Sunday, July 14, 2024

Dear Great Book Guru, I was at a favorite bookstore of ours in Brooklyn “Books Are Magic” when I noticed a posting of an author visit.  The book looked very interesting particularly to us living here in Sea Cliff: an old Victorian house with a long history - about to be renovated.  Are you familiar with it?  Lover of Old Houses

Dear Lover of Old Houses, J. Courtney Sullivan’s THE CLIFFS is a fascinating novel set in the cliffs of Maine, but, except for the ocean views, could have taken place in Sea Cliff.  Told from the viewpoints of five families who have lived in the cliffs, the book opens with the story of Jane Flanagan, a high school senior who has won a scholarship to nearby Bates College and is intrigued by an abandoned violet-colored Victorian mansion.  Everything is intact - books, dishes, paintings, furniture… but no one has lived in the house for many years. Fast forward twenty years and Jane - now a Harvard archivist - returns to discover a wealthy Beacon Hill summer resident has purchased the house and is the midst of modernizing it. But something is amiss - there is a haunting sense of foreboding and Jane is hired to trace its previous owners.  The remainder of the book is told from the perspective of  the women who had  lived in the house: the original builders, the Littletons; the Troy sisters who ran it as a boarding house; Marilyn - a ninety year old painter; Sister Eliza - a former Shaker; and finally Naomi, a Penobscot who gives us the insight of the original inhabitants of the land on which the house is built.  A fascinating look into the history of one house and indeed - a whole nation - highly recommended!

 

Sunday, June 30, 2024

Dear Great Book Guru,  This has been an incredible few weeks filled with wonderful community building events from the Ice Cream Social, the Patriotic Bike Parade, Happy Birthday USA, and finally the iconic reading of the Declaration of Independence celebration  on the Village Green.  Now I find myself in need of a simple, relaxing beach read- and - yes, that’s where I’m headed : Sea Cliff Beach !    Beach Bound

Dear Beach Bound, Over the last few weeks I’ve read some compelling books: FOUR SHOTS IN THE NIGHT: A true story of Spies, Murder, and Justice in Northern Ireland, OSCAR HAMMERSTEIN II AND THE INVENTION OF THE MUSICAL, and SPY FOR NO COUNTRY… but since you are looking for a quintessential beach read I suggest: Emily Henry’s BEACH READ. Told from the perspective of January Andrews, a writer of romance novels, who has recently inherited a beach house next to a high school nemesis and literary fiction writer Augustus Everitt, this is a fast-paced study in contrasts.  January and Everitt while incredibly hostile to one another at first discover they are both suffering from acute cases of ‘writer’s block’.  Their back stories are filled with exquisite details and their daily encounters are humor packed. However, the story takes a “novel” turn when they decide to switch book genres. Can Augustus write a romance novel and January, a serious piece of literary fiction?  Their journey into new worlds is both fascinating and amusing.  A good summer read and recommended!

 

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Dear Great Book Guru, The weather has been so oppressive, my family and I have had little interest in leaving the air-conditioned comfort of our home, but I do feel this is the perfect time for a chilly mystery.  Any suggestions?   Chilling Out with a Good Book

Dear Chilling Out, I have just the book for a sultry summer day: WHAT HAPPENED TO NINA by Dervla McTiernan.  The story opens with Nina - a twenty-year-old college student recounting details of her long-term romance with Simon - a childhood friend.  The last words of her introduction are “And then I went downstairs to tell Simon we were over, and I never wanted to see him again.”  Each of the remaining thirty-six chapters is told from a different point of view: Nina’s parents, Simon’s parents, Detective Wright, friends of the couple, and Grace - a young sibling. We soon see this is more than a crime novel but rather a study of the effects of social media on the pursuit of justice as we view the cruel victimization of Nina and her family.  Simon’s parents’ wealth allows them to circumvent the law in many subtle and not so subtle ways: the hiring of a PR firm and high-powered lawyers, the manipulation of security cameras, and the intimidation of neighbors, while Nina’s family relentlessly pursues all avenues - legal and otherwise - to get their daughter back.  The characters are colorfully described and as we learn more and more about each of their stories, we wonder if the truth will ever be known.  Highly recommended! 

 

Sunday, June 16, 2024


 Dear Great Book Guru, Sea Cliff Beach is the place to be! A group of my friends gather every Sunday morning at the Cliffside CafĂ© run by the Potters of Foster restaurant fame and what fun it is with great food and camaraderie. This week someone brought up a book he had just finished and strongly recommended - about an island bookstore. Any thoughts? Beach and Book Lover

Dear Beach and Book Lover, A perfect book to read at the beach … or just about anywhere: THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY by Gabrielle Zevin.  A. J. Firky is the quirky, very unhappy owner of Island Books - a failing bookstore in an island community. A.J.’s beloved wife had died in a car accident the year before the story opens.  He is despondent, having lost interest in everything - the bookstore, his few friends, even reading, a former passion of his. Quotes from favorite books are scattered throughout the novel. He dreams of selling a rare book of Poe poems, the  bookstore, and leaving the island forever - when he finds a package on his doorstep.  From that moment on, A.J. makes decisions that transform his life.  The local police chief and he start a true crime book club, parents gather to discuss books on child rearing, and he rediscovers - yes - children’s literature.  The Island Book Store becomes the true center of the community and all the while mysterious characters and incidents reveal themselves for a completely satisfying conclusion. Highly recommended!

