Almost exactly four years ago, in June 2010, the world said goodbye to a man whose legacy transcended his accomplishments in the sport of basketball: John Wooden, the "Wizard of Westwood." Known primarily for his success as the UCLA basketball coach, his team won 10 NCAA championships -- including seven in a row -- within a 12 year span. He did it with student-athletes who were redshirted as freshmen and played in an era when the dunk was outlawed. Even if his records and championships are someday eclipsed, it's hard to imagine a man more beloved, both on and off the court. Wooden's "Pyramid of Success" and "Seven Point Creed" have shaped countless lives and remind all of us: "Perform at your best when your best is required. Your best is required each day."

John Wooden didn't just say these words, he lived them. A new biography by Seth Davis, Wooden: A Coach's Life, chronicles his childhood in Indiana, his college and basketball playing days at Purdue, service in the Navy during WWII, long coaching career, and later life. Biographer David Marannis, who wrote a book on another legendary coach (Vince Lombardi) says of Wooden: A Coach's Life. "This is a superb biography, worthy of its subject. With deep research, clear writing, and objective thinking, Seth Davis has cut through the mythology to present John Wooden and his UCLA dynasty in a fresh and compulsively readable way." 

Nice New Book Goodness!

Here is what you can find on the shelves that is new next week. Come in and visit us, or put your items on hold from home! We will let you know when they are ready for you to pick up!

You Are What You Read!

Readers of YAWYR who have come late-ish to our party often ask me, “What is the SoNo Loft? How can a Loft have a message?  Is this some kind of cult? Just what are you constantly referring to week after week?  Do these pants make me look fat?” Well New Friends (no, not you Susan from Fairfield Cheese Company), the SoNo Loft is probably the only charming piece of my rather charmless commute these days.  Whoever is living/working in the space attached to this deck takes great care every week to paint a banner and hang it from the railing of their deck.  What makes this especially cool is that it is a message that is only visible from one side of the train, only going into New York and you can’t see it from the street.  This is a message crafted just for us and it is without exception happy, upbeat, and thought provoking.  It is a nice way to begin the work week and it can sometimes totally set the tone for what is to follow.  I have been trying to get a picture via the cell phone for a while now and this week I succeeded!  The Traveling Companion (thank you Bill F – now you know his real name) tried to smooth some of the rough edges and prettied it up for me so this week I present to you The SoNo Loft and its rather lovely message of ‘Keep Calm and Think On.’ And yes, I think those pants would be better served on someone else. This week we have a 12-year-old child , secret societies, Nazis, inspiration, a group home, another 12-year-old child, alien invasion, and Wall Street and yes, another 12-year-old.  Playlist?  Got that too!

Let us begin!

John has finished The Good Lord Bird by James McBride.  “This is a brilliantly-crafted tour de force about the story of John Brown and his capture of the armory at Harpers Ferry.  Told as a retrospective oral narrative from the point of view of a twelve year-old slave, freed by Brown, it reads like a Mark Twain novel.  At times funny, sad, horrifying, and astonishingly tender, the importance of this book cannot be understated.  It is truly a masterpiece.  I needed to follow that with something a little different, so I opted for The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway.  If you are an Anglophile who likes intelligent, witty prose about time-travelling secret societies, then this book is for you.  I will say no more about it other than that it is wildly entertaining and written well enough to make you not feel like you’re slumming it.”

Barbara M is reading 50 Children: One Ordinary American Couple's Extraordinary Rescue Mission into the Heart of Nazi Germany by Steven Pressman. Bet you anything there were 12-year-old involved.  “In his attempt to rid Germany of Jews, Hitler encouraged them to leave before World War II started. Unfortunately, this was not always possible as few countries would take them in and even those who were granted visas often lacked the money to leave.  The author’s wife’s grandparents, Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus, prominent members of the Jewish community in Philadelphia, decided to do something about the plight of Jewish children living in Austria under the Nazi regime.  Government regulations about bringing unaccompanied children into this country were strict and not easily circumvented but with the help of a few people, and with their determination, the Krauses succeeded in saving the lives of 50 children who otherwise might have perished. This is a heart-warming story of a courageous couple who found a way to do something they knew was righteous.”

