Thursday, September 29, 2016

Dear Great Book Guru, This is  MiniMart Sunday, one of my favorite Sea Cliff events, and I am going to be at the Children’s Library checking out their great toy and book bargains. However, I really would like to have something to read later in the day when the crowds become overwhelming. Do you have a good book to recommend?                        Lasting Lover of the MiniMart

Dear Lasting Lover of the MiniMart,  I just finished a fascinating and ultimately terrifying  book: THE MANDIBLES by Lionel Shriver.  Set in the United States beginning in 2029 and finishing up in 2047, the novel  follows the fortunes or misfortunes of the Mandible family whose members are eagerly awaiting the death of their wealthy ninety-seven year- old patriarch. Carter, his son, after years as a reporter at Long Island’s Newsday, is  hired at the New York Times only to see it  go bankrupt as does every other newspaper in the country. Severe climate change has upended resources with food and water in short supply. Unemployment is rampant.  Then the unthinkable happens: the dollar crashes and is replaced by an international currency. The President angrily declares a default on all loans. Money becomes worthless and chaos results. While seemingly a grim tale of the world ending as we know it, the book remains darkly humorous as we watch the Mandibles scramble to cope.  Highly recommended only if you can convince yourself it’s a fantasy…. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Dear Great Book Guru, I am going to the Sea Cliff Civic Association’s Newcomers Party next Sunday and I am very excited, but concerned that I might not have much to say to my fellow newcomers. If you could recommend a controversial book that might stimulate conversation, I would be eternally grateful.                       A Somewhat Nervous Newcomer

Dear Somewhat Nervous Newcomer,  I think I have a good book for you, but first I must assure you that the Newcomers Party is great fun and nothing to be nervous about. The book I am suggesting is THE GIRLS by Emma Cline. The narrator is Evie Lloyd, a fourteen year old living in California in the 1960’s. Her grandmother (think possibly Lucille Ball) was a famous actress who has left an estate that afforded Evie and her mother an affluent life style. Despite this, Evie is very unhappy and finds herself attracted to a strange, charismatic teenage girl( think Squeaky Fromme) who is part of a group of young girls who follow Russell (think Charles Manson), an elusive, disheveled, abusive forty year old. When Russell forces the girls to violently attack various Hollywood luminaries (think Roman Polanski’s wife Sharon Tate), the story takes a truly dark turn. Their lives are forever changed and Evie, forty –five years later, wonders what is was that that drew them all into this horrendous vortex.   Recommended!                                    

Friday, September 16, 2016

Dear Great Book Guru, I am so excited- my favorite group ANTIGONE RISING –is performing this weekend at Sea Cliff Beach on Saturday, September 17. While I am waiting for the music to begin, do you have a good book for me to read?
 Fervent Fan of Antigone Rising

Dear Fervent Fan of Antigone Rising, I have just finished a compelling novel by  new author Flynn Berry: UNDER THE HARROW.  The story opens with Nora eagerly anticipating a weekend visit with her older sister Rachel in Oxford. On the train from London, she envisions the meal Rachel is preparing, her dog Ferro’s excited greeting, a  night of catching up with an adored sibling- a perfect weekend!  The first sign that things are amiss is that Rachel is not at the station waiting for her.  As Nora enters the house, she finds Ferro dead, her sister brutally murdered, and dinner growing cold on the stove. Thus begins her descent into inconsolable grief and we follow as she tries to make sense of the past and present while discovering how little she really knew about her sister.  Much more than a psychological thriller, this is a study of grieving- of living “under the harrow” – the title coming from C.S.Lewis’s  “A Grief Observed.” This is a book you will not easily forget…highly recommended!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Dear Great Book Guru,  With the beginning of the Fall months, I am looking for a mystery series to throw myself into- I love a British village setting- something with lots of local color and character development- any ideas? Autumnal Mystery Lover

Dear Autumnal Mystery Lover,  I just arrived back from the annual Barbara Pym Conference in Oxford, England where I was introduced to a great series that meets all your demands: Hazel Holt’s SHEILA MALORY NOVELS.  Hazel Holt was Pym’s literary executor and she died recently so this year’s conference was a tribute to Holt.  Sheila Malory is a middle-aged writer living in the lovely hamlet of Taviscombe about two hours south of London. Her daily routines and encounters with friends and townspeople form the basis of each of Holt’s twenty mysteries. Interestingly, much of the happenings in Taviscombe remind me of life here in Sea Cliff whether it be restaurant encounters, clandestine meetings, or unscrupulous property development.  My favorite so far was A TIME TO DIE. Malory fights a noble fight against a large corporation that is trying to rezone a large tract of land potentially changing the entire character of her beautiful village.  Soon there are a few suspicious deaths that Malory investigates, leading her to believe some people will let “nothing or no one stand in their way.”  A fascinating study of the banality of evil- highly recommended!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Dear Great Book Guru,  Many of my friends here in Sea Cliff are transplanted Brooklynites and we will be getting together this weekend for a softball game in Clifton Park.  I was thinking of suggesting we continue our spirit of camaraderie by forming a Brooklyn themed book group.  Any ideas on a good book to start us off?  Bridging of Brooklyn and Sea Cliff

Dear Brooklyn/Sea Cliff Bridge Builder,  What a great idea and I have a wonderful new book to start you off: ANOTHER BROOKLYN by Jacqueline Woodson.  Set in the 1970’s, this lyrical, poignant tribute to the power of memory and friendship offers us a glimpse of life far from the boutiques and brownstones of our present day perception of Brooklyn.  August arrives from rural Tennessee with her young brother and grieving father after a traumatic loss. Her brother and father go on to find comfort in religion while August finds hers in friends : Sylvia,  Gigi, and Angela. These young girls see their friendship as an unbreakable force – themselves as beautiful, talented, powerful-  with lives that will be untouched by the corrupt forces surrounding them.  We meet August twenty years later- now an Ivy League academic traveling the world studying death rituals. The other girls have traveled long distances too but not always to places they had hoped. Their stories are told in a feverish voice of innocence and pain as the four girls cross over from childhood to adolescence in “another Brooklyn.” Highly recommended!