This week we have the usual fabulous offerings, moments of head scratching, and shenanigans. We are pleased to present to you the following: some drama, the City of Lights because it would seem we ALWAYS have Paris in these reviews (would someone please just go ahead and send us all to Paris. We’d be eternally grateful), children, some toiling, a sensational scandal and a friend that no one should have.
Let’s get started!
Citizen Asha has just finished “ Mice by Gordon Reece. Shelley and her mother compare themselves to mice: small, meek, easily targets. Both women deal with conflict from their friends and her father. They move to the English countryside to escape the drama, however, one night the drama comes to find them. The women find themselves tested and pushed to their breaking point. This causes Shelley to question whether or not they are “mice” and if they are not, what are they?”
Barbara M can as usual be found dreaming of her beloved Paris. “I’m reading A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition by Ernest Hemingway. This edition supposedly presents the book as the author intended it to be as opposed to what his fourth wife Mary edited it into. It’s a wonderful portrait of Paris in the 1920s.”
Abby has just read a favorite amongst the Desketeers,The Family Fang. “This one may sounds like yet another vampire book, but it is not. The Fang Family is made up of Caleb, Camille, Annie, and Buster. Caleb and Camille are wholly committed (and committable?) performance artists who fully immerse themselves in their art. Their children, referred to as Child A & B in art publications to give them a false sense of privacy, have no choice but to be full participants in their parents "events." While the parents may believe art is the tie that binds, it can also be a destructive force. Creating beauty can be an ugly business. It is an interesting mix of humor, rejection, and conditional love.”
Pat reports in with the following: " I have just finished reading The Buddha in the Attic by Jukie Otsuka. It is a short book with powerful story about the young Japanese brides traveling to America to meet their new husbands; spending their days toiling in the fields enduring hard work and much humiliation; and ending up in the round up of the Japanese in the Internment camps. The author's writing style was different because she focused on subject matter more than character development, but I still enjoyed the message of the book.”
Marianne is doing some rethinking with her pick of Faith by Jennifer Haigh. "This is a story of a priest accused of sexual abusing a young boy. The priest's sister narrates the tale that is filled with the complicated interactions of their Irish-Catholic family. And while I couldn't put it down and read it cover to cover, I later questioned whether or not I, the reader, had been manipulated by the author who was exploiting a sensational scandal. However, after talking with others who've read the book and didn't see it that way at all, I've reconsidered and decided to take a second look at this book."
I love the hilarious Practical Jean by Trevor Cole. After watching her mom waste away from a painful and ultimately fatal cancer Jean decides that no one she loves should have to suffer like that ever again. And Jean? She is just the woman to help you out with that. So if Jean happens to be your “friend” I would be very very careful if I were you. Honestly? I was snickering on the train this morning. Which makes me look as unhinged as Jean herself. I am totally fine with that if it means I get my own seat.
Have a wonderful weekend.
Even in the face of impending doom the Desketeers are all about the quality, fun and style. This week we have, as usual, much to offer: Big Events, Death Stars, mythical creatures, pharmaceuticals, food glorious food, hi-jinks on the high seas, and a reader’s odyssey.
Let us begin!
Pat says, “I am enjoying Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch. When Nina's eldest sister died at the age of 46, Nina turned to books to assuage her sadness. On her 46th birthday, she decided to read a book a day for a year. She writes about the many books she reads on this year long odyssey, as well as her emotional connection to books.”
Barbara M has “just started Birds of Paradise by Diana Abu-Jaber and I already know that I’ll like it. I love her writing voice and that she peppers her prose with wonderful descriptions of food. “
Abby is reading The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta and Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman. “The Rapture has been predicted by many. They have always been wrong. People have spent their life savings purchasing billboard space to alert people the end is near. Now they have no savings. In this new novel by Tom Perrotta, The Leftovers refers to the people left behind following The Big Event. Since there was no official notice provided at the time, is it really the Rapture or just an inexplicable non-secular event which disappeared millions of people? Perrotta has a unique narrative voice I enjoy that draws attention to the complexities and absurdities of suburbia. In Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman, Tom Violet lives in the shadow of his larger than life father, one of the world's best writers of fiction. That creates tremendous pressure and "issues" when you consider Tom himself wants to be a writer. Funny office antics as Tom self-destructively tries to tear down the things that keep him from declaring himself a writer, and takes a glance down the same road as his mediocre yet talented father. This may cause unpleasant workplaces to be labeled Death Star.