Blanche!  A Librarian so legendary she needs only one name.  Like Cher.  Or Madonna.  They aren’t librarians, but you understand what I am saying. This is her yearly rare appearance and here is her take on Everybody's Got Something by Robin Roberts with Veronica Chambers.  “This is a touching and inspiring story about Robin’s fight against myelodysplastic syndrome or MDS as it is known. You can’t help but cheer her on from page one and I didn’t want to put the book down when I started to read it.

The Delightful Mallory is here with a surprise this week. “I hate movies.  I get bored easily, can't commit, and just generally don't find them engaging as a medium.  The last movie I saw in theaters was Les Misérables and that was only because my love for musicals and Hugh Jackman trumped my hatred for film.  I say all of this to let you know that if I'm recommending a movie, it's gotta be pretty darn good.  Short Term 12 follows Grace, a young 20-something, who works at a foster home for disadvantaged youth.  The movie opens with Grace and her peers giving advice to a new coworker.  It goes a little something like, ‘Lose the tie.  Don't be their friend.  They'll try and push you, just say no for a while.’  This is followed by a story of Mason, another group-home worker, who was so frightened on his first day on the job he actually pooped himself.  Even with the given advice, it's clear that Grace does nothing more than absolutely adore and advocate for each of the children in her care.  The film is equal parts heartbreaking and uplifting, as silly as it is raw, and above all, masterfully told in both cinematography and script.  I will recommend this movie to every human I meet until the end of time.”

The Fabulous Babs B is here with You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz.   “Grace Reinhart Sachs has it all.  She loves her husband who is a pediatric oncologist, is a successful marriage counselor and she is about to have her first book published. But when her husband goes missing, everything falls apart.   Not only has he cleaned out their joint checking account but he is a prime suspect for a murder!  Little by little, Grace realizes that the warning signs were there about her marriage unraveling and she chose to ignore them instead of practicing what she preaches. Grace must dismantle one life and create another for her herself  and their 12-year-old child if she wants to survive.  I found it interesting how easily she and her son adapted to their new life.  Not one of my favorite books but I had to finish it!”

Virginia the Tall Cool Texan is like a Tall Cool Texan Gerbil on a Wheel.  Literally.  I will let her explain.  “I love the recent hint of Spring and Summer in the air, and it has reminded me it’s time to get back to the gym.  Thank God for the library’s Hoopla service, because my time on the treadmill is so much more bearable when I am listening to a good audiobook.  The 5th Wave by Hugh Dancy is certainly making my gym time fly.  This may be one of my favorite dystopian novels since the Hunger Games.  A brutal alien invasion has nearly eradicated the human race by sending waves of darkness, tsunamis, disease, and deception to Earth.  The few humans unlucky enough to survive are racing to save the world before the next and final wave hits. Read it now before the next installment of the book, The Infinite Sea, comes out in September.  I also just started Flash Boys by Michael Lewis and so far I am thoroughly enjoying this look at the dark side of Wall Street. At times it's hard to believe this is non-fiction, because Lewis does such an amazing job of building the characters and explaining the complex financial markets.  So far, I can see why Flash Boys is on the top of everyone's must reads for this summer. “

DJ Patty McC is taking the SoNo Loft message to heart and is Keeping Calm but Thinking about Stuff just the same.  Here is Patty’s report from The State Up North and of course The Playlist.  Take it away Patty!  ”This week has been an interesting one weather-wise out here in the Midwest. In the space of a few days, we’ve experienced 87-degree temperatures, flash floods and tornado watches. It makes one ponder things happening to our planet that 97 percent of scientists agree on. The things that some media sources and politicians tell us, ‘It ain’t so!  Not all the evidence is in.’ Greenhouse gases are increasing, causing significant climate changes around the world. This is a fact. There is no magical thinking involved in this claim just data and hard science.  This week my 12 year-old-daughter had her first middle school tornado drill. This is old hat to me as I grew up in the Midwest. As a kid, my older sister derived pleasure by having us practice very precise and terrifying tornado preparedness drills. Those drills left me a fearful, neurotic mess. My daughter was unfazed by the tornado drill, but my 7-year-old-son appeared to be completely freaked out. I asked him if he was worried that we would have a tornado here. He shrugged. I very calmly and clearly explained that it was rare and that I had never had one in my town while I lived in Michigan. Then I lied and told him that it wouldn’t happen here and gave him our family plan should one occur. He spent the remainder of the day with his blanket firmly clenched between his first two fingers and thumb. We all need those touchstones; something that comforts us when life is unsure or off-kilter. It may not be socially acceptable for adults to carry around a blanket, but we have them nonetheless.  We can’t know what’s going to happen day-to-day but we do know that we can affect change NOW one tiny step at a time. So this week I encourage you to have a difficult, honest conversation with your children or a friend about something that takes you out of your comfort zone without freaking out and don’t forget your blankie. A little music might help.  At least it does for me.”





