Posts Tagged ‘Connecticut’

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2014: Heidi B’s Picks

December 17, 2014

I am an eclectic reader, and 2014 saw my reading choices all over the map. I love grown-up chick lit (sometimes known as the more serious Women’s Fiction, or even domestic fiction), coming of age stories, and anything related to how the human body works. Below are my five choices for books I read in 2014 that made an impact on me; most are not new, but new to me. Happy reading!

The Perks of Being a WallflowerThe Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
This is a terrific book that often is unfortunately labeled as a “teen novel.” Chboksy’s debut novel is a cult classic as well as being critically acclaimed; no easy feat. Anyone who navigated adolescence (uh, all of us) can relate to some aspect of Charlie, an awkward wallflower and high school freshman that no one seems to notice. Well-drawn characters, realistic dialogue, and a plot twist at the end all make for a classic.  See my full review.

The ShiftThe Shift by Tory Johnson
The subtitle of this book is, “How I Finally Lost Weight and Discovered a Happier Life,” but this is not a “diet” book. This is one woman’s narrative on how she shifted her entire life, her way of eating, and her place in the world, all in one year. Oh, and by the way, lost the 70 pounds that had dogged her for 40 years. Everyone I know who has read this book has read this in one sitting; a couple of people I know and love have made major changes to their health due to this book. Hat’s off to Johnson for an inspirational read.  See my full review.

Wishin' and Hopin'Wishin’ and Hopin’: A Christmas Story by Wally Lamb
Who doesn’t feel even a tiny bit nostalgic when seeing the endless running of “A Christmas Story” on cable TV? Come on, admit it: you do. Wishin’ and Hopin’ is a delightful Christmas tale by veteran storyteller Wally Lamb; a racier, edgier, more irreverent 1960’s version of the classic Red Rider BB Gun tale A Christmas Story. Set in 1960’s Connecticut and told through the eyes of 10-year-old Felix Funnicello (cousin to Annette), this is a delightful, coming of age story with a nostalgic twist.  See my full review.

The Story of the Human BodyThe Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, Disease by Daniel Lieberman
The history of our bodies, in terms of evolution, is a complex and fascinating subject. Lieberman is a Harvard professor of human evolutionary biology, as well as being a gifted writer. He tells the story of human evolution in a manner that is readable like a biography, and as compelling at times as any thriller. What made humans become bipedal? (hint: to see over tall grasses!) Why did we move from hunting and gathering our food, to farming it? What aspects of our development contributed (and continue to contribute) to diseases that plague us? Lieberman is a talented and popular science writer. What could have easily have become mired in jargon is explained for the layperson. A fascinating read.  See my full review.

The Husband's SecretThe Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
The premise in The Husband’s Secret is: what would do if your husband had a deep, dark secret that might shatter your life, and like ripples in a pool, the lives of others? This is grown up chick lit with stories of lives that intersect told in alternating chapters. A sharper reader may pick up on how these women’s lives intersect, but I never saw it coming. The ending was a blockbuster.

Wishin’ and Hopin’: a Christmas Story by Wally Lamb

November 26, 2014

Who doesn’t feel even a tiny bit nostalgic when seeing the endless running of “The Christmas Story” on cable TV? Come on, admit it: you do. Wishin’ and Hopin’ is a delightful Christmas tale by veteran storyteller Wally Lamb (and resident of my hometown in Connecticut!); a racier, edgier, more irreverent 1960’s version of the classic Red Rider BB Gun tale, The Christmas Story (which by the way was based on a book by Jean Shepherd.) Wishin’ and Hopin’ is a short novel sure to get you in the holiday spirit.

