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Dori’s Top Books of 2015 December 17, 2015

Posted by Dori in Audio, Biographies, Book List, Fantasy, Fiction, First Novel, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Non-Fiction, Top Ten, Top Ten of 2015.
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Every year I say this and every year it’s true: I did not read nearly enough this year! I’ve been perusing all the lists of Best Books including my RRPL coworkers’ lists and realized that I’ve missed so many – the pile on my nightstand is calling…

In the meantime, here’s a list of books, in no particular order, that thrilled, chilled, amazed, and enlightened me – books that took me to other places, be they the heads of other people, fantastical lands or back in time.

The Book of Aaron by Jim Shepard: told through the eyes of a young Jewish boy as the Nazis sweep through Warsaw – the emotional impact, the plain, raw language – just wow.

The Whites by Richard Price writing as Harry Brandt: I’ve never read Price before, but I am now a fan. A gritty look at crime and cops in New York with a well-drawn cast of characters. I listened to it and the narrator really captured all the voices.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik: a fantastic fairy tale for grown-ups – go strong women!

Purity by Jonathan Franzen: while maybe not the best of Franzen, it’s a fascinating look at secrecy vs. transparency – in families, in societies and on the internet.

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins: a weird, violent and really different book that sucks you in with its fantastical story and its offbeat, kick-a@* heroine.

H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald : a memoir about recovering from the sudden death of her father – beautiful writing, natural history lessons and a look at T.H. White – an odd mix that works perfectly.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff – I love, love, love Lauren Groff – her lush and lyrical writing makes me swoon! It’s the president’s favorite book, too!

A Spool of Blue Thread by Ann Tyler: another audiobook – I’m a sucker for a family story and this slow, meandering look at the Whitshank family through the years resonates.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates: this timely book by a writer at The Atlantic is a letter to the author’s son about his experiences as a black man in America. It’s both eye-opening and beautifully written with soaring and passionate prose.

Speak by Louisa Hall: this novel surprised and moved me – it’s told from a number of voices across centuries and explores artificial intelligence while stressing our essential needs for communication and connection.

Enjoy and Happiest of Holidays!

~ Dori



Your Book Your Brew November 5, 2015

Posted by Dori in Audio, Biographies, Book Discussion, Book List, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, New Books, Non-Fiction.
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Both the brews and the books were flowing when the Your Book Your Brew group met Friday, October 23 at Tommy’s Summer Place. We each shared 2 to 3 books that we’d enjoyed and then the discussion took off!

Here’s the list:



The Day We Met by Rowan Coleman and Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave



Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee and The Wives of Los Alamos by Tarashea Nesbit



Torch by Cheryl Strayed and The Camilla Lackberg series



Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans, Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery and Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy



Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff and Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal



Purity by Jonathan Franzen, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, Luminaries by Eleanor Cotton and Lord Fear and Class A, both by Lucas Mann



Nemesis by Catherine Coulter, Beach Town by MaryKay Andrews, Liar by Nora Roberts and Alert by James Patterson

Other books that came up in the conversation were two books by food guru Ruth Reichl, her new memoir My Kitchen Year and her foray into fiction, Delicious. We reminisced about the children’s book All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor and discussed a few biographies, including those about Johnny Carson and Charles Manson and a memoir by actress Jennie Garth (yes, that’s how it goes when you’re talking books – all over the map!). We also talked about The Women’s Room, a feminist novel published in the late 70s, The Library at Mount Char, a weird but really good new science fiction book that Stacey and I listened to and heard raves about Tampa, by Alisa Nutting.

Thanks to Ann, Ed, Sarah, Sarah, Donna and Mike for joining us and we hope more folks will come along and share some book recommendations at our next meeting on Friday, December 11th at 5pm at Erie Island Coffee Co.


Listen Up! July 16, 2014

Posted by stacey in Audio, Book Discussion, Book List, Genre Book Discussion.
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This was such an easy category to define! Audiobooks are any book of any genre, it’s only limited by the format -you need to listen with your ears not read with your eyes. Love it! The only catch? I think it takes time to be a good audiobook listener, but once you’ve got the knack you’ll find all sorts of chores aren’t as horrible anymore. Let’s listen in (haha!) to what everyone had to say about their selection this time around, shall we?

Carol: Joseph Finder’s edge-of-your-seat thriller Suspicion takes place in contemporary Boston. Writer and single dad Danny Goodman finds that he can no longer afford his daughter’s fancy private school and is given a generous loan by her best friend’s dad, millionaire Thomas Galvin. Galvin might work for a drug cartel though, and the DEA wants Danny to snitch–putting Danny’s and his daughter’s lives in jeopardy. This was a great book to listen to, but next time I pick up a book by Finder, I’ll be sure to get a paper copy to allow me to read it at the lightning fast pace his books deserve!

