes in with the following: “I just finished Bill Warrington's Last Chance by James King who happens to be from Wilton. It's not the great American novel or even the great Fairfield County novel, but not bad for a debut. Widower and former marine, Bill Warrington who has always been a take charge, no nonsense guy, realizes he is developing dementia or Alzheimers and has an idea of bringing his three estranged children together for group redemption while he still has the chance. He manages to take his 15 year old granddaughter on a misguided cross-country trip (with the granddaughter driving!) to a place his kids will remember from their childhood. The granddaughter/grandfather exchanges are often humorous and spot on. The book is rife with dysfunctional relationships, anger and angst, but King writes with humor and empathy about complicated feelings. A quick read that may ring all too true.”
I am LOVING the new Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl. For those who are unfamiliar Gillian is an RA obsession. If you like dark, creepy fiction with a serious twist Gillian is your girl. Gone Girl introduces us to Amy and Nick Dunne. It begins as your classic Dateline NBC story. Wife disappears and the husband seems oddly cool about it. Perhaps too cool. But remember this is Gillian Flynn. Things are about to get a whole lot darker, creepier and weirder before all is revealed. This comes out in June so in the meantime check out her previous books, Dark Places and Sharp Objects. And we can’t help but wonder if Gillian’s husband sleeps with one eye open. Because he should. He’d be a fool not to.
Little Princes by Conor Grennan. For readers who enjoyed Three Cups of Tea, this is the story of a young man who volunteers at an orphanage in Nepal, as a sort of self-justification before embarking on further world travels. Nepal is emerging from a civil war, and the 18 children at the orphanage are not actually orphans…they are victims of kidnappers and extortionists. Grennan finds purpose and his own future in the plight of the children, whose smiles and energy will stay with you long after you’ve finished this life-affirming book.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Ever wonder why some people thrive on social activity and others need “down time” to re-charge? It turns out that there are more introverts in the world than you might think – at least one out of every three people meets the criteria. In our culture of celebrity and social media, the value of a quiet, more thoughtful disposition is getting buried. Susan Cain reminds us that our world was built, to a large extent, on contributions from introverts like Rosa Parks and Dale Carnegie. Quiet tells us how we can all live and work more productively by understanding our own selves better, no matter where we fall on the extrovert-introvert scale.
NPR: The First Forty Years. All Things Considered. Fresh Air. Car Talk. Morning Edition. They’ve been mainstays for years, and this new collection gathers the best, by decade, of NPR broadcasts. We move from live commentary on Viet Nam protests in the 70s to the Challenger explosion of 1986, the Clarence Thomas hearings, September 11, and less weighty topics like whether the Wint-O-Green Life Savers candy really sparks when chewed in the dark (it does!). This four-disc CD set is a perfect travel companion through the past forty years of NPR. And no fundraising breaks!
Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The Wilder Life (2011) reminded us of the cherished series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, tracing her childhood in pioneer America. Although they’re technically children’s books and classified as fiction, this series taught many young readers about life in the 1800s: log cabins, one-room schoolhouses, primers, prairie bonnets, and so many more details that are remembered by readers years later. The books actually hold up quite well and can be appreciated by adult readers as well. Re-connect with a beloved childhood friend or discover Laura and her family for the first time!
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. Anne (note the "e") Shirley is probably the first redheaded orphan in literature. She was a mistake--sent from the orphanage when the Cuthbert siblings really needed was a boy to help around the farm. Instead, Anne wins them over and still 100+ years later, is one of the most resourceful, positive, and is always-getting-herself-into-trouble-and-back-out-again heroines ever written! The entire series is a must-read.
Three Junes by Julia Glass. This is a book divided into three sections which correspond to three different Junes in 1989, 1995, and in the early 2000s. We begin with the Scottish patriarch, Paul, who heads to Greece after his wife dies. He meets and tries to cultiviate a relationship with a young female painter, Fern. Then the book jumps to Paul's gay son, Fenno. Paul's children are gathering at the homestead to prepare for their father's funeral. Most of the book focuses on Fenno. The final section unites Fern with Fenno at a dinner party in the Hamptons. This is a story of misunderstandings, how to survive after a loved one's death, things we never said, and how to keep on living.
The Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. In a kingdom divided between the lowlands and the highlands (mountains), there is a mountain village that is famous for the rocks it quarries. In this village is a girl named Miri who desperately wants to help in the quarry but is forbidden. Then the messanger comes -- all eligible girls are to be trained in lowland manners in preparation for being the Prince's bride as ordained by the kingdom's priests. Who will become princess? Who will foil the kidnapping plot? Will Miri find her place in life?
Quick Fix Meals: 200 Simple, Delicious Recipes to Make Mealtime Easy by Robin Miller. When I moved away from home the first time, I needed to learn to eat more than sandwiches. I searched the cookbooks at the local library until I came away with this gem. I wowed my parent with my seemingly complicated but simple chicken parmesan!
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. 74 years ago, the thirteen districts rebelled against the Capitol. The districts lost but now they must pay by sending two tributes--teenagers--to fight to the death. There can only be one survivor. For Katniss Everdean, the choice was instinctive when her little sister's name was called, "I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute!" The movie for this hit series comes out next month.