Nice New Book Goodness!

Here is what you can find on the shelves that is new next week. Come in and visit us, or put your items on hold from home! We will let you know when they are ready for you to pick up!

You Are What You Read!

Happy Mother’s Day Weekend!  Consider this a Public Service Warning that you now have 48 hours to get it together and honor your Mom.  Being a mom is not easy work.  The hours are long, the pay stinks, you grow half a shoe size with each child and if that weren’t grim enough, some of us do that dance all alone without any support from the other piece of the parenting puzzle.  Couple that with it’s the only job that only ends when you do.  And who knows? Maybe not even then.   It doesn’t matter how old your children get, they are still the cause of fret and worry.  In the words of the wise and wonderful Priscilla S (her real name), “You are only as happy as your most unhappy child.” I loved the New Yorker cover this week.    What mother on the planet hasn’t had that moment?  I know for myself as the mother of two active boys it was a frequent occurrence and I considered the day a triumph if I did not hear the word ‘incident’ come from a teacher’s mouth.  (An aside to you new Moms out there; no good ever comes from an educator using the word incident. Trust me on this one.)   My cousins and I lost our mothers when they were relatively young and not a day goes by that we don’t miss them.  So call your mom!  Shower her with flowers and prettily wrapped gifts, pour her a big glass of whatever makes her happy, make her put her feet up and do her bidding. If, you are like me and the cousins and that’s not possible, do something in her honor that would make her proud.  She would like that very much. Do we have The Playlist?  Of course we do!  It’s a Friday.  This week we have a young writer, some moms, Rhode Island, journalists, London, sisters, criminal activites and some anxiety.

Let us begin!

Abby is reading The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair due out on May 27th. “One thing that attracts me to a book is when it doesn't remind me of anything else I've read. Even if I don't absolutely love the book, I have tremendous respect for originality. This is where I find myself with The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker.  Already an award winner and bestseller in Europe, it is a dense and original work that is an absorbing mix of romance, mystery, and literary fiction. Bouncing between the present  and the mid-1970's, Dicker tells the story of Marcus Goldman, a young writer who becomes the toast of the town following the debut of his first novel, but then gets hit by a crushing bout of writer's block. Under pressure from a demanding public and an impatient publisher, Marcus reaches out to his college mentor Harry Quebert to help him break it. But when details about Harry's past emerge, Marcus is determined to stand by Harry and clear his name.  This book is an interesting mix of Harry's writing, small town life, fame, loyalty, and the very nature of love.

Pat T is celebrating Mother’s Day in a literary way.  “This Mother’s Day I would like to bring to your  attention  Anna Quindlen, since the subject of her many novels touch on motherhood and family. In her book, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, she looks back on the days when she ‘lived everyday devoted to the welfare of three exuberant, emotionally exhausting children and had no clue about how these three children would change everything’. In Still Life with Breadcrumbs, Rebecca Winters, is a daughter, wife and mother whose life has been upended but she faces the challenges with a renewed energy.  In Black and Blue, and Every Last One, the mothers deal with challenges and tragedies with honesty, strength and courage.  I wish all you Moms a relaxing, carefree day, reading a good book!”

Sue S had reached completion! “I finished On the Rocks by Erin Duffy. When Abby is dumped by her fiancé via Facebook, she uses the summer in Rhode Island to find herself.  It was a good story with its funny points but it ultimately left me wanting in terms a good well rounded ending.”