Julie: Published eight years ago, Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma is just as important for every American to read (or listen to!) today. We are plagued with too much, often conflicting, information on the age old question of what to eat for dinner. Something seemingly simple has become incredibly complicated, but Pollan helps us understand it better. I read the book many years ago and have found that listening to it is even easier and the narrator, Scott Brick, very good at bringing what is already compelling nonfiction, to life.

Steve: Happy, Happy, Happy: My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander, by Phil Robertson, is the autobiography of the patriarch of the popular Duck Dynasty clan. Phil tells of his life story, warts and all, and you might be surprised to learn that he was not a real nice guy, walking out on his family for a life or partying before finding God. The stories about starting the duck call business are pretty funny and are the true strength of the book. There is some preaching and Bible quoting, but it’s not until the later chapters that it becomes more prominent. Narrator Al Robertson, the eldest son of the family, lends an authentic voice to this audio version.

Jamie: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson is set in Newcago (the city formerly known as Chicago) after an unknown event has altered the humans of Earth. Now they come in two categories: normal and epic. Epics have special powers they use for their own gain and rule any weaker opponent with no mercy, until David decides to enact revenge for his father’s death. Everyone thinks that Steelheart is unbreakable, that he has no weakness. But, David has seen him bleed. He sets out to join the Reckoners, a group of ordinary people that study the weaknesses of Epics and destroy them. The reader of this audiobook is MacLeod Andrews, who really brings the action to life.

Megan: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin and narrated by Scott Brick is like a love letter to little bookstores and people who love them. It is at once both a heartwarming and heartbreaking story about the power of words. After the death of his wife, bookstore owner A.J. Fikry seems determined to wallow in grief and drink himself to death. However, a bizarre and seemingly unrelated series of events provide A.J. with an opportunity to rebuild his life. Scott Brick, an acclaimed voice artist, is the award-winning narrator of over 600 audiobooks. Fans of audiobooks will no doubt recognize his familiar voice, while those new to listening will be charmed by his work.

Emma: In Can’t Wait to get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg, Elner Shimfissle falls off a ladder while picking figs upsetting a hornets’ nest. She dies later at the hospital, enters heaven temporarily, and meets up with a variety of people including her sister, Ginger Rogers, and Thomas Edison. But heaven isn’t ready for Elner just yet. An uplifting and entertaining story.

Lauren: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson relies heavily on Larson’s research of primary source material and recounts the people and events surrounding the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Larson writes in a signature “narrative nonfiction” style, telling the story of true events in a way that reads like fiction. We learn about Chicago before the turn of the century and the Chicago World’s Fair through two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the lead architect of the Fair, and Dr. H.H. Holmes, the man known as “America’s first serial killer,” who lured victims into the labyrinthine Chicago hotel where he did his killing. This book keeps up a swift pace by moving back and forth the creation of the Fair and the sinister actions of Dr. Holmes. Larson takes us on a journey from the construction of the White City through the opening of the Fair and it’s reception around the world, as well as from the moment Holmes claims his first victim to the moment the law finally catches up to the killer. The audiobook is read by Scott Brick. Brick has an impressive resume and brings a smooth and sophisticated tone to the narration that really keeps the listener entranced.

Chris: Bossypants written and read by the great Tina Fey was a real joy. I read the book when it first came out, and even though Tina’s voice was in my head, her comedic timing wasn’t. Oh, what a difference; the audio was so much better. Hearing her recount her dating experiences, working dilemmas—at Second City, SNL and 30 Rock—and just her quirky observations shouldn’t be missed.

Stacey: Homeland by Cory Doctorow is the sequel to Little Brother and I would suggest reading them in order for maximum enjoyment, but it’s not deal breaker. The content of these stories is reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984, with the Government playing fast and loose with the civil rights of citizens but the more recent publishing dates appropriately reflect the changes in technology, the global political climate, and still manage to include entertaining pop culture references! A bonus feature to the audio edition? Wil Wheaton is the reader!! So. Much. Fun! -and thought-provoking too.

Next time? We’re going from one pretty open-ended genre -audiobooks- with plenty of options to another pretty open-ended genre -award winners! The easy-peasy definition of this genre: the book you chose won some sort of official, recognized award! Enjoy!

