Posted on Friday, May 11, 2012 - 12:30pm
In The Magic Room, journalist and author (The Girls From Ames) Jeffrey Zaslow uses Becker’s Bridal, a family business in Michigan, as a lens to examine marriage, love, and parenthood. Becker’s has been in the family for three generations; when a mother-daughter pair comes looking for the daughter’s wedding dress, it’s likely the mother got her dress from Becker’s, too. (The “magic room” is a mirrored room upstairs where the brides-to-be can see themselves in the dress they think might be “the one.”) Zaslow tells the story of several women throughout the book, including the Becker women; he writes with rare insight, sincerity, and compassion, perhaps because he had three daughters of his own. (Zaslow died in a car crash in February 2012.)
Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 - 2:00pm
Despite the cover, Maine is not a light beach read; it’s a multigenerational story featuring four complex (and not always likable) female characters. There’s Alice, the grandmother who feels responsible for her sister’s death decades earlier; Kathleen, Alice’s daughter, who broke with the whole family and moved to California; Maggie, Kathleen’s daughter, a semi-successful writer in Brooklyn who has just discovered she’s pregnant; and finally the “perfect” Ann Marie, Alice’s daughter-in-law, underappreciated by most and outright resented by some. They are truly “four unforgettable women who have nothing in common but the fact that, like it or not, they’re family.” The author writes from each character’s perspective with incredible insight and depth of feeling; this is truly a character-driven story that explores the nature of familiar bonds. Recommended for those who enjoyed Faith by Jennifer Haigh or The Widower’s Tale by Julia Glass.
Posted on Monday, May 7, 2012 - 11:07am
The Library Book is a collection of twenty-three short essays and stories in support of libraries. Authors, radio and TV personalities, librarians, and other prominent members of society have contributed to this lovely collection that celebrates the joys of reading and all that public libraries have to offer. Lucy Mangan’s piece “The Rules” is particularly funny, “Library Life” by Zadie Smith is insightful and incisive, and in “Have You Heard of Oscar Wilde?” Stephen Fry describes the importance of libraries to education and personal growth. “Libraries,” writes Hardeep Singh Kohli, “are the heartbeats of communities.” Profits from the sale of the book go to The Reading Agency, an independent British charity whose mission is to inspire people to read more.
Posted on Saturday, May 5, 2012 - 7:38pm
There are now three Flour locations in the Boston area, and this cookbook by the bakery’s owner/founder reveals how to make some of her scrumptious baked goods at home. There are sections on techniques, equipment, and ingredients, along with “Joanne’s Top 12 Baking Tips.” (Chang wisely explains the “why” along with the “what,” effective for convincing home bakers that yes, the recipe is that way for a reason.) Beginning bakers will probably find some recipes intimidating, but others manageable; Chang includes a little personal story before each recipe, and includes ingredient measurements in both volume and weight. The photos are gorgeous, too.
Posted on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - 5:10pm
Fans of The Bloggess know what they’re in for with this book; others may be completely unprepared for Lawson’s brand of humor and her unbelievable tales of taxidermy and mental breakdowns (sometimes but not always related). Lawson’s childhood in rural Texas was as unlike “normal” childhood as one could possibly imagine; in addition to the wild animals (bobcats, raccoons) her father routinely and cheerfully introduced into the household, she suffered from acute anxiety disorder. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened is rambling, inappropriate (you’ve been warned), and hilarious.
Posted on Friday, April 27, 2012 - 1:29pm
Meet Flavia de Luce, a bright and devious eleven-year-old; often left to her own devices, she is an amateur chemist and avid student of poisons. Set at Buckshaw, the crumbling family house, in England in the 1950s, Flavia is intrigued rather than horrified when murder occurs nearby, and throws herself into the investigation with gusto. Being a mystery, the novel is plot-driven, but Flavia is a highly amusing character (though rather more capable, observant, and self-aware than most real-life eleven-year-olds). This is the first in a series of four (so far) mysteries in which Flavia stars, and if you like this one, you’ll almost certainly enjoy the rest: The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, A Red Herring Without Mustard, and I Am Half-Sick of Shadows.
Posted on Wednesday, April 25, 2012 - 8:05pm
Seventeen-year-old Marcus Yallow circumvents his San Francisco high school’s clumsy surveillance with ease, but when a terrorist attack blows up the Bay Bridge, Marcus and his friends are in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are picked up by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), imprisoned, and interrogated. Once Marcus is freed, he finds that his city now resembles a police state, with privacy and security being sacrificed in the name of freedom. In response to this crackdown, Marcus uses all the technology skills at his disposal to take down the unethical DHS. Doctorow keeps the plot moving swiftly forward, and packs a significant amount of information, from history to hacking, into the story without making it seem like a lecture. Little Brother is riveting in its pacing, characters, and the story’s twists and turns, and it is as thought-provoking as any dystopia before it or after. A real page-turner, great for young adults especially.
Posted on Friday, April 20, 2012 - 9:05am
Hadley Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife (of five), narrates this tale of their relationship, their friends, and the city in which they live. Author Paula McLain does an impressive job of bringing not just the characters, but the atmosphere of the time and place to life as well: the Jazz Age of Paris in the 1920s. Readers encounter literary legends Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and Ezra Pound. Hemingway’s second wife, Pauline, is also a character, and his final wife Mary makes a brief appearance as well. Hadley grows in strength and independence through the years, and as the title suggests, the story is more hers than Hemingway’s. This is a great book for fans of history and literature – and for those who like neat endings, an epilogue describes Hadley’s and Ernest’s last contact, in May 1961.
Posted on Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - 5:07pm
The subtitle of MWF Seeking BFF (“married white female seeking best friend forever”) is my yearlong search for a new best friend, and that’s exactly the mission Bertsche chronicles here: her year-long project to find a best friend in a new city. After leaving her lifelong best friends behind in New York and moving to Chicago with her husband, Bertsche decides she needs a local best friend, and the best way to find “the one,” she determines, is to go on 52 “friend dates” throughout the year. The narrative is infused with the author’s bubbling personality, and she includes research on friendship; MWF Seeking BFF is similar to Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project in this way, though this is a less rigorous, more fun read. Recommended for anyone who’s ever had to move to a new place and make new friends, but especially for women in their 20s and 30s.
Posted on Saturday, April 14, 2012 - 9:44am
Faith is told mostly in the first person from the point of view of Sheila, whose older half-brother Art, a priest, is accused of child molestation in Boston in 2002. Sheila believes he is innocent; her younger brother Mike is less sure; their mother can't bear to speak of it. Haigh conveys the intricate emotional balances of the family and the Boston Irish Catholic community beautifully; there is much more to the story than the newspapers report, and Sheila discovers and relates it all to the reader. Haigh handles the sensitive subject matter deftly and unflinchingly. This is a unique book.
Wilmington Memorial Library
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