Summer Wedding Reads

When I started reading some light summer “beach books” I noticed a trend in several focusing on marriage and weddings.  Romance, struggles, expectations, disappointments, revelations, personal journeys, and of course – ultimately – happy endings (well, at least mostly…).

engagements

A Diamond is Forever.  The famous advertising line penned by Frances Gerety, a young copywriter working on the DeBeers campaign in 1947.  This novel spans nearly a century, looking at marriage and love from multiple angles as it changes over the decades, while following the story of diamonds, and the genius behind their advertising.

Evelyn has been married to the same man for forty years, after losing her first husband suddenly and devastatingly.  Now she is facing the end of her own son’s marriage, causing her to reflect on both of hers.

Delphine left her steady older husband in France to pursue passion with a younger man, a violinist, in New York.  Now that he has betrayed her she seeks revenge while examining both of her relationships.

James is a paramedic working the night shift, while he and his wife Sheila struggle to make ends meet.  He knows that her parents think she could’ve done better, and is looking for ways to make things better for the love of his life.

Kate and Dan have lived together for a decade, own a home together, and have a child together.  But Kate is dead set against marriage and weddings.  As she prepares for the wedding of her cousin she examines her motives quietly while trying to be supportive of an event she cannot condone.

Not only does the novel follow the ins and outs of these various relationships and marriages, it follows the story of the brains behind American diamond advertising for decades, while ultimately following the story of one particular diamond.

The changing points of view in each chapter were not distracting, but came together almost as a series of short stories, making for a fun and quick read.  Some of the interconnections were surprising as they were revealed, yet another instance of a book this summer showing how our separateness is truly an illusion (see my review of The Illusion of Separateness) but in a lighter novel, great for a weekend on the deck or a day at the beach.

Title: The Engagements
Author: J. Courtney Sullivan
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 400
Publication: Knopf, June 2013

beautiful day

When Jenna’s mother passed away she left her The Notebook, instructions, reflections, and thoughts for every aspect of her youngest daughter’s wedding day.  Now the wedding weekend has arrived, Jenna and Stuart should be blissfully happy, but as their guests arrive on Nantucket things begin to fall apart.

Margot, Jenna’s sister and her matron-of-honor, is divorced and having a secret affair with her father’s business partner, consistent in her warnings to Jenna that marriage is a bad idea and that love never lasts.  One of the bridesmaids sleeps around indiscriminately, including with one of the groomsmen, while another seems suspiciously close to Jenna’s playboy brother in the face of her own marital difficulties.  Jenna’s dad is struggling in his recent remarriage, very much still in love with and mourning his late wife.  To make things even more awkward, Stuart’s parents are on their second marriage to one another.  The woman he married and had a child with in-between his marriages to Stuart’s mother is coming to the wedding as well, and she’s not coming quietly.  Throw in threats of rain, a pesky tree branch, obstinate children, and a bride threatening to call off the wedding, and there is never a dull moment.

Ultimately, as the novel examines what makes a relationship work, and the meaning of love and commitment, everyone will end up where they belong, even if it is not where they thought they should be going.  Hilderbrand’s writing always makes me want to hop a ferry to the island, to spend a week with my toes in the sand, eating lobster, and getting sunburned!  Another fun quick read to throw in your beach bag!

Title: Beautiful Day
Author: Elin Hilderbrand
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 416
Publication: Reagan Arthur Books, June 2013

Mystery Mayhem

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a fan of a good (and even some not-so-good) mysteries.  I thought I’d share some quick thoughts on what’s new this spring in some of my favorite series.

goldeneggIn the most recent installment of the Commissario Guido Brunetti Mysteries by Donna Leon, Brunetti’s wife is concerned about the suicide of a deaf and mentally handicapped man working at their drycleaner’s.  As Brunetti begins to investigate he can find no record of the man every having existed, the man’s mother refuses to speak with the police, and the whole affair seems to be connected to one of Venice’s wealthy and powerful families.  In typical Brunetti style, he navigates through a web of politics and misinformation to get at the truth, even if there is nothing he can do about it…  For more of my thoughts on the Brunetti mysteries, check out my review of Uniform Justice.

