Europe during World War II is the setting of many novels and it’s really no surprise. Such horror, fear, and devastation create an environment ripe for personal conflicts, long odysseys, and overcoming trials on an unimaginable scale. And, as with anything, there are novels that use this setting to their advantage and others that fall flat. Anthony Doerr’s latest work, All the Light We Cannot See, works with the period very well and you would do well to check it out.
For the most part, the novel intertwines the stories of two young individuals from different sides of the conflict. There is Marie-Louise, the visually-impaired daughter of the locksmith and keeper of keys for the Museum of Natural History in Paris. Her father’s position aides in her curiosity about the natural sciences and she loves to read Jules Verne. Before the occupation of Paris, she is forced to flee with her father to Saint-Malo and there is the possibility that they are carrying one of the Museum’s most prized possessions. Or is it a decoy? Marie-Louise’s story is paired with Werner’s, a German orphan with an innate understanding of radios and radio frequency. His ability opens the door for him to attend an elite military school to work on special radio projects and prepare for working with radio units in the field. Of course, this leads him to Saint-Malo on a mission to find French resistance fighters using radio transmissions, right before the allies began a bombing campaign on the port city.
There are many surprising links between Marie-Louise and Werner before this Saint-Malo connection and Doerr reveals them skillfully. I also appreciated how Doerr played with time in the narrative, starting with the bombing of Saint-Malo and weaving in the back story steadily. Many novels work this way, but his was well-paced and structured.
Anchored by terrific performances and beautifully shot, True Detective is so much more than your typical police procedural. The story follows Louisiana State Police Detectives Rust Cohle and Martin Hart–played by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson– as they are asked to recollect a bizarre homicide that they solved in 1995. As they get deeper into the questioning, it becomes obvious that the investigation wasn’t as open-and-shut as it appeared.
The show has a deliberate pace that may turn off some viewers, but stick with it! Give it until the fourth episode which has a six-minute tracking shot that will blow your mind. Personally, I was hooked right away by McConaughey’s perfectly delivered nihilistic musings. There are very few television shows like this. I cannot recommend it enough.
How do you select the next book to read? For me it is often from reviews or blogs or when a cover catches my eye as I walk by or put a book out for display, but I think the best suggestions come from friends. I just finished Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant because a friend recommended it and it is one of the best books I have read in a long time. I was hesitant at first; Chast is the brilliant cartoonist for the New Yorker, but illustrated novels or memoirs are not my cup of tea.
Chast tells the story of her parents George and Elizabeth’s final years with drawings and photos. It is funny, laugh out loud funny – so funny that you want to find someone and read them the passage or show them the cartoon and have them laugh with you. It is also heartbreakingly poignant. Her parents have no desire to leave their Brooklyn apartment; their home since marriage. The home that Chast discovered had become through benign neglect a hoarders paradise and more and more unfit for her aged parents. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant is about escape and return, avoidance and confrontation, about coming face to face with the reality we are all growing older and that our parents will not live forever. And I really want to talk about it. Please read it and let’s chat.
I went a little crazy at the farmers market the other day. I bought the first container of strawberries I spotted and snacked on them while strolling the other tables.
I ended up purchasing two more pints to replace the ones I ate.
It seemed like a great idea at the time — strawberry season is never long enough — but then I had a pile of strawberries I needed to use before they went bad. I also forgot about the two pints of blueberries already in the refrigerator.
Flipping through the colorful pages, my stomach rumbling the whole time, I found the perfect recipe for my strawberry and blueberry situation: Jumbo Blueberry Streusel Muffins. I added strawberries to the list of ingredients and ended up with a grab-and-go breakfast that made me and my family happy for several days.
I posted a picture of the muffins on the Library’s Instagram account. If you are on Instagram or twitter, please share photos of the great recipes you’ve made because of ICPL’s cookbook collection using the with the #cookingwithicpl hashtag. It’s the next best thing to a city-wide potluck!
Leah and I were in 4-H together many years ago. She was a few years older than me and someone who I looked up to. It was fun to hear her read, and learn about her ‘slices of life’ – mother of teenagers, writer, cancer survivor, and much more. When she was signing my book afterwards, my friend mentioned our 4-H connection. Leah wondered if I remembered the goats she showed at the fair. I didn’t, but our conversation conjured happy memories for me of showing my rabbits and dog at the Johnson County Fair.
I’ve enjoyed Leah Eskin’s Slices of Life and how she connects her slices of life with her experiences. One entry that jumped out at me was an ode to her dog, Theo, as an introduction to the “Summer Couscous” recipe. After losing our dog to old age and illness last week, I still have a raw emotion when I think about the human-dog bond. Eskin writes, “At dinnertime we come. We sit. We stay for something delicious, something that fetches memories of meals past. Happily gnawing on a stick of grilled lamb, hunched over a jackpot of couscous, we know that in our family, we all speak the same language.”