Laura has two things this week that have made her happy.   “I am on the edge of my seat reading A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett.  It gives a great insight into the dare-devil world of freelance journalism. I am only half way through and I can't wait to sit down to read more.   I have also been enjoying the TV series Call the Midwife. I binge watched what I had on TiVo.  I love the characters and the London East Side stories that tear at your heart.  I am curious to read the actual diaries of these nurses from the book by Jennifer Worth.”

Pat S has just finished Dear Abigail: The Intimate Lives and Revolutionary Ideas of Abigail Adams and Her Two Remarkable Sisters by Diane Jacobs.  “I chose this book because I am a huge fan of the epistolary format and this volume didn't disappoint. Using the letters and journals of Abigail Adams and her sisters Mary Cranach and Elizabeth Peabody, Jacobs weaves a riveting narrative of the life and times of women in revolutionary times. While the lives of Abigail and John Adams take center stage, the women discuss everything from the day to day quotidian tasks of housekeeping and childrearing to the larger issues of gender inequality and the fast changing political landscape of the era. While the sisters were unusual at the time for their level of education, it makes this portrayal of women’s' lives no less fascinating.”

Steph has an announcement.  Listen up, People! “Attention Denise Mina fans: she’s back, and she’s still in great form! The Red Road is the latest in the Alex Morrow series, and it’s just as tense and well-written as the rest. Morrow once again finds herself accidentally immersed in a messy case, as well as dealing with her half-brother’s criminal activities constantly ricocheting into her day job. And the center of it all is the sad Scottish foster care system, and one violent night that has had consequences all the way into the present day. Mina continues to set the bar high for all other crime fiction writers. I am already looking forward to her next book.”

Here is DJ Jazzy Patty’s take on the weekend festivities!  And of course The Playlist.  “What do rappers and boy bands have in common you ask? They love their mommas and they wrote a song about it. I could talk about cards and flowers and brunch, but I think I’ll leave that to others. This Sunday is Mother’s Day and in the past, it was a day I worked. In the restaurant biz it was a day to be dreaded; rookies on parade. This year that is not the case, and for that I am grateful. I am grateful to be able to spend the day with my family. Nowadays being a mother is very complex as is the execution of that role. That is one of life’s great paradoxes. Parenting books abound and some offer good solid, no nonsense advice while others can leave you confused, massively insecure and curled up on the floor in a ball of anxiety. I’m only in chapter two of Jennifer Senior’s, All Joy And No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood but it’s good. It’s not a book about parenting per se but about parents and specifically written for middle class moms and dads. The book’s underpinnings of research, philosophy, psychology, her insights and observations make it a compelling read in the age of anxious parenting. As parents, we are given the profound gift of raising another human being and our lives and relationships are forever changed by it. So this Mother’s Day take some time off from anxiety and be kind to yourself and in the words of Mark Wahlberg,’ Say hi to your mother for me’”

Nice New Book Goodness!

Here is what you can find on the shelves that is new next week. Come in and visit us, or put your items on hold from home! We will let you know when they are ready for you to pick up!

You Are What You Read!

This week was quiet for me.  Perhaps we are all still listening instead of talking?  Sweet Ann was quiet this week because she was under the weather but she is now on the mend and is grateful for it.  Her words of wisdom is really just one word.   Ann says Gratitude.  So reflect on that if you will.  Even the SoNo Loft is quiet this week as there are no messages hanging from the deck (Sorry Susan of Fairfield Cheese Company!).  Even though the weather was truly dismal for everyone this week (didn’t seem to matter where in the country you were: too wet, too dry, just meh), there were two things that went down that I considered Glad Tidings.  I love that the most eligible bachelor in Hollywood picked Brains over Bimbo in the selection of his fiancé.   There was a great piece on this in, of all places, the New York Post.  You can read it here.  I also loved that a certain franchise owner’s nasty mouth/attitude/beliefs got him in a whole lot of trouble and we won’t have to hear it anymore.  Ugly is as Ugly does and sometimes it is just reassuring that the Universe is indeed on top of this stuff, that good things can happen and justice is served.  It’s also nice to be around to see it.  This week we have Great Britain and Germany, emotional casualties, dog, tribes, Preps, more dog, Galveston, a Chief Resident, and a parade of historic figures!  Playlist?  Got that!