Title: Golden Egg
Author: Donna Leon
Genre: Fiction/Mystery
Pages: 256
Publication: Atlantic Monthly Press, March 2013

deadwhiteandblueThe Death on Demand mysteries take place on Broward’s Rock, an island in South Carolina, where Annie Darling owns the mystery bookstore (Death on Demand) and her husband Max runs “Confidential Commissions” (not an investigative agency since he doesn’t have his PI license).  In this newest book in the series, Shell Hurst disappears during a Fourth of July dance.  Shell is beautiful and haughty, the type of woman hated by other women, and loved by most of their men.  Where has she gone and what happened to her?  And why does no one seem to care? Who’s to blame?  The husband she’s cheating on, his jealous ex-wife, his unhappy son, the man she is having an affair with, his ill wife, one of the other people she has managed to cross? As always, Annie and Max dash in to figure it out.  Nothing extraordinary here, but a fun visit to familiar characters and visions of warm weather and sandy beaches.

Title: Dead, White, and Blue
Author: Carolyn Hart
Genre: Fiction/Mystery
Pages: 288
Publication:Berkley Hardcover, May 2013

silkenpreyJohn Sandford’s Prey series focus on Lucas Davenport, an independently wealthy detective for Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.  In this role, he takes on complicated and politically charged cases, and in this latest installment Davenport is in the thick of the politics, helping out the governor with a potential scandal in the upcoming Senate race.  With a missing political operative and no one offering up information, Lucas calls in his friends to help out.  Appearing from other Sandford series are Virgil Flowers and Kidd, both offering their own talents to the case.  Since I love Flowers and Kidd, I was hoping for more out of this meeting, it left me wanting more of them and less on-and-on about the nightmare that is political wrangling.  More suspense than mystery (you know who the bad guys are early on and can’t figure out why Lucas can’t figure it out), it was not one of my favorites in the series.  Maybe I’ve grown out of the series and need to move on to other authors, or maybe this just wasn’t his best work and the next one will be better…

Title: Silken Prey
Author: John Sandford
Genre: Fiction/Mystery
Pages: 416
Publication: Putnam Adult, May 2013

Fun Stories to Share!

I’ve talked a lot about how I like to read to my kids at night.  It started when my son was a toddler.  I used to tell him that he could pick three stories for bedtime and he would hand me The Little Engine that Could.  When I told him he could pick out two more?  “No!  I want you to read this one three times!”  I still hate that book…  Other favorites were There’s a Wocket in my Pocket, Goodnight Moon, and Guess How Much I Love You.  We kept reading every night when my daughter was born, and it is something that I still try to do even now that my son is sixteen and my daughter is eleven.  It’s challenging to find the time now that they’re involved in their various extra-curricular activities, but we find it most days.  Turns out they’re not too old to enjoy story time with mom, I think we all love to hear a good story no matter our age.  While I will still occasionally bring home a great picture book from the library, we mostly read chapter books now.  Below are some of our favorites from the last year, good stories that were enjoyable to share aloud and that were enjoyable for all ages.

homesickBenny’s dad is a hoarder – a seriously out-of-control hoarder.  Benny’s mom can’t take it anymore and leaves the small Missouri town for New Orleans – now Benny needs to deal with the situation all on his own.  When a local teacher enters the town in a contest for “America’s Most Charming Small Town” (maybe exaggerating a little – ok a lot – on the application) the town needs to deal with the junk pile that has become Benny’s home.  There is a great supporting cast of characters – a hippie starting a radio station, a teacher encouraging community service projects, a piano teacher, a classroom crush – that cause you to feel like you know and love the quirky people in this small town.  While reading this book we had a lot of laughs, moments where our hearts were breaking for Benny, times when we were holding our breaths waiting to see what happened next, and times when we were cheering him on.

Title: Homesick
Author: Kate Klise
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 192
Publication: Feiwel & Friends, September 2012

liarspyWhen Georges dad loses his job his family is uprooted and needs to move to a Brooklyn apartment in an unfamiliar neighborhood.  His mom is working extra shifts at the hospital to make ends meet and Georges is feeling depressed and friendless when he sees a sign for a Spy Club.  Encouraged by his dad, he signs up and meets Safer – a twelve-year old spy – who recruits Georges on his mission to figure out what nefarious deeds their upstairs neighbor, Mr. X, is up to.  Eventually, Georges becomes concerned about the morality of what Safer is asking him to do and frustrated with Safer’s moody demands.  As he begins to question Safer and his stories they begin to unravel as does their friendship.  The relationships in the story were great – Georges and his mom leaving messages for each other with Scrabble tiles, how he tries not to put extra stress on his dad, the way that Safer’s family takes him in, and ultimately, his friendship with Safer as he comes to an understanding of the truth.