Sunday, June 2, 2024

Dear Great Book Guru,  I’m looking for a great Father’s Day gift for my dad. I know he loves non-fiction, particularly something about American history.  Anything new you would recommend?  A Good Daughter

Dear Good Daughter,  I have a great recommendation: Erik Lawson’s newest book: THE DEMON OF UNREST.  Lawson has written many books of non-fiction all of which read like mesmerizing novels and this latest is no exception. The book covers the few months between Lincoln’s election and the beginning of the Civil War with the fall of Fort Sumter. Lincoln, Jefferson Davies, and other familiar figures play decisive roles, but it is the little known characters Lawson introduces that make this an unforgettable, hard to put down book. One of these was Henry Villard, a German teenager, who ran away to America,  assuming  a classmate’s identity so he could not be traced. He began writing for various American newspapers, exposing the horrors of slavery and eventually helped in the election of Lincoln.  He went on to marry the daughter of the anti-slavery campaigner Willian Llyod Garrison and acquired the New York Evening Post and The Nation magazine and various railroad and steamship companies.  Another little known but crucial player in Lawson’s book was Mary Chesnut who describes the night leading up to the siege of Charleston with its sumptuous dinner: the pate fois gras, biscuit glace, and champagne frappe.  These exquisite details are described as a backdrop to the monumental forces at work leading the nation into a war where there were 750, 000 casualties. The book is made up of these fascinating characters who played roles small and large in this immense tragedy.  Highly recommended! 

 

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Dear Great Book Guru, What a weekend in Sea Cliff - first the Porchfest with 30 bands playing on porches and lawns all over the Village and then the Landmarks House Tour with 300 plus people visiting six of Sea Cliff’s unique homes. During the Porchfest one of the band members said she had to get home to finish a compelling sequel to Colm Tobin’s BROOKLYN.  Are you familiar with the book? Huge Porchfest Fan

Dear Huge Porchfest Fan, LONG ISLAND is Colm Tobin’s sequel to his very popular novel and movie adaptation BROOKLYN.  Set in 1976 – twenty-five years after BROOKLYN ends, the novel opens with Eilis living in Lindenhurst, Long Island with her husband Tony Fiorello and her two teenage children. They live in a family compound of sorts with his parents, his brothers, and their families where large boisterous Italian Sunday dinners color (or cloud) her existence.  Eilis still feels the outsider and yearns for her family back in Ireland whom she hasn’t seen in twenty years. When she learns of Tony’s infidelity, she decides to return to Enniscorthy, the small village where she was born. From this point on, the story is told from the perspective of Nancy - her childhood friend - and Jim Farrell, the man Eilis loved and left twenty-five years before.  Jim never married and has been carrying on a discreet affair with Nancy - a recent widow.  With the arrival of Eilis and her Americanized ways, all of Enniscorthy is thrown into turmoil, especially Jim and Nancy.  The story has many exquisite details and subplots leaving the reader wondering what ending to wish for. A compelling read and highly recommended!

 

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Dear Great Book Guru,  I was at an event at the Sea Cliff Arts Council recently: Fred Stroppel’s iconic “Twisted Shorts” - eight extraordinarily funny vignettes - when one of the cast members mentioned a wonderful new book about a team of workers at a big box  store. It sounded interesting - thoughts?  Fan of “Twisted Shorts”

Dear Fan of “Twisted Shorts,” Adelle Waldman’s HELP WANTED is not to be missed!  Set in upstate New York, the novel introduces us to twelve people working in a huge box store -think Target or Costco - most of whom are members of Team Movement. These workers   clock in at 3:55am to unload the delivery trucks, stock the shelves, organize the merchandise before the store opens, and check out at 9am.  The work is grueling and their pay low. Hours are limited by management so there are no health benefits, vacation or sick time, but jobs in this part of the state are scarce and most of the workers have few qualifications for better jobs.  Waldman describes the lives of these workers in exquisite detail, and we feel great sympathy as we learn about their individual plights. When the store manager Big Will is promoted to another facility, everyone realizes there is a possible chance for advancement or at least some realignment.  The Team comes together in an elaborate plot to sabotage their hated self-absorbed crew leader Meredith, and we cheer them on.  While there is much humor throughout, we witness the underlying injustices low- wage workers encounter in the modern workplace.  A thought-provoking book on many levels and highly recommended!