Friday, July 14, 2017


Dear Great Book Guru,  I am planning on meeting friends and family Sunday morning for breakfast at Sea Cliff Beach Café. I love their omelets and the bagels are delicious.  When we all get together conversation often turns to what everyone is reading.  I would love to have a good book to “bring to the table.” Any thoughts?  Beach Breakfaster

Dear Beach Breakfaster,  I am  also a big fan of the Beach Café, and a big fan too of DO NOT BE ALARMED  by Maile Meloy.  This novel tells the story of three families on a cruise ship traveling through the ports of Central America.  The two American cousins Nora and Liv   have husbands and two children each- all of whom are very close.  When the husbands accept a golfing invitation, Nora and Liv decide to go onshore with the children for a zip line expedition- a decision they all come quickly to regret because indeed- “there is much to be alarmed about…”  When their well-meaning but inept guide crashes his car on the way to their destination, the women find themselves separated from the children.  Disaster after disaster awaits them.  Much more than a tale of suspense, this book analyzes the role luck plays in our lives.  Being born an American is shown to be huge piece of luck and to be a wealthy American so much the better, but in the end, luck itself proves ephemeral.  A fascinating thriller… and a strong sociological study- highly recommended!

Friday, July 7, 2017


Dear Great Book Guru,  This week begins Friday Music at Sea Cliff Beach and I am looking forward to a wonderful night: just back from Nashville,  Roger Street Friedman with the Ramblin’ Kind will be the first group to perform.   Justin and Jenna DiPietro have worked up a great lineup for the rest of the  summer too. As usual, I plan to get there early, have dinner,  and read for a few hours. Do you have a good novel to recommend?  
Beach Music Bon Vivant

Dear Beach Music Bon Vivant,  Sounds like a good plan and I have just the book for you: THE HEIRS by Susan Rieger.. Rupert Falkes, a wealthy British born lawyer, dies in the opening pages of this compelling novel. Father of five successful sons ( each with a  fascinating back  story), Falkes has been the  emotional and intellectual center of his family for decades so everyone is shaken when it appears he has had a secret life complete with  another wife and children.  His sons grapple with the possibility/probability they knew very little about their father.  From his orphaned beginnings in England to his tragic death in Manhattan, Falkes lived a multi-tiered existence- fascinating to both his family and  readers.  A beautifully crafted literary mystery of sorts and highly recommended!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Dear Great Book Guru,  With the Fourth of July long weekend coming up, I can barely contain my excitement.  Starting July 1 Saturday, there is going to be bike and trike decorating party on the front lawn of the Children’s Library. Then on Monday, the eve of the Fourth, we will be attending the annual Happy Birthday USA- again at the Children’s Library.  Joe Hughes will lead the songs and everyone will share in a lavish birthday cake.  Of course, the major event will be the Reading of the Declaration of Independence on the Village Green on the Fourth followed by a parade down Sea Cliff Avenue to Lincoln Plaza.  And, yes- all these are sponsored by the Sea Cliff Civic Association with everyone in the Village invited to attend.   Do you have something for me to read between these gala celebrations ?  Fervent Fan of the Fourth

Dear Fervent Fan of the Fourth,  It is certainly admirable that you plan on doing some reading in the midst of all these celebrations.  I think Dennis Lehane’s newest novel might be just the book for you: SINCE WE FELL.   The protagonist Rachel Child, a  Pulitzer prize winning TV journalist, is victim to paralyzing anxiety attacks.   The daughter of a once successful writer of self-help manuals , Rachel struggles to learn her father’s identity- something her mother has refused to reveal.  When she has a breakdown on air while covering a disaster in Haiti, her husband abruptly leaves, a former private investigator befriends her, and one mystery after another unfolds until we wonder if Rachel’s revelations can be trusted…  A psychological thriller for sure and recommended!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Dear Great Book Guru,  The Sea Cliff Civic Association’s Sunset Serenades at Memorial Park start  Thursday, June 29 and I plan on being there every Thursday throughout the summer.  I like to get there early, set up a chair, read a good book, and wait for the music to begin. Do you have something to start the summer off just right?  Sunset Serenade Swooner