Title: Liar & Spy
Author: Rebecca Stead
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 192
Publication: Wendy Lamb Books, August 2012

ungiftedThis story was hilarious, from start to finish.  Donovan is a decidedly ungifted troublemaker who may have finally taken things too far when an administrative screw-up lands him in the Academy for Scholastic Distinction.  If he can hide out there for awhile, maybe his other problems will blow over… plus, his parents are sooo proud!  As his new teachers and fellow students struggle to figure out where Donovan’s gifts may lie (how DID he get here??), he brings something new to the class – himself – his knowledge of “normal” life, video games, and YouTube.  The relationships between these students, their parents, and their teachers are consistently humorous yet insightful.  There was not an evening of reading this together when we didn’t end up laughing.  Mr. Korman – my kids are hoping for a sequel!

 

Title: Ungifted
Author: Gordon Korman
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 288
Publication: Balzer & Bray, August 2012

The Wonders of Brian Selznick

I had to write a post about the works of Brian Selznick because I wanted to share how utterly amazing I find them.  These are more than simple children’s books – they are works of art like no other.  These books combine text and illustrations magically, with the illustrations telling portions of the story seamlessly and artfully, yet without words.  As is apparent, the written word is at the heart of what I do and what I believe and what I love, so I have to admit to being doubtful when hearing of the concept.  Have no doubt; these are books worth reading, worth owning, and worth looking at again and again.

hugoAt the turn of the 20th century Hugo Cabret is hiding in the train station in Paris, keeping the clocks running now that his uncle is gone, and stealing to provide himself with food.  His deceased father left him a notebook full of drawings and a non-working automaton – in Hugo’s spare time he works on bringing it back to life.  When he meets a strange girl and her grandfather in the train station he becomes embroiled in the mysteries of their lives while still trying to preserve his own.

“Maybe that’s why a broken machine always makes me a little sad, because it isn’t able to do what it was meant to do…Maybe it’s the same with people,” Hugo continued. “If you lose your purpose…it’s like you’re broken.” 

Title: The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Author: Brian Selznick
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 533
Publication: Scholastic Press, January 2007

wonderstruckWonderstruck adds another level of complexity to a story told largely through illustrations.  It tells of the story of two different characters, Ben and Rose, fifty years apart in time.  Ben’s story is told through words while Rose’s is told through the illustrations.  Both embark on a quest to find what is missing in their lives and eventually their stories will come together.  The transition between the stories, and their ultimate intertwining, is seamless.  What could be confusing is instead artful and beautiful.

“Maybe, thought Ben, we are all cabinets of wonders.” 

Title: Wonderstruck
Author: Brian Selznick
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 608
Publication: Scholastic Press, 2011

And so it begins…

For awhile I’ve been contemplating of finding a way to share my thoughts on books: what I’m reading, quotes that inspire me, what’s happening in the world of libraries.  Today I woke up and decided I would try to put together this blog as a way of doing that.  I am sure it will take me a little while to work out the kinks, so please be patient and hang in there with me!

A little about me and why I am inspired to do this.  I received my BSEE from Clarkson University in 1995 and spent the next 16 years working in the engineering field.  Feeling unfulfilled by my career, in 2009 I announced to my husband that I was going to go back to school to get my degree in library science.  Why?  Definitely not for the power or the money!  😉  I have long felt that the power of the written word to entertain, inform, educate, and inspire is immeasurable.  To me, there is no greater purpose than to provide everyone with open and free access to books.  There are very few things that have the same capability to change people’s lives.  The greatest good that a community can provide for its citizens is to support a public library.

So began my journey.  For the next two years my family would provide unwavering support as I pursued my MLIS from Drexel University while continuing my engineering career.  In 2011 I received my degree and was fortunate enough to receive a position as the Director of the Sherrill-Kenwood Free Library in Sherrill, NY.  The destination was worth the journey and I now spend my days pursuing my passions.  This blog is my way of reaching out to an even wider audience, sharing what I love.

Why the name “Watching the Words”?  It is part of a quote from what is probably my most treasured book, The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak.  For now, all I will say about the book is that if you have not read it, you should, immediately.

As for a brief summary about me personally, I live in Canastota, NY, a small town in upstate NY in an old farmhouse.  I share this life with my husband, Todd (still an engineer!), and our children William (16) and Madalyn (11).  Other members of our family include a cranky cat (Jo-Jo), our protector Nala (a German Shepherd), and our newest addition Hugo (a Pug puppy).  Our life here is chaotic, fun, and full.  We are truly blessed.