Greetings and welcome to the Warring Rodent’s Edition of You Are What You Read. As you are all very aware, I am sure, yesterday was Groundhog Day. A day, in which we seem to throw modern science and fancy book learning to the winds and let rodents make climate predictions for us.
While it is a predominately German tradition, there are glimmers of it in Scotland and England also. The premise is one that we are all well aware of. If the hibernating rodent comes out of its burrow on February 2nd and sees his/her shadow we are in for another six weeks of life on the frozen tundra, or as this depressing German ditty puts it:
For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day,So far will the snow swirl until May.For as the snow blows on Candlemas Day,So far will the sun shine before May.
I don’t know about you all but I think that if we have snow swirling in May, we have way bigger problems than any rodent popping out of a hole could ever solve.
Which brings us to this; a very real problem; Punxsutawney Phil, who is the Rodent of Record saw his shadow and has proclaimed that Winter’s icy reign will continue for another 6 weeks. And really there is nothing new in that. Phil’s been ruining the party for years now.
Now the groundhog that the Weather Channel has named the next best thing to Phil is in our very own backyard. Staten Island Chuck resides (no surprise) at the Staten Island Zoo and goes by the full name of Charles G. Hogg VII despite the fact that Chuck is really a lady groundhog. I am sure that you all remember her predecessor Charles G. Hogg VI and the bad end that came to him when he bit the current mayor of New York a few years back, prompting His Honor to drop Chuck the VI culminating in his untimely demise. Anyway, Chuck VII and his/her people have proclaimed that Spring is right around the corner.
People! Who do we believe? Phil or Chuck? Just when can we commence to safely wagering on the Bare Leg?
Granted Phil has that whole movie career cache and you can’t fault the whole tradition thing that he has going for him but I feel we can’t count out Chuck. The paper of note, The New York Times, says Chuck has a solid lead in the correct percentage of his predictions. According to them, Chuck has an 80% success rate where Phil has only been right 39% of the time. Rest assured that over the next six weeks we will be keeping score and holding the Warring Factions accountable. But I think that I like the idea of Chuck, the scrappy, politician-biting upstart making Phil work a little harder for his renown. Think of it as All About Eve but instead of Broadway actresses, we’re talking about sharp clawed rodents with severe overbites. You can read about it at The New York Times.
This week we have Prussia and South Carolina, Asia, lots of books, a thriller, and FIRE!
The Playlist? We wouldn’t leave you out in the cold, of course there is The Playlist.
Let us begin!
Kaitlin from the Rock is back! “Hi! I've been into a couple pretty heavy books recently. The first is Salt to the Sea, by Ruta Sepetys. I had loved Sepetys' first novel, Between Shades of Gray, and Salt to the Sea was a great follow up to that story. Similar to Between Shades of Gray, she focuses on a little-told story of WWII: the plight of refugees from Eastern Europe and the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff ship. The story focuses on four young adults, including a girl from Poland, a nurse from Lithuania, a young man from East Prussia, and a German soldier eager to climb the ranks. The narrator changes from chapter to chapter, and secrets are revealed about each character. It's a very quick read, and one that had me scouring the internet for more information on what happened. The other book I'm almost finished with is The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd. It tells the story of Sarah, the daughter of a judge in Charleston, SC in the early 1800s, and Handful, the slave she is presented with to be her own on her 10th birthday. The chapters alternate between Sarah's and Handful's points of view, starting with when they are 10 and continuing on well into adulthood. It's taken me a little while to get through it, mainly because I want to soak up each chapter. I definitely recommend it as another wonderful historical fiction novel.”