Let us begin!

Laura is doing lots of reading for her book group.  “Life After Life is my favorite book group pick of 2014, so far.  I enjoyed it more than Goldfinch but not by much.  Both authors, Atkinson and Tartt, drew me into the hearts of their protagonists but Atkinson's Ursula felt like a very close friend telling me all her travails of WWII, in all her reincarnations.   Ursula was engaging, giving a close perspective of someone personally enduring WWII from both the British and German sides. “

Jeanne is still doing one thing.  I think there is something very wrong with this and I am beyond concerned. “I watched Jayne Mansfield's Car, written, directed by and starring Billy Bob Thornton, Robert Duvall, John Hurt, Kevin Bacon and others. The cover says "Torn Apart. Driven Together." And they are. In 1969, in a small southern town, war has left its emotional casualties but ultimately human need creates some overdue and unusual family ties.”

The Ever Delightful Kim: Owner of Shiny Boat Shoes is reading Uganda Be Kidding Me by Chelsea Handler.   “Chelsea Handler has no filter when it comes to talking about her trip to another continent with her friends.  One of the most ridiculous conversations is when Chelsea is deciding whether or not to fly her dog on a private plane to another country because she believes he must miss her.  In all, this book is a page turner!”

Barbara M agrees with me about her pick this week. We cannot endorse this one highly enough.  One thing Barbara forgot to say is how much she loves the cover.  I do too!  It's amazing. “Lily King’s new novel, Euphoria, is very loosely based on the life of anthropologist Margaret Mead. Nell Stone and her husband Fen are studying tribes in New Guinea when they are befriended by a fellow anthropologist, Andrew Bankson, who becomes intimately entangled in their lives. The writing is beautiful and the tension of both the situations that arise and the relationships between the characters is palpable. This is definitely a book worth reading.”

The Fabulous Babs B has just finished The Headmaster's Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene.   “Arthur Winthrop, like his father before him, is the Headmaster of an elite school in Vermont.  But nothing is what it appears to be in this brilliant and beautifully written story of a life gone awry.  After reading the first half of this book I thought to myself wow and little did I know the second half was even better. Finishing it, I found myself re-reading the first few chapters as to make sure I didn't miss anything in this complex story.  Part mystery, part love story, this is a layered story of love, unbearable loss and grief.  This was a quick read and I highly recommend it!”

The Tall Cool Texan Virginia is listening to her brother. As my brother will tell you, it’s something I should have done long ago. “It is amazing how much your family can influence your reading habits.  My brother first introduced me to James Rollins’ Sigma novels several years ago, and I have been a fan ever since.  So I was super excited to learn Rollins was introducing a new action series, The Kill Switch which features Army Ranger Tucker Wayne and his brave companion, Kane a military working dog.  The novel has lots of action, and enough conspiracy to keep you guessing.  It’s coming out in May.  I also just finished and highly recommend, The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon, a psychological suspense novel, but with the under-current of a good old-fashioned ghost story.  Fair warning however, if you live in the woods then don’t read this when you are alone, because it is seriously creepy.  West Hall, Vermont is a town that has always been plagued with mysterious ghostly sightings and legends but when people begin to disappear, the secrets of a hundred years must come out, even if it reveals things better left in the woods.”

Claire of the Children’s Library is not reading anything remotely childlike.  But it’s making her happy.  Let it slide people!  “Galveston is True Detective creator, Nick Pizzolatto's first novel. The main character, Roy Cady, exudes a bit of Rust and Marty for any fans of the acclaimed HBO series. The opening scenes had me on edge as Roy barely escapes a bloodbath, fleeing New Orleans with a young prostitute in tow. As they both try to start new lives in East Texas and finally Galveston, Roy can't seem to leave the past behind. This has everything I want in a noir novel: a bleak motel, gritty but lovable hero, and enough twists and turns to keep me awake on Metro North.  According to the press they are already turning this gem into a movie. Galveston was also a finalist for the 2010 Edgar Award for Best First Novel.”