Asha reports in with “Just finished reading The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan. It's easily one of my favorites this year, it's filled with dry humor, homage to classical literature and poetry and of course it deals with one of my favorite subjects...Werewolves. Forget Stephenie Meyer's weak bastardized version of a werewolf. Duncan provides a werewolf that is not only hardcore but he's struggling with his humanity which makes him so likeable and human, it makes you fall in love with him, at least I did. I'm currently reading Busy Monsters by William Giraldi, haven't finished it yet but so far it's great--Charles Homar's fiancé leaves him to go find the kracken which would be normal if it wasn't a mythical creature. This of course, plunges him into depression but he is determined to win her back. Good luck Charles!” Indeed!
Marianne is weighing in with a title that has been most popular this summer. “My recent read is State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. I enjoyed reading this story of an emotionally damaged doctor who travels to the Amazon for a pharmaceutical company to check on the progress of a drug under development there. Her descriptions of the jungle and its native peoples were particularly vivid. If you like plot driven and well written novels, definitely try this.”
In anticipation of Irene’s arrival I read The Sea Captain’s Wife by Beth Powning. Powning brings us the story of Azuba young married woman living in Nova Scotia in the mid 1800’s. When she marries sea captain Nathaniel Bradstock she hopes for a life of travel and adventure with him. Unfortunately after the birth of their first child the Captain throws the anchor over board on her hopes. He knows all too well that the sea is no place for women and children. But when a scandal breaks involving Azuba the only way to save her reputation is to take her and their young daughter to sea. This is a wonderful story about the last days of wooden ships and high adventure on the high seas. I highly recommend it for a weekend when we won’t need to go to the beach, it would appear the beach is coming to us.
Stay safe and stay dry!
Thanks, Hank, and I can guarantee wonderful book goodness which will also prove illuminating as our days grow shorter.
Seriously, this September is one of the best ones I can remember for new releases. Be sure to check out these stellar reads!
Birds of Paradise by Diana Abu-Jaber. In modern day Miami pastry chef Avis and real estate lawyer Brian are still mourning the disappearance of their daughter Felice who ran away when she was thirteen. When she reappears in their lives 5 years later, they all must reexamine just what it means to be a family. If you have loved Abu-Jaber’s previous works as we have, her latest will make you adore her all the more.
On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry. 89 year old Lily is looking back on her life upon the death of her grandson. This Booker nominated novel spans the time and place of the Great War and life in Ireland to Vietnam and America. It sounds like it would be a natural for book groups.
Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks is my pick of the year. How do you define genius writing? For me it is taking a main character that your logic tells you would not give an ounce of empathy or sympathy to and turning it on its ear. The Kid is just such a character. He lives under a causeway in Florida and sports an ankle bracelet. And he is not allowed within 2,500 feet of where children may gather. Despite the warning flags, I promise you too will be rooting for The Kid.
Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach is a baseball book that is not about baseball. When Henry Skrimshander arrives at Westish College to play short stop on the school’s baseball team he is on the top of his game and it would seem that he is destined to play for the Majors. But when a throw goes awry his amazing gift seems to desert him. Even the minor characters in this wonderful debut sing. This is what everyone needs for the Fall. A smart wonderful novel.
Happy End of Summer/Begining of Fall!
Are you ready for some football? The college and pro seasons are just about to start! With the recent Super Bowl successes of the New York Giants and New England Patriots, you may have forgotten that there's a third NFL team in our area, the New York Jets. The Jets are positioning themselves to make a run for the Super Bowl this year, and in just a couple of years, Head Coach Rex Ryan has established himself as one of the best coaches in the entire league.
Ryan's memoir, Play Like You Mean It, came out a couple of months after last season ended, the Jets having finished just one victory short of the championship game. Whether you're a Jets fan or not, all football fans recognize that Ryan coaches with passion and knows how to get the best from his players. He grew up the son of former coach Buddy Ryan and decided at an early age that football was his destiny. Two seasons ago, he earned his first head coaching job and the Jets have reached the AFC Championship Game in both seasons, under his leadership. Is this going to be the year they take that final step and break the franchise's Super Bowl drought?
Outspoken, brilliant, charismatic, driven, and most of all, passionate about the game -- Ryan writes like he coaches. Jets fans are putting their faith in him and he will reward the optimism with an entertaining season that just may end on a podium in Indianapolis next February. Kick-off is September 8!
And the Citizen and I were playing it yesterday with one of our favorite new books, The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson.
The Family Fang tells the story of, well, The Family Fang. Mom and Dad Fang (Camille and Caleb) are performance artists who use their children Annie and Buster (aka Child A and Child B) as part of their “art” (Buster and Annie call it mischief). When the “art” goes too far Annie and Buster are in high school and they say no more moving out and on with their lives as soon as they can.
Unfortunately Annie and Buster come up against some pretty disastrous career and personal setbacks, and they are forced to move back home. Caleb and Camille see this as a wonderful opportunity to perform one last piece. But then the Parents Fang disappear, the possible victims of a violent crime. Or did they?
This book would be tremendous for book groups.