I also appreciate the index to the book and the suggestions Eskin weaves into the list. For example, “BRUNCH: I always make Onion Tart (page 153). Other good ideas: Tortilla Espanola (page 185), Sparkling Salad (page 64), and Crab Cakes (page 111).”
Slices of Life is a wonderful tribute to love, cooking, connections and life. And the recipes are yummy too …
I believe most of us remember where we were on September 11, 2001, when four planes were turned into weapons and crashed into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the Pennsylvania countryside. I was already at work here at the Library when I became aware of a group of staff clustered around a television in our audiovisual services area. When we realized the magnitude of what was happening we opened our big meeting room to the public, showing the ongoing news coverage on the big screen there. In the Library’s annual report for that year, Director Susan Craig described what it was like: “It was incredible to sit in the darkened room and watch the news with strangers, some in small groups, most just individuals. When I was there no one actually spoke, but I felt a connection with everyone in the room.”
The Stories They Tell: Artifacts from the National September 11 Memorial Museum reconnects us to the events that day and the long recovery process that followed. The Museum is part of the September 11 memorial site where the Twin Towers once stood. The pictures in this book are simple but evocative. The essays which accompany them—more like letters to the reader—are written by staff members of the Museum.
Many of the artifacts in the Museum are from the crash sites; others include the transcripts from phone calls from people on the planes, missing-person posters that blanketed New York City, and the Memorial Urn, with the names of the 2,977 victims on it, created by ceramicist Tom Lane.
It is difficult to choose just one or two examples to tell you more about. Should it be the recording of flight attendant Betty Ong’s hijack report? Or Karyn’s flight attendant wings, or the Last Column at Ground Zero, or patrol dog Sirius’s leash, or the wreckage of Engine 21 of the Fire Department of New York?
Each story brought goose bumps or tears, and often both. The professionalism of the flight attendants on the planes and the emergency responders on the ground, the many expressions of compassion and generosity during the tragedy and in its aftermath are unforgettable reminders of the prevailing goodness in humanity. If you are unable to visit the Museum in person, this book is the next best way to witness that.
Console Wars by Blake J. Harris is a narrative account of the rivalry between Sega and Nintendo, the two video game behemoths of the nineties. The book mainly focuses on the meteoric rise of Sega and the man behind it: Tom Kalinske. Tom became the CEO of Sega of America in the late eighties, and turned Sega and its 16-bit console the Genesis from underdogs to market leaders. Console Wars details how he pulled this off. The history of Nintendo is also delved into, but, for the most part, they’re portrayed as the enemy. As someone who owned a Genesis, I was surprised and interested in the inner workings of the video game industry. I highly recommend Console Wars to gamers and anyone who grew up during the nineties.
I discovered this wonderful book when someone described it as being similar to Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society and The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry. I don’t think I would compare it to those books (which I’d highly recommend) but I’m also not sure how I would describe it. Is it a love story? Is it a coming of age story? Is it a mystery? Is it a book with strong characters? Does it have a strong sense of place? I could answer yes to all of the above.
A quick look at the subject headings reveals these entries:
Indeed, this is a book about all of these things. But it is also so much more. A.J. Fikry owns a book store and he loves books. He’s not just any bookseller, though. He is picky, contrite, a wee bit arrogant, and has poor customer service skills. Despite all these faults, he has a passion for books. A.J. Fikry also has a capacity to love. When his life takes turns he never imagined, and A.J. Fikry finds himself in the depths of despair, his redemption is his capacity to love. And love is what makes this book so wonderful. A love for people, community, literature, and most of all, a love of family.
Set in Washington State during the turn of the century, Amanda Coplin’s The Orchardist gently unfolds the consequences of trying to make up for the past. Two teenage girls, both pregnant, appear on William Talmadge’s apricot and apple orchard looking for food. The girls remind Talmadge, a middle-aged, lonely, withdrawn man, of his sister, who disappeared as a teenager while foraging in the forest. The loss and love of his sister pushes him to provide for the girls, Della and Jane, and they take the help as long as it is provided from a distance. As Della, Jane, and Talmadge slowly become more at ease with each other and find themselves somewhat dependent on one another, armed men from the girls’ shared past show up at the orchard looking to collect the girls. Their appearance sets in motion another tragedy for William Talmadge. The majority of The Orchardist is how Talmadge, and those around him, cope with the consequences of what happens on that day.
It is a beautiful book, well-written with interesting characters. And the narration and the setting allow you to get really lost in the story–a perfect book for the start of the summer. However, if you want to start reading The Orchardist now (and you should!), I recommend reading inside. The gnats are horrible this time of year and they bite!