It’s 1964 in fictional Three Rivers, Connecticut, and 10-year-old Felix Funicello (yes, related to ANNETTE) is in the fifth grade at St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parochial School, in love with his teacher and the new mysterious Russian transfer student Zhenya Kabakova. Lamb describes the novel; “It’s 1964 and ten-year-old Felix is sure of a few things: the birds and the bees are puzzling, television is magical, and this is one Christmas he’ll never forget.” That about sums it up, with the addition of a Christmas pageant at school that spins off into crazy land. This is a hilarious coming of age story set at Christmas; baby boomers especially will find this a romp of a read, full of cultural references from the 60’s that are sure to strike pangs of nostalgia for an earlier time.

The movie will air on the Lifetime Network, on December 6.  It is narrated by Chevy Chase, and stars Molly Ringwald, Annabella Sciorra, Cheri Oteri, and Meat Loaf (as the Monsignor!).

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

A Season in Purgatory by Dominick Dunne

June 5, 2013

A Season in Purgatory by Dominick DunneDominick Dunne (1925-2009) was famous for being a socially connected, astute writer of both fiction and non-fiction. He was one of the best contemporary observers of the socially connected very rich from (mostly) old money. His favorite subject was the WASP-y rich who get arrested for murder or mayhem.  He was catty, biting, and wove delightful novels that were thinly disguised fiction which in reality were based on the very socialites with whom he wined and dined.

Dunne himself was well-connected; born into New England wealth, married to the socialite Ellen “Peaches,”  he evolved into a keen observer of behavior of the rich. His brother, screenwriter John Gregory Dunne, was married to the author Joan Didion. Dunne’s daughter Dominique (an actress in the film “Poltergeist”) was tragically murdered by her boyfriend.   In addition to writing novels, and for Vanity Fair magazine, he hosted a crime show on Court TV, covering the foibles of the rich and famous with disgust and gusto.

A Season in Purgatory is Dunne at his best. The novel was inspired by the 1975 murder of Martha Moxley and the subsequent involvement of Michael Skakel (nephew of Ethel Kennedy Skakel) as a suspect in the case. In the novel, protagonist Harrison Burns is enthralled with his wealthy prep school friend Constant Bradley, a JFK-like teen with a large Kennedy-like Irish-American brood, headed by the patriarch Gerald Bradley. Harrison is poor, but connected in society, and the Bradleys are fierce social climbers. When the girl-next-door Winifred Utley is bludgeoned to death, Constant is questioned, but nothing can be proved. Fast forward 20 years — Harrison is a true crime writer and Constant is running for president. Harrison knows a secret about Constant’s whereabouts the night of Winifred’s murder…and seeks to bring him down and to justice. But the Bradleys are powerful and connected and will stop at nothing to save Constant’s freedom and political future…

Find and request this book in our catalog.

The Accident by Linwood Barclay

January 15, 2013

The AccidentI think every librarian has an author she secretly adores, and who she likes to think the world is clueless about, a personal treasure, a guilty secret, so to speak. Linwood Barclay is mine (but he can be yours, too).
Barclay is a suspense and thriller writer whose settings are his homeland of Canada, as well as the northern US. He is a former graphic novel writer who made the leap successfully into suspense fiction. Barclay’s characters are believable, every day people, who have extraordinary things happen to them The Accident exemplifies this. A placid and benign suburban setting in Connecticut becomes the scene of an accident – or is it really an accident? Surburban mom Sheila Garber dies in a car accident, leaving her husband Glen and eight year-old daughter Kelly to cope with the aftermath of her death. Sheila wasn’t a drinker – yet her blood alcohol level showed she was very drunk at the time of the accident for which she was at fault – when a neighbor wife also dies under mysterious circumstances a week later. The cast of characters is varied and includes neighbors, employees, and friends, all of whom are flawed enough to be suspicious. The writing is tight, and the plot is credible. The ending is creative, and surprising. I don’t think I have read one of Barclay’s books and been disappointed at the end. I don’t know why this author has not reached the superstar status in terms of book sales like John Grisham. Stephen King has said of Barclay, “My idea of a sweet ride is three days of rain, a fridge filled with snacks, and a new Linwood Barclay.” Shhh, let’s keep him our secret.

Find this book in our catalog.

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