Laura has just finished The Spy by Paulo Coelho. “I never knew that the Mata Hari was a spy and that she had been executed by firing squad. My only references of her were as an exotic, mystical dancer from Asia. Paulo Coelho sets the record straight in his latest novel, The Spy. Her story begins when as a young Dutch woman named Margaretha who had an obsession and curiosity for adventure, answered an advertisement to marry a Dutch officer who was stationed in the West Indies. Trapped in a lifeless, loveless marriage she set out to start her career in dance and the stage that mesmerized audiences, for decades. As World War I loomed, her patrons included officers of the German and French armies. Was she a spy? ‘I am a woman who was born at the wrong time and nothing can be done to fix this. I don’t know if the future will remember me, but if it does, may it never see me as a victim, but as someone who moved forward with courage, fearlessly paying the price she had to pay.’’
Pat T Still listening. “I just finished listening to Books for Living by Will Schwalbe. Although the narration was just fair, the book was great; a combination of memoir and philosophical exploration of the question ‘what are you reading?’Schwalbe says, ‘it is a simple question, but a powerful one, and it can change lives creating a shared universe for people who are otherwise separated by culture and age and by time and space.’ The author devotes each chapter to a book that was life changing for him at the time. His selections range from Reading Lolita in Tehran, Stuart Little, Gift from the Sea to more recent selections such as A Little Life. What I like about the author's thoughtful reflections on these books is the reminder that our lives are perpetually enhanced by reading, allowing us to discover a world of possibilities, as we step into someone else's shoes. Another great thing is that the author believes, ’reading and naps’ go together! What a perfect combination!"
Steph! What’s up? “Jen, you know I am sick to death of publishers claiming a book is the new The Girl on the Train, because I’ve been disappointed by so many flat plots and paper-thin characters. So I’m not going to say that Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson is a great read for those who enjoyed TGOTT, because I know that’s meaningless at this point. But I will say that Swanson’s latest is a well-written thriller that outshines almost every other thriller I read in 2016. A well-told story with echoes of Patricia Highsmith—it’s a little uneven, but overall no matter how bizarre it got, I was willing to suspend disbelief to see what would happen next. Perfect reading for a cold winter’s night, though once you get 50 pages in, you’ll definitely get up to go close all the curtains.”
The Always Delightful Pat S has finished The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve. “This latest Shreve has caught me by surprise-and I mean that in a good way. At Jen’s suggestion, (once again!), I tackled this title with fairly low expectations, and came away delighted I made the effort. Taking place in Maine right after WWII has ended, we are introduced to Grace, a twenty-four-year-old mother of two who lives the life of a housewife caring for her children, home and young husband Gene. We soon come to discover that the shotgun marriage is a marriage in name only, not a love match. While Grace knows that she doesn’t feel close to her husband, that it isn’t normal that they don’t talk, that their intimate life is far from satisfactory she has no idea what to do about it. At the end of a long, record breaking heat wave, the coastal towns of Maine are hit with a rolling fire that decimates lives, homes, and entire towns. Grace is alone when the fire claims her home, and only through quick thinking does she manage to save herself and her children. Gene disappears into the chaos and Grace emerges homeless, penniless but alive. Into this vacuum that used to be her life, Grace discovers freedoms and joys that she had never before experienced. And just as she is beginning to fully appreciate her new life as it is, her worse fears are realized when Gene returns. The story has great pacing and the characters are wonderfully drawn. This is a winner!”
DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here from That State Up North with the final musings and The Playlist. She has her voice back People. Commence the Rejoicing. What’s good Pats? Pennsylvania has Phil and Staten Island has Chuck but we’ve got Turnip the Skunk! Turnip is an official ambassador for the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, Michigan. On February 2nd, Turnip came out, strut his stuff and chose a pile of sand over a pile of snow, thus signaling six more weeks of winter for us folks here in Michigan. How did a skunk become an official weather predicting animal? Well, you’ll just have to read about that [here (http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2017/02/turnip_the_skunk_predicts_an_e.html)]
If you feel like you’re stuck in a loop, you’re sure to find some pleasure in this week’s playlist. It’s Groundhog Day folks! May the next six weeks bring more sunshine into your life and take you out of the endless loop of cold, grey skies. I think we all could use a little more sunshine and warmth right about now.