Monday, October 29, 2018

Dear Great Book Guru, This Saturday is the Sea Cliff Civic Association’s annual Progressive Dinner.  It is my first time attending and I am very excited and a little anxious. I would feel more comfortable if I have a book to mention. Any thoughts? Progressive Dinner Diner

Dear Progressive Dinner Diner, Tina Marchese does an amazing job each year organizing this iconic event so you have nothing to fear- but I do have a great conversation starter: ALTERNATE SIDE by Anna Quindlen.  This is a tale of New York City life told from the perspective of Nora Nolan, director of a small museum and owner of a brownstone in the rarest of locations: a Manhattan cul-de-sac with even more remarkably… an adjacent parking lot - hence no need for the dreaded NYC alternate side of the street parking. But in this novel, alternate side also stands for the social and economic divide that exists in Nora’s world with its many - as she calls them - “first world problems” that are outsourced to a cadre of nannies, housekeepers, and handymen. When a resident with anger management issues attacks one of these workers with a golf club, the underbelly of class, race, and gender inequalities is revealed.  Marriages, friendships, careers, fortunes… all shift as “alternate sides” are chosen.  A wonderfully perceptive look into a world we can all recognize.  Highly recommended!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Dear Great Book Guru, Sea Cliff Civic Association’s Cider Social will be this Sunday, October 28 from 3 to 4pm.  Heidi Hunt is the founder of the feast so it will surely be a costumed, crafty, culinary delight! As always, I’d like a good book to read earlier in the  day.  Cider Socialite

Dear Cider Socialite, This past weekend, I read a most anticipated novel by a favorite author of mine -Kate Atkinson. TRANSCRIPTION tells the story of Juliet Armstrong in three time periods.  It opens in 1981 as she lies dying after a car accident in Canada.  The rest of the novel shifts back and forth between 1940 and 1950. As a na├»ve, orphaned eighteen-year-old, she is recruited by MI5- the British intelligence agency- to transcribe wartime conversations but she soon finds herself entangled in a bizarre world of spying, murder and mayhem.  We meet a multitude of colorful characters none of whom are as they seem.  By 1950, Juliet has left MI5 to work for the BBC as a producer of children’s educational shows only to discover “once a spy, always a spy.” There are so many ambiguous relationships throughout, that the reader is as confused as Juliet about who are the heroes and who are the villains. Only at the very end do we realize there are no villains and certainly no heroes.  An extraordinarily clever book- highly recommended!     

Monday, October 15, 2018

Dear Great Book Guru, My friends and I have a monthly book club and this year we would like to read something special for Halloween - something frightening but also worthwhile - with social commentary perhaps?
Gravitating towards the Ghoulish

Dear Ghoulish Gravitator, I recently reread the 1990’s horror novel ROSEMARY’S BABY by Ira Levin.  While it can be read as a terrifying tale of urban bliss gone bad, I found it much more socially relevant this time around.  Rosemary, a young wife has left her mid-western family home, the religion of her youth, her conservative-minded parents and her many siblings to live in New York City with her aspiring actor husband Guy.  We meet the couple as they navigate the urban real estate market with the prize being the apartment of their dreams, but one with shadowy hints of cannibalism, devil worship, and murderous wizardry.   Rosemary’s eagerness to please everyone: her husband, her doctors, her neighbors, and her friends can be seen as commentary on a woman’s place in society. Faustian bargains to advance careers are casually made and complaints are dismissed as hysteria.  Soon we come to realize these characters are outsized versions of ourselves set in a wildly fantastical world of evil improbabilities but mirroring much of what we know to be true. You will be very surprised at how topical this novel is….highly recommended!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Dear Great Book Guru,   Next Saturday, October 20, at 11am in Clifton Park, the Sea Cliff Civic Association will be hosting the much beloved Pet Parade- once again chaired by Karen Kessler.  While I don’t have a pet to enter, I will be there to watch and enjoy the festivities.  Before the fun begins, I will have some time to read a good book- do you have something fast-moving and topical?
Pet Parade Enthusiast
Dear Pet Parade Enthusiast, A few weeks ago I read a financial thriller with a strong feminist message: THE BANKER’S WIFE by Cristina Alger. Annabel is living a luxurious expat life in Geneva, Switzerland with her banker husband. The story opens as he and a wealthy woman client board a plane which crashes in the Alps under very suspicious circumstances.  Shortly after, bank officials arrive at Annabel’s apartment to retrieve his laptop. Meanwhile, back in the United States, a young journalist is assigned a story by her editor involving a series of off shore banking schemes. When her editor is murdered on the same day as Annabel’s husband dies, the two stories begin to merge. The women - in alternating chapters and unknown to one another - delve into the corrupt underbelly of international politics and banking. No one is to be trusted and nothing is as it seems… a fast-moving novel and highly recommended!

Monday, October 1, 2018

Dear Great Book Guru, Every year people gather at Clifton Park to search the skies for constellations, planets, and shooting stars accompanied by the magnificent music of the Milky Ways aka Heidi Hunt and Joe Hughes.  Starry Starry Night will be on Sunday, October 14 at 6:30pm.  This Sea Cliff Civic Association event is a favorite of mine but I will have time early on to read a good book. Anything worthwhile to recommend? 
Sea Cliff Star Gazer

Dear Sea Cliff Star Gazer, I just read a very important, very disturbing bestseller: ONE PERSON-NO VOTE by Carol Anderson.  In this short (220 pages) book, Anderson tells the story of how voter suppression is destroying our democracy.  Tracing the history of voting from the end of the Civil War in 1865 to 2018, she sees a chilling turn in state governments’ approach to voting laws.  With photo ID requirements, poll closures, legal intimidation, faulty ballots, confusing directives, and lies about voter fraud, huge segments of the black and Hispanic populations are being prevented from voting.  It was the Civil Rights Movement that finally forced Congress and the White House under LBJ to pass fair voting rights which prevailed from 1965 until 2013 when the stark reality of changing demographics demanded these new voters of color be courted or…. not counted. The choice was easy and thirty-one states quickly passed  laws that today prevent millions from exercising their right to vote.  A must read!