Sunday, December 21, 2014

Holiday Music



This is a great time of year for music lovers - every kind of musical taste can be satisfied.   As I get older, I lean more towards the calm, soothing instrumental-type of music with a jazz lilt.  For many years, just about any title in the Windham Hill catalog was a favorite:  nightnoise, George Winston, the Celtic Christmas series, etc.  This year, though, those songs seem tired and stale. 

Last year, I borrowed a CD from the library where I work, Christmas with the George Shearing Quintet.  I didn't listen to it then, but put a copy on my laptop for this year.  Holy cow!  What a joyful and soothing CD.  Always a jazz vocal fan, but never really a jazz instrumental student, this CD opens up a whole new world to me.  The best word I can some up with is hip.  This is the most hip CD I've ever heard.  This makes me feel like I'm at a cool dinner party in NYC or a nightclub, waiting for Billie Holiday to take the stage.  Excellent music.

Christmas and CocktailsAlong those lines, my long-time jazz favorite, Beegie Adair, has several Christmas compilations and a regular favorite is Christmas Cocktails.  Love it, love it, love it.  I was one of the staff in charge of the Christmas party at work and I played this in the background.  One of my colleagues said the music made her feel like she was in a fancy restaurant. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry


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Charming.  This book is a charmer - it pulls you in and gets a hold of you and keeps you hanging on during the (few) slow parts.  A fast-paced narrative that seems far-fetched at times, hums merrily along and never seems beyond reach. 

The storyline is deceptively simple:  a widower/bookstore owner adopts a baby, finds love in more ways than one and, even though the ending isn't happily ever after, the characters are richer for their experiences together. Isn't that what life's about, anyway?

The last third of the book is the best because there are a lot of unexpected twists and turns that explain some of the earlier sub-plots or behaviors.  Great story, great characters and great writing.  

Sunday, December 7, 2014

New Year’s Reading Resolutions

When it comes to resolutions for the New Year, most people focus on their physical health – lose weight, exercise more, eat healthy food.  What about your reading health?  Are you an avid reader or an occasional one?  Do you read only newspapers?  Do you read only fiction?  Only biographies?  Only romance?

Now is a good time to shake up your reading habits and expand your horizons.   The Internet offers a wide variety of reading challenges for the New Year and some examples are listed below.  Try one out and see if it works for you.  If it doesn’t, try another one.  Go easy on yourself.  Set realistic reading goals to keep your mind and spirit active in the New Year.

Read the classics.  Did you skip some of the classics in high school in favor of popular titles?  This is a good time to catch up.  You’ll be glad you did.

Try out a new genre.  Branch out.  Read a mystery instead of a romance novel.  Read a non-fiction title about one of your favorite (or least favorite) subjects.  Push yourself to read outside your comfort zone. 

Create fun monthly or yearly challenges.  Read a book about each U. S. President this year or all of Agatha Christie’s novels – even all of Shakespeare’s plays.  Search the Internet for things like “50 Novels Featuring Famous Authors as Characters” or “Around the World in 80 Books” to find fun, yet different types of books to read.

Write brief reviews of what you read.  Share your thoughts with others.  Join www.goodreads.com and write a one or two sentence review about the books you’ve read.  Book reviews can be as long or short as you want them to be.  The important thing is to share.

Join a book club – in person or online.  The Roswell library offers two books clubs, Noonday Nosh (general fiction and non-fiction) and the Mystery Readers’ Book Club.   Most libraries offer book clubs.  Join www.goodreads.com and search for groups that read similar genres (or challenge yourself to find a new genre to read).

Read the best books of 2014.  At year’s end, websites, magazines and newspapers recommend the best books of the year. Type the words “best books of 2014” into a search engine like Google or Yahoo and see what appears.  Take a look, read a few and see if you agree. 

The suggestions above are just a few ways to begin your reading year with a new twist. Whether you make a reading resolution or not (or keep it or not), always remember the most important thing is … to read.  Library staff are always happy to help you find books to read.  Just ask them.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Brief reviews of teen books adults will enjoy

My nieces and nephew, ages 11 - 22, visited this Thanksgiving and reminded me of a couple of books I read last summer that are technically YA books, but will be enjoyed by adults, too.  In fact, adults should read them to 1) see what kids are reading and 2) learn from what kids are reading.  

The best part of their visit was our book discussions (and watching my nephew beat his dad at Scrabble).  I had a lot of books on the coffee table, hoping they would take a few home with them (and free up my shelves).  They are devout booklovers and were reluctant to take anything, but I was able to finally send them home with The Mockingbird Next Door, Wonder and two baseball books.  Mission accomplished.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio tells the story of Auggie Pullman, a 5th grade boy living in Manhattan.  Auggie is bright, funny, loves Star Wars and has a facial deformity that makes people cringe.   After being home-schooled, he enters a private school and learns the intricacies and dynamics of changing classes, friendship, betrayal, and rivalry.  A quick read, this novel dwells not on Auggie’s face, but on his resilience.  He learns – and his family and friends also learn – that appearance isn’t everything.  It’s a life lesson one is never too old to learn.
 

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green tackles a subject that frightens most everyone:  cancer.   This novel centers on Hazel, a 16 year-old with terminal cancer.  Hazel’s struggles with her illness, her family and friendships are warmly portrayed.  Teens will appreciate the dialogue and rebellious behavior and cheer for Hazel and her friends to survive. The author keeps the reader in suspense regarding who might make it and who, sadly, will not.   But Green doesn’t dwell on sadness or loss.  He treats these issues matter-of-factly and this gives the reader the best gift of all:  hope.