Steph is on a tear. “I’ve been obsessed with thrillers this week. Probably my favorite of the bunch will not surprise regular readers of this email: Doing Harm, by Kelly Parsons. After hearing Babs and Virginia rave about it, and then after Stephen King called it ‘the best damn medical thriller I've read in 25 years,’ I couldn’t resist. I found the ending a bit too neat, I thought the tension level was just perfect. And though I normally loathe arrogant characters, arrogant chief resident Steve Mitchell was the perfect protagonist. This would be a great beach book, especially for readers who love medical true crime like one of my recent favorites, The Good Nurse.”

I have another book from 12 that I am excited about.  You remember that I told you about 12? They are a division of The Hachette Book Group and they only publish 12 books a year.  By limiting it in this way they are all about the quality of the product.  You are pretty much guaranteed an amazing read if 12 is putting it out.  What is Visible is a debut novel by Kimberly Elkins and it is indeed remarkable.  Laura Bridgman.  Does the name ring a bell?  She was the most famous woman in the world in the 19th century after Queen Victoria and yet we have forgotten about her.  Laura was the first deaf and blind person to learn language under the care of Samuel Gridley Howe at the Perkins Institute in Boston.  It was Laura, in fact who ended up teaching Anne Sullivan the Tactile American Sign Language method that Sullivan then used to teach Helen Keller.  This book has a parade of historic figures such as Charles Dickens, Julia Ward Howe, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and John Brown to name a few.  It is due out in early June and we have also purchased it for our Book in a Bag program for book groups.  It also has a great cover!  

DJ Patty McC is ruminating on one of the news stories mentioned earlier.  And no, it’s not about George Clooney’s engagement.  It could have been.  But it’s not.  Here is her Playlist for the week. “This July 2nd marks the 50-year anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This is something to celebrate and folks should hold some epic 4th of July parties in honor of how far we’ve come. How far have we come? I’ll give you a hint or better yet, let’s play a word association game. I’ll list all the things that have been troubling me as of late and you guess the theme. Ready…Set…GO! Cliven Bundy, Donald Sterling, Dani Alves, and Affirmative Action in Michigan, are you sensing a theme yet? It would seem the time is ripe for some delicate discussions of race. This week I invite you to lead that elephant out of the room and into the daylight. Better yet, let’s bring that elephant outside for all to see and have a real candid, honest discussion about race in our country. In the words of Rodney King, “Can we all get along?” because in the end underneath it all, we are all the same.”

New DVD Releases

Here is what you can find new to the shelves in the upcoming days.

Nice New Book Goodness!

Here is what you can find on the shelves that is new next week. Come in and visit us, or put your items on hold from home! We will let you know when they are ready for you to pick up!

You Are What You Read!

You will notice that this week there seems to be a lot of listening going on.    Not hearing but listening.  There is a difference. Even those of us who normally have our nose stuck in a book are out in the world and getting our reading fix by listening.  I am not sure what to make of this.   It’s funny when you think of it really.  We all begin our reading lives by being listeners.  No one is born reading, but we are all born listening!  I think that maybe this is really about finally getting away from the warmth of our hearths, getting out into the world but still wanting a story even as we create our own. Because sometimes when you are listening, the message you get is not what you were expecting but there is a truth in it just the same that can turn your thinking and your world around. So get out into the world, revel in the warmth and joy of spring, and take a story with you while you create your own.  This week we have Zulus, sniveling, squawking, dogs, Italy, some boys, Bed-Stuy and Commitment Issues.  Playlist, you ask?  But of course!

Let us begin!

Abby is reading Present Darkness by South African writer Malla Nunn. ” Set in the 1950s during the early days of apartheid, Present Darkness reunites us with Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper. Cooper is deeply scarred by his time fighting in Europe and lives with a number of secrets. While I am generally a passionate proponent of reading a mystery series in sequence, it is especially important with this series. Present Darkness finds Cooper investigating the murder of a white couple. When one of the named suspects is the son of his colleague Zulu Detective Samuel Shabalala, Cooper will not let his superiors or brutal racial divides stop him from assisting his friend. Nunn once again treats us to an absorbing mystery and culture while also shedding light upon the toll South Africa’s inhumane apartheid laws took on the nation of South Africa.  This is to be released on June 3rd.”