Oh and did I mention that it is devastatingly funny? Because it is.
So anyway, back to the game.
Here is the casting that The Citizen and I agreed on after MUCH discussion:
Caleb Fang –Alec Baldwin
Camille Fang – Diane Keaton
Annie Fang – Christina Ricci
Buster Fang – Toby Maguire
Won’t you please grab a copy and then visit us at The Welcome Desk with casting ideas of your own.
This week’s installment has marketing, missing siblings, agoraphobics and tom foolery, the Amish and courtship rituals.
Let us begin!
Barbara M. says, “I’ve just finished Faith by Jennifer Haigh. It’s a tense drama about a priest accused of child molestation but even more it’s a story of complicated family dynamics. Once I started it I couldn’t put it down. I’ve started reading Unthinking: The Surprising Forces Behind What We Buy by Harry Beckwith - a marketing expert’s theories about what really motivates the choices behind how we make decisions about what we buy.”
Pat T. is “in the middle of reading "Sister by Rosamund Lupton and I look forward to continuing the story each evening as I crawl into bed. Bee returns home to London when her younger sister Tess is reported missing. When her body is discovered the police rule the death a suicide. However, Bee knows her sister well enough to know that she would never have killed herself and she sets out to prove this. There is a good deal of intrigue, as well as the bond of sisterly love.”
Citizen Asha as usual has something unusual. “I am reading Bed by David Whitehouse. An unnamed narrator describes life with his family. His older brother Malcolm has decided to never leave his bed ever again which is great, except now he weighs more than half a ton. His parents cope with it in different ways; his mother enables Malcolm’s tomfoolery while their father escapes to the attic for long periods of time. I’m thoroughly enjoying it. “
Marianne is working her way through, "Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: a Memoir of Going Home by Rhoda Jantzen. "In her early 40s, the author found herself back in her parents' home, enveloped in a life of German folk songs, strudel, borscht, traditional handicrafts and pious religious beliefs." Jantzen manages to bring humor and honesty to her mid-life altering crises. I'm finding this to be a perfect late summer read. And it really is true you can always go home again."
I am in love Jeffrey Eugenides’ new book which is coming out in October. The Marriage Plot looks at the lives and loves of three Brown graduates in the early 1980’s and asks the question, can a traditional love story thrive in the late 20th century? Or have the rituals become obsolete in the face of the practicalities of modern courtship. As always, Eugenides’ characters sing off the page and straight into your heart and mind. Get excited. This one is worth it.
This week’s installment has some rather fascinating features. We have water, water everywhere, a new obsession, peculiarities, three essential ingredients, an affair, and still more Paris.
Barbara M wants all to know, “I’m listening to The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough a devastating account of the flood of 1889 that killed two thousand people. It is even more heart wrenching because it was avoidable. McCullough's writing, compelling and vivid, puts you, the reader, into the action. “ She also has a new obsession in watching “Lark Rise to Candleford a BBC adaptation of Flora Thompson's autobiographical novel set in 19th century England about a young girl who moves to town from the countryside to become a postmistress’ apprentice. “
Citizen Asha as usual is weighing in with something not quite right: “I just finished reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. When I first saw the title at BEA, I figured it would be a great read and I was right. Jacob’s grandfather has been telling him stories of a strange but fantastical orphanage in the Welsh countryside, when his grandfather dies he decides he needs to take a trip to see the orphanage. Only one problem, the orphanage was destroyed on September 3rd, 1940 during an air raid yet, he has a letter from Miss Peregrine dating 1985. Very peculiar.”
Candace is remaining true to type and continuing to ponder her fellow homo sapiens: She is reading The Social Animal by David Brooks and reports that it “is so interesting! I want to buy a copy.”
Pat T. wants all to know that she has “just finished reading another great Douglas Kennedy book - Pursuit of Happiness. His books always have a good plot, great character development and engaging dialogue - three ingredients for a good read!”
Abby says “I’m currently having a fun time with The Affair, the new Jack Reacher novel coming out in September. Armed only with his travel toothbrush and heavy duty English shoes, Jack heads south in this book. The Affair provides good background about Jack's origins and what led him to life out of the military and off the grid. Reacher Creatures should be pleased.”
Elisabeth of Team Tone reports: Right now I am reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. It is a fictional account about Ernest Hemingway's marriage to his first wife, Hadley Richardson, and their life together in Paris at the beginning of his writing career. This story has an intriguing mix of funny and heart-sinking moments, and it provides insight into the personal life of one of America's most revered authors from the perspective of the person that knows him best.
Have a great weekend!
Now you can pick up a whole lot more than a cup of java or a paper at the station!
Look for our spinning rack filled with donated books! Feel free to take one for you commute. And when you’re done, feel free to keep it or pass it on to a fellow commuter.
