What a wacky week! From Royal Wedding to the end of a man hunt 10 years in the making! What will our reading choices reveal about us this week?
Marianne has just finished The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. “I loved this book about the various staff members who work for an American owned newspaper in Rome. This book has it all: astute writing, original and authentic characters, and a very timely theme: the demise of the printed newspaper.”
Pat T is working her way through Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson because it was recommended to her by several patrons. “I am finding it a bit difficult to get into because the characters have quite a complicated past. Two of the characters, Tracy and Jackson, make spur of the moment decisions that will have dire consequences. I am looking forward to following the connection between the characters in this intriguing novel.”
Barbara M. is enraptured by Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks. “This is historic fiction about encounters between English settlers and Native Americans on Martha’s Vineyard in the 1600s. The story is based on the life of Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, the first Native American to be graduated from Harvard College. I love Geraldine Brook’s writing so much that while I can’t put the book down I also don’t want it to end. “
Abby is reading Life, On the Line by Grant Achatz. She is really enjoying this memoir about a 4 star chef but it’s not just about the food! “In a bit a cruel irony, at the point he was just hitting his stride, he was diagnosed with stage III cancer of the tongue so this book documents that fight as well as his ambition and vision.”
Because I believe that Asha is enjoying making us afraid here is her contribution for the week: I am currently reading Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer because, well...it's Pinocchio slaying vampires, what more could I ask for?”
Honestly Asha – If you are what you read, then you are truly scaring us. We wish you would stop.
As for me? Last week I finished Box of Darkness: the Story of a Marriage by Sally Ryder Brady. In the early 60’s Sally married a man who was obsessed with Brideshead Revisited (Sebastian Flyte in particular), the Roman Catholic church, who could upholster furniture and sew women’s clothing, and was a marvel at entertaining. Somehow she was surprised to find the stash of gay porn when he died a few years ago. The world never ceases to fascinate!
Happy Mother’s Day to all for whom it fits!
Baseball season has been underway for a month now, and for fans of the game, peeling open a wax pack of brand-new baseball cards never gets old. Remember the sugary sweet smell of that pink slab of bubble gum? Nothing tasted better during long childhood summers.
Author Josh Wilker uses the baseball cards of his youth (mid 1970s to early 80s) to frame his new memoir, Cardboard Gods. Famous and not-so-famous players' cards mark the beginning of each chapter -- you won't believe some of the hair and polyester on view! Baseball is a constant for Wilker amidst the political and cultural upheaval of the times; his book is as much about his rocky coming-of-age as it is about the men who play a boy's game.
Already drawing comparisons to Dave Eggers and Augusten Burroughs, Wilker's writing is edgy and incredibly evocative. And as The New York Times review noted, "...what the game means to the fans is often more interesting than the games themselves." Cardboard Gods will have you rummaging through your closet for that long-forgotten shoe box of cards...and the memories they evoke.
Thanks Hal. Because we could surely use us some May.
This May we have some wonderful promises that we are keeping. The primary one is that there will be wonderful book goodness awaiting you. Lesser ones include lilacs, lilies of the valley and peonies, the purchasing of Mother’s Day ephemera, that first trip to the beach and a reminder why you love Zyrtex, Claritin or just insert the allergy med of your choice here!
First up is Doc by Mary Doria Russell. We love the way she tackles history and makes it relevant to today’s reader by spinning a wonderful story. The Doc in the title is none other than Doc Holliday of western fame. He has been given a rather hard choice at 22. He can either stay in Atlanta and face a certain death from TB, or he can head West toward an almost certain healing climate. We all know what Doc chooses and we can’t wait to see how Russell spins this classic American story.
Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff is just what the title says it is. When a plane off goes down in a hidden valley in the jungle of New Guinea only 3 survivors are left to navigate the wilds and face a tribe of cannibals who are firmly rooted in the Stone Age. Think Lost Horizons with humidity and spears.
Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks is a book that we are most excited about because if there was a contest for the Goddess/Empress of Historic Fiction, Brooks would definitely make the Evening Gown portion of the event. This time around she examines the world of 1665 Martha’s Vineyard and the first Native American to graduate from Harvard. Bethia Mayfield, a white settler, is our guide into the world of clashing cultures and changing times and we can’t wait to meet her.
In the Garden of the Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin is by another one of our pet authors, Erik Larson. Larson, who wrote Devil in the White City, tells the tale of William E. Dodd who was American Ambassador and his family who came to Berlin and witnessed firsthand the rise of Nazi Germany. At the center of the story is his daughter Martha, a young woman who is not just a little promiscuous and enamored of this new regime. Will her wild ways become a tool for the Nazis?
Here’s to a bloom filled, warmish, wonderful May! We’ve earned it!
We’re back! And here is what has been keeping us off the streets but not out of trouble! Because let us review. We are the Desketeers. A little mischief/trouble is to be expected.