Dear Sunset Serenade Swooner,  I too am a big fan of the Serenades and we all have  its founder and chair Petrice Kaider to thank for this summer wonder.  I have a short (224 pages) debut novel to recommend: CHEMISTRY by Weike Wang.  Wang gives us a sly, poignant look into the life of an unnamed  Chinese doctoral student who finds the pressures of the lab, love, and life overwhelming.  Her faithful boyfriend Eric who has had the perfect childhood, her successful best friend , her exacting parents, her questioning therapist- all star in this drama that plays out in her mind.  While some of the scenes are very, very funny, they are interspersed with grim memories of her childhood here and in China,  her parents’ violence towards one another and their astonishing expectations for their only child.   Throughout, we wonder how reliable a narrator she really is.  Nevertheless, a very unusual coming of age novel and highly recommended!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Dear Great Book Guru,  I have just returned from a fabulous trip to Venice with my family.  We all had a great time and while we were there many people mentioned a mystery writer whose novels are  set in Venice.  I would love to relive my Venetian experiences reading these books. Who is this author? Searcher for Venetian Mysteries

Dear Searcher,  I am a huge fan of Donna Leon and have read all her mysteries- all set in Venice. I just finished her latest (she writes one every year): EARTHLY REMAINS.  Brunetti is a highly educated police commissario with an erudite Henry James scholar wife and two teenage children.  He faces life’s problems with  a benevolent stoicism.  In this her 26th novel in the series, Brunetti is spending two restorative weeks on one of Venice’s large islands. His days are filled with great food, philosophical conversations, and explorations of  the local  flora and fauna  Of course, there must be a crime, but as is always the case for Leon, it plays a minor role in this environmental , cultural, humanistic study of the world.  The victim is obsessed with the puzzling death of bees he has been cultivating over the years and his investigations lead him back to fifty years of mega industry’s polluting of the water and air around Venice and the world.  A wonderfully insightful book and highly recommended! 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Dear Great Book Guru,  Every year I attend the James Joyce Jaunt- Sea Cliff’s very own, unique celebration of Bloomsday. It begins by the Water Tower (think Dublin’s Martello Tower) and proceeds to Stenson Memorial Library where the story of Joyce’s ULYSSES unfolds. While I have read much of Joyce’s works in preparation for this event, I think I want a change of  mood and venue.  Do you have a quick moving , contemporary novel set in metropolitan  New York?  A James Joyce Jaunter

Dear James Joyce Jaunter,  I too am a huge fan of the Jaunt. Fred Stroppel and Dan DiPietro do an amazing job of making ULYSSES accessible and entertaining for Sea Cliff’s citizenry.  Last night I finished a novel by another Joyce: SMALL MERCIES. Eddie Joyce is not related to Dublin’s James Joyce, but I think you will find his work thought-provoking and worthwhile.  Set in Staten Island, Brooklyn, Westchester, and Manhattan, SMALL MERCIES  tells the tale of the extended Amendola family- parents, grandparents, children, and in-laws as they deal over the years with the death of a young son and husband in 9/11.   The story is told from multiple viewpoints, each adding a little more to our understanding of the Amendolas, the community  forces that shaped their lives,  and ultimately, the history we all share.  Highly recommended!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Dear Great Book Guru,  Memorial Day weekend is fast approaching .   I always look forward to the beautiful ceremonies throughout Sea Cliff, especially the breakfast on the front lawn of the Children’s Library, followed by the piercingly poignant parade through the Village. With this long weekend ahead, I will have lots of time to get into a good book. Do you have a recommendation?  Memorial Day Marcher

Dear Memorial Day Marcher,   Yes, this weekend is one of memory and anticipation. Summer’s future glories lie before us as we pause to remember the past. Paul Auster’s enormous (867 pages) novel 4321 captures this in a startlingly unique way.  The numbers in the title reflect the four possible lives of one young man.  In Chapter 1.0 we meet Ferguson as he is born on March  2, 1947, son of Stanley and Rose.  From then on, each of  its seven chapters is divided into four parts beginning with 1.1.  – each part offering us a different version of Ferguson’s life. Same boy – varying outcomes-  but with some constants:  he loves Amy, films, music, baseball, and writing, Rose is a photographer and Stanley, a businessman; throughout Ferguson is enmeshed in the politics and culture of the 60’s. Beyond these, we see the effects of chaos and chance.  Death comes early to one while the other three see extraordinary differences in fortune, health, love, friendship, and success.  This fascinating novel poses the question we all ask ourselves about our own lives: what if…?  Highly recommended!