— Stacey

Mistaken lyrical identity May 16, 2014

Posted by Julie in Audio, Music.
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You know how we often interpret emails and texts differently that they may have been meant? Tone of voice and gestures can create totally different meaning. And who hasn’t heard lyrics differently, not just meaning but the completely wrong words. Like hearing the classic Jimi Hendrix lyrics from “Purple Haze”: Excuse me while I kiss this guy. No wait, back it up, that’s: Excuse me while I kiss the sky.

bonnie tylerAnd the Bonnie Tyler song, “Total Eclipse of the Heart?” First of all, how many remember it?? And then did any of you know she was singing: Living in a powder keg and giving off sparks? I never had a clue…it became “hmmm hmm hm hmmm” and then hop back in with: I really need you tonight, forever’s gonna start tonight

Anyway, my latest is the Bastille song, “Pompeii“, I really thought they were singing: I’m beginning to be an optimist about this. Well, that misconception was just corrected for me to the detriment of my outlook. It’s really: How am I going to be an optimist about this. Of course, the video and the rest of the lyrics aren’t terribly upbeat, so I should’ve seen it didn’t fit…. Oh well, I think I’ll keep singing it with my interpretation!

— Julie

Dori’s Best of 2013 December 20, 2013

Posted by Dori in Audio, Fiction, Top Ten.
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Another year of great books, but when I read all these end of the year lists, all I can think of is that there are so many left undone! But enough wallowing…here are my favorites:

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra: delves into the surreal horror and tenderness of the lives of Chechens during their ethnic civil war. When Russian soldiers kill her father, a village doctor hides a young girl with a surgeon in the nearest city – we learn of their past, present and future and how they all weave together.

The Good Lord Bird by James McBride: a remarkable look at abolitionist John Brown – told from the perspective of a young slave – there was some repetition that an editor should have addressed, but the subject, story, language and wit made it unique and wow, that John Brown was some crazy bad*ss!  – crazy sane!

The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner: this one was a difficult read, but it’s stuck with me – the story of a woman artist in the 70’s – the tone was so amazing plus the cover, I mean, come on, doesn’t that tempt you?

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes: what starts out as a seemingly cute potential relationship story evolves into one addressing euthanasia – really well done.

The Son: a Novel by Philipp Meyer: an epic western historical saga – just my cup of tea – with lots of details about the lives of American Indians and Anglo/Mexican relations. I could not put it down.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – Gaiman’s weird world of memory and childhood; so intriguing.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer: I listened to this one on audiobook and even though I did not love all the characters, I found this story of a group of friends who meet at an arts camp as teens funny, relatable and heartbreaking.

Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers: this is one I listened to as well – it is told by a soldier in Iraq and his experiences of friendship and tragedy – a powerful and beautifully written first novel.

Death of a Nightingale by Lene Kaaberbol: I do love some Scandinavian mysteries – so dark, wintery and gloomy and this one fits the bill perfectly. Instead of a detective who’s going off the rails, it stars a Red Cross nurse, and in this one she’s trying to save the life of a Ukrainian refugee and her daughter.

2 for the price of one – Louise Penny’s The Beautiful Mystery and How the Light Gets In: I started late in the Inspector Gamache series, and these two latest show Penny at her best – with page turning suspense, heart breaking relationships and multi-dimensional characters.

Oh and I’m in the middle of listening to The Rosie Project by Graeme Simpson: an autistic Australian professor of genetics navigates love – it’s funny, touching and clever – you will fall in love with Don Tillman!

And I guess I should make it ’13 in 13′ like my colleagues – so I will add the The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P by Adelle Waldman, another first novel. A comedy of manners about the love lives of smart, hipster Brooklynites – she does some fine skewering!

That’s it – must get home to get some more reading done (in between decorating, eating, etc.)! Happy Holidays to all –

~ Dori

Making reading a part of your summer June 20, 2013

Posted by Maureen in Audio, Summer Reading, Thoughtful Ramblings.
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Baseball, swimming, kayaking, camp, fishing, mini-golf, gardening, eating ice cream, flying a kite, hiking, biking, golfing, walking the dog, taking a vacation…so many things going on in the summer! How in the world do you incorporate the time to read a few good books? Well…

You COULD read the old-fashioned way…pick up a book! (psst…I’m doing this now: And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini). Reading, old-school style!

You COULD listen to an audiobook on CD  – great for getting the “reading” in while doing chores (boo-hiss!) or driving to a fabulous vacation destination (hip, hip, hooray!)  Multi-tasking…love it!

You COULD listen to a Playaway (self-contained digital audiobook) – no need to download and totally portable!

You COULD read e-books on your e-reader, tablet or smartphone using RRPL’s Overdrive digital book collection – great for the pool, hotel, or beach! Convenient! No need to lug a pile of books!

So, as you can see, there are actually many easy ways to slip a good book into your busy summertime routine.

