We have the first day of Spring (March 20 for those of you who lost track somewhere in a drift), St. Patrick’s Day (March 17), and of course the wildly popular Adopt a Rescued Guinea Pig Month (all month). I am a sucker for any holiday that requires nothing from me.
But of course, what is exciting us most is New Book Goodness coming your way (and ours!). This March comes in with three debut novels and goes out with an offering from an author with 16 under his belt.
The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht has to be the one book that I am looking the most forward to. Natalia Stefanovi is a young physician who, upon hearing of her grandfather’s death leaves her unnamed Baltic country to go and claim the possessions of her grandfather and to try to discover why he died so far from home. This is the spring board for her to remember not only her grandfather but his stories as well. These stories are of his life during World War II and the village he grew up in. Obreht was one of the New Yorker’s 20 under 40 and this is her debut novel.
The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael Davis Lukas is also a debut novel. In 1877 in the town of Constanta on the Black Sea two Tartar midwives appear moments before the birth of Eleonora whose mother sadly does not survive the delivery. The midwives feel that she is the fulfillment to a prophesy and to be sure Eleonora proves to be a child prodigy. When she and her father go to Stamboul for his rug business , she is introduced to a world that is rich with possibilities and treachery. This is a wonderful grown up fairy tale.
Cleaning Nabakov’s House by Leslie Daniels introduces us to Barb Bennett who is going through the divorce from hell. After losing her children she moves into a house once lived in by Vladimir Nabokov where she finds a set of index cards which seem to have the plot of an unfinished novel by Nabokov about Babe Ruth. In the process of trying to get them evaluated she meets up with a whole new set of friends who enable her to move forward with her life. This debut has been described as “goofy” , “brilliant” and “hysterical”.
Rodin’s Debutante by Ward Just introduces us to Lee Goodell, a boy growing up in a small town outside of Chicago during the Great Depression. A bust by Rodin inspires him to move to Chicago and become a sculptor. When a knife attack puts a pause in his plans he learns that an education can be more than what you learn in the traditional ways. Ward Just is one of those really quietly great writers whose novels captivate and resonate long after the last page is turned.
We wish you Happy Spring, St. Patrick's and, of course, Homeless No More Guinea Pigs!
Sure it has the least days of any month. So why does it feel like forever? What is up with the “holidays” that grace this month? One is devoted to a Clairvoyant Rodent. Another one is dedicated to our former presidents which we celebrate by buying new sheets and towels. And do not get me started on the ways I hate Valentine’s Day.
Happily, there are some really good reads coming to us.
Revenge of the Radioactive Lady by Elizabeth Stuckey-French looks like it’s going to be scads of fun. Marylou Ahearn is a 77 year old woman who is hell bent on revenge. Dr. Wilson Spriggs gave a pregnant Marylou a radioactive cocktail as part of some secret government testing in 1953. The loss of her young daughter to cancer has made her decide to change her name to Nancy Archer (the name of the heroine of the B-movie Attack of the 50 Foot Woman), scoop up her corgi Buster and head down to Tallahassee to extract her pound of flesh. Darkly funny and yet very touching this is one to look forward to.
Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran is a fictionalized account of a very real woman Marie Tussaud who took her gift of wax sculpting to the court of Louis the XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette. While the times are decidedly changing outside the palace walls, inside the lavish lifestyle that will eventually be their downfall goes on. Will Marie be able to bridge the two very different worlds? This is a fascinating look at a woman whose craft and fame far outlasted her time here on earth.
Hemingway said in the final pages of A Moveable Feast of his first wife Hadley “I wished I had died before I ever loved anyone but her.” In The Paris Wife by Paula McLain their love story is brought to life. Set against the backdrops of Post World War I America to the glittering world of Jazz Age Paris, McLain makes the world of Hadley and her compatriots come alive. This is a wonderful read that will make you want to go back and re-read the greats of 1920’s literature, not to mention learning more about Hadley herself.
A Red Herring without Mustard by Alan Bradley brings back everyone’s favorite 11 year old detective Flavia de Luce. In this third of the series, she still has a passion for concocting poisons (and really, who can blame her with those two sisters of hers!), her beloved bicycle Gladys, and the need to solve yet another grisly murder. Will Flavia be able to uncover the murderer of the old Gypsy woman? This is a great series for adults and teens alike.
