This week we are celebrating the triumph of light winning over the darkness. Yes, it still looks like we live on the Tundra and that we should, perhaps, be considering tanning seal skins or cooking with whale blubber as viable career options. But with the “Spring Ahead” coming on Saturday night every day brings us one more day closer to spring. It’s only a matter of time before I am telling you about what the humidity does to my hair. I promise. The SoNo Loft is also thinking about the nature of time. Their message this week is “It’s Your Moment!” I say we make it count. After all, we are all here for just a limited amount time. Sweet Ann wants to remind everyone that Lent began on Wednesday and she has some interesting thoughts on it this year. She feels that instead of giving something up perhaps we should take something on. So instead of saying no to something sweet, what if you committed to doing one sweet thing every day? A lovely thought to be sure and hey, it’s only 40 days of your life. Who knows? Maybe it will become the very best of habits. This week we have Paris, a handful, an arrangement, Mars (the planet, not the God of War), an affair, a murder, relationships, a teenager, a little bird , the aristocracy, and of course our Playlist.
Let us begin!
Babs B has just finished one of those under-the-radar staff favorites, The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles by Katherine Pancol. “Okay, I'm still in France but at least there are no Nazis! Set mainly in Paris and a bit in Kenya, this story centers on 40ish-year-old sisters, Iris and Josephine. They were raised by their widowed mother, Henriette who is truly the mother from hell. Jo needs money after her husband of 16 years goes off to raise crocodiles in Kenya with his girlfriend and she is left to raise her two daughters by herself. The story is basically about the changes and challenges that life throws at you and how you somehow rise above it all. This is the French author's first novel translated to English and I thought the translation of some dialog got lost along the way, but all in all, I enjoyed the book and look forward to Pancol's two sequels.”
Barbara M. is also reading a staff favorite. “I’m reading The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, the author of The Secret Life of Bees. In this novel, Sarah Grimké was given a slave, Hetty (aka Handful) on her eleventh birthday. She tried to refuse the gift but was overruled by her staunchly conservative Savannah family. As the story unfolds Sarah and Handful become, if not actually friends, at least mutually respectful of one another. The story is told in alternating chapters by Sarah and Handful. The writing is beautiful and while some of it is contrived, this story which is loosely based on the life of abolitionist and suffragist Sarah Grimké, is keeping me captivated.
Amanda could not end her romance novel spree without picking up The Arrangement by Mary Balogh. “I found it hard to start this book because at 380 pages for a paperback, it’s a little unwieldy to hold, especially after reading the other romance novels as eBooks! The first two chapters are a little slow, but once the hero and heroine meet, the book is impossible to put down. Owing to some mutual misfortune, Vincent asks for Sophia’s hand to solve both of their problems. The chapter-length discussion about the arrangement of their marriage is one of the most entertaining yet heartfelt pieces I’ve ever read. Right now I’m really into heroes who are out of the ordinary (Vincent is blind) along with heroines who are not the typical spunky/fiery cliché. The story promises to turn Vincent and Sophia’s plans on its head and I cannot wait!”
Abby has finished reading The Martian by Andy Weir. “I loved it! Mark Watney is a mechanical engineer/botanist on a mission to Mars. A series of events leaves Mark stranded on the red planet constantly tapping into his intellect, creativity, and humor to survive until the next scheduled Mars landing which will happen in 4 years. There is one major issue: no one, not NASA, not his crewmates know he is alive. As the Mars crew struggles to accept what they believe is the loss of one of their own, Mark’s impressive ingenuity and hilarious comments along with NASA’s problem solving team keep the story moving along. The Martian is not sci-fi. It is a human story told with great heart and humor.”
Sweet Ann is back again this week with two more! Take it away Ann! “I am midway through Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty and I am intrigued enough to continue reading. It is the story of Yvonne Carmichael a fifty -two year old married woman, mother of two, a geneticist highly renowned in her field who enters into an affair. It happens quickly and she is swept up in the novelty and attention of a new man who is mysterious about his life. It is a good read about deception and the choices one makes in life. I am listening to the audio of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, and I am enjoying it quite a bit. The reader has a great English accent and is bringing to life eleven year old Flavia de Luce. Flavia is quite a precocious child with a keen interest in chemistry; poisons to be exact. There is a murder at her family estate which Flavia dives into with all her being. This is the first of a series of books with Flavia as the heroine. I am quite enjoying this audio book the mystery part as well as Flavia who can make me smile.”
Here is Steph’s take on Apple Tree Yard. “ Ironically, now that publishers have stopped pinning ‘for readers who loved Gone Girl!’ to any thriller with a complex female protagonist, a book that is actually for readers who loved Gone Girl has popped up. That book is Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty. Chockablock with moral ambivalence and thoughtful examination of the relationships between men and strong women, this book will string you along slowly and then go for a punch that you know is coming, but which will surprise you anyway. One scene actively repulsed me, which I always love in a book. This is a great smart thriller.”
A hearty welcome to a new Welcome Desk face, Laura! Here she is with her pov on a book that we adore, Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. “I was amazed at Tartt's ability to write a stream of conscious mind share of an adolescent teen that has just lost his mother. I read with earnest because I was concerned about what will happen to the boy, too young to care for himself, yet old enough to judge a good situation versus a bad one. What an awful age for something like this to be happening to a thirteen year old boy. Tartt's use of New York City, Park Avenue, Lower East Side, and the Las Vegas was strong. I love books that take me somewhere I have not been. But I felt the back third of the novel lagged and I wish it was a little more stream-lined and shorter.”
I am in love with a book so much that I am actually toting it on my commute. This is no small thing for me to be doing; especially one that is topping out at 465 pages. The Secret Rooms: A True Story of a Haunted Castle, a Plotting Duchess and a Family Secret by Catherine Bailey has me totally engrossed. When the 9th Duke of Rutland died in 1940, the rooms he was living in at the time were ordered sealed by his son. Sixty years passed and Catherine Bailey was allowed in to view the archives that were stored there. What she found was not only a time capsule where nothing had been disturbed for 60 years, but gaps in the archives that the 9th Duke very deliberately destroyed. But why? This book has everything that we love; a demented aristocrat whose hobbies included exhuming ancestors, some really bad mothering, letters in secret code, mysterious deaths, a ghostly castle filled with terrified servants, and obsessive collecting boarding on hoarding. I am about half way through and the only thing that could make me love this more would be the appearance of dolls. Dolls with teeth, of course.
We sadly have another goodbye this week. DJ Jazzy Patty McC is moving with her family to The State Up North That Cannot Be Named. I know I speak for us all here that you will be missed Patty! She has happily agreed to do the playlist remotely, and is her take the Big Event this weekend! “This weekend we turn our clocks forward an hour and turn our Selves towards the promise of sunshine and longer days. Spring is a gift. It presents us with a great opportunity to step back, be present and observe the beauty and changes occurring around us. This brutal winter will soon fade into the recesses of memory and spring flowers and greenery will once again bloom. I invite you to find a piece of sunlight, close your eyes and crank up the tunes. Soon enough spring will be upon us and we should savor every single moment. “