Sue S.  Not happy.  Not having it.  “Truth be told, I am a girl who devours a great chic-lit book when I get one.  However, there will be no ramblings about butterflies and rainbows or about how this book should be made into a movie. Instead, I will tell you how much I disliked Chances AreAre by Barbara Delinsky.  This book was torture as I was subjected to what should have been a smart, strong female character, but ended up being a sniveling, insecure self-doubting individual who only gains confidence from what I can only describe as a male chauvinistic pig who has never heard of the term ‘No means No’.  I would never recommend this book to anyone who has any sort of self-worth.  If you are looking for a good chic-lit book I do not recommend this one.”

Miss Elisabeth of the CL is as excited as I have ever seen her this week. “This week I devoured, in one sitting, Elaine Lui’s memoir Listen to the Squawking Chicken: When Mother Knows Best, What’s a Daughter to Do? Elaine, or Lainey, is the purveyor of, one of my all-time favorite websites. Lainey is an intelligent, witty, take-no-prisoners kind of writer and from her position at the Canadian version of E, she is able to give first-hand accounts of the hypocrisy of celebrities. Her website could be called a guilty pleasure but you will not feel guilty reading it! The Squawking Chicken in the title refers to her Chinese-immigrant mother, a highly-superstitious woman whose squawks have guided Lainey throughout her life. I tore through the book in a mix of fascination, admiration, and horror. Her mother’s determination that she make something of herself and complete aversion to coddling or praising her daughter is something rarely seen in western parenting. You might think that her mom’s reliance on shame, Feng Shui, blackmail, and horrific storytelling as parenting techniques would backfire, but instead Lui’s love and admiration for her mother shines through every page, even when her mother is forcing her to eat a papaya every morning to keep her luck, disparaging her ‘low classy’ roommate, or asking for ‘no tax! ‘at the Pottery Barn. With chapter titles like, ‘I Should Have Given Birth to a Piece of Barbecue Pork’ ‘Miss Hong Kong is a Whore’ and ‘You Will Be Thanking Me Your Entire Life,’ the book is laugh-out-loud funny in addition to making you really want to call your mom. I loved it, and I’ll never bring home anything I found on the street again!”

Pat T is embracing the season.  “Throughout April, we are celebrating National Poetry Month and on Tuesday we celebrated Earth Day, so I thought it fitting to share one of my favorite poets, whose work reflects our connection to nature. Dog Songs: Thirty Five Dog Songs and One Essay by Mary Oliver is her latest book of poems and a particular favorite of mine since I have a great affinity for dogs! Oliver captures the special relationship between dogs and their owners. Two other works by Mary Oliver that are equally wonderful are, A Thousand Mornings and Why I Wake Early.”

The Ever Delightful Pat S has just finished The Secret of Raven Point by Jennifer Vanderbes.  Here’s what she is thinking.  “While never a fan of book about war, here is one that took me by surprise. Part coming-of-age, part mystery and part wartime saga, The Secret of Raven Point by Jennifer Vanderbes is an illustration of what war does to people both the good and bad. Opening at the start of World War II in a sleepy South Carolina town, Tuck Defresne enlists to the sorrow of his devoted younger sister Juliet. When after a short time, Tuck is declared MIA, Juliet takes a crash course in nursing and gets shipped to Italy where he was last seen.   This is where the novel really takes off. In the little covered Italian Front, Juliet is faced with the raw facts of war, the daily insanity littered with broken bodies and broken minds that constitute the Front Lines. In the course of Juliet's search for Tuck, she comes to know a Private brutalized as much by his comrades as by the enemy; a minister who must redefine his moral compass as decreed by the idiotic rules of war; and a doctor who must maintain his faith in his own ability against overwhelming odds. Vanderbes does an excellent job of creating a world where there is no black and white, just the very real and very raw desire to survive.