So settle in. It's only 28 days after all! At least with March we have the promise of spring being just around the corner.
If one of your New Year's resolutions was to address those piles of paper, junk drawers, and closets-full of stuff in your house, you have three choices: You can hire a personal organizer. You can ignore the growing problem. Or you can stop by the Darien Library and find some direction and inspiration!
Next Tuesday, January 18 at 7 PM, we are welcoming a panel of experts, who will help you tackle that impossible closet, cluttered desk, those piles and boxes of personal files, and even provide tips for better time management. These are professionals who have helped many people get their homes and lives under control. We also have many books that explain why we get so attached to things, and how to break cycles of "collecting" and "saving" that hold us back.
Stop by for the panel presentation next Tuesday or check out some of our best titles on the subject (see below). We'll help you get your house in order!
Photo by Flickr user dansays.
One month before his high school graduation, Darin Strauss unintentionally killed a classmate in a car accident. In a flash, one young life was gone and another irrevocably altered. How do you live with that?
This brutally honest memoir chronicles Darin's painful journey, through the eyes of a teenager just moving into adulthood and beyond. An awkward meeting with the girl's family adds to his guilt, and he endures curiosity and uncertain attention when he finally returns to school. Moving on to the "witness protection program" anonymity of college, the accident becomes part of his personal history, instead of his whole identity. Yet it never really fades into the background.
Strauss takes us through a life led with a ghost by his side; he doesn't seek sympathy or reassurance, he just doesn't know how to become himself rather than "that kid who killed the girl." By the end of Half a Life, he is married and the father of twin boys, a successful fiction writer now confronting the central event of his life. Hardly 200 pages in length, this book is a quick read but will stay with you long after the cover has been closed.
With the holidays quickly approaching, we're all gathering scraps of paper with gift ideas and shopping lists. So, what to get your favorite reader -- a novel, travel memoir, cookbook, classic, beach read, the latest bestseller? How about...a book about books?
Author Pat Conroy has long been a favorite with Darien Library readers, and My Reading Life is a memoir about the books that have shaped his life as a man and a writer. He recalls childhood trips to the library, where he stood in awe of towering stacks of books about Africa, a distant land of crocodiles and zebras, how Gone With the Wind influenced his identity as a southerner, the way he brought Charles Dickens to a rural schoolroom in isolated South Carolina, his own emergence as an author, and why War and Peace just might be the most satisfying experience he's ever had as a reader.
My Reading Life reminds us, in a culture of sound bites and viral video, that the printed word still has deep power to move and shape us. Pat Conroy's gift for choosing words that evoke and inspire make this an instant classic, and the perfect choice for any reader on your gift list (even yourself)!
So much of the Thanksgiving holiday is about tradition: a steaming hot turkey with stuffing, pumpkin pie, football, and family. Add behind-the-scenes elements like checklists, juggling multiple cooking projects, schedules, travel, varied tastes, and family dynamics to the mix and it can also be a recipe for chaos. We're here to help!
We've put together a display of our best books on holiday cooking and planning, football, and yes, how to keep family harmony, on the 2nd floor. Some of the top titles are also on a list you can access by clicking below. Come by to browse, review a recipe or two, gather new ideas, and take some time to make a family celebration that everyone will remember for the right reasons!
Photo by Flickr user Deiru.
One of the most amazing survival stories in recent history is now on the big screen: Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston has been adapted as "127 Hours" starring James Franco, opening across the country in just a few weeks.
In case you missed the international headlines back in 2003, Ralston was on a solo canyoneering expedition in Utah when he was trapped by a boulder. After several days spent trying to free himself and under extreme conditions, Ralston made a life-or-death, unfathomable decision that ultimately saved his life. The 2004 memoir is an excellent account of the physical challenges (hypothermia, dehydration, and severe pain) and internal terror he endured. Nobody knew where he was, so outside rescue was out of the question. He used a small video camera to record his final wishes and thoughts, and his entire focus was on survival, one moment to the next. It's an unforgettable, almost spiritual account of how he managed to live, against all odds.