I read The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure during my time off last week. Think of this as a kinder, gentler Assassination Vacation but instead of presidential assassinations, you have a woman stalking the life and times of Laura Ingalls Wilder. If you loved the series (books naturally, not the stupid TV show) as a kid like I did, this is a must read. I am currently reading Erik Larson’s latest due out next month. In the Garden of the Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin is just what the title says. It’s 1933. It’s Berlin. Things are going to get a whole lot worse before they get better.
Barbara M really loves The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. She wants everyone to know that it is more than a talking dog book. “It is the poignant, uplifting story of a family struggling with life’s ups and downs. “
Those who know Marianne, and I mean REALLY know her knows the only thing she loves more than a good prison story is a juicy murder. She reports that she has just finished "Drawing Conclusions by Donna Leon. She always delivers. What can I say Venice, Guido Brunetti, family and murder!” Yup that’s our Sweet Marianne!
Jeanne states “I started The Weird Sisters last night. So far I am enjoying it although the style is a bit quirky.”
Abby is working on The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell. “This is reported to be the final story in the Kurt Wallender series, and I believe it. A Nordic crime series that pre-dates The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it's dour, dark & right up my alley.”
Priscilla is working her way through Joanna Trollope’s newest, Daughters in Law. “Three sons marry very different women and the "boy's" mother has a hard time letting go. It makes one think about one’s own relationships with your children's spouses. I don't think I am like this mom......hmmm.” We can guarantee that Priscilla is a great mother- in- law and nothing like the protagonist.
Citizen Asha is reading the Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney. It involves secret societies, date rape and prestigious institutions of higher learning with a pinch of classical music. She likes it. We worry.
Have a lovely weekend!
Remember Word Freak, the book about overly-focused Scrabble players (well, OK, fanatical Scrabble players)? Or King of Kong, the recent documentary about competitive Donkey Kong players with rather interesting off-screen lives? Now, we have Moonwalking with Einstein, a book that delves into the world of "mental athletes": ordinary people whose powers of memorization seem to be almost super-human.
Author Joshua Foer starts with the most basic question: How do they do that? In search of the answer, he studies the history of human memory, interviews amnesia victims and the real Rain Man, learns tricks of the trade, explains the "OK Plateau," and yes, tells us exactly what the book's title means. We sit in at the World Memory Championships, where contestants use headphones and ear plugs to block out noise while they memorize freshly-shuffled decks of cards and lists of hundreds of numbers and words in a matter of minutes.
Foer discovers that people with extraordinary memory aren't necessarily highly gifted or savants. For the most part, they've just tapped into methods known to scholars for centuries. He also tells us how modern conveniences like cell phones and the internet are actually changing the way our brains retain information. Moonwalking with Einstein just might help us all realize that with a little time and attention, we can all tap into more brain power than we think we have. It's an unforgettable read. Now, has anyone seen my keys?
Here is what the Desketeers are reading this week!
Newbie Desketeer Jeanne is reading Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors. She reports that she does not love it but needs to plow through it for her Book Group. This sadly, is what I refer to as a Death March sort of read.
Marianne has begun Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg. Marianne is unsure how she is feeling about it because she feels it’s “slow”.
Barbara M. is enjoying the memoir Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love and War by Annia Ciezadlo. Through food we learn about the author’s time in Lebanon and Iraq.
I started Chinaberry Sidewalks by Rodney Crowell. This memoir is all about the singer/songwriter’s Texas childhood and the language and pacing are just wonderful. Much like a song in fact!
Citizen Asha is reading many many books, but I made her choose one. Without hesitation she picked Alice Walker’s book of poems Hard Times Require Furious Dancing. Asha says, “It's a book filled with poetry from the great Alice Walker..What’s not to love?” Indeed!
One of our most popular (and favorite) new non-fiction books is Unbroken, the nearly-unbelievable story of Louis Zamperini. His survival against all odds is truly inspiring and we'll be talking about it in depth on Tuesday, May 3. Meanwhile, if you've finished reading Unbroken and are thirsting for another great adventure story, look no further than Lost in Shangri-La, which hits our shelves on April 26.
Lost in Shangri-La tells the long-forgotten story of a World War II military plane crash in the depths of New Guinea, close to an inaccessible area dubbed "Shangri-La" by pilots and airmen. The few survivors of the crash are dazed, injured, and lost. As they desperately search for a way out, they come face to face with primitive natives who have never seen a white man or woman...and may well be cannibals.
The natives take the survivors to be spirits, who have arrived as harbingers of the end of the world. The survivors, meanwhile, have to figure out how to alert rescuers. They are beyond the reach of planes or helicopters, with hundreds of miles of dangerous, enemy-infested jungle between themselves and safety, all the while dealing with serious burns and gangrene. Only an ingenious, never-before-tried rescue attempt can save them, and this book tells the whole story through diaries, declassified Army documents, and personal recollections.
Place your reserve now so that you'll have a copy as soon as the book is released -- Lost in Shangri-La is sure to be a found treasure!
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.