Jeanne is still just doing one thing, and I cannot deny what a worry this is to me.  It should worry you too. “I am listening to The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown. True to the reviews, if you liked Unbroken you will also like The Boys. But the latter stresses the necessity of teamwork more and Joe Rantz came from a very tough background, with nothing and no one, but his own resources and strong will. How can he fit in as a member of an elite crew at the University of Washington? The story moves slowly at first, but Edward Hermann is a terrific narrator with a voice that will keep you listening. “

Steph is also listening this week! “This week on my mini-road trip I listened to the audiobook of P.S. Be Eleven, a middle grade novel written by Rita Williams-Garcia and narrated by Sisi Aisha Johnson.  I’ve wanted to read it since it won the Coretta Scott King Award earlier this year, and when I saw the ACD on display I knew the time was right! (See, our displays even work on librarians.) This book is the sequel to One Crazy Summer, which won the Newbery Honor, but it’s not necessary to have read that book to try this one. It is a fantastic historic novel set in Bed-Stuy in the late 60s, and follows the story of sixth-grader Delphine as she settles back into her life after spending a summer with her Black Panther activist mother in Oakland. Her year involves a lot of transitions: becoming a sixth-grader, her first school dance, the introduction of the Jackson 5 and saving money to go to their concert at Madison Square Garden, her pa getting married, and her uncle coming back from Vietnam with a lot of pain. As a result, the book goes back and forth from mundane to serious issues remarkably well, with Delphine’s strong voice at the center of it all. Williams-Garcia’s writing is just spectacular, bringing history to life with simple flourishes. This ought to be required reading for all Brooklyn tweens and teens, because it is such a great snapshot of its time and place. Johnson gives even more vividness to Delphine with great narration and impeccable voice acting that evokes, rather than a cast of characters, a twelve-year-old’s perception of that cast of characters. This was a great acting choice for the book, and the hours of my drive flew by as Delphine told me her story. I can’t recommend it highly enough!

I have to drive once a week.  It makes me miserable but it’s something that must be done.  Monday’s ride to my Monday night commitment was especially brutal.  How does it take a human 40 minutes to get from here to Westport?  Happily I had Selected Shorts as my companion.  As we discussed last week, I have Commitment Issues.  While it is a serious problem where DVDs are concerned, it goes double for Books on CD.  My fellow commuters swear by them but I am too scattered to devote attention to a full blown book while I drive.  This is the genius of Selected Shorts.  For those of you who don’t know what this is, Selected Shorts is a program that is on every Saturday on WSHU at 3:00 and it matches great short stories with great readers who also happen to be great actors.  People like William Hurt, Parker Posey, and John Lithgow to name a few.  So while I can’t commit to a full blown novel, I can commit to a short story of 20 minutes or so in length.   The one that saved my sanity on Monday night was from the collection entitled (what else?) Behaving Badly, specifically the Stephen King story Popsy read by Michael Imperioli. The story line involves a gambling addict named Sheridan whose marker is coming due.  How does he pay them off?  By abducting young boys and selling them to a man named Mr. Wizard. But this time around Sheridan may have just picked the wrong kid to mess with.  This wonderful series is just perfect for those errands around town when you can’t face another minute of commercial radio. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

DJ Jazzy Patty McC is also listening!  And as we said at the start, the message that she received was not really what she was expecting, but it was welcome just the same. Here is her take on the week. “I seem to be a bit stuck in my feminist leanings from last week.  Might it have something to do with the Paycheck Fairness Act? Or maybe it was the negative media attention given to Hillary Clinton and her impending status as a grandmother? Or maybe it was the lingering negativity directed at United States Senator Feinstein accused of being emotional on issues of torture? I’d say it’s all of the above.  During this time of my own angsti-ness, my dear Wunder-Jen asked if I had heard the song ‘Water Fountain’ by tUnE-yArDs. Indeed, I had and I like it. I like it a lot. Merrill Garbus was interviewed recently by Pitchfork and was asked how she came by her new shift in sound. She replied that she walked into a public library and checked out the book, ‘How to Write a Hit Song’ by Molly-Ann Leikin. Well, now this spoke directly to me; musicians, how-to books and public libraries? Stop! The autodidact in me sang with joy. Then I began to reflect on what I considered a disservice to my Sisters by underrepresenting them last week on the playlist. It bothered me, it did. So this week I bring you, Women Who Will Rock Your World! Now let’s get to work on the rest of those misogynistic notions. Note: The entire album ‘Nikki Nack’ by tUnE-yArDs won’t be released until May 6th but you can listen to ‘Water Fountain’ now. Jen and I give it two big thumbs up. I sense a summer hit song/album. “

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