"127 Hours" has been earning high praise, and will probably revive interest in Ralston's book. It's definitely worth reading before you see the film, especially since some of us may close our eyes during the more...intense...scenes. An inspiring read we can't wait to see as a movie!
Why not start a little early?
We have something to confess. We have secret knowledge. We know what is going to be in the New York Times Book Review before you do. No, it's not that we are psychic although we'd like to be. The truth is that we get a copy a week in advance. We are going to share this secret knowledge with you! Think of how you can dazzle at Drinks this weekend armed with your own secret knowledge! Giving the scoop on what everyone will be chatting up. It’s sort of like Insider Trading. But with books. And it’s legal.
On this week’s cover we have a book that Barbara M.; Desketeer and lover of all things history, found to be a wonderful, readable, biography of one of the most powerful women in history. In Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff the author strips away all the myths written about her over the centuries and gives us a portrait of an intelligent woman who was fluent in 9 languages and while not the physical temptress of Liz Taylor proportions she certainly possessed that certain something as evidenced by her seduction of not only Caesar and Mark Antony but also of her loyal subjects. In the review Kathryn Harrison writes: “It’s dizzying to contemplate the thicket of prejudices, personalities and propaganda Schiff penetrated to reconstruct a woman whose style, ambition and audacity make her a subject worthy of her latest biographer. After all Stacy Schiff’s writing is distinguished by those very same virtues.”
Dominique Browning has nothing but nice things to say about John Casey’s Compass Rose. The story follows a small town in Rhode Island’s South County and its inhabitants. Browning states “We need our inner compasses: where you are is who you are. Long after reading the last pages of Compass Rose I am still thinking about how we establish ourselves as one another’s magnetic directions – and hold fast.”
Here are the some of the other titles in this week’s NYTBR:
First Family: Abigail and John by Joseph Ellis
World and Town by Gish Jen
Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane
Edge by Jeffrey Deaver
Blood Count by Reggie Nadelson
And please believe us when we tell you sometimes we are stunned by that.
One of our latest favorite new arrivals is Oh No She Didn’t by Clinton Kelly from the TLC show What Not to Wear which we all freely admit to being fascinated by. For those who have not seen the show it is a bit Queen for a Day but the needy on WNTW are the Fashion Needy. Terribly, terribly Fashion Needy. So they get their old wardrobe thrown into a trash can, receive a Visa card with $5,000 and a set of rules they must follow while shopping in New York. This to my mind is way better than wearing a cheap tiara and winning a major household appliance.
Kelly takes on what he considers to be the top 100 style mistakes and tells you exactly why they are just that. Mistakes. Some of the topics he addresses are some of the very same things that leave us scratching our heads such as Pajamas in Public, Matching your Mate, Tattoos and Evening Wear and of course the one Fashion Faux Pas that causes Desketeers to wring our hands and weep the Abuse of Animal Print.
This is a lot of fun and while we don’t agree to EVERYTHING he says (some of us look very nice in red lipstick thank you very much) we are enjoying passing this around. And while rules are made to be broken please we beg of you do not break the socks with clogs rule.
Seven years ago, first-time author Laura Hillenbrand gave us Seabiscuit, a breakout hit that became a major motion picture and re-introduced us to one of the most amazing athletes of the 20th century: a knock-kneed, undersized colt who went on to become perhaps the greatest racehorse that ever lived.
Hillenbrand is finally back with a book that has taken her nearly a decade to write, Unbroken. It's the story of a very different kind of athlete, a human this time. While researching Seabiscuit, Hillenbrand had seen an article about a young runner, Louis Zamperini. Curious about his life, she contacted him and began a correspondence. Zamperini was born in New York, survived a rough childhood, and ran track at USC and with the 1936 US Olympic team in Berlin. This might have been enough to craft an unusual biography, but it's only the beginning.
Just before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Zamperini enlisted in the Air Force. As the war escalated, he survived a harrowing plane accident and was eventually captured and held as a POW. By the time he finally returned home, his family had already given him up for dead. Today, Zamperini has made peace with his past -- meeting with and expressing forgiveness to his captors -- and a film adaptation of his story is currently in development (set to star Nicolas Cage). Unbroken arrives on November 16 and is already receiving outstanding reviews, so place your hold now!