No more excuses! Now let’s get reading, people!


Handel this! June 7, 2013

Posted by Julie in Audio, Music, Musically Inclined.
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Was just listening to Danielle de Niese singing arias written by Handel, the composer of one of my favorite works, Water MusicI can understand the accolades she has received in the classical world. And in addition to the music, I enjoyed the lyrics as well – some were so dramatic! Not surprising for operas, I suppose… anyway, here are a couple:
“Da tempeste” (Giulio Cesare in Egitto – Act III, Scene 6; lyrics – Nicola Francesco Haym)

If a ship, buffeted by storms,

then reaches safe harbor,

it no longer knows what to wish for.

Thus the heart that finds solace

after enduring pain and despair

brings joy once more to the soul.

“Tornami a vagheggiar” (Alcina – Act I, Scene 14; lyrics – anon.)

Look with love on me again,

you alone will

this faithful soul adore,

my sweet beloved.

I have given you my heart,

my love will be constant;

never shall I be cruel to you

my beloved hope.

May your Friday reach operatic heights!

— Julie

The Poetry is the Thing April 19, 2013

Posted by Julie in Audio, Musically Inclined, Thoughtful Ramblings.
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Wonder Working Stone I was reading a review of a new CD, A Wonder Working Stone, we are adding to the collection and a quote from one of the songs struck me: “Get over your tiny self/Because all days will end in joy.” The artist is Alasdair Roberts and although he started out recording traditional Scottish folk music, this is a album of mainly original compositions.

photo credit: Alex Woodward

I haven’t even listened to the music yet, but already love his poetry.

As I was flipping through the lyrics to find the song the review quote was from, again I was struck by his words in “Song Composed in December,” especially with recent events in Boston and other evils perpetrated by human beings against humanity.

Song Composed in December

This song’s made in anger, this song’s made in love
Where the croak of the hawk meets the coo of the dove
Where minstrelsy’s slander and rhyme turns to rage
To make a song about the renovation of the age

Woe to those who celebrate the taking up of violence
And woe to those who perpetrate delusions of their sirelands
Who’d fight for no reason with sword or with firebrand
Be they reiver in the border or raider in the highland

And joy to those who celebrate the breaking up of weapons
Who take a stand to raise a hand against oncoming slaughter
And joy to those who strive to give a voice to those with none
The fosterer of errant son and sire of wild daughter

And joy to those who’d use their songs as clues to find their clan
But woe to those who’d use them to enslave their fellow man

From open moor where kestrels soar on wings of beauty
To cloisters where vestals bear their palms of beauty
To waterfall tumbling, cascading and purling
To the flowery machair where the echo mocks the yellow yorlin

From forest deep where numens peep from every oaken bole
To city streets where people seek completion of the soul
For everyone with double bond of suffering to thole
I will sow a seed of honesty upon the bluebell knoll

There’s a little more to the song (including some Welsh rap!) than I am including in this post, but I will leave you to discover more of his words – and music- on your own.

— Julie

Late to the party? December 30, 2011

Posted by Julie in Audio, Music.
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Not so – you still have time before tomorrow to check out Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt asking me to go out New Year’s Eve… or maybe they’re asking you…I’m not totally sure… 

But anyway,  it’s a lovely little rendition of Frank Loesser’s song, (What are You Doing) New Year’s Eve. Check out their version on Youtube, so sweet! And if you’re still on Christmas time, check out Zooey in the movie Elf bringing some Christmas cheer. Or you can hear more of her music as part of the group She & Him  – yes the library has copies of the CDs.  Happy New Year!!


Traffic Made Tolerable November 2, 2011

Posted by Julie in Audio, Music, Musically Inclined.
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Once again, a traffic jam led me to a musical happy place – nothing like inching along on the highway for concentrating on new music. When we came to a standstill on I480, I put in the latest by Ian Moore and The Lossy Coils. I “listened” to it once but this time I really heard it and I really like it! Some of the lyrics that caught me were, “I’ve got a lazy eye but an activated mind” from the first track, Secondhand Store. (Unfortunately, I think most people have their eyes going but the mind, not so much.)  And from The Levees:

These days go by/ but most days we’re just barely getting by/Maybe we will be different/maybe we will be different today

I liked every song, but I especially loved the last track, Sad Affair, a little bit of Bowie, a little more of Elvis Costello, but definitely his own.   I can’t describe the album better than the writer for Jam Magazine, Tim Taylor: “(El Sonido Nuevo is) a guitar-fueled, energetic record with beautiful melodies, intelligent lyrics, and exceptional vocal harmonies.” The CD is El Sonido Nuevo, check it out!!