This week’s installment has the following fascinating elements: a royal wedding, a literary canon, more Paris (like we can ever get enough), a trip down a river, volunteer opportunities, and a baseball book that is not even really about baseball.
Let us begin!
Asha says “Sadly, this week does not feature any sketchy tales, instead--I’m reading Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof. I’ve always wanted to read this book but could never find the time, but then I read Think by Lisa Bloom and she mentions this book and I realized that I had to read it as soon as possible. Between Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed Down World and Half the Sky, I have decided that I need to do more so I started volunteering in Stamford.”
Marianne is working her way through Twenty five Books that Shaped America: How White Whales, Green Lightsand Restless Spirits Forged our National Identity by Thomas C.Foster. “Written by the author of How to Read Literature Like a Professor Foster has chosen twenty five works of literature that he feels significantly impacted the development of the American character. While lists like these are always subjective, this book has really caught my attention. While my intent was to casually peruse and skim through the titles, I keep stopping to read the whole entry. I particularly liked "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The author finds it ironic that the most devastating portrait of capitalism run wild in Roaring 20s New York was written by a person who himself chased everything related to over the top consumerism.”
P-Tone aka Pat T. is enjoying “The Commoner by John Schwartz. Haruko, a young Japanese girl, meets the Crown Prince of Japan at a tennis match and over time and more tennis matches they find they are attracted to one another. Haruko is from a good family, but none the less a commoner who marries the Crown Princess and must learn the customs and culture of the Imperial Family. She overcomes many hardships throughout her marriage and perseveres to become the Empress of Japan.”
Abby says “There are a times I need to wait a bit once I've finished a book to decide how I felt about it. For me, Once Upon A River by Bonnie Jo Campbell was that kind of book. I've decided I really liked it! Set in the early 1980's this unique mix of The Odyssey and Huckleberry Finn follows the story of young Margot Crane who decides to live on and off of the river outside of Kalamazoo, Michigan. I was a huge fan of Tom Robb Smith's debut novel Child 44, and to a slightly lesser degree The Secret Speech. I was incredibly excited when the publisher sent me an advance copy of his latest, Agent 6. See, I don't just read Scandinavian crime; I am also sucker for a mystery set in the old Soviet Union. In this series, lead character Leo Demidov is an agent of the State. Leo works hard to be a believer in the State yet has strong issues of conscience with the demands of the Stalinist government. His relationship with his wife, Raisa is also somewhat fascinating. I'm not yet far into Agent 6, but look forward to seeing Leo's struggle and continued evolution.”
I am really enjoying a first novel that is coming out the beginning of September. Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding is a book that is about baseball the way A River Runs Through It is about fly fishing. What this means is that you do not need to be sportif (and please believe me when I say I am so very far from sportif ) to enjoy this wonderful glimpse into the world of Westish College and most specifically Henry Skrimshander, star short stop, who seems to be destined for the Big Leagues until something goes horribly wrong and his whole life’s purpose is called into question. Even the minor characters are lush and fully formed and I must say I love them all.
Have a happy weekend!
Yes Sam, August can be a bit rough but when you have some wonderful juicy new book goodness it certainly helps.
Here is what we are excited about for August!
In The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson, Annie and Buster have made rather a hash of their adult lives. How bad are things? Well, they are so bad that they must return home to their parents, Caleb and Camille, performance artists who used Annie and Buster all through their childhoods to create their “art”. Now that the family is reunited they want to perform one last piece. Will Annie and Buster relent and participate? This is a wonderful book that asks the question how far can an artist go for his or her art?
Next to Love by Ellen Feldman examines the darker side of The Greater Generation. Babe and her friends Grace and Millie marry their beaus and then send them overseas to fight in World War II. But only two husbands come home. This novel examines what life was like for both the men who fought the war and came home and the women who waited for them. The scars of war are not just the provenance of returning soldiers. This is a huge favorite for those of us who have read it and we cannot wait to share it.
In Among the Wonderful by Stacy Carlson takes us back to the Manhattan of the 1840s. When P.T. Barnum takes over the dusty Natural History museum the lives of Ana, the 8’ giantess and cranky Emile the resident taxidermist are turned upside down. Change is on the horizon for them both and the question is how they will individually deal with it. Carlson shows us a New York filled with oddities and outsiders both real and imagined.
Tom Violet always thought that by the time he reached a certain age things would be delightfully predictable. Nice wife ensconced in a nice home with a nice dog to come home to after a day working at his nice job. Sadly things have just not worked out that way. In Matthew Norman’s Domestic Violets we get a portrait of a man who has decided not to take his soul sucking life in stride with hilarious results. This one is for fans of Richard Russo or Jonathan Tropper.
Enjoy your Dog Days! September is sooner than you think!